Monday, December 1, 2014

Come sing to the Lord

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. When possible on Sundays, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. With respect to your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

Serving in the temple usually means participating in worship and religious instruction through certain rites and ordinances that can only be performed in the temple, whether for ourselves or for the dead. By doing work for the dead via proxy, we simply offer the completed ordinances to those who have passed on and it us up to them to accept it or not. Blake and I try to attend and serve in the temple once a month, and it's been tradition for me, and now us, to go on the day after Thanksgiving. Sadly, I was sick this week, so we postponed this year's trip until Saturday, which was still wonderful.

We also got to go again today, but for a different purpose. This evening was the annual Christmas devotional for temple workers and officiators and their families and I was privileged to sing in the choir - Mormon Choir of Washington, DC. This is my sixth season with this choir and the temple devotional is always one of my favorite annual events.

We meet in the assembly room on the seventh floor, which is modeled after the Kirtland Temple. Speakers are chosen from the temple presidency and their wives as well as other church authorities. It's always a beautiful meeting and a rare honor to sing in the temple, which is usually a much more quiet place. 

I am grateful for the temple and the lovely way I get to kick off the Christmas season. This week, the choir will be participating in the lighting ceremonies for the Christmas lights on the temple grounds. Next week, on Saturday evening, we'll be singing our annual Christmas concert, which is open to the public. If you're in the area, you should come! If you are in the area and can't make it that night, there are events every night throughout December. You can find out more at

How do you kick off your holiday season?
Some of the lights out this year! Please pardon the fuzz.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Where is the path to Wonderland

Welp, it's finally happened. I've taken the plunge. Fallen down the rabbit hole.

I've joined Pinterest, and you can follow me by clicking on that link.

I've certainly liked the idea of Pinterest for as long as I've known about it, but I've known for that same amount of time that it was the perfect opportunity for a time-sucking rabbit hole. One could get lost there for hours. I already knew that I could get lost in recipe or crafting blogs without Pinterest, so I decided it was best I just stay away from having an account.

That doesn't mean I stayed away from it entirely. I looked at it sometimes to see what friends had pinned or to gather ideas. Once I started my current job, I discovered it was useful for ideas and lesson plans for the library. I would go months without looking at it and I didn't feel like I was missing anything. 

Then I got called to the nursery.  I started looking to the internet for ideas and a lot of them took me to Pinterest. I quickly realized that I couldn't look at pins without an account anymore, as they had apparently locked down the site to non-pinners. I began some occasional deliberation. Eilonwy sweetened the deal by telling me she had already created a panda board for me. 

After a month of pondering, I was looking online for ideas about teaching MLA citation to sixth graders and I could no longer deny that having a Pinterest account would be useful. I think knowing of its rabbit hole possibilities going in will help use it responsibly. I didn't even create a board or stat pinning until today, though I actually signed up on Tuesday. I'll likely limit myself to follow only people I already know in person or other internet forums and possibly set time limits on my browsing as well. I've been using Evernote to curate my recipe, crafting, and other inspirations, so I'll probably use a combination of both going forward.

Do you pin? How do you use it? How do you manage your time?  I'll take all the suggestions I can get!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

And what's more, baby, I can cook!

When I lived in my tiny apartment, I had a two burner stovetop that only really worked on one side, a microwave, a tiny George Foreman grill, an old crockpot, and a toaster oven, and very little counter space. I really enjoyed cooking, but with limited resources, I had to get really good at mise en place - setting up and timing all my food so that it finishes at the right times.

3.5 years of that was great practice, but when I moved into my now apartment, I was thrilled to have, in addition to a microwave, a gas stove with four working burners, a full-sized oven, and we received a new crockpot, Griddler, griddle, and some really nice stainless steel, copper-bottomed cookware as wedding presents. And we have a dishwasher! And I have a really cute sous chef!

Basically, I have a real, grownup kitchen now, and even two years after moving in, I'm still in love with it. My mise en place skills still require practice, but with full-sized everything, and frequent help from my aforementioned sous chef, I'm feeling more confident all the time.

Yesterday, we planned to eat around 5 PM. If you count when I made the homemade bread that became our stuffing, I actually started cooking at least two weeks ago. The turkey started defrosting on Sunday and I dried the bread on Wednesday. On the day of, I started making food around 11 AM and continued making things at various points throughout the day. Thanks to all the practice I've had and that same marvelous sous chef, everything was done within about ten minutes of each other and we sat down for our delicious dinner at 5:15 PM.

Yes, I'm bragging, but I'm feeling really pleased with myself right now. After dinner, we cleaned up what was still out, which was not a lot since we cleaned up as went with all the cooking throughout the day, a skill I learned from my dear mother. Then, while Blake completed the dismemberment of our turkey, I made a chocolate chip cookie pie and put it in the oven. By the time it had baked and cooled, our stomachs had settled enough to enjoy the fresh pie.

Sometimes, I still time things poorly, but it's okay. I'm still learning, and cooking is a skill I hope to keep developing.

