31 December 2009

2009 Places

This year, I slept in the following places:

Federal Way, Washington
Orem, Utah
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Provo, Utah
B--, Texas (near Dallas)
P--, Texas (near Austin)
Washington, D.C.
W--, North Carolina
P--, Washington

Total states visited: 8. We didn't sleep in all of them, though.

Hopefully in 2010 we can list some non-American cities in there as well.

30 December 2009

2009 - In Review

I did this meme last year. Here we go again!

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?

I went to Washington, D.C.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Yes, I read 52 books. I'm only a teensy bit embarrassed to admit that was my only goal.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes. I got three nephews this year. If 2007 was the Year of the Niece, 2009 was definitely the Year of the Nephew.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, a friend from New Zealand passed away recently.

5. What countries did you visit?
Just America this year. Boo.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
An apartment furnished with things that I own.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
April 7. It was the day I started my job and the day one of my nephews was born. Sorry, but I don't remember the other nephews.

8. What was your biggest personal achievement of the year?
Reading 52 books and submitting my paper to the family history writing contest.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Never finishing the Couch to 5k program.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Two ovarian cyst ruptures this year. One bout with a diabetes drug that made me want to die and also did not work. I'm very done with those things.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My new coat. Thank you, Old Navy sale.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Eric's. He is the best husband ever.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I find it difficult to find somebody who appalled me and depressed me.

14. Where did most of your money go?

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Just Haven't Met You Yet by Michael Buble.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
a) happier
b) same
c) richer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Hiking and camping.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

20. Did you fall in love in 2009?
Yes, with This American Life.

21. What was your favorite TV program?
I discovered 30 Rock and Arrested Development this year.

22. What was the best book you read?
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

23. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I really don't listen to music much. Like at all. It's all about NPR for me.

24. What did you want and get?
A new job.

25. What did you want and not get?
To go meet my cousin in Sacramento. Maybe in 2010.

26. What was your favorite film of this year?

27. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I did not drive in the car all day. I turned 25.

28. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If it had been an even year and there would have been Olympics. I cannot tell you how much I love the Olympics.

29. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Flip flops. Funky socks. Earrings. Occasionally nice clothes.

30. What kept you sane?
The Internet.

29 December 2009

Once in a lifetime. I hope.

I live in Provo, which is located in Utah Valley. I work in Salt Lake City, which is located in Salt Lake Valley. These valleys are separated by mountains. Well, ish. It's not like I have to traverse a 13,000 foot mountain to get to work every day. But I do have to go over what is called the Point of the Mountain. I've included an image from GoogleMaps of the Point of the Mountain. As you can see, there is a mountain there on the right, and it comes to a point. Even at the point where the mountain "ends" the altitude is still fairly high. This means it is very windy at the Point of the Mountain. You can often see hang gliders doing their hang gliding things on the south side of the Point of the Mountain.

The wind causes wrecks. If the weather is bad in either valley, it is almost guaranteed to be worse at the Point of the Mountain.Today my car spun out of control at the Point of the Mountain. I was in the left lane closest to the HOV lane when I hit a patch of ice and spun out. I ended in the far right lane facing the opposite direction of traffic. Miraculously, I did not hit anybody or anything, despite there being numerous cars all around me. It was something I definitely only need to experience once. And now I will drive more slowly over Point of the Mountain. (For the record, I was not going very fast. I was on par with the cars around me.)

23 December 2009

Secret Santas

Here's a great story about giving during Christmas. Enjoy!

21 December 2009

Blogging Again

Done and done.

A paper that was originally 10,536 words with 211 footnotes consisting of 4,972 words is now a paper of 5,371 words with 196 footnotes consisting of 4,493 words. Now I just need to print it and mail it. Extra special thanks to RA for giving my paper a solid edit, helping me pare it down, fix some wacky footnotes, and correct some major numbering issues.

My book count is up to 51, and my carpool buddy and I will finish Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire before Christmas Eve, which means I'll meet my goal of 52. (Is it a total cop-out that four of the books in my five-most-recent books list are from the Little House series? Hmm... I don't particularly care.)

All the family that is coming into town is now in town. Let the festivities begin.

13 December 2009

Blogging Break

Fact: I am entering a genealogy writing contest.
Fact: The paper is due 31 December 2009.
Fact: The paper is mostly done because I used my paper from my capstone class at BYU.
Fact: The organization hosting the contest includes footnotes in the word count.
Fact: The text of my paper is 5,695 words.
Fact: There are 216 footnotes.
Fact: There are 4,846 words in the footnotes.

Total word count: 10,541.

And this is after significant paring. And there is no introduction and only a small conclusion. Plus there is formatting and citation checking to do. I have got to buckle down and get this baby done.

Plus, I really want to finish reading 52 books this year, and right now I have only 49.

Plus, family members are arriving this week from out of town, and I really want to hang out with them and not spend all my time in the next few weeks with my face plastered to a computer or my nose buried in a book.

