Sunday, April 30, 2006

Girls' Weekend

Larry and I pretty much had a girls' weekend. I think he was still making an effort to cheer me up so he did all sorts of girly activities with me. After cooking at Super Suppers on Friday night, he went to see a chick-flick at the dollar theater with me. On Saturday, we spent some time working in the yard and then we headed down to Lancaster to go letterboxing (ok, at least that's not such a girly activity). The weather was perfect and we found six boxes in about two hours and saw some pretty cool places. Here are some pictures of us near one of the letterboxes we found at a covered bridge.

After letterboxing we rushed back to Columbus to see a musical version of Cinderella put on by the Columbus Children's Theater. We didn't have time to change so we were looking pretty scruffy. The music wasn't all that great, but it was fun to see about ten four-year-old girls dressed up like Cinderella. While they were waiting to hug Cinderella after the play, one of the mothers asked a little girl what she thought and she turned to the mom with a big smile and said, "I'm just speechless!" It was pretty cute.

We had stake conference on Sunday. Then in the evening our friends the Richardsons came over for dessert (which Larry made). Katherine has been out of town visiting her family for what seems like ages and I'm so happy to have her back. Here is a picture of her cute family (special thanks to Katherine for letting me borrow her guitar for all of my lessons).

I forfeit

Larry and I have given up on cooking. This last month has pretty much been mac & cheese or fast food. We wandered around around the grocery store and barely bought anything because nothing sounded good and we couldn't think of anything to make. We are awful meal planners and we have been too tired after work to think about it so Friday we gave in an headed to Super Suppers. What's Super Suppers, you ask? Only my new favorite place in the world!

Each month Super Suppers has a menu of twelve meals; in their kitchen they have a station for each meal with all the necessary ingredients and directions on how to put it together. You sign up to make six or twelve meals that are big enough for a family of four to six people. Larry and I signed up for twelve meals and split each in half so tada, in less then two hours, we put together dinner for the whole month. You put all the meals in the freezer (luckily our freezer was empty after providing ice cream for the whole ward last week) then you make sure you have a few in the fridge defrosting so you have a couple to choose from. Each meal is either in freezer bags or disposable aluminum pans and is labeled with cooking directions and recommendations for side dishes. The meals are much more gourmet than anything we've been cooking and now there's barely any prep time or any dishes to clean up afterward. It's totally worth it to me.

So far we've tried chicken a la Florentine braided bread and crispy onion talapia with rice pilaf. Both meals were great. All I can say is why didn't we try this sooner?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Gossamer by Lois Lowry

I have to begin by saying I love and admire Lois Lowry. I love her books, her speeches, her blog, but I'm not sure what to make of her latest novel, Gossamer. I do know I will be haunted by it.

This story follows Littlest One, a dream-giver in training. Littlest One gathers fragments of memories by touching the belongings of an abused eight-year-old boy, John, and his foster parent, an elderly woman, in order to bestow the comforting memories on them as dreams.

It's ironic that while the main characters of this book fight to overcome nightmares, I think this book will cause me and many other readers to have nightmares. John is also visited by Sinisteeds, creatures that create nightmares. The descriptions of Sinisteeds are scary on their own, but paired with the nightmares from John's past they are terrifying. The description of his abuse is rather graphic, especially the memory of being treated like a dog and starved until he would eat dog food, which his father then rubbed his face while his mother cried and then was beaten for crying.

Another element of the book that won't sit well with a lot of readers is the way John issues violent threats. It only makes sense that the abuse would cause John to have some issues, but I was surprised by some of his threats; he often mentions shooting people and even talks about bringing a gun to school and shooting another kid if a kid breaks one of his favorite posessions
. He tells his foster mom that since she loves her dog he might kidnap it and hold it for ransom or kill it and cut off its ears and mail them to her. After the days of Columbine, this language is not tolerated in school and it will probably not go over well in literature either. I can already hear some parents calling for a ban.

Overall, there were some sincerely lovely parts of the book, but I still need time to reconcile them with the rest of the book.

Speaking of passionate people with amazing talents . . .

I was recently scooped by my sister who already posted on her blog about her admiration for our dad. I was all ready to post about my dad's photography, but I was saving it for a day when I didn't have anything to talk about so I would still have something exciting to share. Today finally seems like the perfect day to share.

