Jun 28, 2010

Precious Pictures From Ethiopia

We got some Pictures from Ethiopia today. If anyone wants the reference for the investigator we used, you can ask in the comments section and leave an address where I can email it to you. He was wonderful... the pictures aren't the least of it. We also got videos that were very touching. My heart is whole now, full of my kids and the knowledge that It's Right, us adopting them. But also, the family they came from is full of good people, and the place they lived is beautiful. We also got a pic of the little sister they left behind.

Jun 26, 2010

Only In a House Full of Little Girls

Will the kids get their drinking cups dirty by constantly filling them with flowers and placing them artistically on various surfaces.

Will your yard constantly be littered with objects related to pretend-housekeeping.

Will you run out of dishcloths because they're being used as baby blankets or pretend tablecloths.

Will pink, plastic objects become the permanent theme of decoration in your living room.

Will you have to keep track of many tiny, princess-emblazoned toothbrushes.

Will you regularly encounter flesh-and-blood fairy-tale creatures.

Jun 24, 2010

My response to "Is the US Now On the Slippery Slope To Tyranny," by Thomas Sowell

I have kind of stopped talking about politics on this blog, at least in any in-depth way. Because I feel like the interface is not the best for real discussion. If you were all talking to me face to face, we'd be happy, pleasant, maybe a bit lively, we'd laugh. Reading it, the messages usually come across a bit harsher.

But I've made an exception this time, because I spent so much time on this for a friend's sake that I thought, I ought to post it. A lot of effort for just one person is good, but I feel more justified spending two hours on this if I feel like more people might read it. So... enjoy. I hope.

BTW, this friend has also authored a response to this article. Go check it out for a slightly different perspective.

Before I read this article, I decided to read the Constitution. Just to make sure I had it fresh in my head.

OK, so here is my response to the article. I'm going to do it line-by line, as my friends have done sometimes. :) I'll put my responses in italics, in order to help differentiate.

When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics.

Most politicians have this goal... most are trying to gain the votes of, not only those who normally are active in politics, but also those who have, for whatever reason, remained apathetic or uninformed about politics. This can be a bad thing (some politicians like to use a voter's lack of knowledge against them, instill them with propaganda and so forth) but you have to admit... America as a whole is waaaaay too apathetic about politics. How many people vote? I'd love it if more people voted. In fact, this is the ONE thing I can't stand in a person who I'm discussing politics with: apathy. And many people have to grow politically, too, as they participate in the system. That is the one thing I LOVED about Obama's campaign... it got so many people motivated. He said things that reached people that don't normally vote, and now those people are possibly more interested for the rest of their life. Or at least, more informed. And perhaps will be more likely to continue to participate in the future, and continue to inform themselves.

Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler's rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions.

True, true. What does this have to do with anything, though? This is true in any political movement. It's particularly true, right now, of the tea party.

"Useful idiots" was the term supposedly coined by V.I. Lenin to describe similarly unthinking supporters of his dictatorship in the Soviet Union.

That's sad. I don't think Obama thinks of his supporters that way. If he did, he definitely wouldn't be silly enough to say it.

Put differently, a democracy needs informed citizens if it is to thrive, or ultimately even survive.

Very true. How do they get informed, though? And at what point are they informed enough not to be "useful idiots"? Should those who haven't reached that level of political experience an scholarship be not allowed to vote?

In our times, American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it.

People have made this claim ever since the Constitution was written. I'm excited to understand the basis for this particular perspective, your specific reasoning that the Constitution is being dismantled.

The president's poll numbers are going down because increasing numbers of people disagree with particular policies of his, but the damage being done to the fundamental structure of this nation goes far beyond particular counterproductive policies.

