Monday, November 12, 2007

My Own Qwantz

Explanatory note: Marissa C. and I were chatting this morning about the dinosaur cartoons ( I am totally digging in this subtle, daily sort of way--when she abruptly switched topics and said almost every word of the following. I thought: Good goo, that would be funny coming out of the mouths of dinosaurs. And so, la, my own qwantz.

For Marissa, wherever this may find her.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Back to the Basics

It's late, but I feel like I should say a thing. And this, tonight, is what I want to say:

back to the basics.

My roommate KT said it this week--that she was going back to the basics (the basics, of course, being sleeping and scripture reading).

Sleeping and scripture reading. Great ideas, both. They are--or should be--like the big rocks of Covey fame, the things we put into our vases first, before we pour in the little rocks that top off the Japanese-style, zen-ish sort of centerpiece Covey suggests is a metaphor for our lives. As my perpetually great-and-busy friend Jane says, the purpose of life is to be happy, close to the Spirit, and of service to others. And when she doesn't sleep (I would add--or read scriptures) or sleep enough, she is none of those things. Also, she said tonight, sleep just feels good.

I, of course, of course, concur. And with that, I'm to bed.

P.S. Peter-of-my-heart, I talked to Mom today, and she was wondering if I had any advice for you at this moment in your just-as-we-expected crazy freshman year. If I were to say anything it would be, of course, that I love you. And that Jane and Karren and I agree--back to the basics. It's the way to go.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Two Great Things

1. A comic strip
The tagline for this comic strip series is "sexy exciting dinosaur comics for the thinking man or lady." (The boys who sit in front of me in Administrative Law read it everyday. And, reading it over their shoulders, I laugh.)

2. A cheese
On the night of the season premiere of The Office, I found myself at the tail end of a Law Students for Reproductive Choices and Rights (or something) meeting. (I was hosting an event in the same room, just following their event.) In the end, they had more cheese than attendees, so they sent me home with some leftovers. I shared some of the cheese they gave me with a friend--Laura Russon--and she was so delighted by the taste of one (really, really a great cheese) that she sleuthed out the name of it. She found it, of course, at the Milk Pail. And so, now, I recommend it to you:

White Stilton with Apricot

SO, so good.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Three Moments from Yesterday

"Why Miss Katherine, you have flowers in your hair."

They say that my grandma Olson wore a silk flower in her hair every day when she was young. Yesterday morning, I walked out of my house and turned to lock the front door and realized this: it was the third day in a row (excepting my church clothes Sunday) that I was wearing flower-shaped earrings (the ones Reija bought for Karren, that I love). Too, I was wearing, third day in a row, my slip-on school shoes with the flower design on the toe (the grey ones I bought that one shopping day with Kristine and Sara). And also, too, I was wearing my purple shirt with the red flowers on the front and the back (the one J. told me was a good color, when we stood under the lamplight after a night at Dave & Buster's).

As I turned from door to stairs to bike, I was pleased by it all: the flowers on my ears, the flowers on my shirt, the flowers on my shoes. Like Grandma's flower, I thought, as I kicked up my kickstand and rode the gravelly drive to the street.

"So now I feel like a real Californian."

Last night, we had an earthquake. I was at a friend's on-campus apartment on the first-floor of a mid-rise building (Abrams, to be exact). And I heard a thundering, felt a thundering, and thought (so many years at BYU!): There must be a lot of girls running down the stairs. But the building kept shaking, from side-to-side, and my friend said: This is an earthquake. I tried to remember the emergency skills I'm supposed to have been developing over the years and wondered if, finally, I would already need them. (The unassembled bookshelves in that tall box, leaning against the wall--does that count as a triangle?) No, it turns out. Thank goodness.

"As always, my passes at omniscience are absurd, but you, of all people, should be polite to the part of me that comes out merely clever."

My final preparations for bed include washing my face and brushing my teeth, of course. I do this at our bathroom sink, which is white and has a wide (happily wide) edge to it. Last night, as I put my floss away (on a shelf that's high and requires a stretch), I brought my toothbrush and toothpaste down even though I didn't need them right away. I put the toothbrush and toothpaste on the edge of the sink, as I leaned to wash my face. I realized that they--and the book I'd brought with me into the bathroom--might get wet on the sink's edge, as I rinsed soap from skin and makeup from eye, so I decided to move them to a safer, dryer spot. I looked down to the sink's ledge where they were and saw them, for a second, like a picture: a blue toothbrush and a tube of regular paste Crest, lying on top of Reija's paperback copy of Franny and Zooey. The pile of three all lying on the white porcelain edge of my bathroom sink. There was something about that I loved--the grouping of the Salinger with my nighttime necessities. Toothpaste for the brush, toothbrush for my teeth, and Salinger for my soul. "As one limping man to another, old Zooey, let's be courteous and kind to each other."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Upward Pull: A Talk for Convocation

This is a talk I gave last night at Convocation, a sort of school year kick-off service for and by the LDS Stanford community. It's held in Memorial Church (so beautiful, see Procrastination blog entry below), and Elder Robert S. Wood was the keynote speaker. It was a very good evening; I felt such love for and from my community.

* * * * *

Sometimes I feel an upward pull, a desire to be better than I am. Perhaps you, like I, have wondered if there’s more to life than this, if we can be better than we are. We go to school, to work, to our recreation. We talk with people we love, we try to find ways to serve others, and we try to read the good books always being recommended to us. These are the manifestations of the good desires within us. But we are flawed, too. We drop our pencils; we barely remember to take out the garbage, resenting that tomorrow or the next day, it will have to be done again; we miss appointments, are late, forget birthdays and the lyrics to even the songs we like. Amidst this—the good things in life and in ourselves, amidst the mundane, and, sometimes, the horrible—we wonder: Is this all life is? Is this all I am? Surely, there must be something better than this, even all of this. Surely, I can be better.

Henry B. Eyring, current First Counselor of the First Presidency of our church and a former professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, described this upward pull. In one of my favorite talks, he said: “That upward pull we have felt is far more than a desire for self-improvement. It is a longing for home.”

What President Eyring described is not a homesick longing for a childhood home, but is, I believe, our native human desire to, as President Eyring explains, “be again with the Heavenly Father we have loved and who loves us.” We may not know it, we may not call it that—but our individual desires to be better than we are, despite life being what it is, are manifestations of our inborn senses of how we can and should change in order to be with God again, feel his love, and live in his presence along with those we love.

