Friday, September 30, 2011

Where's Don?

Meldee and Don at Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah
Recently, on Facebook, a post went around asking people to post any General Conference traditions they had.

The first one I could think of was the delight of watching the morning sessions in my jammies in the comfort of my own home!

The second one requires a little bit of explaining.

One of my best friends, and a former roommate, is married and lives in Utah.  A few years ago Meldee's husband Don auditioned for, and was accepted into, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  (Really cool, huh?)  The audition process is a lengthy and difficult one, so I was so excited for them both.  It's such an honor, and a tremendous responsibility.  You see, what many people don't know is that singing in the choir is also a church missionary calling.  The 360 or so members of the choir, plus their conductors, accompanists and staff all travel the world performing as representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Just a side note about Don: you'll never find a nicer guy.  He's the kind of guy who will just do anything for you.  When I visit Meldee, I'll often discover he's washed my car while we've been inside the house gabbing for hours.  He's kind and generous to a fault, and so is his wife - who is beautiful inside and out.

So now that I've filled you in on that, I have to admit my second tradition for General Conference watching, since Don has been singing with the choir, is to play "Where's Don?"

This is not as hard as it first may seem.  Luckily Don is usually on the front row of the men on the far right.  That gives him some nice face time on camera during the televised performances.  I look for him and count how many times he gets a close-up!

Here's a picture of my friend Don, so you can play the game too! 

Meldee and Don, I love you guys!  Thanks for making the Tabernacle Choir performances something even more special for me.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

New Orleans Since Katrina

Bourbon Street at night
My brother just returned from a business related trip to New Orleans.  His stark black and white photos make life there seem rather grim.   
Bourbon Street by day
In the photo above you can just barely see the bikini clad young woman huddled behind the barker.
Inside a tiny Jazz bar on Bourbon Street
 I can almost hear the great sounds!

The group "Jumbo Shrimp" getting their groove on
 I have reflected on the fact that Katrina, as horrible a natural disaster as it was, ended up getting many people not only out of Louisiana, but out of poverty and squalor.  In any event, it changed thousands of people's lives - all along the Gulf states - forever.

With tourism down, life in New Orleans has to still be difficult for the people the storm left behind.
The French Quarter

Photos courtesy J. Evensen

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice

The LDS Conference Center, Salt Lake City, Utah
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will hold the 181st Semiannual General Conference on October 1st and 2nd.  For me, this means that on this coming Saturday and Sunday I will be hunkered down in front of the computer getting inspired and spiritually fed for four hours a day.

If going to church weekly is meat and potatoes for my hungry soul, General Conference is a gourmet feast prepared by the most talented chefs on earth.

President Thomas S. Monson
I love hearing President Monson speak.  He is a prophet of God.  That is the greatest message ever: there is a prophet of God on the earth today!   How cool is that?  Not only that, but he's a wonderful, kind man, and a loving father and grandfather.

Conference Center interior
Have you ever heard of people waiting in line to go to church?  Well, for Conference, people do.  People have already started flocking to Salt Lake City from all over the globe.  If you visit Temple Square this time of year (and at the end of March), you will hear languages of every kind spoken! Many will already have procured a (free) ticket to be assured a seat in the center, but others will stand in line for hours hoping to squeeze in.  This is regardless of the fact that the Conference will be easily available via television broadcast, internet feeds, and radio around the world, as well as on closed circuit TV to other locations on Temple Square.
The famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir
I guess you could ask yourself, if the Prophet Moses (or Noah, Father Abraham, Isaiah or even the Apostle Peter from New Testament times) came back from the dead for a visit and was going to speak, would you want to hear what he had to say?  Would you wait in line to get into the venue where he was speaking?  Would you be excited to hear from him?
The Conference Center holds 26,000 people and will be packed
I love hearing the various speakers during Conference.  Read what Michael Otterson had to say about General Conference recently in the Washington Post:
The fact is, General Conference isn’t anything like church on any other weekend, when Latter-day Saint singles and families normally attend a chapel and worship service closer to home. General Conference is not really a conference at all, in the usual sense of the word. There will be no great debates, no huge policy changes to announce to the general membership. You can be certain that there will be no political addresses from the podium, and it’s highly unlikely anyone will mention even indirectly the two Latter-day Saints running for President of the United States.
What people come for is altogether different. General Conference - all five two-hour sessions of it - is a collection of sermons. But for people who have come to the Conference Center, or for people who watch it at home on TV or the Internet, or in a live or time-delayed broadcast in some far-flung part of the world, this is a time for listening and thinking.
Mormons regard their leaders -- members of the three-man First Presidency, the Twelve apostles or what is known as the Seventy (another New Testament parallel) -- in the same way that early Christians considered the apostles whom Jesus called to service. They are respected, even revered. They are not infallible and none would claim to be. But for several months each has been pondering and praying about what message he should deliver to the worldwide membership. Leaders do not necessarily confer with each other. There is no coordination of messages. Each speaker, whether man or woman, looks for inspiration in choosing his or her subject, drawing on personal prayers and life experience as well as their interactions with members as they travel the world.

