Thursday, November 27, 2008

Experiment: Mom's Rolls

So, one of the great things about Thanksgiving when we were growing up was that Mom would make the family roll recipe. We could never get enough. I think she made at least 4 dozen every year, and we were lucky to have leftovers for a few days after. They never lasted a week. She would make about 2/3 of them into standard dinner rolls, but the rest she would make into cinnamon knots. Mmm...

I don't know if she still makes them every year, but whenever she has a child home for Thanksgiving, or sometimes even Christmas or Easter, if we're lucky, she will make a big double batch.

Now, Rebecca's family doesn't really do home-made anything. So, if I want something home-made, it's up to me. Alas, I rarely have time for much of anything, so I depend heavily on mixes and pre-made stuff. For instance, I had recently purchased a loaf of frozen bread dough to keep on hand for when I decided it would be nice to have some freshly baked bread. On the back of the package it mentioned it could be used to make pizza crust or... rolls.

So, I'm trying an experiment. I have used the store-bought dough, but have used my mom's techniques in assembling the rolls. They are currently sitting out to rise.

If they produce anything comparable to Mom's Rolls, I will consider it a great success, as the time investment was about 30 minutes of prep. I will let you know how they turn out!

Experiment Results:
'Unbiased' opinion results indicate a strong success. These taste-testers have not been previously biased by tasting Mom's Rolls.

Biased (my) opinion results conclude that they are a very good option if you want Mom's Rolls, but don't have the time. They did not turn out as soft or flaky, and were obviously not Mom's Rolls. But they were still tasty. :-)

Friday, September 26, 2008


For those of you who don't know already, we have a new bundle of joy, Theodore (aka 'Our Potato'). We have set up his own blog at

(I figured out how to get blogger to post the blog directly to our web site, so I may end up moving this blog there at some point, too...)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why "Member Missionary Work" Fails

As members of the LDS Church, we are frequently encouraged to be more actively engaged in "member missionary work." Interestingly, although "member referrals" are the largest source of converts for the church (yes, the church does track this - rather carefully, actually), and we have one of the largest missionary populations of any religion, we, as members, are still not very good at being missionaries in our daily lives.

The problem IMHO, it that there is a perceived conflict of interests between being a friend to someone and trying to proselytize to them. It is very difficult to, say, ask a friend if they want to listen to missionaries from the church without it coming off a little weird or forced. Depending on the relationship, some people might even take offense. Obviously, we want to avoid offending or even sounding weird to our friends. However, without such an invitation, a friend is not likely to ask if you wouldn't mind sending missionaries over to their house.

The church leaders have recognized this issue, and for many years have focused on encouraging members to 'prepare' your friends to hear the gospel. This is, exactly what needs to happen. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to determine what you need to do to 'prepare' your friends for this type of thing. So, naturally, the church (as it has done with many other things) has prepared a curriculum, of sorts: a list of things you can do to prepare someone to hear the gospel, one of these tools is known as the 'set a date' program.

The merits of 'set a date' program and other lists of suggestions aside, I have never known this type of planned approach to be successful except anecdotally. The reason is because it does not address the issue BEHIND the perceived conflict of interest.

What is that issue, you ask? It is that it is extremely difficult to integrate a perceived 'normal' external appearance with our beliefs as members of the church. Our beliefs just don't 'fit in' to the regular hubbub of modern society - especially when you are speaking to people who are not members of the church.

I'm not talking about devotion or balance or anything about how we live as active members of the church. Most of us are very good at being religious in that sense. It's more about how we integrate the gospel into the fabric of our inter-personal relationships, about making our beliefs known to others, not because of any agenda we have to 'be an example' or 'share the gospel', but because it is an important part of who we are.

I started to recognize when I was in college, that I didn't really have any really close friends. Most of my friends were of other religions or no religion at all, and I did not have any daily contact with any other members. I realized that part of the reason I did not have any close friends was that because the gospel was such an important part of my life and my identity, and I treated it as something 'special' to be shared only in certain circumstances, that nobody really understood me well enough to be a truly close friend.

As I realized this, I made steps to correct it. It's not like I had been hiding my religious beliefs before. On the contrary, I would gladly talk to people about the church, and even made a lot of effort to give away a number of Books of Mormon. However, I started to approach my sharing of my beliefs not as a duty or as a missionary tool, but as a way to help people get to know me, and as a way to try to relate to the world and the beliefs of others.

By the end of my college years I had gained two very close friends. Both are not Mormon to this day. However, I was able to talk openly about the church with both of them and invited them to do a number of things that they would not have been likely to do otherwise, and which did not affect our relationship negatively in any way. On the contrary, it is because I was "spiritually intimate" (for lack of a better phrase) with them that we became so close. Inviting them to church or to read the Book of Mormon was just another part of our relationship.

Now, I'm not saying that we need to become best friends with people before we can invite them to listen to the missionaries or to church. What I'm saying is that if you create your relationships from the beginning on a foundation of openness about your own beliefs, it is much easier to open your mouth, when you suddenly feel prompted to say, "you know, I think you might enjoy coming to [such-and-such activity] with me," or "this reminds me of a scripture from the Book of Mormon where..." or "why don't you come to church with me Sunday?"

I often think of gospel parallels and insights when speaking to others that I often ignore. Even when speaking with other members, there is a tendency to filter out anything that might not be in-line with standard doctrine. It is important for all of us to learn to communicate openly about all of our beliefs. Often we have similar questions to those around us, and someone may be able to help us work out answers to those questions, or we can help someone through our insights. However, if we do not open our mouths and say what we think, feel and believe, we isolate ourselves a little more from those around us.

