29 January 2010

Dog Sitting

Meet Chester. He is a Bolognese. Looks sweet, no? (Besides the weird glowing eyes caused by the flash.) And mostly, he is sweet. He loves visitors. He does tricks. He likes to play. Sometimes he likes to sit on your lap, but he doesn't insist upon being a lap dog.

We are dog-sitting him. We've done this a few times before, and we know the routine. There are walks to go on, gloves to wear when you want him to play rough, treats to be had for tricks. There's the loss of appetite for the first few days when we arrive, and then the realization that he is a slave to his appetite and cannot ignore his food bowl for too long. There's combing his fur regularly to prevent matted knots and giving him baths while he looks pathetically up at you wondering why you insist upon torturing him.

And there are the little tantrums. Not like terrible-twos tantrums where he throws himself on the ground and screams and kicks until he gets his way. They are some kind of doggy tantrum, and they consist of him getting into a closet and taking down everything he can reach, which fortunately isn't much. We've made the mistake at least twice (in previous stays) of leaving the closet door open in the bedroom, and that closet has two levels of bars, which means there are lots of clothes at ground level. Plus there are shelves at ground level. So even though he is a little dog, he can make quite a mess. This time around we've been really careful to close doors behind us, but one night he managed to get into a linen closet in the hallway:
What we have yet to figure out:

Is Chester mad at us for invading his place, or at his owners for leaving? Either way, this tantrum was the first week of January, and we haven't had one since.

28 January 2010

Missing As

Lately I have been missing New Zealand. A lot. We have been home for a year now, so I've utterly forgotten the things that drove me nuts about living there. Well, okay, I haven't forgotten all of them. But usually when I think of New Zealand, I think of only the great things that I miss.

I miss the sheep.

I miss the foliage.

I miss the Dunedin Botanic Gardens.

I miss the close proximity to Milford Sound.

I miss long walks on the beach.

I miss the views from our flat.

And mostly, I miss our friends:

26 January 2010

Predictable and Literal

A few months ago, Eric and I decided to give our nieces and nephews "pope names," which we have posted on our family blog. (Examples of pope names: Katy the Incorruptible, Joseph the Jovial; Caleb the Gregarious.) While trying to come up with one adjective for each of our ten nieces and nephews on his side, we enlisted the help of his sister and her husband. Our discussion soon turned to appropriate pope names for the adults in the family as well. The only one I remember is the one that Matt created for me:

Sherry the Literal

Appropriate, no?

Last week some time I was thinking about how people often use the word "literally" incorrectly, and this led me to remember my pope name. Then I started thinking about how I am the epitome of an open book. Matt had almost no problem coming up with one word to describe me and my personality. Because it's not just the fact that I am very literal, but that I will also correct you when you are not. For example, if you tell me "one minute," I might time you. If you don't mean "one minute," then you should say something else that means "shortly." This train of thought led me to this memory:

Sophomore year of college I was playing games with roommates, and maybe other people in our apartment. Janssen was wearing a Halloween shirt, but it wasn't Halloween season, and I told her so. She reached into her pocket and handed me a piece of paper that said, "Sherry will be the first person to point out my Halloween shirt." (Or something to that effect. Correct me if I'm mistaken in my memory, Janssen.) She had put that slip of paper in her pocket when she put her shirt on.

Which makes me wonder - should my pope name be Sherry the Literal or Sherry the Predictable?

24 January 2010

Obscure Kitchen Tool

My newest obscure kitchen tool that I adore is my pestle and mortar. Eric bought it for me at Christmas, and I finally got around to using it today - to ground up some cardamom seeds. It was a lot of fun. As you can see in yonder first photo, the seeds started out very non-ground up. But I can assure that when I was finished putting in a teensy bit of elbow grease they were finely ground powder.

Before obtaining my pestle and mortar I used a variety of methods when encountering a recipe calling for ground spices when I only had the whole ones:
  1. Use whole ones anyway and hope that it didn't damage or otherwise negatively affect the dish being prepared. Usually for things like coriander seeds, this was okay, but not great.
  2. Try to crush the seeds with a bowl and spoon. This was usually rather ineffective.
  3. Put the seeds on a sheet of wax paper and cover it with another sheet of wax paper. Then pound the seeds with a rolling pin, which was the heaviest tool I had in my kitchen. This only made holes in the wax paper, and wasn't particularly effective in crushing the seeds.
Now I can cook properly, and I never imagined that grinding up seeds could be so satisfying. And I'm not just saying that; it really was an enjoyable experience. Now, I'm not saying that everyone should have a pestle and mortar, but I love to make Indian food, and there are a lot of seasonings that need crushing. Now that I have a pestle and mortar I can buy more of my seasonings whole, which will be nice because grinding them immediately before using them makes them taste a bit fresher.