It is 13 December. You can see my dilemma. I don't have enough time. I will be taking a blogging hiatus, or at least a blogging slow-down while I try to accomplish everything I want to accomplish this year.

I will tell you, though, that Eric and I went to a car auction yesterday. We bought a car. It was kind of reckless, and now we both have buyer's remorse. It was a very cheap car, and we mostly just need it for Eric to get around the town. We've named it Dudley because we have great concerns that he will, in fact, be a dud.

If you miss me while I am gone, you can go read some of these posts:
A Mini-Rant
Guess Who's Home!
Here's to You, Library Girl
Childhood Misunderstandings
Thoughts Preoccupied with High School and Frozen Chicken
An Expletive by Any Other Name
The Quiz Doesn't Lie

10 December 2009

New Indian Restaurant

Last night Eric and I went out for Indian food. We love Indian food. Not as much as we love Thai food, but, oh, we love Indian food. In the past when we have wanted Indian food, we headed straight for the Bombay House located on University Avenue. In fact, when Eric's parents took us out to celebrate Eric's completion of his master's degree, we chose the Bombay House. But recently, a new Indian restaurant has opened up, only a few blocks from Bombay House. It's called the India Palace, and it was great. I would say that it is comparable to Bombay House in price, menu selection and quality of food. But it far surpassed Bombay House in quality of customer service. Far, far, far. I've often felt like the servers at Bombay House were a bit rude, but at India Palace, they were super friendly. They even brought us a free appetizer because the wait for our meals was going to be a little longer than usual. In actuality, the wait was no worse than I would have expected for the amount of customers in the restaurant.

I know this only matters to those of you who live in the Provo area, but I wanted to fill you in on the fact that I approve and endorse the India Palace. Go try it some time.

07 December 2009

Review: $20 Per Gallon by Christopher Steiner

I picked this up at the library on a whim. I was a little bit worried that it would be a long political diatribe either about the need to drill, baby, drill, (clearly, I hadn't paid attention to the subtitle), or else a long political diatribe about hugging trees. Fortunately, it was neither.

The book is what it says it is - a summary on how increasing gas prices will force our society to make changes that will ultimately be good for us.

The book is ordered by gas prices, starting at $4 per gallon, which is the price that gas reached in the June-August months of 2008. I hesitate to call them the summer months because while it was Summer to most everyone I know, I was actually in New Zealand. It was the dead of winter. And I calculated the cost that we were actually paying for petrol at almost $8 per gallon. That includes both the conversion of litres to gallons and the U.S. dollar to the Kiwi dollar. I kid you not. Of course, the taxes in New Zealand are higher, and the cost of living in general for that nation is higher. But, no matter where you live, $8 per gallon is substantial.

Because of the high price, we made some really positive changes to our lifestyles. The changes we made include walking to the close grocery store, even if the weather was completely lousy. Carpooling with Matthew and Makereta almost always to the large grocery store in the middle of town. Yes, really, carpooling to the grocery store. Eric often rode with Matthew to school. We even walked to the center of town a number of times, even though there was a killer hill on the way back. These were positive changes for us. We got more exercise. We contributed less pollution. We became better friends with people.

Steiner's book doesn't really focus on those tiny changes, and how could he? If gas is four times an amount that most Americans considered absurd, tiny changes like riding a bike are just that - tiny.

His book is broken into chapters of $4 per gallon (which is the introduction), $6 per gallon, $8 per gallon, on up to the final chapter about gas at $20 per gallon. For the most part, I thought this was an effective way of telling his story. Sometimes it meant that he had to leap to some pretty eyebrow-raising conclusions, and I wanted to say, "Napoleon, like anyone can even know that." But, on the whole his arguments are sound.

Two things struck me the most - we use oil for a lot of stuff. A LOT. I had no idea how much of the rubbish that fills my apartment comes from oil. That means when the price of oil goes up, the price of all my junk goes up too.

Second, when the price of oil goes up, the price of transporting all our junk everywhere also goes up. There's just no way around it. You've got to have a way to get your goods to you from their source, and that way almost always involve gasoline. When the price of gasoline goes up, the prices of goods goes up. (We witnessed this last in 2008 as well).

I don't know if all of the things that Steiner believes will happen will happen. Like I said, it's hard to make predictions on something like gasoline being $20 per gallon (and everywhere in between). Most importantly, though, is that gas prices will inevitably continue to rise (he makes a very sound case for this fact at the beginning of the book), and when they do, Americans (and people in other parts of the world) will need to adapt. Hopefully, as Steiner predicts, those adaptations will indeed be improvements to our current lifestyles.

05 December 2009

Clean the halls, then deck them.

Today our apartment went from looking like this:

To looking like this:
The desk is still rather chaotic. Wanna come help me out, Ange?

PLUS! I made dinner. And I wrote this blog post.