It's true. And a lot of those falling numbers come from the radical left, who are disappointed at how very centrist and moderate our new president has shown himself to be. One has to understand, too, that any presidency that has picked up the kind of troubles that Obama's has, will have its ups and downs. One the one side, people get upset when things don't move fast enough, on the other side, people get upset because things are happening, period. A moderate president like Obama will tick off both sides. I'm surprised his numbers aren't far, far lower. To me, his current approval rating, in spite of all that is currently plaguing our country, is an interesting indication. Of what, I don't know... I don't generally base my opinion of how someone's doing on how everyone else feels about him.

Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere.

True! It says that nowhere.

And yet that is precisely what is happening with a $20 billion fund to be provided by BP to compensate people harmed by their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

How? From what I understood, BP agreed to this. Obama's not standing there with his special CIA task-force, forcing billions out of BP. They talked together about how to fix this. BP has also apologized profusely, and made several statements to the effect that what they are doing is not enough.

Many among the public and in the media may think that the issue is simply whether BP's oil spill has damaged many people, who ought to be compensated.

To me, it's more about the egregious damage it has done to the planet. But I agree there are people who deserve compensation. Good thing BP seems to have taken Obama's advice, and is willing to try to work this out. It's likely to their advantage; it's better than being sued for their billions, by however many thousands of angry people have been hurt by this.

But our government is supposed to be "a government of laws and not of men."

If our laws and our institutions determine that BP ought to pay $20 billion — or $50 billion or $100 billion — then so be it.

But the Constitution says that private property is not to be confiscated by the government without "due process of law."

True. Good thing that the government's not confiscating anything... and that BP has agreed to try to repair the damage without having to be forced to by the judicial system. This actually makes me respect the company a whole lot... maybe I'll buy stocks when they've gotten over this hurdle and started developing clean energy technology :)

Technically, it has not been confiscated by Barack Obama, but that is a distinction without a difference.

Nope, it's way different. I'm glad you admitted Obama wasn't confiscating this, though. But I'd like to know what "distinction without a difference" means. Sounds a little shady to me... sounds, in fact, very much like "political-speak."

With vastly expanded powers of government available at the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats, private individuals and organizations can be forced into accepting the imposition of powers that were never granted to the government by the Constitution.


If you believe that the end justifies the means, then you don't believe in constitutional government.

I don't believe that the end justifies the means.

Please explain how these private enterprises were forced to do this. Explain these vastly expanded powers that somehow forced BP to agree to a measure that was clearly to their advantage, not only politically, but also economically in the face of potentially thousands of very expensive lawsuits.

And, without constitutional government, freedom cannot endure. There will always be a "crisis" — which, as the president's chief of staff has said, cannot be allowed to "go to waste" as an opportunity to expand the government's power.

That's nice. Again... could you please explain? I'd like some specifics, please.

That power will of course not be confined to BP or to the particular period of crisis that gave rise to the use of that power, much less to the particular issues.

Ok, now comes the fear-mongering. Just so you know, Mr. Sowell, you need to back up your fear-mongering with real information. Otherwise people are likely to call you out on it.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt arbitrarily took the United States off the gold standard, he cited a law passed during the First World War to prevent trading with the country's wartime enemies. But there was no war when FDR ended the gold standard's restrictions on the printing of money.

This is more Skywalker's area of expertise... I'm kind of hazy on this topic. But at any rate, I don't see what it has to do with Obama. The words "gold standard" are a rallying point for a certain group of people. I think that's your only reason for using the words, because the two situations do not parallel in any way.

At about the same time, during the worldwide Great Depression, the German Reichstag passed a law "for the relief of the German people."

This is all very interesting. Really. I just don't see what it has to do with Obama. I'm waiting for the whole argument of him tearing apart the constitution to be backed up by something at least somewhat tangible... Just one real example. That's all I ask.

That law gave Hitler dictatorial powers that were used for things going far beyond the relief of the German people — indeed, powers that ultimately brought a rain of destruction down on the German people and on others.

"Rain of destruction" sounds kind of cool and biblical. I like it. I think I'm going to tell Bella that the next time she disobeys I'm going to rain destruction on her.

If the agreement with BP was an isolated event, perhaps we might hope that it would not be a precedent. But there is nothing isolated about it.

