Saturday, October 17, 2009

Altar-ed Plans, by Rebecca Cornish Talley

It's been a while since my last post--occasionally life gets in the way of our best intentions. However, during my online absense, I read another good book.

I didn’t plan on enjoying Altar-ed Plans, by Rebecca Cornish Talley as much as I did. It sounded cute, but predictable. However, I soon discovered that although I knew the outcome of the first chapter when Caitlyn is on her way to the Los Angeles temple planning to marry her high school sweetheart, Justin—I still enjoyed the ride immensely. I felt a little sadistic enjoying her unsuspecting drive to the temple and chuckling about it.

Rebecca Talley immediately proves her writing expertise and throws in plot twists, and other situations as well that keep the reader wondering what will happen next. Caitlyn has a loving, but non-member father who resents not being able to see his oldest daughter get married—there’s Lindsay, the younger and more observant sister—and then there’s the mom who tries ever so desperately to keep everyone together and happy.

Good for Mom to insist Caitlyn immediately return to BYU after being jilted. She is already a student there, and needs to get on with her life. However, just because Caitlyn reluctantly returns and attends classes doesn’t mean she’s moved on. Far from it. She has done a good job of turning herself into a veritable hermit and emotionally Caitlyn is well on her way to becoming the weird aunt with ten cats and a parakeet when she meets Travis.

Things start to change for Caitlyn when the bishop calls her to be the “mom” of her Family Home Evening group—an activity she has never attended because it’s just too social. The “dad” of the group, Travis, doesn’t give her any time to back out or to even think before she is attracted to him.

As much as Caitlyn likes Travis, and as often as Brittany tells her to give him a chance—Travis does cause Caitlyn more heartbreak. He’s too nice of a guy and has a hard time making a clean break with his longtime friend/girlfriend. It soon becomes clear that Alison—the other girl, is more of a stalker/fatal attraction type of gal. It’s just not normal behavior to put a wedding dress on layaway if you’ve not been asked the ‘big’ question. Alison is relentless and undiscouraged by Travis’s apparent disinterest and makes plans to marry him even if she has to propose herself.

Altar-ed Plans also does a good job of showing the importance of good friends with Caitlyn’s roommates, Brittany and Hannah. Brittany, although she compares guys to a salad bar, is good at getting Caitlyn away from the sofa and encouraging her to have faith and to trust again. Caitlyn, with her experience is able to give valuable and personal insight to Hannah when she becomes serious with a non-LDS young man.

Although Caitlyn didn’t want it to happen, nor did she ever dream it would, toward the end of the novel there are two eligible men waiting on bended knee. So, if you’re interested in a fun, upbeat story that’s all about the race to the altar, this is the perfect novel. It’s just full of twenty-somethings waiting for their chance at wedded bliss.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fluffy Lemon Torte

There are several foods from my childhood that bring back fond memories. For example, I remember my dad standing in the kitchen shaking a quart jar with milk in it until he turned it into butter. It takes a lot of determination to turn milk into butter—by hand. We never refrigerated the butter because it made it too hard to spread on Mom’s homemade bread. For some reason our homemade butter was more flavorful than store bought.

Memories of homemade butter has a special place in my heart, but the memory I’m going to talk about today is Mom’s lemon torte.

Ah, the lemon torte—we always called it cheesecake. I loved Mom’s cheesecake—it was light and fluffy with a fresh lemony taste. However, whenever I went to a restaurant hoping for a bite of fluffy goodness, I was always served some weird, foreign, substitute. Store-bought cheesecake was dense and not at all lemony and the graham cracker crust was usually mushy. Of course I didn’t know that true cheesecake is dense.

So, I’ll not confess how old I was when I learned the truth about Mom’s cheesecake—that it’s lemon torte, but I will confess that I continued the tradition of calling it cheesecake after I married and had kids of my own. Haha. I’ll not confess how old they were when they learned the truth about Mom’s cheesecake either.

But my kids have forgiven me the deception, and for their birthdays most of them request that I make lemon torte. And, now that they don’t live at home, they also request it for family get-togethers. Lemon torte isn’t hard to make, but it does dirty a lot of bowls in the process.

Fluffy Lemon Torte
1 ½ C graham cracker crumbs
¼ C melted margarine
2 TBSP sugar
Combine crumbs, butter and sugar; press into the bottom of an 9”x13” glass baking dish. Bake at 325 for 10 minutes; cool. (I put mine on the table under the ceiling fan and lift it from the table with pot holders.) Filling:
1 (12-oz) can evaporated milk
1 (3-oz) pkg lemon gelatin
1 C boiling water
1 (8-oz) package cream cheese
½ C sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Place can of opened evaporated milk in the freezer until frozen crystals appear—milk is partly frozen. Meanwhile, dissolve gelatin in a small bowl using the 1 C boiling water, then chill in the refrigerator until gelatin is syrupy. In a medium to large mixing bowl, beat milk until stiff peaks form. Add lemon juice to gelatin and mix in with beater set on low. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add gelatin to cream cheese mixture and mix well. Using a large spoon or a spatula, fold in the milk. Pour over crust. Sprinkle reserved crust mixture over the top and chill for at least 3 hours. (Picture above is the chilled milk beaten to stiff peaks. If it's warm in the house, freeze the beaters and metal mixing bowl while chilling the milk. Then put ice in the sink and fill with about an inch of cold water. Pour milk into chilled bowl and place bowl in the sink.) (Above is a picture of the gelatin after I mixed the lemon juice in--notice I didn't clean the beaters first. Below is a picture of the finished torte.) This dessert can also be made with lime gelatin and lime juice--use approximately 1/4 cup of lime juice for a delicious lime treat.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Art Competition

Well, the Art Guild of Eastern Arizona, of which I am a member, recently had an art and photography competition and show. Before becoming a member of the art guild, I would never have considered entering a contest. It would have been too scary.

That’s a good reason to join groups or organizations that have the same interests. By joining the art guild, I have become a better artist, and by joining a writer’s guild I have become a better writer. Below are some of my watercolors and photos that earned first places in their category.

These two watercolors aren't new, but this is their first time in our competition. I did have another painting that earned first place, but I don't have a photo of it yet. Perhaps another day I'll share it.
This is the very first year that I've entered a photograph in any competition. I've been tempted several times to enter photography contests that I've read about, but chickened out at the last minute. I took this picture in Phoenix at the Wild Animal Park. I call them Lemurs, but someone else who saw them wondered if they weren't Mercats. Does anyone know for sure?