On the receiving end, the listener also has work to do. Whether an American sitting in a comfortable seat in the Conference Center, or a Siberian widow listening to a Russian translation piped into her chapel in Novosibirsk, the intent is the same. Each listens for inspiration or encouragement. Many members carry personal and private burdens and need shoring up. Some face challenges in their own lives that demand insight beyond their own wisdom. It may be for a wayward child or a sick parent, or any of a host of other troubles. All will listen to the 20-plus addresses over the weekend for what seems most relevant to them. Many will ponder and pray and find ways to help them be better parents, better husbands and wives, better sons and daughters, better neighbors, better followers of Jesus Christ.

General sessions will be held on Saturday at 10 a.m. (9 a.m. Pacific Time) and 2 p.m., (1 p.m. Pacific Time). Two more general sessions will be held on Sunday at 9:30 a.m.(8:30 Pacific Time) and 2:00 p.m. mountain daylight time (1 p.m. Pacific Time); the morning session includes the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word.

The Tabernacle Choir usually performs for the Sunday sessions. (Another wonderful reason to tune in!)
Live broadcasts will be available at the following locations:

• video and audio in multiple languages
• and Mormon Channel mobile apps: video and audio in English only
• video and audio in multiple languages

• video in English only (Choose “General Conference” from the left menu.)

• Roku Channel: video only in multiple languages (Search for general conference under the “Spiritual” category.)
In addition, many local cable and radio stations make the conference readily available. Visit for broadcast information or check local listings.

Click here to read more about Conference and how it can bless your life:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Little Scamp

We had an accident the other day. It involved some intense play with an old shoelace and a little kitty who got spooked by something he saw out in the courtyard, and turned abruptly in mid-leap - crashing through the front door window.

First there was a heavy thump.  It was immediately followed by a mighty shattering of glass.

One little grey and white furball ran and hid under the bed out of sheer terror and surprise.

I never did find the old shoelace afterwards. Thank heavens it's our only real casualty!

"Ooops."  Jack surveys the damage
 Jack has never broken anything before.  He was quite upset by the incident.  Since then he has also been upset by not being able to see properly out of "his" window.  He had to be consoled the whole rest of the day, poor baby.  

Thank heavens our apartment handyman was able to come by and cover the large gaping hole with cardboard.  He also taped up the cracks so the remaining window would hold together and wouldn't be further damaged. 
Now Jack tries to punch out the cardboard!  It's obstructing his view of the reality TV in his yard.  (Little rascal!) I put a chair up against it to be safe.  I can't wait until the glazier shows up today and replaces it!

The face of guilt

The door pane was old and may have dated back to  1917 when the building was originally built.   We're getting safety glass installed now. No more jagged 'glass shards of death' in case of accident.  Because accidents do happen.

Thoughts on the subject: 
1) Children, even cat children, can be enormously expensive.
2) How ready am I for an emergency?  I suddenly feel the need to expand my first aid kit (although neither one of us was hurt), and to lay in a large supply of duct tape!

My Jack, repentant, has sworn off playing with shoelaces.

And life goes on...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Women's Conference - Whittier Stake

Saturday night I attended the Women's Conference broadcast from Salt Lake City.  In essence, it is the Relief Society session of General Conference.  The general sessions begin on next Saturday morning (October 1st).