Revealed scripture tells us that the prophet Abraham felt this longing, too. He was a good man, righteous. But he felt that there was greater happiness and peace and rest for him. He was righteous, but he desired to be a greater follower of righteousness. He had great knowledge, but he also wanted to add to this earthly knowledge a “greater knowledge,” of godly things. He wanted to be a father of many nations, to have children and a legacy that would impact humanity in peaceful and long-lasting ways. He wanted to receive instructions from God, and once given those instructions, he wanted to obey them.

I feel the upward pull President Eyring describes. I, like Abraham, try to be good. I want to be someone who knows things. I want to learn more, and to learn more about godly things. I want to be a mother. I want to be productive and to have children, both literal and figurative, who bless the world with their righteousness and with peace. I want, like Abraham did, for God to tell me what to do, and I want to be the kind of person who does what God tells her to do.

Revealed scripture tells us what Abraham did when he felt this upward pull. He sought for the blessings of the fathers and for the right to administer those blessings to others. LDS doctrine teaches us that the blessings of the fathers that Abraham seeks here are the blessings of the priesthood, the authority God gives man to act in his name. This priesthood is God’s power, a real power. It is not man-made pomp or influence or argument. It is not the dazzle of intellect or the sheer weight of tradition. The priesthood authority is the literal powers of heaven given to man to effect, to bind, and to bless. When Abraham felt the upward pull to be better than he was, he sought the blessings of the priesthood.

I have sought after and have begun to receive the blessings of the priesthood, the blessings of my physical and spiritual fathers. By the power of the priesthood, I have made covenants with God. I have promised I will always remember the Savior Jesus Christ and that I will try to keep the commandments that He has given us. I have covenanted to try to love others, to bear their burdens, to comfort them when they are in need of comfort. And I have promised to be obedient, chaste, and giving.

As I have tried to keep these covenants, I have felt God’s power in my life. A friend asked me this week if I could, with my faith, part the water in the fountain at Café Borrone. I haven’t seen God’s power manifested like that. But I have seen and felt and do see and feel God’s power in my life: I, as self-interested and flaky as I am, feel purpose in life and love for those around me. And I, as easily dissuaded and discouraged as I am, feel divine hope and patience, even in the face of my daily trials, when I spill food on myself, drop my pencils, say annoying things to my friends and my professors. Even as I take out the garbage, resenting it all the way to and from the garbage can, I do, I really do remember that I am bound to God by my covenants and that I am blessed and strengthened and protected by the priesthood, which administers the atoning grace of Jesus Christ. This power—the softening, changing, purpose-giving power—is some of the power of God that I see in my life.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to return to them. They want us to feel the upward pull and to, as Abraham did, seek the blessings of the priesthood—their blessings, given by their power. They want us to want to be better than we are, to change, and to covenant with them, that we may become like them and love others as they love, both here on earth and forever.

I pray that as we study this year, that as we pay attention to our desires to learn more, to run faster, to think more clearly, and to be kinder to our neighbors, that we will remember that our true-hearted desires to be like God, to be with God, and to feel His love again, are reminders of God’s plan for us, a plan the sole purpose of which is to help us find greater happiness and peace and rest, as Abraham did, by seeking the blessings of the priesthood, the literal power of God.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Abraham 1:2
"Making Covenants with God" by Henry B. Eyring

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I mark my initials on the food and food stuffs I store in general spaces. I do this for one reason: to remind myself that a particular food item is mine. I don't actually care--don't, don't, past and present roommates know all too well--if other people use/eat/feel comfortable giving away my food and food stuffs. In fact, actually, it makes me feel complimented. That they would think something I would choose and buy would be something they would want. (For instance, Karren and my dark chocolate-covered soy nuts. Totally complimented that she would want to snack/sneak them. No sneaking necessary.)

So I don't mark my food with my little swirly SO to keep others away. I SO it so that I will (1) know that I can eat/use it with impunity. (I've learned I naturally feel too comfortable with communal living and being free with other people's things, so I usually feel a little guilty/doubtful about eating/using food and sugar and spices that aren't marked or aren't mine, though, though, here at Melville I usually do it anyway.) Also, (2) so that down the road, down the road, when the food item is unclaimed and/or moldy and forgotten, I will see it, know it, and take responsibility for it. ("Whose rotten grapefruits are just sitting on the counter, fruit fly breeding? Gross. Oh wait. Those are mine.") This often, often comes in handy.

Once, Karren and I were cleaning out the fridge, and in the condiments door, we came across a lemon juice container. It was small, yellow, plastic, lemon-shaped. Classic and, from its lack of luster, mature. We picked it up and there, on one of its curved sides, was a swirly little SO. Mine, we guessed. And then we turned it round and there, on the other side of the same lemon container, was a smart, dark, black permanent marker KT. SO. KT. Both on one lemon.

I have considered that lemon-finding moment for the past, oh, seven months. Still, I CANNOT FATHOM HOW SUCH A THING HAPPENED. And I wish, wish, wish, we could rewind the living and replay the moments when I thought it was mine and SOed it and when Karren thought it was hers and KTed it and when it was bought and who paid.

My point: I love this story. And despite its being about lemon juice, I think it's very, very sweet.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Procrastination: The Lyric of a Midnight Deadline

I added a link to Breast Cancer on my Mozilla Firefox bookmarks toolbar, so when I am really procrastinating, I can click on it and fight breast cancer. Which I just did/fought. Hyah.

I realized I hadn't eaten dinner (officially), so I het up a bowl of Trader Joe's butternut squash soup, toasted a piece of cracked wheat sourdough, added some of Reija's salsa and my plain yogurt (to the soup), and ate. Slowly. Also, I grinded my own pepper to season it.

I checked my four active games of Scrabulous on Facebook. No one had moved. (Wait! Just checked during this writing, and Patti Z. has moved! "[Last play 4m ago.]" I'll be back.) *** FOUND for 21 points.

Oh, just saw a (1) come up next to my Gmail - Inbox tab. I'll check that. *** Just an email I was cc'ed on but with pertinent data. The LDS students have a convocation every fall at Stanford. They bring in a big name speaker, pair him with an undergrad student and a grad student, and have them all speak (sequentially, of course) from the gilded pulpit of the Memorial Church. The Institute Choir sings. Goodness, that's a beautiful building. This year, Elder Robert S. Wood is the big name speaker. This year, I am the grad student speaker. Topic: Abraham 1:2. I should begin to think about that, maybe I should start drafting my talk now?

No, no. This is procrastination enough. A blog entry. With an added picture. You know, to stave off the criticisms of being such an infrequent blogger (S: Did you read my new blog entry about rockstars? M: No, I don't check your blog anymore since you never post regularly). Point taken.

