Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poodle Wrote

My first story was written in crayon: a gruesome horror title The Fly and the Frog. Writing stories was as addictive as my mother's sugar cookies (oh, the dough). I penned them one after the other, my first grade teacher dutifully binding and laminating them all to display on the shelves at the front of the class. There were two shelves reserved for stories by students; my stories took up one of them. Titles included: The Valentine, The Caterpillar, Jamie McQueen Strikes Back, The Christmas Tree, Why Does Everyone Laugh at Sally?, Snakes, and more.

In middle school I composed my epic poem Turtle Wax, which had the honor of gracing the walls of my dentist's office. It also won the poetry competition at EFY, ahem.

In high school I took two semesters of creative writing from Ms. Hansen in high school. I worked on a still-incomplete fantasy novel (oh the shame that swells inside of my as I admit to writing a fantasy novel) about a princess who has the power to heal through touch (this super original idea was stolen by Rapunzel).

Then as a freshman in college I had the extreme luck of landing a spot in a creative writing class. I wrote nothing but crap in that class, but it was good fun. My junior year, I took a class on writing memoir. Again, I wrote nothing but crap in that class, and I was the only one to leave the room crying while reading a piece of my work aloud, but I think that was oddly liberating in a way. "There's at least one student every semester who leaves crying," my professor comforted me. Tom Plummer, you are wonderful.

My senior year of college, I decided to start a novel for my Honors thesis, and I declared English as my minor as an excuse to take every creative writing class I could. I also toyed with the idea of going to grad school for creative writing. When I went to talk to one of the faculty about it, the professor, a harsh octogenarian who taught fiction, asked, "Have you published anything?" "No," I replied ... unless you count my dentist's wall. "Then you probably won't make it into a graduate program." Crushed. Tom Plummer he was not. Even while I abandoned my immediate plans for graduate school in favor of a baby, I was still going to keep writing--however I could.

I encountered that discouraging professor again when he walked into a poetry class I was taking. My poetry professor was in the middle of reading one of my poems to the class, and he read it to the intruding professor.

"Isn't that a good poem?" my poetry professor rhapsodized in his pleasant as-close-to-British-as-you-can-get-while-still-being-American accent.

The fiction professor looked at me and smiled. He didn't recognize me--why should he? "That is a wonderful poem," he said. "Nice job."

And I felt happy.

More tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow as Fridays are for food.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What I Wanted To Be When I Grew Up

I dreamed of having several professions as a non-adult (I couldn't settle on child, adolescent, or young woman--maybe the correct term to denote someone not "grown-up" would be a "grown-down"?). My career goal changed every few years for different reasons, and while I've settled comfortably and sleeplessly into the roles of wife and mother (my ultimate goals all along), I find it amusing to imagine what might have been or has yet to be.

When I dreamed of being a roller derby-er ... and a sheriff (look closely to see my legit sheriff star)

It was sometime in middle school that I decided I wanted to be an English teacher. As the study of our beautiful language and its accompanying literature was my favorite subject, it would make sense to teach it, right? Ha! A few unsatisfactory and dream-crushing English teachers in high school rid me of this aspiration to teach, specifically one who was particularly fixated on how the red pickle dish in Ethan Frome was representative of repressed sexuality.

And now that I am a grown-up I realize something about myself that would make teaching English (or any middle or high school subject) feel like being waterboarded: I don't like teenagers. It took one day of being a substitute teacher at Timpanogos High to solidify this in my mind. Yes, it is sad that I have little faith in our youth today and that I want to cram their bejeweled cell phones down their unceasingly gossiping and whining throats. Why can't they just shut up and watch Jason and the Argonauts?!?! My heart rate is going up, so on to the next profession.

My senior year of high school I chose to research gene therapy for our massive "senior project," I think because of some Time Magazine article I read about how viruses can be used to insert genetic material into cells in an attempt to repair them. Also, I was fascinated by the book Genome that I read in sophomore biology. From those experiences was born the desire to study genetics. It was also an intelligent-sounding major to give as the answer to the ubiquitous question about what I would be studying at college. And let's not forget my dreams of wearing a smart yet attractively fitted white scientist coat--the real perk of the job. It would all be very CSI--dark and glamorous as I mapped the genome of cockroaches or something.

Somewhere between graduation and the first day of classes at BYU, however, my focus shifted to chemical engineering, probably largely due to my parents' nudging. "Go," they said, "make us proud and invent a chemical." Unfortunately, after one week of chemical engineering classes, I dropped all of them out of boredom and fear for my GPA, and I added "creative writing" and "weather" instead. My future sister-in-law was my weather TA!

I blissfully entered major limbo for a while, and I flirted a little bit with the idea of studying film. Why? Why not! In fact, why didn't I go for that? That would have been so cool! So artsy! So fresh and edgy, like a pineapple. Although I don't know if Nathan would have married a film major, meaning I might be without both a husband and a job right now. Go watch a Buster Keaton movie! Silent films are horribly underrated!

I finally settled on a major after a lot of thought and prayer: marriage and family studies. The plan was to go on to graduate school and become a marriage and family therapist. I loved studying this in my undergrad. I could write a whole series of posts on why it is a wonderful and how frustrated I am that people don't give it more credit as a serious field of study worthy of attention. When the time came to apply to grad school, however, there was another potential project on the metaphorical table ... a baby perhaps? In the end, baby won out and we ended up with this cutie pie.

Can a master's degree do this?

I haven't completely ruled out going back to school when I'm ancient to pursue MFT, but I kind of wonder if I have the personal skills necessary to be a good therapist. You know, gentleness, patience, empathy, etc. I might be more the Dr. Laura variety ... or else a Nike therapist--Just Do It, you know. Because I really think that is the secret to life and all it's sub-genres (like marriage). Do what will make your life better--just do it. I firmly believe that all of us are exactly where we want to be in life. If we wanted it to be different--we would make it so. Another post for another day, but all hail social exchange theory. Coming back to my point, I might not make the best therapist. Maybe after thirty years and six kids I'll be more soft-hearted (I better be!).

So I jumped around a bit in trying to decide what to be when "I grew up," but behind the dreams of being the  attractive geneticist or the inspiring English teacher was always the little girl who wanted to be a writer. At times I tried to convince myself that something else would do the trick, but I always knew the truth--even when I was too scared to admit it: I wanted to write.

More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Le Squash

Best sentence I wrote today (still in first draft form):

"She may have smelled like squash and been nothing but a precautionary damper on Madeline’s adolescence, but Miss Farley was a kind and honest woman who would never wish harm on anyone—even a communist villain like Lilith."

I just love the idea of someone smelling like squash--acorn squash as I specify earlier in the book. The smell of squash isn't horrible at all, especially with some butter and brown sugar melted in the center, but it is definitely not sexy. Imagine a little perfume bottle that looks like an acorn squash. Slightly heart-shaped, yes, but also matte army green with ridges. Not something you would want to spray on your neck.

Le Squash, a scent by Kimbre (got to keep it French)

It can be so hard to find time to write. Between trying to lasso Graham into the greener pastures of dreamland four times a day and making myself food that requires utensils, things can be busy. But I really want to finish my book so I can get a real-life rejection letter. I think that will be so fun--to know someone actually read my query letter, considered the pitch, and then deemed it unworthy. I think I will throw a rejection party when it happens--to commemorate that step in my journey to becoming an author. You are all invited, and be excited, because the party favors just might be free travel-sized samples of Le Squash.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Secrets of Blue

My favorite color is blue. All my jeans are blue. My baby's eyes are blue. Too many of my shirts are blue. The back button on Firefox is blue. Nate's lunchbox is blue. Blue lights never mean bad things. I love blue.

Blue shirt ... and a shameless way to show off my Honors medal ... which is also blue.

Blue-glazed ceramics will get hotter in the microwave. I learned this from my pottery class teacher, and I know it is true. I always burn my fingers on my blue bowl.

Bleu cheese. I knew nothing about this cheese, but then I Wikipedia'ed it and now I know that it is made with our best mold friend: penicillium-source of penicillin! So theoretically, maybe you could eat a lot of this instead of taking those beyond-gross-tasting antibiotics. Oh wait, that's amoxicillin. I wonder what color amoxicillin cheese would be?

I Googled amoxicillin cheese and got this musketeer.

Bluebonnets. Contrary to childhood memories and widely disseminated myth, picking bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas, is not illegal. Your lovely family portrait will not be subject to a poaching raid.

Blue ant. This evil little critter is not actually an ant! It's a parasitic wasp that lays it's eggs on unsuspecting, paralyzed crickets. When the larvae hatch, they devour the cricket's body, with no conscience for their guide.

Native to Australia. A blue ant ate my baby!

Blue Corn. Hold up, you say, "corn" is not a proper noun and should therefore not be capitalized! To which I say, I'm actually talking about Blue Corn, as in the Native American potter who revived polychrome fine whiteware. What an awesome name: my favorite color followed by one of my favorite foods. The next coolest name would be Purple Cinnabon, or maybe Green Taco.

