Monday, October 27, 2008

My, My That's One Heavenly Pie . . . (to be sung to the tune of Don McLean's song.)

Looking back, I see I've been advertising Susan Bauer's book for quite a while now. I was thrown into a depression by . . . [edited out due to lack of relevance anymore!] But, something snapped me out of my melancholy. It was a pie. I don't do a lot of recipe pushing, but this one deserves some attention. I ran into it in Family Fun and thought it would be nice to serve to the Quickwater Mothers at our informal reunion yesterday. Of course, I ran out of time, and my girls jumped in to save me, yet again, by making the expirimental recipe. (Delightful girls, I have.) The result was something to blog about! Three short letters (p-i-e) don't do justice to this food from the gods. I regret that I have no way to attach a taste here, but I can tell you, it's a subtle pie. And romantic. And just when you think you understand it, it surprises you with a bit of lemon zest! Enjoy! Maple Heaven Pear Pie (
6 cups peeled 1/2-inch diced just-ripe pears (about 8 small pears)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped candied ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
9- or 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie crust or try this Flaky Piecrust
Oatmeal Crumb Topping
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
L cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1. Heat the oven to 400°. Place the diced pears in a large bowl, sprinkle the cornstarch over them, and stir well. Add the remaining filling ingredients and toss gently, until the mixture is evenly combined. 2. Turn the filling into the chilled deep-dish pie crust and smooth the top of the fruit. Place the pie on the center oven rack, with a piece of aluminum foil under the dish to catch any drips, and bake for 45 minutes. 3. Now make the topping. Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter, and using your hands, rub the ingredients together until you have large crumbs. Refrigerate the topping until you are ready to use it. 4. After 45 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 375°. Remove the pie from the oven and carefully pour the crumbs in the center of the pie, then spread them evenly. Return the pie to the oven and bake it until the juices bubble thickly around the edge, about 15 minutes. Transfer the pie to a rack to cool for at least 2 hours before serving. Serves 10 to 12.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Susan Bauer's New Book

The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals (Complete Writer) The Complete Writer: Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals by Susan Wise Bauer rating: 5 of 5 stars I left this review on Amazon: Susan Bauer's opening essay on the writing process and how to teach it is the most cogent, informed explanation I've ever read: "Writing is a process that involves two distinct mental steps. First, the writer puts an idea into words; then, she puts the words down on paper. INARTICULATE IDEA ---> IDEA IN WORDS IDEA IN WORDS ---> WORDS ON PAPER . . . The pianist practices first the right hand, and then the left hand, before putting the two together; the young writer practices putting ideas into words, and then putting words down on paper, before trying to do both simultaneously. . . What follows will equip you to train the young student in the language of writing." And Bauer delivers on this promise perfectly; she shows even the most unprepared parent or teacher how to teach good writing in just a few minutes a day. Her program will be a great relief to students who feel overwhelmed by writing assignments. It's all so manageable: she even tells you exactly what to do if you're starting with a "reluctant older student(grade 6-12)." To make her case, her own writing is so easy and delightful that it's relaxing to read. I'm ordering the workbooks. Thank you, Ms Bauer. _____ My off-the-record comment: Susan Bauer ROCKS! I want to BE her. (I guess I should say, "I want to be SHE," but that sounds goofy. So, if Shakespeare can get away with "Woe is me," I'm sticking with I WANT TO BE HER!) View all my reviews.

Coolest Wedding Photos Ever

I just watched a wedding slide show that had the most stunning and edgy picts I've ever seen . . . and I even saw JFK Jr's wedding photos in People magazine! These are better. It was my niece's wedding (the first for my family--another story altogether). If you're interested in photo wedding art (or Amy & Shaun), here's how to view: Click the following link to view the collection: When prompted, enter the password: amyandshaun It was a bit of a pain to get it to run: you have to download a plugin that doesn't want to be downloaded, then click on "Loop All" when you see the big pict of Amy & Shaun. Personal favorites: the one you're looking at, the hot salmon wall--wow--and the bride and groom sitting at the soda bar in the Blue Bird! No "McPictures" in the lot. Excellent work, Charles! ____________

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reading List for Boys

Thank you, everyone who replied to my request for literature for boys. I'll let you know if I find Capt. Moroni in these pages. Here are your recommendations:
Books I Have to Read Before I Go on a Date (for boys)
* Les Miserables (Hugo)--for obvious reasons! (Nevermind the part where Jean Val Jean stabs himself in the arm with a burning poker just to illustrate his manhood.) * War and Peace (Tolstoy)--This replaces Anna K from the girls' list. I've never read it, but Jonathan acts like carrying a book named "Anna" through the halls of junior high would make him a wounded gazelle on the Serengeti. I trust that Tolstoy wove his magic into this one also. * Horatio Hornblower--for valor and honor, brave deeds, and what-not. * The Virginian--never read it. I'll keep you posted. * Great Expectations (Dickens)--illustrating what not to do. * Twilight-- (an unlikely bedfellow here, but included to promote the waning qualities of gentlemanliness:
  • Manners DO matter.
  • Don't look at other girls when you're on a date.
  • Don't devour her even if you really want to.
  • If at all possible, be wealthy, good-looking, and strong. (Not required, just helpful.)
The girls have LOUDLY pointed out that Twilight is utterly unfair, because he's already read it. We might have to pare down the list, but this is an excellent start! Thank you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Weekly Random Photo

This is my sister Marsali at the White House Christmas Ball (yes, it's a ball). That sculpture you see behind her is the White House in white chocolate--not your average Christmas party!

