Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Trees etc.

Decorating for Christmas was particularly fun this year.  Adorning our apartment is made simple by our tiny tree and meager amount of decorations. 

But conversations like these made decorating quite fun.

Jerry (Holding up an ornament): I didn't know we had (fill in the kind of ornament here) where did it come from
Me: (insert person's name here) made that for us.  It's one of my favorites. 

Jerry (Holding up another ornament): Where did this come from?
Me: I got that my first Christmas in California.  It reminds me of home and is one of my favorites.

You might be sensing a pattern here.

Me (after finding more lights):  The tree looks good enough, we don't need more lights.
Jerry:  I'm hanging these up.  It needs more lights. 

Jerry and I both share a love for Christmas decorations.  I want to be one of those old ladies whose home is spilling over with nativities and nutcrackers.  But until I have space for that, I will have to settle for these.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


All football season, Jerry and I were looking forward to going to his first BYU football game.  I tried to teach him the fight song and failed to convince him to buy some BYU apparel.  Well, the day of the BYU vs. ISU game finally arrived.  It was Jerry's ideal weather - a mix of snow and rain.

You can't see it under my layers, but I promise I am wearing a BYU hoody.

We had a nice sideline view of the game.  And we watched BYU dominate the other team.

After every touchdown, these gentlemen would do pushups of the total score.  In the first half they did a total of 196 pushups.

We decided that since we saw a full game's worth of scoring in the first half it would be okay to ditch and find somewhere a little drier to finish watching the game.

We watched the halftime show then bolted.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fall Things

It would seem that I have been absent from the blogosphere for some time.  I have faithfully kept up on other blogs, but have been a bit distracted of late.  It's time to play a little catch up.  Enjoy!

After a long summer of hard work for both Jerry and I, we decided to spend our two year anniversary in California where we met and dated when we weren't in separate countries.  Returning was strange, because I did not realize how many memories I had there.

We reenacted our first date at the Hoff's Hut in Torrance.  I even got the breakfast tacos again.  They are seriously delicious.

We could see the restaurant where we held our wedding reception from out hotel.  Yes, we went there and took a picture.  Yes, that is super cheesy.  Yes, it was totally worth it.

We mostly relaxed and ate at my favorite restaurants, but we did play the tourist.  We visited the Queen Mary, but I wanted my money back because I didn't see a single ghost.

We've decided this fall to get out and do more fun stuff than we did last year.  We hiked Stewart Falls on a chilly fall Saturday and it was beautiful.

Jerry really wanted to play in the water.

Not pictured here are the orange and red leaves contrasted with the snow in the mountains and the rainbows that the falls are making.  It was gorgeous, but you're just going to have to trust me.

We did learn the if you are not in great shape this "family-friendly" hike can still take its toll.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Literary Tourism - Florida

I travel today as far Southeast as I can go.  In Florida, we find Disney World, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and many, many miles of coast line ...

Which brings us to today's story.

Flush, by Carl Hiaasen - Noah's father has been put in jail for sinking a casino cruise ship.  He admits that he did it, but feels justified because he believes the owner is dumping waste into the Atlantic.  It's up to Noah to prove that his father is right.

Okay, not my favorite book of all time.  I despise message heavy children's literature because I feel like the author is not allowing children to make inferences and really think about what they're reading.  I will admit though that Noah's solution to the problem is quite creative.

It fits this project's criteria because Florida as a setting is important.  The characters seem true to the setting, and many of the events are made possible because it is set in Florida.

8 states down, only 42 to go.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Literary Tourism - Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin

What do Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania have in common?  Three Newbery Medal winners, of course!  Two of the following are absolutely two of my favorite children's books, and one has all the makings of a Newbery winner, but I thought it was just okay.


Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos - This book wins the "tourism" prize for Pennsylvania because it opened my eyes to a part of America that I never knew existed.  Norvelt is a community that was created as a farming commune for underemployed coal minors in the 1930's.  It's name was derived from Eleanor Roosevelt even. 