And we decorated the tree. (This tree was given to us by my brother, John, and his wife the first year that we were married. When he gave us the tree we had already bought a real tree, but I figured it might come in handy to have an artificial one for some years. This was clever thinking on my part as we used this tree in 2006 when we spent our holiday in Texas, and therefore ought not to have a live tree acting as a fire hazard in our apartment. And this year, because we are moving on New Year's Eve, and we don't want the hassle of purchasing a live tree only to throw it away prematurely.)

And yes, the tree is a little crooked. We're working on it.

Australian Brownies

The other day I commented on Jenny's post about Christmas cookies and whatnot. Then we had a little exchange about Christmas cookies, wherein I mentioned that I do not have a favorite Christmas cookie, but I do have this one very important Christmas recipe. This recipe screams Christmas to me, because we always made these at Christmas time. They are Australian Brownies. They're probably not really Australian, but that's what we called them. I've had them served a handful of times, always called by different names than Australian Brownies, but never by the same name. Anyway, here's the recipe. They are best served with milk. Let me know if you like them:

Australian Brownies
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 egg
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Mix all ingredients together.
2. Liberally grease a square pan. (8 in. x 8 in.)
3. Pour the ingredients into the pan.
4. Bake for 30 minutes at 350. (If you are using a glass pan, turn the temperature down to 325.)

02 December 2009

The Favorite

There is no denying the fact that almost all of the nieces and nephews prefer Eric over me. And who can blame them? He is such a fun guy! Kids adore him. He lets them walk on his back. He reads them Calvin and Hobbes. He loves to play hide and go seek. He makes up fantastic stories about hammerhead sharks that eat entire ships. He builds bridges and towers out of blocks, legos, dominoes, cards, and anything he can find. In fact, he'll spend like an hour building something like this with one idea in mind - to let the kids knock it over. Who wouldn't love that? He loves to teach kids new games, incite rebellion and tease kids good-naturedly. He sets up entire fields of army guys for the sole purpose of shooting the army guys down with rubber bands. This is just how awesome and fun Eric is.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I am just not as fun as he is. I'm okay with that. He is awesome and fun, and I have my limits. I will be the ogre mom, and he will be the fun dad. That Eric is the favorite is best illustrated by the fact that the nieces and nephews, as a general rule, remember Eric's name much easier and earlier than mine.

Case study #1: (2007) Eric and I enter a room where our three-year-old nephew is. He shouts, "Eric, you came back! And your girl is here too! Your friend came with you!" Yes, I had been relegated to the position of Eric's Girl. Hmph.

Case study #2: (2009) When we went to North Carolina recently, our four-year-old nephew repeatedly told us that his favorite person at our house (for some reason, he thinks we live with his Grandma and Grandpa) was Andrew, Eric's brother. He seriously told us this every day. Apparently, though, after we left he told his dad something along the lines of, "I like Andrew. And I like the Grandpa and the Grandma. And I like Eric. And I like the girl." The girl? Would be me. Two separate individuals on two very separate occasions.

Thus, when we hung out with some of Eric's family members in Washington state for Thanksgiving, I was elated when the following event occurred:

I asked our nearly-three-year-old niece what my name was. "Ummm... Sherry."

"Great job! What's his name?"

You ready for it?

Are you sure?

"Um... Uncle Sherry."

YESSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!! Eric has been eclipsed!

I spent the entire weekend trying to cement the idea of Uncle Sherry in her head. Eric spent the entire weekend trying to fix the confusion I was intentionally causing. She is a smart girl, though, and by the weekend she had things figured out.

But, for once, I was more memorable than Eric. And I will never forget it.

01 December 2009

Compassionate Service

In my congregation at church, I am on a committee called the Compassionate Service Committee. Essentially, we look for ways to serve other members in our congregation. Mostly we help with people who have new babies, people who are moving, people who have a serious illness in the family, and people who have a death in the family. We ourselves don't necessarily do the service, but we help organize other people to help with the service. In many congregations just one person acts as the Compassionate Service Leader, but our congregation is a little bit different. So, different, in fact, that within our committee we have sub-committees. The sub-committees are: babies, moving, funerals, and other. I am on the moving committee. We actually don't usually help with the moving. (We round up the men for that.) We help with light packing and cleaning, particularly for people who have cleaning inspections after they've vacated their homes.

I don't get a lot of action on this committee, to be truthful. It runs like a pretty well-oiled machine, and I'm only in charge of moving. Generally people move around the time of changing semesters, so my assignment in particular is very seasonal. Plus, most of the time when we ask people if they need help with cleaning, they decline the offer.

Tonight I got a call asking for people to help a woman clean her apartment tomorrow. I was pretty excited. An opportunity to help! Hooray! But it was also a little daunting. I got the call rather late, the volunteers are needed tomorrow, and the person needing the help has a very specific time frame.

I began calling. And calling. And calling. Mostly, I got voicemail. I did talk to a couple of people, though, and I was astounded by how willing they were to help.

