31 May 2009

i want to make this

Do you think I could do it?


I'm scaling back for the summer on menus and having items a la carte only.  I might not serve two vegetables at every meal, or I might serve only vegetables.  We'll see.  I will be making items that I love and am excited about and won't be worrying about how they fit into the grander scheme of things.  So here's a list from this weekend and for the coming week:

*coconut cream pie
*fried potatoes and onions
*spaghetti frittata (my kids loved this more than almost anything I've ever cooked, and dubbed it spagetti pizza)
*polenta topped with seared zucchini
*rye bread
*pizza topped with arugula and homemade ricotta
*vietnamese style noodle salad with eggrolls

I want to hear what everyone else is making.

twenty years

On Friday night, Christian and I went to hear the Bernstein Mass performed by the Utah Symphony, a prelude to our twentieth wedding anniversary on Tuesday.  It was a book-end of sorts as our first date was to hear the Bach Double at the Madsen Recital Hall performed by the BYU chamber orchestra and the Gruppmans, a husband and wife violinist team.  

The date started at my apartment in The Truman where we ate frozen burritos that Christian brought and I prepared, and tried to dress up with some avocado, salsa, and cheese (I remember them being quite delicious) and then proceeded to a bike ride up the hill to the Harris Fine Arts Center (C rode me on the handle bars and told me that I had pretty skin) where we heard the piece.  It was, as always, a fantastic piece, and we learned that we are both freaks about Bach.  Since the Bach was over, we left the concert at intermission, biked back down the hill, and went to 7-11 for a pint of Hagen-daazs honey vanilla ice cream which we ate on the steps of the then-condemned Academy Square building (which is now the library, thanks in part to a campaign that C was active in as a student to save the building).  We sat there and talked until the wee hours of the morning, and I knew then that I had met my life's partner (what happened next is a long story for another day.)

But Friday night at the symphony reminded me of this instant connection made way back when I was 19 years old with Christian because, as with the Bach, Christian and I again had the exact same reaction to the Bernstein piece.  I could just tell what he was thinking through the whole piece, and I was thinking the same thing.  I'm not going to go in to great detail here because people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, but I'll just say the piece was highly problematic (I know a lot of people are aware of this, and hence it is rarely performed, but a lot of people liked it, even loved it, and that's when I'm sooooo glad I'm married to someone who doesn't love the Bernstein mass.)

So, xo, C.

Here's to 20 more years of music, bicycles, and honey-vanilla ice cream.

june to-do list

Some new, mostly leftover from May:

*finish planting garden

*update resume

*write book reviews for the Provo City Library's Adult Summer Reading Program (did you know they had this?)

*read Mormon Sisters for bookclub (the venerable Claudia Bushman, editor of the volume, will be there in person to talk about it--I'm so psyched because she's one of my heros)

*summer reading with kids

*sign up for swimming lessons

*appointment with ENT in Salt Lake

*appointment with pediatric dermatologist in Salt Lake

*Christian's Trombone 4-tet concert

*sign up for netflix and watch some good (as opposed to trashy) movies

*read at least one good (as opposed to trashy) novle

*finish revision on book proposal

*send to agent who asked for it ten days ago and hope she still remembers me

*revise Alburnum manuscript

*finish compiling Gentian manuscript

*try to find pink desert trailer manuscript that I lost in 2002 when we moved here from Oklahoma

*as always, yoga 3X a week, walking five days a week

*become better at baking bread

*become better at baking pies

*Lula's b-day

*20th wedding anniversary

26 May 2009

in memoriam

Yesterday we made our annual Memorial Day trek to the Midway cemetery to visit my Grandpa Scott's grave, Scott Merrill Whitaker, as well as the graves of his parents and siblings.  On the way there, we read snippets from some family histories and the transcript of his funeral.  Christian and Emily told stories about their dad, Grandpa Tom, and grandparents, Joe and Marie Redd and Julia and Charles Asplund.  My Grandpa Scott was legendary in his day--he was an excellent singer, a Disney animator who purportedly worked on Dopey in Snow White, one of my all-time favorite moves, and a writer and director for BYU Motion Picture.  He wrote the script for Man's Search for Happiness, one of the masterpieces of LDS doctrinal films.  He was also proprietor, with his brothers, of the Homestead in Midway, for a number of years, hence the Midway connection.  I also need to mention that he was an all-around general ham and comedian, as well.

