February 28, 2009

Quote 28

It is one of the evils of rapid diffusion of news that the sorrows of all the world come to us every morning. I think each village was meant to feel pity for its own sick and poor whom it can help and I doubt if it is the duty of any private person to fix his mind on ills which he cannot help. (This may even become an escape from the works of chairty we really can do to those we know).

A great many people... do now seem to think that the mere state of being worried is in itself meritorious. I don't think it is. We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we're doing it, I think we're meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the birds song and the frosty sunrise.

C.S. Lewis, Yours, Jack, p. 119

February 26, 2009

Second Class

On Tuesday night Joey was awarded his Second Class rank at the Boy Scout of Court of Honor in the ward. Joey has been working hard on this and also earned his first merit badge - First Aid. The other 3 boys pictured below also earned their Second Class. Joey is within just a few requirements of getting his First class and will likely get that before he turns 12. Way to go Joey!

February 25, 2009

Teach Me to Walk in the Light

Maddy's cousin Gage Halliday was baptized on Sunday and we had the privilege of attending and also doing a musical number. I created a simple arrangement blending "Teach Me to Walk in the Light" and "Baptism" for Maddy and her cousin Elise (Gage's brother) to sing. Below is a video of us practicing before the baptism as well as some pictures from the baptism.

February 24, 2009

Man vs. Food

By now you may have seen the new Travel Channel series called "Man vs. Food." This is not "Man vs. Wild" where Bear Grylls tackles some of the harshest terrain in the world. No, this is more intense, more serious, more awe-inspiring. This is Adam Richman taking on the harshest restaurant eating challenges across the country. Here are just a few examples...

Seattle - eating a 12 egg omelet stuffed with chili, cheese, sour cream and salsa with a huge side of hash browns.

Boston - eating a 5 pound hamburger, with 2 pounds of bacon and cheese and 5 pounds of fries.

Portland - eating a stack of 13 inch "mancakes."

I am glued to the screen when watching this show and I'm not sure why. Something about it just draws me in. Maybe its because I have taken on a few eating challenges of my own.

The first I can remember was during high school. My friend Jason and I headed to Pizza Haven in Factoria Square in Bellevue, Washington. They had a great all you can eat special and somehow Jason and I got it in our heads that we could each individually eat a large pizza (16 pieces worth). We raced through about 8 or 9 pieces each and then the struggle started. I can't remember how many pieces we ended up eating or if we made our goal but I do remember Jason pulling over on the way home to empty his stomach if you know what I mean. I remember laughing so hard until I felt my own slices starting to reappear. Not smart.

The next two were while serving as an LDS missionary in the Washington DC area. The first of these took place in very rural Front Royal, Virginia. The kind of food I was used to eating was not so easy to come by. Plenty of venison and other wild game but not much by the way of fast food (a missionary staple) except for the McDonalds on Main street. One day my companion Elder George and I saw an advertisement for 2 Big Macs for $1.00. Missionaries don't have a lot of money so this was a very appealing invitation. We drove up, went inside and proceeded to eat 4 Big Macs each. I have not eaten one since.

The second was in Quantico, Virginia, home to the enormous USA Naval base. My companion Elder Siddoway and I had saved up to go to the "Market Street Buffet" an expensive buffet restaurant that had everything you could imagine. Because of the price, it was not somewhere you got to go very often. We went for the first time with several other missionaries and we ate ourselves past the point of full. It was on a P-Day (preparation day - the day we got to do our laundry, write letters, etc.) so we spent several hours recovering afterwards. That evening, we went to a dinner appointment at a member's home, the Bakers, who lived on base. We were still completely full but wanted to honor the appointment, hoping for a light salad or a small bowl of oatmeal or something. As we entered their house, they surprised us with some exciting news. Knowing for weeks that we had been coming, they had saved up and wanted to treat us to dinner at the Market Street Buffet! I remember struggling through that meal like I never have before, not wanting them to know that we had been in that exact spot just hours before.

I have always loved food and I'm sure that sometimes I take that love to the extreme in unhealthy ways. I am grateful for shows like Man vs. Food which allow me to live out the darker side of my food passion without the accompanying health risk or pounds! Go Adam Richman!

February 23, 2009

Jazz vs. Hornets

On Saturday night I took Maddy and Joey and their uncle Steve to the Utah Jazz game against the New Orleans. It was less than 24 hours after Jazz owner Larry Miller had passed away so the team had a very nice commemoration of his life before everything started. The game was great and the Jazz won with a great run in the 4th quarter. Joey wore all his Jazz gear trying to get on the Jumbotron but no luck. Maybe next time!

