October 22, 2009

Lifting Burdens

I am so glad the Church has put together a new series of "Mormon Messages" and is posting them on Youtube and other media outlets. I'll post some of my favorites here from time to time. This one that I saw today was especially meaningful to me.

October 18, 2009

I Stand All Amazed

Soon after Jeni and I began dating just over 15 years ago, I learned that her favorite hymn was "I Stand All Amazed." Since I played the piano and Jeni sang, I put together a hymn arrangement for her and she came up with the vocal portion. I played it today in Sacrament meeting and though Jeni wasn't able to join me with her beautiful singing, it reminded me of how incredibly thankful I am for Heavenly Father's tender mercies in our lives. The Savior has been there for us in our darkest hours and we individually and as family "stand all amazed" at the love He has offered to us all these years.

Though Jeni and I have done several other hymn arrangements since then, there is something special about this one from our first days together and for the sweet inspiration that came as we worked on what has now become a favorite hymn for both of us. Below is me playing the arrangement at home.

October 17, 2009

Peas in a Pod

A few years ago Maddy and her friend Madisen got professional pictures taken together. Here's the link to that post. They've been friends since they were 1. Today they were back at it, this time getting pictures taken from Madisen's aunt who did a great job. Some of our favorites from the shoot are below. (Maddy's favorite is the third one down).

October 10, 2009

Lugano Holiday Entertaining Class

Jeni spoiled me today, letting me go to a "Holiday Entertaining" cooking class at Lugano, one of "America's Top Italian Restaurants" for the last 5 years. The class was taught by Chef Greg Neville, owner and chef who was awarded "Salt Lake top chef" in 2008. There were 13 of us there today for the class and it was an amazing experience. Below are some pictures of the dishes he created for us and gave us recipes for, and then we were able to eat every course when he was done. So delicious!

Black Truffles - Considered by many the "Diamond of a kitchen," the bowl below (which Chef Greg keeps in Arborio rice to prevent spoiling) would cost about $400 as they typically go for anywhere from $200 - $400 per pound, depending on the time of year. At that price, I'll stick with the truffle oil, although the taste of these was amazing. Black truffles are primarily found in France, Spain or Italy and are reminiscent of an earthy, mushroomy taste with a very strong odor. Greg put a little bit in almost every dish.

Caramelized Figs - A fig, cut in half, with some added sugar and then torched. Delicious!

Bourbon Sage Yams - Perfect blend of yams, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, combined with orange peel, garlic, nutmeg, ginger, sage, pecans and brown sugar - bourbon optional.

Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta - This was the only dish I didn't care much for, though it had more to do with a bad brussel sprout experience at daycare 30+ years ago than it did Chef Greg's preparation. This recipe combined brussel sprouts, lemon, garlic, thyme, pancette, chili flakes and bread crumbs.

Shaved, Raw Brussel Sprout Salad - loved this one, even with the brussel sprouts. Probably because their taste was hidden in the Belgium endive, mushrooms, lemons, shaved grana padana, parsley and fennel, all of that mixed with a citrus vinaigrette made with vegetable oil, olive oil, champagne vinegar, lemon, shallot and thyme. I could have eaten the whole plate.

Butterflied Game Hens with "Quick" Stuffing - A wonderful alternative to the traditional turkey and I loved how he prepared the meat as it was marinated in garlic, parsley, thyme, sage, dijon mustard, lemon and olive oil. The stuffing combined onions, apples, croutons, pecans, chicken broth, butter, leeks, celery and parsley. Great combinations.

Rack of Pork "Arista" with Braised Fennel - They way Chef Greg prepared the pork was incredible, cutting around some of the bones to make a great presentation and tying it together with kitchen string. The pork loin was center cut, bone-in and was treated with rosemary, oregano, ginger, chili flakes and salt then studded with some garlic. The fennel was out of this world. I had never had fennel before (Florence Fennel to be exact) and it had a wonderful almost licorice-like flavor. Chef Greg prepared this with garlic, salt, butter and rosemary. This was maybe one of my favorites of the day.

Not pictured - Chef Greg also made us mini appetizers including a brussel sprout leave stuffed with a paste of olive oil, garlic, pancetta, white beans and rosemary, then caramelized onions on top with grana padana and some olive oil. He also made us each an endive leaf with crezencia cheese, pecan, black truffle and olive oil. Wow!

Needless to say, this was an incredible experience and one I hope to have again next year when the classes start up again. As I attempt to make these dishes, I'll put the recipes on here.
Napolean Dynamite Dance

Joey is thinking about being Napolean Dynamite for Halloween this year. He already has all the gear, including the custom "Vote for Pedro" shirt (thanks to Jeni), the sweet moon boots, and his own boondoggle attached to his pants. But the deciding factor? When you have Napolean's dance skills, how could you be anything else? Gosh! Here's Joey below doing his thing.

October 08, 2009

Flat Feet

I hereby proclaim 2009 to be the "Year of Feet" for the Shearer household. Early this year Jeni broke her right foot in 4 places and required surgery and a cast for several months. If you missed that excitement, click here. If you missed the view of the pins and needles, click here. If you missed the amazing way she decorated the cast, click here. If you missed her top 10 reasons why her cast was a blessing in disguise, click here.

Well, it seems that we've now added a new member to our Family Foot Club as Maddy has been diagnosed with "Flat Feet." When I think of flat feet, I think of the picture below.

Maddy's feet don't look anything like this! The color is all wrong and her toes are much cuter. Excuse my ignorance but aren't all our feet flat? What kind of diagnosis is that? I don't know anyone with round feet or square feet or triangular feet. Do you? Of course our feet are flat! Evidently Maddy's feet don't have enough "arch" in them as you can clearly see from the above x-ray. I know, it just pops right out at you - anyone would notice that the first second they look at the x-ray! How could we have been so blind to not have noticed it all these years?!

That being said, because this podiatrist did such a great job with Jeni and because we trust him and because Maddy has been complaining of "flat feet" symptoms, we accepted the diagnosis and the prescription - custom made arch supports. The pictures below are of Maddy getting the molds made. Keep your fingers crossed that these work! Or for that matter, cross your toes as well!

October 06, 2009

2009 Spirit Week

Last week was "Spirit week" at Maddy's Jr. High. On on of the days, she and her friends Kayla and McKenna dressed up as fairies thanks to some amazing wings Jeni put together (see the closeup below). Joey wanted to get in on the action too but couldn't think of what to dress up as. So, he dressed in his pajamas and called himself "Sleeping Beauty."

October 04, 2009

2009 October General Conference

I love General Conference and look forward every 6 months to the Saturday and Sunday sessions. It seems that the leaders of the Church always speak to me individually and address the things I'm trying to work on to be better. Joey and I had a real treat this year as we received tickets from a good friend to the Saturday night Priesthood session. The seats were amazing, 7th row, and the session was excellent. This was Joey's first Priesthood session and it was a memory for both of us as we joined 20,000 other Priesthood holders in attendance. It was quite a sight! The pictures below show the LDS Conference center, the Salt Lake Temple and the view from our seats.