Sous chef in training in the tiny kitchen, June 2012

Told you he was handsome

Stuffing made with homemade bread in the crockpot, probably the best stuffing I've ever had, if I do say so myself

Friday, November 28, 2014

I wish turkey only cost a nickle

I've heard (and/or seen, really, via Facebook), several friends talk about how much they miss their family this week and how much they wish they could be with them for Thanksgiving. Now, I'm not saying they are wrong for having those feelings, but I have a confession to make.

I don't miss my family today.

Of course, I love my family very much, but right now the most important family to me is my baby family - me and Blake. And Malcolm, of course. My family of origin is a very close second and I enjoy when I can be with them. However, I have become accustomed to not having them around for Thanksgiving. I haven't been with my parents and siblings for Thanksgiving since 2005. Even growing up though, it wasn't just about our own family for the big day. I recall many Thanksgiving dinners with other families and friends. Sometimes just us, but probably less frequently than with others. So, it's never been a family only holiday. Christmas, on the other hand, was always a family only holiday, so I already know I'll miss mine this year, since we'll be with Blake's parents exclusively.

Again, I don't think people who miss their families today are wrong, or don't have their priorities in order, just that for me, I'm just really glad it's only my baby family again this year. We've video-chatted with both sets of parents today, and talked to a few siblings, but I have so enjoyed just having a quiet day as just the three of us. Dinner was really low-key (two crockpots for the win), we've binge watched the end of the first season of Blacklist, we watched the Macy's parade, napped, and we're having a Skype game night with Blake's brother and brother's wife.

It's been really chill and quiet, and I've loved it.

And I think Malcolm has really enjoyed having us around so much today too.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Our house, in the middle of our street

When I was 12, I started training during the summer a junior interpreter at the McFaddin-Ward House in Beaumont, TX. It was built in 1905-1906 in the Beaux Arts Colonial style by a prominent local family who lived there for 70 years. You can learn more about the history here.

I don't remember how I found this opportunity, but I'm sure I had to apply and be selected. They picked probably ten applicants a summer. I was excited about it because I'd been to many events and field trips at the house before and, well, I'm kind of a nerd.

The first summer, I focused on learning the grounds and carriage house. There were a couple of 200 year old oak trees and a beautiful rose garden. The carriage house is where the staff would live, in addition to storing the cars and carriages.

The second summer, I got to start learning the house itself. The family didn't make many changes to it after the 1950s, and they were incredible record keepers, so we actually know a great deal about their lives and how the house was set up and used. There are several original furnishings and decorations and most of the house is open for touring.

Training consisted of memorizing facts about each of the areas, sections, and rooms, as well general information about how to be a tour guide. We also went on several field trips to other historical homes in the surrounding area to see how they did things.

Ultimately, I didn't give a lot of tours. The school year always got busy and passing the house tour coincided with my first reconstructive foot surgery, so I was, literally, not on my feet for a while. Giving house tours on three floors, with stairs, on crutches was not easy. I think I gave at least one grounds tour though. We also moved away shortly after my recovery.

In the end, it was a really interesting experience. I love local history anywhere I travel, so to be part of preserving and sharing it was an honor. I look forward to going back one day to visit again!

Photo courtesy of the McFaddin-Ward House website

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turn off the idiot box, it's a disease just like the chicken pox

I love tv. I just do, and I'm not sorry about it. I have lots of other interests and hobbies, and of course I do love me a good book, but I also love just turning something on the television for 20-45 minutes and just letting a story unfold in front of me. In recent years, I've even gotten better about actually focusing on it, and not just watching while I compute or internet surf or something. Sometimes I do something crafty, sometimes I just snuggle on Blake, sometimes I just sit there and watch.

And that's okay!

Shows I currently watch

Criminal Minds
Face Off
Call the Midwife
Once Upon a Time
So You Think You Can Dance
Grey's Anatomy
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Shows Blake and I watch together

Big Bang Theory
Covert Affairs
Doctor Who

Shows I'm rewatching with Blake for his first time

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Looking at it all listed out like this, that does seem like a lot of tv, and I'm not even listing the shows I I've already watched all the way through. Honestly though, at most I might get one or two episodes in a day, if that. Thanks to Hulu+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime that just collect episodes for me, and other providers of tv on the internet, I'm well behind on most shows, and I really appreciate the ability to watch (and sometimes binge watch) tv on my schedule, because that's the only way it works for me. I can't even tell you what day all of these shows even broadcast. Not everything is of equal quality, but having a variety of shows gives me more flexibility in watching whatever suits my mood, just like being in the middle of several books at once. We cut most of our cable last year (just a few basic channels now - mainly for news and the occasional live event), and switched over to using the Roku, and I really like it. I also like the larger tv we bought with wedding gift money.

The weirdest thing I think is watching two shows featuring David Boreanaz - one from the late 90s and one from today. He's aged well, but he's definitely aged.

What are your favorite shows?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Friends do things together, la la la

I love my family of origin, I really do. I also love the family I married into. But I also love the family I've chosen, namely my friends. I have some amazing friends and I do like to talk about them. Apparently, this is my 100th post related to friends.

I read a book as a kid that talked about "little while friends" - the friends you make for just a short time, whether that's at the park for a day or only for a few years while you are in similar stages and places in life. I've had many little while friends. Facebook has changed up little while friends since you can stay "friends" with someone a lot longer than they are actively involved in your life, but sometimes being passive friends is nice too. When you think, "I wonder how so and so is doing", you can look at their Facebook page, provided you're still friends and they've updated lately. And when you do see each other after long absences, you don't have to spend quite as much time catching up.