February 22, 2009

Birthday Lunch

Yesterday afternoon I served a birthday lunch to several of Jeni's family members who had birthdays in January and February including Todd, Grandma Rae, Steve, Rebecca and Leann. I tried a few new recipes for this one and got to use my new silverware and dining sets that Jeni bought me for Valentines Day (see above). All in all the prep and cooking time took about 12 hours but it was a lot of fun. I made:

1. Asiago cheese crisps with boursin and fresh raspberries
2. Brie en croute with blackberry jam and toasted pecans
3. Salad nicoise with potatoes, asparagus, kalamata olives, egg and tomatoes
4. Broccoli soup with Maytag blue cheese and walnut oil
5. Orange peel sorbet
6. Stuffed pork loin roast, apples, onions, sage
7. Creamy Risotto, parmesan, tomato and asparagus
8. Vanilla and brown sugar crème brulee

Below is the actual menu which I rolled and placed on everyone's plate. I think it's now official - at this point in time I would say that this is my new hobby.

February 19, 2009


I've posted before about how Maddy has had to have things "just right" ever since she was young. From her socks lining up perfectly to the scrapes on her shoes matching, this behavior was something we thought she would grow out of. We thought wrong. In fact, in some ways it is getting worse. Way worse. The other night I brought home hamburgers from our favorite restaurant - Wendy's of course. Maddy felt like the burgers had been sitting in the bag too long and the buns had become too soggy. They had maybe been in the bag 5 minutes. Before I knew it, Maddy had taken action as you can see from the picture above. She had removed the buns and replaced them with her own version of normal bread cut to size. Can you say OCD? I wonder where she gets that from? Hmmm.

February 17, 2009

Going Under

I admit it. I am deathly afraid of surgery. And it’s not just the surgery itself. It’s the “getting prepped for the surgery” process that makes me weak in the knees and causes me to cry like a baby. When I was 20, I had a surgery scheduled in Seattle. I remember being wheeled into the operating room despite the fact that I was still awake! I could see the Doctors prepping their tools and the nurses scrambling around! I hadn't been to medical school or anything but something was going horribly wrong here. Was I really supposed to be seeing all of this? Shouldn't I have been fast asleep at this point? Hello, I'm still awake over here! The medical staff reassured me that all would be fine and that this was completely normal. Normal? Come over here and I'll show you normal! I was not comforted. I knew they were going to cut into me. What had I ever done to them? Thankfully, the anesthetic finally kicked in and the surgery proceeded without incident. Ever since that experience though, I have been deathly afraid of having to go under the knife again. When I think of having surgery, I just know that the picture below is what is going to happen to me.

A few years into our marriage I started getting very sharp pains in my left shoulder. The pain was so bad it would force me to stop whatever I was doing, even dropping me to the floor, unable to move for several minutes. This went on for several weeks. I finally visited the emergency room and it was determined that my gall bladder was enlarged and that it was deferring pain to my shoulder. A surgery to remove the gall bladder was scheduled and I was a nervous wreck. What if they thought I was asleep and I wasn’t? What if it just looked like I was asleep but I was really just praying or resting my eyes or doing Yoga? How would they know if I was really asleep? Maybe I could live just fine with the bad gall bladder a few more years? The pain wasn't that bad was it? I was convinced that they were going to cut into me, just like I had been convinced so many years before. I begged and pleaded for the medical staff and Jeni to please make sure that I was asleep before they even got near to me. I wanted to be out at least 72 hours before the procedure was scheduled to start. The story now goes something like this. “Allegedly” after the surgery was over and I was sleeping in my hospital room, I suddenly sat up in bed and yelled “Don’t start yet, I’m still awake!” This “allegedly” led to riotous laughter by the nurses and even my sweet, compassionate wife, Jeni. I don't believe any of it.

The moral of this story is this. Avoid surgery at all costs! If that's not possible, pray hard that the anesthesia will kick in long before you see any Doctors or operating rooms or knives or clowns. If not, you just might say something silly and be reminded of your "alleged" outburst for many years to come. Not kidding!

February 16, 2009

The Many Faces of Joey

I'm not sure where these faces come from but Joey is the world's biggest ham. It is next to impossible to get him to smile "normally" for a picture. I guess we're grateful that he is generally pretty happy and likes making other people laugh and smile. We're anxious to see what contorted face he comes up with next!