23 January 2010

Review: Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin

I feel a little bit behind with this whole Greg Mortensen phenomenon. Apparently he came to speak at BYU pretty recently, and Eric's dad had kind of been raving about him and his book ever since then. Only, Gordon hadn't actually READ the book; he'd just heard it was good. I talked to him about it on Thursday, when I had about 100 pages to go, and he was about 50 pages in. He and I had pretty much the same thought: Great story, not so great writing.

With that said, I think that everyone should learn about what Greg Mortensen is doing in Pakistan and Afghanistan; it's pretty amazing.

In short, he's building schools for children, especially girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He believes that education will allow people in remote villages in those countries to improve their lives and will keep them away from terrorism.

On the whole, the people are really grateful for what he is doing. There have been some extremists who do not approve of educating girls, but most of the people in these villages recognize that educating girls actually helps the villages the most because the girls will stick around instead of abandoning the villages for the big cities.

If you really want to learn about Greg Mortensen's mission in the Middle East (and you should) I would recommend listening to interviews or speeches or whatnot. The book, unfortunately, is not stellar.

18 January 2010

This and that

Good news! My drawing pencils have been located. This means I can't use the "My husband can't remember where he packed my drawing pencils," excuse for not practicing. I'll have to go back to the old standard, which is, "I thought about practicing a lot, but I did other stuff instead."


Plus, now that I've spent a lot more time looking through all those packed boxes, I have a much better idea of where things are, where they should be and where they might actually be. If I am wise then I will spend some time in the next few months sorting through some of those boxes and throwing stuff away so I don't have to move it again. Although, I do not really see this happening.


We got a new video camera for Christmas, and we haven't really used it yet. We'll have to find something worth filming so we can play with our new toy.


We are thinking about going to Europe this year for our fifth anniversary. Eric even put together a slide show with cities we could visit, and he made a list of ticket prices to various cities in Europe, which I then put into a spreadsheet. Then we searched for the costs of flying to those same cities from D.C. and using our Southwest Airlines credits to get us to D.C. to see if that would bring the cost down (as opposed to flying out of Salt Lake City). It was spreadsheet bliss! Next to calculate the costs of hostels in different towns in Central Europe. The fun thing about planning possible trips is that even if you don't end up going, you still get to make spreadsheets!


A couple of weeks ago our niece and nephew (eight years old and six years old, respectively) rode in our car, Rusty. He is a 1996 Mazda 626 with 164,000 miles, and we love him. We especially love him after purchasing Dudley and having him all fixed up. Anyway, the point is not that Rusty is awesome; the point is that the kids were thoroughly entertained by our manual windows, and they wanted to take turns rolling the windows down.

13 January 2010

Wanting what I can't have

Even with my lips broken out in blisters and the skin surrounding my mouth covered in a sandpapery rash caused by an allergic reaction to eating mango, all I could think when I saw Eric eating a mango just now was, "Mmmmmm... I want that."

Why, of all the fruits in the world, must I be allergic to mangos? Why not apples, which I'm not that crazy about? Or passionfruit, which smells like cat pee? Or pomegranates which I hardly ever eat and hardly ever see in stores? I guess this is just my cross to bear in life.

12 January 2010

Anonymous Comments

I've gotten a few anonymous comments lately. I've turned on comment moderation on all posts older than 15 days, and that has made it easier to catch the comment-bots that like to say things like:
Good day, sun shines!
There have were times of hardship when I felt unhappy missing knowledge about opportunities of getting high yields on investments. I was a dump and downright stupid person.
I have never imagined that there weren't any need in large initial investment.
Nowadays, I'm happy and lucky , I started take up real income.
It's all about how to choose a proper companion who uses your funds in a right way - that is incorporate it in real business, and shares the income with me.
You can ask, if there are such firms? I have to tell the truth, YES, there are. Please get to know about one of them: [link]
Thanks for the informative information - I enjoyed reading it! I always enjoy this blog. :) Cheers, [hyper link called: Mother Giving Birth Video].
Interestingly, I also got this one, which was kind of a compliment and an insult at the same time. I took it mostly as a compliment, and I wondered why whoever said it desired anonymity:
Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!
I guess I'll take whatever compliments I can get.