Blue Corn herself.
Blue moon. Because the solar calendar has about eleven more days than the lunar calendar, every two or three years there is an extra full moon--referred to as a blue moon. It is the third full moon of the season with the extra (four total). A moon that appears to be blue is usually the result of a volcanic eruption or forest fire that produces particles just wider than 0.7 micrometres, the wavelength of red light. No other size of particles can be present, however, and this is why blue-colored moons are so rare.

Maybe I subscribe to the conspiracy theory that we didn't actually land on the moon. Maybe not.

So why is the extra full moon called a blue moon if it has only the smallest chance of being actually blue? It comes from the Old English word "belewe," meaning "betrayer" or "blue." It was used to describe the unexpected full moon that threw off--or "betrayed"--the celestial calendar and therefore the clergy's attempts to discern the date of Easter based on lunar observations. This link explains it all in more depth.

I love the color blue, and I hope I shared some of its magic with you today, whether by educating you on the cozy corpse nurseries of blue ants or by warning you of the dangers of blue ceramics and microwaves.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Honda Tales, Part 2: The Mexican, the Screwdriver, and the Unyielding Glass

A clue to the end of the story.
I was getting gas on my way home from work when it happened ... I locked myself out of the Honda yet again. My lock-the-door-with-my-elbow-as-I-open-it-and-exit-the-car move had failed me once more, and I was stranded about two miles from home. At least the car wasn't running this time.

I sighed the heavy sigh of the self-aware idiot as I entered the mini-mart to borrow the phone to call my parents to come with the spare key. I dialed the number, but after the first ring, I abruptly hung up, a foolhardy plot forming rapidly in my mind. My inspiration: the slightly dishonorable-looking Mexican (because in Idaho, all Latinos are Mexican, right?) attendant behind the counter.

Me: (You look like someone who would know how to break into a car ...) Do you know how to break into a Honda?

Marcos: Hondas? Yeah, they're really easy to break into.

Me: I locked myself out of my Accord out there. Any tips?

Marcos: Yeah, you just take a credit card or something and pop the window out of the rubber lining, and then it just sort of bends out.

Me: (failing to think through how he was describing glass bending) Cool, thanks. (proceeds to bend school ID in half trying to pry window open ... goes back to the attendant.) Do you have a screwdriver or something?

Marcos: Right here (gives screwdriver to teenage girl)

So I took the screwdriver and slowly released the driver's side window from it's rubber casing. Now for the "just sort of bends out" part. I slipped my hand into the narrow opening I had created at the top of the window, reaching desperately for the lock, straining against the angry jaws of glass and rubber, willing the window to yield to my wishes, and then a loud CRACK sounded across the parking lot, followed by the pleasant chiming of a thousand chips of glass falling onto the pavement and into the now open car.

Success, but not the type I was hoping for.

Honorable-looking Construction worker-type: (walks toward me from another pump) Are you all right?

Me: Yeah, I just locked myself out of my car and was trying to break in ... My dad's going to kill me.

Honorable-looking Construction worker-type: That's too bad. I have all the tools that could have unlocked that in my truck.

And then I drove home with no driver's side mirror, freezing my face off and sitting in a pile of glass.

Moral: Break into the passenger's side.

Oh, and call your dad for help if you don't have car-thievery skills.

Disclaimer: I love Mexicans. My most handsome college Spanish teacher was a Mexican. I went to Mexico for my honeymoon. I love tacos. I made my own tortillas once.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Honda Tales, Part 1: How Kimber Came Into Accord With A Stranger After Locking Herself Out Of An Accord

I was an idiot the first time I used an ATM. I was sixteen and on my way to work,  a bank of all places, which might make you think I knew how to use an ATM. Wrong! If anything, my place of employment hindered my having a chance to learn the dark magic of the automatic teller machine because I worked with three other ladies who could do the same thing for me--no button-pushing required.

But on that fateful, chilly morning I needed cash for some reason, and I needed it before work. So I drove to the bank near our house and pulled up to the drive-through ATM. But I didn't pull in close enough to the machine, so like a dork I had to get out of my car and try to decode the workings of the ATM.

I was driving a slick '89 Honda Accord at the time, and that little hot rod didn't have automatic locks (or a passenger side mirror-awesome), so I got in the habit of locking my door as I exited in one fluid motion, my hand pulling the handle while my elbow clicked the little brown knob into the locked position. I did it every time I got out of the car; it was a reflex.

Not actually my car; perhaps a cousin.

A dangerous reflex ... after finally getting my cash, I turned to find my car locked, and running.

