Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Now Its The Last Trip - 2011

I lied last week - but unintentionally. I thought my Utah trip was my last one of the year and then on Thursday, my new go- live in 2012 business was insistent that I come and go through their department before the new year started.

So -at 6:30 am it was wheels up on my last flight of the year to Boston.

I had to go out to Springfield and that's almost 2 hours from Logan airport -I got jammed in some traffic along the way so it put me out there even later than expected. But I got in, had a great meeting and walk through and the headed back for my flight out.

Along the way I noticed all up down the mass turnpike (which, FYI, the logo for the turnpike is a pilgrim hat like we have that speeding letter I for the tollway in Illinois) there were hundreds of trees either snapped in half or just toppled over from their root base. I don't know what it was from but I'm guessing that freak snow storm they had on Halloween. I dont know what they're going to do with the trees but I have to guess they'll need to do something eventually as it's pretty bad.

I got back to the airport with a little time to spare and, since I hadnt eaten all day, I stopped at the Luckys in the airport. Yay! Their special was good ol boston lobster rolls! Take a look at that amazing fresh lobster! Can you imagine having so much lobster you just make sandwiches with it - and not just any sandwiches, but ones that Joe blow at a baseball game would eat! Aiyeee!!!! We have that big stupid lake and no lobsters--- sometimes it makes me so sad:(....

I have to insert - I'm sitting at Luckys by this family. An older dad who has horrible bo, a daughter who is probably 30 and then the middle aged mom who is droning on and on about every horrible thing that happened this past week. Her voice is so so annoying and whiny I want to run screaming. No offense to you Bostoners but the combo of Boston accent and high whiny slow voice is so horrible! Not that a Chicago accent would be any better! Anyways - it just makes you stop and think - what do other people hear if they sit next to you and you're talking to someone that is close to you.

Well - Home again home again and a happy new year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Eve!

Just a few shots from our family get together on Christmas Eve at Uncle Raines (for those of you who missed... :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Memory

You totally have to check this out.  This was like one of my favorite Christmas presents ever.  I saw this link on someone else's blog and it made me have a total blast from the past - but a really good one.  I loved loved loved playing with this!

Hope you get something fun that you've been wanting that you have lots of great memories with it!

Merry Christmas!

On The Plains Of Utah

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Theres Benjamin Elliot (after Jim Elliot), Jeremiah Taylor (after Hudson Taylor) , Elijah Carey (after William Carey), Isaiah Judson (after Adoniram Judson DSCN7202 Samuel Paton (after John Paton)
Lydia Grace Carmichael (after Amy Carmichael)

These are my friends Matt and Karlene and their big ol' brood. 5 boys and 1 girl to be exact. The girl is the new one that they finally got - not that they were necessarily trying. All of the kids have middle names that come from missionaries from all over the world. Its kind of a cool little project that they undertook with the names.... :)

 Matt and Karlene were working at a school down in Clearwater, FL and felt called back to the west (Matt is from Wyoming) specifically to work with the Mormons in Utah. They came back originally and were helping lead a camp up in the mountains but Matt ended up taking over a really small little church in a town called Salina (pronounced Sah-lena). I want to say the town has like maybe 5000 residents, might be less, probably isn't more. There's absolutely nothing there except people and I give them credit for being willing to go to a place like this because they care about those people. The nearest Wal-Mart is about a 35 minute drive away and we had the wonderful opportunity to dine at the finest establishment (and pretty much only) in town, El Mexicano.

I learned some stuff about Mormons and about the great state of Utah which was originally vying, not for statehood, but to be its own country - which is pretty gutsy considering its a land-locked country in the middle of a bigger country. But, we were able to claim the mountains and ski slopes of Utah as US territory in and now we have a very unique place in our great country - its a self-contained mission field to speak of.

So - what I learned about Mormons is that there are actually two kinds - theres mainline, which are Mormons that look like you and me in every way. They wear the same kind of clothes, drive the same cars, have one wife or husband and kids. Pretty much normal to look at. Then there are the conservative (I believe this is their term) Mormons which are the ones they make reality tv shows about :). They have the multiple wives and the 35 kids and the 900 grandchildren and they all live "happily" together. The mainline Mormons are the true Mormons - they're the ones that their church has said are the normal ones.

