Christmas Eve

My Christmas Eve was just about perfect (at least in the sense that I felt no stress).

First thing in the morning I headed off to two malls with my mom for some last minute shopping.

I though the experience would be horrible (considered setting up a search party to come find me if I didn't return in 3 hours), but it was actually fairly crowd free and I was able to accomplish rather quickly what I wanted to accomplish.

Then we had a lovely lunch of Kneaders sandwiches--which would be our only Turkey for the day.

After cleaning up the kitchen and dining room at my parents house, I set the table in festive fashion (we need more candles next year--but it was pretty).

And then I set about making dinner (my mom doesn't enjoy cooking and so things like Sunday dinner or Holiday dinners often fall to me). This year, because we had nearly as many vegetarians as meat eaters, we decided to do cheese-stuffed jumbo pasta shells.

I whipped those up early and then put them in the refrigerator until we were ready to throw them in the oven. Then I made the Christmas challah bread from scratch (and it turned out so beautifully) before moving on to a batch of cookies for Santa--decorated in extreme fashion by a 3 year old.

The kitchen was getting pretty hot by this point, but everything was running smoothly and I was finished with all these preparations around 5:30.

Dinner wasn't until 7:30 so I had some time to breath a little until it was time to make a green salad (so if you are counting, that means I made the salad, main course, and bread all from scratch--we bought the cake a store and that is a happy tradition I can live with).

Then we all sat down to dinner and it was delicious (if I may say so myself) and a new non stressful tradition of pasta on Christmas Eve was been born at my house (we did the traditional Turkey dinner on Sunday when the meat eaters outnumbered the vegetarians and it was miserable and stressful and not at all fun--partially, I'm sure, because my mom doesn't cook and so her kitchen is not well equipped).

Then my we read a book that combined the Christmas story from Luke with some beautiful paintings before settling in for viewings of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and "While you were Sleeping."

Christmas Day was a bit of a blur, but Christmas Eve, as I said, neared perfection:

and a great deal of Holiday Spirit

I hope your holiday was lovely as well.


Happy Christmas

The entire time I lived in the UK (well the entire Christmas time that I lived in the UK) it drove me nuts that people would say Happy Christmas instead of Merry Christmas. It seemed so wrong (I think I was homesick).

Now that I'm not living in the UK I find the phrase "Happy Christmas" quite endearing and wonderful (I think I'm homesick).

So I wish you a

Happy Christmas

and a Merry New Year

(hopefully I'll be back before then, though)


I would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all those who have sent me Christmas cards. My lack of sending you Christmas cards is not in anyway an indication of my lack of love for you. I really do love you and your cards. So even though I am completely inept at this tradition, please keep sending them. I promise someday to get my act together and send you cards as well.



Pretty Books

These little pretties have added themselves to my wish list. Have you seen them yet? They are clothbound classics being offered by Penguin. A total of 8.

I especially like these:

They can be found at Amazon, Anthropology, and possibly Urban Outfitters. They will set you back about $20.


Deep Reading

There was a very interesting article in Thursday's New York Times by Michelle Slatalla. The basic premise of the article was that modern technology has reduced her reading habits to Web sites, blogs, emails, Tweets, and the occasional newspaper or magazine article and that all this reading has left her feeling "mentally flabby." Basically, she claimed, all this modern technology has shortened her attention span to such a point that she spent 30 minutes attempting to read Doctorow's "Homer and Langley" only to get through the first sentence or so having been distracted by the possibility of email and text messages.

To help her through this crisis she turned to reading expert Dr. Maryanne Wolf who explained that deep reading actually involves creating new ways in which your brain uses circuits initially intended for things like oral language and vision--or in other words, reading is not something that our brains are naturally designed to do. To become a reader (or a deep reader as put forward by Slatalla and Wolf--which I am desperately trying not to read as a pretentious reader) one must work at and practise the art--something that one must force oneself into doing until it becomes enjoyable.

Wolf then goes on to suggest that Slatalla try reading "Gilead" as an "easy re-entry" into the world of deep books. This is where I had to stop and stare and then re-read the paragraph to make sure I had read this correctly. Gilead an easy read? No. Gilead a really well written book that I only really loved once I had completed it--you need to finish this book to fully understand the book and how/why it all fits together. Yes.

True the book was being suggested as a deep read--deep read defined as "the kind that you engage in when you get lost in the syntax and imagery and the long, convoluted sentences of a really meaty book"--so I suppose that perhaps changes the rules a little bit in relation to how truly entertaining or page-turning the book itself is during the actual reading. Still, I've got to believe there are meaty books out there that would be an easier introduction or re-introduction into the world of deep books--also I believe that there are books out their that are meaty and convoluted and still easy/entertaining to read and this sometimes makes me look at books like "Gilead" as pretentious books that are only read in order to be able to casually title drop at cocktail parties (did I mention that I have read "Gilead").

And really, I must stop here and argue that a book needn't be convoluted in order to have depth. In fact, this is one of my main complaints against people who look down on me for being an adult who reads young adult literature. To merely assume that since a book is written for teenagers that it doesn't tackle real issues in a mature and, yes, deep manner is simply foolish.

