31 March 2010

Work It

I have made it a point not to write about Eric's job very much on my blog. I hesitate to ever say too much lest the scary people on the Internet figure out everything about us. But the events of last weekend necessitate discussing Eric's job.

He manages a group home for the mentally handicapped. He works for a company that has roughly three dozen homes in the Provo/Orem area. He is also on the "Emergency Squad" (that is not what it's really called) for this company, which means that when he is on call, he may get to go handle a rough situation. (Many of the clients, in addition to being mentally challenged, also have psychiatric disorders which sometimes cause them to be unruly, to say the least.) Usually when he gets called to an emergency situation, it is hardly an emergency, and purely covering a shift for some lame-o who skipped work and that lame-o's manager who didn't pick up the shift himself (or herself). (I feel okay calling them lame-os because Eric has managed two different houses, over a span of something like 5 or 6 years total, and he has NOT ONCE used the crisis team to cover a shift. Ahem. Moving on.)

Sometimes Eric works overnight. It's been that way since before we were married, and it never really bothered me once we got married. It's just the way it is. Once or twice a week, I get the whole bed all to myself, and it's quite wonderful.

Sometimes Eric works upwards of 60 hours per week. Anything above 40 is, of course, overtime. This has been a huge financial blessing for us. And while there have been times when we haven't seen much of each other, they are usually short spans of time, and then we have all that extra money floating around. And you can't go wrong with extra money.

All this brings me to my point. Eric had the most insane schedule the weekend before last. He worked about 70 hours Friday through Tuesday. Plus he worked Monday through Thursday leading up to that Friday and then Wednesday through Friday after his Tuesday shifts. It was crazy. That is all.

29 March 2010

Avocado Sandwiches

I mentioned in Friday's post that Eric likes to make avocado sandwiches. They are too yummy not to share the recipe (I hesitate to call it a recipe, because, come on, it's just a sandwich!).

My sister-in-law introduced these to my family when I was roughly 11. She called them veggie burgers. Eric and I have adapted that recipe, so I will share both with you.

Nicole's Avacado Veggie Burgers
Hamburger buns
Sliced cheese
Onions, sliced
Avocados, sliced
Tomatoes, sliced
Alfalfa sprouts
Ranch dressing

  1. Sautee the onions in some oil until they are clear.
  2. Toast the hamburger buns, with the cheese on the bun, so the cheese will melt.
  3. Spread some ranch dressing on a bun (or both buns, if you like).
  4. Build your sandwich on the toasted buns with the sliced avocados, tomatoes, onions, and alfalfa sprouts.
  5. Consume ravenously.
Eric and Sherry Variation
  • Use regular bread, toasted.
  • Don't bother sauteing the onions.
  • Use Italian dressing instead of ranch.
  • Use lettuce instead of alfalfa sprouts. (We love alfalfa sprouts, but we rarely have them on hand and pretty much always have lettuce on hand.)
I feel kind of lame posting about how to make sandwiches, but my, oh my, how we love avocado sandwiches. They are so healthy and tasty and filling. And you could have about a gazillion different variations, based on what you have available and what you like. Let me know if you try them and like them.

28 March 2010

New apartment

We found a place to live! Hooray! It's very close to my work, which is awesome. The people who lived there before us were allowed to paint, and they did a great job, so it will be nice to live in a place that isn't just plain white walls. Sadly, there is no dishwasher. But most places we looked at didn't have dishwashers, and some of the places that did have dishwashers were smelly and gross. You win some, you lose some, I guess. When I checked it out by myself on Friday, I took a few pictures to show Eric. And now I will show them to you.

This is the dining room, which the current tenants use as an office. We will be using it as a dining room-meets-office, I think.

This is the bedroom. It's really bright, and the closets are decent. The paint is also a nice color, although I don't know if that comes out really well in this photo.

