Archive for August, 2009

A few posts ago I talked about food blogs and included a picture of a recipe I wanted to try—Bluefly breakfast bread.  This morning I made it before church and we ate some when we got home.  It’s delicious!!!  Huge thanks to Cooking 4 Carnivores for the great recipe.

bluefly bread

Changes I made: I doubled the recipe, put it in a 13×9 pan and cooked at 350 degrees for about 40-45 minutes.  If you do this, I suggest checking after the half-hour point every five minutes for doneness with a toothpick.  I also (accidentally) forgot to double the amount of lemon.  I kind of like it this way, though—there’s a hint of lemon flavor but it’s not overpowering. 

The next time I make this I’m going to put in just a little more salt.  The recipe calls for a “pinch” but I think maybe 1/2 tsp. for the doubled batch would be fine.  Maybe even a tiny bit more.

This is a good, easy, quick recipe, though, and the end result is really delicious: high, light, fluffy, and tasting like those jumbo blueberry muffins at Costco, except better because it’s got streusel topping and a hint of lemon.


Read Full Post »

An author of several very popular young adult novels, Laurie Halse Anderson, put up a writing challenge on her blog at the beginning of August.  The challenge: write for 15 minutes a day, every day in August.  I decided to accept this challenge because even though I love to write I haven’t been making time to do it on a regular basis.  So I took up the challenge and so far, I’ve written every day in August.

Some days are easier than others.  Some nights I’m so exhausted that it’s all I can do to drag myself to the computer or to pen and paper.  But it’s been really fun, rewarding, creative, and I’ve learned a few things. 

Laurie puts up writing prompts every day on her blog to help us if we get stuck in knowing what to write about.  I’ve used quite a few of them and come up with some interesting and crazy stuff (and some of it was actually good).  Yesterday’s prompt was to choose a fairy tale and write your own modern or twisted version.  I started this assignment last night so tired that I could hardly keep my eyes open.  I just wanted to get the 15 minutes over with and go to bed (and this was at 8pm.  I was tired!).  But I started having so much fun that I ended up writing for an hour.

Due to popular request, I’m putting it up here.  Be warned, it’s long.  And it’s not the best or most exciting fairy tale you’ll ever read.  But I had fun coming up with a different twist.

Little Red

by Kiirsi Hellewell

Once upon a time, there was a girl who had a normal name but was always called little Red. She was an annoying child. She was always pestering, always whining, never satisfied with anything she had. When her mother spent hours brushing her long, curly golden hair and it lay in shining ringlets down her back she’d complain that it wasn’t a different color. When she got her wish and got a pony for her birthday, she complained that it wasn’t a dolphin. Her breakfast was too cold, her dinner too hot. The only thing she did like was a bright red hooded sweatshirt. She wore it everywhere.

As the years passed, the whining took its toll. Finally, one year her parents got sick of her and sent her to spend the summer with her grandmother. “Enough is enough,” they said. “We’re going to Hawaii on vacation.”

Her grandmother was quite a free spirit. She’d been very much the 60’s flower child. Her house was covered in crocheted things and beads and fringe. She had long bead curtains in every doorway and her daily clothing of choice vacillated between either long, fringed leather vests covering flowered button-ups or a crocheted poncho in mustard yellow. She wore bellbottom pants, of course, and platform shoes. Her neck was always covered in long strings of beads and her long, straight hair fell to her waist. It was more white now than blond but she still liked to wear crazy shades and a headband to complete her outfit.

When Red arrived, she expected life to be pretty nice. After all, she’d heard her parents complain enough about how easy-going and laid-back Grandma was.

But she got quite a surprise. Grandma was a drill sergeant! She wanted Red to clean, make the beds, sweep the floor, and carry in wood for the (ancient!) old black stove so they could cook. Any time she saw Red lying around she’d say “You look bored! I’ve got just the thing for you” and make up another horrid chore.

One day, Red had enough. “Anything’s better than this place,” she said, and took off—not before packing herself a very large backpack of goodies, though, of course. She stuffed it with all sorts of treats, sweets, and other good things—but didn’t think about taking anything to drink. Granny was always trying to get her to drink water but she never touched the stuff if she could help it.

She didn’t bother leaving a note, either. Granny was a slave-driver. She didn’t deserve a note, Red told herself. Red walked confidently into the forest bordering Granny’s property, following a wide trail. She felt sure if she walked for an hour or two the forest would give way to a city. And surely, anyone in the city would take one look at what a wonderful girl she was and want to adopt her, right away, and give her a mansion to live in full of candy and toys.

