Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fun, Fun, Fun

I have a problem. Everything is fun. The game was fun. Being with that group was fun. My night was fun. Anything I've enjoyed recently can be described as fun.

Sounds good, right? Not exactly. What I mean is that I can't come up with another word to describe these things. Sure, fun may be an apt description, but I say it entirely too often. For example, my personal journal entry for 28 January 2008 is about half of one side of a 5x7 page. The reason the word "fun" only appears once is because I crossed it out the second time and wrote a different sentence. 12 sentences in the entry total. I have the same problem when I'm writing letters to my family. Usually I notice by about the second or third time I'm saying it, but I really need to expand my descriptive vocabulary about enjoyable things.

Let's see what thesaurus.com has to suggest:

amusing, boisterous, convivial, diverting, enjoyable, entertaining, good, lively, merry, pleasant, witty

I'm glad my life is convivial and entertaining so often. I just wish I could describe it better. Plus, once you think about it for too long (like I did on my way to work this morning), "fun" is a really weird word.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Children's voices, oh how sweet

One of the more interesting things about a singles ward is that it is completely silent during some parts of church, particularly during the passing of Sacrament and in between testimonies on Fast Sunday. You can literally hear a pin drop.

Josh and Courtney accompanied me to church yesterday, after I went to Mass with them. They have the most adorable five-month-old son. During the Sacrament, Doran was contentedly bouncing around on my lap and made only a few vocalizations of his happiness. Of course they were adorable, but they reverberated around the silent room. Those whose faces I saw were smiling, and most of us love babies and weren't bothered. In a regular ward, there would be many children making similar noises.

As if my presence wasn't already known to the congregation, following the Sacrament, the counselor in the bishopric got up and thanked us for our reverence and so forth and then added:

"Amanda, thanks to your friends for bringing their son and allowing us to hear the sounds of innocence." I smiled at him, but I think all three of us were somewhat embarrassed. He continued:

"We'll now have three wonderful speakers, and Amanda will give us a special musical number. Sister #1 will speak, followed by Sister #2, and then Amanda Stretch will sing 'How Great Thou Art' ".

Not only did he point me out and say my name three times in less than three minutes, I had to get up shortly and sing, a capella, in front of the entire congregation. It's no wonder my heart was pounding by that time.

Thanks kiddo. It's a good thing you're so cute.

We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet

I was still in my last year of Primary when Gordon B. Hinckley was sustained as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While I remember Presidents Benson and Hunter, it was President Hinckley I really grew up with. He was our prophet as I gained my own testimony. I loved his humor and gentle spirit as much as I loved his candor and plain speaking. There was no doubt in my mind that he knew that Christ is our Savior and that this is His church. President Hinckley was a tremendous mouthpiece of the Lord and an unwavering example of the service and love we all should embody. He will truly be missed, though the work will most certainly go on. He must be overjoyed to be with his beloved Marjorie again, as he has missed her so. My thoughts are with their family at this time.

I look forward to the work and teachings of his successors, and my thoughts are also with those who will soon take on their new responsibilities. They will certainly be strengthened by the Lord.

Thank you, President Hinckley.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Let the memory live again

Since music is such a big part of my life, it should be no surprise that I have many memories related to it. There are lots of songs that remind me of lots of occasions, both good and bad. For example, God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You by N*Sync will always remind me of my 9th grade "he's-not-my-boyfriend". He wrote the lyrics on the Val-a-Gram he sent me for Valentine's Day. Butterfly by Crazy Town will always remind me of cruising around in my blue pickup with my best friend, Aubrey, in high school. I could go on for a while. Sometimes, I've had to stop listening to certain songs because of the memories they conjure. Also, I'm always surprised when I'm listening to something without memories attached and one comes rushing back. If I'm lucky, it's a pleasant memory.