Granted, I can't even remember all my little while friends names now. I remember faces, experiences, and the like, and that will have to do. A lot of people have made positive impacts on my life, even if I only knew them for a short time and have largely forgotten them by now. I hope I've done the same for them.

Long while friends, on the other hand, are even more treasured. Once these friends enter your life, they stick around through all the changes, moves, hard times, good times, and even the everyday mundane times. They always have your back and you have theirs. The relationship may ebb and flow over time, naturally, but it always exists.

As much as I've been blessed by any little while friends I've been lucky enough to meet, I've been even more blessed by my long while friends. Some I'm fortunate even to talk to every day, some every few days, and some even less than that. Some I haven't even met in person, yet. But they are my family of choice, and I know that if I need them, or they need me, we'll be there for each other.

As with so many of my posts recently, I feel like I'm barely scratching the surface of this topic, but I hope my friends, long while and little while and everything in between know that I love them and are glad they are in and ever have been in my life.

Final thought, after selecting a bunch of photos for this post - I don't think I have enough photos of me with my friends. I didn't do an exhaustive search of all the photos I've ever had, but I saw enough to notice some definite gaps. I hereby challenge myself to do better and take some more photos of me with my friends! If you're reading this and we're hanging out together in person, help me make this happen!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Truth is reason, truth eternal

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. When possible on Sundays, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. With respect to your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

We believe that truth can be found in many places - good books, science, and even other religions. When we call ourselves the one true church, it means that we believe that we are the only church with the whole truth of the restored gospel, as preached by Jesus Christ during His ministry on Earth.

We don't just look to our own people for truth and understanding though. I've heard C. S. Lewis quoted in General Conference, and we're encouraged to get an education as well study our own faith for ourselves and come to our own testimony. I've personally read various Eastern philosophies and I love talking to Muslim, Catholic, or even non-religious friends. Truth comes from all sorts of sources.

And sometimes it's nice when something from my own faith is quoted outside of that context. The school I work at is an Islamic school, and just this week I noticed that Gordon B. Hinckley, a former prophet and President of our church, is quoted on an inspirational note in the hall.

Truth is truth, no matter its source.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

There can be miracles, when you believe

For the record, I love Prince of Egypt. I've been telling Blake, occasionally, for the last two and a half years we should watch it together sometime. Of course, I love musicals in general, as well as good animated films. I also love me a well choreographed fight scene, after taking two semesters of stage combat in college.

For our weekly date, Blake and I went to see Mockingjay Part I this morning. (Yes, a morning matinee, then Costco for lunch, which is totally a date my 80-year-old grandfather would take my 77-year-old grandmother on, so basically we're the oldest 30-year-olds I know.) One of the trailers was for the newest Ridley Scott film, Exodus: Gods and Kings.  It wasn't exactly the following trailer, but close enough.

So then we had the following conversation:

Me: Yeah, I don't think there were epic battles between the Israelites and the Egyptians in the Bible story. Granted, we only believe in it as far as it is translated correctly, but that wasn't in the Bible, right?
Blake: I don't think so.
Me: So I'm not so sure about this movie.
Blake: Well, there probably wasn't singing and dancing either.
Me: *raspberry*

So, as it turns out, I appreciate gratuitous musical numbers way more than gratuitous battle scenes. Discussing this again on the way home, I mentioned that Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes voice Moses and Ramses, respectively, in Prince of Egypt, so I think I won a few more points in the Reasons Why Blake Should Watch It With Me.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Just one step, look at where one step leads you!

This may be my second year at the school, but I still don't know my way around the entire building. I was given a tour as part of my signing of my original contract and again during orientation, but it wasn't until two weeks later I finally felt confident enough to say from most of my routine places that I knew how to get back to my office from just about anywhere. It took me at least four days to find the women's restroom on my floor. I didn't even know about the administrative supply closet that I am allowed access to until the beginning of this school year. Now, I think I could get back to my office, but that's because anywhere new would only involve a few steps of backtracking to familiar territory, rather than the whole route.

Yesterday, I figured out where the "green room" is. I knew we had at least two gyms. I couldn't tell you how to get to the girls' gym with very much certainty, but I think I could find the boys gym. They're probably right next to each other, but I have yet to fully investigate this. I go different ways to get to them if I need to.

But yesterday, not only did I find the green room, but I discovered we actually have practically the equivalent of an athletic compound. Of course, leaving the green room, what I thought was the door to the stairs was actually a closet. So I have some work to do. There are several rooms near the gyms for health and physical education. Rumor is that there is even a weight room. We only have a few sports teams, but they actually have a fair amount of space, and I might need to explore this more, just to satisfy my own curiosity. I do know that some of the locker room space is actually being used as office. I wonder if that guy ever gets lonely. I actually haven't seen him in weeks . . .I also wonder if we have any other locker rooms, because the ones I know of don't seem to be in use.

I certainly don't know where everyone else's offices are, but I found one of my friends' offices last week when I was turned around trying to find one of the second grade classrooms.  It's a big and confusing school and there is not actually a lot of reason for me to know where everything is. The only reason I needed the green room in our PE wing was because of an after school Zumba class, which is not part of my regular duties, but something I'm happy to be a part of!

