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I haven’t updated this blog very much lately because I’ve been busy with the other blog for Susan’s case, plus all the regular efforts to find her.  Also, I’ve found myself in a sad and strange situation. 

When Susan disappeared nearly 4 months ago, mine and my family’s life got put on hold.  Every thought, word, effort, and breath was all about Susan.  I spent all my time doing everything I could to keep her in the news, help the police in any way possible, and do all I could to find my friend.

My family suffered, of course, both my husband and kids and my extended family.  I kept them fed and clothed but everything else was a bare minimum. 

On Tuesday it will be exactly 4 months since Susan disappeared.  Nothing has changed for me—I still think of her with every thought and am still doing all I can to find her.  But I’ve had to return to “normal” life in some ways, for the sake of my children, who need me, and my husband and other family members. 

I’ve hesitated to post anything on my blog since Susan disappeared that wasn’t about her.  But the whole reason I started a blog was so our relatives and friends who live farther away and can’t be with our family as often as they’d like to could be a little more in touch with our lives.  So I guess now the blog will need to also struggle to find a balance between Susan-postings and bits from our lives, much as I am now struggling to do myself every day. 

It’s very hard to cook a nice dinner for my family and fold laundry when my mind and heart are so grief-stricken that my friend is still gone.  As much as I love my kids, it’s hard to give them undivided attention for hours when all I can think about is Susan.

But the last thing she would want is for my family or anyone else to suffer on her behalf, so we do what we can to continue our efforts to find her and still take care of our responsibilities and priorities. 

I update the Service for Susan blog regularly on the latest news and activities surrounding Susan’s case and disappearance, so check there often if you’re not on the Friends and Family of Susan Powell Facebook group

I hope everyone has enjoyed a sweet and peaceful Easter, surrounded by loved ones, and remembering the Savior…He who makes it possible for all of us to live again.

Art by the ultra-talented Simon Dewey; picture from Bev’s Country Cottage, a great charity website full of knitting and crochet patterns and other cool stuff.

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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+

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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. 🙂

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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.

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I just read on Twitter tonight that there’s a *yearly contest for the worst first sentence in a fake novel.  W-O-W, there are some howlers!  I gasped and choked and snorted until, breathless with laughter, I couldn’t stand it anymore and had to read one to my husband—it was the Spiderman entry that put me over the edge.  Here are my favorites:

 

Detective Pierson mentally reviewed the group of suspects milling around the recent crime scene-two young siblings eating gingerbread, a young girl in a red hoodie, a beautiful girl with narcolepsy, and seven little people with the profession of miners-then gave his statement of "It’s a grim tale" to the press.

Shannon Gray
Wichita, KS

 

No man is an island, so they say, although the small crustaceans and the bird which sat impassively on Dirk Manhope’s chest as he floated lazily in the pool would probably disagree.

Glen Robins
Brighton, East Sussex, U.K.

 

Towards the dragon’s lair the fellowship marched — a noble human prince, a fair elf, a surly dwarf, and a disheveled copyright attorney who was frantically trying to find a way to differentiate this story from "Lord of the Rings."

Andrew Manoske
Foster City, CA

 

On a fine summer morning during the days of the Puritans, the prison door in the small New England town of B—-n opened to release a convicted adulteress, the Scarlet Letter A embroidered on her dress, along with the Scarlet Letters B through J, a veritable McGuffey’s Reader of Scarlet Letters, one for each little tyke waiting for her at the gate.

Joseph Aspler
Kirkland, QC, Canada

 

Mortimer froze in his tracks; the rhythmic clicking on the stones of the path (well . . . not really a clicking sound so much as a kind of clinking sound, more like the noise made by shaking a charm bracelet filled with Disney characters to a salsa beat) made him suddenly realize he had forgotten to buckle one of his galoshes.

Rick Cheeseman
Waconia, MN

 

He slowly ran his fingers through her long black hair, which wasn’t really black because she used Preference by L’Oreal to color it (because "she was worth it"); her carrot-colored roots were starting to show, and it reminded him of the time he’d covered his car’s check engine light with black electrical tape, but a faint orange glow still shone around the edges.

Lisa Mileusnich
Willoughby, OH

 

Their relationship hit a bump in the road, not the low, graceful kind of bump, reminiscent of a child’s choo choo train-themed roller coaster, rather the kind of tall, narrow speed-bump that, if a school bus ran over it, would cause even a fat kid to fly up and bang his head on the ceiling.

Michael Reade
Durham, NC

 

It was a dark and stormy night, well, not pitch dark so much a plumby, you know, that time of night where it turns into that kind of eggplant color, which I hate– eggplant not the time of night–and it wasn’t stormy so much as drizzly, like a cold that’s not so bad but really annoying, where you sound a little plugged up and all your mucus just sort of hovers at the edge of your nostrils or drips down the back of your throat, it was like that.