One of them said she wouldn't be able to help because her husband wouldn't be home to handle the kids, and she would be taking care of friend's child. However, she did offer to watch any kids of any other woman who wanted to help clean but couldn't because of little ones at home. How awesome of her!

I hesitated before calling this other person. She has four children, all under the age of about 5. The youngest is a few months old. I felt like she, of all people, really didn't have the time to help and probably wouldn't be able to. But, I called her anyway. And I was amazed at her eagerness to help. There's really no other way to describe it. She asked where she needed to be and what time, and she said she'd be there. She even had a prior engagement that starts later in the evening, but was willing to help clean for the time before her other event.

When I was a kid my mom was the Compassionate Service Leader in our ward. I loved that she had that specific assignment, and I love it even more now. When I reflect on all the times she pulled meals together for the sick and care for those who needed it most, it never ceases to amaze me how truly compassionate people can be. I think often we assume that most people are not good. But really, I think people are good, and a lot of people are would be willing to do more good if they knew where to go and what to do. Sure, there is something to be said for being proactive, but I also think there's a great deal to be said for people who are willing and eager to serve when asked.

It makes me think a lot about living in a church community, and I don't just mean in Utah or in the LDS faith. I mean any sort of community, really - any community that consists of people who actually know one another and are concerned for one another. It's unfortunate that we don't tend to really know our neighbors or rely on them. It makes me wonder how people get by in hard times when they don't have some sort of community to fall back on, particularly people who don't have family members as support.

November is over, and I don't think I spent enough time pondering the literally countless blessings I have. Today, I am grateful that I am part of a community that can help me any time I really need it.

That skirt I can't stop thinking about

I haven't written in a while because we went out of town for Thanksgiving. It was awesome, by the way. I don't have time to share all the fun details and all the funny things the little munchkins said. But, I did get a picture in my fantastic new grey skirt before we took off.I had gotten a little drip of water on it, but you can still see how perfect it is. Also, the top is new. And it is awesome as well. That is Eric's sister, Michelle, by the way. She is pretty awesome too.

24 November 2009

Ghanaian Update

She called again today. But there was a man on the other end. Still, I could hear Catherine's voice in the background speaking. The man didn't speak English. I'm positive it wasn't English. It was the middle of the afternoon, so I know my brain wasn't just playing tricks on me. I stayed on the line with him for a few minutes trying to ask him questions and figure out who he was looking for. Mostly I just apologized a lot and told him I couldn't understand him.

I hope they find who they are looking for.

I also hope they stop calling me.

23 November 2009

Wrong Number

A few weeks ago I was awoken at about 7 in the morning by a call on my cell phone. If my cell phone didn't serve as my alarm, rest assured (play on words!) I would silence it at night. You can see my dilemma, I'm sure. I do not wake up at 7. Oh no. On a good day I am out of bed at 8:20. Most days it's about twenty minutes after that. Thus, I was rather shocked that my phone was ringing so very, very early.

I answered the phone, and on the other end I heard a whole lot of gibberish. That is, the language did not sound like English. Naturally, I figured the caller was speaking Spanish. Now, let me explain that my brain always goes into default Spanish mode when I hear a language that isn't English. I guess this is because Spanish is the only language besides English that I have any ability to speak. My knowledge of French is limited to a few phrases from Beauty and the Beast. My knowledge of German is limited to what I've heard in WWII movies, and the little of what Eric remembers from his three years of German in high school. (I have a headache. I have the hunger of a bear. I love you.) (Eric also knows, "I have no idea. I'm a foreigner," and "How much does the calculator cost? The calculator costs 10 marks.")

As I was saying. Spanish. Only, as you may recall, my Spanish is rusty at best. So, here I am at 7 a.m. wondering who the heck is speaking Spanish to me and what they want. In my sleepy stupor I start saying things like, "Usted tiene el numero... wrong. Mi espanol is muy malo. Lo siento. No soy Catherine. Soy Sherry. Me llama Sherry. Lo siento. No intiendo. Yo Soy Sherry." (Translation: You have the number... wrong. My Spanish is very bad. I'm sorry. I'm not Catherine. I'm Sherry. My name is Sherry. I'm sorry. I don't understand. I am Sherry."

Then I heard, "Wrong number? Sorry." And gone.

That afternoon, the same number called again. Only, this time, I was awake. Awake enough to realize the caller was not speaking Spanish after all. Oh no. She was speaking ENGLISH. Yes, my own language, but she had a rather thick accent. My guess is Ghanaian. This is because in this second phone call I realized she was saying something to the effect of "This is Catherine somethinngsomethingsomething from Ghana." Oooooooohhhh. You're Catherine. Yes, that makes a little sense, I guess. And you are from Ghana, thus me not being able to determine what the heck you were saying. Now I get it. Except, I'm still pretty sure she had the wrong number. I told her that, and she hung up.

A few days later, she called again in the morning.