February 15, 2009

Priesthood Preview

A few weeks ago Joey and I attended a "Priesthood Preview" at the Church. This was a program conducted by our Bishop for all young men turning 12 this year designed to help them prepare for receiving the Aaronic Priesthood and being ordained to the office of a Deacon. Joey is excited about this upcoming ordination as he'll be able to pass the Sacrament, help with Fast offerings and other important duties. I really like the picture of us here because what you can't see is that we both have our arms around the other and are tickling each other while trying to stay composed for the picture.

February 14, 2009


Last night I took Jeni to Lugano Restaurant in Salt Lake City for Valentines Day. This restaurant won the 2008 "Best Italian Restaurant in Salt Lake City" award and the Chef / owner Greg Neville won 2008 "Best Chef" as well. I would have to say it was the best Italian I have ever eaten and the atmosphere was amazing. Located in a small, rustic building just outside of Holladay, the restaurant probably seated less than 100 which made for a very cozy and warm evening. The kitchen was wide open in the center of the restaurant for all to see and Chef Neville made his rounds throughout the night. As you can see from our menu above, they put together a special 5 course meal for Valentines that was excellent.

The amuse (from French amuse-bouche, meaning "to please the mouth") was a Chicken Liver spread with black truffle on a piece of thin bread, topped with caramelized onions. The amuse is a bite-sized hors d'oeuvre chosen by the chef to set the stage for the meal by offering a glimpse into the chef's approach to cooking. And did it ever! Here's what Jeni and I chose for our remaining four courses.

Parmesan/parsley gnocchi with wild mushrooms & porcini cream sauce - These gnocchi were tiny dumplings made from potatoes and flour; the mushrooms were excellent.

Baby spinach salad, sun dried cranberries, feta, red onion, candied walnuts & citrus dressing - A salad we'd had before and it was very flavorful.

Wood oven roasted "angus" flat iron steak, parsnip puree, fresh truffle/cabernet reduction - An interesting cut of the steak so you could actually see how well it was cooked.

Chocolate pot du creme macchiato, "brutti ma buoni" cookie - Mix between a thick chocolate pudding and a thin chocolate brownie, covered in a thick cream and topped with a hazlenut cookie.

Lugano Carpaccio with arugula, shaved grana & mustard aioli - Carpaccio is a very thin, high end raw steak (I know!) and it was covered in greens and topped with shaved cheese, a mustard style dressing and truffle oil - incredible!

Chard/dandelion green filled ravioli, brown sage butter, pine nuts, parmesan - I can now say I've eaten dandelion and it was pretty good, especially with the pine nuts and parmesan.

Grilled organic Scottish salmon, pesto whipped potatoes, caper/chardonnay butter sauce - Maybe the best salmon I've ever had - thick and perfectly moist, and the potatoes were unbelievable.

Flourless chocolate cake with vanilla bean gelato & whipped cream - Denser than I thought it would be and very rich.

Not only was the presentation on everything incredible, but the tastes and textures were so unique and the meal overall was surprisingly very filling! It was wonderful to try a new restaurant, especially one that blew away our expectations like this one did. And, of course, most wonderful to be able to share the night with Jeni, my Valentine.

February 13, 2009


I know this will sound strange, but I am grateful for my commute to work. The scenery is great as I drive along the Wasatch Mountain range (as you can see from the picture above taken from my car.) Having lived in Seattle, Las Vegas and Houston where the commutes were bumper to bumper and one hour in the car would be considered a good day, I am very thankful for the peaceful, scenic ride. How can you beat this view?

February 12, 2009

Quote 27

I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations. It is not serious provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience et cetera doesn't get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathroooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence.

C.S. Lewis, Yours, Jack, p. 94

February 11, 2009

2009 New Beginnings

Last week we attended Maddy's "New Beginnings" program at the Church. Each year the Young Women present the new theme for the year and give out awards for the girls that have been working on their Personal Progress, a program focused on the girls living the Young Women values of Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, Integrity and Virtue. The picture above is of Maddy with Kim Atkin, our neighbor and one of Maddy's young women's leaders. The program was very nice and included a pasta dinner and a musical number by Maddy and a few of the girls. Maddy loves Young Womens and her leaders have been wonderful with her. Right now, Maddy is serving as the secretary in the Beehive (12-13 year olds) class presidency.

February 10, 2009

General Knowledge

The game we played most often as a family when I was younger was called General Knowledge. Invented by my Dad, it is a game not unlike Scattergories but in my opinion more versatile and incredibly more fun. My sister even wrote about it on her blog. The game itself is simple. Here are the instructions:

1. Everyone playing gets a pen and a blank piece of paper.

2. Each player turns their paper horizontally and draws lines down from top to bottom, creating about 8 or so columns (see above sheet from a recent game with the Ficklins). You can do more or less, depending on the number of people playing. There should be at least one column per player as each column will represent a category chosen by each player.

