Monday, November 1, 2010

It’s over! Clean up that mess in your yard!

Okay, I will be the first to admit that I am a Halloween Grinch.  I truly fail to understand how it became a Hallmark occasion.  I mean, really—Halloween cards?  The other day I actually heard Martha Stewart—the queen of all that is uber tasteful (I thought)--gushing about how it’s her favorite holiday.  Seriously???!!!

Let me list some of the things I hate about Halloween:

Candy corn, skulls and/or skeletons, fake blood, Halloween movies, spook alleys inside churches (more on that in a minute), smashed pumpkins along with other forms of random vandalism, fifteen year olds in hoodies and skinny jeans who pound on your door and demand candy, and night-time-only inflatables that look like  giant used condoms scattered all over the yard come day light.

I am not completely without a heart.  There are things I like about Halloween:

Jack o’ lanterns, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and little trick or treaters wearing charming, creative costumes.

I will confess that I came late to the costume party.  My own children will attest to that.  Their costumes were contrived at the last minute from things we had around the house; sheets, garbage bags, toilet paper, etc.  Of course my grandchildren cannot be forced to endure such humiliation,  and so a tradition was born twelve years ago…

This year I made all or parts of thirteen costumes.  Here are the pics along with news updates from each family:


The Reed family went to Disneyland earlier in the month and stayed for the special trick or treating event.  Appropriately enough, they were all dressed in Toy Story costumes; Carl and Heather found their Potato Head costumes online along with Will’s Buzz Lightyear.  I made Jessie for Aubrey and Woody for Spencer.   As it turned out, it was good they did their celebrating early.  Aubrey had her end of the year 4-H awards banquet Saturday night (she got first place for the season in Western and third place for the season in English) and Spencer got sick so they missed trunk or treat at the church.  Spencer has had several bad throat infections this year and is seeing the ENT doc tomorrow to schedule a tonsillectomy. 


As you can see, the Clement kids won their campaign against doing a costume theme this year.  Jake really wanted to be Nacho Libre for his last year of trick or treating and Riley and Brooke wanted something they could wear make-up with.  So they are 80s punk divas and Morgan is an adorable bunny.  Their ward featured a Book Mormon spook alley at their party Saturday night.  I hardly know where to begin… 

Next weekend Jake is flying to Dallas for the Psoriasis Walk.  Because of her pregnancy and limitations that the dr. has placed on her, Liza won’t be able to go with him.  Jake will be representing the family and accepting kudos for their team’s fundraising efforts.   Liza and Jeremy organized a raffle, raising over $1,500 plus the online donations they received.  We are very proud of their charitable efforts.


The White girls also opted out of a theme this year.  Ellie wanted to be a fairy, but not just any fairy—the Tooth Fairy.  Liv wanted to be a “pretty” cowgirl and Abby wasn’t fussy.  Their Halloween was very representative of Texas…apparently.  They visited the pumpkin patch and corn maze and were surprised to find that the maze was  in the shape of George Strait, a favorite resident of San Antonio.



If that isn’t Texas-y enough for you, their ward party featured an activity where children colored pictures of deer, hung them up on a sheet and shot them with BB guns.  To quote Emily, “Nothing says Texas like a two year old with a gun!” That very two year old will actually be three tomorrow.  Happy Birthday, Ellie!

Speaking of birthdays, Alvie and Ezzie celebrated their birthdays last week with a sports-themed party.  It’s nothing but celebrations at the Taylor house as Ashton will turn seven in two weeks.


IMG_0541What do a Ninja, a skunk and a penguin have in common?  Well, if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.

We are all praying for Sean’s dad, Terry Taylor, who has been hospitalized for several weeks now and continues to struggle.  We look forward to seeing him, and all the Taylors, at Thanksgiving and pray he is well enough to enjoy the holidays.




Clare is teaching art at Independence High School and Simi’s care is in the very capable hands of Grammy Sandrini and I.  We both agree that the monkey costume suits her. 

I hope everyone had a splendid Halloween!