10 January 2010


A couple of funny exchanges between Eric and me lately:

Last night we had some folks over, and we gave them some Mud Pie ice cream. It is chocolate ice cream marbled with more chocolate, and it is one of our favorites lately. After the ice cream was served our friend were commenting on how good it was, and one friend said that she was really happy because she got a big chunk of ice cream. Then Eric said, "Yes, I saw a big chunk as I was dishing the ice cream out, and I purposely avoided it so that I could save it for myself." I replied, "Eric! Haven't you learned anything from your mom about being a good host? That's terrible!" Everyone was laughing at Eric's comment and Eric replied to me, "No, see, it's okay, I did it so that I could entertain everybody with the story."

While watching Pride and Prejudice (the one with Collin Firth), right as Mr. Darcy is about to go swimming while Elizabeth is touring his property with her aunt and uncle:

Me: I would not go swimming in that water. It looks gross.
Eric: Is he about to go swimming?
Me: Yes! How can you not remember? Because during the movie you think Mr. Darcy is not very handsome but then he comes out of the water and he suddenly is very handsome, and it changes everything!
Eric: No, I don't remember that at all.

05 January 2010

A Library at Home

One of the great things about house-sitting is that the people we house-sit for have a lot of books. Gads of books. Mountains of books. When I got here the other night and was waiting for Eric to finish getting ready for bed, I pulled the following off the shelves:

I think they will make a great start. And, bonus! There are no due dates.

In case the photo is not clear, the books are:
  • These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner
  • Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Only, probably not in that order. I've already started the first two. And I'm not entirely sure about The Lovely Bones. My friend, Trish, really hated it, but it's gotten pretty good reviews. Any thoughts?

03 January 2010


We just completed our tenth move. We have been married four years and eight months. We should be experts at this by now.

After hanging out with friends until 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve, we had to go back to our apartment, finish getting out all our junk and clean it for the people who were moving in on New Year's Day.

We are still living in Provo, and we are house-sitting. The people for whom we are house-sitting will be returning in mid-April, so we won't be here very long. After getting to our new home at about 4:30 we had to bring in some more stuff from the car, locate various boxes and ready ourselves for bed. We were pretty much ready for bed when Eric realized he had forgotten his pillow in the car.

You know how some toddlers cannot go to sleep without their special blankies? Eric cannot go to sleep without his special pillow. Okay, it's isn't that bad, but he really does struggle without his pillow. His pillow is nothing fancy. In fact, it is the opposite of fancy. It is incredibly flat, but this suits Eric because he sleeps on his belly, and his head is rather large. Pillows that are not sufficiently flat (read: old) cause him to contort his head and neck in a rather uncomfortable way.

So, by the time Eric realizes that he hasn't got his pillow, he's already nearly in bed, which for Eric means that he is in his skivvies. He had already put clothes on to run out to the car twice, and he didn't want to go out again. It was nearing 5:30 at this point, so I handed him a blanket and told him that he could just use it.

I meant to use it as a pillow. He thought I meant to use it as a robe. Which he did. Then he came back in happily with his flat pillow, and we went to bed at 5:30.

And that is how we rang in 2010.

01 January 2010

2009 Book Stats

For those of you who want a little more visual representation of my reading in 2009.

Total books read: 52

I read a lot in June. November was abysmal. December was catch-up time.

This year, I read a lot of series books and multiple books by the same author. There were eight authors for which I read at least two books. Some of these were books in a series. Others were not.
I was really proud of myself this year. About a third of the books I read were non-fiction. I feel like I learned a ton from the non-fictions that I read. Some were more dense and difficult to get through than others, but overall, I'm glad that I've rediscovered non-fiction.

Seven of the books I read this year were with my carpool buddy. They include:
  1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  2. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  6. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  7. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
My top five suggestions for the year:
  1. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  2. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  3. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  4. David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright
  5. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Do you have any idea how hard it was to just choose five?