3. Add one column at the end (it can be a thin one) to write your score for each round.

4. Each player chooses a category. The categories should be ones that everyone playing would be able to answer but creative enough so as to draw out some fun debates (the best part of the game). As you can see from the first game we played (see above sheet), we picked Anatomy, Things that Stain, People you'd find at BYU, Shoes, Movies, Types of Soda, and Words found in the Book of Mormon. For the second game, we picked Things in a Kitchen, Things in Kara's room, Bands, 6 Letter Words, Tourist Activities, Countries and Types of Candy. The chosen categories get written at the top of each of the columns you’ve already created.

5. When everyone is done, one person takes another blank piece of paper and writes each letter of the alphabet randomly on that page. Now, the game begins!

6. One player closes their eyes and randomly picks one of the letters on the page. They open their eyes, and yell out the letter they picked.

7. Everyone then races to write down one word in each category starting with the letter that was picked. You are not allowed to use the same word for more than one category and you’re not supposed to use adjectives. You can see examples of this from the game above.

8. The first player done writing one word in each category yells “Stop” and everyone has to stop.
9. One by one each category is named (usually by the person that yelled stop) and everyone says what they wrote for that category. If you wrote the same word as someone else, you each get one point. If you were unique in your answer, you get 2 points. If there is a debate, the person who owns that category (the one who chose it) decides how many points to award (no more than 2.)

10. After all the answers for the chosen letter are read, total up the points in the last column. Then someone else chooses the next letter and play resumes.

11. After you've gone through as many rounds as you like, the points for the whole game are totaled.

There are several reasons this game is still a family favorite. First, it is different every time because you will always have different categories. Second, the debates can be hilarious. Third, it’s fun to watch how people respond under pressure.

Some of my favorite categories ever are...
1. Things you can fit in one nostril
2. Things that float
3. Things couples argue about
4. Things that stain
5. Things you would find under a bed

Some of the worst categories ever are...
1. Things that squeak – this quickly turned into “Things you can get wet and rub on a mirror,” like an elephant for example
2. Shapes – this turned into "Animals" because evidently all animals have a shape
3. Names - this gets out of hand quickly. Yes, I would name my child "Zarlit," wouldn't you?

The next time your family is looking for a quick and fun game, try this one out. You'll love it!

February 09, 2009


Just so you don't think that all I do is sit around indulging on fine french cuisine all day, I thought I'd share our latest culinary adventure - IHOP. Yes, the International House of Pancakes. I'm not quite sure about the "International" bit - everyone there looked American to me and there was certainly nothing "International" about the menu. But House of Pancakes? Oh yes. Plenty of those, especially with the "All you can eat" for $4.99 which interestingly is about a 1/4th of the price of just one pound of the Gouda cheese I referenced in the post from earlier today.

We were all home sick today with some sort of flu bug so at about 8pm we decided we were too tired to make anything to eat and suddenly pancakes sounded too good to pass up. Maddy and Joey each got the Funny face pancake - a giant chocolate pancake with a smiley face and eyes made out of whipped cream. Jeni got pancakes and eggs and hardly touched them and I made up for everyone's lack of appetite by eating 5 pancakes, 2 eggs over easy, 2 plates of hash browns and an Avocado, bacon and cheese omelet, all washed down by 2 glasses of orange juice and half of Joey's hot chocolate. I literally hadn't eaten anything all day and I was hungry. Too hungry. So here I am at 11:00pm thinking that IHOP should stand for "I have over partaken" or "I have overeaten pancakes" or "I have obstructed my pancreas" or "I'm having outhouse problems." Nothing like a great night at the IHOP.

February 08, 2009

Ratatouille Sunday

In our home, we try to reserve Sunday for Church and good, Sabbath day appropriate activities, wholesome family togetherness, etc. Some weeks we do really well and most... well, we're working on it. One of the areas we struggle with the most is what shows are or aren't appropriate to watch. What we've landed on over the years is to try to limit the television to shows that have some tie to the Savior or His teachings. Church movies? Great. Disney channel? Not so great.