Um, um, um. I could/should read my scriptures. Maybe someone has called me? It has been thirty minutes since I last checked my phone. I should put these dishes away. Does it count if I click for breast cancer twice in one day? When does the day start over--EDT or PDT? Do they know where I am? Does it reset at midnight here? How does that work, if, in fact, it works at all?

It's 10:30 pm.

I should put these dishes away. Will do. First, I should edit this entry. You know, just reread it, to make sure it, you know, reads.

From the top.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I've taken lately to using the term "rockstar" to describe the people I love and the rockstar people I come across. For instance.

And yesterday, yesterday, I was talking to a classmate, a 2L, with a low voice, soft. Thin face, thin grey hair, thin pale sweater, and a propensity to introduce the idea and value of beer into our conversations, and I said to him, Foster, what did you do before law school? He said, I toured the country with my band for 10 years.

He told me then that he played the guitar, that he and his brother (his partner) had decided their band had gotten as big as it was going to get and they could spend the rest of their lives playing to 200-300 person crowds each night or, or, they could leave and get real jobs. They decided on real jobs and here he is now in law school. (He also said there's only so much Budweiser one person should consume in a lifetime, and he'd definitely reached that limit.)

I said, In your personal statement, did you say "You should admit me because I am literally a rockstar"? He said, it did give me a lot of interesting things to write about.

A rockstar, literally.

Note: I'm not even sure "rockstar" is one word. Maybe it's supposed to be two. But I like its compounded form. I think it emphasizes the solidity of the thing, the intense and solid nature of the status of being a rockstar, the qualities of being so great the rockstar label is deserved. Rock star? Rockstar.

Too: On the heels of my firm's interviewing at my law school this year, one of my attorney friends was telling me about how his interview with one woman I'd recommended had gone. I said, What did you think of her? He said, You know. I said, I do? (not actually having any idea what he was referencing). He said, Yes, just like you said. She's a rockstar.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Eden's Children

Let's set aside the fact, for a moment, that I don't know from memory all of my nieces and nephews' birthdays or, necessarily, their middle names.

I want to talk about my friends' children.

I have friends with children. (Note: This is a partial list, designed to target a specific subset of friends, my former Eden roommates, whose whereabouts and burgeonings I'm really, I'm realizing, behind on.)

Some I knew about:




and, of course, Sam and Kyle's famous Kate and Owen

Some, however, I did not know about:

it turns out--see but you have to scroll down a few entries

(See ridiculously beautiful picture at top of blog.)

And some are predicted but not yet arrived:

Vera Jewell

The Bun

AND Jasmine and Arthur's GIRL! (This is news to me. Thank heavens for the peer pressure that Jasmine succumbed to.)

This is what I want to say:

I think that we should seriously consider some kind of forum for us to gather these children together and let me meet them (and, for instance, meet Arthur and, too, re-see some of you, aka all of you, I haven't seen since, for instance, I got bangs). It's true--do you remember?--that BYU has some sort of a pretty baby contest each year as part of homecoming festivities. (Doesn't it? Did anyone ever go or pay attention to that? I always figured it was a No,-Wymount,-you-really-are-part-of-this-community sort of activity.) But I'm thinking it's time for us to have our own baby beauty contest.

To make it a fairer fight--let's be honest, so-and-so's baby really is the cutest--we can add other categories. Frothiest Gurgling, Realest Fake Laugh, Looks Most Like His/Her Mom, Longest Stay-Awaker, Best Kisser. Something. I'll take suggestions.

And to judge, we can maybe have those of us who still don't have children (read, single aka situationally barren) do the judging, since we're dispassionate, independent, and, the good men tell us, needing to serve.

What say? We can gather in Utah. (Everyone still has family there, yes?) Or crash Sam and Kyle's place in Las Vegas (to take advantage of the stays-in-Vegas cheap hotel rates). (Sam and Kyle, you do still live in Vegas, yes?)

And, while we're trying to sort this all out (yes, Juice, you can come, too, despite your not having ever visited us in Eden--or did you? Phil, Rebecca, your spouses--you all count, too), I want us to consider the irony/appropriateness of this: We lived in Eden. We left. Some of you got pregnant. Which thing the prophets foretold. See 2 Ne 2:22-24, Moses 5:11.

(Also consider: You used to come home to me, and now you come home to them. It's true, I don't have a lot to offer you that's better than they are so as to fight for a place to stay in your heart. I, like them, may have kept you up with my crying, may have asked you to wash my undergarments, may have spat Cheerios and apple sauce your floor (sometimes we would laugh and eat at the same time, remember?), may have wanted you to open an Otter Pop for me and scratch my back. But in all the time we lived together and/or have been friends, I have never, never, never required that you suck the mucus out of my nose with one of those squeezy tubey things. I'm just, just saying.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

From Belize, Part III: San Antonio.

We teach in a school on the side of a jungle valley. It's misty in the morning, it's smoky and hot in the middle of the day, and, in the afternoons, the valley is taken up with the sound of the bus as it honks its way to town.

The school we teach at is San Luis Rey R.C. Primary School. (R.C. means it's Roman Catholic, like most of the schools--and, thereby, school teachers--in Belize.) We started today. We teach three classes: two small ones with small children who sit happily in our very small desks. They are going into Standard Five (which would be like sixth grade, except they're so little, it's like teaching 10-year-olds). We teach one class of Standard Six, and they are bigger--but still little--and they are a little more willing to talk. A little. They are all Mayan. The girls' names are Myra, Maria, Sharla, Juana, Francelia, Ardelina, Everista, Apolinaria, and Amy. The boys' names: Santos, Silvio, Diego, Jeremih (he says there's no A), Macario. They speak quietly--all of them--and the girls wear shiny, satiny dresses or 90s florals, and the boys have slicked down hair.

For lunch we walk to the home of the principal, Mr. Honorario Rash. Mr. Rash is a small man (of course, he's Mayan), with smoky spots on the skin around his nose and eyes. His hair is almost buzzed like a boy's in the summertime, and he wants us to sign in each day in his teacher's register. He is very kind. He arranged for his wife to cook us lunch everyday: $5 BZ per person per day. (That's $2.50 US.) I paid him for all of us for the next two weeks with one $100 bill (they have been hard to use), and I was grateful to get the $20 BZ change back. For lunch we had rice and beans and fried spam and one slice of avocado ("pear") each. And to drink, a super cold and beautiful tang-like drink that was, for sure, made with water right out of the tap; I drank it anyway. We never saw his wife.

