Saturday, January 29, 2011

Home Cooking: Watergate Undercover

Isn’t it interesting home some recipes get their names? Earlier in the month I gave the now renamed recipe for The Next Best Thing to Robert Redford, and today I’m talking about yet another recipe with perhaps a more suspicious name, Watergate Salad.

Of course, we know that restaurants often name signature dishes after celebrities, perhaps in the desire to increase purchase of an item despite the fact the person being named doesn’t even know about the dish. But this one was named after a national scandal in the 1970s.

Since our kids don’t get past studying World War 2 in most of their history classes, it makes me wonder if they would even have an idea why a salad would have the name Watergate to begin with, or how the salad itself would get such a name.

Well, actually, I’ve heard many an answer to that one. Some say it was served at a restaurant at the Watergate complex, the building made famous by the Nixon administration when G. Gordon Liddy (yeah, the Buy Gold guy) and those seven guys you may have seen depicted in All the President’s Men starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman decided to undermine the election, insuring that Richard M. Nixon would be re-elected.

The origin of the concoction itself seems to come from Jello who wanted to market their pistachio pudding. Originally called Pistachio-Pineapple Delight, this mixture was easy to make, tasted good, and served as either a salad or dessert for the home or party table.

Whether the name change was a result of a restaurant, the scandal, or the fact it was made up of marshmallow, pudding, and fruit like the Nixon administration itself, the name Watergate stuck and even today’s generation knows the name, as well as the flavor.

Toss this one together in under five minutes and serve it fresh or chilled.

Watergate Salad
1 20 oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 c. miniature marshmallow
1 package pistachio instant pudding
9 oz. container Cook Whip

Mix it all together and serve.

Optional modifications:
Add drained maraschino cherries as a garnish
Substitute Orange, Cherry, or Strawberry Jello for the pistachio pudding. When choosing orange, add a can of mandarin oranges in place of the pineapple. Even sliced, seedless grapes or coconut flakes add a nice zing to the dish.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Week in Review: What I Missed in the Theater

Life is hectic and at times there are movies I’d like to see are only in the local theater such a short time that I never make it there to see them. Now that Netflix and I are such good friends, I’ve been able to watch a few films I wanted to see, but never got the chance to.

Did You Hear About the Morgans? – Similar in vein to the Tim Allen movie, For Richer for Poorer, this film finds Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker as a nearly divorced couple who are thrown back together and sent to the country where they find perhaps they are still in love after all. I’ve been a Hugh Grant film for quite some time, so seeing he alone would have made the film, but I also really enjoyed the performances given by Sam Elliot and Mary Steenburgen. Overall it was a satisfying comedy-romance and one that I wouldn’t mind watching again.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work – This is rated R and there is good reason. Joan’s language and comedic material is quite raw, but the look inside this icon’s life was compelling, so I just learned to quickly mute the screen when it was obvious Joan was on stage. The year prior to her win on Celebrity Apprentice did not look good career-wise for Joan. Used to being booked for multiple shows each day, she suddenly found herself with an empty calendar, and the bareness was driving her insane. The documentary follows Joan and her staff as they go through the process of finding bookings, firing her longtime manager, and her eventual win on Celebrity Apprentice, which kick starts her career into yet another successful run for the seventy-five year old classic performer known as Joan Rivers.
The Way We Were – Okay, this one is a revisit to an old favorite. I saw the Barbra Streisand interview on Oprah where Robert Redford joined them and wanted to rewatch this film. But who knows where my VHS copy disappeared and I didn’t want to rebuy it on DVD when it becomes available, so I discovered that Netflix had free streaming for it until January 1st. So, I’m taking a break now from writing these blog messages to go down memory lane and watch one of my favorite romantic movies of all time.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Home Cooking: The Great Zucchini

Ah, the joys of spring. The homegrown vegetable gardens. The sweet taste of corn, tomatoes, and green beans. And the overabundance of zucchini.

I don’t know about your neighborhood, but it seems that the giving of zucchini has become an underground joke in my neck of the woods. (Almost as much of a Utah staple as the dreaded green Jello and carrots.) It seems that everyone who plants a garden always has more zucchini than they could ever possibly consume on their own or within their family, so the offerings begin.

“Would you like some zucchini?”

And that is the question. LIKE? Does anyone actually like zucchini?

Yuck! Now, I’ve been known to sit at the table and eat a peeled cucumber, but zucchini? You’ve got to be kidding.

That’s what I always thought until my sister, Sue, managed to pass off a zucchini to me once without my even knowing. No, it wasn’t raw. I can definitely tell the difference between a cucumber, which I live, and the texture and taste of the dreadful zucchini.

But my sister was a sneak!

The loaf of home baked dessert bread looked too good to pass up. How was I to know it was Zucchini bread? And the best zucchini break I have EVER tasted in my life.

Don’t think about your grandmother’s zucchini bread, and defiantly ignore the zucchini bread delivered by your neighbor, desperate to somehow use all that zucchini she grew in her garden. (Wouldn’t you think that someone would figure out it’s not necessary to grow multiple zucchini plants to meet their family needs?)

This is by far the absolute best zucchini bread you will every taste, and the most incredible part? You’ll forget it’s even made with zucchini.

Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. grated, peeled zucchini, drained
1 3oz. package of instant French vanilla pudding (or your choice of flavor)
1 c. walnuts Black or English (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and pour into 2 (9x5) loaf pans, lightly sprayed with PAM. Bake at 350∘ for 50-60 minutes or until a knife blade inserted into the center comes out clean.

Slice and serve warm or wrap and allow to cool for later.

My sister experiments with different pudding flavors, including coconut cream, strawberry, lemon, vanilla, and chocolate, but my favorite is the French Vanilla.