I'm most surprised when a seemingly random object brings back something. If it's not something I care to remember, I get at least a little mad. This afternoon, I was at the grocery store picking up some last items for a dinner I hosted tonight, when I walked past a display of Cadbury's Creme Eggs. My first thought was one of rejoicing, as I quite like them. Then, I suddenly remembered someone I dated for a few weeks last March and how Cadbury's was one of the things that brought us together. Realizing that it will probably be a while, if ever, before Cadbury's Creme Eggs are just a special Easter candy I happen to love and nothing else, I was not happy. I was already cranky and this just added to it. It wasn't until I was leaving the store twenty minutes later that I remembered it was January and that the candies were out awfully early. (To add to my cranky day, I got to my car only to realize I had forgotten to purchase a rather crucial ingredient, so I had to go back to the store. Grr.)

Occasionally, I wish I could just erase certain memories, a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In the end, however, that would just create more trouble than it's worth. Still.

What are some things that bring back random memories for you?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Who needs sleep?

Once again, I'm having trouble sleeping. I'm really not a fan of not sleeping when I'm anxious and stressed. That's when I need sleep the most! Yet, sleep is quite elusive during these times, and I can only think of one night in the last ten days or so that I've had a good night's sleep. I feel so helpless, lying awake in the dark, staring at the ceiling. Or at the left side of the room. Or the right side of the room. Reading or watching a movie doesn't help, because I won't fall asleep doing that unless I'm completely exhausted. I've always been leery of sleeping pills. So I lay there. Frustrated. Sometimes it takes an hour to fall asleep, sometimes longer.

Not sleeping Friday night was likely my fault. I went out to hear one of my friends' bands play in a sports bar and our very attentive waiter kept refilling our Cokes the minute the glass was only half-full. Since I kept absent-mindedly sipping my drink during the show, I probably had the equivalent to five or six glasses of Coca-Cola.

Oops. I'd been nursing a Coke from about 8:30 (at dinner at a different place) to 1 AM. I'd asked for Diet, but it hadn't happened. I rarely drink that much caffeine, or soda in general, so between that and all the sugar in my drinks, it's no surprise I didn't fall asleep until after 4:30 AM. After lying awake in bed for a couple hours, I eventually fell asleep after finishing a movie on my couch downstairs. I felt groggy most of Saturday. Hooray for Mormon "hangovers"!

Last night, however, was not my fault. But at 2 AM, I was sitting on the floor, mere inches from my TV and the History Channel (no contacts/glasses), eating ice cream straight out of the carton.

Not good. The weird thing is that I'm not very tired today. Hopefully I'll be tired when it's time to sleep tonight.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rattlesnakes

I totally failed to mention that my blog post yesterday was my 100th! Hooray!

To celebrate, I pulled an old meme off of Mister Me's blog.

The rules: Put your iPod on Shuffle and answer the following questions with the song titles. No cheating by skipping next until you find something interesting! (My blog title, by Tori Amos, is the first song it came up with.)

1. How does the world see you?
Yellow Submarine (The Beatles)

"And our friends are all aboard" I suppose I can live with that.

2. Will I have a happy life?
Carbon (Tori Amos)

"Keep your eye on the horizon" A little ambiguous, but at least it's not a definite no.

3. What do my friends really think of me?

Allison (Eve 6)

No! It's Amanda! How many times do I have to tell you?

4. Do people secretly lust after me?

Paint the Sky with Stars (Enya)

"Only dreams they cannot keep" - I'll take that as a yes. I knew it!

5. How can I make myself happy?

Sweet Dreams (Tori Amos)

Keep dreaming? Done!

6. What should I do with my life?

Radioactive Royal (Instant Winner)

Be a poisonous queen? That has the makings of a fun Disney movie . . . The song is about a girl that a guy can't stop thinking about, so that's not bad.

7. Will I ever have children?
Marry Me (No Doubt)

Right! I have to get married first. Duh!

8. What is some good advice for me?

Baker Baker (Tori Amos)

Well, I do like sweet things to eat, but I really don't need the extra poundage . . .