There are so many reasons to admire my dad: every year on Valentine's Day he writes each of his kids a special Valentine telling us specific reasons he's proud of us and how much he loves each of us, he got me through AP calculus even though he hadn't seen most of it since he studied it in college, he became a professor even though he could make more money at an environmental engineering firm because he feels like he makes a bigger difference sending out more engineers to do what he does, he really cares about his students and invites them over for parties at his home, every year he dresses like a nerd on Halloween and teaches his classes dressed that way, he sold his French horn to buy my mom's engagement ring, he played semi-pro soccer but quit to go to college so he could be educated and one day support his family, he came up with my science fair project every year from third-grade through my freshman year of high school and I usually won, he keeps encouraging me to write a book because he says he knows it will be good, and he almost never ever was mad or raised his voice, I haven't even heard him swear once.

Now that my youngest sibling is in college my dad can finally focus on what he loves to do instead of what we need him to do. He just had his first solo photography exhibit at Brigham Young University. Here are are few of his photographs and a picture of his exhibit.

While Candice specializes in portraiture, my dad specializes in still life and landscape photography. Don't his photographs look like paintings? I'm so proud of my dad. It's do nice to see him finding success doing something he lives.

And I feel pretty lucky to be from such a creative family.

You can see more of my dad's work on his Web site:

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Entering the Suck Zone

Yesterday I entered what Meg Cabot likes to call the Suck Zone. It's kind of like the Twilight Zone, but instead of everything being totally weird, everything just totally stinks! After a really awful workday, I headed home only to find the rabbit we thought we saved dying, and even though after consulting a vet I knew things were very likely to end that way, it was especially hard to handle when I was already having a horrible day. Then while I was talking to Larry about it and trying not to cry, he dropped one of my new dishes and it shattered all over the floor. Yes, there was no doubt about it; my day was sucktastic.

I just wanted to crawl into bed and spend the whole evening there, but our friend John Hall was performing as a featured soloist with the Ohio State Symphony, and Larry and I wanted to be there to support him so we headed out. We knew where to park, but we weren't really sure where the concert hall was. We started wandering in what we hoped was the right direction, and that's when my luck began to change because as we looked around in confusion we saw a man in a tuxedo running by struggling to carry a huge bass and suddenly we knew who to follow.

We made it to our seats just as the lights started to dim and we could see our new friend on stage, the only bass player missing his bow-tie. The performance was exactly what I needed. It's hard to fret about being in the Suck Zone when you're listening to such incredible music. The symphony always just seems to wash over me and absorb into my mind until there's isn't room in there to think about anything else.

I don't know John Hall as well as I know his wife Amy and to know Amy is to be edified by Amy. I'm always in awe of how much she knows. She used to be an editor for the Chicago Sun-Times and now even though she has her hands full with a very busy two-year-old, she attend my children's literature book club, another book club, and she leads a current affairs discussion group. When she emailed me the concert details she told me that the other piece the orchestra is playing is Sheherezade, and I was like, "Ummmm . . . ok . . . that's great . . . I guess?" I guess I still have a lot to learn from her.

Watching John play I just sat there thinking that I couldn't believe that I actually knew that guy up there (not in an I-know-the-star-of-the-show-and-am-therefore-cool-by-association sort of way). I feel that way every time I see one of my friends or family members excel in something they are passionate about. When I watched my brother-in-law Mark star in a one-man show that he wrote or when I saw a girl that I grew up with in Hawaii starring in the Broadway's Hairspray or when I saw pictures from my dad's solo photography exhibit at BYU those people shine. It's hard to look at them up there and remember that that's the same person that used to tuck me in or that's the person I stayed up with last night playing games until 3 a.m. They're all normal people, but when you give them the opportunity to share something they are passionate about, you get insight into an amazing part of them you might not see on a day-to-day basis.

It makes me wonder two things:
1. Do I give the people around me a chance to show me that side of themselves?
2. What am I passionate about and do I share that with other people?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Good news on a rainy Tuesday

There are so many blogs out there that I enjoy and look forward to checking everyday.

Lois Lowry is so eloquent

Ali Edwards is an amazing designer

My friend Cassie is so busy with her cute daughters

One of my very favorite blogs out there in the whole-wide world of blogs is absolutely A Fuse #8 Production. It's written by a children's librarian in New York and she constantly amazes me with her wealth of knowledge. How does she have so much insider knowledge, and how does she have time to review so many books? She is my blog hero! I look forward to reading her posts everyday.