Meanwhile, a car had pulled up behind me (and the driver had presumably seen me using the ATM like a dweeb); it was driven by a middle-aged non-rapist-looking man. Upon realizing my predicament, he offered me a ride home, which I accepted, because when faced with the decision of either running home and being late to work or getting into a car with a stranger--guess what I'll go for? No stranger danger here. Besides, bad people just don't bank at Zion's Bank.

I did survive.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Honda Tales, coming tomorrow.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Review: t'afia

There's a nice restaurant down the street from our apartment called t'afia (it means "to your health," from "ratafia," which is a wine traditionally used in toasts and while making deals, "ratafia"=ratify the deal). I decided that we should go, as the menu looked interesting and we're trying to avoid going to chain restaurants while we are in Houston.

First experience: Calling for reservations. Initially, I made a 5:30 reservation (welcome to parenthood), but when Nathan called to say his last meeting went late I called to change it to six.

Me: Can I push our reservation to six?

Guy on the other end (I'm picturing a trendy Asian): Hmmmmm. Well, hmmmm, I think we can manage that.

Me: Great, thank you, bye.

When we got there, out of about fifteen tables, there were people at about four of them. How they managed to find us a table, I will never know.

Second experience: Valet parking. Oh my heck I hate how every restaurant in Houston nicer than Chipotle has "complimentary" (read: tip not included) valet parking--meaning they cone off all the nearby parking spaces so if you don't want to pay some high school dropout three dollars to park your car five feet from the entrance you have to park down the block!!! So annoying. But I was feeling rushed and rich, so I opted for valet parking.

Oh wow, look at all that available parking. Too bad it's a lie.

We have a beater car: a '96 Honda Accord with a puncture wound in the bumper and more scrapes and dents than we can count. With all the miles that little trashy car has seen, I don't think it's ever been valet parked. Until that day. Now it can die a happy little car (but please not until Nathan graduates).

Third experience: The waiter. He is the usual at places like this: pale, dark-haired, dressed all in black, presumably plays the mandolin or something equally trendy, and probably considers himself superior even though his job involves doing what I tell him to do, and his wages are determined largely by whatever I want to pay him--basically, he is my servant. Case in point:

Us: We both want waters.

Pale waiter: Still?

Us: Uhhh?

Pale waiter: (condescending smile starts to creep up) Not carbonated. We offer still or sparkling water.

Nathan: (noticing on the menu that water is $1 a table--purified and unlimited) We just want tap water.

Pale waiter: It is tap water. We purify it.

Me: Ok. (Uh, I like my water poisonous, free and poisonous)

Pale waiter: Is this your first time here?

Nathan: Yeah.

Pale waiter: I could tell. (leaves)

Me: Excuse me?? How could you tell? I changed out of my sweat pants for this!

Fourth experience: The food. First, for how much we paid for this meal, I am appalled we didn't get free bread. Come on, Macaroni Grill gives me free bread, why can't t'afia? Free bread is like ... free bread: awesome.

I ordered pistachio-encrusted salmon. Nathan ordered beef cube something. Mine was good, but too small for the price. Nathan's was excellent, and we found the recipe online, courtesy of the chef. Bonus points for sharing her secrets.

Apparently she was on Top Chef. She looks friendly.
What I ordered.

Desert was, again, good but small. Chocolate cherry bread pudding it was, and its volume was about a cup.

We also got some mocktails which were weird but yummy. There was the "coco loco," with coconut nectar (we all know you mean "milk") and fresh pineapple juice, and then the "jamaica spritzer" with hibiscus flower syrup (got to try that on my waffles next time), muddled (Mormon translation: smashed) lime, mint, and soda. I like that they had mocktails. I think it reveals a desire to accommodate and a creativity that goes beyond depending on alcohol or Coke products to hydrate your customers. Also they are a great excuse to overcharge for fruit juice.

The Muddler--the villain in the next Batman

Fifth experience: Overall. From feeling out of place while the lone female diner next to us photographed her plate of cheese to being snarked at by the waiter, I give t'afia four out of five stars on the snobby organic local foodie scale. Ambiance: four. Food quality: four point five. Food quantity: two point five.

Overall: three. We might go back because Tuesday-Thursday they basically have (free) tapas when you buy a drink. It's too bad the waiter was such a piece of snail meat.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a girl who didn't sleep last night because she had an adorable baby who liked to wake up every twenty minutes.

Not last night.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interview with an ExxonMobil Internpire

Break free from fossil fuels? Not on my watch.

1. What is your job?
I work in the natural gas business at ExxonMobil.

2. Doing what?
We have a liquefied natural gas business where we condense natural gas to put it on a ship and send it to areas of the world where there isn't enough.

At the Museum of Natural Science. The display showing how liquefying natural gas shrinks it to 1/600th its original volume.

3. Top five best things about your job?
-Incredible learning experience. I've learned more about geography in the last two months than in the rest of my life.
-Working with some of the smartest people I've ever met.
-Frequent free lunches (these are good lunches, people. I'm at home eating leftover bean soup, and Nathan's feasting on steak and seafood--courtesy of your high gas prices).
-There's usually fresh pineapple.
-Hundred dollars a barrel? If you can't beat'em, join'em.

4. What do you wear to work every day?
I "get to" wear a shirt and [power] tie everyday. I could wear jeans on Fridays if I were willing to donate to United Way, but that will come when I don't have tuition to pay.

5. What else do you want to say about your job?
Oh, there is one more thing. They just announced that my office is going to be moved to a "campus in the woods."

6. With flannel uniforms?
No. I think it will be cool because it's in a natural setting with a lake instead of downtown Houston. And we'll get to live in the suburbs with almost no commute.

7. What's wrong with downtown Houston?
Nothing; it's fun for the summer. I just don't think we'll want to settle here (downtown) long term.

8. Tell me about the Exxon tiger.
He's pretty cool. Actually, sometimes people leave notes on each others' doors signed "From, the Exxon Tiger," with a little cartoon drawing of him.

A picture I drew of the Exxon tiger while Nathan was applying for the internship. I kept him on our apartment door for good luck, and here we are! Now he's on our Houston apartment door, protecting us.
Nathan's afraid all the comments will be about his hairy chest. Instead of commenting on the obvious, please share your ideas for cleaner energy sources. I call algae oil.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Families: No unconditional love, happiness, or friends required.

My friend Jessica, also known affectionately as J-Schro, let me know today about this symposium, put on by Students for the Family, "a group of independent students from various schools and academic disciplines dedicated to promoting education and research on the family." As I am a world-renowned family scientist have a bachelor's degree in marriage and family studies, Jessica invited me to consider submitting some of my papers to the conference.

While I have two papers long enough to submit, written during my undergrad, I'm not terribly excited about the content of either one. One deals with the transition to fatherhood, the other with the dangers of enmeshment (when families are too close and overly involved in each others' lives). Both topics are interesting, but I'm not extremely passionate about either one. I will probably submit them, but if I had the time, the following topics and ideas are what I would really love to write a paper about. Some of my family soap boxes/pet peeves if you will. I'm only giving a short summary of my ideas, so if you want to hear the long rant on any of them, let me know and we'll go to lunch or I'll write you a treatise.

My treatise wouldn't be about scurvy, though.

What is a family? Our lesson in Relief Society last Sunday was on families, and the teacher opened the lesson with the question, "What is a family?" Several individuals offered input, ranging from the simple statement, "Unconditional love," to the broad definition, "Any people who share a home and support each other." This theme of ambiguous and "warm fuzzy" beliefs about what a family is continued throughout the duration of the hour, and frankly, alarmed me.

From a religious standpoint, such a wishy-washy view of families is what the world would like us to believe. Yes, true families can be characterized by love, support, and a shared household, but much more is needed. I also believe that, although sad, all families do not have love (conditional or unconditional), support, or a shared home. This belief that a family is defined by feelings or a living situation contributes to the sentiment that if the love or support wavers--the family has an excuse to dissolve.

Babies need stability!

Families are not defined by feelings because, as much as we'd like to believe otherwise, feelings can change quickly and dramatically. Feelings are not stable, and a family should be. My belief is that a family is a societal unit connected by biological and/or legal ties. Because feelings are so fickle, families need the stability of commitment to help them ride through the bumpy times. This leads me to my next soapbox.

Marriage isn't supposed to make you happy; you are supposed to make your marriage happy. When I hear about divorce for any reason other than the horrible troika of "A's" (adultery, abuse, addiction), I am so sad. You hear excuses like "we fell out of love," "I need to do something for me right now," "it wasn't working." What I hear behind these excuses: "I stopped being loving." "I'm being selfish." "I wasn't working." It seems the predominant belief about marriage (and life in general) is that it is supposed make you happy. Guess what? You make you happy. How? Through choices. How do you make your marriage happy? Make your partner happy. Funny how that works. If you aren't happy in your marriage (barring the unholy three above)--you have something to do with it. This is good news--that means you can do something to fix it. Trust me, I am an expert because I've been married for two years.

An expert and his parents.

I don't want to ruin the friendship. / Can I have friends of the opposite gender when married? Several times I have heard from friends that they don't want to try dating a close friend (who they like and who likes them--you know who they are) because they don't want to "ruin the friendship." Guess what? You're either going to date them and marry them and have something better than friendship, or you're not going to date them and then you'll marry someone else and that will ruin the friendship. You may as well try for the first.

But on to the second idea--will it really ruin the friendship? Yes and no, is my ambiguous answer. I think it is fine to have friends of the opposite gender when you are married, but I think how close of friends you are should be carefully considered. Whereas before marriage it was perfectly fine to tell this friend your deepest thoughts and feelings, after marriage, the mortal (say your prayers!) male confidant in your life should be your husband and only your husband (with the exception of your male family members, as long as you aren't telling them something you wouldn't tell your spouse--this goes for all female confidants as well). Yes, it is kind of sad that you need to sacrifice that level of friendship with some of your good guy friends, but I think it is a completely necessary precaution and protection.

A+ to you for making it through to the end. A- if you skimmed, because that probably took some effort. That reminds me of another soapbox about how it's silly that people think children need self-esteem ...

Monday, June 20, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things

Because where else can I briefly expound on a random collection of things I like?

1. The Sound of Music: One of the very few musicals I can stand watching. Oh, I love Captain von Trapp. And I just can't believe Rolfe. What a scummy Nazi boyfriend! Did you know the film was based on a Broadway musical which was loosely based on a true story? This movie makes me want to dress Graham in lederhosen.

Nathan and Me
2. Zippers: I wish more baby clothes had zippers. They are easy, speedy, and harmless with a bit of care (although I remember a horrific experience in which I zipped my neck skin into my coat). What would I say to a life without zippers? "Oh, snap."

3. This chair:

This little baby seat, a gift from a generous friend, has been responsible for my personal hygiene needs for the past two months. Without it, I would not shower.

4. The Zebra 301. Best pen ever. I feel like I'm writing with a bullet. You know who else uses this pen? Dr. House and my Honors thesis defense chair--both pretty cool people. Also, this pen helps my best friend, the environment. You can buy refill cartridges for your Zebra pen--meaning you don't have to throw it away when it runs out of ink! Also, as they are made mostly from stainless steel, so you aren't contributing to the evil plastics industry--that same evil industry that gave us disposable syringes, turtle-free tortoiseshell sunglasses, and those unholy vessels, Tupperware.

5. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. This book is a must-read for anyone who loves to write. Not only was it hilarious, but it had so many good tips about the craft of writing. So inspiring and motivating, too.

I love favorite things.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

This is my dad and his first grandbaby, Graham! It was so fun to see my dad be a grandpa. He was so sweet with Graham, and Graham gave him some pretty cute smiles.

Why I love my dad:
-He can build pretty much anything out of wood.
-He can fix anything!
-He taught me how to garden, preserve foods, play pool, use power tools, wakeboard, water ski, snow ski, make pizza, ride a bike, and so much more!
-Things he's built for/with me: a bed, a to-scale replica of a covered wagon, a wooden piggy bank, a foam-board house for my little foam pencil grip guy (take a foam pencil grip, turn it inside out halfway to form a little doughnut-looking thing, now play with it), a playground, a house, a couch elevator so we could have stadium seating in our home theater, a double helix DNA model, an armed egg pod, blocks, and more and more and more.
-He cries when he reads The Friend.
-He has always been an excellent provider for our family. We never went without what we needed.
-He gave me a love for camping, hiking, sports, building, pizza, the scriptures, and games.
-He is a great example of service. He used to empty all the soda can trash bins  at work and bring the cans home so we could smash them and turn them in for money, which we would use to buy supplies for a local women's shelter. He was also the blood drive coordinator at work. And he's always served in the church, whether through callings or other service activities.
-He told us the best stories as kids: Rikki Tikki Tavi, Mabi Mobi, ghost stories (vampire moose!), etc.
-He is an awesome missionary. When he used to travel for work, he would bring a copy of the Book of Mormon to give to the person he sat next to on the plane. He would invite coworkers to our home for FHE and would always make an effort to share the gospel with our neighbors.
-He taught me the importance of hard work, self discipline, industry, self-sufficiency, spending time as a family, rising above difficult circumstances, and living the gospel.
-When he wasn't working for our family, he was working or playing with us.

I love my dad!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Children's Book Ideas

While perusing the children's board book section of the library, I came to the conclusion that I could write one. It seems that all one needs is the ability to rhyme, and about twenty minutes of time. Haha! See? I'm totally qualified. Also, finishing a fifty-word children's book would be a lot easier than completing my projected-100,000 word novel.