9. How will I be remembered?

There's a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven't Thought of It Yet (Panic! At the Disco)

"I bet to them your name is cheap" I think my iPod hates me today.

10. What is my signature song?
Redundant (Green Day)

Now I'm convinced my iPod hates me. *harrumph*

11. What do I think my current theme song is?
I Didn't Want to Need You (Heart)

Considering certain events, this might actually be right.

12. What does everyone else think my current theme song is?

The Beauty Is (Reprise) (from The Light in the Piazza)

So I'm just as beautiful the second time around? Interesting.

13. What song will play at my funeral?

Don't Wish Too Hard (The Boy From Oz)

Sorry, kids, I'm not coming back no matter how much you miss me.

14. What type of men/women do I like?
Braver Than We Are (Reprise) (German) (from The Dance of the Vampires)

That's true! I want my man to be braver than me. I guess I just had to look at my iPod sternly.

15. What is my day going to be like?
Monument (Depeche Mode)

A monumental day? Yes, please!

This should be evidence that I really do have one of the most random music collections out there, plus a lot of Tori Amos. Not the most accurate of fortune-telling devices though.

But, if I want a fortune, I suppose I could just sell my blog.



My blog is worth $7,903.56.
How much is your blog worth?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Oh, what a night, late December back in '63

Maybe it's not 1963, but it's certainly retro day here at the library.

Some of the things I've found in a pile of donations:

Yes, dear internets, 4 MB of RAM is all that is needed to run this sweet program. My phone has 5 times that.

When was the last time you saw one of these?

Finally,

The Music Man on FILMSTRIP. What the. . .? That's going to be so useful.

I feel my wood-paneling walls closing in around me. What? You think I'm kidding?

Notice the titles of binders. Yes, some of my checkouts are still on paper. I'm working to fix that.

Did I ever tell you that the people I replaced here were in their 80s? Yes. My library is just that awesome.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In the city, the city of Compton

I bet you never guessed I'd use a Tupac song lyric. Well, I did. So there.

I borrowed this meme from Miss Nemesis. You list all the cities you spent at least one night in for 2007. Following her lead, I'm also going to do 2006 and my projected list for 2008. I also tried to do them in order.

2006

Orem, UT
Anaheim, CA
Las Vegas, NV
Provo, UT
Morris Plains, NJ
Grand Island, NE
Chicago, IL
Alexandria, VA
Where I Live Now, VA
Brooklyn, NY
Orem, UT (again, but this time as a visitor)

2007

Where I Live Now, VA
Corolla, NC
Orem, UT
Reston, VA
Nashville, TN
Rockville, MD
Lingfield, UK
Paris, France

2008 (Projected)

Where I Live Now, VA
Ft. Bragg, NC (maybe)
Orlando, FL
Corolla, NC
New York City, NY (maybe)
Orem, UT

My list gets shorter and shorter, but I still think that's not too shabby. Where have you stayed? Leave a comment or a link to your blog!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Turn off the idiot box!

From Kate:

The Top Five...

...Movies I'm ashamed to admit I will watch if they're on TV:

  • The Wedding Planner
  • Raising Helen
  • Harry Potter movies (I really like them, but my roommate has on DVD)
  • Anything with Amanda Bynes
  • The Prince and Me

...TV Infomercials I can't change the channel away from:

  • Some exercise products
  • Ginsu knives (mostly so I can mentally make fun of them)
  • And that's it. I love TiVo.