After the cemetery, we drove for about an hour looking for the perfect spot for our picnic, but it was nowhere to be found.  Finally, when we were all so hungry we were getting ready to gnaw off our own hands, we found it in an old pioneer homestead sitting on the banks of Snake Creek complete with plaques containing stories and poems written by and about the original homesteaders and their families, a creamery, an orchard, and a gigantic fir tree with a soft cushion of pine compost underneath and branches overhanging the creek.  Moses and Cecily were in heaven, and all of the adults were as well.  Even the lively squirrels were extra magical, and the birds were plentiful and visible.  Emily said it was like being inside a cross between Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie.  

For feasting, we had a number of delicious items:  I made bread in the morning (my Aunt Annie's French bread recipe with sesame seeds) and brought the leftover London Broil from Sunday dinner for roast beef sandwiches and an assortment of mustards, jams, and my favorite pickles.  We stacked our sandwiches on location, an for accompaniment ate crudite, fresh fruit, potato chips, Lula's fabulous chocolate chip cookies, and, last but not least, Red Vines in classic red and black.

It was a really, really perfect day, surrounded by the Wasatch mountains, a trickle of water, and a lot of inspiring memories.

23 May 2009

spring hunt

So lately our Saturdays consist of a series of grocery errands that the kids think are incredibly fun:  today we went to Chao's, the Provo Farmer's Market, and Macey's, and now I'm super excited about my cooking for the week and Christian's excited about the chopsticks made of various materials (metal, plastic, bamboo) that he'll use for making awesome noises on his viola.  Here are a few of the highlights:

*bok choy
*chinese chives
*massaman curry paste
*new crop rice
*assorted chopsticks

Farmer's Market
*clifford eggs
*artesian well-grown watercress from zoe's
*korean taco

*games, prizes, and 50 cent hot dogs for the kids
*king arthur flour on sale!
*kosher pickles on sale!
*happy, happy nice workers

So, some menus for next week:

*tofu spring rolls
*poached eggs with polenta triangles and asparagus
*london broil
*massaman coconut vegetable curry
*spaghetti with veggie marinara
*hawaiian haystacks
*orange rolls

Also, with Eva's inspiration, I'm going to attempt Andi's beer bread and a sour dough starter.


19 May 2009

winners and losers again

I want to clarify one or two things after my track meet post:  1)  I'm not necessarily talking about after school sports or sports in general, but the use of competition in the schools as a pedagogical method and the false binary of "winning" and "losing" that is imposed on young children by this paradigm in the schools, and 2)  of course some children gain self-esteem from winning and competing, but I think this type of self-esteem is fragile and built on the misfortune/lack of ability/confidence/motivation of others, and from what I've observed, breeds unhappiness in the winner and loser both.  Winning becomes an addiction for the gifted child and a millstone around the neck of the loser.

(I also want to acknowledge that my daughter's school tries to be inclusive in many ways, and everyone at the track meet was trying to make all of the children feel good about their performances, but those attempts are always transparent to children who always see through those attempts to bandage the wounds of failure.)

I just want a whole new paradigm for the public schools, one that veers away from a hyper-capitalist hierarchy of winners and losers.

That's not too much to ask, is it?

17 May 2009

One month.

That is how much time I have. Where did the first nine months go? I don't know either.