We have two periods before lunch, one period after, and we have half an hour between school and the 2:00 bus, which takes us the 45-minute dusty, bumpy, jungle ride back into town. After school today, we hit the creek. There's a creek at the bottom of the San Antonio Valley that widens and pools just under a low-branching tree. There were four boys in shorts swimming there today. Two Saturdays ago, when we went, there were grown men. Annette and I waded in, and Peter walked the tree but declined to backflip into the water as the boys were doing for show. Tomorrow we're bringing our suits. We'll shutter our classrooms, change in the dark, and head to the creek. IcannotsayhowexcitedIam. Today, I happily sat the bus ride home with a wet skirt.

In short, in short, we're done with school in PG. My students wrote their last letters. They read the ones you sent (those of you who so kindly sent them--I'll try to get you the pictures we took; the kids were quietly, delightedly starstruck) and, finally (after an assembly, a cake, and some gifts to us) they went. Mr. Nolberto, the principal, invited us over to his house on Saturday, where we made an authentic Garifuna meal: mashed plaintains with fish-and-coconut milk gravy. We made fresh lime juice and drank the coconut water from coconuts he cut down from the trees in his backyard. It was, all by itself, an email, a chapter, a book. (Mr. Nolberto is a Catholic, but he's active with his Garifuna religion, which means he dreams dreams and sees visions and sings during the animal sacrifices--which he doesn't like--at the nearby Garifuna temples.)

On Sunday, we got up at 4 to take a 3.5 hour bus ride to church in Dangriga. We found the church and went. "You enjoying the weather?" a boy on a bike asked as we walked in the half-rain. We took a 3.5 hour bus ride home and spent the afternoon/evening hiding our heads in Gilmore Girls (except Peter, who's very conscientiously reading the Bible). And we were delighted to find out that, despite the misinformation today, from here on out we can take the 6 o'clock bus to the junction and not the 5 o'clock bus, which either means one more hour of sleep or one more episode of the Gilmore Girls, depending on which of us you're asking and how reckless we're reeling it in. Or out.

It's a good life. A good living. There are people in the jungle, and they read and write and spell and say things like "I am thanking you that you come to our village. I am so happy to be in school of the year." And, who knew?, they kick trash at unscrambling the word "football": OTFOBLLA. (Among other things.)

I'm thankful for the goodness in my life and am happy (and hopeful) re the goodness in yours.

Note: I am not surprised that they can unscramble FOOTBALL. They love football (meaning soccer); this is why I chose it as a word for them to unscramble. What I am surprised at is the relative swiftness of their unscrambling of it. I wrote it on the board and, whammo, multiple kids called out "FOOTBALL!" (which is kind of amazing because they're Mayan, and they don't do much calling out at all).

Saturday, July 07, 2007

From Belize, a Web Special: Mom asks, Sarah answers.

Mom sent Peter and me an email today, asking us a series of questions. These are my answers (I'll let Peter answer for himself). I figure that if Mom is wondering these things, then maybe the whole world is wondering. (Maybe.) Also, I'm trying to be more public and more regular about both (a) my travel and (b) my writing. La. Here we are.

Does everyone speak English or English and Spanish?
Everyone speaks English, and some speak Spanish. Peter is getting to use his Spanish just a little bit, but I think he would like to be able to use it more. More people speak Creole and English (There's a Creole sign for a chicken place we pass every day to and from school: Dis da fi wi chickin! We're not sure what it means.), and we have to ask our students to repeat themselves until they drop the Creole and speak in English. There are a surprising number of Chinese here, too. Our classes actually look very Valley Stream-esque, without the Europeans, of course. And no Middle Easterners.

How many children are in your classes?
We have three classes, each with between 15-20, depending on how many kids come and when and whether or not the kids who are doing the soccer camp across the street and our classes decide to go to soccer or, for instance, reading. (You can guess which one they usually choose.)

What is the teaching the last week in another place?
We'll be teaching exactly what we're teaching now for two weeks (M-Th, then M-F) in San Antonio, a village of 3,000 people scattered across a little jungle hillside about an hour's bus ride from PG, where we're staying. We went in today to see if we could find the principal and make arrangements for our transportation (buses in the morning only go 2/3s of the way there, to the junction ("the Junction," they call it) where the highway turns). So, we hopped an old, green and yellow painted school bus, paid our $1.50 per person, and jumped and stopped and sped there. It was beautiful. Idyllic, almost. And so cool. Now we have one week left teaching here in PG (it feels like forever and also like three seconds) and then we'll have 9 teaching days of 5 am morning buses (5 am), and then we'll teach from 8-11:30, 12:00-1:30, and we'll take the 2 pm bus home. Shorter teaching day, longer day. But I'm hoping to do some swimming, maybe just after school, in this milky, shady river/creek that's at the bottom of the hill San Antonio's set on. There's a tree that reaches out low and over the water, and today on our way back, we saw 20-something-aged men diving from the tree and treading in the water. It was great.

What are you eating and drinking? (Can you drink water and eat fresh food or not?)
We spend a lot of our time negotiating food, as you can imagine. Peter is usually the one who spearheads this effort, asking right after we've eaten one meal, what we're planning to do for dinner. We buy bottled water and drink that. (There are a lot of little groceries around.) Annette brought a cool water purifying system, and we purify water through that and use that to mix with Kool-Aid (Drinki, it's called) or juice concentrate or powdered milk. We eat out once a day, usually for lunch, and we eat at any of the little shack-type restaurants that line our street. We just had fry jack and black beans and banana shakes. Fry jack is just deep-fried puffy dough, we dipped in this black bean paste (like really smooth refried beans but made of black beans) that we find in a lot of dishes (burritos, for instance). We love the black beans. We made french toast for dinner last night, splurging on margarine we used to grease the bottom of a pot (we have a little gas stove/oven). Peter bought this great brown sugar for cheap, which he used to make syrup Mom-style. It was so tasty--thick and brown and sugary. This morning, while we lounged, Peter went to the market and came back with a giant bag full of fruit we're excited to eat--fresh stuff. Bananas, papaya, mangos, watermelon, limes. But we will, likely, keep eating a lot of canned beans and canned tomatoes and canned corn, etc. But we've been eating well--very simply--and enjoying it.

What is the Church situation?
We're trying to figure out church right now. The nearest church is not, as we thought, close by. Apparently, it's across the water in Guatemala. A 45-minute, $30ish roundtrip boat ride. The problem is, the boat only leaves at 9:15 and returns at 2. There is a church in Belize, which is Dangriga, but that's a 2-hour bus ride. Also, we don't know where that is or at what time. This is our goal for the evening. We'll see what tomorrow brings, but part of me is excited either way. Traveling here feels so easy--just sit back and look at the beauty and newness and strangeness and miles we're passing. It all makes me feel more loving and older and wider-eyed.

