Thursday, May 29, 2014

Family History Spotlight Pages

I have been trying to get to know my family better. And not just my immediate family members. I am talking about the ones that I never got to meet in person, but that I have heard stories about. Or the ones that for my entire life have only been names on our family tree--who have lived an entire life that I know nothing about. But who are a part of me because I am literally here because of them.

Abraham Lincoln apparently said, "I don't know who my grandfather was, I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be."

I think there is a lot of truth to that. BUT, I have to say that knowing both my grandmas and grandpas and what they lived through and what they lived for has certainly increased my desire to make my life worthwhile. That being said, I have been thinking about how to help my children get to know the grandpas and grandmas that came before them. And this is what I decided to do:

Family History Spotlight Pages

Okay, that is a horrible name, but I couldn't think of what else to call them. The idea is to create a 3-ringed binder full of one-page (front and back) spotlights on each of your ancestors.  Since this is to help your kids know where they came from, keep the text short. Use any pictures you can find. Make the graphics colorful and engaging. And find stories that a kid will find interesting and that show the gifts and strengths and personalities of the relative.

In the example below, I did a spotlight page for my maternal great-great grandmother, Marinda Allen Bateman. I knew virtually nothing about her; but lucky for me, her youngest daughter wrote a book about her. The first thing I made was a graphic that shows how I am related to Marinda. Then I added a few pictures, found a fun story that shows how brave and determined she was, and a few quotes about her home life and beliefs. I also made a timeline that outlines her life quickly and added a family picture. In hindsight, it would be really cool to add some interesting facts into the timeline that would give context to the time period that she lived in. For instance, I could put who was President of the United States at the time or note when something was invented during her lifetime.

If you need help getting started and researching your ancestors, try this website.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"Meaningful Decorating"

Not long after we got married, I warned my husband that I wasn't a very confident (or skillful) interior decorator. I hadn't taken any art or design classes in college, and although I grew up in a home that contained many lovely things that my parents had collected as they traveled, their decorating style was eclectic at best. Fortunately, my husband grew up in a similar home, and his response was reassuring. He said, "Let's just decorate with things that are meaningful to us."

Soooo, welcome to "Meaningful Decorating: Part One." Laurel calls it--and truly without any disrespect intended--"Decorating with Dead People."

So much that is meaningful to us centers on our families, and that includes parents, grandparents and other ancestors that are no longer with us. We grew up seeing their pictures, hearing their stories, and learning from their lives. Here are a few ways that we love remembering them:

Of course there are photos, and they can be used in all kinds of ways--individually and in groupings:

This grouping includes my parents' wedding picture in the center with wedding day photographs of their parents on either side. I love the metal flowers and sign above them because all three of these couples were men and women of great faith. (The wooden headboard belonged to my parents, but it is an odd size and doesn't fit standard bed frames. I wanted to be able to use it, so I simply attached it to the wall with Command Velcro strips and pushed the frame and mattress up against it.)

In this collage, Elin found a beautiful way to combine photos with other special reminders of her paternal grandfather. Along with the pictures, she included a paragraph from a letter he wrote while serving as a soldier in WWII as well as a statement of his personal testimony in his own handwriting that we found
 in his scriptures after he died.

My grandparents on both side have large posterities, so I feel very lucky to have anything that belonged to them. Here are a couple of items from my paternal grandmother and grandfather:

This sewing box was awarded to my grandmother when she was a child 
over a 100 years ago. 
It hangs on the wall in my sewing room.

My grandfather served as a missionary in Samoa and brought home 
a box full of beautiful shells. 
I found this lamp at Hobby Lobby--a perfect way to display the small ones.

This collection includes a sea urchin collected by my grandfather, a Japanese fishing float that my parents found decades ago in Hawaii, and a wooden, crab-shaped box that they brought home from the Philippines.

Dried leaves collected, pressed, and framed  by my niece, Kristin, from the yard that my father landscaped and nurtured so carefully are a simple but lovely reminder of him.

Elin made this family tree from a kit she purchased on-line. I love it!