Whatever you decide, once you’ve tasted THIS zucchini bread, none other will ever suffice, and you probably won’t fear the unmarked bags of neighborhood zucchini left on your doorstep overnight.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Week in Review: A Year of Reading

You may have previously noticed the ever-growing list of books on my sidebar titled Books I’ve Read 2010. Some of you might even be thinking, “That’s more books than I’ve read in my life. Surely, she can’t have read all of those books in this single year.”

As impossible as it may seem, I did, and those are only the books that I’ve finished–all 120 of them! Even I am amazed.

It’s likely that you’ve already seen Top Ten lists from other bloggers of the Best Books they’ve read this past year, so I suppose mine will be just one more list in the collection, but with 120 books, there is no way I could pare that down to ten, so I’ve decided to list the best books in several categories instead.

I hope you’ll find something interesting here, or perhaps a book that will be useful. The books are simply grouped, not listed in my order of preference because if they made this final list, I loved them all.

Because I also edit, some of the books that made my lists are even out yet to the general population, so there will be some fun surprises for you to discover and the year progresses.

In the meantime, I’ve already started on my list of Books I’ve Read for 2011. You’ll find both lists on my blog, at least for a while. Enjoy!

Historical Fiction
    The Sheen on the Silk - Perry
    Daughters of Jared - Moore
    Alma the Younger - Moore
    Abish: Daughter of God - Grant
    Splendor - Godberson
    Bright Young Things - Godberson

    When Christmas Comes - Macomber
    The Legend of Shannonderry - Warburton
    Courting Miss Lancaster - Eden
    Santa Maybe - Mace

Contemporary Fiction
    Band of Sisters - Lyon
    The Walk - Evans
    The Heart Mender - Andrews
    Gravity vs. the Girl - Noehren
    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Ford
    Sarah's Key - de Roseney

    Actor - Hall
    A Clue for the Puzzle Lady - Hall
    The Overton Window - Beck
    Apple Turnover Murder - Fluke
    Lemon Tart - Kilpack

Speculative Fiction
    Promise Me - Evans
    The Christmas Chronicles: The Legend of Santa Claus - Slover
    The Iron King - Kagawa

Middle Grade
    Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger - Boyer
    When You Reach Me - Stead
    Leviathan - Westerfeld
    The Fourth Nephite - Savage
    Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer - Grisham
    Princess of Glass - George
    A Season of Gifts - Peck
    Princess of the Midnight Ball - George

Young Adult
    Down the Rabbit Hole - Abrahams
    Out of My Mind - Draper
    Countdown - Wiles
    The Adoration of Jenna Fox - Pearson
    The Hunger Games - Collins
    The Healing Spell - Little
    The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner - Meyer
    Prada & Prejudice - Hubbard
    Just One Wish - Rallison
    13th Reality: The Hunt for Dark Infinity - Dashner

    I Remember Nothing - Nora Ephron
    Letters to Juliet - Friedman
    Confessions of a Prairie Bitch - Alison Arngrim
    Selling YOU - Boyd
    Lessons from Great Lives - Sill & McCormick
    The Power - Byrne
    Why You're Dumb, Sick & Broke - Gage
    Stages - Osmond
    Start Over, Finish Rich - Bach
    Permission to Think - Buckner
    Fear Not: The Revelation of John - Christensen
    Mother Had a Secret - Fletcher
    Women of the Book of Mormon - Moore
    The Mormon Way of Doing Business - Benedict
    The Element - Robinson
    The Traveler's Gift - Andrews
    The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me - Evans

Non-Fiction for Educators
    Yellow Brick Roads - Allen
    The Reading Zone - Atwell
    The Book Whisperer - Miller
    Readicide - Gallagher

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Writing Wisdom: Katherine Paterson

Newbery Award-winner Katherine Paterson says she writes to “discover meaning for myself,” and that’s why she loves children’s fiction where “the child gets to discover what it means. All my readers are my co-authors.”

Paterson warns authors that presenting a moralist story is a novel that is “dead and embalmed.” Instead, she wants to see books that are lively explorations of the human experience, “of the way things are, not what the author wishes they were.”

She feels the media provides nothing but a “a steady diet of brain-draining drivel,” and asks, “When did we as a society turn our back on beauty, simplicity, harmony, and brilliance?”

But that doesn’t mean writing should be merely to present the beautiful. “Art should be truth,” she says, “not beautified. I am forever changed by every book I’ve ever read.”

She wants to read books that changed her life. “I laughed. I cried. That’s what literature is supposed to do,” she says.

The author of over fifteen novels, Paterson says, “I hope children will read my books with joy.”

She encourages parent and teachers to read aloud to child, trusting them to let the words themselves speak to them. “As authors, give readers the best you have,” she says. “You never know how your story will affect them, so don’t try. to impose a meaning onto them. The results are not in our hands.”

She tells authors to “listen to the story to see how it needs to be told. One idea does not a novel make.”

In a reflective moment she says, “The minute I become more important that the story, that’s the minutes I’m writing propaganda. When I sit to write Katherine Paterson doesn’t matter one whit.”

And that is true for all authors. The story is the part that matters, not the lesson the author intends to teach.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Been There, Done That: John Stamos

The summer of 1992 was a memorable one for me. Not only was I working with Alan Osmond Productions; this year, I was an Associate Producer for the Stadium of Fire. If you’re not from Utah, you may never have heard of Stadium of Fire, but I’m here to tell you it’s one of the biggest 4th of July fireworks extravaganzas in the country.