I've wondered over the weekend at the idea of reintroducing someone into the world of reading books by suggesting "Gilead"--and it truth I've further wondered at it being suggested to Slatalla in light of her difficulty in reading "Homer and Langley" as they appear to be similar in style. It is one thing, I think, to suggest that book to a person who wants to take their reading to a higher level. It is, however, an entirely different thing to suggest it to a person, who like Slatalla, has lost the ability to maintain her attention on anything over 3 pages in length. Wouldn't it be wiser to suggest a book (even a simplistic book) that will easily capture the reader and then once they have finished that book congratulate them and then suggest something like "Gilead" that will stretch and strengthen their reading stamina?

In conclusion, I'll just say that I do enjoy a deep book (and not only for the title-dropping possibilities). There is something very satisfying in reading something complicated. It makes one feel smart and smartens one as well.

What book, if not "Gilead," would I suggest? Good question. Maybe "The Count of Monte Cristo" or "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" for starters and then maybe "Atonement" or "The Road" for a little bit deeper reading. Then, of course, by all means move on and read "Gilead."

What are your suggestions?


Easy Chanukah Dougnuts

Here is an easy, easy recipe for those of you who may be doing a little Chanukah night tonight:

Easy Chanukah Doughnuts

2 1/2 Cups Flour
1 T Baking Powder
2 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Plain Yogurt (I'd like to try vanilla yogurt sometime)
2 T Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
Pinch of Salt
Cooking Oil
Confectioner's Sugar

Mix flour and baking powder with eggs. Add yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Heat oil in deep pot (about 350 degrees F). Drop by spoonful into hot oil and cook until brown. Serve sprinkled with confectioners sugar and/or jam.

I did all the mixing by hand and it came together really nicely and really fast.



Happy Chanukah

Tonight I'm making these super easy Latkas in honor of this Jewish holiday:

Potato Pancakes (Latkas)

4 medium potatoes
1 small onion
2 eggs
2 T. unflavored bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
12/ cup oil

Peel the potatoes and grate them into a bowl. Pour off the extra liquid. Peel the onion and grate it into the bowl. Break the eggs into the bowl. Add the bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Mix very well. heat the oil in a frying pan on medium heat until it sizzles. Carefully drop the batter into the hot oil by tablespoonfuls. Flatten each pancake with a spatula. When the pancakes are golden brown, carefully turn them over with a spatula. Fry on the other side until brown and crisp. Put 3 or 4 paper towels on a plate. When the pancakes are done, use the spatula to remove them from the frying pan and place on the paper towels. The extra oil will drain into the towels. Serve with applesauce (in my opinion the only option) or sour cream.

Don't worry if you're not ready celebrate, you have 7 more nights of Chanukah!


The Letter J

My little sister (one of them anyway) has opened her very own Esty shop called The Letter J where she sells some pretty great headbands that I love (and am getting for Christmas).

My favorites of the available selection are these two hot little numbers:

Should you like either of these headbands (or, of course, any of the other headbands currently available in her shop), you are in extra special luck because she has consented to give my readers 20% off through Wednesday, December 16th. Plus, you will get free shipping within the US through Christmas.

To claim the 20% off you will need to check out, select your address, send a message to the seller (my sis) with the code:

Yankee Girl,

and then commit to buy. That is it. DO NOT PAY after you commit to buy. My sis will then send you an invoice (via email) with the discounted price.

(Email me if you have any questions or if you goof)

As a further bonus, my sister has offered a permanent discount of 10% for my readers. So after December 16th you can keep on using the Yankee Girl code for 10% off.

Thanks J.


The Hiding Place

I've just finished this (The Hiding Place by Sherrill, Sherrill, and ten Bloom) wonderful book and now have a deep love and respect for Corrie ten Bloom and her sister Betsie. Should you not know the story, Corrie ten Bloom organized a resistance movement in Haarlem, Netherlands that hid Jews. In 1944 she and many members of her family were arrested and eventually she and her sister Betsie were sent to a concentration camp in Germany. What is, perhaps, most remarkable is that not only did she never lose her faith in God, but she and her sister continually saw God's hand over all that was happening, gave thanks in all things, and loved and forgave their captors--and this love was not given years later but in the actually moments that they were being mistreated. They are my heroes. What a would we might live in if we could all truly see that we are ALL children of a Heavenly Father who loves each and every one of us--and that we must also love and forgive each other.

I'm not at all sure how it is possible that I have not read this book given that a) I love books about the WWII era, b) I have a librarian as a Mother who has read this book, and c) I have actually been to the ten Bloom home.

Now, having finally gotten around to reading this fabulous book, I am dying to go back. It was only about 4 years ago that I was there so I still remember it quite well, but still I think I would now have a greater appreciation for the home and what took place there. For example, when you arrive for a tour you simply walk past the front door (still located in the alley) and read the clock sign that indicates when the next tour will be (tours are free). Once you know the time of the tour you can wonder around the area (maybe stop in the nearby St Bavo Church where Mozart and Handel both played the organ and hear the organ being played like we did) or visit the ten Bloom watch shop that is still in operation (although no longer owned by the ten Bloom family) as a real watch shop not a tourist attraction--so you should also only visit it if you intend to buy something. When the time of the tour approaches you return to the door and simply wait outside until someone opens the door and invites you in (there wasn't even a line). Had I had any wits about me I might have spent a moment wondering what it must have been like to be Jewish in 1943 and standing outside that door waiting for someone to invite me in while not being at all sure what my future would hold.