As our kids have gotten older, they've tried to push the envelope in an effort to broaden the definition of "Sunday appropriate" shows. Today they approached us with a desire to watch "Ratatouille," one of my all time favorite movies. If you haven't seen it by now (and I'm sure most of you have) it's a great show about a rat (Remi) with amazing culinary abilities who helps a bumbling young man (Linguini) become a chef and in turn Linguini helps Remi fulfill his passion for cooking. I told the kids that if they could tell me 3 ways the movie tied into the Gospel, I would let them watch it. Here are their lists, word for word:

1. Remi chooses only the good food, but the other rats eat anything they can. In life, we should choose only the good things.
2. Linguini is like heavenly Father to Remi because he helps him to do what he wants to do.
3. Remi is like the Holy Ghost because he gently pulls on Linguini's hair to guide him. He never squeals.

1. As soon as Remi finds the best thing in life (the food), he decides to share it with everyone.
2. Chef Gusteau's spirit was helping Remi find his dreams, just like the Holy Ghost can help us in our lives.
3. At the end of the movie, the critic learns that everyone deserves a second chance. He also learned that you shouldn't be so quick to judge.

We were so impressed with their lists that of course we had to say yes. Ok, maybe we would have said yes anyway, but the exercise was well worth it.

February 07, 2009

Nieces and Nephews Valentines Party

Today Jeni and I hosted a Valentines party for all our nieces and nephews that live here in Utah. Madisen and Tyler Bird even joined the fun too. They all made heart shaped sandwiches, heart shaped cinnamon crisps and heart shaped cookies to decorate. Jeni started doing this several years ago and it's become a fun tradition. One of the things I admire and love most about "Aunt Jeni" is her desire to stay close to family and to enjoy fun, happy traditions together. The kids love it. Below are the kids with their creations.

February 06, 2009

Dinner with the Birds

Tonight I made dinner for our good friends the Birds. I made Spice rubbed Steak, Tomato and Asparagus Risotto and Crème Brulée for dessert. Click on each item for the recipe if you're interested. The Birds are amazing. Kendall works as a partner in a graphic design firm and Amy teaches Elementary School. Their kids, Madisen and Tyler are nearly our kids exact same age and they've been friends since birth. Andy, they're excited to be adding a new addition to their family in the very near future as they're in process of adopting a little boy, Kojo, from Ghana.

We are very fortunate to have such a wonderful hair stylist! Heather Homer is the best we've ever had and yesterday Jeni and Maddy got "Heatherized" at the Taylor Andrews Academy where she works as a top instructor. If you live in the Draper / Sandy area and are looking for a new stylist, look no further. Heather - you're the best!

February 05, 2009

Valentines Cookies

We made valentines sugar cookies a few nights ago and the kids decorated them. The frosting recipe was Jeni's and it involved a ton of powdered sugar and butter with a touch of food coloring - Yum! Where in the world does Joey get these faces from?!

February 04, 2009

I Heard the Bells

The most interesting thing happened about 6 months ago. We had had Joey in piano lessons for about a year and he really didn't care for them and wasn't showing much progress so we pulled him out. Then, out of nowhere he decided he wanted to learn some songs on his own and before we knew it he had memorized Moonlight Sonata as well as some of my favorite Chopin pieces. We signed him up at an advanced piano academy but the structure was too much and he started losing interest again. As soon as we pulled him out, the interest picked up and he's been learning more new songs on his own. Go figure. He really has a gift for the piano we hope he continues to enjoy playing as much as we enjoy listening.

The video below is a recording of Joey playing an arrangement of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Casting Crowns. This song became a family favorite of ours after hearing it performed on tv during the White House Christmas Concert a few months ago. If you're interested, you can click here to see the original version by Casting Crowns.

February 03, 2009

hī' jēn'

Dictionary.com defines "hygiene" as "that department of sanitary science which treats the preservation of health, sp. of households and communities; a system of principles or rules designated for the promotion of health." If you look at the pronunciation guide for the word "hygiene" there is something uncanny about the resembelance to Jeni's name, almost as if she was named for this behavior she has become so particular about.

I say all of this with absolutely no disrespect to Jeni. We are grateful that she is as particular about hygiene as she is. In our family, Jen runs the hygiene department. And in no area is this more so than the dental department. She is the sanitary scientist of our household and the designer of rules designated for the promotion of our gum and enamel's health. Though our teeth brushing routines are pretty good, I had to laugh when I saw the giant toothbrush reminder waiting for us last night. Well done, Jeni!

February 01, 2009

Provo Temple

Yesterday Jeni and I took Maddy to the Provo Temple to do baptisms. It is such a blessing to have a Temple so close, literally 15 minutes away. We've been very fortunate that the different places we've lived have all had a Temple within about an hour or so from our home. There are few moments a parent feels more proud of a child than seeing them walk through Temple doors, worthy and happy to be there. We can't wait until Joey turns 12 later this year so we can go as a family!