But having this new job title and role wasn’t the biggest part of my excitement. This year our talent was going to be The Beach Boys. Alan had worked a long time to arrange their appearance in Provo, and the excitement was high not only in our office, but in the entire city.

Lots of ticket requests came daily into our office, and once the general tickets went on sale they were gone in a matter of hours. If seemed everyone wanted to see The Beach Boys.

But not me! Beach Boys—I could take ‘em or leave ‘em.

But The Beach Boys’ drummer—that’s who I wanted to see. Word was out in all the tabloids that John Stamos was spending his summer hiatus from Full House touring as the drummer with The Beach Boys, and I was ready for him.

I couldn’t wait to see in person that gorgeous hunk who played Jesse Katsopolis.

Instructions flew through the production office that The Beach Boys themselves were very particular about when, where, and how they met people, and for the most part on Karl Engemann—who worked with the group during his Capitol Records days—and Alan Osmond himself were to approach the guys for anything other than their cue to come on stage.

Okay, no problemo for me, really. Unless that meant I wouldn’t get my chance to see John. That would be a problem!

The day of the show was busy, busy, busy as always. Last minute tickets to distribute from the office, technical glitches to work out on stage or with the fireworks, lots of people calling the office, errands needing run, and press conference details to finalize.

Even though I hadn’t seen John yet anywhere—I had seen the other guys entering their trailer late in the afternoon—I was still prepared, just in case I did. I had an ink pen, which I had tested to make sure it worked, and a blank note card—a perfect place for an autograph which would store easily in my hip pocket.

About a half an hour prior to the press conference, I was on the opposite side of the stadium from where my trailer office was located, delivering a stack of Beach Boy photos to the conference room. I was just heading back to my office when I came around the corner a little too fast and nearly ran right into him—John Stamos in all his incredible-looking glory!

Here we were face-to-face and I could hardly think of a thing to say. After a few “uh-uh-uhs” on my part, I at last gathered my wits enough to pull out the card and the pen. “May I have your autograph?”

“Sure,” John said, as he took the card and pen from me an wrote his name.

“Thanks,” I said when he handed the card back. I think I muttered something about being such a fan, but the only other response I got from him was a shy-looking smile.

“Well, thanks again,” I said, as I started to stumble back in the direction I was originally going. John turned to enter the conference room area which I had just left.

The only other time I saw him was during the concert while he was on stage, wailing away on those drums. They didn’t even introduce him to the audience until the very end of the show, when they did the band introductions. It was like he wasn’t really a part of the group, but I didn’t care.

All I could think about for days after was about being Jesse’s girl and how close I had actually been to crashing right into him.

Sigh. . .

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Home Cooking: The Patient Noodle

When it comes to patience, I have none. Well, that’s not entirely true–I have plenty of patience when its something I don’t mind having to wait for, something that I personally want and will wait for it to happen without too much complaint. But when it comes to patience in cooking~nada!

Although I don’t remember my mother actually ever calling me into the kitchen so she could teach me how to cook, I do recall many time where I found myself stirring a pot, turning the meat, or measuring ingredients for whatever she was making for dinner. Most of the time I didn’t mind. I could usually walk away whenever I got bored or had something else to d and I knew she would be okay with it.

But when it came to making egg noodles, Mom somehow got the idea in her mind that I needed to learn, and learning to make egg noodles right meant I needed a lot of patience. Much more patience than I ever possessed it seems.

You see, the first secret to making good egg noodles is in how slowly you stir the flour into the eggs. Slow is perhaps too ineffective a word here, and stir might be somewhat debatable. The way my mother added flour to the egg could best be described as a single flake of flour at a time. I kid you not.

Mother started by putting the two cups of flour into a medium bowl then she would put one whole egg into the center of the flour. She never used a fork at this stage–no, instead she would sit on the stool next to the stove (her favorite perch from which to cook) and slowly rotate the bowl, encouraging the egg yolk to make a little track in the flour as it rolled around the bowl. Once the egg became covered in flour dust, the second yolk went in an started the same routine. All the while, egg one continued to let the flour slowly absorb. Yolks number two and three joined the flour race and the eggs went round and round and round for what seemed like an hour before she ever touched them with a fork.

By that time, most of the loose flour was gone from the bowl anyway, so she would use the fork tines to encourage the final path to hit those spots where the flour still remained, added the salt and water, and finished the mixing.

But that wasn’t the end of the patience game. Next came the rolling. I will admit, this was my favorite part. We would dust the counter top with flour, place the egg noodle dough onto the flour, and start to roll the mixture out paper-thin–no cheating here! That meant rolling first one direction, then the other. Turning the dough over and rolling again. Turning it again, re-dusting the surface with flour, over and over and over and over until you could hold up the now huge pastry and see the light through its surface.

And now, we have more waiting. Overnight waiting! The dough had to dry, completely. (Shouldn’t we have been worried about keeping uncooked eggs outside over night?) Maybe as much as twenty-four hours dry before we could touch it again.

Once we reached that milestone and Mother declared the noodles were ready, out came the knife. Slice, slice, slice until the huge pastry has been diminished to long strips, the chopped in halves or quarters to the desired size to fit the dish intended.

We usually had homemade noodles which were cooked in the broth of a pork roast, but the noodles could also be used with roast beef or chicken and noodles.

No matter that their final destination, those egg noodles sure were good. I’ve never tasted any from a package that came anywhere near the egg noddles my mother taught me to make, with a lot of patience.

Homemade Egg Noodles
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
3 T cold water
1 tsp salt
2 c. flour

Friday, January 14, 2011

Week in Review: Neflix is my New BFF

Several years ago I mentioned to my husband what I thought would be a million dollar idea. “What if there were a way to deliver the movies you wanted directly to your television without having to make a trip to the video store?”