Oh, it just kills me that I didn't know/think about this and all the other things that now I know. It has made me long to return to the Netherlands.

Here is a picture of the little sliding door at the bottom of the closet that accessed the hidden room.

Here is a picture of my sweet mom standing in front of the hidden room. Part of the wall has been taken down to allow easier access and viewing of what the room was like. A few people from each tour are even allowed to stand in the room (room a loosely defined term as I think it was only 30 inches wide). I was lucky enough to be able to do that but somehow we don't have a picture of it.

Here is that church you can visit. It is just around the corner from the ten Bloom house--the organ is amazing.

The is not related to the ten Bloom's but I cannot think of the Netherlands without thinking about their pancakes (crepes). And yes I did order pancakes at nearly every meal I ate in that country--chocolate, bananas, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. The whipped cream was especially wonderful--richest most wonderful thing I have ever eaten. This particular pancake can be had just up the street from the Anne Frank museum.

And the bikes of Amsterdam were a continual amazement to me. Here is one of their parking garages.


Red Hot Lips

The Fly Lady recommends beginning each day by "getting dressed to lace up shoes." Roughly this means that each day should begin with a shower, getting fully dressed, doing your make up and hair, and then finally putting on your shoes. Of course she doesn't simply recommend any type of shoe; she recommends lace up shoes. The entire point of all this is that you will feel better about yourself if you do these things at the beginning of each day, feeling better about yourself will help you to be more productive, and doing these things will prepare you for whatever your day has in store for you. I like and agree with this idea completely.

I, however, own only 2 pairs of lace up shoes (tennis shoes and biking shoes) and neither of these shoes are terribly appropriate for the majority of what I wear day in and day out. Therefore I have pretty much opted out of the getting dressed to lace up shoes and replaced it with getting dressed to red hot lips. It is pretty much the same idea only I finish myself off with some red hot lips.

Red hot lips, though, have been a fairly new thing to me and have definitely taken some getting used to. However, as several 9 year old girls at church make regular comments to me about how nice my lipstick is (and if a 9 year old girl doesn't know what is fashionable, who does, right?), I believe it is something I will stick with.

Of course, in addition to learning to re-recognize myself in the mirror with my red hot lips I have found myself wondering about lipstick etiquette. Namely, is it okay to reapply lipstick in public?

A quick google search reveals that there is a bit of a continental divide on the issue. Apparently it is just fine to reapply lipstick in public in Europe. However, it would seem that there are some limitations to when it is appropriate to reapply lipstick in public in the US. For instance, if you are at a very nice restaurant or at a business lunch/dinner you should never reapply your lipstick in public. If, though, you are at just a nice restaurant with friends or family you may quickly reapply lipstick but never lip liner. (I found nothing on what is appropriate at McDonald's) However, there seems also to be an American line of reasoning that says if you can see a bathroom from where you are sitting you should use it to reapply your lipstick.

I am personally leaning toward the basic American standard here, but I would love hear/learn from your wisdom on this issue.


We Get England!

66 to 1 that the US wins the World Cup.

I like those odds.

England v. USA should be some kind of fun.

My Favorite: Movies (Romantic Comedy Category)

I finally got around to seeing this truly excellent film. If you haven't seen it you really must. (And for you girls who don't care too much for sports, this film has a very soft touch--nearly a chick flick) Sitting in the theater got me thinking about other great films I've seen and how I would possibly go about ranking them and coming up with a favorite 5. I pretty much decided that is an impossible task. But in the spirit of trying I've come up with a list of my favorite Romantic Comedies (Other categories to come):

You've Got Mail
4. One Fine Day
3. While You Were Sleeping2. Return to Me I love the attention to the little details in this movie.
It Happened One Night Perhaps my all-time favorite movie.

What are your top 5?


Christmas Plans: Books

Thanks to a couple of sick days spent in bed, I've already read through nearly all of these books and it is definitely helping keep me in the Christmas mood.
A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg--fantastic Southern Lit
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien--letters from Santa to the children of Tolkien; provides excellent inspiration for a new tradition (at least new to me)
The Hired Man's Christmas by George Givens--lovely true story and very short
Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke--you've probably seen the movie in Sunday School and the book is equally as nice (another short one)
Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou--best thing I've read this Christmas
A Christmas Treasury by Sam Elder--forgettable collection of Christmas experiences and traditions
One Christmas by Truman Capote--nice
A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote--very nice
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris--an irreverent look at Christmas today (short stories). Love it! Except skip the second story as is not at all nice.
Christmas With Anne by L.M. Montgomery--just starting
Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson--seen the movie but haven't read the book yet.

I am saddened and embarrassed to report that my to-read Christmas book list is shorter than my to-watch Christmas movie list. Maybe you can help me out a little (but not too much because my overall to-read list has just recently fallen under 60 and I'd like to keep it that way)


How to Tie a Scarf

It is that fabulous, chilly time of year when I get to pull out my winter scarves. I love my winter scarves but, sadly, I can't tie a good scarf. All that has now changed thanks to some passed along tips from the fab Reachel at Cardigan Empire:

And my favorite:

I've been trying out several of the knots with different kinds of scarves and it has been really fun and interesting to see all the possibilities. And go check out Cardigan Empire today for some great tips on wearing stockings, leggings, and tights.