The Mormon church does not support or condone the polygymists and, in fact, are pretty anti these people. From what I was told, the Mormon church tries to shut down the polygymists. So - the thing that makes a mainline Mormon a real Mormon is their membership in the temple. They have to keep their tithes paid up, in fact, they send men from the church to houses to collect the tithes so the people don't even have to go to "church". When a members tithes are paid up, they're given an active temple card where they can have access to the temple which I think they have to go a couple times a year or something like that.

Oh - here's another interesting thing I learned. For a Mormon to go to heaven, there are certain things they have to do. One of the things they have to do is be married. No matter the case, they have to be married. For instance - theres a story of a woman who was engaged to be married, but before the wedding, her fiance was killed. They went through with the wedding anyways - I don't think he was actually there, someone stood in for him, but she married the dead guy. So - thats one of the works you can do. Take me for instance - I really should be married, and there is some dead guy out there who should have been married but wasn't - so one of the works I can do is to go to the temple and offer myself to be married to the dead guy so that he can go to heaven and then its like double good because now I'm married so I go to heaven, and I've just done a good work, so bam - I get double points. I kind of like the marry a dead guy thing.... no fighting there and I still get to squeeze my toothpaste from the top like every civilized human being does, but most men don't. Hmmmm - I'm not sure if I get his money or if its just a paper thing - I'll have to check that out.... 

Lets see - oh - here's something about Utah. Apparently Joseph Smith was a little OCD because when he moved everyone to Utah and started forming towns, they all had to follow the same blueprint which was that from town center out, all the streets are numbered, 100 and up. So, whenever you're driving in a town, you know when you're getting close to the center as the streets are 400, 500, 600 and when you get to 100 you know its center. They go west, east, north and south from the center so either way is 100 and up, its just a matter of east or west. I must have drove through about 30 towns from Salt Lake to Saline and they ALL were "exit 22 100 West St", etc. When I got into the bigger cities like Provo and Springville, the streets were like up to 3000 and higher. At each city center is the Mormon church - most of them look the same, but there are ones that are older. They all have a steeple with a tall pole on it that looks like a church cross without the horizontal bar to make the cross - it actually looks kind of like a lightning rod.

Most of the towns out by Salina and such where Matt and Karlene are are original towns founded by the Mormons settlers in the 1850s and 1870s. There are a lot of the original churches and houses there that are made of this hand made brick that they made from the dirt there. Karlene said that some of the walls of these houses are like 3 feet thick because they thought it would help with the insulation, but it actually makes the house hard to heat and cool. Karlene also said that a lot of the people in town still have wagons on their property that was the original wagon their relatives moved there with. Not that they've intentionally kept the wagons or anything they're just still there. Its pretty typical for a family to build a house and never have it out of the family. Lets see - oh, ok, the polygimists. There are a lot of them, but they aren't really that out in the open or on every corner in Utah. You can, apparently, usually tell their houses as they're kind of townhouse looking where they have several entrance doors and they're really big.

Thats one of the big ministrys in Utah because when a polygimist "escapes" they have nothing and they're literally in danger. There was a big billboard I passed going from Salina to SLC - it said Holding Out Help to Polygamists and it had a website of - you can check it out. Its an agency for helping polygamists escape. Their website says there are 37,000 polygamists living in western US. Kar said that she knows a lady who was a polygamist, she was like one of 6 wives. She ended up escaping at some point when she had 9 kids. She got away and she ended up meeting a guy and they got married - they're believers now. They never had their own kids, but from those original 9 kids, they now have 95 grandkids! Try getting the all presents for Christmas! :)

Kar also told me about another girl that they know who was going to be married but tried to escape and they locked her up in a room the was like the size of a linen closet - she was in there for like a month and one day someone forgot to lock the door and she escaped. A lot of times, these "families" will live by borders and so, if they're in Utah, the Utah police come for them and they step across the state line to AZ. And the same the other way. There was one story where both the Utah and AZ police came so they didn't have anywhere to go and they arrested all the husbands and so the wives and kids "got back" at them by all applying for WIC and government aid and after about a month they let the men out because the state couldn't afford to pay all the money for these women and kids.