Here are my ideas:

-A cross-eyed pigeon named Peter travels the world, visiting famous pieces of architecture (Eiffel tower, Sydney opera house, Machu Picchu, pyramids, Cordoba mosque, Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, etc.). He learns a cute little educational fact at each one, taught to him by an animal native to the area, but then he says, "I'm just a pigeon, it's all the same to me." And then he leaves a little white puddle at each landmark. Bestseller.

-That was my only idea.

Look for me in your child's next book order packet! Do they still do those? I loved those as a kid!

Friday, June 17, 2011

bon crappétito

I have a subscription to bon appétit magazine. Why, do you ask? Because I thought it would be something it's not: accessible. Also, I was looking for a fun Christmas gift for my legitimate foodie sister-in-law, and I got a free subscription as a bonus when I bought hers. So now Gwyneth Paltrow is beaming up at me from the June issue, biting her lip in coy anticipation of the "subtle" pasta dish she's about to fork into her mouth. In the issue we get to see her cutting up some chicken, and there's a great view of her mammoth wedding ring. While the diamond is intriguing, it's the pave on the sides that's really funny. In the chicken picture you can see an "03" (the year of her wedding) on the side of her ring. A bit graduation tassel, don't you think?

Anyway, this magazine only inspires covetousness in me. I have neither the skills nor the palate for most of the recipes inside, (spinach gunge, anyone? Or how about some bone marrow with parsley salad?). But after I get past its snobbish tones, I salivate over the semifredos, the spirited (read: weird) pairing of prosciutto and strawberries, and the photography. Oh, the photography! Who knew food could have stylists? What I would do to procure half the aesthetic attention a bowl of beets gets before its picture is taken.

Not beets, but an elegant portrait of a family of crostinis.

But then there are condescending little gems like this:

"... how about we all agree to leave [kebabs] in the last century. ... Those kebabs are always a disaster. Always."

Uh, I made kebabs last weekend, and they were a disaster, but I don't need you to tell me so, especially not on your super glossy pages!

Also, they quote chefs who say things like this:

"There's a point where you've told parsley you're in charge. You haven't defeated it; you've disciplined it."

Parsley is like the weakest herb there is. People just throw it on the side of their plates for fun--just because they can, not because it's any real challenge. And what kind of discipline is he talking about? Because personally, and don't get all defensive on me, but I don't spank my parsley. I just don't. It teaches the parsley that violence is okay. It's all about natural consequences in my kitchen.

This is what came up when I googled "spanking parsley."

My final low-brow critique point of this issue of bon appétit: They feature a dish called "Hen and the Egg" "that incorporates hay." The only hay I will eat is Hawaiian haystacks. With organic cream of chicken soup, duh.

Sadie, I hope you are liking this magazine, because you are a real foodie (a term I think I learned from you or your mother), and you are worthy to read it. Also, you gave me my first set of ramekins, which I love. And what says competent foodie more than ramekins? The competing choice for your gift was "Cooking Light," which I think is more my speed (still a few mph off, though), but we didn't want to send any messages that don't need to be sent, because you are smokin' hot, and I mean that in an admiring sister-in-law way.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Graham Is Not A Brick

I get emails updates about my baby every week from two different baby websites. You know, the kind of emails that told me what was going on each week in pregnancy. I always thought it was funny that they would compare his size to a fruit or vegetable, and not always a baby-shaped fruit or vegetable. One week Graham was a zucchini, another week he was not just a tomato, but an heirloom tomato. Nathan and I wondered why it had to be non-processed foods, or foods at all. Why couldn't he be the size of a small transistor radio that week? Or maybe a chapter book? A bottle of Bath & Body Works hand sanitizer?

Now the emails are telling me about Graham's development, or at least how it should be. Except I'm confused, because according to one, Graham has the developmental trajectory of a brick. According to the other, he's about halfway to a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. So I suppose it's a good thing that he falls somewhere between the two.
Not my son Graham
So many baby resources talk about how it may be tempting to fib about your baby sleeping through the night in an effort to artificially inflate his reputation at play group. This has never been tempting for me. I don't want the bragging rights, I want the pity! Graham still wakes up three times a night to eat, sometimes to just have a good wiggle, other times to discuss the ideas he has about our nation's foreign policy, or else to voice his concerns about the fact that of his mere two pairs of shorts, one is tri-color desert camouflage and therefore goes with nothing except a plain white onesie--this ensemble makes him look decidedly like a hickish baby, which Graham definitely isn't. Because, come on, we don't even have a backyard for him to hunt in!

The jacket tempers the hick baby-ness.

