Thursday, February 25, 2010

At Last!

I finally, finally made a recording I like of my harp tune, "Hedgerows and Fences." I wrote it years ago, when I was new to the harp, and when my harp teacher heard me struggling through it the first time she said, "Why do you write such difficult pieces for yourself? You should start with something easier. It's going to take you forever to learn to play that."

She was right. But here's the sweet success:

And then my harp teacher laughed at me and said, "But you're going to be famous someday."

That remains to be seen.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Visit to Hoover Dam

My parents came for a visit last week. On Friday we took them to Hoover Dam. Or maybe they took us, since they paid for the tour tickets.
The tour began with a movie that looked like it had been made in the 1980's. To a triumphant soundtrack, it enumerated all the wonderful benefits of Hoover Dam—cropland protected from seasonal floods, the recreational opportunities at Lake Mead, hydroelectric power. When the film ended and the lights went up I leaned over and muttered in my twelve-year-old son’s ear, “That’s called propaganda.”
“I know. I’ve seen it before.”

We took an elevator five hundred feet down into the canyon wall. Deep underground, water seeped through the porous volcanic rock, leaving sparkling white mineral deposits on the damp walls. Our tour guide led us down a tunnel and under a “Fallout Shelter” sign. Fallout shelter? My science-fiction-writer brain began clicking. Fifty people are on a tour of Hoover Dam’s hydroelectric plant when a nuclear bomb strikes Nellis Air Force Base. Trapped in the fallout shelter five hundred feet below the surface, what will they do? Who will become their leader? Will they open the door for the next tour group even though there’s barely enough room for them as it is? Can they still use the fifty-year-old food and water stored down there during the Cold War? Will any of them leave to find family and friends in spite of the deadly radiation sifting down over the Las Vegas Valley? How will they pass the time for the next two weeks while they wait for the deadly radioactive isotopes to decay? Pictionary, anyone?

I admired the huge water pipes that feed the hydroelectric plant, and the massive spinning turbines in the power house. Then we took the elevator back up to the museum. My favorite part of the day was watching the time-lapse photography of the dam rising up from the canyon floor, like a weird grey fungus climbing the walls. In the museum they have a huge cement bucket like the ones that poured the dam, and a cut-away of an electricity-generating turbine you can walk right through. Wow! I also loved the big star chart in the terrazzo marble tiles surrounding the dedication monument. Maybe some distant future archeologists can decode the English language using that star chart.

The tour guide told us that the dam is expected to last for two-thousand years. At that time it won’t be the cement starting to break down, it will be the silt buildup behind the dam that will be a problem. I wondered what it would be like to come back in two-thousand years and see what is going on. I wonder if they have a plan to deal with it. I guess that doesn’t make sense. By then the technology may be so advanced, there will be ways to solve the problem we haven’t imagined yet. Or else so reversed that there’s nothing we can do.

While we walked along the top of the dam and admired the view down to the roiling river below, my dad told me that my very own great-grandfather had been here during the construction of the dam. Farming wasn’t so good up in Overton in the 1930's, so great-grandfather had come down to Boulder City and opened a dairy to supply the dam workers and their families with milk.


As we drove away, craning our necks to get a last look at the new bridge under construction high over the dam, I felt mighty proud to be a human being. We do things! Big things! I wondered if our nation could get together and do a big project like that now.

I looked up at the new bridge again, and answered yes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


This has never been a happy, bubbly blog covered with cute pictures of kids smeared with frosting and cookie crumbs. I'm sorry my last two posts were depressing. I was practicing my writing, trying to describe exactly how I felt at a particular moment.

Most of the time I feel happy and contented. Really I do.

I took those posts down. This is a public blog, not a personal diary. I'll behave from now on.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

I know this is a little late, but for Valentine's Day I wanted to show everyone how to make Chocolate Raspberry Trifle.

You'll need a few saucepans, two 8 inch round cake pans, and one eight inch round trifle dish.

The Cake:
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp butter

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer for 4 minutes. Add sugar and beat for another 4 minutes. Sift in flour and baking powder, and beat just until combined. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and the butter until the butter melts. Add the milk mixture to the bowl, and beat until combined.

