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.