If only those million dollar ideas could be developed more quickly, then maybe I would have owned Netflix and been sitting at home basking in the monthly income they have got to be making. But I didn’t, and the cash doesn’t come home to roost with me.

But that’s okay. Netflix is still me new best friend, and maybe forever.

Because of my husband’s job he doesn’t always get to watch TV, and he loves to watch TV. He can channel-surf among the best of them. He also likes to watch movies, but doesn’t always have a schedule that permits him to go to the theater at a normal time of day. So, some time ago he discovered Netflix, actually back in the day before they have the live stream. Off and on he subscribed to the service, but none of us at home ever knew much about it, how it worked, or when we were ever actually get the movie we wanted, so we didn’t pay a whole lot of attention.

Until a couple of weeks ago when he told me, “I’ve signed up for Netflix again, and you can now stream movies directly to your laptop. I’ve been doing it at work when they don’t need me on set. I think you’ll like it.”

Now I had streamed video before, so I understood the concept and I thought it was worth a try. We didn’t plan to tell the boys until Christmas because we knew that 1. Chan would want to be online ALL the time, and 2. We needed to wait until they got their new computer to have a place for them to access it. I was home alone following some dental surgery and decided now was the time to give it a try.

Once I got past the barriers of discovering my old computer couldn’t keep up with the necessary memory needs to run a movie and being frustrated that the internet connection on my laptop was having serious issues that day, I finally got the password from my husband and signed onto his computer, settling in to watch my first film on Netflix.

And I was hooked. Since then I’ve watched several movies, an entire season of a TV show I wanted to watch but never seemed to be home for, and picking the time of day I wanted to watch American Pickers instead of giving up reading or sleep time to watch when it was on cable.

I’ve started a list of movies I still want to see. Already it’s over three pages long. And last night I discovered I can stream a movie I really wanted to see that never came to Spanish Fork, Utah. Whoo Hoo!

So it’s easy to see why Netflix has become my new BFF, and all of it is cheaper per month that either cable TV or taking the whole fam to the movie. Gotta love it!

Confessions of a Shopaholic – This is the first movie I watched on Netflix, and the experience was just a great as when I saw the film in the theater. So what if I keep thinking that Isla Fisher is really Amy Adams in disguise, I totally loved this movie and the character of Rebecca Bloomwood. She is so much like me, yet nothing like me. I don’t live in New York; I don’t buy high fashion clothes; and I don’t need to impress some hot, young editor. Well, maybe I d if I really want to be publishing in the big time, but you know what I mean. What we do has in common is a passion---a passion for writing, a passion for buying (books are my addiction), and a passion for life. Rebecca Bloomwood has it all, and in the end she even gets it all. I loved the movie so much, I went to the library–yes, I CAN be frugal when I must–and checked out another one of the books in the Shopaholic series written by Sophie Kinsella. Could more movies be in the works?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

All in the Family: Fannie Isadora Stevens

Fannie was the oldest child of Benjamin Franklin (B.F.) Stevens and his wife Alice A. Covalt Stevens. She was born March 17, 1857, in Brown County, Ohio. Her siblings included Harvey F., Willie (who died either in childbirth or in his first year), and Ella, about whom nothing is known other than that she was listed as a child with B.F. and his second wife Laura in the 1880 census.

She married Joshua (Jack) Pyle in 1875. Since Jack was born in Indiana, it is likely the married occurred there, likely in the Pt. Isabelle area. She and Jack had three sons, Bert Franklin (born September 6, 1876), D’Earle (born 1879), and Ben Harold (exact date of birth unknown).

The 1880 census records  Joshua and Fanny Pyle with children Bert F. and Dearl (sic). Fannie’s occupation is listed as housekeeping and Joshua as Farming Hand.

Family lore states that Jack called for a cousin, Robert Lee Lake, to come from his home in Kentucky to help with the crops. After Jack’s death, Fannie married Robert on September 29, 1886, and they had two daughters, Winona Myra Alice (my grandmother, born October 23, 1887) and Florence Ethel (born May 26, 1890).

For a short time, when Ethel was born, the family lived in Houghton, South Dakota, where Robert had obtained some farming land. Following a huge storm which wiped out his crops, he decided they needed to move back to Indiana, abandoning the property.

According to Eugene Brobst, Fannie was a great reader, a love she passed on to her daughter Winona.

Eight years older than he husband, Robert, Fannie also outlived him by thirty years, dying November 24, 1930, at the home of her daughter, Winona, at 1016 Roe Avenue in Alexandria, Indiana.

Fannie is buried at Knox Chapel, a cemetary in the country one mile south and a half mile east of Pt. Isabel. The old church across road has been abandoned since her funeral. She lies between her first husband, Jack Pyle, and her second husband, Robert Lake. She put a nice headstone on Pyle's grave and along in the 1930s, D’Earle placed a brass marker on her grave. No marker was ever placed on Robert Lake's grave.

Fannie’s brother, Harvey, is buried in same cemetery, slightly north and several feet east of her.  Evidently there is no marker on his grave.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Writing Wisdom: Laura Rennert

Agent Laura Rennert with author H.B. Moore
Laura Rennert is both an author and agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Laura represents Maggie Steiver, Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher and Kimberly Dertling, among others.

Laura says that her role as agent is part of a matchmaking process, in which she tries to make the project irresistible to an editor.

She says, “There are five secret ingredients I look for in a project I’m willing to represent: 1. Compelling voice, filled with authenticity; 2. Memorable and dynamic characters who get under my skin and stay with me; 3. Coherent and satisfying narrative structure, where the reader senses that things are happening; 4. Universal and idiosyncratic problems and experiences, wrapped real “world building”; and 5. Literary voice with commercial conception, where a strong question leads to a good premise.