Isolated event? Of what? Talking to a company--

it's a british company, by the way... so even MORE clearly not something Obama can really do ANYTHING about even if he wanted to-

about the best way they can minimize their losses and discuss a problem that is very real to a large percentage of American people?

I actually wouldn't mind more of those isolated events. ;)

The man appointed by President Obama to dispense BP's money as the administration sees fit, to whomever it sees fit, is only the latest in a long line of presidentially appointed "czars" controlling different parts of the economy, without even having to be confirmed by the Senate, as Cabinet members are.

He was not appointed by Obama. Here's the link, again... please go read it, Mr. Sowell. He's acting as a go-between for Obama and BP, as both the American people as a whole (citizens of several states, involving federal disaster programs, etc) and the company need to figure out a way to work this whole thing out.

Those who cannot see beyond the immediate events to the issues of arbitrary power — vs. the rule of law and the preservation of freedom — are the "useful idiots" of our time. But useful to whom?

I agree with this statement entirely... and I'd say... useful to any politician who wants to use them. Or to their public, if they have a following. Who are you useful to, Mr. Sowell?

Jun 21, 2010

international vegetarian recipes

We've had to broaden our scope, gastronomically, in order to have enough diversity in our meals. Skywalker's one of those people who can eat the same thing day after day and be fine. I am not. So, we draw from the cuisine of many different cultures in our home. Mostly we love Japanese, Thai, Indian, Italian, Greek and Mexican and of course Ethiopian when we're going outside "american."

I've decided, since I stopped posting my "daily vegetarian meals" recipes, that I'll do a whole week's wroth instead. And I'm going to Theme it so that there's a different nationality each day of the week. Here goes.

Day 1: Japanese.

Sushi, miso soup and rice.

Sushi recipe here and here.

Miso soup:

1 bunch green onions, diagonally chopped
1 head of Bok Choy, Chopped in bite-size pieces
6 cups bonita fish broth (can get the bullion cubes or the flakes--which are better because they don't have any artificial flavorers like MSG--at any asian food store.)
Cubed extra-firm tofu, if desired
1 cup red or yellow miso.

Cook the first 4 ingredients together until the white bok-choy stalks are really really soft, almost like noodles. Add the miso after the soup has cooled a bit. Serve over rice. Rice can just be cooked in a rice cooker. Just make sure you rinse it well.

Day 2: Italian.

Bruschetta and steamed veggies

5 ripe tomatoes
5 fat cloves of garlic, pressed or finely diced
1 tb fresh basil, chopped
3 tb quality olive oil
salt to taste
pepper if desired

Put these all together in a tupperware or other covered container and let "marinate" for at least 30 minutes so that a nice red sauce forms in the bottom out of the tomato and olive oil.

baguette or french bread loaf, sliced in 1/2-1/4 inch slices
olive oil

Put olive oil in skillet, let it get hot. Put the baguette slices in and toast a couple minutes on each side, so they're crunchy and golden.

spoon the tomato mixture on individual bread slices--like an appetizer.

My favorite steamed veggies with this are artichokes or asparagus. Good spring/summer meal.

Day 3: Indian

Curry and Basmati rice.

The secret to this dish is to make the rice correctly. You want to find good rice, first of all. The stuff labeled "jasmine" or "basmati" in any big grocery store will work, but even better is the extremely long-grained basmati rice you can find at an asian food store.

Rinse well. Let it sit about 1/2 hour before putting it in the cooker. Put water in it so that it's about 2 parts water to 1 part rice or so... so that the rice comes about halfway up in the water. For white rices, I usually put it so the rice is a little more than halfway up, for brown, a little less than halfway.

Put about a tablespoon of butter or butter-like spread in the cooker on top of the water. Also add caraway or fennel seeds (or both.)

Fluff the rice when your'e done, by taking a spoon, sliding it under the rice kernels, lifting up and letting them fall, kind of aerating them.