And the kitchen. It's a little small, but it's really tidy. (There is more to it than what you can see from this angle.)
I didn't photograph the living room for some reason. But it's the same color as the bedroom, and it has similar windows and is really bright and nice.

We are excited to live downtown, and I am excited to be able to walk to work.

26 March 2010

A Culinary Cabaret

One of the smartest things I have done in the last five years is teach Eric to cook. He's learned to enjoy cooking on his own. The interesting thing is that we've never had an official cooking lesson. We've just cooked together often enough that Eric has picked up some of the tricks of cooking, like which seasonings go with which foods, how to time things so the different dishes all finish at cooking at the same time, and when it is okay to guestimate amounts or skip ingredients.

It's been especially nice this last year that I've been commuting that we haven't had to eat frozen and otherwise pre-prepared "food" every day. Now, I will admit that I enjoy cooking more than Eric does, but he's gotten to really like preparing a handful of things:

  • borscht
  • tortilla soup
  • tomato soup
  • various curry dishes
  • pancakes
  • avocado sandwiches
  • deluxe bean burritos (I know this doesn't really count as cooking, but it is one of our favorite meals. And it's super fast, super cheap, and pretty healthy because we use non-fat sour cream, low-fat beans, lots of veggies, and whole-wheat tortillas.)
When we were first married I would joke with Eric that my good cooking was wasted on him because he'd eat anything. He insists, now, that it is not wasted on him, and I agree. My good cooking has encouraged him to learn a new skill, and one that he basically enjoys, especially when we are doing it together.

25 March 2010

Review: Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza

I don't think there is a way to write a book about genocide without it being sad. With that said, yes, this book is incredibly heart-breaking and terrifying.

But there is something really beautiful about it too. As you can tell from the title, the book is not simply a chronicle of Immaculee's experience as a RwandanTutsi during Rwanda's holocaust in 1994; it is about the relationship she found with God during and after that horrific time.

I think it is hard to read about somebody else's personal relationship with God. At least for me, it is difficult to read about other people's experiences without viewing through my own lens. And that lens is shaped by my personal experiences and my own relationship with God. Admittedly, there were times when Immaculee's descriptions or feelings didn't quite mesh with what I thought she should think or feel. But it's not my book, and they weren't my experiences, and when I remembered to step back and look at them that way, it completely changed my perception of the book.

I walked away from this book with an overwhelming sense of how much God loves all of his children and how much he wants us to be happy. Immaculee found that forgiveness was necessary for her to feel happiness and joy. She also saw the bitterness and hate that other people had, which many people would view as justified. But she realized how crucial it was for her to forgive the people who massacred hundreds of thousands of people. She didn't want her entire life to be plagued with hate, and she also felt completely unable to forgive these people on her own. She found that only by relying on God and asking for help to forgive, she was able to do so.

The writing of this book isn't really stellar, but it's decent. The story is very compelling, though, and I was surprised by how much this book has affected me.

23 March 2010

Wishful Thinking

During my last semester at BYU, I remember having a discussion with some classmates before out class started. I said something about how one of the things I looked forward to the most in my post-graduation life would be the extra time I would have to read lots of good books. My teacher sort of chuckled and told me that it was wishful thinking. She wasn't rude by any means, and she was just sharing her own experience. She found that her life was just too busy to read as much as she thought she would.

I'm glad to say that this professor was wrong. I have lots of time to read, and I love it.

As I've pondered our upcoming move and the all the extra time I will have since I won't be commuting two hours every day, I've developed a hearty list of things that I will magically have time to do:
  • Cook most days.
  • Be in charge of grocery shopping again. (Eric has done a great job in the interim.)
  • Read even more. (This one might be wishful thinking since I already do a fair amount of reading with my carpool buddy.)
  • Practice Spanish.
  • Keep my apartment astoundingly clean.
  • Exercise.
  • Blog more regularly. (I hate it when a week goes by without a post. My unofficial goal is three per week.)
  • More time with Eric to actually do stuff other than stare at screens together.
Hopefully, this isn't all wishful thinking. I know that I might not have time to do all of these things every day, and that's okay. But hopefully it's not all wishful thinking.