...Products I've purchased from a TV Infomercial

  • A series of Winsor Pilates DVDs

...Odd combinations of foods I like to eat

  • Cottage cheese and peaches
  • Strawberries and marscapone cheese
  • Fried eggs and Stove Top stuffing (So this happened once, but it really hit the spot that day.)
  • Wendy's french fries dipped in a Frosty
  • Ranch dressing on a baked potato


...Lines I'm famous for

  • "Scout THIS!" (courtesy of Fran)
  • "iiiI KNOW!" (courtesy of Monica Gellar)
  • "Whatever you say, Kessler." (courtesy of Harold Green)
  • "Yes, Heidi."
  • "Sew, very old one! Sew like the wind!" (courtesy of Ned Nederlander)


...Things I do that No One should know about

  • Go to sleep with makeup on
  • Wash my laundry one day and put it away a week later
  • Read crappy teen chick lit
  • Dance when no one is watching, no matter what I'm wearing, or not wearing . . .
  • Hold onto notes from the past, from people I'm no longer in contact with

I tag anyone who cares to be tagged. :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Consigue con honor, la copa del amor

I realize this is a few days later than the norm, but here are some of my goals for 2008:

Buy this book and be a better tourist

Take a dance class

Run a 5K with Sydney, Midge, and Sarah (Shamrock Run on March 8th, all are welcome to join us)

Finish 52 books in 52 weeks (already read Twilight, Avalon High, and Shadowlands)

Maintain my 4.0

Add to my personal history each week


As a result, I plan to be in better physical, spiritual, and mental shape by the end of the year. Feel to check up on me and ask how these things are going!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dance, dance, we're falling apart

OWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW

After a two year absence, some weight gain, and at least two major ankle sprains, I have once again started taking a dance class. I did take one ballet class a few months ago, but it is right after that last sprain, and right before my life got really busy (as if I'm ever not), so that didn't last long.

Today, I started an Intermediate Modern class at a studio in Maryland. I've trained in a lot of different styles, but modern is my favorite. I feel it brings me the most connection between body and soul and allows me to express that connection in ways that other dances cannot. Despite what some think, it isn't all about pretending to be a tree or being the water. In fact, that rarely, if ever, happens. It's about how the position of your pelvis creates the room for your feet to move off the floor. It's the connection from the top of your spine to the bottom of your toes. It's breathing and feeling the movement, just as much as thinking about it.

I used to be really good at it, or at least a lot more confident. I've been doing modern for more than eight years now, dancing all the way through high school and college. Unfortunately, dancing as a working adult is lot harder than fitting .5 credits into a semester's schedule. I was on a company for the first year post-college, and there were some really hard technique classes, but I was still fresh on my technique and did fairly well.

Then I moved here. I still dance a little, but teaching dance is not the same as actually dancing. You might do the sequence once, but then you spend the rest of the time critiquing others and showing bits and pieces. So, this morning, I was really out of shape. I didn't have the same retention for sequences I used to, and since we weren't all new, the instructor didn't take time to break everything down for me. Of course, I don't blame her for that, and I know that most of the other students have been working with her for much longer than two hours and have done many of these sequences before.

I messed up a lot. My right ankle (the one I have injured the most) hurt so bad about 90 minutes into the class. I was even bleeding in two spots on my leg; I think I scraped them on my toenail or something. I felt judged by the others in the room that were doing much better. I almost cried out of frustration, hating myself for not doing this sooner.

I also kept up pretty well. Even though I was hardly perfect, I didn't look like a total hack (except maybe in that last sequence). I realized that the other dancers were likely not judging me, because they were worried too much about what they needed to fix. I was also reminded that they've all been the new kid before, so they understand. I certainly know that I'll empathize better when I'm no longer the newbie. I also received a couple of compliments from the instructor, once after she fixed my positioning on a movement and another when I did something well all on my own, and that felt really good.

It felt really good just to be dancing again, full out and with as much heart as I could muster, or spare when I wasn't cursing my lack of talent. I'm not going to give up, because I know it's going to be that much easier next week.

I did buy a new ankle wrap (one that's more flexible than the brace I wear running) and some tennis balls (great home massagers) on the way home. I have a feeling tomorrow I'm going to rediscover some other aches and pains when I try to get out of bed and can't move. Ibuprofen, here I come!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Last year, I gave you my heart

This is making the rounds among my DC friends.