Laurel grouped one of Elin's collages with prints of two portraits that have been painted of ancestors from our family and from her husband's. The top one is a portrait of Drusilla Hendricks painted by Elspeth Young. (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland shared a little of her story in this General Conference talk.
On the bottom is a portrait by Julie Rogers of one of our pioneer ancestors, Ann Malin. 
(You can read more about her life here.) is an amazing resource if you want to find pictures,
 read stories and histories, and learn more about your own family.

None of these projects was expensive, but they are treasures to us because of whom and what they represent to our family. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ramekin Love: Pizookies and Chocolate Angel Food Cake

When Jeffrey and I were engaged and registering for wedding gifts, we learned some important things from each other. For example, Jeffrey introduced me to the wonders of measuring cups that let you see how much liquid you are pouring in from above rather than having to bend over and look at the fill lines on the side. I laughed at the time, but he was right; these things are awesome! No going back...

One thing I insisted that we add to our registry was ramekins. I don't know what it is about them; these small, white, ceramic serving bowls just make me happy. I think I feel like they add an air of sophistication to whatever you put in them. However, Jeffrey was skeptical. Unless I learned how to make crème brûlée, what were we going to do with them?

A lot, it turns out. These wonders are marvelously versatile. For example, they are just the right size for an individual serving of chicken pot pie. Since mother-dear and papi no longer need a whole pie for dinner, mama instead makes several small ones and leaves out two for dinner and freezes the rest. Brilliant, yes? Now when she goes out of town, daddy can just pull one of these from the freezer and bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees and voila! A homemade entree much better than the yucky Swanson variety.

Or, if one needs a dish for a classy brunch, why not make Crustless Mini Quiches? Again, the ramekin is the perfect size.

However, I really won Jeffrey over to my ramekin-love with pizookies. On State Street in Orem, UT, there's this goofy house which looks out of place among so many businesses. This house-turned-into-a-dessert-cafe is called The Chocolate, and it is simply delicious. Our favorite thing to order is their pizza-cookie (christened "Cazookie" at this establishment.) It's basically a bowl of cookie dough baked until just golden on top and very soft inside, topped with a generous portion of vanilla ice cream.

Boy howdy it's good. But replicating it at home can be tricky. My roommate McCall would make a whole 9x13 panfull and quickly scoop it out into bowls with a giant spoon. This works with big groups and still tastes good, but it definitely doesn't look pretty. I've heard that others bake them in muffin tins. I've never tried it, but I imagine this method results in an awkward dynamic of gathering around the pan to eat them. The real solution? Bake individual pizookies in ramekins!

Perfection. I often whip up this chocolate chip cookie recipe, form individual balls, and store them in my fridge or freezer for cookie emergencies. For example, I had no idea that National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day was Thursday, May 15th this year. Luckily, I had the dough on hand. The cook times vary depending on how much cookie dough you add (I admit we usually use 3 balls of dough per ramekin.) In a 350 degree oven, bake until golden on top but very soft inside. With room-temperature dough, it takes about 14 minutes. Refrigerated? Around 16 minutes. Frozen? 18-20 minutes. Top with vanilla ice cream and enjoy immediately!

Admittedly, one doesn't always have cookie dough on hand, have 20 minutes to wait, or want to consume quite so many calories. The solution is to instead make Chocolate Angelfood Cake or 3-2-1 Cake, as mom calls it. This recipe is the easiest in the history of ever. You ready?

Chocolate Angelfood Cake (3-2-1 Cake)
1 chocolate cake mix
1 angelfood cake mix
2 TB water

Pour cake mixes into a gallon ziplock and combine thoroughly. Place 3 TB cake mix into a mug (or ramekin.)

Add 2 TB water. Stir thoroughly. Microwave for 1 minute.

Voila! That's it: 3 tablespoons of the cake mixture, 2 tablespoons of water, and 1 minute in the microwave. If using a mug, let the cake sit for 5 or so minutes to prevent it from being mushy. If using a ramekin, enjoy immediately (or it will actually get a little dry. If you have to wait, maybe the key is to only microwave it for 45 seconds with a ramekin? But 3-2-45 Cake is a terrible name...)

It will look really spongy like this:

As everything looks and tastes better with ice cream, you'd better top the cake with a scoop of vanilla as well: