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Monday, August 30, 2010

Brewing up a Storm

This morning as I stepped out of my garage a little past 4:30, the three-quarter moon was shining overhead with plenty of stars scattered around. I walked up to the track breathing in the fresh morning air. Shortly after stretching and starting my first lap, a wind began blowing. By my fifth lap, the wind was nearly pushing me backwards; the clouds had billowed up over the mountains on three sides of me while the wind brought in another batch from the west. During the next couple of laps, I realized the temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees. Then lightening flashed brilliantly along the southern horizon. I cut my run a little short and started for home as the wind began driving raindrops diagonally into my face and thunder rolled across the valley. As I stepped into my garage, the clouds burst open and it just poured! After flipping off the sprinklers, I stood in the doorway and marveled at what I had just was magical!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Trying Some New Things

I planted a few new things in my garden this year: Basil, Cilantro and Tamatillos...and it has been GREAT!!!

I've been trying some new things in the kitchen this year. The smell of fresh basil forced me to create a Pizza Margaurite recipe that has become a huge hit here at the Crouch House.

A very simple dough recipe contains just flour, water, salt and a small amount of yeast.
Garlic and oregano in olive oil is the only sauce on the thin-rolled crust, then fresh diced tomatoes (also from my garden).

Basil is plentiful, so load up the pizza with plenty of the sweet-smelling herb.

I roll the crust out on a pastry cloth and then place it on a 500 degree pizza stone, spread on the garlic and oregano oil. Layer on the tomatoes, basil and thin slices of mozzarella.

Bake the whole thing at 500 degrees for 7 minutes, slice it up and serve immediately...yum!

Oh, yeah, I also used a few of my tomatillos and some cilantro to make a green salsa. We will be trying out some enchilada recipes with that this week...stay tuned.

P.S. If anyone would like chilies, jalapeƱos or green peppers, PLEASE come and get some; and don't forget raspberries...loads of raspberries ripe for the picking.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summer Reunions

Most people I know gather together with family during the summer months to reconnect and catch up with one another. My Mother and her seven brothers were always so good to do that every year and they would go fun places and do exciting things for their week-long reunions. I haven't attended one of those reunions since I was still a kid and we went deep sea fishing off Baja, California.

My Dad's family had such an interesting history with his Dad divorcing his Mom after she was institutionalized in the State Mental Hospital back in the 40s. The five kids were scattered to various relatives and the youngest adopted out-right to strangers. So reunions have been rare and strange on that side of the family.

Since my father passed away nearly four years ago and Rob's dad passed over eight years ago, our families have only gathered all together once and that was for Dani's and Kelly's wedding last June. Thank goodness for weddings which pull families together to celebrate a happy time. Funerals can pull us together too, but it isn't the same joyful reunion, usually.

This summer I haven't seen my brothers or my mother at all. My brother, Jim came from Colorado and my Mom from Arizona in February when Bryan was leaving on his mission, but I haven't seen Mark and his family since Kevin, Bryan and I were there in November 2009. Typically, families do summer vacations together and meet up for some kind of reunion, but that hasn't really happened in either Rob's or my families since our Dads passed away. Maybe gathering family for reunions was a father's role?

I did; however, have a couple of fun reunions this summer. My 30th high school reunion was held on July 2, 2010 in Delta, Utah. That was an enjoyable evening of seeing people I knew slightly but enjoyed visiting with since we have so much of our past in common. I found we had lost several members of our class to death since our 20th reunion and that seems to have drawn us even closer together.

Two of my best friends from high school were unable to make it to the class reunion, so we held our own "Hinckley Girls" reunion a week later at a restaurant in Orem. We had such a great time remembering old times and laughing. I've known these women since we were three or four years old, we literally grew up together in the same small town. We all went to different colleges and got married and have had varied experiences since then, but how fun it was to renew those relationships. The evening wasn't long enough to say everything to bring us completely current, even though we stayed quite late. We vowed to not wait so long to get together again as we separated at the end of the night.

Reunions are important; I wish I could reunite with family members on a more consistent basis. Visiting with those from our past helps us remember who we are, where we came from, and how much those people mean to us. It is also helpful to rediscover our past and perhaps visit some suppressed memories. I'm grateful to those who share a common history with me; they are becoming more and more valued with each passing year.

Delta High School Class of 1980
20th Class Reunion 7/1/2000

30th Class Reunion 7/2/2010

Hinckley Girls Reunion 7-9-10

Sunday, August 15, 2010

This Past Month

Most of those who read my blog are aware we’ve had an unusual experience at our house this past month involving our son, Bryan.

Bryan has been serving a mission in Budapest, Hungary and having a marvelous time working in that part of the Lord’s vineyard. He had been learning an extremely difficult language and had already connected with many Hungarians and with the other missionaries serving there with him. We loved our weekly emails from Bryan which expressed his happiness at being a missionary and serving in this part of the world; all felt right in our lives for the past four months.

On July 15, at about 10:00 a.m. I received a call from President Baughman, Bryan’s Mission President. He said that Bryan had been having trouble with his knees and had been sent to have an MRI. He said that if the local orthopedic deemed surgery an option, they would probably send Bryan to Germany to have the operation and then keep him in the Mission Office for a couple of months while he recovered. At 1:00 that afternoon, I received a second call from President Baughman telling us that due to the severity of Bryan’s knee issues, he was being sent home to have the surgery and would be arriving at 11:30 p.m. the next evening.

It was shocking news and suddenly everything was different. I immediately got an appointment with Dr. Pepper Murray, a highly recommended orthopedic surgeon from Bountiful for Monday morning and made changes in my work schedule to accommodate Bryan’s return and eminent surgery. The next night, Rob, Kevin and I were waiting at the Salt Lake International Airport for Bryan to come walking down the concourse.

He looked great and it was wonderful to see him again, but it just didn’t (and doesn’t) seem right that he was home already. Bryan felt it too. He has been trying to keep a positive attitude about being here, but it has been very difficult.

On Monday, July 19, following his examination, Dr. Murray said he definitely required surgery on both knees; we scheduled it for the following Tuesday, July 27 at Lakeview Hospital.

That was a very long day and we were a little discouraged to receive the news from Dr. Murray following Bryan’s operation that he discovered osteoarthritis in Bryan’s joints and that this surgery was not going to be a permanent repair. The surgery turned out to be more involved than originally thought. Dr. Murray had to file down bone, clean out the back of both knee caps, cut out most of the cartilage in both knees and remove scar tissue from the left knee.

Since that day, Bryan has been following the doctor’s orders and striving to rehabilitate his knees so that he can return to Hungary. The surgeon has expressed his opinion that Bryan won’t be able to return to an Eastern European Mission because of the rigors of cobbled roads and too many stairs in 10-to 20-story buildings without elevators...too hard on bad knees.

We appreciate all the prayers and concern we've received from friends and family on behalf of Elder Crouch. Please continue to keep him in your thoughts as he heals. We hope that in the next six to eight weeks he will be able to return to full-time missionary service wherever the Lord sees fit to send him.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Currant Bush By Hugh B. Brown

Below is the Talk by Brother Hugh B. Brown called the Currant Bush which I referred to in a recent blog post (this is for you Sheri).

You sometimes wonder whether the Lord really knows what he ought to do with you. You sometimes wonder if you know better than he does about what you ought to do and ought to become. I am wondering if I may tell you a story that I have told quite often in the Church. It is a story that is older than you are. It’s a piece out of my own life, and I’ve told it in many stakes and missions. It has to do with an incident in my life when God showed me that he knew best.

I was living up in Canada. I had purchased a farm. It was run-down. I went out one morning and saw a currant bush. It had grown up over six feet high. It was going all to wood. There were no blossoms and no currants. I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and went after it, and I cut it down, and pruned it, and clipped it back until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it, and smiled, and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush talk. And I thought I heard it say this: “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me, because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.” That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’ ”

Time passed. Years passed, and I found myself in England. I was in command of a cavalry unit in the Canadian Army. I had made rather rapid progress as far as promotions are concerned, and I held the rank of field officer in the British Canadian Army. And I was proud of my position. And there was an opportunity for me to become a general. I had taken all the examinations. I had the seniority. There was just one man between me and that which for ten years I had hoped to get, the office of general in the British Army. I swelled up with pride. And this one man became a casualty, and I received a telegram from London. It said: “Be in my office tomorrow morning at 10:00,” signed by General Turner in charge of all Canadian forces. I called in my valet, my personal servant. I told him to polish my buttons, to brush my hat and my boots, and to make me look like a general because that is what I was going to be. He did the best he could with what he had to work on, and I went up to London. I walked smartly into the office of the General, and I saluted him smartly, and he gave me the same kind of a salute a senior officer usually gives—a sort of “Get out of the way, worm!” He said, “Sit down, Brown.” Then he said, “I’m sorry I cannot make the appointment. You are entitled to it. You have passed all the examinations. You have the seniority. You’ve been a good officer, but I can’t make the appointment. You are to return to Canada and become a training officer and a transport officer. Someone else will be made a general.” That for which I had been hoping and praying for ten years suddenly slipped out of my fingers.