Madras curry powder (the best!!)1 tablespoon
Garam masala 1 tsp
vegetable bullion, 1 tsp
Olive oil (a couple tablespoons)
diced green chilis, 1 can
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
green peas, fresh or frozen, about 1/2 cup
2 medium potatoes, diced

Fry these together until the veggies are nice and soft. Taste and add more spices if desired.

Add: 1 can coconut milk
1 small can of tomato paste or sauce
stir well, let simmer a bit more.

Serve over rice.

Day 4: Thai Food

Tom Kha Gai soup and Pad Thai noodles

I admit for this one I use mostly packaged stuff.

Tom Kha Gai:

1 pckg Tom Kha paste
2 cans coconut milk
1 can straw mushrooms

All can be obtained at a good Asian foods store. Let these ingredients simmer on low heat for a while. Warning--it's quite a unique taste. But soooo good once you get used to it. If you like being adventurous, this is an easy way to bring adventure to your home. This also tastes good served over white rice.

Pad thai:

1 pckg pad thai noodles (or two... or three, depending on the size of your family)
several tablespoons (to taste) pad thai sauce from the bottle. Find a good kind... not all pad thai sauces are equal. usually the person running the store will tell you which one he/she likes and it will be pretty good.

Veggies for the noodles:

red pepper
green pepper
purple cabbage
cilantro!! (very important)
bean sprouts
slice the veggies very thinly. Steam them, don't fry them. Use them to top your pad thai noodles or as a side... add a little fish sauce if you don't mind being non-fish vegan. Also the pad thai sauce involves fish, so this meal isn't a good one if you object to fish-eating.

Day 5: Ethiopian Food

Ethiopian Stew (Wat) and Injera

This is a little trickier because Ethiopian food is all in the spices and all about injera. Here is a website where you can order Berebere and Shiro (the most important of the spices) as well as injera for relatively little.

Injera is expensive. I need to learn how to make it well. This is very difficult, believe it or not. So for now we buy it or fake it by using tortillas instead (which is an amazing cop-out--tortillas are nothing like injera. but my kids seem to be OK with it anyway.)

Ethiopian Wat:

1 red or yellow onion, finely diced.

Put a couple tablespoons oil in your skillet. Cook the onion until it's soft, but not carmelized. Then add:

vegetable broth (1 cup)

2 cups already-cooked red lentils, (cooked until very soft--about 30 minutes. Don't add any salt or flavoring when cooking them, because they will not soften up if you do).

1-2 tsp berebere depending on how spicy you like things
1 tsp shiro

season with salt or soy sauce to taste.

boil some eggs seperetely, peel them, then add them to the stew, mixing to cover and immerse them in it. Serve on TOP of the injera or tortilla. Use this as your utensil--rip off pieces, fold a bit of wat-and egg in as your bite.

Delicious. Quite addictive, actually. But again... it takes some getting used to.

Day 6: Mexican.

Homemade Salsa and Guacamole go very well with any mexican dish.

Smothered or raw burritos:

Take some dry pinto beans. put them in water (twice the amount as the beans) and let soak overnight. in the morning, put them in the crock pot with some water so that the beans are about 2/3 up in the water. Cook about 8 hours. You can mash the beans when they're getting softer to make it more of a refried-beans soft blended type mixture if you wish. When the beans are softer, you can also season with onion powder/vegetable buillion/liquid smoke/salt to make them more flavorful.

dice some tomatoes, olives, lettuce and avacadoes.

If you want smothered burritoes, also make some rice in the rice cooker, flavored with vegetable broth or butter and lemon pepper.

Put beans/rice on a burrito, cover with a generous layer of mozzarella or cheddar cheese. Fold it up, top with some more cheese and verde taco sauce. Bake until cheese is melted. Serve the veggies as a mixed side-salad, over the top or to the side of your smothered burrito

take the fresh veggies, put in the burrito with the beans. You can add cheese to this or not. This is my favorite comfort food.

tip: uncooked tortillas are way better. You can usually find them in the refrigerated sections of groceries stores, either with the meats or with the frozen breads.