I was reading one of her recent posts and guess which blog she linked to . . . MINE! Can you believe it? Maybe it's nerdy of me, but I was so excited. She read my blog (ok, not this one, which would probably be boring to anyone who doesn't know and is probably even boring to a few people who do know me. It was my children's literature book club blog.)

Lately I have been reconsidering my two blogs. I try to only post official book club related posts to the book club site so I don't post my personal book reviews there, but I think that most of the people who read this blog don't really care about the reviews. Now that I realize there's a possibility that other people from the children's literature world might read the book club blog, I'm thinking about posting my reviews there. What do you other book clubbers think? Would any of you mind?

Weedflower - by Cynthia Kadohata

Kira-Kira, last year’s Newbery Award winner by Cynthia Kadohata, was good, but Kadohata’s new book, Weedflower, is truly beautiful.

Weedflower is the story of 12-year-old Sumiko, a second-generation Japanese-American living on a flower farm in California in 1941. Sumiko’s life drastically changes when her family is sent to the Poston Internment Camp. I don’t want to spoil one bit of the plot so that’s all that I’m saying. This story is well told through the eyes of a child struggling to understand the realities of war, racism, life at an interment camp, and friendship.

I’m grateful for books like this that teach me that I really don’t know some parts of history as well as I think I do. Yes, I knew that after the bombing of Pearl Harbor many Japanese people in the US were sent to internment camps, but I didn’t know that before that Japanese immigrants in the US couldn’t own or lease land. I didn’t know that many of them were farmers. I didn’t know anything about the Poston camp, let alone did I know that it was located on an Indian reservation in Arizona. I didn’t know that the Japanese played a big part in making that area the lush farmland that it is today. I didn’t know that Native Americans in Arizona couldn’t vote until 1948. And I certainly didn’t know about the hostility between some of the Japanese and the Native Americans.

This is one of those books that I hope makes it into the hands of every young reader so we can have hope for a different future.

There are only two minor things that I would change about Weedflower. First, the cover; I know it is beautiful and it’s all about getting people to pick up the book, but covers that portray inaccuracies about books are my pet peeve. Sumiko never at any point in the story wears a kimono. Her family tries to appear as American and patriotic as they can so that image really bothers me. Second, I’m sure a large amount of research went into this book so I wish there was a longer historical note at the back. As it is, it does not explain which parts of the book are true, it functions more as a conclusion to the story. It works well, but I was left wanting to know more, and I’m sure many children will feel the same way (or at least their teachers like to imagine them pining away for more information).

Monday, April 24, 2006

I guess it was all of that talk about bunnies

Larry and I were out in the yard spreading mulch, when we saved this:

This tiny rabbit was being attacked by a cat and was about to meet its end. Isn't he/she tiny and cute? Larry was not about to touch it, but I couldn't let it die! I looked around for other rabbits or a hole, but I haven't seen any around so the cat might have been chasing it for awhile. The cat was roaming around so we've temporarily taken it in. While we were at the grocery store we picked up some rabbit food and a mini water bottle, but it hasn't touched either yet, and I don't know if it's old enough to really eat. Does anyone reading this know anything about rabbits?

Here he/she is in a temporary home

Glasses galore

We had another busy weekend. Larry and I both had projects to work on Saturday morning; he picked up mulch and started prepping the yard (and I helped a little, but after about 20 minutes I was getting sunburned) (Oh, the joys of having a yard. I understand now why Larry always said he didn’t want a yard until he could afford to pay someone else to take care of it) I worked on cleaning our house and painting some picture frames. I traced the frames on newspaper and taped it up on our living room wall to figure out how to hang them and now the newspaper has been up there for about a month so I figured it was time to work on it. Here’s how they turned out.

Now I just have to print some pictures to hang in them. Larry’s sister, Kerilyn, emailed me a copy of a photo from their parents’ wedding so I think I might try to collect my parents’ or grandparents’ wedding pictures and use all of those. Here’s the picture of Larry’s parents. Weren’t they so cute? And can you believe how much Larry looks like his dad?

The Stringhams came up Saturday evening to spend the night because they had stake conference up here on Sunday. Grant arrived just in time to help Larry find the last scary bunny.

Grant also discovered these freaky glasses that Larry brought home awhile ago with eyes that totally creep me out.

Then our friends Jason and Liz showed up with scary glasses of their own.

We had a fun night playing games that Larry always wants to play and no one else will ever go for like Mad and Trump the game.

We were in charge of providing ice cream for the linger longer after church on Sunday so we spent the week eating everything in our freezer so we could fill the whole thing with ice cream. Luckily we were only left with two cartons of ice cream to bring home so we have room for some new food. We also went to our friend Jared Anderson’s birthday party last night so we could have even more ice cream. It was a huge party because the Andersons are such fun friends that everyone wanted to be there to celebrate. I didn’t take my camera because I already had a bunch of weekend photos, but I wish I would have because it was so much fun. On that note, do you think I’m putting too many pictures on this blog? Is this page really hard for some of you to pull up with so many photos? Or maybe I’m boring you all to death with pictures that are really not all that exciting. Let me know.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The bunnies are taking over!

I love to decorate for the holidays. It's something that Candice and I inherited from our mom who inherited it from her mom. Luckily, Larry doesn't seem to mind too much. I must be rubbing off on him because he saw these stuffed bunnies in the Easter section at Target and said that he actually wanted them (as much he really wants any Easter decorations, anyway). I think he likes them because they look so mischeivious. I couldn't resist buying them for him when I saw them on clearance at Target. I hid them all over the house were they could catch Larry with the element of surprise. Don't they look like they are up to something?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Dawn Undercover

I picked up this book after reading some glowing reviews on other blogs, but I didn't love it quite as much as some other reviewers.

In this book, 11-year-old Dawn Buckle is recruited to become a spy for a secret British government agency to help them find a missing spy and discover the identity of a criminal named Murdo Meek. Dawn doesn't actually start off on her mission until about halfway through the book, which makes for a rather slow start.

I had problems with several points of the plot that didn't make any sense at all, like what are the special qualities in Dawn that the other agents think make her a good spy? The book hints that she's chosen because she's so bland she's never really noticed by anyone in her drab clothes and hair, but then the agency gives her a new stylish haircut and new clothes. And if Dawn is sent to recover a spy, why hasn't she ever at least seen a picture of the spy? She doesn't even recognize the spy when she meets her. I could go on and on.

The other problem that I had with the book is that Dawn is a very intelligent 11-year-old. Maybe I could go for her carrying around a stuffed animal, but she actually believes that it's real and it thinks and it does things for her like sacrificing it's own life to save her! How many 11-year-olds reading this book are going to believe that and relate to Dawn?

Even taking into account all of the issues I have with this book, I still enjoyed it. I loved all of the quirky characters Dawn meets and I absolutely love how British the whole book is. Many British children's books that are published in the US are adapted into American English, but it's apparent from the start that this book was untouched and I found it refeshing (although some kids admittedly might find it a little hard to understand).

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Try Something New

In December or January I saw a layout in one of Candice's scrapbooking magazines about a woman who made a goal to do some thing new for every year of her age (so if she's 40, she tries 40 new things). She repeats the goal every year on her birthday. I think it's such a great idea.

I'm always looking for new ways to learn and grow so I started my list in January, and so far I'm up to 17 things. I've started to learn to play the guitar, I saw Cirque du Soleil for the first time, I started this blog, I tried deep fried chicken livers (which are seriously gross, but didn't kill me) and Philedelphia rolls (which I loved), I visited the Ohio Caverns with Larry, and tried some other fun new things and I think that my life is just a little more full. I hope it's a tradition I'll carry on.

Any ideas about what I should try next? Just think of all the possible new adventures out there . . .

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Aperture 1.4 {focused blur}

My sister Candice has a blog of her own!

To Louisville and Beyond!

My brother-in-law, Mark, has been studying theater in graduate school at Ohio University in Athens. I was extremely happy when Candice, Mark and their two boys moved from Texas to Ohio and they were suddenly only an hour and a half away (when Larry is driving anyway). I knew that it wouldn't last forever; Mark's program entails two years of schoolwork followed by a year-long internship at a theater.

Well, two years are almost up and this week Mark received some great news; Mark has been offered an internship at Actors Theater of Louisville, Kentucky. It's an amazing opportunity. I think about 2,000 people audition for 22 spots, and Mark was happy to have an audition let alone get a spot. Actors has won Tony Awards and they host the Humana Festival.