Divide the batter evenly between two greased and floured 8 inch cake pans. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for ten minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans.

The Custard:
3 eggs
3 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
dash of salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine eggs, milk, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture is just about to boil. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips.

The Raspberry Sauce:
1/2 cup raspberry jam
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
1 envelope Knox gelatin
1 12oz package of frozen raspberries

Combine raspberry jam, water, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle Knox gelatin over the mixture and let dissolve for one minute. Heat and stir until steamy but not boiling. Remove from heat and add frozen raspberries.

If you want to CHEAT you can use raspberry jello instead of jam and Knox, but then your trifle will taste like artificial raspberry flavor.

So here is everything ready to assemble the trifle:
Tuck one of the cake layers into the bottom of the trifle dish:
Ladle about half of the raspberry sauce over the cake:
Then about half of the chocolate custard:
Then place the other cake layer on top of that:
And finish off with the rest of the raspberries and then the rest of the custard:
Cover the trifle with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight:
When you're ready to serve it, whip one cup of whipping cream with two tablespoons of sugar. Spread that over the top, and there's your masterpiece:
Tastes as sweet as Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Rebecca's Reviews: Percy Jackson and The Olympians - Lighting Thief

Otherwise entitled "Motivations? Who Needs 'Em?"

First, the good stuff. This film had clever moments. I especially liked "Auntie Em's Roadside Emporium of Atrocious Lawn Art." Always knew there was something creepy about those places. And the Lotus Casino? Marvelous. And I loved the boatman and our visit to the underworld. Basically, this film was Greek Myths redone with snarky teenagers and computer generated monsters. Kind of fun.

On the other hand, I spent most of the film wondering, "Now why are we doing this?"

Percy Jackson doesn't know his absent biological father is really Poseidon. I want to know why not? Why hasn't mom told him? You want some teenager with awesome magical powers wandering around not knowing who he is? Not knowing that there are hydras and harpies and minotaurs lurking about that want to eat him for lunch? I can't see how keeping the poor kid in the dark could possibly be in his best interest.

In order to keep all the monsters off their back, Percy's mom marries a fat, abusive, beer-guzzling slob because, because, now get this, because the man's foul stench keeps the monsters off their trail! Oh really now, there has got to be an easier way! How about dousing Percy in ketchup every morning or something like that instead. A lot less counseling needed later on down the road, I tell you.

Later on, Percy plans to march down into the underworld to rescue his mother with no better plan than explaining to Hades that he doesn't have the ransom Hades is demanding. The daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom and battle strategy, does not say, "You idiot that will never work." No, she says, "I'm coming with you whether you like it or not. I've always wanted to go on an adventure."

Maybe she takes after her dad.

The whole film went on like that, with me scratching my head over the choices the characters were making. I guess you could say this film was plot driven, not character driven. Did I get that right, my writing friends?

In the end, what puzzled me the most was why the Greek Pantheon had spawned so many half-mortal children. It looked like there were at least a hundred of them just between the ages of 14 and 18. It was creepy. I didn't want to think about it too hard. With a premise like that, I'm afraid I can't classify this as a wholesome family film.

The Lightning Thief movie was a toss-up for me. I really enjoyed some of it, really hated the rest of it. Of course it is possible that I only liked the parts I liked because I saw it after ten o'clock at night. My brain was tired, I could tell, because the trailer for the new Cats and Dogs movie actually looked cute. That's never happened before, though I've seen that trailer three other times.

I've got hopes for better kid films to come out later this year. My calendar's marked for "How to Train Your Dragon" in March, and "Toy Story 3" in June. Stop by then for more reviews!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Bro is AWESOME!

Check it out! My extremely awesome brother Jon is featured in the magazine mormonartist. You can read the article here.

You can also scroll down the sidebar to find links to his artist blogs.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Posted Elsewhere

I'm all worn out. I spent the morning driving all around town trying to figure out how I was going to mail 226 sheets of white office paper to New York. Yes, this is a happy problem to have. But it wore me out.

So it is extra lucky that I already have a nice blog post for today ON ANOTHER BLOG. My good friend Beth Revis invited me to guest blog for her today. Go check it out!

My guest post on "writing it out"