It's really more about being comfortable being a 'peculiar people.' We need to embrace our beliefs and have the courage to be a lone voice for anything we believe to be true.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Nirvana is Overrated

Nirvana is supposedly the ultimate state of peace achieved by extinguishing all ones desires and passions.

I find that I am happiest and feel most fulfilled when I have worthwhile goals and projects that I am working on - things that I feel a passion for. There are a lot of little things, but lately, I've been able to work on preparing myself for a 'project' that I have wanted to do for a very long time - being a father.

I have never wanted to do anything as much as I have wanted to be a father. I can hardly express how excited I am. I know that there will be a lot of work and difficult challenges to deal with, but I'm looking forward to it all.

In a lot of ways I feel like I have been in a bit of a holding pattern for a few years, waiting for this part of my life to begin. I don't think I'm quite ready as far as the accumulation of the gear and other stuff goes. But I'm not really worried about that stuff. That's easy to fix.

I am looking forward to September (the due date - I know, it's just an estimate). I think it will be the best part of my life. Certainly not Nirvana - it'll be much better.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Joys of Telecommuting

I telecommute. I live in Massachusetts and work for a company based in Philadelphia. I actually started working for them when we lived there, and when I told them I was going to be moving they said they would allow me to work from home.

I LOVE working from home. I'm actually one of those people that gets more work done from home than I did when I went into the office. Far fewer distractions. One of the best things about working from home is that "home" can be anywhere. Last week I went to Pittsburgh with Rebecca, and didn't have to take any time off work. I worked from the hotel, then went out and explored Pittsburgh in the evenings and on the weekend.

Actually, the trip to Pittsburgh was doubly enjoyable because it was a business trip for Rebecca - she was attending a conference - and so most of our expenses were covered. We paid for my airfare, my food, and any additional shopping.

By the way, Pittsburgh is a beautiful city. It was clean, the people were friendly, and the weather cooperated nicely. For some reason, I had imagined it would be dirty and run down - maybe it's because I associated it with an ailing steel industry - it was not at all what I expected.

Back to telecommuting - one of the other things that I like about it is that I get to see Rebecca on the days that she doesn't have to go in to teach. We often get to have lunch together and chat during the day.

$3.78/gal for regular unleaded. 'Nuff said.

And then there's the time I gain from not having to spend it commuting.

And finally, there's the fact that we think we will be able to get away without having to get daycare for the potato next year, despite both of us having full-time jobs.

I LOVE telecommuting!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

High Maintenance

I love my wife dearly, but I am not blinded by that love. I recognize that she is "high maintenance." I probably indulge her a little too much. However, with her pregnancy, she has reached another level.

She has been getting very specific cravings: home made smoothies, grilled cheese sandwiches, plain chocolate shakes from Ben & Jerry's, etc.

Last week, as I was preparing for my business trip to Philadelphia, she said, "I have a ridiculous request." It was late at night, and I thought she might want another Ben & Jerry's shake. But no, she had just read my sister's post about water ice and decided she wanted Philadelphia style water ice.

We discussed whether it would even be possible to transport water ice from Philly to Boston via a 6 hour car ride, and eventually decided that it would probably work reasonably well if we put some ice packs in a cooler. So, I took those things with me to Philly.

Unfortunately, I didn't plan very well, and at quarter of ten the night before I planned to leave in the morning, I was reminded that the water ice stands would not be open until later in the day. I rushed out in hopes that they closed at 10 or later, but on Tuesdays, they closed at 9. Foiled!

However, I heard that there were a few water ice stands in Connecticut. I looked online, and found a stand just off an exit that was right on my way home!

So, Rebecca got her water ice. And it even stayed nearly completely frozen thanks to the ice packs.

As I started writing this, Becca asked, "Why do you like making me happy so much?" My response was, "Should I not?"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Our Potato

Earlier on in Rebecca's pregnancy, all she wanted to eat was potatoes. So, I started referring to the baby-to-be as 'the Potato'.

So, here is one of the ultrasound pics of the Potato.

We also found out the baby's sex (or at least an 85% chance of the sex) - we will be having a boy! Which means we will never have to buy clothes, because a good friend of Rebecca's just had TRIPLET boys a year or so ago. However, it does mean that choosing a name will be slightly more difficult. We do not want anything plain like 'John,' or overly popular like 'Ethan' has been for the past couple of years. So, we have some thinking to do...

(We are in no way fishing for gifts here, as we are sure this baby will be well spoiled by the people that have already insisted upon getting things for him, but if you insist, Rebecca wanted me to say that we are not interested in overly gendered things, and plan to have many different colors besides blue. I would also add that we will very happily take used items. Reduce - Reuse - Recycle!)

Sunday, April 13, 2008


I have another blog that I use to voice my political & social views. I think I need another (this one) to share my personal stories - I guess we'll see how much I 'need' it by how much I use it. :-)

I am happy. Not in a giddy, always smiling, outgoing kind of way, but rather in a quiet, deep, persistent kind of way. I love my life. I am married to an incredible woman, we have jobs that allow us to see a lot of each other, and we're going to have a baby in September. I could be happy with much less, and I have so much more.

Sure, work can be stressful, we always have several unfinished projects, there are a few more bills than we would like, and we sometimes have to deal with difficult people - but that's just life. That doesn't affect the kind of happiness I have.

My wife, Rebecca, and I