Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Must Share Recipe

I went to book group at my mom's house today. We discussed The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz. I'll post a review if anyone is interested. Apparently, it's being made into a movie, The Way Back.

Anyway, the lady who brought our treat brought these...and they were AMAZING.

Blueberry Citrus Bars
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
2-1/4 cups unsifted flour
½ cup finely chopped pecans
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup ReaLemon* Lemon juice from Concentrate
1 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries (I used about 2 cups fresh)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter in medium sized bowl with mixer until fluffy. Add powdered sugar; beat until combined. Beat in 2 cups of the flour. Stir in 1/4 cup of the pecans. Press on bottom of greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 20 minutes or until golden.
2. Meanwhile, for filling, combine eggs, granulated sugar, ReaLemon, baking powder and remaining 1/4 cup flour in large bowl. Beat with mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. (Filling is quite runny.)
3. Sprinkle berries over prepared and partially baked crust. Top with filling and remaining 1/4 cup pecans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes longer or until set and top is lightly golden. Cool.
4. Sift additional powdered sugar over top. Cut into bars. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.
Makes 24 to 36 bars.

Good things:
-Blueberry Citrus Bars
-The Long Walk
-Book Group with my Mom & Aunt

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An interesting article

A friend posted this link on his Facebook account. It is a very interesting article about "Mormon Mommy Bloggers". Thought some of you might be interested. :D

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Inside Joke...

Sorry to those of you who may not get this, but it's much too good an opportunity to pass up.


You may now return to your normal lives. ;)

Oh, and I neglected to add good thing to the end of the last epic length post late last night. I remembered and fixed the oversight. So, even if you've read the whole long post, you may want to go read the bottom of it again.

Good things:

-Friends with whom I can share inside jokes.
-Social networking that allows me to chat with people with whom I would be out of touch without it.
-Audio books.

A long over due update...

If you didn't get a Christmas card from us, it's most certainly NOT because we don't love you. It's because it was an easy thing to let slide during the busyness of Christmas. That, and I just couldn't bring myself to write a family newsletter this year. Things have been so unsettled and circumstances have been changing so rapidly that I didn't know what to say.

However, enough questions have been answered to give you at least a partial (and extremely long winded) update. So here goes.

On the school front...

I think it's worth noting here that RM has been at a terrible disadvantage while working on his Masters degree. He has been unfunded. Most of the other graduate students in the program have been working as Research Assistants on projects for which professors have secured research funds. They have been paid to go to school. RM has been working as a Teaching Assistant in order to get a tuition waiver and paying for the lion's share of the research materials himself. RM has really enjoyed teaching, in fact, it is a big part of the inspiration as to why he'd like to get a PhD: to teach at a university level. However, the responsibilities of teaching have also tended to slow him down along the way. But, you gotta do what you gotta do.

RM walked last May with the expectation that we would finish up his research over the summer and graduate at the end of summer semester. The date we were given as the "drop dead" date for having everything submitted was so close we reluctantly decided to save ourselves summer tuition and finish Fall semester instead. The research hours that were supposed to happen over the summer got sucked up by RM's contracting job, where he was training his replacement. Fall semester came and we set our next goal date of Halloween to have all the research finished and the thesis written. This would have allowed RM to be a Fall 2010 graduate.

A week into the semester, we found out that RM had reached the maximum number of semesters for which the department would waive tuition in exchange for being a TA as a Masters candidate. In order to receive more tuition waivers, RM would have to switch to the PhD track. He could still TA and be paid for his work, but it his tuition wouldn't be covered. Being a TA without the tuition benefit doesn't really pay enough to compensate for the time put in, so we decided to let it drop and make a mad dash to the finish line. We dropped to the bare minimum credits to finish and paid the tuition out of pocket.

