31 May 2011


I like machines. "Machine" was one of the first words I learned to spell.* Today my friend asked me when our world was going to catch up to The Jetsons. Interestingly, I had been thinking just a few nights ago about all the amazing machines in my life.

There are the cars, Rusty and Dudley. (They're so beloved they get names!) There are the washer and dryer. Not to mention the dishwasher. I don't have them, but Roombas (automatic vacuums) and Scoobas (automatic hard-floor sweepers and moppers) are delightful machines. (Technically my wood laminate flooring would be ruined by a Scooba, but still I pine for a machine that will sweep and mop my entry way, dining area and kitchen.) Plus, Eric bought me a bread machine at a garage sale for ONE DOLLAR. A working bread machine for ONE DOLLAR! So now I have a machine that bakes me fresh bread.

Some people may worry that machines will one day take over the world.

If I can wake up to clean clothes, spotless dishes and a freshly baked loaf of bread, I don't mind one bit if machines are in charge.

*I had a coloring book which featured a picture of a cartoon-ish cat and a conveyor belt. I distinctly recall asking my mom how to spell "machine" so I could write it on the page after coloring it. Then I memorized how to spell it.

25 May 2011

Wrong Lyrics

There is a classic children's song that is popular in the Mormon church. I don't know why it's not popular elsewhere because it's a great kids song. It's called "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree," and it has hand motions, which is mostly what makes it so fun. The only thing is, most people sing it incorrectly. If you're not LDS, you may find this quiz kind of boring. And I apologize. If you are LDS, you might find this quiz enlightening. Fill in the blanks:

I looked out the window, and what did I see?
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!
Spring had brought me such a nice surprise,
_________ popping right before my eyes.
I could take an armful, and make a treat,
A popcorn ball that would smell so sweet.
It wasn't really so,
But it seemed to ______
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.

So, what lyrics did you put in those gaps? Most commonly people say "popcorn" and "me." These are both incorrect. The correct lyrics are "blossoms" and "be." To be honest, I think that "me" and "be" are pretty interchangeable in the context of the song; both make sense. However, mistaking the word "blossoms" for "popcorn" makes the song utterly silly. The whole point is that the blossoms look like popcorn. If you never know they are blossoms and just think it's popcorn then it's really nonsensical.

And also it's wrong.

Music and lyrics of Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree can be found (and heard) by clicking the link.

24 May 2011

Spouse Suggestions

Eric and I have an ongoing "discussion." I read quite a bit, and so does he. I have recommended countless books to him, and he has only ever read ONE book that I have recommended.* Granted, we have read several books together that were my picks, but he doesn't seem to trust my opinions on books when it comes to reading the books on his own. As we were talking about this with his aunt the other night Eric said that the problem is that my interests are too broad. I find so many things interesting that it is easy to find a book I like. This, of course, gave me an opportunity to tease Eric about being narrow-minded. (He's not, but he did set himself up for that one.) The thing is, there are plenty of books that I read that I don't recommend to Eric because I know that my interests are more broad than his. Also, there have been a number of times where I've strongly recommended a book, and he hasn't read it until somebody else (usually his dad) seconds my recommendation (i.e. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism).

Anyway, I started thinking about what books I have read at Eric's recommendation. They are as follows (since 2007, when I started keeping lists of the books I've read):
  • Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
  • Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose
  • Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl (I had read the first half in high school. Eric convinced me to read it again.)
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  • Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
Okay, okay, okay. So when I actually got down to listing them there were only six. Plus I'm reading Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose right now. But still. I've read six of his suggestions. He's just read one of mine.

*The book was Suite Francais by Irene Nemirovsky. I read it in 2007, and I told Eric to read it. A few months ago he decided he would go ahead and read one of my suggestions. By this time I knew that it wouldn't be something Eric would enjoy, and I told him to read something else. Still, he chose that one. Exasperation.

23 May 2011

Review: Carcassonne

We've owned Carcassonne for a quite a while, and it's one of our favorites - it's a wonder I haven't blogged about it before.