This was a high school in the county before our school rented the building, and there always some quirks to an old school like this. Rumor is that we'll be moving to a brand new building in a few years, and I'm sure I'll get lost there too!

Now, a mystery I'll probably never solve is why and how these books magically appeared in my office when I wasn't looking . . .

Half a set of 1992 World Books and other assorted reference material. Yay!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Trapped in the closet

Three years ago, I posted about my least favorite chores and said, "I really hope I marry someone who doesn't mind sweeping and mopping."

I found that post while randomly surfing through my own blog the other day and realized that my wish had come true. I did indeed marry someone who doesn't mind sweeping and mopping! That, my friends, is a major blessing in my life. And, he hates cleaning toilets, but I don't, so guess what one of my chores is?

I do think that I get the better end of the deal on vacuuming too. Currently, I hide in the office with Malcolm, while Blake vacuums.

Malcolm does not like the vacuum, at all, and we don't really trust him in the office without supervision. So, Malcolm and I hang out in the office while Blake vacuums, and it's usually followed by some Malcolm and Blake reunion time, as evidenced by this series of photos from July.

Malcolm waiting in the closet for the vaccuuming to be done


Malcolm hugs are an experience

And might involve a nose or tongue in the face

Piggyback rides are fun too! 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Happy birthday to you!

First things first, it is not my birthday! This is just a post reminiscing about birthdays.

Growing up, birthdays were always celebrated, but only on odd-numbered birthdays did we have friend parties. The rest, we had family only celebrations - usually dinner and cake and ice cream and singing, and presents of course. Certain birthdays also meant certain life milestones. Here's how I remember my birthdays.

1 - I don't remember this one, but there's some cute photo and video evidence of me in a paper princess hat eating cake.

2 - What do you expect me to remember? I was 2, and my parents had another newborn. Not as many photos and made up memories.

3 - My first memories are of my 3rd birthday - we had some friends over and a circus theme. We made playdoh animals and put them under strawberry basket cages. We had a circus parade. My aunt painted our faces. I received a mini-trampoline, a hamster I named Caramel, and a blue fuzzy elephant puppet. Likely, many of my memories have been supplemented/created by photos.

4 - No specific memories.

5 - Same.

6 - I got my first bike! Well, my family knew by then that we were moving to Texas in a few weeks, so I got a coupon for a bike! The bike we bought after the move.

7 - Would have been a friend party, but I don't remember it.

8 - I got baptized! My grandparents gave me my first set of scriptures.

9 - Pool party!

10 - Nothing specific.

11 -  Another friend party year.

12 - I got to start Young Womens! That's the female youth (12-18) program at church.

13 - I got to start wearing makeup! So, my birthday party was a Mary Kay party. Immediately after, I went with my friend Leslie to her house and jumped into the pool. Didn't remember that I was wearing makeup until after that first jump.

14 - It was either this birthday or the previous Christmas I was promised a bedroom door, instead of just the open walkway/laundry between my room and my sister's. This never happened, because we moved to Utah in August. My bedroom there had two doors! One to the basement, and the other to my actual room. I actually had a door in the room in the Texas house, but it was to the front of the house. I think the section of the house our bedrooms were in was actually a converted garage and they ran a daycare out of it, so the front door in my bedroom was, for the previous owners,the daycare door. You had to go through Sisterpants' room to get to the backyard, and I had to go through her room to get to the rest of the house. This doesn't have anything to do with birthdays anymore . . .

15 - Second co-ed birthday party! My 3rd birthday was co-ed too, but the rest were not, as I recall. I remember playing games and hanging out in the front yard and a little drama happening when my ex-not-my-boyfriend showed up with some mutual friends.

16 - I went on my first date that night! We went to the school dance - I asked him. It wasn't an official date dance and he went to another school, but it was still officially my first date. I didn't get my driver's license until August, since I had to take driver's ed in the summer and then learn how to drive a manual first.

17 - I went to see Pearl Harbor with a couple of friends.

18 - For as big a birthday as 18 is, this one was kept pretty low-key. I think my soon-to-be-boyfriend (we made official in August) was involved in the family celebration though.

22! My last birthday in Utah!

How did your family celebrate birthdays?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

All About That Bass

I love when writers, authors, musicians, and other artists take something the general population is already familiar with and redoes it in a new and interesting way. Fractured fairy tales, modernization of stories told in the past, gender swapping, and so on. This is why I love watching the television show Once Upon a Time. Yes, it's basically Disney writing their own fan fiction and it's pretty darn ridiculous most of the time, but it's a lot of fun.

Interestingly, I don't actually get into actual fan fiction, especially the sort you might find online at livejournal or Tumblr. Maybe I'm a snob, but for me to be interested in a retelling, it usually has to be to legitimately published material.

I just love variations on familiar themes and characters and the interesting ways people more talented than myself can interpret them. My love also to extends different cultural interpretations of familiar stories.

Really, this topic cannot be covered in a single blog post, but suffice it to say - I love covers and retellings and reimaginings. And for the rest of today's post, we're going to talk about musical covers.

