31 December 2008

2008 Books

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Ella Enchanted by Gale Carson Levine
Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery*
Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery*
Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery*
The Witches by Roald Dahl
Ragged Dick or Boot Blacks in New York by Horatio Alger, Jr. *
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy*
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

Compared to 2007's list, this one is pretty paltry. Clearly I need to play fewer mindless computer games and do more reading. I'll put that on the to-do list for 2009.

*Listened to an audiobook

2008 Places

Here are the places I have slept in 2008:

Orem, Utah
Balch Springs, Texas
South Jordan, Utah
Airplane flying over the Pacific
Timaru, New Zealand
Dunedin, New Zealand
Auckland, New Zealand
Adelaide, Australia
Sydney, Australia
Canberra, Australia
Melbourne, Australia

Waikouaiti, New Zealand
Hamilton, New Zealand
Inverloch, Australia
Christchurch, New Zealand
Invercargill, New Zealand
Te Anau, New Zealand
Tawanui campsite in the Catlins National Park (New Zealand)
Lake Monowai campsite, near Te Anau, New Zealand
Henry Creek campsite, near
Haast, New Zealand
Otto/MacDonalds campsite, near Franz Josef, New Zealand
Kawa, Great Barrier Island, New Zealand
F--, Washington (sort of by Seattle)

26 December 2008

Piano Lessons

I enjoy playing the piano, but most people who've ever heard me will readily agree with me that I don't really play the piano. I clank on the piano. I sort of had lessons when I was about 11, after being self-taught since age 7. But those lessons weren't much, and so I will often say that I've never had lessons.

When we lived with Eric's parents before moving to New Zealand, Eric's mom, Kathleen, would often tell Eric and I that she wanted to teach us piano lessons. To which both of us kind of rolled our eyes and said, "Uh, that's okay."

Then I got to New Zealand and realized how stupid that was. When you don't live in Utah, very few people in the Church know how to play the piano- like really play, like able-to-accompany-in-meetings play. And I was sort of close to being able to do those things, but not really, and I never felt really confident giving it a go.

Then on Christmas Eve Kathleen played her family-favorite rendition of Silent Night, and I happened to be sitting where I could watch her hands. Again, I was kicking myself for not taking lessons, and I told myself that the next time she said, "I want to teach you piano lessons," that I would say, "Good! I want to learn!"

So I had my first piano lesson lesson night. Like a real, bonafide piano lesson. I have a lot of technique to fix. And a lot of other learning to do. I'm excited to have such a qualified teacher; this lady really knows what she's doing!

22 December 2008

Guess Who's Home!

Eric and I have been keeping a secret. A big secret. A phenomenal secret that has nothing to do with any additions to our family.

Well, actually, it’s only been a secret to some. Heaps of people have known about the secret. The only ones not to know were Eric’s family.

Those of you in the know already know what Eric’s family didn’t know. And the rest of you are probably dying to know what so many others already know and what Eric’s family got to know on December 21.

We came home early. We just showed up on December 21 and walked in Eric’s parents’ house. Check out the video.

We had to tell a lot of fibs to get this to work properly, and we owe many friends many thanks for helping us to pull it off without a hitch. His parents had no idea. None. They thought we were coming home in March, which was the plan before I got laid off and was unable to find new employment.

Now, going to the Great Barrier Island was true. We did go there. But we didn’t go back to Dunedin afterward. On the contrary. We went to Auckland for one night, Tahiti for eight hours, Los Angeles for a couple of hours and then home to Utah.

Posts and pictures to come! (And for those cousins who read the blog, could you keep this quiet? Grandma and Grandpa L don't know yet, and we want to surprise them on Christmas Eve!)

17 December 2008


I made this baby blanket. I have decided that I really like to crochet. It's so easy to do while I listen to the news or audio books. I'd actually venture to say that most of this blanket was completed on Sunday mornings while I listened to BYU games.