RM went to work, putting in long hours and struggling to locate glitches on the robotic wheelchair that is his Masters project. However, life happened. Between writing grant proposals, job interviews, and the birth of a new baby, we missed the Halloween date. Like it or not, we would be Spring 2011 graduates. The next date to shoot for was January 7. It was the last day by which RM could defend his thesis and graduate without having to pay Spring tuition.

RM redoubled his efforts. He put in long day after long day after long day. There were a couple of weeks when he came home between 2am-4am every night. Still he struggled trying to fix physical problems with the chair and errors in the feedback, etc. He finally got a fully functional chair late in the second week of December; not much time to perform tests and get a fully written thesis into the hands of his committee so that I could be reviewed on January 7. But, we were going to try. The morning of December 20, RM got a phone call from his adviser, just before he left town for Christmas break. He had been thinking about RM's project and how much hard work he has put in. His adviser said that he would really hate to see all that hard work unappreciated because of a rushed thesis that didn't give it it's proper due. He advised RM to wait a little longer, put in a few more experiments and make sure he's got a great thesis that will truly reflect all the hard work (pretty much a PhD's worth) that he's put into the project. After a lengthy discussion, RM and I reluctantly (very reluctantly) decided to push the defense date into the next semester, pay one more semester's tuition, make sure the thesis is done well, and enjoy what was left of Christmas break (as we were now about a week into it). (I simply couldn't bear the thought that we'd get all the way to the end to have RM's work rejected because we rushed the thesis writing proper. I think I would have gone postal if that had happened.) Less than 12 hours after we called it, RM became extremely ill. We're not sure if it was because much of the stress had been released or if he would have gotten sick and been unable to continue anyway. In either case and despite his illness, we were able to spend some good time together around the holidays and RM was able to put several hours in at his contracting job to help out on the finances front.

On Christmas Eve, we received the proverbial lump of coal in our stocking. We found out that the grant proposal that was submitted in early September had been rejected. So, at this point, there is no funding for a PhD. And since we have pushed our family and finances to the limit to get to this point, we are, at least for now, done with school and looking for a job just as soon as the Masters degree is officially finished.

Today was the first day of Spring semester and RM was back working on the project. I believe the next target date is early March.

On the job front...

The weekend of Halloween we took a slingshot trip to Idaho for a job interview in Idaho Falls. RM's brother and his family live in McCammon, ID and they graciously put our family up for the night and watched our kids the next day while we continued on to Idaho Falls. In Idaho Falls our good friends, the Jewells, played host to me while RM interviewed. They fed us lunch and dinner and gave me a tour of the city. It was great to visit with them again. RM had a really good interview. I think we both left feeling maybe more interested than we wanted to be. We thought about the job a lot. We prayed a lot. We talked to the kids about the possibility of moving...and they cried. We thought about it more. A job offer finally came in on November 10, just as we were headed out of town for a three day family retreat. (It was supposed to be our victory celebration weekend, but we missed the Halloween deadline). We both wanted the offer to be so good we couldn't turn it down. I think we wanted it to be accompanied by a choir of angels so we would know undeniably that it was "the one". But, it didn't happen that way. It was a very good offer, with a start date in January, but not what we hoped it would be. In fact, the more we looked at things the more the offer just felt "almost perfect but not quite". We discussed, we thought, we prayed. We asked for an extension to consider the offer more. In the end, we decided to let the offer go. We tried and tried to make it work for us, but the timing and relocation, etc. were just wrong. It wasn't until after we made the official call to turn it down that the peace came. It was the right decision. The really good news there is that we are still on very good terms with the owner. RM spoke with the owner's son recently and he let us know that his dad meant it when he said to call him if our circumstances changed. Who knows, maybe this offer was just wrong because we weren't going to be done with the Masters degree in time. We'll have to see how things go.

While we were in Idaho, RM got a call from a company in Lehi. They did an impromptu telephone interview and set up an additional two-day interview (the "About Us" wine & dine dinner and on site tour/interviews the next day). RM was really interested in what the company did and the interviews went well, but we were not excited about the shifts they offered (3 twelve hour days on, 4 off, 4 on, 3 off and 4 months day shift, 4 months night shift). I'm pretty sure they sensed our hesitancy during the interviews because a position was not offered.