The events in my life have been...
1: Circus Baldoni-- not exactly the Circus McGirkus, but cute. It's run by this family who has been in the business for 8 generations, which I find astounding.
2: Crazy German swimming pool-- my host family decided that we had a free day and wanted to do something in Thüringen. I was disappointed at first because I can swim anywhere and wanted to see, say, a church, but then I realized that there is no better place to observe culture than swimming pools. It reminded me of the ones I'd been to before: In Mexico, which had a secret tunnel and lots of flora, where we had to ride back in the back of a pickup truck (which we flagged down with our thumbs/bikini-clad American girls), or in Turkey in the Hammam (which isn't really a swimming pool but was close enough), where we sat in a huge beautiful old building with a domed ceiling, being scrubbed by stern Turkish ladies and trying not to make eye contact with any of the chaperones (because we were all. naked.), or Seven Peaks, which... well, you all know it already. Anyway, this one was mostly inside. Everybody had to shower before and after swimming, and there was an enormous waterslide which they ingeniously got into the building (well... it's hard to describe. It wasn't exacly in the building... but I promise, it was brilliant). There was a pool for laps and a pool for children (with a whale in it, no less) and a pool for swimming and a salty therapeutic pool that was partially outside and full of jets. Apparently once a month is Naked Day, where everybody swims without a swimsuit. Would that be legal in the United States? I don't think so. Like I said, it is very German.
3: Friends-- Did I already say how I finally made them? Because I did. They are awesome, they like me and I like them. They even call me "unsere kleinen Sonnenschein" (our little sunshine), which makes me really happy. We write lots of notes to each other, because most of them are in a different grade from me.

Is there anything else? I don't believe so. I love you all, every single one, and I will see you soon! Which is a big deal!!!

15 May 2009

jesus & the track meet

Can you believe I've gone through 18 and a half years of motherhood without ever attending a child's sporting event?  Lest you think I'm a neglectful mother, you should realize that it's not because I forgot to go, but because my children never participated.

I settled in early at the Hershey Track Meet that happens at Lula's school every year to watch her run the first event, the 1600.  It's a beautiful day, the bleachers were still empty, and YMCA was blasting on the speakers.  This is fun,  I thought.  Maybe I've been too harsh on competitive sports, I thought.  But then the sick feeling came and settled into my belly.  I find it unbearably painful to watch children come in last place.  Maybe, in fact surely, this is a reflection on my own over-sensitivity and subsequent trauma as a child, but if even one child feels as sick and miserable as I did at events such as these (and they were way more cut-throat in my sports-crazed hometown) it's not worth it.  Am I happy that Lula had fun running and preparing for the meet?  Yes.  Do I think that the motivation of "winning" is a worthy one? Absolutely not.  I've been guilty in my own teaching practice of occasionally resorting to competition as a motivator, but I've always chickened out at the last minute and awarded everyone.  I noticed that it was a cheap trick that damaged the winners and losers alike, with no positive long-term outcomes.  I've carefully weeded out as much comparison and rivalry as I could from my mothering and pedagogical approaches.

So I sat through the meet and took deep breaths, feeling o-so-alienated--was anyone else feeling the same way?  I thought about Jesus.  I thought about Quakers.  I thought about my friend's daughter's way more progressive school on the Lower East side of Manhattan.  Do they have formal competition at her school?  I thought about the time Lula "borrowed" a ribbon for her Arbor Day poster in second grade, and I got fresh anger about the impending end-of-year ceremony where they always hand out medals to students who score above the 90th percentile on state testing.  Isn't that illegal under FERPA (the student privacy protection laws)?  

Am I too angry and sensitive?  Please tell me, because right now, in the context of old-school values and education, I feel like a freak, and like I have no one to talk to about this because I've used up all of my credibility in this community by being a constant nay-sayer.

Jesus would support me, wouldn't he?

When Ingrid was little, and to this day, she always refused to be a part of any competition, explicit or implicit.  When she got older, she happily became a volunteer cheerleader for her peers and siblings, but has never herself participated.  

I think she has it right.

O Friends School of Provo, where are you?  My Great Aunt Helen called herself a Feminist Quaker Mormon.  I think she had it right, too.  