She was so wrapped up in these visions of her future life that she didn’t notice at first that the path was becoming smaller and smaller and darker and darker. Finally she realized she was terribly thirsty and sat down on a rock to have a snack. She opened her basket and looked inside, temporarily dismayed to find in the mess of crushed and crumbled cakes, candy, and cookies that she had forgotten to pack any cans of soda. “What’ll I do?” she said.

Just then she heard a trickling sound. After listening for a while, she realized it was the sound water outside makes…she’d seen it often in movies. She followed the sound, leaving the path, and blundered through dense bushes and branches until she crashed into a clearing. There, in front of her, was a sweet little cottage with a clear stream flowing past it. She forgot she disliked water in her thirst and ran to the stream. After drinking her fill, she wiped her face off with a corner of her hoodie. Looking in her basket once more, she wrinkled her lips with distaste at the crumbled mess. “Maybe this place has something to eat,” she said, and barged into the house without knocking.

In one corner sat a wolf, rocking and knitting. Wait…a wolf?!? She rubbed her eyes and looked again. “Hello, my dear,” said the old wolf in a quavery voice. “Would you like something to eat?”

Red decided to forget about the strangeness of this situation until she got what she wanted. “Yes, and it better be good,” she grumbled. The old wolf ignored her rudeness and set a plate of good things before her. Red tore into them, making a mess, and finally pushed her chair back, temporarily satisfied.

“That was actually okay, for once,” she announced, patting her stomach.

“I’m glad you liked it, dear,” the wolf said, smiling in a way that made Red feel…nervous, for the first time in her life. Her old lips turned up at the corners, exposing a row of rather gleaming sharp teeth.

Red stood and backed towards the door. “Well, I’d better be…going,” she said, feeling unsure of herself, another first. “My, um…granny…will be worried about me.”

“Oh, I don’t think she will, dear,” the wolf said, smiling even more widely. “She would never recognize you, anyway, even if she could find you.”

“Wha…what do you mean?” Red continued backing until she felt wood behind her. She reached for what she thought was the door.

“Turn around, dear.”

Red turned, though she hated having her back to the wolf. The wood she’d felt wasn’t the door. It was a frame around a large square mirror. When she met her frightened eyes in the mirror she let out a shriek. Staring back at her was a WOLF! A wolf wearing shreds of a red hoodie.

She jumped backward and whipped around. “What have you DONE TO ME?!” she yelled, completely beside herself. “My beautiful golden curls—GONE!”

“You never liked your hair, dear,” the wolf said complacently, rocking and knitting again in the corner.

“My lovely soft peaches-and-cream skin!”

“You always wished it was softer, dear,” said the wolf.

“I didn’t want FUR!” Red screamed, shaking her fists. The wolf just smiled, showing her teeth again.

Though Red raged and shouted, paced and shook, nothing fazed the wolf. She continued to rock and knit long into the night. Finally Red collapsed on the floor, exhausted, and fell into a sobbing sleep. The wolf smiled.

Morning finally arrived. Red awoke, stiff and sore from sleeping on the wooden floor, hoping the last few hours had been just a horrible nightmare. When she lifted her hand and saw a furry paw, everything came flooding back. She began to gear up her lungs for another scream-fest when she remembered all the hours she’d screamed last night. It hadn’t done her any good. And besides, her throat hurt.

She stood up and looked around. The old wolf was gone. Her finished knitting lay on the rocking chair. Red went over and picked it up.

It was a soft new hoodie, sky-blue, and just her size…at least, her old size. Now it wouldn’t even fit over her paw. She set it down and ran out the open door.

In the clearing outside there was a note printed in large block letters under a rock:

“Dear Red,

I had to go hunting for some food today. I’ll be back at dinnertime. In the meantime, I would appreciate it if you would clean the house, weed the garden, and catch some fish to go with dinner.


Mama Wolf”

Red crumpled the list under a paw. “Who does she think I am? Her personal slave? First Granny and now her! Well, I don’t think so! I may be a wolf, but I’m going to do whatever I want.”

Red spent the day lazing around in a nearby meadow, picking flowers, and just lying on the soft grass, watching the puffy white clouds drift by. The rumbling of her stomach finally made her get up and mosey back to the cottage in the clearing. Delicious smells coming from the house made her hurry even faster.

She burst into the cottage and was met with a smiling, “Hello, dear. Your dinner is outside.” Before Red knew what was happening, she was outside on the stream bank.

“Of all the…”she spluttered, and ran back in the house. This time she was bounced right back out before she could even blink, and so hard that she landed in the stream. Mama Wolf stood in the doorway, arms folded, smiling, as always.

“You didn’t do what I asked, dear. Since I cleaned the house, caught the fish, weeded the garden, and prepared dinner, I get to enjoy the clean house, hot fish, and garden vegetables. You spent the day doing what you wanted to do, so now you get to spend the night where you spent the day—outside.

“Sleep well, dear.” The smile was the last thing Red saw as the door was firmly closed and bolted from the inside.

She sniffed and hiccupped. “Who wants her smelly old dinner, anyway!” There was something “smelly” on the river bank…a few old wilted carrot tops and some fish bones. Red ignored them as long as she could till hunger drove her to it. “I can’t believe I’m eating this slop!” she moaned.

Two more days of this behavior and reward left a very different Red. Going without food—let alone good food—helped her decide that maybe it was in her best interest to at least attempt the items on Mama Wolf’s list. After a day where she pulled up more vegetables than weeds and her paws were sore from scrubbing the floor and her fur so soaked with water from standing in the stream for hours trying fruitlessly to catch a fish, she hauled her sore, bedraggled self to the stream bank and curled up for the night, as usual. Much to her surprise, the cottage door opened and warm light streamed out. “Come in, dear,” the wolf said, smiling gently. “You’ve earned it tonight.”

The simple, rough bread, onion soup, and tasty trout tasted better than anything she’d ever had. That night as she lay on a blanket on the floor, she felt warm, contented, and for the first time in her life—truly happy.

After several weeks of work and play, one night the wolf kissed her goodnight tenderly. “Sleep well, dear,” she said, smiling still. Red yawned her goodnights and was asleep instantly. She’d worked hard that day.

When morning came and she opened her eyes, things looked different somehow. Then she realized that she wasn’t in the cottage. She was lying on the forest floor, at the starting point of a broad path. When she stretched and got up she shrieked once more in fear and excitement. The paw she’d stretched out wasn’t made of fur anymore—it was a hand! She was a girl again!

She skipped and danced and whirled. “Hurray! I’m me! Hurray!!!” Then suddenly she stopped, her head drooping. “But where is Mama Wolf?” She’d grown fond of the old gray wolf in the past weeks. She looked all around her in the dirt but saw no trace of any animal tracks, wolf or otherwise.

Her steps heavier with sadness, she followed the path. After many hours’ walk she came out of the woods and saw…

…Her granny’s house! “GRANNY!” she screamed, running out of the woods and into the house. Her granny sat in a chair in the corner, crocheting yet another fringed poncho. At the sound of Red’s voice she looked up and smiled, gathering the girl into her arms. “Red! How nice. You’re back.”

Red pulled back and looked at her granny, puzzlement in her eyes. “Granny! I’ve been gone for WEEKS! Weren’t you worried? Have the police been looking for me?”

Granny smiled, her eyes dancing. “Silly Red. Have you been playing another one of your games? You went into the forest just this morning. But look here! A few minutes ago there was a knock at the door and when I opened it, this was on the doorstep with your name on it.”

She handed Red a parcel of squashed brown paper, tied with blue yarn. “RED” was printed carefully on it in large block letters. Red turned it over in her hands, wondering, and then carefully took off the yarn and opened it. She smiled and her eyes grew wet.

Inside was a beautiful, soft, sky-blue hoodie.


Copyright 2009 by Kiirsi Hellewell; author retains all story rights.

Read Full Post »

Today I had one of those horrific experiences I wish I could forget ever happened. 

We’d had a mostly-good weekend; our supposed camping trip (loaded up the van, took off, went to every campground in the nearby mountains but all were full.  Wasted three hours and a quarter tank of gas) was rotten but we had a nice day Sunday with family.  Monday morning I went to another family thing and before I went, I unloaded all the camping stuff from the van…all over the kitchen, living room, and family room.  “I’ll put it away later,” I said.  We were late. 

When we got back late that afternoon we were all tired and sunburned.  Nia decided it was so fun to do a “family church” like we did on Sunday that she set up more chairs in the living room, filled them with stuffed animals, and covered the chairs, couch, and floor with papers of her scripture illustrations, little made-up talks, and church programs.  I had also washed a very large, very heavy quilt and it didn’t get all the way dry in the dryer so I draped it all over the chairs to dry. 