Monday, October 11, 2010

A grab bag of stuff

Well, obviously I am back from San Antonio.   In the two weeks since we returned I cleaned my downstairs carpets, planned a fabulous joint Mutual activity, finished the final two of thirteen Halloween costumes, babysat Simi and the Reed boys and read a good book.  Obviously, some of these activities are more interesting than others, so we'll just hit the high points...

As always, San Antonio is a great place to visit.  Bill went to attend the Emerson Global User's Exchange and I went to party.  He stayed downtown, on the river walk, where his meetings and activities were held.  I stayed with Emily, Eric and the girls.  This made sense until I heard how Liv explained the arrangements to her kindergarten teacher who we met at Beefy's Backyard BBQ.  Introductions being made, the teacher commented, "Yes, Liv told me that her Grandma and Papa were visiting from California and that her Grandma was staying at her house and her Papa was sleeping at a hotel."  It's not as sad as it sounds.  We let him visit a couple of days.

A short pictorial of our trip...


We ate at a very good restaurant, "La Gloria," at the end of the new river walk annex which winds past the art museum and the newly gentrified Pearl Brewery.  Lots of fun statuary and colorful, hanging  fish which glow at night.  Also, a bat flight every evening.  What more could you want?


IMG_0447P1040668After a beautiful evening walk, Bill took the water taxi back to his hotel and we returned to the 'burbs.

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The ever fabulous Mi Tierra restaurant and bakery.  There is always kind of a food theme which runs through any gathering of Reeds.

What trip to SA would be complete without a visit to Fort Sam Houston to salute our men in uniform and feed the deer?



Perhaps the most fun was at the "Kindy 500," an annual event at Johnson Ranch Elementary School where all of the kindergartners parade in homemade vehicles.  Emily and I were quite proud of Liv's Pet Rescue truck until we saw the military jet and biplane.  Let me tell you...there were some parents who really had their egos laid out on the line.  And I thought science fairs were bad!


Moving on to Halloween costumes...

This year I did all or parts of 13 costumes.  They were, in no particular order, a ninja, a skunk, a penguin, Woody and Jessie from Toy Story, two eighties punk rockers, Nacho Libre, a bunny, a monkey, a fifties girl, a cow girl and the tooth fairy.  I am looking forward to getting photos of the big night...that's my payoff!

While in SA I finished reading "The House at Riverton," by Kate Morton.  This was the book she wrote just before "The Forgotten Garden" which many of us have loved, loved loved!  Riverton was an entertaining read.  To paraphrase Karrie Bunting, if I had read it first I would have said it was a great book.  But...having already read Forgotten Garden, I will have to call it very good.  Morton just keeps getting better.  She is a genius at leaving little crumbs of secrets for us to follow and unravel.

Since returning home, I have read "The Book Thief," by Maurice Zusak.  I know that most people read this book two or three years ago when it was first published, but I hate to be on the cutting edge of anything.  I have complex feelings about this book.  It is referred to by many critics as an "important" book.  Personally, I felt like it became a little bogged down by self-importance.  BUT...I enjoyed it and would recommend it.  Especially the last 100 pages which became quite emotional for me in places.  Again to paraphrase--this time Emily White--I suspect that I would find Zusak to be irritating in person.  I read an interview with him where he was asked to comment on his multitude of unique descriptive phrases.  He responded that it is his goal to leave at least one little jewel of a description on every page.  I felt like he brushed right up against making the words more important than the story at times.  BUT...when he pays attention to the story... it is an interesting, satisfying and truly original read.

In my "to read" pile on my bedside table I have "Portobello," by Ruth Rendell, "Belong to Me," by Marisa de los Santos (recommended by Emily and ordered that day on  She never steers me wrong.), "Busy Body," by M.C. Beaton and "Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop," a collection of short stories by well-known authors.  I'll let you know if any of them pan out...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Saddle up!

 P1040651It's fall in Kern County and that means it's fair time.  For three days Aubrey has been out at the fair participating in the equestrian events and keeping her horse, Ziggy, looking and feeling his very best.  Assisted by her "crew" she and Ziggy have done us all proud!  Aubrey placed in every event she entered and won highest total points for the English IMG_0427events.  Which means that she was awarded a very impressive silver belt buckle.   Carl and Heather deserve mention for their unflagging support.  Heather brings food for everyone in the horse area and supervises the important details--arranging  Ziggy's forelock before they compete, cleaning the dust off of Aubrey's boots after she saddles up and making sure Aubrey's many ribbons are well-displayed.  Carl rubs corn starch into Ziggy's white patches to make them really gleam,  polishes the silver on his saddle, and makes sure he stays well-fed.  Just a few of the many chores involved in showing a horse and competing.

Of course, the champion is Aubrey who is a first class rider and all-around horse woman.  She really knows her stuff!

In addition to her other accomplishments, Aubrey is also a TV star! She and her friend, Cara, the highest total point winner in Western, were featured in a fair segment on the channel 17 news last night.

 Congratulations, Aubrey!!!

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Update***Carl just told me that today, in the final event, Aubrey took first place in halter!  Way to go, cowgirl!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

They're listening

I witnessed a tragedy a few days ago.  I was standing in line (a very long line) at Ross.  I was behind a young mother and her little boy who looked to be about 3.  He was getting antsy (as was I) and starting to fidget around a little with the stuff piled up near the check out in hopes of inspiring a last minute impulse purchase.  He was bothering no one except his mother who was probably at the end of a very short, tightly-wound rope.  When jerking his arm nearly out of its socket didn't achieve her desired result she resorted to hissing at him, "I'm so sick of you!  I wish I could give you away!"

Her words and tone made me sick to my stomach.  But what followed broke my heart.  The boy threw his arms around his mother's legs and began sobbing, "I'll miss you, Mommy!  Please don't!  I'll miss you!  Please, Mommy, no!"  Over and over and over.  People in line were horrified.  The mother was lucky there were no millstones handy. 

Looking around nervously at the people staring daggers at her she tried to pry him off her leg and assure him that she was just kidding.  He couldn't hear her over his own hysterical sobs.  The damage was done.

IMG_0381Please, Mothers...don't say things you can't unsay.  Your children are listening and they believe everything you tell them.

This is Simi whose mother would never say anything mean to her.  She is just a reminder of how precious our little ones are.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Anne Perry


As usual, I have a lot of introductory comments before I get to today's topic...

Let me start by saying that I am not generally a huge fan of historical fiction.  But the fact that Anne Perry is likely the most well-represented author on my shelves is in direct contradiction to that statement.  So... let me rephrase.  I am not a huge fan of historical fiction which is set any earlier than the mid 1800s. 

That said, I HAD to read Anne Perry's newest book, "The Sheen on the Silk."  After all, I've read all of her other 48 books--it would be weird not to!  "Silk" is a  story of intrigue and vengeance set in 13th century Byzantium.  It's a world where religion has more to do with politics than with worship and where no one is what they seem.

Perry is a genius at describing a time and place so that it feels like you are an eyewitness to unfolding events.  Sadly, I think that skill is working against her in "The Sheen on the Silk."  I am six chapters into it and it is feeling like a school assignment.  Through Perry's gorgeous prose I am learning A LOT about the history, culture, geography, weather, fashions and social habits of Constantinople in 1273.  The plot, though, Anne...the plot is moving like a sleepy donkey.

I will finish the book.  Not to would be like giving up on an old friend after a single afternoon of irrational behavior.  Maybe the plot will pick up after she runs out of things to describe.  I'll let you know...though it may take a while.

These were my thoughts last night as I soaked and read in the hot tub.  Which, naturally, led me to thinking about Anne Perry herself; best-selling mystery writer, LDS scholar and murderess.

Nope--not a misprint.

I was already a huge fan when, about thirty years ago, I found out that at the age of fifteen, Anne Perry (whose name at the time was Juliet Hulme), conspired with her best friend to kill the friend's mother.  The case was made into a movie in the late 1990s entitled, "Heavenly Creatures," with Kate Winslet playing Juliet.  Discovering this about a woman I had enormous admiration for led me to reconsider some of my long-held attitudes on crime, punishment, and redemption.  Juliet's family, originally from England, were living in New Zealand at the time.  Too young to be eligible for the death penalty, they were tried in 1954, found guilty, and sentenced to serve a five year term.  The girls never saw each other again, Juliet's family returned to England, and she changed her name to Anne Perry.  In 1968, at the age of thirty, Anne was baptized a member of the Church.  In 1979 she published her first book, "The Cater Street Hangman."

