Friday, May 17, 2013

World Congress of Families

 con·gress  (knggrs)n.
1. A formal assembly of representatives, as of various nations, to discuss problems.
2. The national legislative body of a nation, especially a republic.

As most everyone knows, the United States Congress (definition #2) meets fairly regularly (not counting holidays).  It is extensively covered with the proceedings of each day hashed and rehashed on news stories via any media platform you choose.   The debates, discussions, and votes that occur there affect the lives of everyone in the USA, and sometimes many people outside of it's borders. 

Did you know that Congress is meeting?  No, not the US Congress or even your state legislature, but the World Congress of Families (definition #1).  Never heard of it?  Me either, until last week.  It is a group of scholars, educators, religious leaders, pro-family organizations, and basically anyone interested in preserving  natural families as the fundamental unit of society.  They meet to discuss ways to strengthen families and thus society as a whole.  This is the 7th meeting of this Congress since it was started in 1997.  It's proceedings are rarely, if ever, mentioned in the news, but the topics discussed there affect every person in the world- not because they form laws or dispense money, but because every person on this earth is part of a family.

(I'd love to be there, especially since this one is in Sydney, Australia- only a few hours from my parents in Melbourne.  It would be fitting to visit family and the Family Congress at the same time, don't you think?!  But, I digress.)

I've read a little about the proceedings on a couple of blogs (Middle-aged Mormon Man, We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ and WBMW) but haven't heard a thing about it otherwise.  From what I've read, it sounds like an amazing gathering.  Some days I feel like there are only isolated little pockets of people around the world who have even the remotest interest in maintaining healthy families.  Almost everything I read or see in the news media seems to be pointing readers/viewers in the opposite direction.  How refreshing it is to see that good people from all over the world and from all kinds of religious backgrounds can gather, discuss, and agree on the fact that healthy families are what this world needs more than anything else.  I honestly believe that no real community change (neighborhood or world wide) can occur until we stabilize the families that form them.  It's like trying to build a tower with blocks of jello verses knox blox or jello jigglers.  It just won't hold up unless every part has enough gelatin to hold it's own.

So, I'm not at the Congress (either definition 1 or 2!), but I can spread the word about the World Congress of Families and I can look for ways to strengthen families in my own little corner of the world- maybe start with the one that lives in my own home.  The more we know, the better we can act and lots of little acts can combine to make a world of difference.  Let's follow the example of those meeting in Sydney and find ways to affect change on scales large and small.  Be kind. Be there.  Be aware.  Almost every family I know could use at least a little more gelatin.

 “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
Mother Teresa

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mazel Tov!

ma·zel tov  

/ˈmäzəl ˌtôv/
A Jewish phrase expressing congratulations or wishing someone good luck.

Today's the day.  Erica's up, dressed, out the door, and leaving on a jet plane in an hour.  She meets up with 81 other students and they'll arrive in Jerusalem tomorrow morning our time.  Can't wait to hear about all the adventures over the next 31/2 months!

Mazel Tov!

(After taking my parents to the airport for Australia and Erica for Jerusalem, I'm feeling like heading somewhere exotic myself. Somehow grocery shopping tomorrow is just not cutting it for me!  Oh, wait, I get to drive to school again this afternoon.  That should do it... or not!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Christmas, Lest We Forget

Like most people I know, I've been following the tragic news stories coming out of Newtown, CT.  My heart goes out to the friends, families, and neighbors of those who were taken much too early and for a community who will fill the week before Christmas with funerals rather than parties.  The stories say that Newtown is removing its Christmas decorations and one high school student was quoted on his first day back to school as saying, "There's going to be no joy in school.  It really doesn't feel like Christmas anymore."  The early end to Christmas festivities seem appropriate.  After all, who could possibly be in the mood to celebrate much of anything?  The thought hasn't sat quite right to me, though, and I've mulled it over the last couple of days.  This morning it dawned on me that Christmas is exactly what we need to be celebrating right now.  I don't mean the shopping-party-food-commercial aspect of Christmas.  I mean the baby-born-in-a-manger-to-live-a-perfect-life-die-and-be-resurrected-to-redeem-all-of-mankind aspect of Christmas- the real Reason for the Season!

Who doesn't need to see a million nativity scenes to remind us that the Savior really was here and really did do what He came to do?  Or angels from heaven who proclaimed His birth?  Or candy canes- the symbol of the shepherds who were the first to seek the tiny babe after learning of his birth from the mouth of an angel of God?  What about the need for a star to guide us to the one place to find real, lasting hope and peace? A Christmas tree with it's evergreen leaves to remind us that life is eternal?  Lights to see reminders every where we go of the One who lights our way when things are darkes?  Red wrappings and bows and poinsettias the color of the blood that would be spilled to guarantee eternal life for each of those dear individuals and every other person who has ever walked the earth?  Bells to ring out the joyful news?  Music to give voice to that news?  Families, friends, and neighbors looking for more ways to serve and love each other?  Even Santa, who is a symbol of giving, loving, and caring for each other?  We need every one of these symbols of Christmas.

One does not need to be Christian to still find reasons to celebrate this time of year.  Though it came to a close the day after the tragic events, the lights of the menorahs celebrating Hanukkah served as a poignant reminder that there is a God in heaven and He does watch over his children.  There will be tragedies and heart break and hard times, but the tender mercies of a loving, all powerful God will be there to remind us that He's there.