Day 7: Greek (ish).

Falafel tacos.

Falafel, the vegetarian food of the gods ;)

I get the mix from the bulk bins of our local health food store. They also usually have it boxed either in the ethnic section, or the health food section of the grocery store.

Make the mix according to the directions on the box or bin. I usually like to add a little oil to the falafel mix, too. When it's soaked the right amount of time, take a pan and spray with olive oil (or rub, if you don't have a misto sprayer.) form mixture into balls, press flat on pan. spray another layer of olive oil on top of these little falafel cakes. Bake at high heat in the oven (could broil, I suppose) until crispy or at least, cooked through so it's cake-like.

Yogurt-dill sauce:
1 cup soy or normal yogurt
1/2 cup of mayonnaise or vegenese
1/4 tsp dill
1/4 tsp mint flakes
1/4 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp paprika

You can either use pita pockets, tortillas or taco shells as your falafel-holders.
Spread the yogurt sauce in whatever it is you're going to use. Smash in a couple of falafel cakes. Top with:

diced lettuce
diced tomatoes
sliced olives
parmesan or other cheese
diced avacadoes

or other veggies of your choice.

All these recipes are kid approved. (of course... some of my kids are from Ethiopia, and therefore like things spicy, so beware if you have kids sensitive to spicy foods. You can reduce the spices in any of these recipes so there's just a hint.)

Jun 19, 2010

Things We Say

Skywalker: (to nosurfgirl, with wicked glint in eye) You hate change?

But you voted for Obama.

Oh wait, he hasn't changed anything, so I guess that's OK.

(Scene: girls are enjoying aunt emily's gift of mary kay samples by smearing them reckleslly on their faces, then running around and asking "do I look pretty").

Jaws: Do I look pretty?

Bella: You look like a lion. But that's OK. You'll learn to do makeup as good as me someday.

Jaws: (Nodding sadly, bats enormous, raccoon-ringed eyes across room at NSG)

Squirt: She looks like a man!

Jaws: No.

Bella: She's a girl.

MayMay: She's not a man, she's a HU-man.

NSG: How do we end up with such adorable children?

Skywalker: WELL.

NSG: Nevermind.

Skywalker: It all started... with some business socks.

Jun 16, 2010

Pioneer Lullabye

It's a sad song, but I love it.

Anyway, by way of explanation for the sudden aberration: I've realized I've kind of been a chicken in a way on this blog.

So I write, you all know that. I might do it well sometimes but I also do it poorly sometimes and I don't care who notices.

I also sing. But I'm always so dang afraid of doing it badly and having people hate it that it has kind of crippled me, sometimes. A lot of this stems from a bad experience I had a while back that I never fully recovered from. This has been my own fault. You can let trials break you or make you stronger.

Lately I've felt like Heavenly Father is telling me I need to stop being such a coward. So I've started going to ward choir again. Ever since the above mentioned bad experience, going to ward choir is so difficult for me, emotionally. I don't know why. And singing congregational hymns in church is where I choke up the most. It's almost like that whole thing where you know if you don't feel like you should pray, that's when you need to the most. It's really hard. But it's stupid, because I love to sing and most people don't mind listening to me. My voice is far from perfect, but it's something. I need to stop being ashamed of it.

SO this is my way of blasting a gigantic hole in my singing closet.

Jun 14, 2010

This is For You, Dave

PS: You were complaining the other day about wanting to write about politics but getting too angry... I think I've discovered the secret is, Make Fun Of Everyone.

Jun 10, 2010

The Book Thief

Apparently I've been inspiring people. That makes me happy. I don't usually see myself as someone who people might get a good idea from... usually I'm sort of weird and people who like me enough to associate with me just think of me as quirky and interesting, something to examine but not necessarily follow at all. So thank you, Dave, you've made my day. I know your list is different, but it makes me happy that someone else has decided to take their literacy by the horns and read stuff that might make them become who they want to be.