I'm so happy for Mark, but I have to admit that I'm sad that the Stringham family will be further away from us. Candice and I have grown especially close while she's been in Ohio, and I'm not ready to let her go yet! It looks like Larry and I will take a few trip to Louisville next year.

(photo courtesy of Candice of course)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Razzle Dazzle

After we dropped Marissa off at the airport on Saturday afternoon we headed back down to Athens for Easter with Candice's family. My nephew Grant got to stay up late to help dye Easter eggs.

Mark, being the crazy guy that he is, prepared 3 1/2 dozen eggs for us to dye so we had a lot of fun.

The Easter Bunny was really busy so he didn't visit until after church, but the boys didn't seem to mind the delay.

We were pretty lucky because the Easter Bunny brought me a guitar song book and Larry a Venus Fly Trap (as much of a pet as we can handle) that Larry named Stephanie 2.

Make Way For Ducklings!

Every year the Whetstone Library in Columbus hosts a Duckling Day Parade based on the Robert McCloskey book Make Way for Ducklings. They provide costume kits that you can pick up beforehand, but many kids will show up decked out in amazing duckling costumes of their own. In the book, a mother duck leads her ducklings through the city to a new home at the pond. At this annual event, hundreds of kids show up in duckling costumes to reenact the book by following a mother duck and parading around the library. They even have a police officer directing traffic and yelling, "Make way for Ducklings!" like the officer in the book. And every kid who attends gets a free book. The parade ends at the community center where they have a Make Way for Ducklings puppet show.

Here's Grant as a duck

Here's Uncle Larry trying on the the Costume that Cole didn't want to wear

Here are our friends with their daughter who decided to be a bunny instead of a duck

Our adopted family in Columbus, the Erneys, live nearby and they always host a big brunch after the parade.

Can you believe that Marissa nannied for these girls our first summer here? We are getting old!

And here I am goofing around with my sisters

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Weekend of Wonders

Larry and I took Thursday afternoon off so we could start our weekend with Riss early. We all packed up and headed down to Athens to visit my older sister Candice's family. We really didn't do much (toured Athens, visited the park, posed for some pictures for a class Candice is teaching, played games), but we always have so much fun when we can all get together.

We spent Friday morning shopping and stopped at the diner for lunch. Then we headed back up to spend the night in Columbus.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Home improvements

We've updated some things around the house so I just wanted to post the new pictures.

I finished hanging frames for the border in the guest room, but now that I added more I need to print new pictures to fill them.

We finally put the new bedding on our bed

And here is a picture of the wall that we painted green in our living room. I was afraid that the stripes wouldn't show up, but I love the way it turned out.

I didn't take a picture of our most exciting improvement because it just would have been a picture of a light switch, but after about seven months of having an open outlet right next to our front door, Larry finally figured out how to make the three way switch for our entryway work (with a lot of help from a friend). We are not very handy so this was a huge achievement for us and I'm so happy that we can have friends over without worrying that someone might be electrocuted!

Our day

Larry and I each took the afternoon off to spend time with Riss. We decided to visit some shops in Worthington and then head on to go antiquing in Sunbury. Marissa found a cute Easter decoration and some old printers letters to spell out her new last name. I found some shutters that I want to hang above my desk in our library so I can use them to clip pictures to (like a bulletin board). And Larry fit in a good nap in the car.

On the way home we stopped at Rita's Italian Ice. When Marissa lived with us for a summer our apartment was by Rita's so we had to visit for old time's sake.

New Tradition

I love family traditions. Larry and I are still deciding on our own traditions and we just established a new one. I know it will sound kind of silly, but I was trying think of a way to make guests from out of town know that we're happy to have them visit, and I finally came up with buying fun pajamas for each of our visitors (ok, we've only had two visitors since we've settled in this house (Alicia & Riss) but we found fun pajamas for each of them (pajama's with sock monkeys on them for Alicia, of course, and pajamas with ducks on parade for Marissa in honor of the Duckling Day Parade we plan on visiting this Saturday))

And here is a picture of Marissa posing in her pj's (I have no idea why she was up there, but there you go).

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

She's Here!

Marissa arrived at approximately 8:35 pm

She jaunted over to pick up her luggage

Then we had dinner at Aladdin's

And Marissa was reunited with Graeter's ice cream

Then on to our house where she got a new sock monkey

I'm so excited to have Marissa in town!