Apparently in the Mormon church there are unforgivable sins that, once you do them, you're screwed. Theres nothing you can do to go to heaven. Thats when good Mormons go bad. They said that once they hit that plain of not going to heaven they go all out with tattoos and piercings and drugs and drinking - theres apparently a lot of prostitution in Utah because of this. Kar said that this is where they're trying to be because if, when a Mormon falls, theres nothing there, they'll kill themselves with all the bad stuff. Its when theres a church there that they actually "get it". She said that usually the story is that most Mormons literally don't know theres anything out there besides Mormonism - but they always have this feeling that there is something more outside of what they're taught. When they find a church and when they find God, it clicks that this is real. This is what they're missing.

I'll end with a few last family picts - they did a Christmas play with their little church. The Mormons actually get involved in things with their church, except on Sundays. SO, they have a chance to do things like the Christmas story and talk about what life is really about..... Her boys were some of the most well-versed in scripture so they got to be two of the kings who had lines that they recited... DSCN7157DSCN7162DSCN7166DSCN7190
And so I end on a practical note - we're out west - and when you're out west, there should always be a gun-totin', pistol packing cowboy --- right????? :) DSCN7213

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Out West - Love It!

Heavy fog, but I can still see mountain bases and every once in a while I have to do a double take as the sky opens up and I can see the massive body of a snow covered summit - surreal... They tower and loom and, for a midwesterner, every time I see one of these amazing precipices of the west, my heart skips a beat a little and I think "why are these people all down here on their cars on the road - why aren't they up climbing one of those mountains!?"

I'm in Utah on an overnight trip. Work in Salt Lake City, but friends call in Salina, a very very small town about 2 1/2 hours south of SLC. So - I finish up around 1 and I'm on the road headed down to reminisce and share some laughs with the 6 adorable kids they have (no, they're not Mormon)...:)

And so I'm hit all the way down with amazing views and then the solitude and overwhelm of flat nothingness surround by ranges of snow capped mountains that jut and jag and soar. Can you tell I just can't get over them. I've not spent much time in Utah outside of SLC so now that I do, I'm convinced these are some if the best ranges. I can't describe it but I do like these mountains more than Idaho or even Colorado...

It's 31, but even so, I'm walking around without a jacket on. I'm presuming it's like Boise and were enough in a valley that there not a wind chill factor.

When you fly into SLC, it really looks like a boring pit of a place. Even the young Mormon missionary (more later) sitting next to me said "wow, Salt Lake looks really boring". Driving through, the downtown is nice but all around on the outskirts, there are broken down and decrepit buildings. Not much to look at.

Thank goodness for the mountains because they save the view!

The Conclusion of 2011?

And so I reach the end of 2011 with a glowing sunrise over a tarmac and my last, hopefully, bag tag of the year. My poor little travelling companion is on it's last legs again so she'll soon have to be replaced as well. So sad but slightly excited to pick out a new rollerboard - sorry old girl.... No offense to the poor thing, but there are so many options I can go with out there. It's just taking the time to find the option and spending the el buckos...

I'm off for a quick overnight to the home of the Mormons. Well, now it's actually home to my friends Matt and Karlene as well so I'll get a chance to spend the night with them and their adorable kids! Yay!

Well, we're boarding soon so - 3 more flights until happy new year!!!!!:)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Story Post

I was bad and missed my story post last week, but I tried to ignore it and act like I didn't.  I cannot lie any longer.

But - I am updated today... Enjoy a Christmas gift that will hopefully get you in the real spirit of Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bye Bye Miss American...Cupcake ...

I have some friends that live in Thailand but have been home for a year.  They're now getting ready to go back and I'm so so sad because I'll miss them so much.  But!  I've been so happy to have some great shared experiences with them while they've been home in the states.  Time to spend with the kids and with them - some road trips some parties some charity work that we've done together.  

A few of us couldn't let them go without saying goodbye so Saturday, we gathered at my place and had a huge old open house party to make sure they knew how much we love them and are going to miss them.  I'm sad, but they're excited to go back and get to work so - I suppose I should be happy for them...

Nothing says party like CUPCAKES! :)  This is my very bad replica of the Thai flag with cupcakes.  I think they got the point - we're sad, but we're 100% behind them as they go back!  I think fun and tears and good goodbyes were had by all!  A good Saturday....

Grab A Coffee - And A Cookie -- PLEASE! :)

We finished up the Cookie Exchange and now we have a literally butt-load of cookies... seriously ... my butt is now loaded with cookies.  And there's more where those came from so - PLEASE - come and have some cookies with us.....

These were my Grandma Behn's Molasses Cookies - the recipe is like 3 blog posts below.  They're so yummy... I always do them the chewy way not the crunchy way.  They're awesome when they're fresh.

 Boxed up and ready to ship to my three "receivers".  Hope everyone enjoyed - I'm sure by the time they arrived they were in the crunchy state which is also doable since thats a baking option.

Here are two other cookie batches that we got.  This first one was my favorite.  They were so adorably wrapped and they were such a creative recipe - that was good to boot!  You can find the recipe for Speculoos at the attached link.  Such a cute logo and such great cookies!  THANK YOU!

Here's one mom got from Courtney at  Yummy Ginger Apple Cookies.  Thanks from Carol, Courtney!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day Trip By The Beach

It's Wednesday/hump day and I had a quick day trip to Norfolk, VA to work with a hospital system there. I actually flew out of Milwaukee at 6a.m (eek!), went through Chicago and then onto Norfolk. I was able to drive with the windows open and the 50 degree air blowing in. I passed the beach and had to take a shot. I love all the tall beach houses...

Now I'm back on a plane. Had to go Norfolk to Newark and then back to Milwaukee. I won't get in until 9:30p.m. Then the 45 min drive home. I'm tired...:(. At least I dont have a meeting until 10 in Mundelein. I'm going to try and catch a quick run before I head out as I've not had much time to hit the trails and it's been pretty nice out.

Preparing for a big party on Saturday so I'll have to finish some of that tomorrow night.

I'll be so glad to get back to my bed that I left at 3a.m this morning!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

So here's the final post for the cookie swap.  I'll actually put up some pictures of the other cookies we got tomorrow - kind of late tonight - but I did have to get mom's and my recipes up before the clock strikes midnight.

¾ cup Crisco (shortening in a can)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup molasses (Brer Rabbit)
1 egg beaten
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour, sifted
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
Melt shortening in a 4 qt. pan over low heat.  Allow to cool.  Add sugar, molasses and eggs.  Mix well.  Sift together salt, baking soda, flour, & spices.  Add to 1st mixture.  Mix well, and chill in refrigerator.  When ready to bake, form small balls and roll in granulated sugar.  Place the balls on a greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart (do not flatten).  Bake at 375 degrees.  For chewy cookies bake 9-10 minutes.  For crisp cookies bake 10 – 12 minutes.


Festive Italian Cookies
3/4 cups shortening
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbs vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Blend shortening, butter, salt, sugar and vanilla. Add flour and pecans. Drop by tablespoon full onto cookie sheet. Bake in slow 325F oven for 25 minutes. Cool then roll in confeconfectioners sugar.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Down South NE

Just a few more snapshots from last week.  As mentioned, I worked in Seattle last week and so I ended up driving down to Portland to stay with my bro.  I didn't wind up with appointments on Thursday so I took the morning and got up, went to a coffee shop and did a bunch of work and then came back in the afternoon and me and the sibling did a little tour of Portland.

We started with a MANSION tour.... Chuckle chuckle after being at Biltmore last week.  This place was a little peanut stand - very elaborate, but pretty tiny all the same.

Its called the Pittock Mansion.  It was the guy who started the Oregonian newspaper.  They actually didn't build the place until they were in their 70s and then only lived there for 5 years until they died and their kids took the place over.

This is the view from the Music Room - you can see Mt Hood in the distance....

From the main upstairs bedroom, looking the other side of the house - you can see towards Washington and Mt St Helens and Mt Rainier.  When you were standing on the back lawn, you could see the two mountains on one side and the other on the other side.  It was kind of cool.

After dinner, it was kind of late, but I had read about this "Fantasy Trail" that you could walk with lights and all.  It was about 40 minutes from the city, but we decided to take the drive out for a little walk in nature.  Let me throw you a hint if you're ever out in Portland during the holidays -- do not, I repeat, DO NOT go to the Fantasy Trail for a little stroll unless you have a 2 year old with you.  $5 a person later, and you're strolling through the cheesiest display of cheapo lights winding through a wooded path that may or may not be the scene of some creepy "Halloween" murder.  

As you can tell below, though, Karl was the 2 year old in the scenario and was ecstatically delighted with wild amounts of joy!  But I think the place was haunted because that white dot kept on popping up on all my pictures....  Creepy