Monday, December 31, 2007

Domestic Re-Orgs > Egg Nog

Josh got his final grade for his final assignments and final final for his final class of his final semester to get his Bachelor's Degree last week. He got a great grade and now the celebrations officially begin!

Last week we cleaned out our cold storage room, moved a desk into our "Room Without a Name" (which is now, naturally, "Juliana's Office :: STAY OUT"), reorganized the nook over our garage (which is now, happily, "The Library :: Sit Down and Relax (Kids STAY OUT!)") and started a new mail sorting system. If that's not festive, I don't know what is. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the end of his Bachelor's Degree.

Okay, so maybe Sandra has the right idea with booking a cruise, but well, cleaning out a cold storage room is kind of fun, too. (I'm trying to enter a delusional state where I actually believe that's true. I'll let you know if I can abandon reality enough to make it happen.)

It would be appropriate for me to acknowledge the holidays last week and list the cool, fun, family-oriented stuff we did for Christmas. In case you missed it, refer to paragraph (2) above. I could also write about boring stuff like Stocking Stuffers, chocolate cake, delighted looks on the wee ones' faces, and board game until midnight, but that stuff is tame compared to domestic reorgs. (Yes, a few mattresses were laid off during the internal restructuring. Our best wishes to them during this time of unemployment until they hit the land fill.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Still Green

It's still good to be green. Dark green, even:

There are many different reports I've perused regarding the current housing crisis and each paints a different picture. Each morning I glance at the headlines for an RSS feed called HousingWire. Each day, there is some new mortgage company in crisis, some new scandal regarding a well-established company or news of a plan to fix it all.

Most of the news is quite bleak. I have seen for myself in recent months the effect this is having locally.

1. Increased housing supply leads to ...
2. Stiffer competition to sell homes, which leads to ...
3. Panicky sellers who want to move their homes quickly, who then drop prices to incentivize buyers, which leads to ...
4. Dropping prices.

I was starting to worry that this would become a widespread phenomenon as appraisals started to use those panicky buyer's homes as comparables. In fact, how could that not happen? Despite my optimism that Utah will not spiral wildly out of control like other markets**, it seems logical that we'll experience at least a temporary, slight suppression of prices.

So, when good news comes along, I gotta embrace it. According to the above-sited source, the Salt Lake metro area is second only to Honolulu for U.S. home price increases over the last year.

I'm not sure why different articles' statistics are so divergent, but luckily I'm not an economist or realtor. I can just sit back and enjoy the show. And occassionally clap when I read an article like this. And wish I had some spare $100Ks sitting around to show my appreciation for the current levels of supply and demand.

** I earlier posted why Utah wouldn't see home prices drop. The great thing about life is that people can change their mind. This is called "growing up" and "keeping an open mind." I still reserve the right to enjoy the ride without defining myself by my past. :-D Cheers!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mixed Feelings

For some reason, I used to have really unfriendly feelings toward our local HMO. Those feelings started to disappear when they hired my husband. It's hard to hate the organization that provides your family's paycheck. It's even harder to hate them when the per-paycheck premiums for health insurance are about half of what we used to pay.

Then you read the fine print: a deductible? That's evil! Here's what it means: your kids get sick and instead of paying a $15 copay to have the kids ears and throat checked, you start to stress. You think, "How much will it cost to take the kids in? Will it cost extra if they have to do a nebulizer treatment in the office? Will my flu shot cost extra? Will they charge me more if I see them for two problems in one appointment instead of just one?!?!" And you find yourself saying, "Well, maybe I'll take the kids in tomorrow. He only looks a little dehydrated" .. or... "There's only a little bit of blood" ... or... "His breathing isn't that labored. He'll make it through the night."

Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little bit with the "make it through the night" bit, but the point still stands. Instead of being able to go in to the doctor and get some reassurance (or a prescription, or advice, or whatever...) you start thinking, "The doctor probably wouldn't be able to do anything anyway."