I have to admit I wasn't in the mood to attend this meeting, but as Mary Beth was picking me up, I girded up my loins, put on a dress, and went.  Later, I was so glad I did.  I enjoyed the meeting thoroughly, not just the wonderful talks by our Relief Society General Presidency, but the inspiring message from President Uchtdorf - and, of course, the delicious dinner.  (I'm always up for a free meal!)
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency
I have to admit I have a teensy-weensy crush on President Uchtdorf.  He is tall, handsome, and European.  Sigh.  But putting that aside for a moment, he really had a wonderful message about our personal worth and being positive about the direction of our lives.  He used as examples the tiny Forget-Me-Not flower and the story of the Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  (If that piques your interest, you'll have to check out the text of his message when it becomes available on on Wednesday, or watch the video that's already up on that site.)

There were times I felt he was speaking directly to me, as he addressed a few things that have been troubling me lately about my own life. 
Every table had a lovely, unique centerpiece
After the meeting, we adjourned to the cultural hall for dinner.  It was so much fun to see so many friendly faces there!  There are always people, like my old college chum Pam, that I only see when there is a Stake meeting of some kind.
Our Stake Center was filled!

Whittier Stake Relief Society ladies

Ellen, Mary Beth and Marissa
Here is my table.  This was Marissa's first women's conference.  (She just recently turned 18.)  It was fun to have her along, even though I think all us old ladies were a trial for her!  Ha.  She bore it well.
Pickering and La Esperanza Wards provided the tasty enchilada meal
There were women from every part of the Stake

Andrea & Nicole and the beautiful Christus centerpiece
Another large table of our ward members was on the other side of the hall.  They smiled so nicely for my paparazzi camera - it wasn't until I got home that I realized I'd cropped Nicole out of the picture (see below, on the right) - sorry!  I'm not the greatest photographer.  But I enjoyed capturing a little of the feeling of the night.

As you can see, some Priesthood group was actually in charge of serving us, so all the women could enjoy the evening.  That was really nice!
More of our ward ladies!
I love my association with the Relief Society.  These are the best women you'd ever want to meet.  I'm lucky to be one of them.  Thanks, ladies, for a lovely evening!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Women's Conference

The Relief Society General Presidency
Silvia Allred, First Counselor; Julie Beck, President; and Barbara Thompson, Second Counselor
“We are the Lord's hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children.”
- Thomas S. Monson

There is not a one-size-fits-all Mormon woman. They are married, divorced, single or widowed; they are daughters, mothers, aunts and grandmothers. They are often homemakers, and some may have other challenging vocations.
President Julie Beck says that regardless of the roles, each woman has in common the opportunity to be a part of an organization that teaches how to build faith in Jesus Christ, encourages study and self-improvement, emphasizes the divine worth of women, exercises charity and service, strengthens families and creates a system of support and friendship.

Relief Society sisters worldwide are invited to view the satellite broadcast of the general Relief Society meeting, which will be held on Saturday, September 24, 2011, at 6:00 p.m. (MDT) and will be broadcast to many areas of the world.

All sisters 18 years of age and older are encouraged to gather together in meetinghouses to view the broadcast.

Video of the broadcast will also be available live in American Sign Language, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish at Additional languages will be available as a live audio broadcast at the same site. Archives of the broadcast will be available in those same languages at the same site within 24 hours. Live audio will also be available in English at

If you are in the Whittier area, the broadcast begins at 5 p.m. in the Whittier Stake Center on Mulberry.  The broadcast will be followed by an enchilada dinner. 

Within the structure of the Church, women have opportunities to be leaders, give sermons during worship services and offer congregational prayers. They take an active role in the Church's welfare program by teaching self-reliance principles and helping resolve individual temporary and long-term needs. There is also an extensive home visiting program in which women of the Church call on one another regularly with support and encouragement.

When Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society in 1842, he explained the purpose of the Relief Society was "relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and for the exercise of all benevolent purposes."

Relief Society is the largest, and oldest women's organization in the world.  Whether it's fostering literacy throughout the world, providing needed immunizations for children in poverty stricken areas, or bringing in a meal for a family in crisis, Relief Society is there.  I'm proud to be a part of it! 

And, on a (sorta kinda) related note: Happy Autumnal Equinox!  Thus begins my absolute favorite time of year.  From here on in the weather gets cooler and (at least here in Southern California) there is an increased chance of rain (my favorite).  Next weekend is the semi-annual General Conference broadcast from Salt Lake City (I can't wait!), then starts the slide into all my favorite holidays.  What's not to like?