I wish she were still here to consult with.

I'm breathing.





Please advise.

11 May 2009

confession and addendum

*i don't wear sunscreen. ever.

*cook something en papillote.

10 May 2009

All flowers remind me of you.

My mother is clearly the best one there is.
She reminds me of a story I heard about one the Presidents of the United States and the first lady (but I don't remember which)-- They saw one of the first lady's old boyfriends working in a gas station and the president said "Aren't you glad you married me instead of him?" She replied, "If I had married him, you'd be the one working at a gas station right now and he would be president".
(Okay, I know that wasn't delivered very well, but it was really funny when I heard it, I promise)
In any case, if I had been born to somebody else, I'm sure I would never have achieved anything without her-- I certainly wouldn't be in Europe. Whenever I tell her that I can't do something, she looks at me as if I'm being ridiculous and says, "Ingrid, of course you can do it. Just cut out your first paragraph." (those of you who were fortunate enough to have her as an English teacher will understand this). I am inspired by her good food, by the pragmatism that is very foreign but very impressive to me. I feel blessed to have shared a roof for 16 years with somebody who has such a power over words, who is so full of wisdom. She taught me to wear dresses and that no matter how bad your day is you always have dinner to look forward to. She insisted every night on knowing the highs and lows of our days, a habit which I found irritating at the time but have started emulating in my host family.
Happy mother's day, Thank you mama!!!

05 May 2009

hand-cut noodles

I'm sort of bored with everything I cook right now, so I decided that on Sunday, when we had company coming, I would finally try making my own pasta. Creating the dough was the easiest thing I've ever done, thanks to my Cuisinart, and Lula took to the pasta roller we borrowed from the Jasplund's with great aplomb (I actually think it would be worth it to purchase one of these just to keep Lula entertained)--(I highly recommend getting your ten-year-olds into the kitchen because they are finally able to synthesize their brains with their hands, and are very curious and eager learners), but when I started to cut the noodles, they stuck together and wouldn't unroll.

At this point I almost gave up and pulled out an emergency box of dry pasta, but I took a deep breath and kept going. I made really wide, ragged noodles, which I love, and was the reason I wanted to make hand-cut rather than putting them through the Atlas. And just in time, Emily arrived, Emily who is the queen of doughs, pastries, and cakes, and saved my noodles.

So, long story short, the noodles were terrific, but our poor company had to wait a very long time to eat. Next time I'll know to plan a lot more time for the endeavor and to follow Julia Child's dictum: never experiment on company.

Scratch that. I always experiment on company. Company be warned: come prepared to wait.

I used these proportions for the dough:

3 c. flour
5 eggs
1/4-1/2 c. water, poured slowly into the food processor until dough begins to hold together
1 t. salt

*this makes a sticky dough and I had to use generous amounts of flour in the kneading and cutting phases.

Mo Op

Also, a brief mention of the operas that Christian and I have written together appears on the Mormon Artist Group's website:


on sunday

An essay of mine appears in this new collection ON SUNDAY:


What is it like to go to church in prison, or in an Islamic country, or in Africa, Australia, or Asia? We say that the Church is the same wherever you go, but how is the experience of LDS worship different throughout the world?

Mormon Artists Group is pleased to announce the publication of

On Sunday

As part of Mormon Artists Group’s tenth anniversary, we invited authors around the world merely to go to church and write down what they experienced on a Sunday.

We were curious to know what their buildings looked like, how people arrived at church, who were the members, what they did for a living, what they looked like, how they treated each other, what they talked about, what worried them, what inspired them, how they sang, how they worshipped: what went on.

Our authors wrote from their home congregations in Singapore, Australia, Angola, Kuwait, Brazil, and throughout North America, from Harlem to Seattle. There are eleven essays altogether, accompanied by photographs of the church buildings taken by the authors. For the most part, the episodes in the book occurred on a single, ordinary Sunday, March 1, 2009.

