Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The parable of the red and white fair ribbons, a life-changing lesson in pride.

                It was county fair time this past week, one of the most magical times of the year for me.  I love it all! I love the lights and bells and whistles of the rides, the cotton candy and kettle corn scent in the air, the music from the live bans, and I love entering things into the fair to compete for a ribbon.  I always say that finding a blue ribbon next to your name at the fair feels to me a little like what I imagine finding a golden ticket in a Willy Wonka chocolate bar would be like.   I always get so excited.  This year, I decided to try something challenging, homemade croissant rolls. It was a two day process and during making them I smiled thinking about another blue ribbon to put on my wall.  Then I thought it would be really fun to make something additional to try for another blue ribbon.  I made some fudgy butterscotch brownies and Tuesday morning, I entered my stuff into the fair.  The croissants hadn’t turned out as well as I had wanted, but Thursday morning when the fair opened, I still hoped that I would have two blue ribbons to add to my collection.  But when I entered the home arts building and looked for my entries, there was no blue.  My brownies received a 2nd place red ribbon and the croissants were a 3rd place white.  My four year blue ribbon winning streak had come to end. I was pretty disappointed but then my inner critic kicked in.  I started cataloging all my mistakes and felt embarrassed for even trying.  I walked back to the car thinking that I wouldn’t enter the fair any more.  Yeah, I was being pretty childish.  I didn’t want to come back and pick up my ribbons on Monday after the fair closed.  I didn’t want them.   But today I went and got them because I want them very much.  It turns out I was about learn a master class lesson in pride.  Do blue ribbons matter in the long term? No, but this lesson was life-changing. 
              It started when I was at work.  I was in the middle of filing some papers when suddenly a phrase came to my mind, “It is the comparison that makes you proud.” It was a line I had heard before, from Ezra Taft Benson’s masterful talk “Beware of Pride.” I had always understood it to mean that you were prideful when you were comparing yourself to others, imagining yourself to be better than others.  Suddenly I understood that principle in a whole new light.  It was pride in me that was comparing my results this year with the years passed and pride that was condemning my efforts this year because the results were less than perfect.  And it was pride in me as I looked at myself as a new trainee on a difficult new job and unfairly compared myself to how I could be if I knew all there was to know about the job.  It is pride that compares myself during times when I am weak to times when I am stronger.  It was a fascinating revelation.  I know it was revelation from the Spirit because when I feel revelation from the Spirit about ways I can be better I feel hopeful and not condemned.   I know that with the Savior’s help, I can change.
                     If that was not enough, I was driving home the next day from work when another impression filled my mind.  “In order to be humble, you must be teachable.” Again, it was nothing I hadn’t heard before but I came to understand it so much more during that drive.  I could literally feel the proverbial “light bulb” coming on! It was amazing! I thought of my croissants and how I had studied that Martha Stewart magazine article before I made them but I had expected them to come out perfect the very first time.  I had expected them to be like Martha’s.  But what I had forgotten was that Martha herself probably had years of trial and error croissants before hitting on the perfect recipe.  How could I possibly be teachable and learn from my mistakes if I expected everything I cooked to be perfect the first time? How can I possibly be teachable and learn from my mistakes if I expected everything I did in life to be perfect the first time? I love what Thomas Edison said when asked if he was discouraged after “failing” so many times with his inventions and hadn’t received many results: “Results? Why man, I have gotten many results! If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.”  As I drove home that day, I thought about a lesson I learned several years ago when I was going through probably the most difficult time of my entire life.  I was getting ready for church one day and I was praying “Heavenly Father, I just want to do the right thing.  I really just want to do the right thing.” Suddenly I felt a very distinct answer.  “That’s not entirely true.  You don’t want to make any mistakes, and there is a difference.”  In order to be teachable, we have to know that mistakes are a vital part of the learning process, whether you are making croissants, inventing something that will change the world, or striving to become what Heavenly Father wants you to become. 
                 So I went and picked up my ribbons because I wanted them very much.  They are a reminder that I should never stop trying, never stop taking risks even though the results may not be what I had hoped for.  They are a reminder that effort, even if it is less than perfect, is something to be celebrated.  They are a reminder that I am doing okay, even though I have many life lessons to learn and that I’ve still got lots of time to learn them. Isn’t it wonderful that we have so much help us overcome or weaknesses?! It’s amazing! I know that I can pray and overcome my issues with pride with the Savior’s help even though it may take a while. And it just so happens, I know of a pretty great “how-to” book on overcoming pride too! :) 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

101 things in 1001 Days #15 Make croissants

Every since I saw the article about them in my Martha Stewart magazine I have wanted to try making croissants but all the rolling in the butter and folding intimidated me.  One of the blessings from doing this list is that I am more apt to give things a try.  A week ago I had the thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to enter croissants into the fair?" and just as I started to blow that thought off and come up with all the reasons why I couldn't, I thought "Go for it! Make croissants to enter into the fair!" There were many times when I thought it would be too hard, that I should just enter something more simple, but I kept going and felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment as I could smell that delicious bread baking smell!  They didn't turn out quite like I had imagined, they were a little dry.  I probably won't win the "Best of Show" ribbon I was hoping for, but I am so glad I tried.  I will keep on trying and figuring out what I can do better next time!

Here are the instructions!


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

101 things in 1001 Days: #53 Invent a new fruit salad

I thought our ward's traditional Relief Society summer social would be a fun time to accomplish this goal.  I loved the activity tonight.  It is one of my favorite summer traditions.  We all sit and talk in the beautiful backyard of our Relief Society president.  Tonight we played a game where we had to come up with something that we didn't think anybody knew about us and then if somebody did know, we had to come up with another one.  It was a delightful evening and it was really fun bringing my new fruit salad!

Blueberry muffin fruit salad 

A mixture of berries of your choice: I used 2 medium cartons of strawberries and one carton of strawberries but you can mix it up.  (It ain't a blueberry muffin fruit salad without the blueberries though!) 
About an 1/4 cup of Tillamook french vanilla yogurt 
2 drops of lemon oil (I used doTERRA) 
1 batch of streusal topping  

Wash berries and pat them dry.  Mix the berries all together.  Add a small amount  of yogurt at a time and stir into the fruit.  You only want to glaze the berries. Slowly add the 2 drops of lemon oil.  You just want a little hint of lemon flavor. Tonight I sprinkled the streusal topping on top of the salad just before serving but I think I like it a little bit better to just have a bowl sitting near the salad and people can sprinkle some streusal topping on their individual salad as they dish it up.  I think this helps the streusal to stay more crispy.  

Streusal topping 

1/2 cup sugar 
1 cup flour 
1/2 tsp kosher salt 
1 vanilla bean split (optional) 
4 tbls cold unsalted butter cut into pieces (if you use salted butter, omit the salt) 
1/2 tsp of cinnamon 

Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheet with parchment.  Stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into the bowl.  Stir until distributed evenly.  Blend butter in using a pastry blender until the mix resembles gravel.  Dump mix onto prepared sheet.  Shake pan to spread it around and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and rake through the streusal with a fork.  Bake for another 8-10 minutes and rake again, moving any underdone streusal to the edge and vice versa.  Continue to bake or 5-7 min for until streusal  is nice and even deep gold.