And again a few days after that. Fourth time, it was on a Saturday, and once I was awake, I couldn't go back to sleep. My wrath was kindled, I blocked her number from my phone. It was mostly to preserve my sleep, but also because I was concerned about the amount of money she must be spending to make these calls from Ghana. And, I must insist that she is, in fact, calling from Ghana because the phone number matched with the country code.

I was done with Catherine from Ghana. Until today.

At 5:30 in the MORNING. THE MORNING. Grumblegrumblegrumble. Ruiner of dreams. (After she hung up I had bad dreams about being roped into some sort of Ghanaian prince email scheme. I hate stressful dreams.) This time, she called from an unknown number.

Assuming that Catherine doesn't call me at some unheavenly hour next time, I'm going to my darndest to keep her on the line and try to help her find the person she is looking for. My friend, Trish, mentioned that maybe Catherine is looking for a family member or loved one in America from whom she is expecting money, and if that is the case, I feel rather badly for her. Whatever her deal is, I hope she stops calling me early in the morning, and I hope she finds the person she is looking for.

22 November 2009

"Look all around you for somebody who..."

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 25. It was a happy day, which actually started on Friday.

I had just gotten back from a run to the ladies' room, when I came back to my desk to find my adorably bearded husband sitting in my seat. It was quite a surprise! He had picked me up to take me shopping at the outlets in Park City (since we didn't get to go in August after the family reunion, like we usually do).

We headed out to Park City, grabbed a quick dinner at a Mexican-ish cantina, and then hit our favorite stores. I bought a couple of long-sleeved tees at Old Navy (see one in a below picture), plus a sweater at Old Navy. The Gap was a let-down, but Banana Republic was a hit. I got a fantastic A-line gray skirt, something I've been wanting for quite a while. Even though I'd been wanting one, I hadn't ever buckled down and gone on a shopping trip devoted to finding one. As soon as Eric picked me up, I knew I would be keeping my eyes peeled. Success! Hopefully there will be forthcoming pictures as I am wearing it today along with a really great blouse that I also got at Banana Republic. (For clarity, I am normally FAR too cheap to shop at Banana Republic. I only every shop at the outlet store in Park City. And a few of my favorite pieces of clothing have come from there).

Saturday morning began with the opening of presents from Eric. (Yes, presents even though we went shopping the night before as my present). He got me a butter dish because I have no idea what happened to my last one, and I really needed one. And he got me a Snuggie, which I am wearing right now. Yes, I really did want one. No, you will never see me in it.

Saturday we went to Eric's parents' house where Matt and Michelle are in town. Michelle was throwing a wedding shower for friend of hers when we arrived, so we just hung out with Matt and their new little human.

After the baby shower, the family sang the L-family birthday song.

Then we ate cake and opened presents. Eric's parents bought me some books that I really wanted, and I am uber-happy to have. The first is the box-set of the Little House Series. I had this series as a kid, and I absolutely loved it. Something mysterious happened to it, and that makes me sad. I eagerly look forward to reading this series with my own kids one day.

The other is the America's Test Kitchen Cookbook. I probably shouldn't want anymore cookbooks since the Internets probably have every recipe imaginable, but cookbooks are something that I just love, love, love. It is so much more satisfying following a recipe from a cookbook propped up on my counter than from the laptop propped on the counter (which makes me very nervous) or my scribbled notes that I have taken down rather than prop the laptop on the counter.
The evening consisted of games, an attempt to attend a Mo-Tab concert (we had to watch it via a live feed in the Assembly Hall) and more games. Overall, it was a happy couple of days. And now I can rent a car without it costing a million dollars! Hooray!

18 November 2009

Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I had heard about this book probably around the time when it was at on the New York Times' best seller list. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure when I first heard of it. But I first gained interest in it when I heard it reviewed on the Diane Rehm show way back in April. (As you may recall, her show is one of my favorite things.) I don't usually listen to her show these days due to scheduling conflicts, but I happened to catch that hour that particular day because I drove myself to work instead of riding with Karina. (Come to think of it, it was because we had family pictures that afternoon, and I had to leave work early.)

Anyway, the book was on my to-read list since April, and I finally read it.

I give it 3.5 stars. (By the way, GoodReads admin folks, why don't you allow me to give half stars?)

The story is primarily told by Renee, a concierge at a ritzy apartment building in Paris, and how she is incredibly bright and well-read but seeks to hide this from the residents. The story is also told by Paloma, a rather intelligent twelve-year-old girl who plans to burn down her family's apartment and commit suicide on her thirteenth birthday. (Charming, no?) Eventually a third very important person comes into the novel. He is Japanese and represents all that is dignified and wonderful that the other residents of the apartments are not.

I felt like I was really trudging through this book until about the last 100 pages. And then in the last 20 pages I didn't want it to end. As you may remember, the two most important things to me in a book are a captivating plot and understandable characters. The Elegance of the Hedgehog had the characters. I really liked Barbery's characterization (even when I didn't like the characters). The plot was very lacking for me, though.