So, may I shout from my virtual house-top:

Merry Christmas!!!

Yes, we do need Christmas, and this year more than ever.  Let's lay aside the commercial trappings, but let us never forget the real reason; for that is the greatest gift of all.  That is where our Joy will be found.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sandwich Rolls

(Upfront apology:  I dutifully took pictures of every step of these sandwiches, but my camera was on a scout camp out and my phone did not do such a good job.  I could post them here, but they would make you wish you had a new prescription in your glasses- or that you had glasses if you don't already.  I got a headache looking at them as I tried to insert them today.  Maybe I'll try again and use the real camera, but probably not.  Sorry.)

Last week I read about an very ingenious idea on make sandwiches cinnamon roll style, bake and freeze them.  The kids just grab one (or two if they are teenage boys!), throw them frozen in their lunches, and they're ready to eat by lunch.  I don't know why I have never thought or heard of this before, but I tried them for dinner on both Friday and Saturday and my family loved them.  We had them 2 nights in a row because the first night I tried ham and cheese.  The second night I tried pizza.  Both were good and both were gone.

The members of my family are not huge mustard fans, so I did make a couple of changes from the recipe at

First, I used the basic bread recipe from because I'd used it before and it was familiar to me. I also knew I could substitute some of the white flour with wheat and it would work fine.  It makes 2 loaves worth of dough which I made into 24-30 sandwiches, depending on how thick I cut them.  I rolled one half on the dough at a time into about a 13" or 14" x 9" or 10" rectangle.

Second, instead of a honey mustard sauce, which no one would eat, I improvised a ranch flavored sauce from a chicken recipe I use.  First, I mixed up one can's worth of a food storage Cream of Chicken soup mix recipe that I have.  It makes 2 or 3 cups of powder.  I mixed 1/3 of a cup of powder with one cup of water, brought it to a boil and turned it off.

Cream of Chicken soup mix
2 c. non-instant powdered milk
3/4 c. cornstarch
1/4 c. chicken bouillon (about 12 cubes smashed)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp basil (optional)
1 tsp thyme (optional)

Mix 1/3 c powder with 1 1/2 c. water, bring to a boil while stirring.

For these sandwiches I only used 1 cup of water because I wanted it a bit thicker to spread.  You could probably use a can of cream of chicken soup, but I only had large ones on hand and didn't want to open one.

I mixed the soup with 4 oz. of cream cheese (reduced fat) and a teaspoon or so of ranch dressing powder for flavor and spread it on the dough.  This ended up making enough "sauce" for 3 batches of sandwiches (about 36 rolls).

Next I covered the dough with a single layer of ham lunch meat and covered it with shredded cheddar cheese.

Rolling like a cinnamon roll was easier than I expected and cutting them into 1 inch slices was WAY easier than cinnamon rolls.  Usually with cinnamon rolls I use dental floss.  These cut really well with a sharp knife.  When I made the pizza rolls I used cheese only, no meat.  Those were easier to cut with dental floss.

The recipe from everydayfoodstorage says to bake at 400 for 10 minutes on a greased cookie sheet or in greased muffin tins for more a more "gourmet" look.  I tried both ways and found the muffin tins made rolls that stuck together better and were a more uniform size.

I let the sandwiches cool for a little bit in the pans, then all the way on a cooling rack, wrapped each in plastic wrap, and tossed them in the freezer.  The boys all took them for lunch yesterday and I thawed one for several hours on the counter at home to see what it would be like.  Obviously, they are much better right out of the oven, but they tasted pretty good thawed from the freezer.  The boys all took them again today, so that's a good sign.

This gives us something easy and different for lunches, at least for a while.  Plus, they have less fat than mayo on sandwiches, use less meat and cheese than a regular sandwich, I can get some wholewheat into the lunch bag, and there's less cleanup from lunch-making in the morning.  Wonder what other combinations we could try.  Roast beef and mozzarella?  Maybe with a little pepper and onion in there?  Turkey?  We ought to have a few weeks worth of experimentation ahead of us!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Top Heavy

 We removed the bush under our front window over spring break and replaced it with a 4 inch stump of a hibiscus plant.  It's a hardy variety bred to survive our winters.

It didn't seem to do much for about a month and then we noticed little green shoots.  Those little shoots grew like crazy, and now we have three- 3.5 foot stems.  Before we left for vacation they were loaded with blossom buds.  They began opening while we were gone. This is how the front of the house currently looks.

The hibiscus is actually supposed to become a bush about 4 feet high and fill in the space with green leaves and beautiful red flowers.  Can't wait for that.  Until then, these huge blossoms make the little plant look somewhat top heavy!  I hope it really does survive our winters.  A tiny piece of a Hawaiian vacation in our front yard would be nice.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Left on a Jet Plane

Just realized this morning I never posted this.  The 2 weeks are up and our superheros are not only on their way, they've already landed and gotten to work.  So far they love it.  We'll miss them but are so excited to hear how the work progresses!  Thank heaven for phones, blogs, Skype, and email.  They help make this huge world seem a little smaller.

Monday, July 2, 2012

They're Off! (sort of)

MTC missionary life during the day, our house being grandparents by night. Two short weeks of superhero life and they'll finally be on their way to Australia!