14 December 2008

Explaining Family

I always find it interesting telling people about my family. Not that my family is especially odd, but in the sense of, "How much information does this person really want to know?" This is particularly so when people ask where I fall in my family. Do I say I'm the youngest? Usually my reply is something like, "I'm the fourth of five. But I was the youngest until I was about 16." But that elicits questions of "Oh, your parents had a baby when you were 15?" And then I have to explain that my kid sister is adopted and came to live with my family when she was eight. Of course, that in and of itself results in more questions. And it's not that I'm unwilling to talk about it; on the contrary, I find it an interesting story that I like to share. It's just that when the person asked the question, I don't think they were bargaining for quite as much detail as they soon find themselves hearing.

I have the same problem when talking about my brothers. When I say something about a sister and the person says, "Which sister?" it's an easy question to answer. Either "the younger one" or "the older one." But when they say, "Which brother?" I find myself faltering to come up with the right description. "My older brother" doesn't really cut it. They're both older. For a long time it was "the married one," but now they're both married. Then "the one with kids," but my second brother is expecting a child now, so there goes that one. Sometimes I say, "the one in Wyoming" or "the one in Texas," but when I'm telling people about my siblings and where they live, and they say, "Which one lives in Texas?" it's pretty silly to respond, "the one in Texas." And so, instead of a simple answer, it usually ends up being, "The one who is older than me but close in age." Or "the much older one."

Really, it's not that big of a deal. But when it's just a casual conversation with somebody, I just always wonder how much detail they really want. I'm guessing they usually get more than they expected.

In case you need something mindless and boring to read while I'm on the beach...

4 Favorite TV Shows:
4. The Office
3. The Daily Show
2. Jeopardy! (Haven't seen it in years, literally.)
1. hmmm... I really can't think of another one. I generally hate TV.

4 Things I did yesterday: (I'm assuming I did these things yesterday seeing as how I wrote this post over a week ago and set it to post while I'm living an Internet-free life on a beach.)
4. Swam in the South Pacific.
3. Ate seafood.
2. Read.
1. Applied sunscreen.

4 Things I'm looking forward to:
4. Cafe Rio salad. I know it's still a while away, but I've been wanting one ever since I moved here.
3. New nephew (maybe he's around by the time this posts!), and two other new ones (don't know the genders yet) coming in 2009.
2. Going to the temple again.
1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince- the movie comes out in June or July, I think!

4 Favorite restaurants:
4. Thai Ruby
3. Cafe Rio
2. Mimi's Cafe
1. Pita Pit

4 Foods I hate:
4. Mayonaise.
3. White bread.
2. Canned tomato soup.
1. Spaghettios.

4 things I want to learn:
4. how to fish
3. how to play bridge
2. how to repair household appliances
1. how to make an angel food cake

4 Things I'm obsessed with:
4. Proper spelling. If nothing else, use spellcheck!
3. Babies, pregnancy, labor
2. Eric
1. the Internet

4 Things you may not have known about me:
4. I'll try any food once.
3. I am an intellectual elitist.
2. I once dated an illegal immigrant. (Don't ask.)
1. If you mix beef and chicken I will look down on you. (This is especially true of broths and gravies).

4 Words that crack me up:
4. Seven (said like a kiwi)
3. Due (said like a kiwi)
2. Excellent (said like a kiwi)
1. Daddy (said like a kiwi)

12 December 2008

Christmas Traditions

I always like to learn about other people's Christmas traditions. I must admit, though, that I always listen and think, "My traditions are better."

Growing up, we tended to put up the tree and other decorations about at the end of the first week of December, or maybe the middle of the second week. Now that I am married and in charge, we like to set up sooner- like the day after Thanksgiving. I like to set up Christmas stuff while listening to Christmas music. It's so festive.

On the Monday immediately before Christmas my family would hold a big caroling party. We'd invite lots of friends from school and work, but mostly people came from church. We wandered the neighborhood singing carols, and it was always one of my favorite parts of Christmas. Living in Texas made caroling a much more likely prospect than caroling in Utah. There were only a few Christmases where it was just too cold to go caroling.