Then he went into the other room to answer the telephone, and I took a soldier’s privilege of looking on his desk. I saw my personal history sheet. Right across the bottom of it in bold, block-type letters was written, “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.” We were not very well liked in those days. When I saw that, I knew why I had not been appointed. I already held the highest rank of any Mormon in the British Army. He came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.” I saluted him again, but not quite as smartly. I saluted out of duty and went out. I got on the train and started back to my town, 120 miles away, with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. And every click of the wheels on the rails seemed to say, “You are a failure. You will be called a coward when you get home. You raised all those Mormon boys to join the army, then you sneak off home.” I knew what I was going to get, and when I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap and my saddle brown belt on the cot. I clinched my fists and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.

And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness and my bitterness. While kneeling there I heard a song being sung in an adjoining tent. A number of Mormon boys met regularly every Tuesday night. I usually met with them. We would sit on the floor and have a Mutual Improvement Association. As I was kneeling there, praying for forgiveness, I heard their voices singing:

“It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.”
(Hymns, no. 75.)

I arose from my knees a humble man. And now, almost fifty years later, I look up to him and say, “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.” I see now that it was wise that I should not become a general at that time, because if I had I would have been senior officer of all western Canada, with a lifelong, handsome salary, a place to live, and a pension when I’m no good any longer, but I would have raised my six daughters and two sons in army barracks. They would no doubt have married out of the Church, and I think I would not have amounted to anything. I haven’t amounted to very much as it is, but I have done better than I would have done if the Lord had let me go the way I wanted to go.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Time Traveling (Again)

Last summer on an early morning jog I happened upon a Honeysuckle bush which instantly transported me to 1969 Phoenix, Arizona.

This morning as I finished my run at the Weber High School track, a bush once again zipped me to another place and time. Actually I’ve been looking at this bush for the last few months and had identified it as a Black Currant Bush. I haven’t seen one in years, yet was positive from the shape of the leaves and then the small blossoms that it truly was what I thought it was. This morning that little currant bush had ripe berries hanging on it. I stopped midstride and plucked a handful of the darkest, plumpest currants from the bush and walked home popping them into my mouth—and that is when it happened! I was instantly in Hinckley at the Main Street house where currant bushes grew in several locations on the property. My Mom made currant jelly once, but decided it was way too much work and bother for the little bit of preserves she was able to extract from two hours worth of picking. After that they just became kid or bird feed and were free to whoever could eat them first. Black Currants are tart and tangy and have tiny, little seeds and they ‘pop’ when you bite them. They are extraordinarily high in Vitamin C (I looked it up on the internet and a ¼ cup serving provides 302% of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin C).

I keep finding myself transported by sight, smell and taste to other times and locations. I must watch out for those 'time traveling' bushes. Of course, the ultimate lesson to be learned from a currant bush was expressed in that timeless talk given by Hugh B. Brown entitled, "The Currant Bush". I think I need to go read that one again...

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Raspberry Report

We have what appears to be the start of a bumper crop of raspberries this year. We always have way too many raspberries, many more than our family can use. Over the years I've tried to think of creative ways to use up the millions of berries I am forced to pick every other day (because we planted the Everbear variety and I can't seem to con enough people into coming over and picking them).

Raspberry freezer jam is usually the first line of defense. I put up batch after batch of jam until the freezer is stuffed and I give away many that won't fit. I've already made several pies this year and I gave one of those away this week too. I always freeze trays of whole berries to use in pies through the winter, but my favorite way of using the berries is to juice them and bottle the raspberry extract. It is truly delectable and beautiful mixed with 7-Up or lemonade.

This morning I went out early and enjoyed the buzzing of the bees among the blossoms on the canes and the new day just starting fresh and cool as I picked a couple of cups of fresh raspberries to eat on our breakfast cereal.

I'm putting out the call to anyone within driving distance to come and pick berries at my house. You should show up before 8:00 a.m. or after 10:30 a.m. to miss the sprinklers. Long sleeves are important because the canes have stickers and scratch up your arms if they're not covered. The perfect raspberry picking container is a five-quart ice cream bucket with a handle to hang over one arm leaving both hand free to pick berries.

Raspberry Days have started--come on over!