Maisey Yates
Jacksonville, OR

 

As she slowly drove up the long, winding driveway, Lady Alicia peeked out the window of her shiny blue Mercedes and spied Rodrigo the new gardener standing on a grassy mound with his long black hair flowing in the wind, his brown eyes piercing into her very soul, and his white shirt open to the waist, revealing his beautifully rippling muscular chest, and she thought to herself, "I must tell that lazy idiot to trim the hedges by the gate."

Kathryn Minicozzi
Bronx, NY

 

George scratched his head in abject puzzlement as he tried to figure out where he’d parked the rocket this time in the 100-acre parking lot of Nallmart 75B, but then he remembered that a ship-boy had taken his DNA key-but which one, the kelly toned humanoid or the atmosphere-of-Rylak-hued android; scanning the horizon, he at last turned to Babs and asked "how green was my valet"?

Leigh A. Smith
New Douglas, IL

 

Using her flint knife to gut the two amphibians, Kreega the Neanderthal woman created the first pair of open-toad sandals.

Greg Homer
Placerville, CA

 

There were earthquakes in this land, terrible tsunamis that swirled flooding torrents of water throughout, and constant near-blizzard conditions, and not for the first time, Horatio Jones wished he did not live inside a snow globe.

Rich Buley-Neumar
Amityville, NY

 

The skydiver jumped out of the plane and felt his skin being pulled back like that of a dog sticking its head out of a car going 110 on the highway, owned by a driver rushing to be on time for work or else he would get fired by his boss with the curly mustache who owned a large speedboat.

John Faherty
Queensbury, NY

 

Grimly aware of the rapidly approaching disaster, Spiderman leaped from rooftop to flagpole, from flagpole to fire escape, hurling himself recklessly from building to building, darting glances through every window in his desperate search for one vital room, while silently cursing the fact that the last thing he had done before donning a one-piece skintight costume, was to eat a large bowl of hot chili.

David J Button
South Australia, Australia

 

How best to pluck the exquisite Toothpick of Ramses from between a pair of acrimonious vipers before the demonic Guards of Nicobar returned should have held Indy’s full attention, but in the back of his mind he still wondered why all the others who had agreed to take part in his wife’s holiday scavenger hunt had been assigned to find stuff like a Phillips screwdriver or blue masking tape.

Joe Wyatt
Amarillo, Texas

 

A dark and stormy night it was; in torrents fell the rain –except at occasional intervals, when, by a violent gust of wind was it checked, as up the streets it swept, (for in London it is that lies our scene), along the housetops rattling, and the scanty flame of the lamps fiercely agitating, that against the darkness, struggled.

(The story of Paul Clifford, is Yoda, to a padawan telling)

Jay Clifton
Berkeley, CA

 

*Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

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All week I’ve wanted to write a post here, but got busy and forgot or else didn’t have pictures ready.  So today I’m just going to play a little “catch up” game and write about several different events.

On Thursday, June 11, some of my sisters and I went to This is the Place heritage pioneer park.  I’d found out at the last minute that it was free that day, courtesy of John Huntsman Sr., and even though the girls had their ballet recital that night, we really wanted to go.

We prayed for good weather (rain/storms were forecast!) and off we went.  We had so much fun!  I’m sure we didn’t even see half the houses/pioneer things, but what we saw was great.  The kids and I have never been before, though my sisters Kaatia and Kimia had.  We rode the train around the village, went inside some tiny pioneer cabins (one tiny thing the size of my living room supposedly housed nine people! And I have a small living room), visited the baby animal petting area, had pony rides, enjoyed free ice cream cones, bought toys and fresh popcorn at the general store, marveled at a blacksmith at work making an intricate iron leaf in front of our eyes, and camped out in a tipi when it started to pour. 

b bath            b bran on path           b Bran skull      

Old wooden bathtub           Bran and cousins              Bran and cow skull

b coffin                b cousin                       b goat

Zombie Ciara             Nia and cousin enjoying popcorn            Ciara and baby goat

b lamb       b mill        b nia tipi

   Nia and lamb            In front of a mill             Nia in a tipi

b shawl                         b train       b wagon

Beautiful crocheted shawl             Kid train                 Nia “driving” a wagon

The rain never stopped, so we had to run/walk all the way down the long hill (the train was completely full) to try to find some shelter in a very leaky twig-roofed pavilion.  We ate lunch in the driest corner, only getting dripped on a few times a minute, then drove across the street to the zoo.  (Apparently they let you in for a half-hour guest pass for free if you want to visit the store.) 

After stopping at the zoo gift shop to get some top-secret things (new Hogwarts pets for the kids), we drove home—starved, soaked, muddy, and looking like drowned rats.  

Nia had fallen so much in love with a tiny barn owl she saw at the gift shop that she cried almost all the way home at having to leave him.  I told her, “Nia, you asked Hagrid to send you a cat for your new pet.”  She sobbed, “But Mama, I love that tiny owl!”  I told her that if she wrote Hagrid a letter as soon as she got home, maybe it wouldn’t be too late and he would get her letter in time to send her an owl instead.