We also didn't make the cuts for a job in Clearfield. (Shoot! It would have been great to move near my BFF!) That one went to someone RM knows from school. We also missed out on a what seemed like a perfect job about 15 minutes from home. The phone interview went very well, but we did ask how long they thought the interview process for the position would take, as we had the offer from Idaho in hand. I think it's possible we were removed from consideration just to free us up for the other offer. Oh well. Live and learn. That one was really disappointing though.

What was perhaps the most frustrating situation, however, came from the position in Flagstaff/Phoenix. Just a little background information, so you can understand the rest a bit better. RM interviewed with multiple people from this company over the course of a few hours. One of the interviewers gave RM a scenario outlining what they needed done and asked him to design a machine/process for doing it on the fly. I don't know exactly how long it took RM to do it, but he did come up with a design in not a lot of time. The interviewer asked him if he could see any problems with his design. At the exact moment, he couldn't. But, by the end of the day he had not only found the flaw in the design, but designed a new machine that would eliminate the problems with the first design.

In late November, RM received a call from the engineer he had created the design for. They discussed the design RM had made, it's flaws and how RM had figured it out and fixed it. The interviewer had already known that RM would do just that. He said that RM was one of the most gifted design engineers he had ever met. The design RM had put together on the fly had taken his team six months to design, build and reject for its flaws. Ultimately they figured out a design very close to RMs solution, but again, it had taken them months in the process. He told RM that he had been all the interviewers' favorite candidate in terms of being personable (engineers are not known for being people people and those of you who know RM personally know that he is definitely a people person) and able to express himself.  In short, he was extremely impressed with RM, but he wasn't calling to offer him the job. He told RM that he was calling without the knowledge of the HR department to tell him the news personally because he just couldn't stand the thought of RM getting a generic "thank you, but no" email or letter. He explained that while RM was a brilliant design engineer, the position that they were hiring for was a process engineer and he truly felt in his heart that RM would be miserable as a process engineer. He said he just couldn't stand the thought of RM being miserable in a job. He had scoured the whole of the company looking for an open design position to no avail. He kept a copy of RM's resume for himself and forwarded the original back to HR with a note saying that if they have any design positions open up, they should put RM first on the contact list. Now, neither one of us were super hot on the idea of moving to Arizona. But, it's very flattering and disheartening to be told that you are our "favorite candidate" and "we're not hiring you" all in the same conversation. It really, really smarts. Oh yeah, I should probably mention that RM got this phone call just a few minutes before we called Idaho to let them know we weren't coming. :P

So, basically, all the resumes that went out in our initial round of applications have reached dead ends, except one.

On January 20, RM flies to Saginaw, MI to interview with a company there. They'll do interviews, etc. on January 21 and fly him back home that afternoon. RM was recommended to this company by one of his professors. This professor's graduate adviser is now working for the company in Michigan and asked the professor for the names of students with a specific set of skills. RM was one of two candidates recommended. Neither of us is sure how we feel about relocating somewhere so far away from our family. But, I guess if it's the right thing, it's the right thing. We just have to trust that the Lord will let us know and show us the way.

So, if you've actually managed to read through this monster entry that has taken me days to compose, give me a little shout out so I know it was worth my time. ;)

Good things:
-Finishing an epic blog post.
-People who care enough about us to ask for epic updates.
-Knowing that the Lord is watching out for us.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Finally, a Favorite Photo Friday

I'm way overdue to post one of these. We were cleaning our room yesterday and I found this one. LOVE IT! It's from our trip to Lagoon this past August.

I know many of you are eager for an update and our school/work situation. I have been working on an epic update post for the last couple of days. I'll post it as soon as I get it finished.