With that said, it is important to note that the writing is very beautiful, although a little pretentious, which is also a good adjective for Renee and Paloma. I found it hard to really like them when they despised everyone around them, even if everyone around them deserves to be despised. It wasn't just that they thought they were better than everyone around them, but I felt like they thought they were better than me too. I don't think that was Barbery's objective.

Overall, I liked this book. I didn't love it. It probably won't make it into my top ten list at the end of the year.

Because they first loved each other

This week, Eric's L. Grandparents will celebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversary. We went to a wonderful celebration for them on Saturday night.

I've mentioned at least twice before that Eric and I want to be just like them when we grow up. They are practically perfect in every way. We love being around them. Despite the fact that they have 26 grandkids, 10 grandkids-by-marriage, and 19 great-grankids (and at least one on the way, that I know of, and no, it isn't me), they still know who all these people are! AND, to top it off, you can really tell that they love each and every one of us.

They are both incredibly good-natured and kind. They have started all sorts of family traditions that everybody loves and looks forward to. I didn't really have a grandmother during my growing up years, so I feel really lucky to have married into a family with such a spectacular grandma.

Part of the festivities on Saturday night included a quiz about Grandma and Grandpa. Some of the facts I knew before the quiz:

  • Grandma was the eighth of eleven children.
  • Grandpa worked as head of the public relations department of the LDS Church before he "retired."
  • Grandpa met President Reagan and President Bush (the first one).
Some facts I learned from the quiz:

  • Grandma's wedding dress had 48 buttons down the back.
  • The treasure box was blue.
  • Grandma had a lot of jobs. A lot.
After the quiz all the grandkids and most of the aunts and uncles (or maybe all?) read excerpts from Grandpa's journal that he kept after he "retired" from his job with the Church and served for five years in a leadership position with the Church. It was great to hear some bits of his time, and especially to hear the bits where the grandkids were mentioned. I loved these parts best:

  • A description of Eric's brother, Andrew as a "fat baby."
  • The description of Eric's Aunt Susan as "visibly pregnant."
  • An update that the twins were "healthy and developing nicely."
I loved those things best because when I think about the magnitude of the assignments Grandpa had during that time period, it's wonderful to know that of all the things he could write about, he still always made time to mention his family and the things that were going on in their lives.

15 November 2009

Goodbye, Fall

It's been an abnormally long fall season this year. We just got snow this weekend. Eric's favorite season is fall, and we did a lot to make the most of the beautiful weather we've had.

A walk in Provo Canyon:

The Great Pumpkin Cruise - twice! (Plus Eric walked along the Provo River Trail and took photos of the set up for the Provo Ropes Course's own Halloween River Boat Ride.)

Canoeing on the Provo River near Utah Lake.

Also, funny birds. The one on the left is of a duck with a wacky head. The one on the right is... a completely random bird that we saw walking in our parking lot yesterday. Weird, huh?

12 November 2009

Out damn bots, out!

I have had, no exaggeration, six spam comments on this post in the last eight days. I must have been targeted. I contemplated changing my comment settings to have word verification, even though I am not a huge fan of word verification. Instead, I decided just to turn off commenting on that one post. If some other post of mine is targeted, I will need to change the settings. Much apologies.

Anyone know why that one post of mine would have been attacked by the spambots?

11 November 2009

Resurrection > Zombies

About a year ago I read a blog post by some blogger that I was not familiar with and therefore cannot recall who the blogger was. It was just a one-time reading-thing, you know? Her post stayed with me, though. That is because her post was about a conversation she had with her husband after driving past a cemetery titled Resurrection Cemetery. The thing is, she and her husband had a discussion about why a cemetery would have such a title because to them, resurrection equals zombies. At the time I found it a bit odd that this blogger really had so little knowledge of the Christian doctrine. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me that somebody who didn't practice Christianity wouldn't really get it.

Then I saw this post on Fail Blog. And I knew a blog post was in order.

So first I checked out Dictionary.com's definition of resurrection because I figured it might be really basic and shed some light on the Christian concept, but it doesn't really. In fact, I found the definitions to be rather useless in defining the theological aspect.

In short, Christ was resurrected and Christians believe that everyone will be one day. That means we will all get our bodies back, just like Christ did. Now, Christ was resurrected after three days in a tomb, and when he was resurrected he did not come back as a zombie. He came back in a glorified state, and his choice of food was fish and honeycomb. It is important to note that Christ's body was not decayed; it was perfected. This means that after all of mankind is resurrected, we will all be able to enjoy our bodies in a glorified state of perfection. There are numerous cemeteries titled Resurrection Cemetery. (FindAGrave lists 71, but I'm sure there are more that are not included on the website.) The title serves as a reminder that death is temporary; not only will we live again, but we will live again with perfected bodies, and all of the physical ailments we endure in this life will be gone.

07 November 2009

Uncanny Resemblance

Tonight we watched Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest, which neither of us had ever seen. To be honest, it didn't do a whole lot for me. I'll take Rear Window or Vertigo any day.