Laura says that even in today’s world, crossover books have characters no older than the summer after high school, and they only crossover from young adult readers to adult, not the other way around, so know where your target audience lives.

She also warns your book shouldn’t be long unless there is a very good reason. In other words, don’t write it long just because you want to. “Learn to murder your darlings if the scene doesn’t move the plot along,” she says.

“Stay in touch with the child or teen within you,” she says. “Voice is the hardest element for anyone to work on with you, so you have to be authentic. If I don’t care about those characters, then no matter how good your plot, I won’t buy it.”

“Don’t write episodic stories,” she adds. “Put your characters at risk, where one event leads them into another situation. The protagonist must take action and make choices under pressure.”

“Find the unusual within the commonplace,” Rennert says. “Give your characters a life beyond the pages of the novel.”

Although she suggests new writers stick with their day job, she also says, “It’s my job to make it so they don’t have to stick with their day job.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

Been There, Done That: Hilary Swank

Back in the day before Hilary Swank was an Academy Award-winning actress, she was just a young girl, trying to make her mark in the world of televison and eventually finding her way into Movies-of-the-Week.

That’s where I had my opportunity to see Hilary in person, although not nearly as close of an encounter as my husband had, with her DOG!

Mike, who worked as a set medic/craft service on many of those MOWs, had been on the set for a show called It Was Him or Us, a typical convoluted plot that had to be worked out in less that two hours of screen-time.

Fifteen-year-old Deena Marten wants the same freedom every teenager craves. But when she can't have her way, her rebellious temperament erupts in violence. Her parents, Stephanie and Todd, fear her new boyfriend, Garret, 17, is the cause. Distraught, Stephanie turns to alcohol, and Todd escapes in his work. They're unaware their Boy Scout son Adam, 13, sips from a vodka bottle hidden in his bedroom. And the problems in this dysfunctional family continue to worsen.

Hilary Swank played the role of Deena.

I was on set one night when they were filming a big, dramatic scene in which Hilary storms off with her boyfriend, and I’ll admit, it was too dark to see much of anything from where I was stationed. She paraded back and forth in from of me several times, passing a group of cars and trailers being used as props, but I don’t recall being especially impressed by her performance.

Okay, I’ll give her this—she was still fairly young in the business. A few featured roles on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Growing Pains, and Evening Shade, and the starring role in The Next Karate Kid, which honestly didn’t do much to establish her as a quality actress, was all the credit she had to her name.

This MOW, eventually known as Terror in the Family, was supposed to be her big break, even if it did take her three more years and a jump to the big screen to become recognized.

So, it may not have done much for Hilary at the time, but this little show did bring us one of our favorite stories about Mike and the strangest things that have ever happened when he was on set.

This is a story, about a DOG! Hilary’s dog, to be exact.

And a sort of stupid mutt it was. One day, while Mike was on set but I was not visiting, the entire set was drenched in a down-pouring of rain. Production was put on hold until the rain stopped and the crew could start to dry things off.

But a dog who wants outside stops for no one, especially not a little rain. Hilary opened her trailer door, the dog ran out to do his business, then immediately decided he needed something to chew.

Ah, this huge electrical cable looks like the right thing. A gnawing bite, a flash of light, and Hilary’s dog most closely resembled the poor Grisley’s cat in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

“My dog! My dog!” Hilary cried.

And here came Mike Medic to the rescue. A quick assessment of the situation told him the dog had electrocuted himself, his heart beat stopped and Hilary almost in hysterics.

What was a good medic supposed to do? Save the dog’s life, no matter what. And in this case, that meant giving that stupid mutt mouth-to-mouth resuscitation!

And Hilary was extremely grateful.

I don’t think I would have done it, and I’ll admit I wasn’t too keen on giving a big kiss to my husband for a couple of days afterward---Yuck! Dog germs!!—but save the dog’s life, he did, so I guess you could say my husband was a hero.

And do you know, not once has Hilary thought to tell him thank you from the podium as she accepted yet another big award. It’s the least she could do for the guy who saved the life of her stupid dog!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sunday Wisdom: But I Gotta Have It NOW!

We live in a world of immediate gratification. If the internet doesn’t find our desired website in less than a half-second, we complain the connection is too slow. If our best friend doesn’t respond to our tweet right away, we turn to our cell phone to send them a text. If we hear a song we like, we push the buttons for an instant download. And the list goes on.

Not a one of us seems to have an ounce of patience anymore when it comes to getting what we want.

Now, you might think that’s good. If we don’t have the patience to wait, then surely that means we have the drive to push forward until we succeed. But do we really? Does impatience reap hard work and dedication, or leave us frustrated and mad when we don’t get what we want?

Like the two-year-old who throws a temper tantrum, yelling “But I WANT it!” do we sometimes throw a tantrum of our own when gratification isn’t as immediate as we want it?

And what about rejection, when the answer stays NO? Do we lose all focus about our long-range goals because something we see as important or desired in the here-and-now doesn’t work out the way we want it?

In the past I’ve heard a couple of stories that illustrate the concept “Champions make decisions that create the future they desire–Losers make decisions that create the present they desire.”

Perhaps you’ve heard the story about Superstar NBA basketball icon Michael Jordan. When Michael was a sophomore in high school he tried out for the school team, and he didn’t make the cut. The coach thought Jordan would never be much of a basketball player. He was short and untalented, missed too many shots during try-outs, and overall didn’t seem like an asset to the team.

Michael could have taken that message to heart by leaving the game of basketball behind. But instead he realized that if he wanted to make the team, he was going to have to work, and work HARD.

