Saturday, November 28, 2009

Experiments in Bulk Pie Making

Janine has an old mission companion in town, Cori, from California. Because she is here for American Thanksgiving, and our family missed the Canadian version, as well as the fact that we will be away for Christmas, we decided to do a full turkey dinner in honour of this American holiday. To make it more worth our while, we invited the missionaries both from our ward and our parents, as all four of them are also American.

Given that my parents had cheated me out of the pie extravaganza I was planning on October, I took full advantage of this chance. Last week, I artfully approached my father about how many pies I was allowed to make. The answer was, "As many as you want." Perfect. Now I had an excuse for my mother.

As I talked about my plans, people began making suggestions. Peter was adamant I make a lemon meringue, Cori asked for pecan, and I had a desire to try a lattice-top, as well of some kind of chilled pie I had never made before. On Thursday, when I made final decisions before hitting Superstore, I had six varieties on the menu; apple, pumpkin, pecan, cherry, lemon meringue, and strawberry chiffon.

Friday afternoon, I got to work. I figured my best plan would be to make a double recipe of crust and then make fillings as I rolled them out. I made that crust with great ease, chatting on the phone to Kylie. Then I began rolling out.

The thing about pie crust is it is not a simple recipe you can follow like cake, where there is a mathematical formula you can follow to make it turn out perfect. Pie crust is all about feeling, and guessing for yourself when it's just right. Pie crust, is an art form.

After the seventh failed pie crust I rolled out, I was about in tears. I'd already been in the kitchen for two hours and I didn't have a single pie completed. In my frustration, I called my mother and she suggested adding cold water, as we live in such an insufferably dry climate.

It worked like a charm. I was soon rolling out pie crust after pie crust and whipping out fillings like it was nothing. The lattice-top was simple. Then my family started coming home.

All right, don't get me wrong. I was happy to see them. But it seemed like everyone had a problem that I got entangled in, while simultaneously trying to make my pies. Mom was going to Theatre Calgary with some women from her Relief Society, Dad had to drive them in a blizzard, and people were late. Janine and Cori had driven to Lethbridge to visit another missionary, and for some reason, they could not dial his number, nor could he get a hold of them, for some unknown reason. Guess who was relaying messages back and forth? That mystery was solved when we learned that Elder Olsen had the wrong number, and it only took 40 minutes for us to solve that brain teaser.

After Mom and Dad were off, the Relief Society ladies had all been rescued from the sides of the roads, and Janine and Cori had found their way, I was exhausted. I'd been in the kitchen for five hours, and was just beginning the apple filling.

I began at 2 o'clock. It was almost nine when, after successfully making my Grandma's lemon pudding, I began my last pie, the strawberry chiffon. I had decided at the beginning that I would finish with the strawberry because it sounded the simplest. Then, I took a good look at the recipe.

Apparently after I had crushed the strawberries, whipped the cream, and put it all together, I still had to let it chill in the fridge for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. I cursed myself for not reading this earlier. I had envisioned setting out all my gorgeous pies on the table that evening to be admired and then going no where near the kitchen, not coming back every few minutes to stir some berries and cream.

Somehow, I persevered. I got the cleaning up done between stirring sessions, as well as took each pie out of the oven as it finished. Perhaps that whole staying in the kitchen thing was a good idea after all.

By 10 pm, it was all over. Six pies decorated the counter, and the strawberry was chilling. Again. The counters were cleared and wiped, the floor was no longer coated with flour, and I was flopped down on the couch with a book. Eight whole hours I had been in the kitchen. Seven pies were ready to go for Thanksgiving the next day. My back ached, my feet were tired, these pies had better the best dessert we'd ever eaten.

They may not have been, but I thought the were pretty close. I wish I'd taken a picture of them, but by the time the strawberry chiffon finished chilling, I was running around helping with dinner. My family was clever enough to keep any comments that may have been less then flattering to themselves. The elders particularly liked the strawberry chiffon, and I got to show off my handiwork to anyone who passed through our house for the next few days.

This is a very exciting day. Today I live up to the title Kylie bestowed on me in the eleventh grade. Today, I really am the Queen of the Pie Realm.

Now for next year's Thanksgiving . . .

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Last Standing Sunbeam

Today I had a long talk over the phone with one of my best friends, Chloe. Last week, when Janine and I were driving home from Utah, she called and told me that her boyfriend Matt had proposed, and she said yes.

I was not totally surprised, but very excited. Our conversation was brief, as Chloe's family was over, and since then we've been playing telephone tag to really catch up. Today we finally got in touch with more than each other's voicemail, and she related the whole story. Matt's proposal was sweet, and suited Chloe to a tee. She's now embarking on a journey of frenzied wedding preparations that I hope I can help with.