What are your rooms like?
Our apartment is this little cabiny type suite at the third-floor of our hotel. It's very cute and clean. We have a front room, with small plastic table, fridge, microwave (which we haven't used), gas stove and oven we have to light with a lighter. Then we have two bedrooms off of that. Peter has one, with a double bed. The girls and I share the other; Michelle and I share a double, and Annette has a twin/full. Both rooms have air conditioning, but Peter's better than ours. I'm not complaining though; they're great. The fourth quadrant of the suite is a rather large bathroom, bigger than any we have at home. The toilet paper dispenser is a very cool, thick wooden fish. The bathroom is not scary at all. It is nice to go home. We live in apartment #3.

Is there anything we can do to help you?
We're doing great. I wished I'd brought an assistant for each class, so Michelle and I could have a Peter, too. We should come down here as a family. It's so easy, comparatively, and there's no reason the girls couldn't be helpful. In fact, they would be great helps to us, I think. It's a beautiful world, and it feels close to home--much closer--than Ghana in large part, I think, because we're on the same side of the same ocean. There's really only land between us and Dallas is just a few hours away.

Friday, July 06, 2007

From Belize, Part II: We go swimming.

After school today, as a little boy (age 12, but small) named Wilford closed the metal blinds on my windows, I asked Gwen Usher, the St. Peter Claver teacher who's come to be our heavy, where I could go swimming. "Where can I go swimming?" I asked her. Belize is known for its beautiful, clear water, its incomparable diving, its rainbow-glittery snorkeling, but not for its beaches. It's the kind of country you boat out from.

It's true live at a particularly non-beachy part of the country. The silt run-off from jungle rivers pours down into the Gulf of Honduras, on which we're located (my roommate Annette tells me), and makes the local waters muddy, brown, tumbly, and great for fishing. (I actually don't know if that makes them great for fishing, but they are, apparently, great for fishing.) Apart from the color of the waters nearby, everything else about our cute town is island, coastal-rific.

Ms. Usher said, thinking about my question, "Hm, a good bathe. Where are you staying?" I told her Charlton's Inn, at the end of Main Street, and she said people usually go to a good spot about a mile up the road that lines the coast. Go up from our hotel, make a left at Texaco, and head on until you hit beach.

So, after work, we did. We taught our first 7:30-3:15 day today (with two 15-minute breaks and an hour and a half for lunch, as is the norm here), and that third period (the last period) was hard. Our feet are sore from too many teacher hours in flip-flops and Chacos. My voice was tired from saying again and again and again (teaching--teaching is a career that centers on repeating the same sentence 900,000 times at day): "There are TWO correct ways to write a date: MONTH SPACE DATE COMMA SPACE YEAR ORRRrrr DATE ORDINAL SPACE MONTH SPACE YEAR." (This is a small teacherly fiction I picked up from our school's principal; in English, it's so nice to teach rules that are hard and fast that I find myself pharisaically holding onto them). And we were ready to leave our apartment to do something other than scour the local, dimly lit, and dusty shops for cans of something something, small plastic bowls, and something to eat--anything--that was fresh and appetizing (chocolate milk is the closest we've come so far, but a fermented orange juice was a disappointing second), that we all wrapped up in beach wear and headed off down the highway.

It was rush hour, it was a highway, there were no sidewalks, and we spent most of our time dodging locals on bikes, who'd pass by with children or Honey Bunches of Oats or, in one instance, an electronic keyboard leaning on, hanging from, or strandling the handlebars of their bikes. We briefly considered hitchhiking.

The water was choppy and brown, but we found a wharf and a coast of rocks and put our feet in. It was so warm, sometimes I couldn't feel the water. But Annette and I were hoping for more than foot baths. We left Peter and Michelle sitting on the wharf and walked down to a corner of the beach where the sand turned into the water, and there was a little boy in boxers doing cartwheels. (His mother was watching.) The water was a little more than a foot deep, and I could lie down in it and be rocked towards the shore with only a waveish now and then on my face. Salty, dirty, and so nice.

Annette and I left the water when she began to be nibbled (we're thinking crab?), and we picked up Peter and Michelle and walked back into town (past two more of these mysterious and ubiquitous hand-painted signs: "This way to Earth Runnings"), where we ducked back into a little shop and bought a small can of salsa, another can of black beans, a can of stewed tomatoes, and, for the others, a 50 cent package of chocolate-flavored chocolate cookies. At home, we had two pounds of fresh corn tortillas we'd bought at lunch hour from the tortilla factory across the street. These all would be dinner.

As I'm writing this, we're two hours post-dinner, three hours post-swimming, and I can still feel the wet of my suit through my shorts and sweatshirt. My ears have dirt in them, and I have swimming hair. It's time to read my scriptures, time to watch The Office, maybe time to plan a lesson.

It's lovely here.

P.S. I'm going to send another email that will have a number of pictures attached to it, as I'm not sure I have time for Picasa before the Dreamlight closes. But you can delete it or not open it, if that would be helpful. Also, it might not go through. We'll see.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

From Belize, Part I: In which I take four airplanes in three days and meet Brother John.

For archiving purposes, I thought I would post the email updates I'm sending to a smattering of recipients re my trip to Belize. No need to read if read you already have.

We're here. We're here in Belize, specifically in Punta Gorda, Toledo District, Belize. The sky: blue. The water: large and muddy and blue. The buildings: red-roofed, aqua or white painted, flat-fronted.

After a three to four-hour delay in Dallas yesterday, my two friends (Annette and Michelle) and I finally made a plane down to Belize City, where we met my brother Peter (who'd flown through Houston on another airline). He was waiting for us just inside immigration, reading Foreign Affairs, waiting for us to arrive and tell him where we were staying in Belize so they would officially let him into the country.

Our plane's delay had made us miss our connecting flight to PG (a 1-hr, 3-stop flight on the littlest plane--imagine flying inside of a fish), so we stayed in Belize City last night. We lucked out. We were choosing between two hotels--the Global Village Hotel, which was some indeterminate (but short) taxi ride away and the Embassy Hotel, which was "right across the parking lot" from the airport (or so said the guide). It was dark and humid and, total, we had eleven bags to roll, so we were feeling (and were, I'm sure) conspicuous. Belize City is not know for its safety. But we saw a building that seemed Embassy Hotelish, took off across a parking lot, and prayedprayedprayed.

Prayers answered.