Reading List for Girls: Lessons in Mate Selection

Six girls and a roll of aluminum foil: the Linford girls(minus Alice) manifest the royal within. I have a question: After becoming a parent of a daughter, how long did it take for you to start worrying about her choice in a mate? What man would ever be good enough? Is she really going to choose her husband herself! All that. I think I might have had a peaceful 30 minutes after Nancy was born before that thought occurred to me, and it's been a downward spiral ever since. When Joanne was born, and I was up to four daughters (8, 6, 2, 0), I decided to take action. What else could I do? I gave my girls a reading list--let them experience the perils of mate selection (good and bad) through literature. Here's the list:
Books I Must Read Before I Can Go on a Date
  • Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), so they can live through Jane's moral strength to run away from what she knew was wrong even when all her happiness (as she supposed) was there. (And, it's the greatest book of all time!)
  • Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte), so they can see how a woman will rationalize away the flaws of a man she loves and how that will poison her future.
  • Any 2 Jane Austens (preferably P&P and S&S): in the words of Marguerite (when she was 4), . . . "Mom, guess what, Mister Wickham LOOKED like he was a good guy, but ACTUALLY, he was a bad guy. And, Mister Darcey LOOKED like he was a bad guy, but ACTUALLY, he was a good guy." Mission accomplished! (This was one of proudest moments of my life!)
  • Anna Karenina (Tolstoy): There are so many reasons to read this book, but most importantly, so they can see how someone, by degrees, can lie herself into doing anything she thinks she wants (the foil to Jane Eyre), and the excuses don't matter.
Anyway, 5 books is all. We've been talking about this list for all these years, and the girls didn't think much of it until last summer when Nancy realized that she was down to 9 months and had roughly 3000 pages to read. She's been in heavy negotiations trying to plead down the Anna K requirement. (At some point, she got this negotiation twisted into her begging to get her ears pierced--oh, the cogitations of the adolescent female brain!--and she claimed that if I let her pierce her ears, she would read ALL the Jane Austens AND write a paper on Anna K. I'm still considering that.) Help! But, now my problem is I need to give Jonathan a list. And, the girls' list just doesn't cover it for Jonathan. So, I'm asking for help here: please give me suggestions for books that show real men--men of valor and integrity, how they do hard things, how they treat women, how they value life. Please no whiny metro-men. I need Captain Moroni in a novel or biography. If anything comes to mind, send me the title. Somehow, I've neglected this genre. Thanks!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Problems with Grounding: Can she do a short post?

Yes, she can! Here's why I should never ground my kids: Jonathan: "Mom, can I use your computer?" (Nevermind the grammer. Wait, I'm having a wisp of memory. I think I grounded him from the computer. Why? Can't remember.) Me: "Did I ground you from the computer?" Jonathan: "Yes." Me: "Why?" Jonathan: "Because I was playing games yesterday when you said no games." Me: "No, you can't use my computer." I'm not sure I'm cut out for this profession.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pounds and Pounds of Empathy . . . or . . . My First Massage

My younger cousin Emily gave me a writing assignment. She can do this, and I cannot say no, because she's a brilliant creative writing professor at BYU. I hesitate to share her blog with you because you'll never come back here, but in fairness to you:

My assignment (I put it in purple because that's the kind of girl Emily is):

Do something you have never done before and write about the experience. The activity must be something on the domestic level (no sky-diving or other "huge" things...just something small). Examples: using a loofa, riding the bus, visiting a homeless shelter, something out of your ordinary schedule or something you've always been nervous to try doing.

My "domestic activity" was receiving a massage. So, here are my thoughts from the Shower Wall about this new experience.


I got a massage today, my first. I'm thirty-eight years old. After three years of carrying around a gift certificate in my wallet—seriously three years—I finally got up the nerve make the appointment. Truthfully, my husband had to make the appointment for me after I declared my intent to go. How many hours have passed since I showered this morning? Do I smell? I wonder as I fill the bath tub. Why have I delayed this pleasure? Just how probing is a real massage? I wish I were skinny. "Sally, you need to leave," my husband calls to me. At the last possible minute, I shuffle through papers looking for that gift certificate. Have I really procrastinated something that the entire free world considers a luxury? What could be so threatening?