[] Became single (stayed single is more like it)
[X] got kissed
[X] kissed someone new
[ ] kissed in the snow
[x] kissed in the rain
[ ] kissed on the beach
[ ] 'fell in love'
[ ] 'fell in love' with a fool
[X] had my heart broken
[] broke someone else's heart
[X] had a stalker
[X] lost a friend
[X] had a good relationship with someone
[ ] came out of my closet
[ ] got married
[ ] had a divorce
[X] kissed someone of the same sex (on the cheek)
[X] dated someone that you will never forget
[] did something I regret
[] lost faith in love
[ ] kissed under mistletoe
[ ] got a promotion
[x] got a pay raise
[x] changed jobs (a few random temp jobs)
[x] quit my job (see above)
[ ] dated a co-worker
[ ] dated my boss
[ ] dated my boss's son/ daughter
[ ] got fired from my job
[x] got straight A's
[] met a teacher who I became friends with
[] met a teacher who I really hate
[X] found the subject I love
[] failed a class
[X] cut class
[X] skipped school
[ ] got in a fight with a classmate
[X] did something I was proud of
[X] discovered a new talent
[X] proved myself that I'm an idiot
[] embarrassed myself in front of the class
[ ] fell in love with a teacher
[x] got the lead/minor lead role in the school play (not school, but a lead nonetheless)
[ ] made a team
[X] was involved in something that I will never forget
[ ] painted a picture
[ ] wrote a poem
[x] ran a mile
[X] listened to music I couldn't stand
[X] double dipped
[X] went to a sleepover
[x] went to camp
[ ] threw a surprise party
[X] laughed till I cried
[X] flirted shamelessly
[x] visited a foreign country
[X]visited a state
[x] cooked a disastrous meal
[X] lost something important to me
[X] got a gift I love
[X] realized something new about myself
[x] went on a diet
[ ] tried to gain weight
[x] dyed my hair
[ ] came close to losing my life
[] someone/thing close to me died
[ ] got arrested
[X] read a great book
[X] saw a great movie
[ ] saw a movie so scary that it made me cry
[x ] saw a favorite band live
[X] did something that I wanted to tell everyone
[X] experienced something new
[X] made new friends
[X] found out who your real friends are
[] lied to your parents
[ ] snuck out
[ ] got in trouble with the po-po
[ ] kissed in a pool
[X] kissed under the stars
[X] had the time of your life
[X] danced
[ ] fell out of love
[X] had a crush on someone
[] swam in a pool
[ ] made a snowman
[ ] went snowboarding
[ ] went sledding
[] slept in past 2pm
[X] held someone’s hand that you care about
[ ] got wasted in a public place
[X] told someone you like them as more than a friend
[X] gone on vacation
[X] gone on vacation with a friend
[X] driven a car
[x] danced in the rain
[] got in a car accident
[] seen someone get in a car accident
[ ] got in a fist fight
[X] laughed until you couldn't breathe
[X] missed someone
[ ] sent someone to the hospital
[ ] got a new pet

A YEAR-END SURVEY1.) Who was your best friend at the beginning of this year? The end?
Heidi and Jason, at the beginning, now just Heidi. And a great new group of friends here in DC

2.) What was your status by Valentine's Day? Single.

3.) Were you in school (anytime this year)? fo sho

4.) How did you earn your keep? Being a librarian

5.) Did you ever have to go to the hospital? no

6.) Have you encountered the police this year? no

7.) Where did you go on vacation? UT, TN, NC, England, France

8.) What did you purchase that was over $500? Tuition, books

9.) Did you know anybody who got married? Of course

10.) Did you know anybody who passed away? No one personally

11.)How many times did you go on facebook/myspace? many many times

12.) Did you move anywhere? Down the hall?

13.) What sporting events did you go to? Nationals, Orioles

14.) What concerts did you go to? They Might Be in Giants

15) Are you registered to vote? Yes
16.) If so, did you do your patriotic duty on Nov. 6? Yes

17.) Where do you live now? VA

18.) Describe your birthday. First, my car broke down on the side of I-66 in the middle of rush hour, so I had to deal with that. Then, my friends and I drove down to Outer Banks, NC. Took twice as long as necessary, and we had dinner at some random buffet place. It was better than the last two years, but still needs improvement.

19.) What's the one thing you thought you would never do but did in 2007? Go through the temple just because

20.) What is one thing you regretted this year? I don't regret anything

21.) What's something you learned about yourself? That I'm much better at standing up for myself than I thought.

22.) Any new additions to your family? Blood, no. Urban, yes.

23.) What was your best month? I really liked October? I don't know.

24.) How would you rate this year with a scale from 1 (crappy) to 10 (amazing)? 8 or 9, one of my best years yet.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sunrise, sunrise, looks like morning in your eyes

Today, January 8, 2008, it is 70 degrees outside. I'm wearing flip-flops to work because 1) My office is just that casual and 2)It's 70 degrees outside! I was about to take a picture of my sandaled feet, despite the fact that they aren't quite presentable (because it's January and I wasn't expecting to be able to to show them off). Sadly, my camera batteries seem to be dead. No problem says I! I have my camera phone! Oh wait. No I don't. I got used to not grabbing it every day in Europe, and for the second day since I've been back, it's still at home.

I would much rather be outside, in a hammock, reading, than be preparing for a meeting.

Woe is me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Pictures of you, pictures of me

I just spent three hours uploading and organizing pictures. Never again. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Twelfth Night

Canada


London

Paris

DC Drag Races

Halloween

And everything else

I hope you like them!

Monday, January 7, 2008

AH-OOOH Werewolves of London!

Saturday morning was spent on a walking tour about The Beatles in London. The tour guide has literally written the book on subject, so he was quite informative. We saw places where the band filmed movie scenes, former homes where they wrote specific songs, where Ringo and Paul got married, places they worked, and finished at Abbey Road. I love The Beatles, and it was really fun to see some of their old haunts. Alas, neither Ringo nor Paul showed up.

That afternoon I went the Drury Lane Theater to see "The Lord of the Rings" musical. The effects were really something to see, and the story shouldn't have been too hard to follow if you'd never read the books or seen the movies. I was also really impressed by the acrobatics, particularly of the orcs. Sadly, the music started to all sound the same, and I couldn't really understand most of the lyrics. Also, putting such an epic story on stage in three hours loses something. It doesn't feel nearly as epic as it should. Still, I'm glad I saw it.

Dinner was at another of my favorites - Pret a Manger. Then, I wandered and shopped for awhile, making sure to pick up the British versions of the Harry Potter books for Eilonwy and me, as well as a few sweets at Tesco (hooray for HobKnob's, Cadbury's, and Jelly Babies!) I found myself back in Covent Garden, sitting on a bench, when a street performer started up. It was just the thing I needed to finish off my day.

Both days, Grandma met me at home with hot chocolate to warm me up. The weather cooperated for most of my visit, as long as I dressed warmly. Sunday and Monday, I spent time with my grandparents, visiting or kicking their trash at Boggle. One of my second cousins is in their ward, since he married a Brit, and it was neat to see him. We did have a bit a struggle packing me up for home, but I got all my stuff in one suitcase and a carry-on, with a suitcase leftover for some things they were ready to send home.

New Year's Eve, we partied with several other temple workers and watched the countdown and fireworks happening in downtown London. The fireworks, even on TV, were the best display I'd ever seen, even compared to DC on July 4th. So cool! The party itself was surprisingly fun, which may have something do with winning a few more rounds of Boggle and one of Rummikub. I lost one though, so I maintained some humility.My trip home was uneventful, though my last flight from Montreal was slightly delayed. Overall, it was a great holiday! I'm so grateful for the best grandparents in the world and spending time in one of my favorite places on Earth. I have five new stamps in my passport, and loads of wonderful memories.
I also have loads of pictures, but those will have to wait until another day. I'll let you know as soon as they're up!

