Monday, May 25, 2015

Understanding Modesty

Has anyone else noticed that modesty has become a regular topic on the internet, social media in particular? It’s such a great thing, really, to hear discussion about such a moral issue in everyday chatter.

I love how, in multiple articles I've read or skimmed, the emphasis is on the broader meaning of “modesty."  Though the word “modesty” usually brings to mind clothing choices, it really has a more comprehensive meaning. One definition I like best is that modesty is an attitude of humility and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. “Modesty,” said Susan W. Tanner in this talk, “is more than a matter of avoiding revealing attire. It describes not only the altitude of hemlines and necklines but the attitude of our hearts."

How true. As I've reflected on the current social dialogue and my own feelings about how I should have “decency and propriety … in thought, language, dress, and behavior,” I've pondered about a few attitudes I want to have in my heart (in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [1992], 2:932).

First, I want to consider how I dress. Elder L. Tom Perry said that “our dress and grooming send a message to others about who we are, and they also affect the way we act around others.” I have noticed that my own behavior varies depending on what I wear. My oh my oh my, motherhood has certainly brought some tired days! It is wildly tempting for me to wear my comfy PJs and push back getting ready for the day until 10…or 11… or 12, really. Yet those pajama days tend to be slower, less productive ones, and I sometimes feel frustrated at the end of the day, wondering why I couldn't accomplish more.

Yet the same is true when I dress up. If I stay in my “Sunday best” all day on Sunday, I tend to treat the whole day as the Lord ’s Day. When I put extra effort into looking my best for a date with my honey, the occasion feels more special, and it reminds me to be more considerate of him. Therefore? I want to dress appropriate to the occasion. I want to remember that “very casual dress is almost always followed by very casual manners” (L. Tom Perry,  Let Him Do With Simplicity).

So apart from my dress affecting how I act, what about the message I’m sending to others? As much as I want people to see the attitude of my heart, the first thing they see is the physical me. I would love to have my outward appearance draw people in, making people comfortable and curious to know me better. I know many people who have such a quality. Now, one of my favorite quotes ever comes from Sheri Dew when she said that “no amount of time in front of the mirror will make you as attractive as having the Holy Ghost with you," and I truly believe it.

Yet this inner, modest attitude that invites the Holy Ghost might not shine through if my attire sends attention elsewhere. Somehow, it has become very untrendy to suggest that revealing clothing is, well, suggestive. “Men (and women) should be able to control their own thoughts!” is the cry, and they are right. We all have the obligation to keep our thoughts clean and pure.

However, we are our brother’s keepers. I want to be, at least. Though I hope those around me are keeping their thoughts and feelings in check, I certainly don’t want to make it harder on them.  

Further, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and I believe that living prophets have set forth some guidelines to help me dress in a way that befits a follower of Jesus Christ. No, that doesn't mean I should judge others who dress differently than me, but yes, now I have a specific standard to which I will adhere. After all, I believe my body is God’s sacred creation and a gift from Him. And I promised when I was baptized to keep all of God’s commandments, including modern revelation relating to dress and grooming.

So what is the standard for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? I believe the easiest place to look for prophetic counsel specific to our day is the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. In fact, Elin and I were discussing a modesty question a few weeks ago. As we debated about a particular attire in a particular instance, I realize now that if we had referred to this booklet, we would have had our answer.

So hooray for the expanded focus on modesty! How wonderful for our society to have a spark of interest in shifting away from materialism, pride, and extremism towards moderation, humility, and unpretentiousness. Yet as we embrace this truth, let's not exclude dress and grooming as a real place for application of this principle. And for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, God has graciously given us specific counsel in this area.

In October 2006 General Conference, Larry W. Gibbons quotes Rabbi Harold S. Kushner as saying the following: 

“I’m a traditional Jew, and I observe the biblical dietary laws. … I suspect most of you assume I go around all day saying to myself, ‘Boy, would I love to eat pork chops, but that mean old God won’t let me.’ Not so. The fact … is, I go around all day saying, ‘Isn’t it incredible? There are five billion people on this planet and God cares what I have for lunch [and] what kind of language I use.’

“… I am not diminished by being told there are certain things I may not do because they are wrong. Rather, it enhances me.”