So. I have an explanation as to why I haven't been keeping up with classics these last couple of weeks.

I had to take a brief hiatus from my list to read my Relief Society book club book. It was The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Usually book club books, for me, tend to be a bit evocative and interesting. Stuff if, left up to myself, I usually wouldn't choose to read, necessarily. We have a nice intellectual bunch in our bookclub who don't (as I've heard complained about in other wards where they have RS bookclubs) stick to the things written by Sheri Dew or Elaine Cannon. They like all different kinds of stuff, and this is why I have enjoyed these ladies and the discussions so much.

Anyway, I lost it for a couple weeks before I finished it. And I'm not the kind of person who can go on to something else when I haven't finished a book... I have to finish one before I take on another. Skywalker finally found it for me, because it was due yesterday. And I finished it last night and this morning (and paid the ten-cent fine so that the nice book-club lady wouldn't have to.)

This book astounded me. It wrenched me, chewed me up, spit me out, made me cry (which is not something that happens often. Just ask Skywalker.) It is hilarious and darkly ironic and has surging moments of agony and inspiration. It touched me deeply, and the voice and writing delighted me.

I am glad that I read this book. Because I think it belongs on my list. I no longer feel guilty for my divergence.

At any rate, I want all of you to read this, and it's a fairly new book, so I'm not going to summarize the plot. I'll just say--please read it. You'll enjoy it and grow from the experience of reading it.

I give it a solid **** out of ****. There is violence, but a great deal of it is off-scene, and it is necessary violence. There is no sexuality at all. And there's really no religion in it in any real sense, so really it's still a humanist kind of message you come away with, but I found the message entirely compatible with the gospel.

Jun 9, 2010

stop light

Bella: Mom, when the light is yellow it means SLOW DOWN.

NSG: Thanks, Bella.

MayMay: What green light means?

Bella: Go.

Jaws: And red light means STOP!

Bella: What does orange light mean?

Loli: It means go around in circles.

NSG: (baffled, looks at Loli in the rearview mirror. Notices mischevious squinting of eyes and suppressed grin. Feels burst of happiness at her daughter's sudden manifestation of straight-faced humor.)

NSG: What does purple light mean?

Jaws: I don't know.

NSG: I think it means go up in the air.

Bella: What about a blue light?

Loli: Dig a hole.

Jun 8, 2010

Things We Say

(editorial note--for those of you who don't remember, Tutuchild is Loli's best friend since they were about 6 months old and often plays with my kids).

Bella: Mom, I keep hicking up.

Jaws: Mom, can we watch Ratatouille when A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P-Q-R-S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z-now-I-know-my-ABC's-next-time-won't-you-sing-with-me is done?

MayMay: Tutu, Do you want watch Hanontana?

Tutuchild: I ADORE Hannah Montana! She's, like, my favorite rock star!

MayMay: That's our house. (fit of giggles).

Tutu: Are you kidding me? That's church. Of ladder day saints.

Squirt: I need go pee-pee! If I get pee pee on my foot I will die!

Skywalker: You'll die?

Squirt: Yes. (lowers voice, adopts tremulous tone) and you'll be sad.

Jun 1, 2010

just thought you should know

I just cleaned up a fountain of squirt's throwup (like, I think literally a gallon--I watched it happen in amazement, wondering how much more could possibly come out of his tiny little stomach) that somehow conveniently covered every single inch of strap and buckle of his carseat, as well as festooning his shirtfront and pants, making it so that I would experience maximum contact with cottage-cheese-mixed-with-fruity-bits-smelling-like-old-parmesan substance when I went about the task of unbuckling and removing clothing.

And right now squirt's in a bubble bath and MayMay's wandering the house, huskily singing: "Pizza Angel, Come to Me."

The tooth fairy has forgotten, for four days running, to recompense Bella and Loli for their proffered incisors.

And that's been our Tuesday (really, Monday, when you think about it.)