In Carcassonne you are building a city, essentially. On your turn, you draw a tile randomly, and then you add it to the existing map. Your tile may have a portion of a town, a road or a monastery. Once you lay your tile, you then can lay one worker on the tile that you just laid. Your workers collect points for you based on the jobs they are doing - farmer, knight, monk, or robber. You have a limited number of men, so you want to be wise in where you place them. Different jobs earn different values of points. Some jobs last a long time - others allow you to get your man back (so you can use him again) relatively quickly. The trick is to use your men and play your tiles in a way that will get you the most points. The game ends when there are no more tiles to be added to the board.

Carcassone is for 2-5 players, plus there are about 1.5 gazillion expansions - most of which I know nothing about. We love this game because we can teach it to people in about 10 minutes (at the most), and it can be played in about 20 minutes. We have played plenty of times with people who have little or no experience with the game who still manage to win, so it's great in that way too.

20 May 2011


The other day my brother called me. "Hey, did you remember that we're coming to stay at your house on Tuesday?"

"No. Have we talked about this before?"

"Yeah, a couple of times."

"Oh, okay. I totally forgot, but that's cool. What are you doing in town again?"

"It's for the U2 concert."

"Oh yeah, that's right. And we've talked about this before? I totally don't remember talking about this." (You have to understand that my brothers were notorious for lying to me when I was a kid, so sometimes I am very distrustful of them. You would be too if you believed for quite some time that the Chase Building in downtown Dallas was the place where pilots were trained, and before they could get their license they had to fly a plane through the hole in the Chase building. [Editor's note: My brother was not the one who told me this lie, but he certainly allowed me to believe it for quite some time.])

"Yeah, we've talked about this before. A couple of times."

"Huh. Well, it's a good thing you reminded me."

"Yeah, I bet you guys wouldn't like us showing up at your house at 1 a.m."

"No, probably not. You know, the funny thing is that just the other day I remembered that the U2 concert was probably coming up pretty soon, and I wondered if you guys were going to need a place to stay."

And then the conversation meandered to other paths.

I've come to the conclusion that if you have told me anything in the last five and a half months, I probably don't remember it. I'm sorry. We're all sleeping through the night now though, so my memory is back to its old self.


06 May 2011

Five Months

At five months, Ike is a little gem. He sleeps really well - still taking three naps a day and rarely awake for longer than an hour at a time when we're on the schedule. After a couple of rough days at work about a month ago, I was ready to start leaving him with a sitter. But I stuck things through and worked out some solutions, and he's still coming to work with me. My co-workers really enjoy having him around.

He is gradually becoming more mobile. He can occasionally flip himself from his back to his belly, but he usually gets stuck on his side. When placed on his belly, he often kicks his legs so much that he scoots forward. Consequently, I've been negligent in putting him on his belly as often as I ought to. (No crawling yet, Baby!)

He is really fascinated with toys. And pretty much anything that he can reach and put in his mouth.

When nursing, whichever hand is on top reaches upward to clutch anything he can grab. He used to use both hands to hold onto my shirt, but usually that free hand finds my hair or a necklace these days. He used to be such a focused little eater - there wasn't anything in the world that could distract him from eating. He's losing that focus. He always starts with great ambition but generally loses interest as he gets more full. If Eric is around and talking to me, I usually have to send him away so that Ike can focus on eating and get the job done.

Ike is not a super smiley or giggly baby (I think at this point I've gotten him to laugh all of three times). He is incredibly observant of his surroundings and of people. He loves to stare at people and interact with them. Those interactions just don't necessarily involve a lot of smiling. Sometimes there are smiles, but there is never any guarantee.

He really enjoys being thrown in the air now. It's fun to watch him smile as I toss him as high as I can.

Ike is a perfect baby. Here he is all decked out for Easter:

04 May 2011

Phosphate Free - And Still Clean

When we moved into our house, we were warned that our dishwasher may leave a white residue on our dishes. The builder assured us that this was not a problem with our dishwasher but with the fact that Utah no longer allows dishwasher detergents with phosphates to be sold in the state.* I began asking around to find out what sorts of products people were using to get rid of this white film that was ugly but harmless. One friend recommended Lemishine. I in turn recommended it to somebody else without actually trying it myself. I was planning on buying some Lemishine, but before doing so I did a little research on what else could help.

One recommendation was getting a soft-water filtration system. This is a reasonable long-term solution, but several people commented that even though they had soft water, they were still dealing with the residue.