Christmas Plans: Movies

Every year I have such grand ideas about how I'm going to spend the entire month of December celebrating Christmas and then before I know it it is December 26th and I've hardly done a thing--except curse the Christmas crowds and the weather. This year will be different, though, as this year I am planning on planning.

The first round of planning: Christmas movies I want to see (at home--may later make a list of movies I want to see in the theater this Christmas Season). My mom, two sisters, and I sat down and composed this list of Christmas movies (Christmas movies being a loosely defined term):

Babes in Toyland (Does this one actually have anything to do with Christmas?)A Charlie Brown Christmas
Christmas in Connecticut
A Christmas Story
The Cutting Edge
The Family Man

The Family Stone
Frosty the Snowman
The Holiday
Holiday Affair
Holiday Inn
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
It's a Wonderful Life
Just Friends (This one was debated--I haven't seen it)Joyuex Noel
Love Actually (anyone happen to have an edited version?)
Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas (remember there are 3 year olds in this family)Miracle on 34th Street
Miracle on 34th Street
A Muppet Family Christmas
(Don't know yet if it will air on TV this year:( )Once Upon a Christmas (Another debated one that I haven't seen)The Polar Express
Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer
Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
The Shop Around the Corner
'Twas the Night Before Christmas (perhaps my all-time favorite Christmas movie) Sleepless in Seattle
While You Were Sleeping (always gets watched Christmas Eve with my family--not sure why that is)White Christmas

Don't know if we will get around to watching all of them (it's a mighty lengthy list)--I've made a good start with my post-Thanksgiving movie marathon--but now that I have a list and something of a plan I should at least be able to get in the most important ones.

What did we forget?


A Wee Game of Numbers


The number of stores I intend on entering today


The number of new swear words my English Aunt taught me yesterday (I evened it up by teaching her a new Irish swear word)


The number of In-N-Out debates that broke out on Thanksgiving Day (In-N-Out just came to my city and I tried it for the very first time Wednesday night: The Shake was amazing, the burger was very nice, the fries verged on inedible)


The slices of pie I ate yesterday


The number of Christmas movies I watched yesterday (2 were Charlie Brown movies and were pretty short)


The approximate serving of yams I had yesterday (sadly there are no more leftovers)


Happy Thanksgiving

So this has been showing up on a few blogs in the past several days, but it is just so good that I didn't want to be left out.

Happy Turkey Day!


Less Is More

So I thought today might be a good day to get around to reporting back on my new clutter-free lifestyle. It is going to be a slow process--last week was nearly a complete bust and I haven't done a thing this week--but I do have a little progress to celebrate.

My basic philosophy going into this project is: Less is More. I am throwing out the idea that I can keep everything as long as it has a place in favor of getting rid of the junk and keeping only the truly important things that represent who I am (or at least trying to).

I began by tackling my bookcase which previously had been filled with books in the idea that a full bookcase made me look smart, cultured, and well read--and that it looked good (which is sometimes true but not for me right now). I gave away about 40 books (to my local library of course) keeping only the books I love or haven't read yet--this is very good as now when people check out my bookcase I don't have to explain away the existence of books I hated. I also cleaned out and organized every box that is on my bookcase so that I don't even have any hidden clutter or junk! It makes me feel very happy and clean and organized and at peace.

It has been a week and it still looks like this! Onward and upward, right?


Real Salt Lake

My favorite month of the year is usually October. However, November has been awfully good to me this year. First my Yankees win the World Series and then Real Salt Lake wins the MLS Cup (in very nerve wracking--but beautiful--play). Below you will find a clip produced by a Spanish-language TV station (or possibly Portuguese???). At about the 1 minute mark (after yelling gooooooaaaaal) The announcers say this:

Real Salt Lake *unknown Spanish words* Beckham.

I'm pretty sure the translation is something along the lines of:

Real Salt Lake just beat that pansy (and possibly other appropriate words that would be inappropriate for me to repeat here) Beckham.

Then I am pretty sure that they said:

Real Salt Lake just beat that pansy Donovan (who has fallen off the pedestal I was once willing to put him on).


Real Salk Lake just beat those pansies L.A. Galaxy.

I wonder if the rest of November is going to be good to me.


Jetta Bunker Hepworth

I've been missing in action (sadly not because I have become the queen of decluttering) because a) I forgot that my book group was meeting this week because of Thanksgiving and so every spare minute has been spent reading and b) yesterday I was privileged to attend the funeral of my Grand Aunt Jetta (She also is my Great Grand Aunt because she is both my Grandfather's Sister-in-Law and my Grandmother's Aunt).

I've got to say that though it may seem a little odd, I really enjoy attending LDS funerals. They so often feel a little bit like attending the temple with all the things I learn/remember and the refocusing for the living on the eternal. My Aunt Jetta's funeral was no exception--even with my Uncles Joe and Johnny doing their very best to get me to laugh--tsk, tsk boys ;) She was such an exceptional woman who had a great life and left for us a great example. I didn't know her really myself but it was clear that she has had such a tremendous impact on so many of the people who have impacted my own life that I love her.