Last night I was all ready for bed by 9 by some miracle and went to check on the sleeping children, as usual, one last time before bed.  Bran was awake, and really scared about bad dreams and things, so I ended up letting him sleep in the family room and I slept on the couch, near him.  Even so, I couldn’t get him to sleep till nearly 12:30.  I didn’t sleep well.

I had planned to get up very early this morning to exercise, make a nice healthy breakfast, clean up, and be ready to head to our first ballet/clogging classes of the 2009-2010 season.  The girls had to be there at 9.  Instead, because of the late-night incidents, I woke up with a start at 8:20 and freaked out at how late it was.  We ran around getting ready and raced out the door, munching a bagel on the drive over, and made it to the studio only a couple of minutes late.

John called at 11:30 and said he was going out to lunch with a relative and a friend to discuss business plans, and he dropped Bran off to go home with us.

By the time we were home and done with lunch at 1 today I was so very tired.  I looked at the mess in the living room…chairs, big quilt, papers everywhere…the kitchen…plates on the table, grocery bags on the floor…and the family room…baskets of clean laundry and all Bran’s sleeping stuff.  I decided I would just lie down for a short nap before cleaning it all up.

The next thing I knew, the front door was opening.  In walked John and the two distinguished, important guys he was meeting with.  They could barely walk IN THE DOOR.  I wished the floor would open up and swallow me.

They went outside to continue their meeting because the back yard was cleaner than the house.  I dare any of you reading this to come up with a more humiliating experience. 

Once I stopped crying I immediately cleaned everything up and was the tiniest bit comforted thinking that NOW the house was clean, and once they walked back through they’d see it.  I ran to the store to get some nice things for dinner, thinking also that if I could provide some delicious food, it would also help.

When I got back, to my shock, they were gone.  John said he’d invited them to stay for dinner but they weren’t hungry and wanted to get home.  And what’s worse…they left through the gate and side yard.  They didn’t even see the now-clean house.

It’s going to take me a while to get over that one, let me tell you.  Maybe in a few years I will be able to laugh about it without crying. 🙂

Read Full Post »

I’ve just finished a couple of books.  The first one, Mira, Mirror by Mette Ivie Harrison, was pretty good.  This book is fairy tale-ish along the lines of Snow White.  But instead of re-telling the fairy tale, the story follows the wicked queen’s magic mirror.  The story begins with two peasant girls, apprentices to a local witch.  The girls think of themselves as sisters but the first sister only seems to care about beauty.  She becomes more and more power-hungry and evil, eventually trapping her sister in a mirror. 

The rest of the book is about the mirror’s journey.  Not just her physical journey, but her emotional one, too—how she enters the lives of two other girls and as she helps to change them, she herself changes and learns what love is. 

I found the writing in this book quite good.  It flowed very well and it must have been hard to show everything from the point of view of a wood-and-glass mirror that has to be carried everywhere, but it was wonderfully done and didn’t feel contrived for the most part.  The story was fascinating and made me want to keep reading.  The characters seemed real and fun and interesting.  The mirror’s gradual change in feelings and beliefs was done pretty well; there were only a few spots where I was pulled out of the story to think, “Where did that come from?  That was sudden.”

When I finished the last page last night I closed the book, puzzled.  It was not a very satisfying conclusion.  Yes, there’s redemption and a form of happiness, I suppose.  But it felt very rushed and not complete.  I wanted to see much more of Mira, after all her long years of waiting. 

Final grade: B+


Deeper by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

I also (finally) finished Deeper this week.  It’s a sequel to Tunnels, which I read last year and found very different, boring in some parts, and quite scary/freaky in a lot of ways.  I was interested enough to read the sequel, I guess.  These books follow two teenage boys who stumble upon a mysterious Victorian society deep under the streets of London.  In Deeper, the boys go…where else?…deeper underground, many miles below the surface of the earth.  They encounter strange plants, animals, giant bugs, lots of dirt and dust, really evil bad guys, and a plot to take over the earth.

It took me a really long time to read this book…nearly two months.  That’s because I found a large part of it really boring.  It’s far too long, for one thing—I love long books if the story is a page-turner, like Harry Potter.  I can’t get enough.  But for this book, most of it felt like all they did for several hundred pages was wander around in the dark, exploring yet another dusty, hot tunnel.  643 pages of this can get pretty old.  I think I only kept plodding through it because after 300 pages I thought, “I can’t bear to waste all the time I already spent…I might as well finish.”  So I’d read in brief, 10-minute stints.  The characters are okay, but really annoying at times, and they do things that don’t really make a lot of sense.  They’re not completely believable.   The authors also seem to have a goal to be as gross as they possibly can…gory stuff, really disgusting stuff, they don’t seem to care as long as it’s nasty.  Perhaps they think this really appeals to teenage boys?