It's not enough, for me, for a musical artist to just sing the same song in the same way. What I really enjoy is when they take a song written in one genre and redo it in a completely different and unexpected way, usually in a different genre

I think my first introduction to musical covers was Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, who had some ska/punk versions of Broadway showtunes. I already loved showtunes, and I was starting to discover ska, so it was a fantastic musical marriage. .
Like Belinda Carlisle's 80s pop hit "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" redone as a piano ballad. I heard the original on the radio a few days ago and didn't like it nearly as much, and I usually love me some 80s pop. I almost think it was supposed to be a piano ballad from the start, Belinda Carlisle just didn't know that.

 Here's one I found just yesterday. I loved them on The Sing Off and this is an adorable cover.

Postmodern Jukebox just gets me, with so many different pop songs done in a variety of ways.

Carolina Chocolate Drops does a really interesting version of Hit 'Em Up Style
Some of my favorite cover groups are The Baseballs (German rockabilly band covering American Top 40), The Puppini Sisters (Andrews sisters sound-alikes covering Top 40), and Pomplamoose (real life couple doing cool instrumentations of popular songs).

I'm really just scratching the surface on my favorite covers. I'm sure I'm leaving out something amazing. Please let me know if I am!

How do you feel about covers? Any favorites?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Swing your razor wide, Sweeney!

Shortly after meeting Blake, I learned that he hated shaving. He'd shave for dates and church, but that was it. Work didn't require a clean shave, so usually got away with only shaving once or twice a week. It got to the point where I could tell what day of the week it was just by looking at his beard, and it grew in quite fast. I could even look at photos and tell which day we took it on. Eventually, once he was in school, he started shaving for his internships, but he still wouldn't on days he just had class.

Until about a year ago. Dismayed by the price of razors, he decided there must be a better way. Lo and behold, there is! Blake now shaves exclusively with a double-edged safety razor. He bought his razor and a sampler pack of blades, and he was kitted out with the rest of his gear for Christmas last year.

And thus began his great shaving experiment. Now, he shaves every day (except Saturdays), tries out a new brand of blades every two weeks and uses a variety of soaps, aftershaves, and other supplies. Best of all, he loves it! He also blogs about his experiences, reviewing each blade, soap, or other supply as he goes. It's been a very enjoyable hobby for him to do to counterbalance the rigors of law school. While I had gotten used to the daily scruff, I certainly don't mind the clean shaven look and feel either.

I highly recommend checking out his blog and you can do so here: Man Over Bored.

He has, however, been asked to grow out a beard again at some point next year, maybe while he studies for the bar. It's likely he'll have to shave everyday for the Big Lawyer Job we hope to find soon, but I'd like to see the beard again before that happens.

What do you think - facial hair or no facial for you (on you or your significant other)?

Scruffy face! I think this was a Saturday . . .(At Lincoln's Cottage in DC - January 2013)

Monday, November 17, 2014

When we're helping, we're happy and we sing as we go!

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. When possible on Sundays, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. With respect to your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

When I started the Sunday Series, I posted every week for awhile. I've covered lots of gospel and church related topics, and fielded a few questions. I will continue to do so, but things are, admittedly, sporadic most of the time now and I may not get to every topic I ever could.

Fortunately, the church has some fantastic websites wherein anyone could learn just about anything they wanted to about the gospel and how the church functions. I highly recommend exploring them! is geared more towards non-members of our faith and you can find a lot more basics here, as well as profiles of members. is aimed more at members, but it has an absolute wealth of resources available, including all church publications.

If you ever want to go to a meetinghouse and attend services, you can use the Meetinghouse Locator to find a building and the times of their services nearest you!

As always, if you ever have any questions of me, please don't hesitate to ask!

Nauvoo temple, July 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Look, I made a hat, where there never was a hat

Continuing the theme of developing my inner domestic goddess, today I got my craft on.

My ward (congregation) had a women's Super Saturday activity. The church's women's auxiliary, Relief Society, used to focus even more on homemaking skills - cooking, crafting, parenting, etc. - even to the point of calling informal meetings held on days other than Sunday Homemaking meetings. It changed to Home Family and Personal Enrichment meetings when I was in my late teens. In recent years, it's just been changed to activities or meetings. These meetings or activities don't have to focus on traditionally feminine homemaking type skills, and I enjoy when they don't.

But I also enjoy when they do!

Today, I was able to visit for a few hours with church friends, which is especially nice now that I work in the nursery and the only ward member I regularly get to talk with there is my Blake. He's wonderful, of course, but part of the reason for meeting regularly with others is the fellowshipping with others.

And I was able to do it while getting my fingers covered in modge podge and paint!

I made our first Thanksiving decoration:

A simple Nativity:

I especially like nativities wherein Mary (or Joseph, in the case of this one!) is holding the baby Jesus, because, let's be honest, would you really want to put your newborn in a food trough any more than you had to? A high school friend's mom made that point to me once and almost exclusively owned nativities like that. I may add fabric of some sort for a head covering.

And two framed temple silhouettes, one of DC (the first temple we attended together and frequent now) and Logan (where we were married):
Red and green background for our wedding colors!

It was a great and productive morning!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Eat eat eat the menu

In recent months, I have discovered that I really like making my own food staples. Sure, it would be a lot easier, and not terribly more expensive, to buy them at the store. However, when I make it, I know what goes in it (no secret chemicals or preservatives here!) and it just plain tastes better. Blake likes to say that it was made with that most special of all ingredients - love - which makes anything taste better.

I don't make everything from scratch . . . yet, but I'm pretty proud of what I've started making routinely so far. Nothing seems terribly complicated or difficult, at least to me, so it's pretty easy to whip together when I have some down time at home.

The first thing I started making to replace a frequent purchase is bread. The recipe I have is only one hour start to finish and really tasty. We learned the last time I made it that it works out a lot more successfully when you remember to add the yeast. Blake even took a turn making this once and it turned out great! 

It's especially yummy with the strawberry freezer jam I made. 

Another favorite is salsa. I've adapted a recipe from my mother-in-law and Blake and I both really, really like it. Her recipe calls for specific brands of canned stewed tomatoes, but I stew my own tomatoes. Admittedly, that's a little complicated, but after tasting this salsa, it's worth it. 

We also make our own refried beans in the Crock-pot. It's six ingredients and an all day process, but with our immersion blender, I don't think it could be any easier. We make a batch of these every few weeks.

Homemade chicken stock is also really easy, and I like that I am in better control of how much sodium is in there. Answer: no added salt.

Now, it may not be a staple, but I also like baking cookies. This weekend is malted whopper chocolate chip cookies, thanks to some leftover Halloween candy.

I also plan to make some more bread and salsa this weekend. I look forward to figuring out what other traditional staples I can replace with homemade!

(This is post number 600!)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Me and my cousins and you and your cousins

It's not often I have family in town, so I'm pretty stoked that my cousin has future medical professionals congress in DC this weekend and my aunt traveled with her. I'm especially blessed that we all, including Malcolm, got to meet up for dinner at Good Stuff Eatery and an evening monument walk! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hold me closer, tiny dancer

I started taking dance classes when I was 6. We had just moved to Texas and Mom started me in ballet classes at Bonnie Cokinos School of Dance. This place still exists and I wouldn't be surprised to discover if Miss Bonnie is in her 80s now. 

I absolutely loved it. I walked around on tiptoe outside of class (though I still remember a classmate at school, who also danced at the studio, calling me out on it once) and probably danced all over the apartment. I know I struggled with turnout and my flat feet were not ideal, but I did my best every week. My first recital was to Mistress Mary, Quite Contrary - we wore little green and white tutus and had feather dusters.

Two years later, I started in the Royal Academy of Dance curriculum, which was taught in the other room of the dance studio, in addition to my regular studio ballet classes. It was only RAD class members who could be involved in the annual February production of Cinderella. Each class/level had a specific part, and I moved up for the next few years from firefly to flower girl. It was a wonderful production and I loved being part of it every year!

By around age 10 and 11, most of my classmates got start en pointe. Sadly, my terrible flat feet and bad ankles prohibited me from joining them and so I stayed at the pre-pointe class level until the end of 5th grade. I danced in Cinderella and a summer recital one more time and then decided to end my ballet career just before my sister, who was four years younger than me, was due to end up in the same level I was in.

Luckily, when I started 6th grade, my middle school offered a jazz dance class/club after school once a week. I jumped right into that and, of course, loved it. It wasn't offered in 7th grade, alas, and 8th grade is when I took a year off to have my reconstructive foot surgeries.

Just before 9th grade, we moved back to Utah. This time, I joined the after school ballroom dance class/club. I'd done some swing dancing at youth conference over the summer, so this was a great discovery! I also quite enjoyed that my not-my-boyfriend did the class with me. Unfortunately, it was our failure at the spring swing dance competition at BYU that was a contributing factor in our not-a-relationship's demise.

I didn't dance in 10th grade, but in 11th grade I discovered modern/lyrical/contemporary as offered as an elective. I'd enrolled in Dance 1, but I knew immediately that was going to bore me, so I transferred to Dance 2/3. We dabbled in a few styles, but it was the contemporary dance I remembered loving the most. When some classes I tried to take senior year didn't work out, I enrolled in Dance 2/3 again. Each semester we had a dance concert in conjunction with all the school's dance and drill teams and ballroom classes. At school dances, I practiced my ballroom skills, which was easy since so many of my friends also did ballroom.

College was where I really started exploring - I took as many dance classes as I could - folk, jazz, tap, clogging, and, especially, modern. I never did any of the dance teams, but I spent many happy hours in a dance studio. Since I graduated in three years and worked my way through school, I was really busy with all the academic stuff, so dance was my fun thing.

After college, I joined a dance company in Salt Lake City - mainly modern/contemporary, but they convinced me to at least try the hip hop company as well. I wasn't too terrible.

Throughout all of this, I was also heavily involved in community and school theatre. Having studied so many dance styles has really come in handy, since a stage musical could draw from just about anything depending on the music. It's also helped as a choreographer for musicals, which I first did (outside of class choreography assignments) in college and have done again as recently as a year ago. And I have so many pairs of dance shoes now!

Since moving to DC, I've taken a variety of dance classes including modern, hip hop, and even Bollywood. I've gone out swing dancing and blues dancing regularly. Right now, I'm taking tap for the first time in more than 10 years, at the convincing of a friend I've known since freshman year of college. By golly, I am rusty, but I'm having fun and mostly keeping up!

I plan to keep dancing as long as my body will let me!

Previous discussions of my dancing career can be found here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I hope the smoking man's in this one

While podcasts have been a thing for awhile now, I did not get into them until a few months ago. There were lots of reasons for, I suppose. I didn't know how to get them to automagically update and load to my listening devices and didn't have enough interest to remind myself to going looking regularly (See Also: TV shows that are not on Hulu Plus). I'm a visual person and don't get into audiobooks/talks on tape/etc. as much. If I'm going to listen to the spoken word, I need it to be either be easy enough to not require my undivided attention to catch everything, or I need to make it my main focus.

Whatever the reason, they weren't my jam, and that's okay. But a few months ago, when I started walking Malcolm on my own for long stretches of time (our average 4 miles takes about 70 minutes and yes, apparently everything lately comes back to having a dog now) everyday, I quickly realized that listening to the same music playlists over and over was going to get boring and if I put on streaming music, I'd be skipping stuff occasionally and I really didn't want to have to pull out my phone every few songs. I just wanted to set it and forget it, slow cooker style.

I'd been hearing things about a podcast called Welcome to Night Vale. I really didn't know what it was about, but lots of people who like a lot of the same pop culture I do were talking about it, so I decided to give it a try. I downloaded the podcast app to my phone, subscribed to this show, and listened to the first episode. Since walking is pretty simple, I figured it would give me the focus and the time the spoken word requires.

I was hooked immediately. It was delightfully quirky and weird and incredibly well done. From the show's website: "WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events." 

Basically, it's a town where all the conspiracy theories are not just true, but normal. Luckily for me, the show had been running for two years and for the next couple of months, I listened exclusively to this podcast while out walking the dog without Blake.

Once I caught up with it though, I needed something to listen to in between episode release dates. So, I've been "auditioning" other podcasts. Here are a few of my other favorites:

Bellwether Friends - I am actually friends with the hosts of this show, Carolyn and Anna. They are librarians discussing popular culture - what they like/don't like. We have lots of similar tastes (we are friends, after all), so I really enjoy listening to my friends chat with each other.

NPR's Ask Me Another - Trivia! Music! Word games! The one man house band is Jonathan Coulton, who I love. The first episode featured John Flansberg of They Might Be Giants, one of my absolute favorite bands. I mean, what's not to love here? I'm actually going to try and be a contestant on this at some point.

Stuff You Missed in History Class - I actually don't know that I'd get along with the hosts in real life, and I can't put my finger on why exactly. But the subject matter is cool - In depth stories from history you probably don't know. The most recent one I listened to was about the first person (a woman) who brought a live panda back to the United States. I don't feel compelled to listen to everything in the back catalog of this show, but there is enough to interest me.

Generally, I only listen to these on walks, but I've been known to finish an episode of something in the car or after I get home if the walk ended first and it was handy to have a few on last weekend's road trip. I've tried out a few other podcasts, but these four are my go to choices right now. I think I'll try Serial next.

Do you listen to any podcasts? What else should I be listening to? 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Part of life is learning how to adapt. There are constantly changes to, well, everything, and you have to learn how accept those changes.

This is even more true when part of a family. There are more people and more variables and, therefore, more changes. Adding a dog to our family equation also changed everything - we now to have to spend time walking him, bathing him, feeding him, and so on.

These changes can be big (marriage! new job!) or small (new shampoo! different brand of athletic shoes!) or somewhere in between, and I think that they are part of what make life interesting.  I like having routines as much as the next person, but I don't mind changing it up.

Sidebar - Change has now lost all meaning to me. What a weird word.

Being a student, or being married to one, also means that fairly sizable changes come every few months. These are more of the medium-sized changes. You're still going to the same place for school and coming home to the same apartment, but your class schedule is almost totally different and, consequently, your non-class schedule.

Last spring semester, Blake had one class until 10PM on Wednesdays. Since I have to get up by 5:30AM or earlier to get to work on time, I needed to go to bed before he got home at midnight. Despite the fact that I slept just fine on my own for the first 28.5 years of my life, I discovered I couldn't sleep easily without him. So, I took to going to sleep on the couch for a couple of hours before he'd get home, wake me up, and we'd go to bed together.

This semester, his latest class ends at 8PM on Tuesdays, which puts him at our metro stop just after 9, so I pick him up on my way home from tap dance. I much prefer this to the midnight arrival, especially in January when he's been outside waiting for a bus for 30 minutes and his feet have changed into icicles.

Next semester, his late nights will be Monday AND Wednesday, and I'll be picking him at the metro both nights. Since I'll probably be gone to tap or choir rehearsal on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we quickly realized that we're going to have to find another time for our weekly Family Home Evening.

We've decided that we'll be combining two of our weekly events - Sunday morning family walks (the only time of the week we can always both go on a walk, since not even family grocery walks happen every week) and Family Home Evening. We'll make sure to include a weekly business meeting (usually just going over the calendar) and maybe a gospel discussion, but, most importantly, we're still making sure to spend quality time together, as a family. And, of course, we'll still have a treat, since our Sunday breakfasts are usually something a little more fun than our daily eggs or oatmeal. German Pancakes or cinnamon roll waffles anyone?