The second we got home she ran into the house, grabbed paper and pencil, and wrote a new letter to Hagrid, complete with a quickly-drawn owl picture:

dear Hagred

I chaed my mind i wond a owel

Love Nia

Even though we were limited for time, I boxed up the three owls I bought at the zoo (Bran decided he wanted an owl at the shop also), attached letters from Hagrid, and left the packages on the doorstep.  I also got my own little stuffed owl wet and sat him on top of the pile (since, you know, it had been quite a storm that afternoon as he battled his way to our house with the packages).

brown paper packages

Brown paper packages tied up with string

When John came home from work, I asked him to ring the doorbell.  The kids ran to the door, shrieking and screaming.  When they saw the packages they screamed even more and ripped them open.  All three kids were in rapture, hugging their owls, but Nia’s joy was hilarious to behold.  She fell on the floor, she was so thrilled to be reunited with her tiny little friend:

nia owl 2

Bran was very happy with his great horned owl, and Ciara loved her absolutely perfect snowy owl.

Bran owl          ciara owl         nia owl

          “Bark”                              “Frosting”                           “Scribbles”

After a quick dinner it was time to put the girls’ hair in buns and leave for the ballet recital!

b ciara in costume

    Ciara in her “military” costume

b nia costume

           Nia as a forest fairy

We had a bit of a mishap with Ciara forgetting her red belt, but she bravely carried on and did a wonderful job dancing with her class to “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”  Nia was adorable, of course, and remembered her steps perfectly to “Entrance of the fairy king” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I had to sit in the balcony with the tumbling class and guide them to the stage in time for their number, but in between I was hanging over the railing, watching every step of my girls with more-than-misty eyes. 

On Saturday morning Owl Post delivered the kids’ first Care of Magical Creatures lessons—the first of 4 lessons about owls.  It was grand to see their excitement as they pored over non-fiction books about owls, looking for the answers to their homework.  This Hogwarts school thing is working out very well!

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I always do school with the kids year-round, but this summer we’re going to add something that will make school REALLY fun and get the kids very excited about learning.  A friend at our homeschool co-op got the ball rolling, and some others have joined in, making this a truly fun and awesome adventure (thanks Monica, Rebecca, and Tricia!).

What we’re doing: a term at Hogwarts correspondence school, with letters, lessons, and supplies arriving through Owl Post! 

How it works: I prepared acceptance letters for each child, and addressed them in true Potter style, such as:

Miss Ciara Hellewell

Large Pink Room, upstairs

[address]

The letters mysteriously arrive in the night and the kids find them the next morning.  Thursday night I left mine on a chair in the hall, complete with a little stuffed owl sitting on top:

owl

Owl Post

They were excited (and a little confused) when they got their letters.  I had told them nothing beforehand except that “school this summer is going to be different and exciting.”  (Bran said: “School’s boring! How can it be exciting?”  I guess we’ve been spending a little too much time on worksheets and books.  My goal is to change his mind. :))  Once I explained a little about attending Hogwarts by mail, since we live in America, they started to get really excited.

“Do you mean owls will bring us stuff lots of days?”

“Will we even get WANDS?”

“What classes are we going to have?!”

letters

The first letters: Acceptance to Hogwarts and Sorting Hat quiz

They do realize, underneath it all, that of course I’m the one doing it, but we are all having a lot of fun pretending.  After they filled out the Sorting Hat quiz on Friday and left the quiz for the owls to pick up that night, they were lying in their beds, wondering which House they would end up in.  Some “mysterious” hooting noises floated up the stairs, and I heard Nia say “Guys! I just heard OWL NOISES!!”

Saturday morning they woke up and rushed to the hall to see if the owls had left them fresh letters.  Sure enough, their House results had arrived!  The Sorting Hat sorted them: Ciara into Ravenclaw, Bran into Hufflepuff house, and Nia into Gryffindor.  The letters went into detail about why exactly they were chosen and what good traits they had that made them perfect for each house.  Bran and Ciara were a little depressed that they weren’t in Griffindor, but I’m hoping to capitalize on all their individual talents and abilities to really help them see how unique each child is.

Tonight’s Owl Post will feature a letter from Hagrid on selecting a proper magical pet to be their friend at Hogwarts, with instructions to write him a letter back letting him know which pet they prefer.  Future classes will include learning all about the care, history, and characteristics of these pets and how they have been viewed in legends and stories.

I’m still figuring this out, with the help of the wonderful moms who are already doing it.  They’ve posted awesome and clever lessons on Trolls (taught by Gilderoy Lockhart), Potions (taught by Theodore Nott), and others, such as several hilarious and un-grammatical Care of Magical Creatures lessons by Hagrid; also Nature lessons by Luna Lovegood and Hogwarts History with guest professor Hermione.  I’ve got lots of ideas boiling in my mind right now about more classes to add. 

Other lessons or ideas the moms have created so far:

* House elf Home Ec (cooking and sewing) taught by Dobby

* Quills and Magical Writing (penmanship, calligraphy, etc.)

* Divination

* Herbology

* Literature

* Astronomy

Please leave me comments or ideas of what other classes we could do and any other helpful ideas you have.  It’s a lot of fun so far!

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