For hours each day, Michael would stand in the driveway to his house, shooting the basketball into the hoop. Free throws, lay-ups, even a little one-on-one until his skills improved.

The next year when he tried out for the team, the coach didn’t think he was the same young man. Not only had he grown in height, but his growth as a player was phenomenal.

And we all know the rest of the story. Michael Jordan is considered the finest player to ever grace the game. His dedication to hard work continued throughout his entire NBA career. He saw the value of patience, and used that extra time to his best advantage.

In a similar story, once a master pianist was approached by a concert-goer and the conversation went like this:

“I would give anything to play the piano like that but I just never had the time,” the concert-goer said.

To which the master pianist replied, “I did. I gave my life.”

Like Michael Jordan, the master pianist did not stop before he even started. Practice, combined with dedication and hard work gave him the skills of a master.

There are things in our day to day life that we think we want. Trinkets we believe we must have, even when we can’t afford them. Relationships we want but which we don’t work to fully develop. Values we want to attain, but which we don’t live in accordance with reaching them.

If we someday want to be like our Master, then we, too, need to work hard.

You’ve likely heard the statement often attributed in pop culture to Jesus: “I didn’t say it would be easy, only that it would be worth it.”

The only way we will ever have it NOW, is to get started working toward whatever it is that we want immediately. Make you choices, set your goals, put yourself in the right circumstance, then get busy.

Your gratification will come in the power and pride you feel within yourself during the process, but the reward only comes when we keep in mind to have it NOW, we have to also be working.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Home Cooking: Better Than Sex

Before I took the holiday break from blogging, I told a story about a dessert I once made for a holiday feast at Marie Osmond’s house. I referred to that dessert as The Next Best Thing to Robert Redford, which was what it was called back then.

Since that time, I’ve had people tell me they know the dessert buy its new name, Better Than Sex. Hey, what’s in a name, right? All I know it, this dessert is delicious and decadent! Don’t try to eat too much or the richness alone will make you sick.

Better Than Sex
½ c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
½ c. chopped nuts
8 oz package Cream Cheese, softened
1 c. powdered sugar
1 3oz package instant chocolate pudding
1 3oz package instant vanilla pudding
3 c. milk
16 oz container Cool Whip
Preheat the over to 350∘. In a medium bowl, mix butter, flour and chopped nuts. Press into 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

While the crust cools, combine softened cream cheese and powered sugar in a medium bowl, beating mixture until smooth, the spread over completely cooled crust. If the crust is still warm, the mixture will almost melt instead of spreading.

In a large bowl, combine both pudding mixes with the milk, beating until smooth. Pour the puddings over the cream cheese layer and spread evenly.

Cover the entire pudding layer with Cool Whip, sprinkle with nuts. You may also use chocolate shavings or other garnish.

This dessert can also be made with all chocolate pudding or substitute pistachio for both puddings. Whatever you decide, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven over this yummy dessert.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Week in Review: Holiday Movies

It’s a tradition in our family to go to a movie on both Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, once the meals are done. This year was no exception, although we certainly missed the more traditional holiday-themed movies we’ve had in the past. Where did Christmas go?

Even if the theme was missing, the movies were not and this year found us looking at a mixed bag of presents and coal. Let’s start with the presents.

Tangled – Disney has a hit! The retelling of the story of Rapunzel didn’t look like a film that would capture my heart, but this one did. From the strong-willed girl, to the handsome youth, all the way to the incredibly funny horse, I was enchanted from the very beginning. We’ve spent this week referring to times that both my husband and I have been a little too like the witchy-mother, and having a good laugh about it. Who would have through my 17-year-old boy would like the movie well enough to actually want to see it again? Isn’t this supposed to be a movie for pre-teen girls? Nope! This is a great film and lots of fun for the whole family.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Third in the series of Narnia films, and coming to us from a new production company, Voyage takes viewers on a great swashbuckling sea voyage. Lucy and Edmund are back, but unfortunately for them (and sometimes for us) they have accidently brought along their irritating cousin, Eustace. The character actor who plays this cousin does a magnificent job at being the annoying brat he is supposed to be, but perhaps too well-done. Do we really want to see him alone in the next episode?

Gulliver’s Travels – Speaking of annoying, that’s the general impression of Jack Black in this loose–and I use the word loosely–adaptation of the Jonathan Swift classic. I usually love Jack Black, but this time he plays too much of himself I’m afraid in a self-indulgent piece that appears to have been performed without much of a script. And that could be the problem. I saw Black on a recent episode of Conan O’Brien when he said when they asked him to do the film there was no script. He read the book and called them back the next day, ready to set to work. He felt this gave him the freedom he wanted to add to the story. And add he did, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t work. There were some great gag lines, but if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve probably seen them all. Best luck next time, Jack. I’m still looking forward to Kung Fu Panda 2.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

All in the Family: Robert Lee Lake

Robert Lee Lake was born March 29, 1856, in Louisville, Kentucky, to John Thomas Lake and Charlotte Waggoner Lake. He was child number seven of the couple’s eventual eight, his siblings including Fannie, William, John, Allen P., Florence, Anna, and Myra.

Little seems to be known about Robert’s life. He married Fannie Isadora Stevens Pyle after her first husband Joshua (Jack) Pyle died. The family story is that Robert was a cousin to Jack Pyle, who came to Indiana to help with the farmwork, and ended up marrying Fannie after his cousin’s death. This type of situation does not seem unreasonable as it was often the case that brothers married a young widow left in the family so the children had the entire family to help raise then, while keeping a father who was also part of the family.