What we found across the parking lot was the funniest--the funniest, nicest thing. It was a giant, multi-floored sort of ramshackle building. The Embassy Hotel is run by a man named John, whose humor centered on delivering obvious information in a deadpan fashion ("You can turn on the light with either hand, right or left, it doesn't matter.") and his wife. (John: "My wife is a concert pianist. She's also an ex-Dallas Cowgirl. She's just just a little bit prettier than I am but not much." His wife, from another room: "He has to say that because he knows I'm listening." She smiled.) They are Christians, and the sign in front of the hotel said "HAVE YOU READ YOUR BIBLE TODAY?" They're Americans, who live down in Belize, running what seem to be various hotels and service programs for church and college groups. ("I'm not retired; I'm just tired.") We got two rooms, with AC, showers, and free dinner and breakfast (John: "The cook is out, so the food is on the house." John's wife: "Not on the house, John. It's dark. They shouldn't be up on the roof. [To me] I have to give him his own humor back."), which was made for us by a middle-aged American Airlines mechanic named Bobby, who was talkative and lonely and happy to call us by name. I would love to see John and Grandpa Hoggard chat together. They'd be--I wouldn't know what to do with myself.

This morning we skipped like a stone across the surface of Belize, stopping for a moment in Dangriga (both g's are hard, I learned), in Placencia, and then, finally, in PG. The town is small. There really is only one main street. And everything is on it. We live at one end, the school we'll be at for this week and next is at the other. We met the principal, saw the classrooms, decided on an extended day (7:30-11:30, 1-3:30), and are gearing up for tomorrow.

This will be--such, such a delight.

The world is so accessible, it turns out. Saturday, DC. Sunday, DC, NY. Monday, NY, Texas, Belize. And here I am, zip zoop, on the edge of the ocean and a jungle.

Come visit. We have a couch you can sleep on.

With love,

P.S. Belize City is a 2-hour flight from Dallas. I'm just saying.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Fantasy Heroine Baseball (Plus)

Jeanette and I were driving down from my sister's new house in Syracuse (the almost idyllic village of Fayetteville, actually) yesterday and, on hour 6 about, we started playing car games. We played two: fantasy heroine baseball and cartoon home teachers. Weigh in: who do you think won?

Fantasy Heroine Baseball
Choose a baseball team of nine (we weren't sure how many people are supposed to be on a baseball team, but we thought we could handle nine) entirely comprised of heroines (female characters) from literature.

Jeanette's Team
  1. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables
  2. Main character from Their Eyes Were Watching God
  3. Tonks from Harry Potter
  4. Nancy Drew
  5. Emma from Emma
  6. Jael from the Bible (Admittedly we stretched the category a little bit for this one, but the Bible is literature, too, and Jeanette couldn't pass up the power of this kind of woman.)
  7. The third daughter (the one who stays in Africa) from The Poisonwood Bible
  8. The sister-in-law from The Jungle
  9. The mother from The Good Earth
Sarah's Team

  1. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice
  2. "Hetty" (the sporty daughter, whatever her name was) from All-of-a-Kind Family
  3. Hermione from Harry Potter
  4. Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing (We're guessing she would be the MVP.)
  5. Turtle's mom (whatever her name was) from The Bean Trees
  6. Dagny Taggart from Atlas Shrugged
  7. Raskolnikov's sister from Crime and Punishment
  8. Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie
  9. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle from Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (would definitely play catcher)
Three things of note:
1. This was actually pretty hard. After Anne of Green Gables and the Austen books, we had to push ourselves to think of other female characters. Oh! I just thought of a great one! Petra from The Ender's Game. She would be the BEST!

2. We discussed but both rejected Scarlett O'Hara as an option. She does have tenacity, but neither Jeanette nor I wanted her brand of fierceness on the team. Would be bad for morale, we thought.

3. #2 was especially true when we revisited our lists to see whom we would want to work with. Nancy Drew didn't make the cut there. Too nosy, we decided. Or maybe kind of a time-waster. But I'd pick Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle again in a heartbeat. I picked her for my visiting teacher (companion: Elizabeth Bennet). Jeanette, on the other hand, picked Tonks for everything. Everything. Visiting teacher, visiting teachee, best friend, mentor. Jeanette = wants to be Tonks.

. . . . .

We also played cartoon home teachers, but I think we both won this one. Who would you choose?

Cartoon Home Teachers
Choose two cartoon characters (must be nominally male) to serve as your home teachers.

Jeanette's Home Teachers
1. The Donny Osmond character from Mulan
2. The monster from Monsters, Inc.

Sarah's Home Teachers
1. John Smith from Pocahontas (Was I the only one who loved that movie? John Smith--seriously, what a good-looking cartoon.)
2. Merlin from Sword and the Stone

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Airport Parking Model of Happiness

The following is an essay I wrote and referenced in a February 2006 blog entry. After much delay and little revision, here it is.

We say “fine.” We’re a society of fine-rs. We pass someone we know-ish on the sidewalk between Meyer Library and Moonbean’s, and he, that guy from that one class with us, says, “How’s it going?” And we say fine. “Fine.” Even though, as it turns out, it maybe isn’t going so well. I mean, we got enough sleep last night, unusually, because we went to bed so early. Around midnight. (The internet was slow.) That’s fine. But we did just realize that we missed the deadline to sign up for those job interviews. We’ve decided to attend that national conference, which may be fun, but we just found out that the airplane tickets we bought but really couldn’t afford, we bought for the wrong weekend. This is not fine. And then, too, there’s that general sense of malaise that’s cast a dark and semi-permanent shadow over the general course of mirth in our lives ever since Alan went away. Alan. What a good cat.

I ask people sometimes why they say fine when I know that in reality they’re not feeling fine. That, in fact, they’ve just been crying to me, on me, about a heartbreak, about heart ache, about being so tired and feeling generally run over. Usually, good people justify this “fine” response because they believe that the “how’s it going?” person just meant well, just meant to say “hey,” and doesn’t actually want to know how it’s going. Doesn’t actually want to know about how sometimes life is specifically hard, here, in first person.

But (a) I think people do want to know those things, or at least, have a sense of them, of what the true state of our lives is like, even if they can’t change the situation or wait around to hear us tell them about it. If I know that the girl who sits next to me in constitutional law is having a hard day, then I can try to treat her tenderly, more tenderly than I might otherwise. Or at least, not make her find her own chair when I’ve stolen the only one left in the row. And (b) I think there’s a way to let people know how we’re feeling, how we’re really feeling, without overburdening them with the gross weight of our current emotional excess. This way relies on one of the first theories of daily living that I ever crafted. I call it the Airport Parking Model of Happiness.

There are at least three levels of human emotion (or happiness—it’s true this theory might be better called the Airport Parking Model of Emotion, but I was young when I named it and the name irrepressibly stuck). The three levels are long-term parking, short-term parking, and departures and arrivals.