This past week has left me plenty of time to reminisce and reflect about what this means for our friendship. Chloe and I have not only been friends our whole lives, we are two parts of a trio, the first member of which got married in summer 2008. That's us at the top of the page; Chloe, me, and Kylie. The pictures a little old, we took it on the last day before we began embarking our separate lives in college. I remember we were a little teary eyed that day. We knew it was the end of our close friendship as we knew it. From then on we'd all be living more separate lives. Chloe's engagement signifies the next step in our increasingly spread out trio. We were still getting used to having one boy tag along, but two? I've become the minority as the single girl, and it's making me feel nostalgic.

So forgive me if this post seems long winded and pointless. I'm in a reminiscent frame of mind.

Chloe, Kylie and I met in the winter of 1988. Actually, the other two may have met before, but that's when I was born, so that was really when the trio started. Our families were all in the same ward or church congregation, so I'm guessing our introduction may have gone something like this:

Chloe's mom: Karyn, I see you've had a little girl.
My mom: Yes, isn't she cute? She has red hair.
Kylie's mom: Wow, my baby girl has red hair too. Though yours is a prettier red (sorry Kylie, I had to)
Chloe's mom: Just think, all our little girls were born in the same year. They'll be in the same primary class growing up.
My mom: How nice.

Of course that is less then accurate. All I know for sure is as far back as I remember, Kylie, Chloe, and I have been friends. And we were all born in the same ward. However, out of all the friends I've had through my life, people have come and gone, and some stay in touch and some don't. But the only friends that are not related me I've kept constant since I was born are these two.

We were in the same Sunbeam class, and occasionally refer to ourselves affectionately as the Sunbeams of 1990. I hope we have the year right on that, we were 3. We grew up together in 8th ward, and lots of other kids came and went in that time. Some of them we even liked better then each other, but there was always us three, and by the time we were twelve, we were the only three our age. Our poor primary teachers at that stage. I don't think we ever shut up.

I remember almost every Sunday we'd beg our parents to let us go to one of the other's house to play. On the times when they let us we'd always have wild adventures. We went through the Barbie phase, Beanie Baby phase, and several other 90s trends together. Our favourite games though were when we played house in the playhouse in my backyard. That or the trampoline.

By the time we were in jr. high the obvious differences in our personalities were obvious. That plus the fact we went to three separate schools led us to form our main groups of friends separately. But still, all three of us hung out together. Interestingly enough, we all went to the same high school, yet that was where our separation really began.

When we were about 16 or 17, the boundaries of our stake changed, and Chloe's family was switched out of our ward. A few months later my family moved to a new development and a new ward. The day we realized we were no longer going to be together the way we always had, we were very dramatic. We cried, hugged, and insitsed to our parents that we must get together that afternoon for one last hurray.

Oh to be 16 again.

We didn't do anything that momentous. Except watch Gidget Goes Hawaii, which always send us into peals of laughter and reminds us of the so called "good old days." And that was the beginning of the change.

High school was also when we started our annual ski trips. Our tradition began with the memory of a Young Women's ski trip we'd taken when we were younger. Chloe and I were both experienced skiers and went zooming down different mountains. Kylie on the other hand, took half a day to get down the bunny hill with my dad teaching her how to turn. Oddly enough after that experience, Kylie still loved the sport, and wanted to go again. My family invited her to come along once, and Chloe was invited to. She couldn't make it, but had a brilliant idea instead.

We were all grown-up to a mature age of 17. We could drive, or at least she could. Why didn't we go just the three of us? And so a tradition began. We try to take one day to go every year. It's harder now that we actually have expenses, but we have had some great times. I even remember one year where we drove to Kimberley and stayed over night. We built memories of all snow blading together (which is better by the way), the hockey team in Kimberley, Chloe throwing snowballs at the boys she thought were cute, and Kylie ramming her head into a tree. Good times.

The summer the pair of them left for university left us all feeling nostalgic. I was a grade behind them, so I was staying behind in high school while they ran off to the "real grown-up life." Kylie went to Lethbridge, and Chloe ran away to Virginia. The last time we got together, we went to the zoo, took the above picture, and cried. We are very dramatic sometimes.

That was the beginning of our separate lives. We'd always had lives outside the group, but this was really different. We were living in different cities, we only stayed in touch through facebook and when we'd get together during the holidays.

One night when I was in my first year of university, Kylie gave me THE CALL. If you haven't guessed what that is, refer to the beginning of the blog. I didn't even know she was dating anyone so I was considerably more surprised then when Chloe called.