Robert and Fannie were married September 29, 1886. Fannie already had three sons with her husband Jack, Bert Franklin Pyle, born September 6, 1876; D’Earle Pyle, born 1879; and Ben Harold Pyle, date of birth unknown.

The couple lived in Pt. Isabell at the time their daughter (my grandmother) Winona Myra Alice Lake was born, October 23, 1887, but the little family moved to Houghton, South Dakota, shortly thereafter. Robert hoped to make his fortune on the land boon in the west, obtaining a piece of property he planned to farm.

But, according to Winona, a “terrible storm wiped out Daddy’s crops,” and likely source of future income, so he abandoned the property and returned the family to Elwood. Their one bit of good luck while in Houghton was the birth of Florence Ethel Lake on May 26, 1890. (Ethel, who was a classmate and friend of one-time presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie, lived to be 102 years old, dying November 19, 1992.)

Robert died February 27, 1900, in Elwood, Indiana, and is buried in the Knox Chapel Cemetery one mile south and about one-half mile east of Point Isabel, in Grant County, Indiana. His grave is unmarked, but he is just to the south of Fannie Lake, his widow. Her first husband, Jack Pyle, is to the north of her and is marked by a big stone which she placed there.

When Robert died, Fannie could not afford a marker. When she died, her daughter, Winona, who buried her could not afford a marker, this being a depression era.  In later years, her son Earl
placed a brass marker on her grave, but would not contribute to a marker for his stepfather's grave.

Although I possibly met Bert once before his death in 1969, I don’t remember much else about any of Grandma’s half-brothers. As a matter of fact, I really didn’t even know they were her half-brothers until I started doing genealogy research. Because I couldn’t remember Aunt Ethel, I had Uncle Eugene take me to see her at the nursing home in Kokomo not long before she died. Despite the fact the was declared to be both deaf and blind, wearing coke-bottle like lens to prove it. she recognized me right away and was able to carry on a conversations with the two of us during our visit, displaying no real signs of either malady.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Writing Wisdom: Brandon Mull

New York Times list children’s author Brandon Mull says he has wanted to write fantasy and adventure novels since he was a kid. “My favorite books growing up were The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia,” he says. “Harry Potter helped me find an audience I thought I could write for.”

Part of his wish is to help expand what Mull calls: Family Friendly Fantasy. He describes the cell of superfans that surrounds each of the most popular of these kinds of books. “I have to consider ‘Is it cool enough that someone will tell others about it?’” he adds.

“Create what you think is cool, but make sure it fits a particular audience,” Mull advises. “The fatal flaw for many authors is that they don’t stay in one market or category, so no publisher knows how to market the book.” He says, “Target somebody, or you target nobody.”

Mull also advises that you only become a writer if you are passionate about it. “I didn’t leave my day job under after I hit the New York Times list and book #3 was released.”

“It’s important to leverage every success to gain a little more success,” he says. “Take an interest in your own marketing. Writing the book is only 50% of the work. They other half is marketing it to potential buyers.”

But that’s not the end of the work cycle. Brandon says, “Always get better as a writer with each book.” He describes his own default mode as constantly brainstorming books, but his number one goal is to write a book that readers get.”Put out good stuff and good stuff comes back to you.”

Brandon Mull is the author of the New York Times Bestselling Fablehaven series, The Candy Shop War, and Pingo. His new series, Beyonders, begins in March 2011 with A World Without Heroes.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Been There, Done That: Alison Arngrim

Sometimes in the late 1970s, I was on my second excursion to Los Angeles on vacation when the opportunity came to attend the Danny Thomas St. Jude’s telethon being broadcast from CBS Studios in Television City.

Along with being part of the telethon audience, we were promised seats to see some of the greatest and upcoming stars from movie, stage, and theater. All we had to do was sit quietly, clap at appropriate times, and be willing to toss a few coins into the collection plate as it was passed.

Sounded easy enough, and for someone as star-struck as I was in those days, having a front row seat to seeing all those people in person sounded like heaven---hours and hours of watching celebs beg viewers to donate money.

We settled in for the opening hour of the show. It was pretty cool, and I’d never been in a studio audience before so I was really enjoying myself until we found out the truth about the way telethons work. End of segment one, and someone from the crew passed the collection for the live audience to drop in money toward the telethon total.

Then the next thing we knew, another crew member yelled, “Everybody out!”

What?! We were promised hours upon hours of watching the telethon from our comfy seats inside. Why were we suddenly being herded out?

“Time for a new audience,” the stage manager told us. “You want to see more of the show, go back outside and get in line.”

I was just as indignant about this sudden turn of events as the other people who were also being summarily moved out of the chairs, down the stairs, and back into the street. Grumblings of “No way I’m giving these people any money again,” accompanied the mass of the crowd as people headed to their cars instead of back into the line.

I was at a loss as to what exactly I wanted to do. We were promised loads of celebrities. I think we had seen two, Danny Thomas and someone else whose stardom was so minor that I don’t even remember their name. I wanted MORE!

But I didn’t necessarily want to wait again in that long line, only to be booted from the teacher in another hour.

Standing around, checking out the situation be the entrance I noticed a small group of people standing close to a rope line that separated the waiting audience from an open plaza. A sudden burst of flashbulbs let me know that something—or someone—of interest was on the other side of those lines.

I worked my way past the first line of people and joined the group at the ropes in time to see Eva Gabor—or was it Zsa Zsa?—waving at the crowd and standing posed for pictures. I snapped one of my own with my Instamatic camera (you can imagine the quality of photo I ended up with at a distance—and realized this was the place to be.

Not only would we see the celebrities, but we could take photos as well, something you weren’t allowed to do inside the studio. And who knew, maybe a celebrity or two would come over to greet us at the line.