21 March 2010

"A place of love and beauty"

In February there was an announcement made about the Ogden Temple. The outside would be completely renovated, and it would look like a totally different building. This was exciting news, and something a little out of the norm. It is not uncommon for a temple to be renovated, but for it to take on a totally different external face is, at least to my knowledge, unprecedented.

It made people question whether the Provo Temple, which looks almost exactly the same, would also undergo a similar external upgrade. (I was, apparently, not the only person to wonder about this.) So you can see just how similar these temples are, here are a couple of photos. The Ogden Temple is on the left, and the Provo Temple is on the right.

Let's be honest, a lot of folks think these temples are not the prettiest, and some people even think they are ugly. I'll admit that I wasn't particularly fond of the Provo Temple when I moved to Provo almost seven years ago. But it's grown on me. A lot.

I didn't receive my endowment there. I didn't get married there. I've never been to a live sealing ceremony there. No significant life event has happened for me in the Provo Temple, but it is, hands down, the temple I've spent the most time in, and because of that I love it.

When it was originally built the spire was gold, not white. There was also no statue of Moroni at the top, although the original plans called for one. Those things both changed in 2003, which was just before I moved here.

The original design of the temple was meant to symbolize the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night which led the Israelites to the promised land. Learning that symbolism really changed my view of the design of the Provo Temple, and I began to see the beauty of it.

One of my favorite things about the home that we live in right now is that we have a really wonderful view of the temple, especially at night when it is lit up. (And in the winter when there are no leaves on the trees to obstruct the view.)

Essentially, all temples are the same. But I've grown attached to the Provo Temple, and it is one of the things I will miss the most when we move in a month.

To learn more about LDS temples, go here.

17 March 2010

Food Allergies

I've been thinking lately about food allergies, and frankly, how grateful I am that I don't have any. I love bread. I love dairy products. It would be very challenging for me to give these things up. I know that it can be done, and that people with food allergies still find lots of great things to eat. But, there's a lot of adapting that has to be done, and it's challenging.

I've been especially thankful lately that I am lactose tolerant. I love dairy products, and I go through phases of really loving dairy products. Facts:
  • There was a time during my high school years when my lunch consisted of one pint of Bluebell ice cream. (It was cheaper than getting a hot lunch, and it filled me up.)
  • My sophomore year of college, there were weeks when I drank two gallons of milk (roughly 7.5 liters) of milk EACH WEEK. I was a milk-drinking monster.
  • In the time between when I moved out of my flat after my sophomore year and when Eric and I got married, I moved into Eric's parents' house. Eric's mom wanted to be sure I had plenty of food that I liked available, and she asked me to name my five favorite foods. I told her, without even a thought, "Milk, chocolate milk, cottage cheese, yogurt and ice cream." Seriously.
  • On the rare occasions when I go shopping, ice cream is always on my list. When Eric is going shopping and asks me if I can think of anything that we need, I almost always ask him to check the ice cream supply before going to the store.
So, I know that I'd adapt if I was suddenly lactose intolerant (especially because my dairy consumption is significantly lower than it once was), but it still wouldn't be pleasant.

15 March 2010

Looking forward

Three things that are going to make this week awesome:
  1. Daylight Saving Time has begun! No more driving home in the dark! I'm so happy I could cry while I do a happy dance.
  2. Karina and I finished HP6 tonight, and we will begin HP7 tomorrow! Woot! I've only read that one once, and I'm so excited to read it again. There are lots of things I've forgotten. This is going to get me so antsy for the movie that comes out this year!
  3. Another episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" airs on Friday. My colleagues did a lot of the research for these shows (Their names are even in the credits!), and so far I'm really liking them. I especially loved the Emmitt Smith episode from this past Friday. If you haven't gotten a chance to watch it, go check it out.
What are you looking forward to this week?