The day after THE CALL, Chloe phoned me at school. She was then in Ontario going to dental hygiene school and we spent an hour on the phone crying and wondering what was going on. My cell phone bill that month was not fun.

I admit we were a little skeptical of Brendan, this boy who'd swooped in and was stealing the heart of our beloved Kylie, but thankfully we found him to be quite respectable and pulled our act together enough to host Kylie's bridal shower.

And suddenly we had this new person in our midst. His name was Brendan and he was attached to Kylie's arm. He was funny and just the right amount of quirky to suit our Kylie. We liked him in spite of our own selfish desires to keep her to ourselves.

And now we have come full circle and here we are again. Only this time, it is Kylie and I speculating to the side. Also this time, the news is less shocking and mournful, as 50% of the spectators are married, and want everyone else to join them in that life. When I make THE CALL, no one will cry, they'll be relieved I'm finally catching up.

I spoke to Kylie last week about Chloe's marriage, and this Matt character we will soon have to welcome into our expanding trio (note: it is still a trio. Husbands only serve as add-ons. They are not fully functioning members of Sunbeams 1990). We both like him, but we couldn't help talking about "the old days" when we were all single and confused. Then Kylie posed the question I knew she'd ask.

"Elena, are you interested in anyone right now? Anyone I should know about?"

Typical. One person takes the plunge and we all need to dive into matrimony. Still, I appreciate her question. Since Kylie's engagement when we thought she was single, we've gotten better at communicating these facts. The answer was no, for those curious relatives reading this page, but I assured my friend, when there was news, she would be among the first to know.

So here's to my fellow Sunbeams; Kylie, Chloe, and tag-alongs Brendan and Matt. A new chapter in our friendship is beginning when marriage is the norm and I get to play the role of the crazy single friend. It's been a fun ride so far, hasn't it?

PS - House of Laughs. What's your problem?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Preferred Date

Preference was this past Friday. FYI - Preference is the Mormon YSA dance where the girls ask the guys. It is a long standing tradition in the Redd family that the Redd girls DO NOT miss the Preference dance for a pathetic excuse such as they have no one to go with. It's always been accepted that you ask someone. At least you do, if you are not me last year. Clearly I am the black sheep of the family.

But this year the campaign started earlier (and the dance was not on Halloween), so I went. Janine, Jessica and I made plans to make the evening a triple date. This meant one minor (possibly major) stumbling block; we all had to find dates.

Jessica moved the quickest, she got her date first. Neen was second. The Sunday night she announced her date I was still debating who I should ask. Knowing I had to move fast, I made the necessary arrangements.

Now here is something you should know about dating in the land of young Mormons, at least when it comes to formal dances. The simple phone call, or even face to face asking is rarely acceptable. Invites must be creative, as must the answers. Some people go way over the top, planning long and involved scavenger hunts or just getting way too intense about the invite alone. This can prove awkward if your invitee has already been asked, which is why Jessica just asked her date, Ben the traditional way of actually speaking to him.

I pondered that, but I still kind of like the creative way, as silly as it can be sometimes. One thing that I find about asking creatively is that fear of rejection can be reduced as you do not have to talk to your proposed date face to face. But don't worry Mom, that's not the only reason I did what I did.

I decided to keep it relatively simple, and play to my strengths, so naturally I made a pie. Trying to keep things slightly mysterious, I did not make it immediately obvious who I was. The question mark helped with this theme, and the pie was made in a glass pan with my name taped face up to the bottom so my date could not uncover my name until he'd eaten my sugary dessert. Or until he cheated and pulled off the tape. I never asked him which one he did.

The night I "asked" him my mom and I drove out to his house. He lives near Cochrane, so it was a bit of a drive. More so because we got lost. My plan was to ring the doorbell and then run away before he opened the door. This plan became difficult when I saw his house; he lives in the middle of no where, he'd see me running all the way back to Calgary.

Mom came up with the clever plan of parking in at the neighbours house and running across his lawn. It sort of worked, and luckily we didn't have to explain to the neighbours why we were trespassing.

I went home confident. I had already learned through the ward grapevine (also known as our executive secretary) that he had not been asked as of a few days ago, and the fact that I was enticing him with free dessert solidified my opinion that he would say yes.

I just realized I've yet to mention who "he" is. His name is McKay. I met him on a ward temple trip this summer. He served his mission in Argentina and just got back a little less than a year ago. He said yes, and did so in perhaps the best way I have ever seen.