That said, though, it did get more exciting toward the end, and I’ll probably force myself to read Freefall, the next book, when it is published in the U.S.  (It’s already available in the U.K.)  I do feel vaguely interested in the fate of the characters.  But if you have to “force yourself” to read something, that kind of speaks for itself.

Final grade: C+

Read Full Post »

I just finished my bi-monthly post to the Utah Children’s Writers blog and it was on a subject I’ve been thinking about lately: food blogs, recipes, and cooking. 

I’ve known for years that I need to jazz up our boring, “same ten recipes” dinner menu.  But I always come up with excuses:

“Bran’s allergic to wheat; it’s so hard to make two of everything so one can be wheat-free.” 

“John and I are allergic to corn.  It’s so depressing that I don’t want to cook.”

“Whenever I be brave and try out a new recipe, everyone hates it.”

“I’m too tired to think of anything…”

And so it goes. 

Well, I’m going to try turning over a new leaf.  I will focus on two main goals:

1) Make a weekly menu

2) Find new recipes for said menu

My resolve is helped a little bit by the fact that we’re cutting out cold cereal from our lives.  We haven’t bought any for three weeks and it’s awesome.  No, seriously, it is.  (And hello, the money saved??  Cold cereal is expensive!)  At first I felt panicked, but now?  We eat healthy things like oatmeal pancakes, cooked cereal, fresh fruit and raw nuts, and eggs.  And since John’s now working from home three days a week, it frees me up to make breakfast a little later if I need to.  He can start work early, and take a break later on for breakfast.

Making a menu will also help force—ah, I mean, encourage—me to make a real dinner because I’ll have a plan in place.  No more staring desperately at kitchen cupboards and fridge at 5pm, frantically trying to figure something out.

I shall now tantalize you with some good-looking food (clicking the picture will take you to the recipe):





So if you have any recipes or good food blogs you follow or like, please share!  My kitchen and I will thank you. 🙂

Read Full Post »

Today in church the missionaries in our stake talked.  One of them is from Germany.   The other is new and has only been out of the MTC a couple of weeks, I believe.

The German elder talked first and he gave a great talk.   He was so confident and spiritual and shared such a nice testimony.   Then he ended his talk by telling us about how, as a youth, he was hurt and confused and in a lot of pain (spiritually, I’m guessing).   One day he went into an Orthodox church and said "God, if you’re real, please take this pain from me" and within a few minutes the pain was gone.   That was the beginning of his faith in God.

He didn’t tell us how he found the LDS church, but he did say that before his mission call, he was his parents’ only support.   He worked hard at his job and was able to provide for himself and for them…keep them stocked with firewood against the cold winter, buy food for them, and pay their bills.   When he got his mission call it was hard for him to go, because he knew his parents couldn’t get along without him.   He didn’t know what to do and was so worried about them starving or freezing to death.

But he quit his job and went on his mission, on total faith that if he did his best to take care of the Lord’s people, the Lord would take care of his.  

Well, a few months into his mission, he got an e-mail from a friend of his in Germany telling him that his parents had been without electricity, etc. for three months.   He was so worried and almost overcome by this news, knowing that if things were so bad that they had no electricity, they were probably starving, also, and that winter was coming and they’d freeze.   He prayed and prayed, asking the Lord to help them, and it was really hard for him to continue his missionary work when he wanted to rush home and save them.   But he kept working hard and trusting in his faith.

Soon after that there was a mission conference and he was in an interview with the mission president.   He said the president was inspired to ask, "How’s your family doing?" and when he did, this elder couldn’t keep his worry and emotions inside and poured it all out to him.  

The mission president contacted some people and now the church members in Germany are taking care of his parents…they got together and raised enough money somehow to pay for things until this elder comes home.   He ended by bearing his testimony that when we obey, do what’s right, have faith, and trust in the Lord, that the Lord will bless us.   He said he knows now that the Lord has a purpose in what happened…that because of the circumstances with his parents, being in such trouble and having the church members help them, that now his parents are being prepared to accept the gospel.

I thought it was a really wonderful story and wanted to share.

Read Full Post »