14 March 2010

I'm not your mother. I'm a snort.

The most delightful thing happened to me at church today.

Our meetings had ended, and I was standing and chatting with my friend, Jennilyn. Her little girl, who is about four, was twirling around us as we spoke. Jennilyn finished talking to me and moved over about six feet to discuss something with somebody else. The little girl did not realize that her mom had moved away, and she continued twirling for a few seconds. Then she stopped twirling and began to cuddle up to my leg. It was a little odd to me since I don't know the little girl at all, and then it dawned on me.

I looked down at her and said, "Did you know I'm not your mom?" She got a scared look on her face and moved over to her mom and proceeded to cuddle her leg instead.

12 March 2010

Apartment Hunting

The first time I went apartment hunting was at the end of my freshman year of college. I went with my roommates, and it was an exciting time. I remember that I felt very grown-up because here I was doing this very grown-up thing - touring apartments, choosing one and signing a contract. It was all rather exhilarating. But I've done it a gazillion times since then, and I no longer find it quite so exhilarating. I say "quite" because, frankly, I do still like it a lot.

Mostly, we rely on CraigsList. (Oh, hi, my Kiwi-friends! CraigsList is like TradeMe.) Because we use Craigslist, we also use GoogleMaps quite a bit. And oh, how we both love GoogleMaps. Eric could spend hours every day playing with GoogleMaps, if I let him. So, getting to use GoogleMaps to find the best location for our new dwelling is pretty awesome. We use the "get directions" tool to find out just how long my commute will be. We use it to gauge the best route to the highway and to see what shops and such are nearby because almost all the listings will say, "conveniently located." Which makes me wonder, "Does everyone have the same standards of convenience? Certainly not. I will check GoogleMaps to see how convenient this place really is!"

I also like to browse for apartments because sometimes it means I will make a spreadsheet. We haven't quite gotten to spreadsheet mode yet, but it's coming. Oh, it's coming. And there will be much spreadsheet joy around these parts.

And then there's the furniture bit. See, we have no furniture. Zero. Like, almost literally. If you'd like to get technical, we do have a bed including a frame. There is no headboard or footboard, and that is something I'd like to remedy. We really love our bed, and it was one of the best purchases we have made so far, but we've been married FIVE YEARS. Folks, FIVE YEARS is a long time to only have a bed and a bookshelf to our names. Seriously. No couch. No end tables. No kitchen table and chairs. No desk. No lamp. No TV stand. (Okay, we also have a card table and four chairs, which we have never used ourselves but have been used by Eric's parents.) Other than that, we are a furniture-less couple. And I am so over that. I want furniture that I can call my own. I want to browse Ikea for hours and leave with something. I want to find something unfinished on CraigsList and finish it! And then marvel at how awesome I am for finishing something. These are things I want.

Eric has slightly different wants in the furniture realm. He'd rather continue living in furnished places. If you live in a furnished place, moving is a lot easier. If you live in a furnished place, you don't have to spend money on ugly, used furniture. And that's all he's got on his side of the argument, so, as you can see, I'm bound to win this one.

Unless I lose. And if we find the right place, and it happens to be furnished, I guess I will just have to lose this one.

P.S. If you live in Salt Lake and want us to be your neighbors, here are our requirements for an apartment:
  • One bedroom (We have no reason for a two bedroom right now, and the cost savings are generally ginormous by going with a one-bedroom.)
  • Dishwasher. (My hands are far too delicate for washing dishes. So are Eric's. That's our story, and we're sticking to it.)
  • Washer/Dryer on-site, or hookups in the flat.
  • A kitchen with decent cupboard and counter space. (I will be cooking once again, and I want to have room to wield my knives!)
  • Downtown or close to Trax. (By downtown I mean the Avenues, the Capitol area, Trolley Square Area, around the U.)
  • Air conditioning or swamp cooler.
And here are our apartment hopes:
  • In a complex with social neighbors.
  • Covered parking. (Dream on, I know. But we had covered parking in our last place, and I almost wanted to marry it.)
  • Closet and storage space. (We may not have furniture, but we've got a lot of random junk to store.)
  • Fitness center in complex. (This would just be really nice.)
So, if you hear of something that meets or almost meets those requirements, let me know!