We practiced this combination today, as we walked up the road to the Dairy Queen and got cherry dipped ice cream cones. Yum!

This photo has nothing to do with changes in routine, but we can all use more cute pictures of dogs.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Then I think to myself, what a wonderful world!

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. When possible on Sundays, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. With respect to your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

I consider myself an evolutionary creationist. To me, this means that was a Creator of our universe and our world, namely God or Heavenly Father. However, He is also bound by the laws of nature. He did not create something out of nothing, but rather organized matter that already existed into the world in which we now live.

Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the modern church, explained it this way:
You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing: and they will answer, ‘Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?’ And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end.” (Teachings, pp. 350–52.)
In the October 1975 General Conference, Elder N. Eldon Tanner spoke about how we must follow the laws of nature because "All of this is possible only because through the laws of nature, the Creator keeps creation in its course."

One of those laws is that of evolution. As far as I am concerned, there is no disputing the evidences of evolution, as first put forth by Charles Darwin. Clearly, plants, animals, and even humans have adapted over time to their environment and proven that there is survival of the fittest.

I don't, however, believe we all came out of some primordial soup or have a common ancestor with modern chimpanzees. I believe that God created the world and in that creation, set in motion the ability for all of nature to evolve, grow, and change as necessary to adapt and survive.

I think about that creation every time I am out in nature. This morning, Blake, Malcolm, and I hiked around Sky Meadows State Park to enjoy the colorful autumn foliage and cooler temperatures. The views from the top of these Appalachian foothills were amazing and I, personally, can't believe that these beautiful scenes came out of nothing and just random. Instead, I choose to believe in a Grand Designer who organized this earth for man to live in and enjoy, and I will forever be grateful for this wonderful earth.

Big fluffy clouds as seen on my way to Roanoke

The view from the Piedmont Overlook Trail at Sky Meadows State Park

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes

Driving back home from my conference today, I spent quite a lot of time in the car. I do enjoy a good road trip, as long time readers of this blog would know. Lately, I've especially enjoyed having Blake along for company. We road trip well together.

Sadly, Blake was not with me this time, and I missed him. Instead of talking to my dear husband to pass the time, I listened to podcasts and ate an obscene amount of Twizzlers. Talking to him since I got back, however, we've realized there are two things the D.C. area roadways lack.

One, we're perfectly okay with - billboards. Apparently, removing billboards on the nation's highways was a project of Lady Bird Johnson's.  I suppose a remnant of that project are laws prohibiting billboards in D.C. and in surrounding area highways. I only saw a handful on I-81, generally advertising local attractions. Within an hour of D.C., there were none whatsoever.

I dislike billboards. Maybe they help with advertising, but I find them to be eyesores and they don't change often enough to be interesting. When driving the same highways with any frequency, seeing the same billboards over and over gets boring. Fortunately, without billboards, I get to enjoy the natural scenery, focus on the traffic, and enjoy unimpeded views.

The second thing the D.C. area roadways lack are Sonic Drive-Ins. The closest one is an hour away from us. In fact, Roanoke had 4 to choose from today! But D.C.? Zero. It's probably a good thing, since if I lived within any sort of convenient distance to one, I'd be drinking way too many cherry limeades and other drink combinations and snacking on too many tater tots. Instead, it's become a treat for Blake and me on road trips. If we pass one, we generally make a stop. We have it less often, so it's a little more special than just an everyday option. So, today, I really enjoyed my 44 oz cherry limeade, corn dog, and tots, and Blake enjoyed the last dregs of my drink. I don't know when I'll get another and I'm at peace with that.

Sonic tots after visiting Bethany Beach, DE, in 2013

What about you - how do you feel about billboards? Are you pro-Sonic? What's your favorite treat?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

From the top of my head way down to my toes

Yesterday morning, I drove down to Roanoke, Virginia, for my first Virginia Association of School Librarians annual conference. My school was happy to support my attendance and I can use all the help I can get with ideas on how to run my library better.

And boy howdy have I gotten a LOT of ideas. I probably could have attended last year, but I was so overwhelmed by the newness of everything last year that I didn't even think about VAASL for quite awhile. Thinking about it now, I'm actually glad I didn't attend. I would likely have gotten even more overwhelmed!

Attending for the first time as a second year school librarian gives me a good perspective. I know where my weaknesses are, and my strengths. I know what I do know and what I don't. I know a little bit more of what my library needs and what my student and teacher population needs. Having gotten to know my library over the last year has given me a good base to work with this year as I choose what sessions might be the most beneficial to me. And, instead of getting all worked up that I'll never be good enough and make my library the best ever, I'm getting excited about what I will be working on when I get back! What I don't get to do will be okay. Whenever my time to move on comes, I will leave the library a better place than how I found it and that's what really matters.

I also learned today that I forgot to pack socks. I know I set them out somewhere to put in my bag, but I certainly couldn't find them this morning.

Fortunately, in my swag bag at the First Timers Breakfast, I received a brand new pair of socks. They won't match my ensemble tomorrow at all, but at least they'll be clean!