Some years we made ginger bread houses and took them to friends. Some years we made an abundance of cookies and took them to friends.

The best part of our Christmas was, of course, Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve we gathered together and had a big Tex-Mex feast. We bought tamales from a local shop and Mom made chili. Sometimes Mom also made enchiladas or tacquitos. We always had chips and salsa. I don't know when the Tex-Mex Christmas Eve feast started. I remember that we did it one year as something new, and it was such a hit that my brother, Steven, and I requested us to do it again the next year. I think I was about 7 or 8 the first time. Anyway, it has become a tradition, and to be honest I don't know what we ate on Christmas Eve before that. (When I was little and my grandma was alive, we usually went to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Christmas Eve. That might be why I don't remember what Mom made for Christmas Eve when I was small- because Mom wasn't making much.)

After eating we gathered in the living room and opened all the presents. Yes, all of them. Not just a set of pajamas or the smallest gift or the biggest gift. All the gifts. (Apparently this was a Danish tradition, and my mom's grandma was Danish.) We had to open the gifts one at a time, and usually my brother and I would take turns being Santa- that is, passing out the gifts. Even though we'd pass out about five or six at a time, they were still opened individually. After a long night of opening gifts everyone settled in for bed.

On Christmas Day we'd wake up and go through our stockings. When we were little, we would have more presents to open- the ones that Santa had brought. Frankly, I have only vague recollections of what I got from Santa as a little kid, but my mom said that Santa brought the nice gifts. (I think when Eric and I have kids that Santa will bring the less-nice gifts. To be honest, I want to get the credit I deserve!)

Most years we went out to a rather nice restaurant for a Christmas buffet. Some years we went to a hotel, other years we went to a restaurant in Reunion Tower, which has a restaurant that rotates and has great views of the Dallas Metroplex.

We'd have all sorts of gourmet foods at the restaurant- including made-to-order omelets and pasta, California sushi rolls, Christmas ham and turkey, really fancy desserts.

After our lovely brunch we'd head home and play with our new Christmas whatnots.

Now that I've been married for a few years, it is fun to see how our Christmas traditions are changing. A lot of what we do depends on where we are and who we are with. Eric tends to be adamantly opposed to opening presents on Christmas Eve, but I am rather opposed to opening everything on Christmas day. So, we usually pick out a few gifts for the other one to open.

I love Christmas, and I do like hearing about other people's traditions. In fact, a few ideas for future Christmas ideas (particularly ones with kids) have come from other people. I look forward to coming up with more Christmas traditions for future years!

06 December 2008

Some of you may have noticed in our recent pictures that Eric grew a beard. He rather fancied himself with a beard, and I had mixed feelings about it. To be honest, I thought it usually looked quite nice. But I hated the way it felt, and we had to completely alter our method of kissing so I wasn't bothered by the itchiness of it.

And then it started to get shaggy (although the above picture is from two weeks ago, so trust me, it was worse!), so I insisted on him shaving it, and he said he was about ready to be done with it, but could he please have a mustache?

Before he even shaved himself a mustache, I was repulsed by the idea. Somebody in our branch grew a mustache for November, and it was dubbed The Pedophile Mustache. I'd say we could give Eric's mustache the same moniker.

Anyone needing to teach their kids about Stranger Danger? Feel free to use this photo. (And, we've got more!)

The mustache lasted about thirty minutes as I wouldn't let Eric come near me with it.

Ah! That's so much better! The clean-shaven man I met and married!

04 December 2008

Better Late than Never

It all started one Sunday when one of the Lee girls suggested we sing "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" as our opening song, and I emphatically vetoed that idea. "We can't sing that until after Thanksgiving." "When's Thanksgiving?" they wanted to know. Once that question was answered, they had many more about questions about Thanksgiving and the celebration of such a mysterious holiday.

And then Donna (the Young Women's President) suggested we have a Thanksgiving dinner as a mutual activity. So we had one on Wednesday night. I was surprised at how well it turned out. (The pumpkin pie, in particular, was phenomenal!)