To all my lovely readers - thanks for spending a few moments with me each day!  Hope this finds you happy, healthy and feeling loved wherever you may be in the world.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Macho Autos

Once upon a time you could tell a car's maker just by looking at it.  Not so much anymore, but back in the day every Chevy, Buick, Ford and Oldsmobile had a distinctive flair that separated it from the pack.

 These cars had style, no doubt about it!

My favorite car show model, my beautiful sister-in-law

 Love that grill work - and the shine!
These were trunks that could hold all the family luggage for that vacation trip across America, or five of your closest friends who were sneaking into the Drive-In theatre!

Road trip anyone?

Photos courtesy J. Evensen

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bye and Good Luck!

Elder Stout and Elder Smith
Of the two missionaries assigned to the Pickering Ward, one was released yesterday and is now back in his native Virginia.  I'm going to miss you, Elder Stout!  I have really appreciated your insights in our Gospel Principles class, and have been amazed at your knowledge of the gospel.  Thanks for everything you did for the people of our area, and our ward. 

I'm excited to see who gets assigned as Elder Smith's next companion.  I've grown to love Elder Smith, too.  It's such fun to get to know these young Elders and feel of their testimonies of the gospel.

I think about my own nephew so far away from home, serving the people of Mexico.  God Bless the Missionaries wherever they are in the world.  They do so much good and represent a lifestyle so different from that of the world at large.

God be with you 'til we meet again, Elder Stout.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Franco Trattoria

One of the nice things about living in uptown Whittier, is the quaint European feel there.  That 'European Quotient' has gone up a few notches with the (fairly) recent opening of the Franco Trattoria on Greenleaf Avenue.

David, Peggy and I recently checked out the restaurant on our regular Whittier Community theatre night.  This is a restaurant space that has gone through many changes over the years.  When I first moved to Whittier, it was a pizzeria.  Since then it's had a few incarnations, most recently an Italian restaurant of another name entirely.  We think this little Trattoria is an improvement.

The owner/chef came out to greet us
It's been many years since I was in Italy, but this little restaurant is like taking a little trip back, at least in ambience and menu.  According to the amiable hostess, who was also the chef's wife, the menu changes frequently, depending on what's available at the market or in season.

I liked that the owners were very friendly and talkative.  As I heard someone say recently, a good restaurant is also theatre.  Yes, it's about food, but it's also about presentation, atmosphere, and who is there with you.
The "small" Antipasto
We started our meal with a small antipasto salad. It wasn't particularly small!  In fact, we estimated it could easily have fed four people, as all three of us had our fill and there was plenty left over.  At the base of the antipasto were greens lightly tossed in a vinagrette, covered, as you can see, with a to-die-for spicy hard salami, prosciutto and cheese and topped with an Italian "salsa" of peppers and eggplant.  This was accompanied by some truly lovely bread - crusty on the outside and soft inside.  Oh yum.  I can truly say this is the best antipasto I've had in recent memory.

There was also a large antipasto salad on the menu. I can't imagine how many people that would feed, however, I'm sure you could probably have it as a main course and be a happy camper.
David eyeing the salad
The menu was small and simple, with only three main courses: a spaghetti with meatballs, gnocchi in a pesto sauce, and a spaghetti with tuna.  And, as I said, this will change on a regular basis, according to the owners.

David ordered the spaghetti with meatballs. He said the meatballs were a little dry, but tasty, and gave the sauce a thumbs up.

Peggy and I smiling for the camera
I have always wanted to try gnocchi, the little dumplings usually made from potatoes.  Both Peggy and I ended up ordering them.  They were served with a light, delicious pesto sauce and garnished with arugula and pine nuts.
Gnocchi with an arugula pesto
I think my only complaint is that I would have liked more greens and pine nuts with my dish.  The gnocchi were lovely and you could really taste the Reggiano Parmigiano and Peccorini cheeses.  It's a hearty and satisfying meal.  The portions were large.  I ended up taking a good deal of my gnocchi home with me (they made a nice lunch with a small salad), as we were headed off to the theatre and in a time crunch.