Why don't the emails tell me how big Graham is anymore? How am I supposed to know what fruit he resembles most? Thank goodness for Google. Now I know that Graham weighs as much as a sixteen pound pumpkin, and he is the size (minus the tail) and weight of an adult male red panda (which is a much cooler animal than the grayscale panda).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Albrechtsen Abode

I got a Pottery Barn catalog in the mail a few days ago, and that magazine has been wreaking havoc on the self-esteem of my furniture. I tried to tell them that all the sofas in the magazine had been air-brushed, but to no avail.

One day I'll be able to afford oversized shellacked pretzels to put on my cocoa table.
Me: Ooh, Pottery Barn. Look at this couch! (Imagining the day when we're rich and famous and lounging on matching furniture with coordinating pillow sets. Graham will be playing quietly on an alpaca wool rug atop our real hardwood floor.)

Loveseat: I want to be reupholstered! My fabric is fading, my foam interior sagging, and I just know you're about to send me to DI! (tears)

Kitchen Set: I need a chair augmentation! (only two chairs remain of the original set of four)

Nathan's leather office chair, the black rhino in my living room: Whatever. (puffs himself up to take up even more room)

So, in an attempt to avoid the cost of cosmetic surgery and therapy for my furniture, I decided to spruce up the apartment for a photo shoot. Also, my dear sister Katie requested a tour of our new apartment.

We begin.

The Albrechtsen Palace
The kitchen
This is where I whip up all the soufflés I make. Note that the lack of storage space necessitates a more functional decor atop my cupboards, whose clean white surfaces make this space feel as light and airy as a meringue.

Our memo board and calendar

Nathan was a peach and bought these dry-erase stickers for me for my birthday. If you look closely (click on the picture to enlarge) you can see how "Pottery Barn" we are.

Living and play room
This is where Graham explores the physics of the pendulum, the reflective abilities of the mirror, and the taste of flannel. (awesome blanket made by my best friend, the beautiful Stephanie, everything else is not Pottery Barn)

Baby cleavage

See that little pink spot on Graham's cheek? It was inflicted by that hypodermic villain, the mosquito. I woke up with ten bites this morning. Ten! One on my eyelid!! I looked like Quasimodo. The human eyelid is about 1.5mm thick. The proboscis of a mosquito? 2.5-3.5mm thick. I could have woken up blind. But I'm more upset about my Graham getting bit. So I've been on a mosquito-killing rampage all day. Back to the tour.

More living room
Trying so hard
One of the ladies I visit teach has an awesome job. She works on the window and store displays of department stores like Nordstrom's and Macy's. When I went to her home for the first time last month, I was amazed at how cool her apartment looked. The coolest thing? On her sofa she had a beautiful blanket arranged like this (I was afraid to sit down and ruin it), but much more neatly and without a geometric patterned blanket that ruins the effect. I wish I could do it justice, especially for this Pottery Barn-inspired post, but alas I don't have the delicate touch necessary to sculpt fabric.

Dining room slash Nathan's study
 Rug by Target, a birthday present from Nathan! Dining set by garage sale (vintage (used) Ikea!).

The master suite
Our bedroom. See the "A" our maid left on the bed by combing the microfibers just so? That's quite possibly the coolest thing I've she's ever done. Bed by Wymount laundry room memo board. Mirror and dresser by Kim's parents (who got it from a model home years ago and found a scandalous surprise in one of the drawers when they got it home). Nightstand from Ikea, a generous gift from my Mom!

The nurturing nook
This is where I wrangle Graham into peaceful slumber. That's my mom's old glider! Picture a wedding gift from my sister Katie and her hubby, Louis. Ottoman by Target. Dresser by DI. Cupboard hutch thingy courtesy of my sister-in-law's husband's ex-wife's grandmother.

The nursery slash closet
Who knows, maybe this will help Graham get accepted to Hogwarts. Bassinet/co-sleeper a generous gift from my Mom and Granny!

Master bath
Guest bath
This is where I find mosquitoes in the morning-on my towel and in the shower!

View from the balcony
You might not be able to tell in the picture, but the tall building to the left of the ugly beige one has a gigantic cross on the side of it, which lights up at night. One time I was lost in downtown Houston, but then I saw the neon cross in all it's glory, and I was able to navigate my way home. Now that we have a GPS, though, I'm more pagan in my navigation.

Me looking sophisticated
I hope you've enjoyed the tour of our estate. The furniture has loved all the attention and there has been no more mention of micro-suede envy. Come visit us anytime, but be sure to call and let us know you're coming because we live in an exclusive gated community (read: locked entrances and parking garages to keep out vagabonds and gangsters).

Graham watching 30 Rock. Just kidding, he was watching the GOP debate.