Of course this is the reason evil HMOs came up with deductibles: it encourages people to stay home instead of going to the doctor, which is good financial sense for them. That's what they mean when they see "keeping costs down." Peace of mind is out the window, but whatever. They seem to be able to sleep through the night, even if my two-year-old son cannot.

This was on my mind a bit yesterday, since 80% of my household is sick right now. Nothing major, but it still got me thinking: I hate IHC.

Change of heart: My husband just got the details of his annual pay raise. I love IHC. I always love my husband's employers this time of year. My heart softens and I start to compose sonnets to the people who make it possible for me to have the best job in the world: a stay-at-home Mom (which, incidentally, is also the stinking stinkiest job in the world sometimes. See previous posts. But it's also the best.)

I'm almost resolved not to say the word "evil" when I pay $200 for a 15-minute visit to my wrist specialist next January.

But I might think it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Exercise in Futility

As I was loading yet another load of laundry into the washing machine a few minutes ago, it hit me: THIS is why I sometimes hate being a stay-at-home mom. It's not the laundry per se. It's the fact that you're NEVER done! Unless you're doing laundry while you and your entire family are completely naked, there is more dirty laundry waiting for you! No matter hard you work to get it "done" it's never done. That small moment of accomplishment lasts no more than 12 hours when the kids start tossing dirty socks, pants, jackets, shirts, sweatshirts and underwear all over the living room.

Let's compare to my former life as a student: clear, concise, reachable goals with a definite deadline. And best of all, when you're done there is nearly instant feedback! Not only do you know if you are definitely "succeeding" or "failing" but you can even quantify your success or failure! My brain likes this. It's easy to wrap your mind around a 3.whatever grade point average and pat yourself on the back--it's not so easy to feel success when your kids reach some milestone. After all, shouldn't that be their success, not yours?

So where do we stay-at-home parents get our sense of accomplishment? Is it that laundry room that was totally clean for a record 45 minutes? Or the dishwasher that we unloaded barely in time to fill it up after dinner? Or is the dinner itself, which we spent four hours cooking and our families spent exactly 13 minutes gulping down or refusing to eat? Do we feel a sense of accomplishment when our kids clean their rooms after a mere seven weeks of being asked to?

Last night I went out to eat with some girlie friends from high school. We went to this cute little out-of-the-way restaurant called "Art City Trolley." Besides discovering that our server, Chris, was a really good sport with all of our giggling and snorting laughter, I also discovered there is a place that still serves that Heinz Ketchup that won't come out of the bottle. You remember those commercials where the guy would tip the bottle upside down, run down 99 flights of steps, buy a hotdog just in time for the ketchup to finally drip out of the bottle onto his plate? The motto was, "Good thing comes to those who wait."

I'm hoping that's true of parenting, too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Flashback ~~ The Way My Brain Works

Flashback: It's 1990 and I'm in Junior High School. I've made the High Honor Role (or is that "Roll"? It is so not 1990 anymore) and I'm down in the foyer of Lakeridge Junior High, having my photo snapped with the rest of the 4.0ers.

** Open Mouth **
Me: "Hey Jerry, what are you doing here?"
Jerry: "I got a 4.o"

**Insert Foot**
Me: "Really?!?! I never would have guessed that of you."
Jerry, after a very, very, very slight pause: "Yeah, that's what I was just thinking about you."

I've never really given off "smart" and "academic" vibes and this is why:

The Way My Brain Works: The way I think and the way I talk are polar opposites. I don't mean to lead anybody astray. I just learned long ago that people give you funny looks when you sound like Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. I recently learned that being like totally bad at putting words together ... doesn't disqualify me from being an okay writer, because I can put my thoughts on paper and not my like totally valley girl lame convo.

The way I talk: "What it is, Bro? Oh duh. So, like, what's up with you? You good and stuff?"