While initially designed to be a sort of socialism, many of the residents eventually turned to capitolist traditions to make a living.  The book takes place in the 1960's, when the town is in decline.  Although not my favorite Newbery winner, it features a cast of quirky characters, like a boy with innummerable nose bleeds, crazy old people that seem to be dying every day, and a father busy digging up his wife's garden to build a bomb shelter.  It's worth a read if you like that kind of thing.


Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse - I had a professor who called this book "The Grapes of Wrath light."  It's a dust bowl era novel in verse that will rip your heart our.  Billie Joe, her father, and her pregnant mother are trying to survive in Oklahoma during drought and depression.  Billia Joe's true love is playing the piano, but on accident she loses her mother and her baby brother.  Her hands are also scarred making it painful to play the piano.  Billie Joe and her father  must learn to depend on each other to survive.  Though the language is sparse the sensory details are incredible.  While reading, I felt grit in my teeth. 

I know that not everyone likes a book in poetry.  But if you are willing to try it, I highly recommend it.  While deeply sad, it does have a hopeful ending.


The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin - I LOVE THIS BOOk.   I have probably read it 10 times.  Of all of the books, in this entry, the state it is set in is probably least important.  But some plot elements like a snowstorm and the building's overlook of Lake Michigan are important. 

A group of seemingly unrelated people all move into Sunset Towers, a new apartment building.  The new residents soon discover that they are connected to Sam Westing when he is murdered.  They are split into teams and charged with discovering the villian.  I love this book; I love the characters; I love everything about it.  Read it.  You'll discover why. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Literary Tourism - New York

One of my goals with this little project is to gauge what I have already read that aligns with my very loose criteria. For New York, I even got to revisit a review that is already on this blog.

A Novel Idea by Aimee Friedman  You can link to my summary from a few years ago.  It was for a class so it is actually quite detailed. The reason I chose this for my literary travels is because it featured a lot of tidbits about New York City that I had never before considered - brownstones in Brooklyn, Greenwich village, indie bookstores.  As someone who grew up in a small town, I didn't know that a place could have so many nooks and crannies.  As stated in my review this book is no timeless literary masterpiece, but a fun bit of mind candy for the teenage girl in all of us.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Literary Tourism: Illinois, Michigan

For this journey we aren't going in any particular order.  Many of the books I've read recently seem to be centered in the midwest.  So, today I will cover two of those states.


Hold Fast by Blue Balliett - Many of Balliett's mysteries are set in Chicago.  Her Chasing Vermeer series features a middle school at the University of Chicago.  Hold Fast is also a mystery, but deals with a different population in the city - the homeless.  Balliett writes beautiful mysteries that challenge readers to think abstractly.  This book impressed me so much because it was honest in discussing issues facing the homeless like substance abuse, being undervalues in society, and losing dignity and hope.  This book is also set in the main branch of the Chicago Public Library which I loved of course.


Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis - I had no idea how important Flint was to Michigan until I found multiple references to it in literature.  After some research (read: a perusal of a Wikipedia article), I discovered that historically it was a center of industry.  This book is a historical novel of an orphan looking for his father and is very entertaining. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Literary Tourism - Maine

Recently, I watched a series chronicling one's journey through the 50 states.  Someday I would like to boast that I have done the same, but that day is not today.  It caused me to wonder if I have read books set in each of the fifty states.  I'm fairly sure that I haven't.  I thought it would be fun to blog about the books that I have read however.

My journey through each state is not meant to be a complete bibliography, but more a few interesting finds,  My criteria is limited, but I would like to find books where a) setting is vital (more than just a stereotypical school setting that happens to be in a suburb of Boston), but not overwhelmingly stereotypical of the location (i.e. "Look we're eating lobster because that's what Mainahs do ALL THE TIME.")

We're going to start in Maine for obvious reasons, but I plan to travel in no particular order.


Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney - This book is in my top five favorite picture books of all time.  It's about a lady who travels around Maine spreading lupine seeds thus making the world a more beautiful place.  Cooney's stunning illustrations truly do make the world a more beautiful place.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt - This historical novel is not the most flattering to Maine history.  It tells the story of Malaga Island which was home to an interracial group from about the time of the Civil War until 1911.  Other Mainers drove them away from the island and put both children and adults into a sanitarium in order to develop the land for tourists.  Yeah, not Maine's finest moment.  But the book is well-written with excellent characters.  