Check out Facebook for a few more photos, if you are interested.

02 December 2008

Tender Mercy

Last night I read Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin's most recent conference talk, "Come What May, and Love It." I'm not sure why his talk touched me so much at this time, particularly considering I don't feel like I'm going through anything resembling a tumultous time in my life. But his talk did touch me, and I felt like I should blog about it.

Then, much to my surprise, I learned of his passing this morning. I'm grateful that he was able to give his most recent address, and that I was able to read and ponder it just before learning of his death.

My favorite quote was this:
How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can't--at least not in the moment. I don't think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don't think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life.

30 November 2008

White Christmas?

When the weather is like this (which it has been lately):

Doesn't it make you want to go to a place like this?

I'm going here in nine days. For a sort-of-tropical holiday. It will be awesome.

We will be staying with Makereta's extended family. Reading books on the beach, fishing, diving, rowing boats to get fresh mussels for dinner, hiking, camping. The usual Christmas vacation.

Wish you could come.

28 November 2008

A Day in Dunedin

Last post about Jenn's visit. I promise.

On Saturday we went to the Chinese Gardens and to the Otago Museum.

The Otago Museum has a cool science exhibit, plus the butterflies. It was my third time to see the butterflies, and I wore the perfect shirt. The little critters were all over me as soon as I walked in. Check out the blue morpho that landed on me! It was awesome!

27 November 2008

Day Five

Are you so sick of hearing about my trip?

Too bad.

The last day was my birthday. We drove from Franz Josef through Arthur's Pass, to Moeraki Boulders and home. It was not the best day of the trip, but there were some nice parts, like:
this beautiful view near Franz Josef;

this cool bridge in Arthur's Pass;

a nice hike to the Devil's Punchbowl in Arthur's Pass National Park;

this cool site that Eric and Jenn thought maybe was the site for the battle scene for The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; (compare with a screen capture of the battle scene, on the right)

and jumping around the Moeraki Boulders.

26 November 2008

Day Four

On Thursday we were readying to vacate the hostel in Haast when the hostel manager filled us in on a sweet deal. There was a jet boat that needed filling, so they were offering tickets for half price. We had considered doing a jet boat in Wanaka, but we didn't go through with it because $100 for one hour seemed a little steep. We were glad, then, to learn that the jet boat on the Waiatoto River would last two and a half hours and cost only $90. The day was simply beautiful. The sky was a beautiful blue. The mountains were stunning, and the river was especially gorgeous. We thoroughly enjoyed our jet boat ride! Plus it was an "eco-tour" which means that we learned lots of cool stuff about the environment and history of the area. Ask me about stoats some time!

The picture on the left is the dune lake, and it was pretty impressive. Very still and quiet, and there were no bugs! (It had something to do with science and the nature of the dune lake, but I don't remember the explanation.) Just on the right side of the photo is a dune. On the other side of the dune is the Tasman Sea. (Picture on the right). In this picture you can just barely see on the left where the dune is beginning. It's really quite cool! (Unfortunately the photos don't fit together the way the land does).

Fox Glacier- We took a hike toward the glacier but couldn't get very close, so we took another hike which gave us more of an overlooking view. Pretty cool! One day when we are rich we will take a helicopter to the top of the glacier and walk around on it.

We found this sign when we couldn't find the campground. (This time we couldn't find it because the sign indicated it was a picnic area. Grr!)

25 November 2008

Day Three

After Milford Sound we went to Queenstown, then to Arrowtown (an "authentic" western town with a historic Chinese settlement), then to Wanaka. At that point our German friends left us, and we then headed along the Haast Highway and settled for the night in a hostel in Haast. That sounds pretty boring, but the drive was really beautiful, particularly along the Haast Highway. We happened to be driving it around dusk, so the sun was setting, and there was a high fog along the tops of the mountains. Simply stunning. Plus! After two days of hiking and camping, we were very happy to shower again!

In Queenstown (and the way to Wanaka):

In Wanaka:

Along the Haast Highway