This is a place I'd like to return to when I have more time to sit and enjoy the experience.  It's the kind of place that makes you want to linger over your meal and talk.  I also am curious to see what the chef has on the menu next time we go for a visit!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Taste of India

The other night I got together with some friends for dinner.  It had been a while since I had Indian food, so I was really looking forward to it.  We met after work at The Bombay Restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway near Hawthorne in Torrance. 

We ordered a variety of dishes.  Here you see the spicy cauliflower dish (Aloo Gobi), the shrimp Masala and another veggie dish whose name I have forgotten, but which consisted of spinach and paneer cheese.  In front is a fresh yoghurt and dill sauce.

We had a choice in ordering.  Every dish could be made mild, medium or spicy.  I love spicy food and was a bit disappointed when we ordered everthing mild for the sake of those who hadn't had Indian food before.  I asked that the cauliflower dish be medium at least.  All the food was spicy and the "medium" dish was plenty hot.  I shudder to think what their version of "spicy" is!  But I'd like to try it some time.

Everything was delicious!
Brother Cloward and his daughter Robin
I hadn't seen Brother Cloward in a very long time, so it was nice to see him.  He's had some health challenges recently, so it was just great to see him out and about! I discovered he had never had Indian food before.  It was fun seeing his reaction to all these new dishes.  I think he liked it! 

Here you see the smoke coming off of the Tandoori chicken (upper right).  Next to it on the left is the Birynani veggie dish, with the nan bread in front.   All the dishes came piping hot and the waiters were very attentive and fun.  We had a very good time with them.
Gina and Brother Cloward
Since it was a week night, there were few diners in the restaurant.  We were seated at a comfortably large table in the center of the establishment.  Next to us was a banquet room which had a big screen TV playing Ballywood movies.  They also had a fun "disco" light system in there.  It made me want to get up and dance.  I think it would be fun to have a party there!
Laura gives the food a big thumbs up
Gina and Laura were leaving after dinner for an Alaskan cruise!  They were both looking forward to their trip, and that added to the festive mood of the evening.

Dinner ended with a delightful rice pudding dessert.  It wasn't overly sweet and had a hint of cardamom.  Yum.

I have enjoyed Indian cuisine since being introduced to it in England many, many years ago.  It was such an unexpected treat to enjoy such a fun evening - good food and good company - in the middle of the week.  Thanks Gina and Laura for inviting me!

The gang

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mamma!

Anne Evensen, 1970-something
Phoenix, Arizona
Tomorrow (the 17th) marks what would have been my mom's 86th birthday.  She's already been gone for nearly 34 years.  It doesn't seem possible.  She was one of the most lively and interesting people I've ever known.  So full of laughter and fun.  I still miss her.  She wasn't just my mom, she was my best friend.

In a way I'm glad I didn't have to watch her grow old.  That would have been hard too.  She got to check out while she still looked great and had all her faculties. 

I'm grateful for everything she sacrificed on my behalf, and the wonderful home she created for my father, brother and I.  Thanks, Mamma.

If you are lucky enough to still have parents who are living, cherish your time with them.  It goes all too quickly.

Me and my mommy, winter of 1952/53

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Art of Resting

Hi.  Remember me?  I'm Jack O'Neill.  My mom let me take over her blog today.  She said I could only if I spelled everything properly and used good English, not like other kitties on the internet who LOL all the time and can't spell worth kibbles!  Mom says learning proper English is good for me and having a second language can improve your horizons.  Whatever.  I get back at her by jumping on her at 3 a.m.  It's really funny and .... okay, I better get back on track.

Today I'd like to talk to you about the art of resting.  It's something I'm very good at. 

We live in a fast paced world, and you need to get plenty of rest and relaxation in order to maintain a healthy balance in your life.

To begin with, I like to find a nice comfy spot, like here on the couch, wrapped up in my mom's blankets.  It's a good spot, because it gives a commanding view of the living room, and yet it's soft and very comfortable.
Second, take a good look around to make sure you are not going to be distracted or attacked.  You never know what could disturb a nice nap!  It's better to be forewarned.  Hey!  I have a darned nice profile, don't I?  Very distinguished and manly.  Mom says I'll get even more handsome as I get older.  Which is cool. Um, where was I?

Third, just relax like I'm doing here.
 ... and ...
... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
You get the idea. 

This has been a public service announcement from Jack. 

Now I've got to go play with Mr. Bunny.