As I said this is not comprehensive.  I didn't include a single rural horror novel.  Stay tuned for more to come.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Playing Catch Up - Maine

After New York, Jerry and I went to Maine.  I feel like I completely over-romanticized Maine this trip.  But for early May, the whether was exceptional - sunny every day.  It was not too hot and not too cold. Jerry and I went walking on the coast in various scenic places.

Maine is the state that I love.

This was taken at Two Lights State Park.

Yay for the ocean!

Just before leaving we walked around Mackworth Island.  On such a beautiful day we were lucky that it wasn't too crowded to even be allowed to visit.

We also had lots of time with family.  It was great to see our nieces and nephew who were very fun playmates.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Playing Catch Up - New York

Well, it's been about forever since I have posted.  It's been quite busy and maybe I was doing other things.  At the beginning of May, Jerry and I traveled east to see family and friends.  Jerry had never been to New York before so Rich enjoyed showing us around.

We were pretty tired after our overnight flight, but we still wandered around downtown.  WE saw Wall Street, the Statue of Liberty, and the new Freedom Tower.

On our first evening we went to Hobokon, to visit Jerry's friend Jeremy.  It is a lovely little city.

We ate Jerry's favorite food.  The cheese on the pozza was amazing.

Next to the pizza place is the Brooklyn Bridge, which might be my favorite place to see in New York.

We spent our last two days with Jerry's aunt and got to see the Phantom of the Opera.  The music and the special effects were incredible.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Snowshoeing at Aspen Grove

About a month and a half ago, Utah Valley was covered in smog and cold.  It was gray and miserable.  SO We decided to rise above the pollutants and go snowshoeing.  It was quite invigorating.

It did not take us long to reach the end of the trail.

But for the best views you have to go further.

So we did.  And it was totally worth it.

And then we spent some more time goofing around.

Believe it or not the pirate ship really was the beginning/end of the trail.  It was such a relief to be around sun and fresh air.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Year of the Snake

Jerry decided that we must teach our nieces and nephews here about Chinese New Year.  So, we ordered Chinese food, bought some chopsticks, and filled little red envelopes.

First, Jerry taught the kids how to eat with chopsticks.  We informed them that they must eat at least one bit with the chopsticks.  I anticipated the kids stabbing their sesame chicken, but they picked up the skill surprisingly quickly.  (Apparently this is something I should have learned in my youth.)

After we all washed the grease off our fingers, we taught the kids about the tradition of red envelopes.  They had learned a little about it at school so they knew what was coming.  You will note that the Chinese character on the envelopes actually means Ding.  But we all know it's really what's inside that counts.

Megan was very proud of her dragon mask from school as well.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Love

I have always loved Amelia Bedelia.  It takes clever puns and double meanings to a whole new second grade level.  I particularly remember a hilarious scene at the beginning of a story where dear Amelia Bedlia must run to the phone. 

I've searched and searched for this book.  Let's face it.  For me it shouldn't have been that hard to find.  Today, I flipped through Teach Us, Amelia Bedelia and found the picture of Amelia racing to the phone.  (Not as hilarious as I remember it, but precious none the less.)

This Valentine's Day, I have been reunited with a long-lost love.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Jerry and I headed to Vancouver for Christmas.  While it didn't turn out to be the fun, care-free trip that we expected, we still managed to see some of the sights in between meals.  (We ate remarkable amounts of Chinese food.)

On Christmas Eve, we stopped at Gastown.  I'm fuzzy on the details, but apparently it is old and important.

This is a view from the area as well.

On Christmas Day, we visited Stanley Park (named after the same guy as the Stanley Cup.)  THis view gives you a good impression of Vancouver weather.

This is a view of the famous bridge.  Seriously though, I"m having a hard time recalling names or interesting facts.

Stanley Park also had this interesting Totem Pole area.  I was most impressed with this of all the things in the park.

That was just a little taste of Vancouver.  Perhaps we will end up there sometime in the summer and see more stuff.