Nothing, I decide. I haven't been procrastinating; I've just been very busy. How many women with eight children sit for a massage, really? Yes, this is perfectly natural. I clear my throat. I'm going to get the massage therapist to work out that burning spot in my back. I should have done this months ago. I'm supposed to be 10 minutes early, but getting out of the house is more difficult than I'd anticipated. Maybe I should go to the bathroom again. I finally leave. I won't be there early. As I drive, I ponder the trade-offs of having a man or a woman masseuse. I'll be more comfortable with a woman, but a man will have stronger hands, and I really need this knot worked out. It's killing me. I walk into the clinic and get in line behind a Gen Y businessman who's buying a membership. (I didn't know memberships were a possibility for massage therapy.) In front of me is a shapely, middle-aged woman who has the confidence of someone who's been here before. My eyes probe the walls for reading material. Behind the counter, the door opens, and a young blond man wearing an apron walks through. My heart leaps into my throat: He looks about fifteen though I know this is impossible. I realize why I've been this putting off. Oh, Master of the Universe, please don't make me undress in front of that child.

He's far too young to have accumulated any empathy. I imagine him telling jokes about my body to the other therapists after I leave. Stop it! I correct myself. He's a professional. But, in a split second, I admit the truth. No, this boy-child will not do my massage.

Then sudden clarity: No man will give me a massage. Forget the fireball in my back and stronger hands. I regret becoming a sexist, but I must have a woman.

I find myself wishing that English had a word, like comedienne or stewardess, for distinguishing between a man and a woman masseuse. How pathetic for me to have to announce, "I prefer a woman therapist." So much more dignified to say, "Schedule me with your masseusess." Even if there were such a word, the feminists would have stamped it out by now. Damn the feminists. [Footnote: see Diane's enlightening comment about this.] The woman in front of me speaks up. "I'm here for Kurt" she says. "Hello," the child-masseuse replies, and I'm spared the shame of having to refuse him. I smile briefly then steel myself for my impending request that will announce to the world (the empty lobby) that I am a sexist with body hangups, likely abused as a child, therefore unable to get a massage from a man.

Don't be ridiculous, I chide. Who cares? I assure myself that there is no shame in requesting a woman. After all, I'm the client here. With new resolve, I prepare my words and anticipate my masseuesess . . . I wait . . . I fill out the form where I indicate that I want a "deep" massage, not "mild" or "therapeutic" (not sure what those mean), and I wait again. . . . then, a new fear. Please let her be large, I pray silently. Before I even have to ask, the door opens again, and a woman comes out. She looks me in the eye, and I can see that she's comfortable in her profession and kind, old enough to have experience, but young enough to still have strong hands. (Maybe that spot will get worked out after all.)

But, more importantly, she's large. Not just large but hugely obese, and obese in a strange way, so that her top looks almost normal, but her hips and thighs spread out in rippled scallops. Pounds and pounds of empathy. I pause briefly to acknowledge the blessing. My body will present no surprises. Relief. We walk down a professional-looking hall and into a darkened room. I hear soothing oriental music. I explain that I've just had a baby, so I'm hunched over, nursing all the time and sleeping like a pretzel with my baby next to me. I tell her about the fireball. "Undress to your comfort level, and lie face-down under the blankets. I'll knock before I come in," she says. Wow. I admire her script. (Has the whole world had sensitivity training?) I undress and climb—without shame—under the sheets. She begins by standing at my head and pushing down my back, horizontally, like I'm a truck stuck in a snow bank. "We're going to communicate here. You tell me if it's too hard." Her hands slide down my back until she comes to a marble that sits under my skin next to my spine—exactly where the burning is. Her fingers probe for other lumps, then return to the marble. She pushes down with her thumb, slowly, applying constant pressure. Harder. Hm. That feels a little uncomfortable. This lump becomes her enemy. She rolls over it with her thumb, increasing the pressure, pushing it into my rib cage. Just before I scream, . . . she lets up. She uses the back side of her forearm to roll over my back, stopping again on the marble, She rolls again over and back, over and back, always edging towards excruciating. Can human hands rip the cartilage off my ribs? Now I will scream. But, again, she releases the pressure and transitions into light brushing movements—Ah, yes, the familiar feel of generic back rub. As she finishes working on my back, I realize that this pleasure, like all good things, is going to end. I begin some long term planning. I should do this again, maybe twice a year, just to protect my back. I can see I'm developing back problems. When she gets to my neck, I become earnest. This is really something. It must be healthful, even medicinal. Maybe this is like vitamins—not urgent, but important. I should come in at least quarterly. What was David saying today? "Back to a hard budget. Cut 7 years off our mortgage with a fifteen-year loan." "Yes," I had agreed. "That will feel good."

As good as this? I wonder. What did I hear about membership?

Yes, I'll be back.