What are the top 10% of the books you read this year? (Ahem, this means if you read fewer than ten books, you are not allowed to recommend. How else am I to maintain my intellectual elitism?) Fine, if you've read fewer than ten, you may recommend one. Not that I have to read it. I'm just curious.

Also, just so you know, only fourteen of the books from this year were ones I had read before. Only 3.8% were audio-books, which is quite different from last year's 38%.

2009 Books


1. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin - (Abraham Lincoln was the best president ever. The end.)

2. The Culprit and the Cure; Why Lifestyle is the Culprit Behind America's Poor Health and how Transforming that Lifestyle Can be the Cure
by Steven G. Aldana - (Longest title ever, but it was a really interesting read and it got me exercising and working really hard to eat better every day!)

3. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech - (I think I loved this even more than when I read it about ten years ago.)


4. Atonement by Ian McEwan - (I was completely enthralled with the story. I loved the way this story was told, from different perspectives, although almost always with a third person narrator. I'd like to read more from this author.)

5. The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg - (I read this when I was about 14, and I really loved it then. This time I read it aloud with Eric, and we both enjoyed it, although I'm not sure I loved it quite as much this time.)

6. The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright - (Overall, I liked it, even though I don't tend to go for this sort of Hallmark-movie-like book.)

7. Anne's House of Dreams* by Lucy Maud Montgomery - (I enjoyed listening to this while I treadmilled and did other sundry activities, but I think I'm done with the series.)

8. Saturday by Ian McEwan - (I liked the story-telling. I was not thrilled with the story.)

9. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer - (Wow. This was an amazing story, and it was told incredibly well. I found myself constantly astonished at the difficulty of ascending Mt. Everest, but never really questioning why anybody would want to do it. Krakauer is an excellent writer, and I hope to read more from him in the future.)


10. Our Search for Happiness by M. Russell Ballard - (This was a great book, and perfect for anybody who is interested in learning more about the LDS Church.)

11. Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer - (I loved this one as much as I loved Into Thin Air. Krakauer is an amazing storyteller, and I was fascinated by Chris McCandless' ill-fated adventure. I have no need to go backpacking or camping in Alaska. Maybe an Alaskan cruise some time, but that's where I draw the line.)

12. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck - (AMAZING! I can't wait to read more by her. And, pleasant perk! After I finished reading it, I mentioned it to my mom, and she said that Buck was one of her favorite authors when she was in high school.)


13. Germinal by Emile Zola - (This book turned me into even more of a socialist than I already was. I enjoy Zola's writing. He is a bit of a downer (think the French Hemingway), but I kind of like depressing books. They seem more real to me.)

14. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland* by Lewis Carroll - (I enjoyed listening to this one and thinking about its philosophical questions. I don't have answers to them, but it definitely made me think as I smiled.)

15. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - (LOVED. Can't wait for the next one. Highly recommend. Written for youth, and I found it surprisingly thought-provoking.)

16. David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright - (Every Mormon should read this book. Especially if you think Mormon Doctrine really is doctrine.)


17. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl - (My favorite quote:

An active life serves the purpose of giving man the opportunity to realize values in creative work, while a passive life of enjoyment affords him the opportunity to obtain fulfillment in experiencing beauty, art or nature. But there is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior: namely, in man's attitude to his existence restricted by external forces. A creative life and a life of enjoyment are banned to him. But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.
This book was amazing. Everyone should read it.)

18. How the Garica Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez - (This book started with a sort of family tree, so I liked it immediately. It was a nice read about a Dominican family of four daughters who immigrates to New York. Easily classified in the "coming of age" category. I also loved the play on the title because in the Dominican Republic their surname has an accent over the i, but in America it does not.)

19. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - (Loved it in high school. Loved it even more this time.)

20. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt - (Absolutely loved the writing. The story was deeply engaging. I can't wait to read more of his writing.)

21. Twenty Years at Hull House by Jane Addams - (This was an interesting book, and Jane Addams is an awesome lady. It was a bit difficult to plow through the whole thing, but it opened my eyes to some of the social movements during the end of the nineteenth century.)

22. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke - (A little slow at first, but then it picked up quite a bit. I'll definitely have to read the sequel.)

23. The Chosen by Chaim Potok - (A really intriguing story that is beautifully written. I couldn't and didn't wait to read the next book. Potok's balanced portrayal of conflict is impressive.)