The way I think: The door opened and my brother's distinctive voice echoed through the hall. As the sunlight fell on his profile, I saw unmistakeable signs of distress in his demeanor. As I meandered toward him casually, my eyes subtly scanned his face. His eyes looked tired and lacked their usual brightness. His eyebrows were slightly drawn together and his lips formed a slight frown until he noticed my presence. He smiled, but it was a tired smile--the smile you give to try to reassure other people--or yoursel--that yes, things are just fine.

I greeted him affectionately. [see above] He replied with an equally affectionate, and typically humorous, turn of phrase. His face and his sagging shoulders belied his light-hearted words.

Hi, don't be scared: No, but seriously, folks. I'm only slightly freakish in the way I think. The above example is much less frightening than what you'd get after I finish a good 200-year-old novel. I'm a cognitive chameleon--I can't help thinking in the phrases and expressions of the books I read: endless description with occasional dialogue after Dickens, humorous little social observations after Austen, and philosophical mental meanderings after Forster. I think that's part of why I love to read. For a brief time, it really changes the world I live in. If I could ever write well enough to create beautiful worlds for other people, I think that would be about all I could ask for from this crazy life.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

My Swiss Heritage

This is where I was raised:

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This is where I could have been raised, had my great-grandfather stayed in Switzerland:

View Larger Map

Notice the greenness of Rueggisberg? The quaintness? The history that comes with being hundreds of years old?

Orem is less than 100 years old. It's full of streets. And houses. And really, really ugly cinderblock strip malls. And more strip malls.

I knew people made large sacrifices when they joined the LDS church and came to Utah to be with "the saints." But I never thought I'd feel that pain so intensely, removed several generations as I am.

I could have been raised in Switzerland...

I could have been Swiss...

The cuckoo clocks and the..

Dare I speak it?

The chocolate! Swiss Chocolate! I think I'm gonna go cry myself to sleep. *sniff*

Requested Recipe :: Chocolate Squares

Here are two recipes requested from my Book Group last night. I provided treats that centered around a European theme--focusing on Germany, where our selected book was set. Now you're all lucky enough to be able to make these unique Christmas goodies, too! Enjoy und guten appetit!

Elsa Siegmund

1 c. + 2 TBSP. flour (sifted)
½ tsp baking powder
½ cup butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 eggs (separated)
3-4 squares (3-4 ounces) semi-sweet baking chocolate (grated)
Optional: Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting (recipe below)

Grease and flour baking pan (about 9 x 13” size). Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Sift flour and baking powder together. Set aside. Grate chocolate and set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla. Mix well. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Alternately fold beaten egg whites, flour and grated chocolate into butter mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes at 325 degrees or until top is slightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan (about 15-20 minutes) and then cut into squares. Roll each square in a bowl of sugar until well coated.

Optional: After squares have completely cooled, cut them in half (separating the top and bottom) and fill with chocolate butter cream frosting (below) if desired.


2 eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 cubes (ounces) semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 1/3 stick butter at room temperature

In double boiler, mix eggs and sugar and cook over medium heat, till mixture begins to thicken. Add vanilla extract. Soften chocolate in oven or microwave and add to egg mixture. Cook till chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Allow to cool in refrigerator. When almost cool, add chocolate mixture to butter a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat till mixture is smooth.

Makes enough frosting for a 3-layer cake (8-9” layers). Best to use fresh, but frosting can also be refrigerated or frozen for later use.

See the full recipe at

Personal notes for the chocolate squares: I combined the shredded chocolate with the flour + baking powder and that turned out fine. I highly (highly) recommend the optional filling. So yummy, and there's plenty left over to use for something else (or you could make a half batch of the frosting and have plenty for these squares). I did not sift my flour, but mixed it around in the container before scooping it to loosen it up a bit. If you buy an eight-ounce box of baking chocolate, you can use half in each recipe (cake + frosting), or have two ounces left over for dipping pretzels, marshmallows or other yummies. Somebody suggested I fill these with Nutella instead of the Chocolate Buttercream. That sounds like an amazingly awesome idea. I'll just have to make another batch. Oh snap!