Several other people recommended pouring 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar into the bottom of the dishwasher with each wash. I tried it that day with a full cup, and it worked wonders. My glasses and silverware came out clean and shiny. But I was reluctant to use an entire cup with every washload. I've actually discovered that I can get away with using only 1/3 cup. We bought a large container of white vinegar, and rather than keeping it in the pantry, I keep it under the sink with the dishwasher detergent. Before I wash each load, I pour a little white vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher.

You may be wondering if the dishes come out smelling like vinegar. No, they do not. You may be wondering what type of dishwasher detergent I am using. It's Finish powder. You may be wondering if I also use a rinse aid in my dishwasher. Currently, no.

So there you have it. You can very affordably have clean dishes, even if dishwasher detergents with phosphates are not sold in your state.

*For some reason, you can buy dishwasher detergents with phosphates that are meant to be used commercially, but you cannot buy them for home use. This is ridiculous, and I could go on and on about the problems with lobbyists. If phosphates are so bad for our lakes and rivers (p.s., they are), then how come restaurants can deposit them into the sewer system but households cannot? Argh.

03 May 2011

Gardening is my Cooking

A few years ago I remember reading a blog post that somebody had written about not knowing how to cook. She told a story of reading a recipe and not understanding some of the terms that were used in the instructions. Specifically, she mentioned that when "pieces of cooked chicken" were listed, she didn't know what that meant. How big were the pieces supposed to be? White meat? Dark meat? As I read that blog post, it amused me that she was so clueless about cooking. The instructions (which she included) seemed perfectly clear to me. I just didn't really get what could be so difficult about cooking a basic recipe.

As we finally get some spring weather around here it's time to start gardening. I love plants. Only, it's kind of like that blogger I was mentioning above. She loved food, she just didn't know how to make it.

I've talked to people before about gardening, and I always ask lots of questions and get lots of answers, but in the end I still find myself as dumb as when I started. There's so much jargon that I'm just not familiar with. There are so many technical things that I don't know how to do. There are so many weeds that look like flowers to me!

Good thing Eric knows a thing or two about working in the garden. I'll just let him boss me around.

01 May 2011

A Series of Minis

Eric and I love a good mini-series. We've watched many in the last year or so, and all of the ones we've watched have been produced by the BBC under their "Masterpiece" collection. (I'm not sure if that is the right terminology, but what used to be called "Masterpiece Theatre" has been shortened simply to "Masterpiece.")

On to the reviews -

I already told you before that I loved "Emma." I wouldn't mind watching it again some time soon, actually.

Even more than Emma, we both loved "North and South." You may think it's about the American Civil War, but it's not. It's actually about a family from the South of England who moves to the North of England. They go through a fair amount of culture shock after leaving their pastoral home to a very industrial fictional town which was modeled after Manchester. Eric likes to describe it as an Austen novel, only the hero and heroine are arguing over something that actually matters.

I mentioned quite a while ago that we were watching "Little Dorrit" with Grandma L. For the most part, we enjoyed the series, but we felt like it really fizzled at the end. It's based on the Dickens novel, which means there oodles of characters and oodles of subplots. Some of these subplots and extraneous characters were handled well; others were not. The end of the series seemed to come very quickly with basically all of the problems solved in the last 30 minutes. This felt really rushed. With all that said, the father of the main character was fantastic. All three of us just couldn't stop marveling at how well he played his part.

Eric describes "Cranford" as Anne of Green Gables for old ladies. In some ways, I think it is right. There isn't a whole lot of plot to the whole series - it's just about people in a small town. It's about friendship, families, habits, customs and change. I would rank it second in line to "North and South."

"Return to Cranford," or "Cranford Returns" as Eric and I jokingly call it, is not as good at it's predecessor. It's okay, but not great.

"Bleak House" is another miniseries based on a Dickens novel. Again, I haven't read the book, so I cannot comment on its accuracy. We thoroughly enjoyed the series. Some of the characters were delightfully creepy and hideous, just as Dickens would have wanted them to be, I'm sure. The numerous subplots and supporting characters were handled well. However, the direction of this movie was ridiculous. Here you have a story about a never-ending probate case, and the editing and camera angles were done like it was a Bourne movie. It was absurd.