As it was a family funeral, there was also a wonderful opportunity to be able to chat with some family members that I don't see nearly as often as I would like. I also had the opportunity of meeting some family members that I have never met before such as my mom's Cousin-in-Law Matt (who convinced his wife to marry him despite referring to an early conversation as a nice father/daughter talk, comparing the softness of her lips to the nose of a horse (apparently a compliment), and asking/noting out loud after their very first kiss that she hadn't done much of that), and my Grandfather's Cousin Virginia. Much talk was done on the subject of a family reunion and I hope that we can do something to bring that about because it was really quite a bit of fun talking with everyone.

And, yes, because it was an LDS funeral there were funeral potatoes.

Love you Jetta.

Jetta Bunker Hepworth 1913 ~ 2009 On November 13, 2009, Jetta Bunker Hepworth died at the age of 96 of causes incident to age. She was born on June 19, 1913 in Delta, Utah to William Edward and Emma Iverson Bunker. She was the second youngest of eight children, four of whom died in infancy or childhood. She had a happy childhood in Delta with her sisters, Grace and Dorothy, and her brother Owen. In 1929, as a high school senior, Jetta was recommended for a job at a local bank, just months before the difficulties of the Great Depression began. As banks went into receivership, Jetta worked for the Utah state banking department in Payson. After a short time, Jetta moved to Richfield to continue her work in banking and mortgage insurance. Jetta looked back fondly on her time in Payson and Richfield, where she made the dearest friends of her life. Jetta found banking, then still a man's profession, to be a challenging and rewarding career. She moved to Salt Lake City, to work at Walker Bank where she became the first female bank teller in the state of Utah, and where she made many friends. In the summer of 1942, Jetta was introduced, by one of her Walker Bank friends, to James B Hepworth. Their love was instant and enduring. Just weeks after meeting they were separated by Jim's induction into the army. They were married on September 17, 1943, and were later sealed in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. World War II separated them again from 1944 to 1946. After the war, Jim became a professor at the University of Utah, and Jetta devoted her life to him, their two daughters, her church, and her community. She served in the stake Primary presidency, as Relief Society president, as a member of both the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and the Utah Federation of Women's Clubs, as a delegate to the Salt Lake Council of Women, and as President of the University of Utah Women's Club. Together, Jim and Jetta shared their love of world travel but also spent many happy summers closer to home with family and friends at Fish Lake. Jetta was a life-long learner who valued education and the arts. She did beautiful handwork. She got her first computer at age 79 so that she could do genealogical work and was still reading voraciously in the last weeks of her life. In 1993, Jetta was preceded in death by Jim. She missed him more every day and looked forward to being with him again. She is survived by her daughters and sons-in-law Kathryn (Matt) Ramirez and Jill (Jeff) Christensen, by four grandchildren, James Ramirez, Brooke Ramirez, Nate Christensen, and Tom Christensen, by a dear cousin Pearl Nelson, by her brother-and sister-in-law Jack and Caryl Hepworth, and by many beloved nieces, nephews, and other extended family members. She will be deeply missed but we know that she has had a joyous reunion with her loved ones, and are comforted by the promise she made to us: "I'll be there for you again." Funeral services for Jetta will be held on Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. at the Larkin Sunset Lawn Mortuary, 2350 East 1300 South, SLC, where family and friends may call Tuesday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. and on Wednesday morning from 11:45 to 12:45 p.m. prior to services. Interment: Bountiful City Cemetery, 2020 South 200 West, Bountiful, UT. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Jetta's memory may be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at www.cff.org or to the Pioneer Memorial Theater, 1400 East 300 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112. Please send condolences to the family at www.larkinmortuary.co


Clutter Be Gone

I was chatting with a couple of my sisters yesterday when the topic turned to home decor and what we like. The sisters gave their input then asked me what I like. My response: a combination of modern and antique. One of my sister's was incredulous at the existence of such a combination but the other sister backed me up. As further proof I suggested a visit to Stephmodo's vacation home in France: La Masionnette (sadly only via blog and not in person at the present moment). I love the combination of stainless steel light fixtures over an old wooden table. I love the sleek modern fixtures/appliances set against an exposed brick or rock wall. I love the clean, simple, crisp, white linens put on a bed with a chipped wooden headboard. Sadly all these things are currently out of my budget.

On further thought I added that one of the things I truly love and desire in home decor is a clean, uncluttered space. This is within my budget! This does not, however, currently describe my living space. At first I mused that this might be a good New Year's resolution (these have been on my mind lately) but then I thought it is slightly ridiculous to put this off for at least another 2 months when I can begin now.

So now it begins. This week is going to be a week of major decluttering.

I'm really quite excited.



I've noticed a strange phenomenon regarding my reading. It is this: on a very frequent basis I will read 2-3 books that all have at least one theme in common. For example, last year I read three books in a row that all had mental illness as a fairly primary theme. All three books were set in different time periods with very different stories--and with all three books I had no idea going into them that mental illness would play any part in the stories being told. Most recently, I've just finished 2 books wherein the main character was a 15 year old overweight girl (book 1: How to Buy a Love of Reading--a fantastically written book that was way too adult for me but that I still really enjoyed--book 2: Princess Ben--a fun retelling of a well-known fairytale appropriate for all). If we look a the book I read before book 1 (The Elegance of the Hedgehog--which I will finish reading when I can get it back out of the library) I can connect imagery between it and book 2: Hedgehogs. How many books can there be out there that use the image of the hedgehog?

As I select the books I read to give me variety (in story, era, genre, etc.) I really don't know how I manage this. Does this happen to anyone else?


P.S. I Love You

Watched P.S. I Love You last night.

It isn't a perfect movie.

I still adore it.

I wonder how many times I have to watch it before I don't sob all the way through.


New Blog Title

I'm dissatisfied with my current blog title--have been from the beginning when I deleted my old one without having first come up with a new one and wrote in "Under Construction" as a filler. Only I still can't/haven't come up with a new one.


Since this blog is just a random collection of things I like, do, or am (very unfocused) I am thinking something with the word "diary" or "diaries" in it but that is as far as I've gotten.


I'm thinking of something 2 - 3 words long.


I'm also thinking it is probably a bit unfair of me to ask you to name my blog.



My Favorite: Albums

I love lists. I am always making them. They give me a sense of order, of direction, of purpose, and of peace. Even the silly lists do these things for me. When I was off reading unsatisfying books one of the post ideas I had was to share some of these lists. Not only would such posts be fairly easy and quick to write up, but they would also hopefully give me insight into the lives of my lovely friends and readers as you disagree, argue, or suggest things that should have made my lists--so argue away.

I thought I would start out by creating a list of my favorite albums. Now I'm not saying that these albums are the best albums ever produced--I checked and none of them even make the top 10 in Rolling Stone's
500 Greatest Albums of All Time and I think only 1 even makes the list at all--this is a list that right now, in this moment, is made up of my go-to albums. So without further ado, here is my list (in no particular order--also am keeping the list to 5):

The #1 Puccini Album This album includes the brilliant Nessun Dorma performed by Luciano Pavarotti and is a general masterpiece. While some of the albums on this list will probably not be permanent list toppers, I'm pretty sure this will always be one of my favorite and one of my go-to albums--except for not in the car because I tend to speed with it playing cause, yeah, opera has that effect on me.

Something's Gotta Give Soundtracks tend to be pretty high on any favorite music list I might create because they give me variety--1 artist for 1 hour tends to bore me. This one is especially great as is contains quite a bit of Jazz (I love Jazz) and not only that but it is French Jazz--big sigh. (Please ignore the creepy Jack Nicholson version of La Vie En Rose)

P.S. I Love You Another soundtrack--and probably my true number 1 go-to album right now. About 5 years ago my go-to soundtrack was the Sliding Doors soundtrack. I imagine that this one will eventually follow Sliding Doors into the recesses of my iPod but for now I'm really loving all the amazing vocals.

Forever Cool As far as I'm concerned Dean Martin is the king of vocals (sorry Elvis, Bono, MJ, and the rest). This album is a remix and reworking of a few great Dean Martin songs turned duet with some current greats. Some of the duets don't really work (as in I Can't Believe You're In Love with Joss Stone) but others (like King of the Road with Kevin Spacey) are pure joy in music.

War by U2. You might actually say that this position is held fairly equally by several U2 albums but I threw War up because it is the one I've listened to a couple of times over the last few days. This might also be the spot that you might be able to get a replacement into because as much as I love U2, and am convinced of their being the greatest band ever, even U2 bores me occasionally.

So what are your top albums? What should I be listening to that maybe I haven't been?

As a bonus here a the two albums that have also been getting a lot of play time but haven't convinced me to put them in my top 5 just yet:

Crazy Love by Michael Bublé--as a Dean Martin fan I just can't resist Michael.

Splendor in the Grass by Pink Martini--even features NPR's Ari Shapiro as a guest vocalist.


Book Review: Rebecca

Well, not so much a book review as a gut reaction (cause I'm really not that good at reviewing books--am especially not good at giving a synopsis).
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

Loved it. Admittedly the first half of the book is rather slow, but it picks up. In fact I read the last 150 pages in 1 sitting (not a good idea really when that sitting lasted until 2:30 AM the night before having to get up for 9 am church where I would be teaching a group of 14 year old girls about the importance of time management--you know stuff like get an appropriate night's sleep so that you can function and be productive the next day). The main character (the 2nd Mrs. de Winter) is incredibly spineless (I continually felt like slapping her) but is still the one you are rooting for throughout. The setting is fantastic--absolutely made me want to start dressing for dinner--the 1920s or so, I believe, and in England. And the twists and turns will absolutely keep you moving on to the next chapter.

The best part: it was creepy. Deliciously and wonderfully creepy. Not in the way I thought--rather subtly in fact--but it gave me chills and made me pause a moment before turning out my light (not really that difficult to do, though, since my 3 great fears are heights, speaking in public, and the dark).

I give it 4 out of 5 stars but also list it as one of my favorites over at GoodReads.

What I'm reading now:
How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson.


More Halloween

Just in case you're interest, here's a video montage of the Halloween party I went to. If you are not interested, have a very happy weekend.

My Life According to U2

Got this gem from the fabulous Susette (I'm still not speaking to you. However since your daughter does just live up the street from Mike's I might be moved on to forgive you if you were to bring me back a chocolate dipped cannoli). Play along on your own blogs if you would like.

The Rules:

Using only song titles from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer the following questions (I wasn't terribly clever so I won't hold you to this rule). Use any artist you like. Try not to repeat a song title.

Artist: U2

Are you a male or female: Lady With the Spinning Head

Describe yourself: The Wanderer

How do you feel?: Stuck in a Moment

Describe where you currently live: Where the Streets Have No Name (This is my most cleverest)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go?: City of Blinding Lights

Your favorite form of transportation: Walk On

Your best friend is: The Sweetest Thing

Your favorite color is: October

What's the weather like? Beautiful Day (rather dull of me, right?)

Favorite time of day: Shadows and Tall Trees (Twilight was an option but I figured I would try not to be too dull 2 times in a row)

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called?: Is That All?

What is life to you?: Running to Stand Still

Your relationships: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Your fear: Elevation

What is the best advice you have to give?: Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own
If you could change your name, you would change it to?: Tomorrow (except not really since Rob Morrow (ala Numbers and Northern Exposure) already named his daughter Tu Morrow so it is taken)

Thought for the day: Some Days are Better Than Others

How I would like to die: Happiness is a Warm Gun*

My soul's present condition: Being Born

My motto: I Will Follow

*Let me just explain this choice so that you don't start calling suicide hot lines to report me. One day maybe 4 years ago my co-workers were having a conversation which evolved into a discussion on how they would like to die (don't ask me why). When I entered the room I was asked this question and quickly responded: bullet to the back of the head. This response was met with blank stares and silence as the appropriate response to the question is: peacefully in my sleep. I, however, was at the time was working on my thesis on violence in Northern Ireland and was enrolled in a class on genocide. So at the time a bullet to the back of the head seemed like a much better option than, say, being hacked to death with a blunt machete.


Yankees Win It All

And I am so very, very happy.

Here is my scorecard from last night's game. (I highly recommend learning to keep score if you find yourself spending lots of time watching little league ball--makes the game much more interesting and even fast paced at times)
Now what shall I do with all of my free time?



Still not going to post one of those posts I was thinking of. Instead I thought I would post a couple of videos that I've spotted on a couple of blogs that I love (just in case you haven't seen them yet and because I love them so very much). The first comes to us courtesy of MBC and is Hilarious--yep hilarious with a capital H.

And this one, from Janssen, just makes me very Happy--another capital H there.


Coolest Halloween Ever!!! Ever!!!!

I've had lots of ideas on possible posts lately. Sadly, none of these ideas has actually become a post (dare I say yet?). Instead of posting I have been:

reading a couple of very unsatisfying books

injuring my back cutting ivy (nothing serious)

unknowingly misusing a heating pad--and then knowingly

mostly enjoying the World Series

taking control over the distributing of Halloween candy at my parent's house = the little trick or treaters got the Hershey's bars and Almond Joys and I got the Mounds and the Peanut Butter Cups

watching NOVA's Darwin's Darkest Hour in bits and pieces (thanks for the heads up Science Teacher Mommy)

and attending the best Halloween party ever.

This last item will make up the rest of this post. Last Friday I was privileged enough to receive a ticket to my Brother-in-Law's office Halloween party (tickets were required and were checked frequently by some secret service types). First let me just say a few words about where my b-in-l works. I'll not give away the name or what they do (since I don't know exactly what it is that they do except that it has something to do with the Internet and that just about every major corporation in the world is a client of theirs) I'll just say that they are perhaps the coolest company out there. I offer that following proofs as to their coolness:

Proof #1 Lounge area that contains wii and playstation consoles with games galore (and free soda!) for their employees to use at will.

Proof #2 Game Room pictured here:

For those times when their employees just need to spend some time playing computer games.

Proof #3 All their conference rooms are named after Adam Sandler movies--maybe not the actor I would have chosen but I can still appreciate the coolness of the naming.

Proof #4 The Halloween Party.

There is absolutely no way to describe to you exactly how very cool this party is but I will try.

First off, the entire company takes part and even competes against each other. Second, the entire place is transformed--as in you can't even tell that it is an office (well 3 3-story office buildings in an office park). They drape to walls and the cubicles with black plastic to create pathways and to serve as the backdrop to the various themes each section takes on. As for the themes, they tend to be movies or TV shows with a few computer games thrown in by the IT guys. And they go all out--I mean all out. My b-in-l's section took on The Simpsons and recreated the living room from the show out of foam--it was life size! (sadly I didn't get a picture but trust me it was so good--I didn't get many pictures because it was rather packed and many of the rooms were rather dark). For treats they handed out donuts of course. Other themes that were done included:

GI Joe with some very real looking weaponry--they were inside set up as a base camp with leaves and dirt and rocks all over the floor (the whole way through I kept wondering how long it would take to clean up; I probably should also have been wondering how much time it took to plan and put it all together--see how cool is this company that they allow their employees to do this on company time and pay for all the props and stuff used) and outside patrolling the parking lot and setting up check points;