24. The Promise by Chaim Potok - (I didn't love it quite as much as The Chosen, but it was still an exceptional book. I was again impressed with Potok's masterful depiction of conflict.)

25. Sarah: Women of Genesis by Orson Scott Card - (I quite enjoyed this book. I was curious how Card would do outside of sci-fi, but it was thoroughly enjoyable.)

26. 'Tis by Frank McCourt - (I love McCourt's very distinct style. 'Tis is not heart-wrenching like Angela's Ashes; it's more of a coming-of-age story, and it's an excellent combination of entertaining and engaging. Entergaging?)

27. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling - (I read this in preparation of the movie. It was my third time with this book, and I must say I didn't enjoy it as much as the first two times. But it's still a very easy read and highly entertaining. And it did actually make me want to give #7 another go.)

28. A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck - (This book was great. It was clever and funny, and it was sweet without being mushy. There are very few books that accomplish all of those things so successfully. I was very impressed and cannot wait to read more by Peck.)

29. The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt - (Read this one aloud with Eric. I loved it from the start, but he took a while to really appreciate the humor. I would highly recommend this, especially to kids because it is a YA book.)

30. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling - (This was my second time to read this one. I can appreciate Rowling's cleverness, but this is certainly not the best book in the series.)

31. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - (Amazing. Extremely well-written and incredibly thoughtful and moving.)

32. In the Beginning by Chaim Potok - (I adore this author. I liked this book, albeit not as much as I enjoyed The Chosen and The Promise.)

33. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling - (Hands down my least favorite of the series.)

34. Rebekah: Women of Genesis by Orson Scott Card - (I didn't enjoy this one as much as its predecessor. I felt like Card got a little too wrapped up in explaining every aspect of the characters' behavior, but it was still an enjoyable read.)

35. The Omnivore's Dilemma; A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan - (Everyone should read this book. I used to roll my eyes at people who frowned upon our society's industrial food chain, but I have a much better understanding about how devastating our industrial food chain really is, not only to our health, but to the environment as well.)

36. The Sound and the Fury by Stephen Faulkner - (This book is not for everyone. The writing is genius, though.)

37. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok - (I enjoyed this book. This is the fourth Potok book I've read this year. It finally occurred to me while reading Asher Lev that Potok must have had issues with his father.)

38. Social Networking for Genealogists by Drew Smith - (I read this book because I was asked to review it for a genealogy publication.)

39. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling - (This was my favorite the first time I read the series. I thoroughly enjoyed it this time too. Something about time-travel really does it for me.)

40. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee - (Loved this book. It was just so interesting. The book is about Chinese food in America and around the world, but it's really about so much more. A great look at the pervasiveness of Chinese culture, food in America and the true origins of the fortune cookie.)

41. Rachel and Leah: Women of Genesis by Orson Scott Card - (I enjoyed this one. I think Card is a great writer, although sometimes I think he tries too hard to delve into the thoughts and feelings of his characters. That makes me find them less believable. But I think a lot of readers like that aspect of his writing.)

42. Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Reed - (Great book, albeit gruesome. Ultimately, it is about survival and the will to survive. It made me think a lot about having a purpose in life, optimism and hope.)

43. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - (Highly enjoyable, although I preferred the first one. I think this one left too many strings untied.)

44. Here is Where we Meet by John Berger - (I didn't love it, but I also didn't hate it. My drawing teacher lent it to me and absolutely raved about it. I think it was a little too modern, even for me.)

45. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery - (Rather slow and pretentious at first. And at the middle. But the end picked up, and I was bummed it was over.)

46. Untitled Book by Science Teacher Mommy - (I am totally counting this since it is a full-length book. I sent my thoughts straight to STM.)

47. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder - (I hadn't read this since elementary school, I thoroughly enjoyed it. In my memory the stories took place earlier in American history.)

48. $20 Per Gallon; How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better by Christpher Steiner - (I liked it. It was interesting and thought-provoking. I am interested to see which of the changes he predicted, particularly in our energy technologies, really do come true.)

49. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - (Such a great series. My favorite part is when Jack comes back.)

50. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder - (My favorite parts are when Pa comes back.)

51. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder - (I don't think I could ever tire of this series.)

52. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling - (This is when the series really starts to get exciting! I forgot how many things were different than the movie in this one.)

*I listened to an audiobook.