The next night my phone rang. When I answered a mysterious voice that sounded surprisingly like McKay (or so my caller ID told me) suggested I go outside, as there was something on my doorstep. I went out to find a large box wrapped in red paper. A silver car was just driving away.

I took the box into the kitchen, where I discovered the bear pictured below, courtesy of Build-A-Bear. In his hand is a recording that says:

"Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
That pie was great,
And yes, I'll go with you."

What a great present/response. As my friend Kylie said when I told her, the Preference bear is a great keepsake, when the rest of my life is in shambles, he will always say yes to me.

Okay, now fast forward to this Friday, the day of. Janine, Jessica and I had chosen to do our date at our house because it was a) cheaper and b) allowed our parents to meet our dates as they casually passed through. The plan was simple; come here, make pizzas, play games, decorate cupcakes. Easy and uncomplicated.

Or not.

We met up on Thursday to do the precooking and plan. We were now being joined by another girl, Kristine, and her date. Janine was running around doing homework, so Jessica and I took the reigns on grocery shopping and baking before we all sat to coordinate. It was here that we discovered something very interesting. The next day, while Janine would be at school and working on a project she was rather stressed about, and Jessica would be at work teaching her four separate preschool classes, I had the day off. So when we discussed who would clean the house, prepare the pizza crust and toppings, get the games ready and make a few colours of icing, guess who was assigned? ME!

By the next afternoon I was thinking longingly of my first Preference, where Colleen and I had taken our dates out to dinner and then to the dance. I was also vowing never ever to host Preference at home ever again. My day had been spent making icing, slicing pepperoni at the same time as figure out my parents meat slicer without losing my thumb in the experimentation, bake pizza crusts that refused to rise, and somehow look cute by 6 pm. Disaster. 

Lucky for me, I have a mom and dad who stepped in and pretty much managed the chaos, as well as a sister who had arrived in town for the weekend and was far enough removed from the single life to consider helping out a novelty. I also got my hair done by a girl in my parents ward, who made it look super cute.

Date time rolled around, and things got under way. Janine had to pick up her date at the airport, so they missed half of it. Kristine and hers were late, but Jessica, Ben, McKay and I ate on schedule. Once everyone arrived we played a few games, the favourite of which was a story game where we sit in a circle with pieces of paper. One person writes the name of a guy in the group at the top of the page, turns it over, and passes it to the next person. That person writes the name of a girl, and passes. You continue passing and turning over the paper adding in this order; a setting, what he said, what she said, and an ending. Then we unrolled them all and read them aloud. Here are some of my favourites.

Cody and Kristine were standing knee deep in a mud hole, when Cody turned to Kristine and said, "I bet I can skip this rock 10 times." Kristine said "Ouch!" and they skipped merrily on their way.

Ben and Kristine were under a park bench, when Ben turned to Kristine and said, "I think I would rather stab myself in the eye with a fork." And Kristine said, "I'm a 10 cow wife." And they were eaten by a flock of moose.

Robin and Jessica were in the Alps when Robin turned to Jessica and said, "You're on fire!" But Jessica just said, "That's okay, I keep spare change in my sock." So they adopted a cactus and rejoiced.

Cody and Elena were standing outside the Salt Lake Temple when Cody turned to Elena and said, "I just want you to know, though your eyes are two different sizes, I love you anyways." She looked at him and said, "Shh! We have to be quiet, or they'll catch us." So they wandered the desert, looking for any sign of civilization."

We played this game way longer then we planned before dessert, where we decorated cupcakes for our dates. McKay made a beautiful flower on mine and sprinkled butterfly sprinkles on it to complete the effect, but just before we took the picture at the top showing off our cupcake artistry, I tilted my plate toward the camera and nearly lost my cupcake on the floor. I managed to save my mothers carpet, but not the cupcake. Thankfully McKay recorded it's glory with his camera phone, and it still tasted delicious.

In the end, we were only at the dance for about an hour, but I thought that was perfect, as about the time I was getting bored, and my feet were tired, the dance ended. We had way too much fun at home beforehand to consider getting there earlier anyway.

By the way, I may consider doing Preference at home again. Just next time, I'd be less of a spazz. Hopefully.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Breed Em' Young University

Last Tuesday I ran into my good friend Trever on the way home from school. As we visited and caught up, I mentioned that that afternoon, my sister Janine and I were driving down to Cardston, on our way to Provo to visit friends and cousins at BYU. Trever's reaction to this news was typical, yet still amusing.

"Breed Em' Young University, eh? That sounds like fun, I look forward to receiving your wedding invite next week."