Star Wars with, I am pretty sure, the real Darth Vader overseeing the training of young light saber fighters (they had this set up with a camera projecting your training/fighting onto a big screen with the movie playing--so basically it looked as though you were in the movie--I thought of you and your boys Science Teacher Mommy);

Michael Jackson's Thriller choreography set in a graveyard (again indoors with dirt and rocks and leaves);

Peter Pan (I think several sections got together on this one) that began in the nursery then traveled out the window over the city of London and past a 10 foot replica of Big Ben and into NeverNeverland with mermaids, a pond with live gold fish, Indians, pirates, and a rope sling that swung you down a hall and out of NeverNeverland;

Pac Man was represented with a maze with glowing yellow dots hanging over us and ghosts traveling the hallways (and not just ghosts in white sheets these ghosts looked like the real Pac Man ghosts come to life);

The Flintstones, Scooby Doo, The Smurfs, and The Jetsons were also represented;

the basement of one building was set up to look like Vegas with disco dancing, a buffet, casinos, and the Little White Chapel with Elvis himself performing the services.

I could go on and on but I think you pretty much get the point. It was really cool. Here are a few of the pictures that I did manage to take:

The pond with live goldfish:

A pirate in the pirate ship:

The Smurfs and Gargamel:

An Ent from LOTRs:

Two of my nieces in Tweety Bird's cage:

Two of my nieces hitting the road in a Flintstones car.


Note To Self On Grinding My Own Wheat:

It is so not worth it and should only be considered again if

A. am starving (strongly consider starving)


B. have located a grain mill that was manufactured in current century.

I think finding a better grain mill is key here. Any suggestions?


Wheat...It's Not Just For Bread

Although I've been making some pretty nice bread (I'm going to try Science Teacher Mommy's this weekend (with any luck) with wheat that I am planning to grind myself--very pioneer woman of me, right?) I have recently discovered that wheat flour is not just for bread. I know that you are thinking that you already knew that so just pat yourself on the back and let me enjoy my little moment in peace. Really, I did realize that wheat flour is good in stuff like pancakes (trying a recipe for this tomorrow) but did you know it is good in chocolate chip cookies? Skeptical? So was I until I made them and then ate at least a dozen all by myself. I would put a picture up here except they didn't really look very pretty--flat as a pancake would be the appropriate description--but I am working on some revisions to plump them up a bit so maybe soon. In the meantime I'm not feeling at all bad for eating a dozen chocolate chip cookies because right on the bag of whole wheat flour it said the flour was good for my heart and with heart disease being such a problem for women this days I was clearly only acting in a manner that is entirely healthy--don't be bursting my bubble.

p.s. I read over 1,000 pages over last weekend, and while I'm not entirely caught up I feel pretty comfortable about where I am.


Very Bad at the Game

So do you remember when I told you how much I enjoy checking my library account and trying to arrange my request list so that I get a few books of varying genres at a time? Well I have completely failed. I currently have 8 books checked out with three more waiting at the library for me--and I can only have several of these books for 2 weeks because they are so popular. Add to that this month's book group read (a nonfiction book) plus a nonfiction book that I've been reading since January and I have more books on my plate than I can handle. I feel rather guilty about having so many books out and yet there is a (probably very disturbed) part of me that hates to return a book before I've finished it.

What is all this leading up to? My excuse* for being a very bad blogger--I use books as my excuse quite often. Hopefully I can get things under control this weekend.

Until then, I wish you a happy weekend and give you Flogging Molly--that nonfiction book that I've been reading since the beginning of the year (but have been reading more steadily lately) is on the IRA in Northern Ireland so recently I've been channeling my inner, irreverent Irishman.

*There has also been a recent incident between a 3 year old and a laptop that resulted in the death of the laptop.


Over There

Congrats USA Soccer. Looking Forward to SA.


Man Candy Monday

Joe Mauer is so cute I could almost wish they had won last night just so I could watch him a bit longer--wouldn't he just fit so well in my list of five (Eddie Cahill, Viggo Mortensen, Hugh Jackman, Derek Jeter, and Iaon Gruffordd)? Too bad he is so very young.


Jazz at the Library

Dixieland Jazz to be more specific. There was no shushing that night--even if there were you wouldn't have been able to hear it. I know some people in the library thought it was odd to have a loud jazz band playing, but I thought it was a perfect combination. After all, a library is a place that preserves ideas and jazz music is the idea of America set to music.

I love my library!


I'm Back

Sorry it took so long. I picked up Catching Fire and made it just a couple of chapters in before I had to put it down. Not because I wasn't liking it, but because I just couldn't get the book I was in the process of reading when I opted to put it down in favor of Catching Fire out of my mind. You see, it was making me swoon and I was very much enjoying that--plus I put it down at a pretty crucial point in the book and I wanted to find out what happened. (That book, by the way, is called Heir to Sevenwaters and while I didn't care at all for the ending I quite liked the swooning)

Anyway, I eventually did get back to Catching Fire and was entirely blown away (and really once I got through a couple more chapters you couldn't even pry this book from my hands). I want to say more but I fear that if I do I'll give something away and that would be unforgivable. What I will say is you must read this book (start with Hunger Games of course). It was such a fantastic, wonderful, good read. And then let's talk.