London calling, yes, I was there, too

Since I've lived in London (3.5 years ago for study abroad), I'd pretty much done everything. So this trip was dedicated to the more obscure things I hadn't seen before.
My first stop was the Charles Dickens House Museum. It was interesting to learn more about his life. Part of the house was set up as it would have been at Christmas, which was lovely. On my way back to the Tube, my beautiful, new red coat brushed up against a newly painted post! Luckily, the "artist" was there, so he took me inside his cafe and helped me clean up as best we could with some paint thinner. Also fortunate, was that it was all on the inside of my coat. He offered me a soda and a seat, and was extremely apologetic. I declined the latter, but one orange Fanta later I was on my way.

Seeing this made me chuckle quite a bit:



I guess I lied about my trip being for more obscure things, because my next destination was Covent Garden, one of my favorite places in London. I did a bit of shopping and lunching. Some random artist did a charcoal sketch of me, and it's pretty neat. I tipped him, and enjoyed a few minutes of conversation, before traipsing to Leicester Square and visiting the National Portrait Gallery, which I missed last time.

Then, it was time for a rest and reminiscing in Trafalgar Square. I was facing a conundrum at this point. I had some time to kill and wasn't sure what to do with it. So I took a picture to demonstrate this moment.

What to do?

No. Really. What do I do now?

Finally decided, I was off to dinner at Wagamama's on High Street Kensington, mere blocks away from my old flat. The restaurant was just as good as I remembered it, even if I was enjoying it by myself.

After dinner, as I was exiting the South Kensington tube stop, I heard a choir of handbells and had the next series of thoughts:

"Ah. Handbells playing Christmas music. How lovely."

"Hmm. The choir is all matchy matchy. Interesting."

"Wait. Is that a nametag!?"

Sure enough, it was a choir of LDS missionaries, which was just really cool. There were about 8 playing, and another several milling about talking to anyone they could. I walked up and surprised one of the elders by saying "This one of the most original ways I've seen of getting street contacts ever." Elder Merritt from Idaho was pleased to have an American Mormon to talk to for a few minutes, and it was certainly fun for me.

I spent the evening enjoying an exhibit about the golden age of couture at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The clothes were exquisite, and I learned a lot about the history of fashion.

It was a great day, and I was very glad to be back.

There’s love in the air under Paris skies

My original plan was to spend just one day in Paris, by myself. So, I was thrilled to find out that we'd get to spend multiple days there. Together.

We celebrated Boxing Day by taking another self-guided day tour of the city. Our first stop was the Louvre. We only spent two hours there, but we could have spent two weeks. It was a most rushed visit, but at least we saw "The Ladies of the Louvre" - the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and the Venus de Milo, among others that we had to mostly just glance at.

Following, we took a stroll along the Seine and crossed over the Pont Neuf to the Ile de la Cité. We as the Place Dauphin and, across it, La Conciergerie before walking along the Quai des Orfevres. Our visit to the Gothic chapel Sainte-Chapelle taught me one of my new favorite phrases - Tarif Reduit - or Reduced Fare, as I am under 26. There was no senior discount anywhere, but I got Tarif Reduit on all of our entry fees. That rocked! The upper chapel of Sainte-Chapelle was amazing. The stained glass was beautifully detailed.

We then took in a little bit of West Bank life by crossing over the Pont St. Michel, visiting the Latin Quarter and the Place St. Michel. After a very tasty panini for lunch, I have decided that I need more gruyere in my life.