Contrary to these jibes (which I had been receiving for a week), I was not planning a four day trip to Utah to go on a hubby hunt. If I were I would arrange to stay longer. Neen and I had the idea to visit Utah this summer, when she was planning a reunion with her MTC friends. I was wanting to visit my cousins who had just started their first year there, so she suggested I come along the same weekend and we could drive down together.

We drove down as far as Grandma's house on Tuesday night, where we visited with our Cardston relatives. Early Wednesday morning we hit the road and twelve hours later reached the Utah valley. We were amused to see billboards for companies such as, and pass a truck with the company name "Redd Construction Co." written on it. Who knew it was going to be so easy to find our long lost relatives?

Janine and I spent the bulk of the week apart, her staying with an old mission companion, and me couch surfing from cousin to cousin. Out of the four nights I was in Utah, I slept in three different places. The first two I travelled from dorm hall to dorm hall to spend a night each with Rachel and Sydney, and the last two I went to stay with my Redd cousin, Monica, who lives off campus with a proper living room and couch.

Changing locations so often made for a crazy week, and by Sunday I was longing to go to sleep in my own bed in my own room where I didn't have to wait for others to get sleepy so I could use the couch, but it was well worth it to visit so many people I love and see their lives at By-Zoo. Here are just a few highlights of the trip.

Sydney, Rachel and I went to do baptisms at the Provo temple on Saturday. It was really busy and we spent over an hour waiting, but we all had a great spiritual experience and enjoyed the opportunity to give service. While waiting we all kept busy with the many church magazines and scriptures sitting in the pews, at least until they both got tired and took a brief nap on either of my shoulders.

Meeting Monica's boyfriend, Dave, who, get this, is from Magrath. She goes all the way to Provo for school, and we all worry that she will meet an American and never come home, and then she starts dating a boy from a town next door to her own home town.

On a break in classes, Rachel, Syd and I went to the art museum on campus, and had a great time admiring art both modern and religious. The highlight of the excursion was when we were critiquing a painting of Jesus bearing the cross and Sydney said, "I never thought that Jesus would have a hot body."

Because Calgary is lacking in good Mexican food, eating some in Utah became a requirement for the trip. Rachel, Sydney, Rico and I went to Cafe Rio, which is scrum-diddly-umptious. When in Utah, you MUST go to Cafe Rio.

On Saturday evening, Rach, Syd and I made a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. While I was quite distraught with the droopy look of our cake, it was still yummy, and I would definitely try it again when I can make it look pretty.

On Friday, Monica and I made a midnight ice cream run to the BYU creamery, which I found to be quite delicious. There that is enough about food.

I had the chance to meet a few of the mission buddies Janine has talked about for so long. It is kind of surreal to meet someone when you already know a lot about them, and have seen so many pictures of them. It is also peculiar to learn they have first names and are not actually called Elder Soandso all the time. The first such experience was when Janine introduced Syd and I to a group of them. As we approached I connected all their faces to the pictures I'd seen and was confident in who was who. Neen makes the introductions and says, "This is Ben, Tom, and Brad," and suddenly I have no idea who's who.

I went to Rachel's ward on Sunday, a congregation made up entirely of freshman. It was interesting to see how a group of 18 year olds can all step up and fill leadership roles so suddenly like that.

All in all, it was just wonderful to see my cousins, to spend time with them, and learn that BY-Zoo is not as crazy as everyone makes it out to me.

Not quite.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Holiday Speeding

I've always found it amusing that our market-driven world feels the need to always bounce from one holiday to another. No sooner is Halloween over then the Christmas decorations start popping up. Even on the 31, when I was driving home from a friends late at night, I could see the display of inflatable decorations inside the front door of Home Depot had changed from pumpkins and ghosts to Christmas trees and Santa riding a Harley. Clearly they wanted to be ready for the rush of people who would come charging through the doors the morning of November 1 demanding a full supply of inflatable lawn ornaments. I'm expecting the graveyards on my street to morph into winter wonderlands by the end of the day.

However, the decorations and the change in marketing tactics is old news, I've grown used to it over the past twenty years. What really got me was this morning, when I was walking down the hallway at school, and I passed the charitable table; a booth down the main hallway of Mount Royal that often campaigns for various charities or causes they want students to care about. Lately they've been fighting the good fight against H1N1 by squirting hand sanitizer at any student who falls into their clutches.

Over the past five semesters though, the charitable table does things like raise money for various causes by asking people for change and rewarding them by giving them a sugary treat like ice cream. Guess what their incentive was today? you guessed it, Candy Canes.

I find it slightly disheartening that on November 2 the desire to quickly jump ships from holiday to holiday has even spread to non-profits.