Buildings, above, in Angola, Seattle, Harlem, Brazil.

The Authors

The authors of On Sunday are Adam Anderson, Stephen Bennett, Claudia Bushman, Harriet Petherick Bushman, Lara Candland, Mario V. L. Cardoso, Glenn Gordon, Stanley Hainsworth, Thomas Holst, Glen Nelson, and Astrid S. Tuminez.

Each of the essays is a journalistic snapshot. Some of these stories come from turbulent landscapes: the aftermath of civil war in Angola, a raging wildfire in Australia, expatriates living far from home and family in Kuwait and Singapore. There is economic turmoil everywhere as well as the issue of equality of race and gender.

Tough individual choices are faced: will a mother risk arrest to take her children to a Christian church in an Islamic country, should a woman leave her husband and children in the Phillipines to work and send money back home, can forgiveness come to those in prison, can we care for those around us in need?
Flowing through the writings is a undercurrent of hope and a declaration that the social communities of LDS worship—whether the members gather to eat Jell-O, collard greens, or camel—work miraculously, joyously well.

The stories are of common people. A Brazilian native tells of his first Sunday as a missionary, a Provo author writes about the uneasy pull of utopia, a Californian describes a wealthy community in transition, a visitor to Harlem tries to put race in perspective, men in Mesa and Seattle compare their current, suburban lives with their former congregations in Japan, Denmark, New York, and Mexico. Together, the essays form a composite of real LDS life on a global scale.

The Church is the same everywhere you go. That is what we say. To us, it means that wherever one goes in the world, stepping into an LDS church house is a welcome and familiar act, a good thing.

The Church has thirteen million members at present, the majority of whom live outside of the USA. The eleven authors of this book don’t speak for the world, but their voices offer a hint of what the world of our Church is like and how we are alike (or not) right now.

Buildings, above, in Mesa, Chicago, Pasadena, Provo.

The Volume

Mormon Artists Group presents On Sunday in two formats: a limited edition volume and a digital PDF file edition.
On Sunday – PDF edition - $5
On Sunday – Limited edition - $100

To Order

The limited edition is printed and bound by hand over boards with linen tapes, silk headbands, and with an embroidered cover image in thread on natural Irish linen. The image, a hendecagram, is an 11-pointed figure that represents the eleven congregations described in the book. The volume is 9.5” x 6.25”, 166 pages, printed on Mohawk Superfine paper with Fabriano Tiziano endpapers.

The digital edition is a PDF file of the complete volume, sent as an email attachment. It is an experiment to determine whether Mormon Artists Group can distribute volumes with extreme speed and cost-efficiency to the reader with payments via PayPal, cash or check.

On Sunday – PDF edition - $5

On Sunday – Limited edition - $100

To purchase, reply to this email, and we'll assist you.

Mormon Artists Group
457 West 57th Street #601
New York, New York 10019 USA
PayPal account: mgknelson
Telephone: 212-586-7826

02 May 2009

may to-do

All through April I worked on March's to-do list, and the good news is that I finished my book proposal!  The bad news is that I haven't planted my vegetable garden yet, but I will, O believe me I will!  So here's the list:

*Revise book proposal
*Send book proposal to agents
*Draaaag myself to Hope of America. . . .
*Return library books (I should just become a library donor with all the fees I pay)
*Get compost from city
*Fix blender, or find my waranty, or take it to the Mending Shack, which is one of my favorite places in Provo
*Plant seeds!
*Wash and vacuum car
*Re-enter poems from Alburnum (still have hard copy--electronic copy on stolen laptop)
*Clean back porch
*Buy camera cord
*Fix cell phone, or transfer sim card to old phone, or send a stink bomb to the Sony Ericsson people 
*Get Eva's room ready for home from college summer
*Organize bag closet
*Back yard clean up
*Provo Farmer's Market!
*Yoga 3 X a week!
*Walk every day!

What's on your list for May?