We finished off our lunch whilst visiting Notre Dame in daylight, which was just as cool. The decision was made not to visit the top and the gargoyles, so that will have to wait until next time. Then, we metro'd to the Place de la Concorde, where Madame Guillotine once stood. We took one good view of the Champs-Elysées before metroing most of the distance and approaching the magnificent Arc du Triomphe. It was from atop this edifice that I finally realized the magnitude of the Eiffel Tower. Sure it was amazing when I was right there, but seeing it from a slight distance, you realize just how much it actually dwarfs the rest of the city. Wow. Just wow.

Sadly, it was a really cloudy day, and going up the Eiffel Tower would not have been fruitful. So, once again, this necessitates a visit there in the future. At least we got a great panoramic view from the Arc, and I could even see all the way to Montmartre.

Our final stop was the Museé Rodin, where we saw such works as Balzac, The Thinker, and The Kiss. Beautiful.

Dinner was yummy, again, but words cannot describe how I felt about the lemon meringue tartellete we picked up on the way home. So. Good.

It was an absolutely wonderful visit, with fantastic company. We returned to the London Temple on Thursday, where Grandma and Grandpa worked their temple shift and I was able to serve in the temple for a few hours. It was really special to be there with them.

The best part? I was only halfway done with my vacation. London - here I come!

You were the best of Montmartre street life

What an amazing trip! J'adore Paris! I am so grateful that I was able to make this trip to see my grandparents, and that they were adventurous enough follow me to and around Paris. Thank you Grandma and Grandpa!

When I arrived in London, I spent that Sunday just being with my grandparents and desperately trying to stay awake to defeat the jet lag. I'd been traveling for about 24 hours, so that was a bit tricky. I made it though, and they were very happy to see me.

Monday, Christmas Eve, we took the Eurostar to Paris! (After, of course, a quick side trip to find Platform 9 3/4.)

It took me a few minutes to convince my grandfather that I could find our way on the metro and that we'd be able to make it to our hotel, but I was right and he was trusting. Also fortuitous was that I knew just enough French to communicate with various people, most of whom were probably very forgiving.

Since Christmas Eve dinner is the big meal for the French, our concierge set us up with a restaurant. It was delicious, though expensive, and the service was quite friendly. I even had foie gras!Following dinner, we enjoyed a night view of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica from the Place du Tertre and paid way too much for a couple of roses.
We then headed to Notre Dame, with the intentions of enjoying Le Messe de Minuit (Midnight Mass). Unfortunately, after standing in a mob for several minutes, we discovered we should have been there hours earlier to get a seat. We enjoyed the music of whatever service was going on at 11:30 PM, and then called it a day.

Christmas morning, we slept in a little and then opened the few presents we had. Then, we found the one open grocery store to pick up sandwiches for lunch at the base of St. Augustin Cathedral. Our afternoon was spent with me leading us on a walking tour of Montmartre, trusty guidebook in hand. We found the original location for the Chat Noir, several former homes of famous residents (i.e. Van Gogh and Renoir), a couple original moulins (windmills), and Moulin Rouge itself. We also saw several sites from one of my favorite movies, like the carousel at the base of Sacré-Coeur and the Cafe du 2 Moulins. I was delighted, and we had a great time wandering around this very artistic part of the city. Also, I was quite flattered by the fact that the friend of the cashier at the souvenir shop we visited could not keep his eyes off me, and I'm fairly sure they were talking about me too. Sadly, with grandparents in tow, I could do nothing but bat my eyelashes, and wave as we walked away. Grandma said to not let that stop me in the future.We capped the day off by seeing the most notorious landmarks of Paris - the Eiffel Tower. It was a-MAZ-ing. Absolutely stunning. Unfortunately, it was a weird time of day that was not optimal for viewing the city or taking pictures, so we decided to hold off on going up until the next day.
Our dinner was lovely, and seeing the Eiffel Tower at night afterwards was awesome. The only sad thing about Christmas in Paris was not having my parents or siblings around. Due to everyone else in the world using international calling cards, I was also unable to talk to them. It's a good thing they know I love them.My final thought: Paris at Christmas! Can you imagine? No, I don't suppose you can . . .