One thing that did amuse me. As soon as I saw this character:

I thought of this one:

03 November 2009

The SLDs

I have two older brothers. One has gotten a lot of face time (or at least mentioning-time) on my blog. (Here. Here. Here. Here. Here.) He is John. He is about eleven years my senior.

My other older brother is Steve(n). He is only nineteen months older than I am. Almost all of my childhood memories involve him. And yet I don't talk about him much on my blog. This is because I don't talk TO him very much. He lives in Texas, about a block away from my folks. He has one very adorable little baby, and an awesome wife whom he has been friends with since he was 12. She and I were also very good friends in high school.

When Steve and I were little, we played together all the time. I don't remember what we played, but we played. He teased me mercilessly. I always wanted to hang out with his friends. Before he started kindergarten my mom started teaching him to read, and I was so jealous that I was not also getting reading lessons that my mom started teaching me at that time too. Pretty soon I caught up to Steven, but right before I was almost caught up to him, my mom had him practice reading with me. We had a book that had several short stories that were perfect for learning to read, and one was about a monkey and a bee. We loved that story.

When we were very small our family had to refer to the Disney film Robin Hood as "R.H." because we loved to watch it as often as possible. Steven introduced me to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I remember this distinctly because I loved to watch Sesame Street which came on at the same time as The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I thought his show was pretty dumb, but pretty soon I discovered that The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was totally radical, and Sesame Street was for babies. When we pretended to be Ninja Turtles, I was Donatello, the purple turtle whose weapon was big sticks. Steven was... either Leonardo (blue with a sword?) or Raphael (red with two little knives?). I can't remember what he liked to be. But we both agreed that Michaelangelo (orange with nun chucks) was the coolest of the turtles.

We also loved to watch Johnny Dangerously. I don't remember what it was about, but we sure thought it was awesome.

As we got older, I drove Steven crazier and crazier. This, in turn, drove our mom crazier and crazier. We learned to fight quietly to stay out of trouble.

At our church, each year there was an annual one-day conference for kids who were 12 and 13. This was basically to make up for the fact that the 12-13 year-olds were part of the youth group but were excluded from the weekend-long conference that happened for the older kids. Ordinarily the conference was held at such a time that we wouldn't have both been the right ages to go, but the dates were changed. My first conference happened to be his third, which meant we would be going together. At the end of the conference there was a dance. We decided we would make up a dance to do together sometime in the middle of the dance. We spent weeks making up our dance. It was completely ridiculous. We composed it and performed it in front of our mom. I think she was probably just glad that we were getting along. We performed our dance during the dance. Nobody really seemed to notice.

We were champion wheel-barrow racers. One time we were having some activity with the youth of our church which involved wacky relay-races. Steve and I DOMINATED the wheel-barrow portion of our race, but I don't think either of us told anybody that we actually wheel-barrowed around the house reasonably often.

In high school I'm pretty sure Steven didn't really like me. But sometimes he would go out of his way to embarrass me, so maybe deep-down he really did like me.

Usually the embarrassment consisted of him "walking me to class." That is, he would wrap his arm around me and announce rather loudly, "Excuse me, please, coming through! I've got to get my little sister to class! Yes, excuse us. Excuse us. We're on our way to class! Don't want to be late now." And then he would deposit me AT MY DESK and sometimes even leave me with a kiss on the cheek.

We often went to church dances in the same groups of friends. He usually would dance at least one dance with me. We always sang really loudly when we danced to U2's With or Without You.

After Steven graduated from high school, I was suddenly pretty cool again. We did lots of stuff together. Sometimes he would take me to lunch at the restaurant where he worked. Sometimes people would think I was his girlfriend. This freaked both of us out. Sometimes people told us that we definitely looked related. Other people told us we didn't look anything alike. I tend to think somewhere down the middle.

As siblings we couldn't be much more different than we are, but maybe some people would argue with you. I know Rhonda used to always comment on things that I did or said just like him.

These days Steven and I don't interact together a whole lot. We certainly aren't as close as we were in my last two years of high school (and his first two years out of high school), but I often think back on these (and many other) memories, and I remember that I'm a pretty lucky kid sister.

01 November 2009


Disclaimer 1: This is a late-night-I-have-lots-on-my-mind post. You've been warned.

Disclaimer 2: This post is in no way meant to be a criticism about anyone. It is merely observations of myself and differences people often have.

Disclaimer 3: This post has too many disclaimers, but I am going to publish it anyway. Because I used to be less inhibited about the things I said on my blog, but since having more readers I have found myself more and more reserved. If only for tonight, I am returning to some inhibitions. You should probably just stop reading.