The long-term parking level describes the general course of your life, how you’ve been feeling the last few months, years, decades, etc. If you’re clinically depressed, it’s depression on this level. If you’re chronically hyper, it’s an excess of energy on this level.

The short-term parking level describes how you’ve been feeling today, the last few days, the last few weeks. When people say, “How’s it going?” or “How YOU doin’?” they’re usually referring to your short-term parking level of emotion.

Departures and arrivals refers to how you’re feeling right now, this moment. You just ate a good orange, you stubbed your toe, that boy is cute, it’s stuffy in here, that joke was funny, etc. These moment-to-moment emotions quickly come and go (and sometimes circle around) like the cars coursing through the departures and arrivals lanes at the airport.

The theory is this: If we have at least three levels of emotions operating at all times, then we can (1) respond from any one of these levels, or (2) respond from multiple levels. I specifically advise the latter.

Let’s say I’m having a bad day—a really bad day—and someone unfortunately makes the proverbial “how’re you doing?” inquiry. In response, I can say, “You know, I’ll be honest. It’s been a bad day. But, this southwest chicken salad from Tresidder gets me every time. It’s so good.” Chances are, from my experience, that said questioner will laugh and nod and walk away. Then I can cry in my southwest chicken salad with peace of mind, knowing I’ve been true to the complexity of my experience while doing my part to share some of the human condition.

Or, if worse comes to worst, and you can’t bear to even mention the bad and true stuff of your current life to that guy from your class who says “how you doin'?”, change the status of a parking level. Take a moment and think of the pretty trees you're standing under and answer from departures and arrivals: "It's a seriously beautiful world." Remember that yesterday your roommate made you waffles, your mother sent you heart-shaped notes, and the prayer you said last night felt real and true and fine. You can say, from your short-term parking level, “You know what? Things have goodness about them.” Or, if you need to, if you can, buy yourself a new cat, pray yourself a testimony, and improve your long-term parking. Then you can say fine, fine, fine, as consistently as you like.

The world may not know the difference—may still you think you’re copping a copasetic façade in the face of disaster—but you will. You’re telling the truth. And that should feel fine.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

International Human Nights: A Poem

Elizabeth is in Chile.
Live from a mountaintop.
She studies the stars.
Giant telescopes
mounted on mountainsides
by night scientists
working with small computers.

She wrote me today and said
Orion IS upside down.

Later, in class, the European diplomat
guest lecturing,
saying words like “conwinced” and “blackleest,”
is talking about the 700 years of federalism
about the tragedy of landmines
and child soldiers, child trafficking,
the Maoists being demilitarized in Nepal,
and I find myself trying to imagine

two shoulder points
three studs on a girded belt
(Would they hang on the same rakish angle
left to right,
or upside down,
does it slip up his hip, right to left?)
two star-spangled boots,
like Dolly Parton,
kicking it up on a stratospheric stage

all hanging, upside down,
upside down.

Orion is—

“So ven you say you want to beeld a fentz between the Youess and Mehico, I say, as long as one tzide of the fentz has an eight dohllur a day wage and on the ahther tzide of the fentz has an eight dohllur per hour wage—you can beeld a fence one hundrred meetrs high, and peeple will alwayz find a way.”

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sarah and Company (Has Company)

A friend (a good friend) asked me to help her name her blog. I'm not good at these things, actually, on demand. (Though, it's true, I did come up--and on the spot-- with the name for the back page of The Collegiate Post--BYU's academic fortnightly--that was intended to showcase the lighter, funnier side of the paper. The name I came up with? The Posterior. I've always felt a little sheepish and a little pleased about that.)

The point is--she asked me to come up with a name for her blog, and I tossed one off ("Levi's Spouse"--her husband's name is Levi, of course), and today I was writing her an email, asking her if she'd made her blog and what she'd named it.

What I'm trying to say is--that as part of my email, I told her that I "kept googling" "Levi's spouse" and came up with nothing, which wasn't quite true because, though I'd tried "" at least twice (and came up with nothing), that isn't quite googling (what would you call that? bloguesstimating? (see--not that good)). And, because I didn't want to have to come up with a name for whatever it was I had done (trying to get URLucky?), I decided to blog "Levi's spouse," thereby at least making my statement minimally true. And I came up with nothing.

But then I thought--what if personal blogs don't typically come up with a google search for their title? So I decided to google my blog name (sarahandcompany, of course; but I actually wrote "sarah and company"), and guess what came up?


So anyway, there's a handbag company in South Dakota, started by a woman named Sarah (Sarah Sola), and it's called Sarah & Company.

And you know what? The bags look pretty beautiful.

(See the "black and white waffle stitching." And the polka dots, which are very much in.)

That's it. I'm just pleased. Delighted and pleased. That's what I was trying to say.

Addendum: You know what? If you google "sarahandcompany," you get two links for and then, ta dah--

Sarah & Co.
Pork Loin and Cheddar Dill Scones. These recipes are provided courtesy of Karren, as part of my ongoing feasting series (see The Feasts of Christmas at - 53k - Cached - Similar pages

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dve stvari

Today, via email, I was asked these two questions:

1. Little DMV question for you. If the little stickers on my license plate say "NOV" and "2006" have I been tempting fate for three months or am I good for 9 months? The DMV hasn't sent me anything in a while, and I forget about details like this.

2. Gchat. I think I had my first gchat equivalent of an awkward conversation with Karen today. I was so shocked by the novelty of it all, I guess, that all I could think to do was rephrase whatever she had just said. It was like a freshman first date. If I sign on again and Karen's little circle goes grey, is that the gchat equivalent of "That sounds like fun, but I'm getting my nails done that night…"?

I thought I would share my answers. In case you were wondering, too.

My Answers

1. DMV: I think you've been tempting fate. I'd take a stand and soon. My trip today wasn't too bad.
Redwood City, pretty close, easy to sit and read while you wait for your number to come up. Pretty cute to be near such a cross-section of the population: the muslim couple in front of me with three ridiculously cute kids running around; the white teenager, his dad, and his lawyer who were near me until they stood up to see, who I presume was some kind of a judge, on what sounded like a drunk? driving charge (the lawyer to the officers they came out of the office with: "On behalf of the boy's dad, I want to thank you for getting him off the road. He was a danger to himself and to the community. You did the right thing. He's a good kid, he just made a mistake [laugh, laugh], as we all do."); and the guy who stood at the counterspace next to me (window #9) who said, "I have a 2002 corvette that I forgot to register..."). Awesome. I'd recommend it.