10 March 2010

Review: Freakonimics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

I finished reading Freakonimics this weekend. I had heard many good things about it for the past few years, and I'm glad that I finally got around to reading it. It's not so much about economics as it is about drawing conclusions from large sets of data. That makes it sound boring, but the conclusions are in actuality really interesting.

But the conclusions would not be interesting without particularly interesting questions. A few questions of note:
  • What caused the decline in crime in the 1990s?
  • How can we identify teachers who try to cheat the testing systems?
  • How much do parents really matter when predicting education outcomes?
What I actually found the most interesting were not necessarily Levitt's conclusions, but his methodology in reaching those conclusions. While there is certainly a good deal to be said about economic software, that software is useless if there is no clever way to create measurable sets of data and then sort it. I felt like there was just enough methodology to be interesting and make the problem clear without being bogged down with technical jargon.

I also found that as I read this book I wanted to tell Eric about every little bit that I read and what it could possibly mean in the greater picture. I think this would make a great book for a book club because it is non-fiction and has a lot of interesting discussion points.

08 March 2010

Review: Alice in Wonderland

We saw the new Alice in Wonderland this weekend. We say, "meh." It got a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, which we both thought was a pretty accurate score.

Visually it was pretty awesome, and I expected it to be, being a Tim Burton creation.

The story was rather lame though. Rather than re-hash Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland or Alice Through the Looking Glass the filmmakers decided to create their own Wonderland story. It was rather lame. Basically, Alice finds herself back in Wonderland and finds out that everyone is waiting for her to fulfill the prophecy which states that she will kill the Jabberwocky. Once she does so, the White Queen will dethrone the Queen of Hearts and all will be happy again in Wonderland.

The thing is, the original stories (and poem, I guess) on which the movie is based are full of whimsy and humor, mixed with philosophical questions. This movie version was not especially funny, nor whimsical, nor thought-provoking. As with most movies based on literature, I'd take the literature any day.

06 March 2010

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I loved this book. My sister-in-law's sister-in-law (or brother-in-law's sister, whichever way you want to look at it) recommended it to me, and as soon as she mentioned it I realized it was one of the many books on the shelf in the bedroom at this house (where we are house-sitting). So, I added it to the stack. And then another friend of mine read it and raved about it.

And now I've read it and will rave about it.

I loved this book. It is the story of white women and their black maids in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. That is about as much as you can say without giving away too much of the plot, but here are some things I really liked about this book:
  • There are three different narrators in the book. I love it when authors do this well. Each of the narrators (two black maids and one white lady) has a very distinct and individual voice. The black maids' parts are written the way that they would speak, and it's clear that they didn't speak exactly the same. The variations are slight, but I noticed them, and I appreciated that the author was clever enough to include them.
  • It's a great portrayal of some of the tensions between blacks and whites in the Deep South during this time period. You can really see why it was so hard for blacks to get ahead, and you can really see the different perspectives that blacks and whites had. Many black people wanted to lay low and avoid stirring up trouble (and the book shows why they would have an interest in keeping a low profile). Some white people were horrible; others were decent and kind. It really varied, and the book shows that.
  • The plot is really captivating and still believable. There are multiple story-lines going on, as any good plot should have, and the Stockett does a good job of keeping them balanced and resolving them.
  • Despite all of the hard things in this book, there are a number of very funny and very touching moments.
I couldn't help but wonder, after reading this book, what kind of a white lady I would have been fifty years ago.