Good things:
-Cramming six bodies (one of which is extremely pregnant) into a photo booth.
-A working printer/scanner!! (I've got to post that story here.)
-Christmas pants that are becoming too loose.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Don't Play Cards With This One

Bob got a new Lego game, Wild Wool,  for Christmas. We played it tonight for the first time. The rules are simple and it's quite entertaining. Not as entertaining, however, as watching 'Lashes play the game. 'Lashes was RM's partner (since it's only a 4 player game) and the one in charge of rolling the die. With an absolute poker face the little guy would "shake" the die in his hands while flipping it with his thumbs until the side he wanted to display was on top. It was the x2 side, which looks completely different from the other sides and allows you to take double the wool. Then he'd carefully "roll" it onto the table by dropping it, caged in his fingers, chosen side up. Then he'd celebrate rolling what he wanted to get with the most innocent smile and exclamation of "yay!" He didn't like it when we told him he was cheating. ;)

Oh man. I think we're in for it with one. His Aunt Kate would be proud.

Good things:
-Family time.
-'Lashes' smile.

An inquiry or two.

A conversation a few nights ago...

Bob: Daddy what happens when you hold up your middle toe?

Renaissance Man: You mean like when you're flipping somebody off?

Bob: Yeah.

Renaissance Man: I don't think it works the same with your feet as with your hands.

A conversation from Sunday afternoon. (I really wish you could have heard this one. It makes more sense when you hear him speak this with his cute little five year old speech.)

Bob: Daddy, is hell the H word?

Renaissance Man: Yes, hell is the H word.

Bob: Then what about the stuff that falls out of the sky?

Renaissance Man: You mean the little ice balls that fall out of the sky?

Bob: Yes.

Renaissance Man: You mean hail?

Bob: Yeah, it's the same thing, right? Do we get in trouble when we say that?

Good things:

-Smart, inquisitive children.
-Open communication with my kids.
-Bob. :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

It's a bad sign...

I think it's a bad sign that your year didn't go quite the way you had planned when you look at your spouse and ask, "What was the word I picked for a goal word last year?" Even worse, not remembering until the moment you asked that you had even picked a one word goal for the year. For any of you that might be interested, you can read about the word better here. I wish I had read and reread that post myself...frequently. Oh well.

How to describe 2010? Challenging? Eventful? Emotional? Stressful? There was certainly plenty of stress to go around. But, what I really want (and need) to focus on is just how blessed we were in 2010.

Just a few of the blessings (in no particular order) of 2010 include SunshineBoy's baptism as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,  the addition of a beautiful, healthy baby boy to our family, coming through a car wreck, while pregnant, with only very minor injuries, and fun family vacations to Omaha and Posey Lake.

I think even more important to remember than the big blessings were the myriad of smaller, ongoing (and maybe more significant in their own way) blessings we had on a daily basis. We were always able to pay our mortgage and bills and we always had food to eat. We have incredibly supportive parents, extended family, and friends. We have the opportunity to get educations. We have no major health issues. We have reliable transportation and a safe, comfortable home. And I could go on and on, which in and of itself is a blessing.

Looking back at the old year, I'm not sure I did a very good job at being better at very many things. I pray that, at least, I didn't get worse at anything. I hope that I can remember that even if I wasn't better, I was blessed.

Which, I think, brings me to me my word for 2011.


I hope and pray that if I make a greater effort to recognize and acknowledge the hand of the Lord in my life on a daily basis, I will naturally become a better, more Christ-like person in 2011.

I have a friend whose blog I have been reading over the past year or so. During that time I have come to admire her even more deeply than I did before. In an effort to remind myself to be more GRATEFUL in 2011, I'm going to blatantly steal a feature from her blog. ;) I hope you enjoy the new addition here as much as I have enjoyed reading it on her blog.

Good things:
--The gospel of Jesus Christ
--My wonderful husband, kids, and extended family
--The opportunity to think about the year past and plan for the year ahead.


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