2. As per Karren (two r's there; it's actually a last name from a progenitor) and her gchatting, she likely just had to leave and leave quick. The gchatting formalities are pretty low. Most of the time, people are in and out of their accounts without much fanfare (going from a colored dot to a grey dot, for instance, means you've signed out or shut down your computer) and without any announcements. Unless you're having an extensive one-on-one chat-to-chat (pretty intense; pretty obviously a real conversation, like a good phone conversation), and then that kind of greying out would be like the phone cutting off, with the same attendant questions and rules of etiquette, etc.

Man, it turns out I have a lot to say about this. My fingers are cold, but it's okay because I'm done with what I need to do today. What's left: brushing my teeth, putting on my pajamas, reading my scriptures, and, if I want to, reading some of the Joan Didion book I began reading last night ( A Book of Common Prayer). (The book blurb didn't sound like something I wanted to read particularly, but everyone says she's a good writer. And you know what? From paragraph three I was sure of it. Man, she is a good writer.)


I give you that advice, as I give you my love. Freely.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Pork Loin and Cheddar Dill Scones

These recipes are provided courtesy of Karren, as part of my ongoing feasting series (see The Feasts of Christmas at Melville). Good goo, they're delicious.

Pork Loin
The pork loin is easy to prepare:
Rub entire piece of meat in olive oil, then rub lemon pepper into the fat portion.

Broil fat side up for 20 minutes at 450 F. (This sears the meat so that it does not get too dry.)

Adjust oven temperature to 325 F. Continue baking until internal temperature is 180 F (use meat thermometer to monitor).

Remove from oven and let it sit for about 15 minutes to finish cooking.

The sauces are by American Spoon and can be purchased at Williams-Sonoma.

Cheddar-Dill Scones

2 large eggs
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
1/3 cup minced fresh dill
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 3/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter two 9-inch pie pans.

Beat eggs, buttermilk and minced fresh dill in medium bowl to blend. Combine flours, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, pepper and salt in large bowl. Add butter to flour mixture and cut in until mixture and grated cheddar cheese. Stir to mix well. (Dough will be stiff and crumbly.) Knead gentrly until dough just holds together.

Divide dough in half. Pat each half into prepared pans to 1-inch thickness. Using long knife or pizza wheel, score each round into 6 wedges. Bake until toothpick inserted into each center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pans to rack and cool scones slightly. Cut into wedges.

Another Meal Commemoration

It's the day before classes start up again, so I've been (as I told Jackie B.) trying to be productive while simultaneously taking it easy. This lifestyle.

As part of that, I ate a great lunch, which as a nod to my youth spent reading Farmer Boy while lying hungrily in my bed, I will now record.

Hot pieces of peppered pastrami, with thin-sliced sourdough bread, and spicy, grainy mustard. Steamed caulifower, no salt, no butter. Pieces of cheese from last night's cheese-eating: provolone, black diamond white cheddar, french gruyere, sharp cheddar. Halved cherries in plain yogurt, the brand Karren says is the strong kind. Water (again, poured from a glass pitcher). And a small dessert of leftover pear gingerbread pudding and cold milk.

I'm feeling like I should open a restaurant. That's a seriously good meal. (But oddly old man-ish, I think. Are my tastebuds getting more masculine as I age?)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Feasts of Christmas at Melville

I wrote this for my own notes, and to relive the goodness of the food of today, but with such teasing tonight (and the reminder that this blog exists), I decided just to post it. Unless there are objections. It was such a good day--my roommates and I celebrated Christmas today (we live at a house we call the Melville House). Among other things, we ate so well. Dickensian well. And I'm feeling a particular need, of late, to sing the praises of the good things in my life.

For Christmas at Melville breakfast, we had cinnamon rolls made by David C (Karren’s dad), reheated until the creamcheese frosting was melting off the top. We each had a bowl of degreened strawberries and half of a banana, still in its peel. Next to each plate was a bright navel orange. I served crumpets, with clotted cream (brought by Nate in an ice-filled bag in his car from Georgia to South Carolina, then by Mom in our car from South Carolina to New York, then by me in my suitcase to California; this afternoon I found some at the Milk Pail), and two kinds of preserves—peach and strawberry. We had a glass—our small orange juice glasses—for water, which we poured out of my clear glass pitcher. And Karren served us Ghirardelli hot chocolate, with real whipped cream, and rainbow dot sprinkles on top, in little coffee cups and saucers she got as a Christmas present—in soft rainbow colors with multicolored polka dots. And when we drank the hot chocolate, the sprinkles stained the whipped cream. We talked for over two hours at the table, and ate everything but the oranges, which we each cupped or rolled or held until it was time to clean up, at 1, and begin the day.

For dinner tonight, on Christmas at Melville day, we invited Chris and Reed, who was in town, and Karren’s brothers, Gordon and Stu. We ate pepper-crusted pork loin with plum and ginger and mango curry sauces. Spring greens salad with craisins, walnuts, pears, and crumbled blue cheese. Red potato chunks baked with green peppers and red onions. And cheddar cheese and fresh dill scones, on which (at Karren’s suggestion) I put my good spicy mustard, which I’ve been craving. To drink, grape and apple Martinelli’s and water. Reed provided a post-dinner, pre-dessert snack—small, Halloween-sized packages of Toblerone and those good hazelnut chocolate balls, totally famous but the name of which I’ve forgotten right now. I served dessert—a warm mixed pear and gingerbread pudding (baked) and cold, new (newly bought) milk. The pears had been soaked in honey, and the molasses was full flavor, just like I'd hoped.

Pear Gingerbread Pudding



2 pears, peeled, cored and cubed

2 tbsp (25 mL) liquid honey

Gingerbread Topping:

1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened (or 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce)

1/2 cup (125 mL) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (50 mL) fancy molasses

1 egg

3/4 cup (175 mL) all-purpose flour (or wheat flour)

1 tsp (5 mL) each ground ginger and cinnamon

1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking soda

1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground cloves

Pinch salt

2/3 cup (150 mL) hot water


Spread pears in greased 8-inch (2 L) glass baking dish; drizzle with honey. Set aside.

Gingerbread Topping
In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in molasses and egg until combined. in separate bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves and salt; stir into molasses mixture alternately with hot water, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of water. Pour over pears.

Bake in centre of 350°F (180°C) oven until pudding is bubbling, but cake tester comes out clean. Serve warm.

Nutritional information

Per serving: about 357 cal, 3 g pro, 17 g total fat (10 g sat. fat), 51 g carb, 2 g fibre, 79 mg chol, 271 mg sodium. % RDI: 5% calcium, 13% iron, 16% vit A, 3% vit C, 12% folate.