That's how I feel about modesty standards. Isn't it incredible? God cares about me and how I dress; we have "guideposts from an all-wise Heavenly Father to keep us out of trouble, to bring us a fulness of happiness in this life, and to bring us safely back home to Him" (Gibbons).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cupcake Bouquet

We were so lucky to be able to celebrate our grand-daughter's birthday with her during a recent visit. When I asked her what kind of a cake she would like, she requested "a flower cake." I found myself thinking of cakes that my mother made me when I was a little girl. They were lovely works of art. One of her decorating tricks was cutting jellied candies into different shapes to create flower petals, and I thought that might be a fun way to create flowers for Miss K. I bought multi-flavored fruit slice candies at the dollar store. We used two packages for this bouquet:

Instead of one large cake, Delys and I decided to create a cupcake bouquet. There are a bazillion tutorials out there--none of which we read--so I won't try to give you step by step instructions here. I'll just give you a flavor for what we learned and then suggest that you actually read at least one of the bazillion tutorials. I think doing that would have saved us some time and mistakes.

We chose a cute flower pot that I already had for our base. I bought a styrofoam ball to fit on top which we hot glued to the top of the pot for stability:

With the help of two of my favorite cooks, I baked the cupcakes and frosted them with buttercream frosting. (Royal frosting would probably have been better for holding the flower petals in place, but we cared more about taste than artistry.) Using kitchen shears, I cut the fruit slices into smaller pieces and then started creating flowers. We learned from sad experience that it's a good idea to let your cupcakes sit for awhile after they are decorated to allow the frosting to harden and "glue" your petals firmly into place:

We initially tried plastic picks to attach the cupcakes to the ball, but we found that heavy duty wooden toothpicks worked better. Delys used one to spear through the bottom of the cupcake and then into the ball. She stuck two more toothpicks into the ball under each cupcake to hold it more firmly in place. We placed a flower at the top of the ball in the center and then worked down from there:

Once we reached the mid-point of the ball and gravity began to work against us, we quit using cupcakes and began to fill in with tissue paper. I used white tissue with tiny, colored speckles between the flowers. I just cut small squares and pushed them into the gaps with a pencil:

Then I cut squares of yellow tissue and stuck a dab of hot glue in the center of each square before I pushed it into place around the bottom of the bouquet. And here it is:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Perfect Chicken Seasoning

So I'm not historically that girl who makes her own seasonings. I don't care how "quick and easy" your taco seasoning recipe is; it certainly isn't as quick and easy and tearing open those little taco seasoning packets, n'est pas?

Yet I've joined the dark side and regularly have a shaker on hand of my very own, pre-assembled, Perfect Chicken Seasoning. And by "very own," I really mean that I got it from another blog which has unfortunately been MIA for over a year now! Should the Crayon Recipe Box blog ever resurface, I want to give a shout out for this mix, because it's awesome. Now, I normally mix up a big batch to have on hand and sprinkle generously on chicken breasts to add to a number of recipes. Our favorite is Lemon Angel Hair with Chicken and Spinach, but we also add chicken strips to marinara sauce for chicken spaghetti (except never with actual spaghetti noodles, because Jeffrey has some angst towards that particular pasta). They also taste wonderful in chicken quesadillas. Mmm-mmm.

But I digress. The point I was going to make is that if you want to make a lot or a little, it's pretty easy as the spice ratio is one to one to one to one to one. Also, although I left in the pan-searing part of the instructions, in the interest of full disclosure, let me admit that I often feel pressed for time and put the coated chicken straight into a baking dish minus the browning. It still works and still tastes delicious. Yet if you have the time, the extra steps on the stove help give the chicken a subtle, seasony-crust on the outside and tender, soft interior.

Perfect Chicken 

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
2 Tbl olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix generous teaspoons of all the spices in a bowl. Dip both sides of each chicken breast into the mixture for a generous coat. If you're feeling really super and thorough, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on med-high heat. Once hot, brown the chicken for 2 minutes on each side. Place oven-safe skillet in oven (or transfer chicken to a baking dish) and bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until juices run clear. Remove chicken from oven and rest on cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing or serving.