Anne Perry is (not surprisingly) reluctant to bring up her criminal past.  When questioned, though, she speaks frankly of her journey through repentance to forgiveness and  redemption.   She would not accept baptism until she travelled to Salt Lake City, met with one of the general authorities and received his assurance that she could be forgiven and found worthy of baptism.  She has never married.  In one interview she described her lack of a spouse and children as a "self-imposed" punishment.  She lives in the Scottish Highlands, has served as a Relief Society president, and regularly writes a column for the online LDS publication, Meridian Magazine.  To enjoy a sample of her beautiful writing and gospel insights, see her column of August 23, 2010:

Despite my earlier criticism of "The Sheen on the Silk, there should be no doubt that I am a fan.  Anne Perry is at her best when writing traditional mysteries.  She is one of the world's top-grossing mystery writers and has more books currently in print than any other living author.  In fact, not one of her books has ever gone out of print.  Below is a list of her four series with my brief description of each.  While each features a stand-alone mystery, it is best to read them in order to follow the evolution in the personal lives of the lead characters.

Featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt.  The "coziest" of her series--The couple meets in the first book when Thomas is called in to solve a scandalous crime in Charlotte's family.  Set in the late 1800s, he is a policeman and she is the daughter of an upper class family (a scandal in and of itself):

  • The Cater Street Hangman (1979)
  • Callander Square (1980)
  • Paragon Walk (1981)
  • Resurrection Row (1981)
  • Rutland Place (1983)
  • Bluegate Fields (1984)
  • Death in the Devil's Acre (1985)
  • Cardington Crescent (1987)
  • Silence in Hanover Close (1988)
  • Bethlehem Road (1990)
  • Highgate Rise (1991)
  • Belgrave Square (1992)
  • Farrier's Lane (1993)
  • The Hyde Park Headsman (1994)
  • Traitors Gate (1995)
  • Pentecost Alley (1996)
  • Ashworth Hall (1997)
  • Brunswick Gardens (1998)
  • Bedford Square (1999)
  • Half Moon Street (1998)
  • The Whitechapel Conspiracy (2001)
  • Southampton Row (2002)
  • Seven Dials (2003)
  • Long Spoon Lane (2005)
  • Buckingham Palace Gardens (2008)

    The William Monk series.  Monk is a darker character--when we meet him he has amnesia following an accident and the first mystery is his own identity.  This series is set about 35 years before the Pitt series. In later books Monk teams up with Hester Latterly, an outspoken nurse and veteran of the Crimean War:

  • The Face of a Stranger (1990)
  • A Dangerous Mourning (1991)
  • Defend and Betray (1992)
  • A Sudden, Fearful Death (1993)
  • The Sins of the Wolf (1994)
  • Cain His Brother (1995)
  • Weighed in the Balance (1996)
  • The Silent Cry (1997)
  • A Breach of Promise (1997)
  • The Twisted Root (1999)
  • Slaves of Obsession (2000)
  • Funeral in Blue (2001)
  • Death of a Stranger (2002)
  • The Shifting Tide (2004)
  • The Dark Assassin (2006)
  • Execution Dock (2009)

    The World War I series, featuring the Reavely brothers.  An absolutely riveting and harrowing description of life (and mysteries) in the trenches:

  • No Graves As Yet
  • Shoulder the Sky
  • Angels in the Gloom
  • At some Disputed Barricade
  • We Shall Not Sleep

    The Christmas series.  These are short novellas which come out each Christmas and feature some of the supporting characters from the Monk and Pitt series.  They do not have to be read in order:

  • A Christmas Journey
  • A Christmas Visitor
  • A Christmas Guest
  • A Christmas Secret
  • A Christmas Beginning
  • A Christmas Grace
  • A Christmas Promise

    The Perry books combine beautiful writing with insightful commentary.  If you live nearby, you are welcome to borrow from my Perry stash!

  • Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Words with friends

      968767_20100106_gum002 I am completely obsessed with the app "Words With Friends" for the iPhone.  It combines many of my favorite things in one neat, little, words, semi-anonymity.  The most games I have ever had going at one time was six, but I believe I am capable of juggling several more while still being a reasonably functional person.  The other day, Bill and I were doing a pass and play game at Chili's while waiting for our guiltless grill classic sirloins and the waitress said, "I love that game!  I was playing 15 games at one time the other day!"  See?  I'm sure I could handle more.  If you want to play, leave a comment and we can arrange to swap user names.

    On an entirely different note...perhaps it is time for a weight loss update.  It has been a year now since we decided to stop living to eat and start eating to live.  I have lost 90 lbs. and Bill has lost (drum roll, please) 120 lbs.  We feel great and look forward to slowly losing more as we continue to eat healthier (and less). 

    I love tasty, convenient food, and who doesn't?  Here is a dish I made this week.  It couldn't be easier.  When divided into four servings, it is 320 calories a serving.  Let's call it...

    Fiesta Chicken Bowl

    2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

    1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

    1 can whole corn, drained

    2 cans original Ro-Tell tomatoes with green chilies

    Dump it all in the crock pot and cook it on high until the chicken is done and you're ready to eat.  Or on low until the chicken is done and you're ready to eat.  Don't you love crock pots?  Just before serving, stir in 1 Cup brown rice, cooked.  I use the kind from Costco that cooks in the microwave for 90 seconds.  Delicious!

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    A virtual grab bag

    I confess that in recent weeks my interest in blogging has declined in direct proportion to my love of iPhoning.  But, seeking to maintain a healthy balance in all areas of my life, (and finding it difficult to text EVERYTHING that's on my mind), I will attempt to periodically update my blog with my latest thoughts and photos.  (Re-reading that last line makes me cringe a bit.  It pre-supposes that there is an audience for my thoughts.  Oh, well...)

    We have just concluded a wonderful visit from Sarah and the boys.  It was very generous of Sean to share his family with us.  I felt the pain of their separation most acutely when Sean called Sarah on Thursday night to ask her how old the sloppy joe filling in the fridge was.  She cautioned him that it was WAY too far past the "use by" date and encouraged him to throw it out without delay.  He told her that he felt like it would be safe if he brought it to a boil before eating it.  I knew then that it was time for Sarah to go home.

    For Newton, the boys provided an invigorating interlude in what is normally the quiet, predictable routine of a middle-aged dog.  He loved the chasing and rough and tumble play with Ashton, and he followed Ezra around faithfully, waiting for the scraps of food which inevitably came his way.  Alvie both intrigued and frightened him.  But isn't that the reaction most of us have towards two year olds?  It's the unpredictability...Like when (at midnight) he came down the hallway (after we thought he was sound asleep) dragging two sleeping bags, saying, "Alvie's making a tent."  Good times...

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    Moving on to another topic, I have to say that I am so jealous of Emily's book club!  I have received some great reading recommendation from Emily through them.  They have excellent taste!  The latest is "The Thirteenth Tale," a first time novel by Diane Setterfield. 

    The_Thirteenth_Tale_A_Novel-119187353946244I don't usually review books that I haven't finished reading, but  this one is going to be an exception.  I have only read the first four chapters and I can hardly put it down.  This is a book for people who not only love reading, but who also love books; who surround themselves with books.  Who love the feel of a book in their hands, the turn of each page  like opening a little present.   I am a lover of books.  I have bookshelves (filled with books) in every room of my house but the kitchen and bathrooms.  I have resisted the suggestion that I would enjoy owning a Kindle, not because I disapprove of the concept, but because holding a book is part and parcel of the pleasure of reading for me.  For me, the physicality of paper and print shortens the distance between writer and reader in a way that electronics can't.  When I see a book, opened and left face down next to a bed or an easy chair, it speaks volumes to me about  quality of life.  

    I would have bought "The Thirteenth Tale" for the first chapter alone.  I am so glad that there are many more chapters to go...