Most of my life when I have been around somebody whose feelings have been hurt or somebody who is upset, I was the hurter or upsetter. Sensitivity has never been a strong point of mine. I usually wasn't purposely trying to hurt anybody, but it happened a lot more than I'd really care to admit. Which is why it surprises me that there have been a handful of times lately where I have been around a person who is upset in which I was not the cause. In some ways, this may be proof of my progress as an individual to be more aware of other people's feelings and the babble that comes shooting out of my mouth before I stop to think about that babble. In that aspect, it makes me happy. But in my experiences in the last six months or so, I have learned that even though I am more sensitive than I used to be, I still feel really incapable in areas of emotions.

That is, I still feel like I don't really get people. I just think entirely different than everyone else. Or at least that's how it seems. (I really am thinking about a number of experiences that I've had in about the last six months, both recent and far past). And in almost all of these experiences, I've expected a person to feel a certain way and been completely wrong. Generally, the person is upset, and I can understand why they are upset, or so I think. But when the person really starts discussing it with me, I realize that I was completely wrong to begin with. It has really dawned on me that everyone is really different. We all have such different backgrounds that it's nearly impossible for all of us to feel the exact same way about the exact same situations. And yet I still find myself sometimes being quite surprised/intrigued by the way somebody feels or reacts to a certain situation.

Example: A person is worried about what people will think about them. My thoughts? First of all, nobody is actually going to think that about you. And who cares if they do?

It is apparent that I sometimes just don't get it. And honestly, I don't know if there are times when I ever really will get it. But I have learned much better how to just listen and try to get it. Usually I feel completely inept.

I think this is why I don't talk to people a whole lot about my own feelings, besides happiness. Everyone gets happiness. Usually I don't even get my own feelings, and I find that a lot of times other people don't really get me either. I can think of a handful of times in which I have discussed a troubling situation with somebody, and the person responds with sensitively stated sentiments about how that probably makes me feel, and they are off. I just don't feel the way I am expected to feel about the event. So obviously, I am the anomaly in this whole feelings business. I see things from a very different lens than most of the people I know.

Now all of this is not to say that I want people to avoid me with talks of feelings. I really don't mind talking with people I care about who are having a difficult time (either with life events or with a particular person). I really appreciate that you trust me as a friend, confidant and calmer-downer. I apologize that I don't always get why you feel a certain way, but I am always capable of listening.

And as I listen my eyes will be opened to the fact that we human beings are all very different individuals, which will give me opportunities to learn how to better operate with my fellow humans, especially the ones I love the most. And maybe I will gradually begin to feel like a normal person.

29 October 2009

Doorbell ditching

Look at what just showed up at our door. (Yes, just. At 11. Don't worry 12 is our bedtime.)

Inside the bag was another bag wrapped around two candles and two knives.

And the knives have me utterly perplexed. Who would just give away two knives? Was the bag wrapped around the knives just so they wouldn't cut up the bag that was holding the carving tools? Is this one of those pass-along things? If it was, there is not letter indicating such, and no ghost sign for us to put in our window so other givers do not target us again. Also, we only have two days left to give it away!

Well, we are going to have fun carving anyhow! Thanks, stranger!

28 October 2009

Forget Squa Peak, I'll Show you a Real View

We went camping this weekend. As in, we set up camp last night at about 6:30. We roasted hot dogs and chatted until about midnight. Then we slept (and I use the term loosely) on the cold hard ground until 7:50 this morning. At which point we packed everything up and came home.

Originally we were going to go with friends, but they had something pop up this weekend. We thought about not going at all, but we haven't been camping since Jenn came to visit us in New Zealand. We wanted to be sure to go before it got too cold, and while the canyon is still very fall-ish.

We went to a campsite that Eric found while running a few weeks ago. He had been up there a few times since then to go roast hot dogs for work. It was a great site, and the views of Utah Valley were awesome. Hopefully there will be enough time this season for us to go at least one more time. (And hopefully some friends can come with us next time!)

24 October 2009

Utah Food Co-Op Strikes Again!

This is what I brought home this week from the Utah Food Co-op. It cost $23. Yep, that's an eggplant. I've already turned it into baba ghanoush. (Yes, I actually cooked!)
Food included:
  • 2 lb. boneless, center-cut pork loin roast
  • 2 lb. split chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (85/15)
  • 4 4oz. cubed steaks (1 lb. total)
  • 1 loaf Stoneground artisan wheat bread
  • 16 oz. lentils
  • 2 avocados
  • 6 Golden Delicious apples (Utah-grown)
  • 6 pears
  • 5 bananas
  • 1 head cabbage
  • 2 lbs. carrots
  • 1 eggplant
  • 3 lbs. yellow onions (Utah-grown)
I will say that I wasn't uber-thrilled with the meat selection this month, but I went ahead and got a standard share instead of a harvest share, which only includes fruits and vegetables.

If you live in Utah, you should really do the food co-op. There are pick-up locations all over the state. It gives you great food that is often grown locally. (Hooray for sustainability!) There may be stuff that you don't want, but you can always (a) try something new or (b) give it away. Plus, the things that are included are, as a rule, really great quality and really good for you.