I can’t remember who all I saw that day, but Lavar Burton does stick in my mind, but two of the stars of the show turned out to be quite different from the character they portrayed on TV.

Little House on the Prairie was one of my mother’s favorite shows at the time. She loved that little half-pint, Laura Ingalls played by Melissa Gilbert, and just as the audience was intended to do, hated the mean-spirited Nellie, otherwise known as Alison Arngrim.

Imagine my surprise when both girls departed from a limousine and headed toward the telethon entrance.

“Melissa! Melissa! Laura!” the crowd yelled, begging the young actress to come closer to the rope and pose for a picture, sign an autograph, shake a hand. But she would have none of it. Instead, Melissa Gilbert looked the crowd over, then stuck her nose up into the air—literally!—and disappeared through the doors into the studio.

The crowd was disappointed, until they suddenly began to realize, they hadn’t gotten Laura, but Nellie had been more that happy to oblige. There was Alison Arngrim, walking the rope line, shaking hands, signing autographs, actually talking with people, laughing and being nothing at all like the brat she portrayed.

Talk about a role reversal! Nellie was nice, and Laura? Well, she was the brat!

Since that time I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Alison Arngrim, much vilified actress who turned out to be as nice as she could be.

Yet another reason why the title of her autobiography—Confessions of a Prairie Bitch---just makes me laugh. Thanks, Nellie, for proving that sometimes it’s okay to be a brat, as long as that’s not the way you’ll always be. 

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Sunday Wisdom: Starting the New Year Right

Whether we like the idea of resolutions or not, most of us start the new year with at least a mental list of things we’d like to do, changes we’d like to make in our lives for the coming year. Those changes may be about our bodies–the perpetual exercise more, and eat less. They might be about our physical surroundings–declutter the house or a workspace. Or they could be could be about relationships–spend more time with your spouse or children. They might even be about improving our spiritual selves–spend time each day reading the scriptures.

Whatever the resolutions you make, none of them will ever happen if you don’t first, write them down, and second, give them regular check-ups.

Finding the right resolutions for ourselves can help us stick with and complete those resolutions. A resolution is really nothing more than a goal we set for ourselves. Sometimes they are easy, but most of the time they are difficult.

The reason? We set goals that are nearly impossible for us to ever achieve. Instead of goals, perhaps we seek dreams. Of course we’d like to wake up one day and find ourselves the perfect weight. Who wouldn’t like to have an unlimited supply of money? And when we get right down to the core of our desires, most people would like to have the freedom to use their time the way they want, when they want, and with no forced limitations.

We may not be able to have any of that ever given to us, but if we are willing to work toward our goals, and do so consistently, there isn’t much we can’t become, if we really want to. If you want to become thin, curb your habits of eating chocolates and add more movement to your daily routine. If you want to become wealthy, stop spending so much of your income, learn to invest, and maximize your education to bring in more money each month. If you want to be more spiritual, schedule time to read your scriptures, attend the temple, or provide service for others. Get the picture?

“Set your goals—without goals you can't measure your progress,” Elder Marvin J. Ashton taught. “But don't become frustrated if the victories don't come quickly or easily. Remind yourself that striving can be more important than arriving. If you are striving for excellence—if you are trying your best day by day with the wisest use of your time and energy to reach realistic goals—you are a success, and you can feel proud of your accomplishments."

I once read this quote: “The greatest quality on earth is the willingness to become.” There are many things each of us would like to become, but the only way it will ever happen is for us to get started. Elder Richard G. Scott says, “To reach a goal you have never before attained, you must do things you have never before done.”

No matter where the focus of your goals might be, you must do something different from what you’ve ever done if you hope to achieve great things. So, this year, do something different. Pick an area or two of your life you want to change, give yourself two or three very specific goals, set a time to have those goals accomplished, and write it all down!
Then schedule a resolution check-up 30 days from now. Evaluate your progress. Discover what’s working, and repair what’s not.

If you’ve hit your goal, celebrate! Then choose a new goal and start again–no one ever said it HAD to be January to begin. Rather than worrying about the start of a new year, let’s think instead of starting toward a new YOU.

That’s the kind of resolution I can live with.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Home Cooking: Boil That Cabbage Down

It’s January 1st, and if you don’t have some cabbage in the house, then you’ve jinxed yourself for 2011. It’s an old German tradition to cook cabbage before noon on the first day of the new year to bring good luck to you and your family. Failure to do so, well. . . you’re just tough out of luck!

This is a tradition I grew up with in my family, something my mother carried on from my Grandma Heffner. Boiled cabbage is perhaps the easiest recipe on the face of the earth, and the resulting dish is much better than you might ever believe. Even my husband has to have a bowl of the savory stuff once the cooking is done.

Boiled Cabbage
1 head cabbage (I prefer the darker green outside leaves)
4 slices bacon

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Be sure to include some salt to prevent the water from boiling over.

Chop the head of cabbage, including the heart, into large chunks. Drop these pieces into the water, making sure you have enough water to cover the cabbage. Add a tablespoon of butter, then let the cabbage boil until tender.

If you like the flavor of bacon, then add it at anytime to the boiling cabbage. You may choose to add the strips directly from the package or to lightly pan fry before adding to the cabbage. You may also decide if you prefer the bacon in long strips, half strips, or cut into bite-sized pieces.

When the cabbage is so tender than it falls apart on your fork, it’s ready to serve. Salt to taste. I often eat a slice of buttered bread to go with mine. Be sure to drink the leftover soup as well.

The only problem with boiled cabbage? The smell it leaves behind, but for someone of German ancestry like me, it’s an odor I’ve come to love. And the thought of good luck for the coming year doesn’t hurt either.