23 December 2007

merry merry christmas!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is given;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heaven.

So many gifts to appreciate this Christmas, most especially the gift that is at the root of all this holiday hooplah. It means more to me every year.

Shay and I are heading to the airport early tomorrow morning and will be spending Christmas with family and friends in the Homeland. I'm looking forward to it.

18 December 2007

the essential

It was subtle but I'm pretty sure my neighbor gave me the eyebrow when we passed each other and exchanged pleasantries this morning. Could it be because I looked silly dashing out to my car clutching my keys in one hand, and this

in the other hand? Perhaps.

I usually give makeup my best shot when I first move to a new place or start a new school year or begin a new job. First impressions, you know. Then, inevitably, my makeup routine will be pared down to something more realistic until at last it consists of whatever miracles can be worked with an eyelash curler in approximately 20 seconds. I love this piece of equipment. Only today, after being given the eyebrow, I realized it is probably a strange thing to hang on to when I generally do nothing else to make myself look put-together in the morning. My hair is probably in a ponytail and my shirt isn't ironed, but you'd better believe those eyelashes are going to be curled.

So let's hear it - when you don't have time for the whole get-pretty routine, what is it that you can't live without?

13 December 2007

taste of success

Happy Lucia Day! They are not perfect, but this year's lussekatter look and taste much better than last year's disaster. They are saffron-yellow and soft in the middle and toasty on top, and just looking at them makes me happy.

We also made pepparkakor, thin and crispy gingerbread cookies with a hint of orange flavor... mmmm! After the Lucia buns I wasn't up for converting another recipe from metric units, so I looked for already-Americanized pepparkakor recipes online. One recipe said (this is a direct quote) "roll out the dough to 1/8 inch. Cut into any traditional holiday shape - stars, pigs, hearts, etc." That "pigs" bit was slipped in there so nonchalantly that it took a minute to regiser. Whaaaaa? I laughed, but only until I read the next three recipes and was repeatedly encouraged to bake cookies in "traditional" shapes such as pigs. Swedes, are you reading this? What is that about?!

As you may have guessed, I did not find an abundance of pig-shaped cookie cuters at my local grocery store. So, Shay and I had to improvise. What do you think?

12 December 2007

lovin' lucia

adorable graphics from Graphic Garden

I fell in love with Luciadagen when I was an exchange student in Sweden. It comes on December 13th and is the holiday that marks the beginning of the Christmas season for Swedes. (Short bits about it here or here.) It is basically a celebration of Santa Lucia as a "bringer of light" character. When I ask Swedes what Lucia's story is and how an Italian saint came to be so loved and celebrated in Sweden, I get several different versions of the tale. But I suppose the main idea is that during the middle ages, she is said to have carried food to the poor in dark places, wearing a wreath of candles on her head. Later she became a symbol of light to the people in the northern countries during the dark winters.

On the 13th, you'll see Lucia processions all over Sweden. People dress in traditional Lucia garb - you can see examples in the drawing above - and... well, they proceed, as processions are known to do. Kids often do this at home, delivering pastries and coffee to their parents early in the morning. Other processions are done in schools or churches. Some go into hospitals or care centers and take treats to sick and lonely people. There is a set of traditional songs that are sung as the procession moves along as well. I'm getting nostalgic just thinking about it!

The pastries that are traditionally delivered are lussekatter, saffron buns baked in special little shapes. I make them every year but I never seem to get them quite right. In Sweden we used fresh cakes of yeast, instead of the dry stuff, and that has been my main hang-up. Last year something went terribly wrong in the yeast department. When I mentioned making lussekatter this week, Shay said lovingly, "I think you should leave out the concrete mix this year." Ha. Ha.

Here's looking forward to a great Lucia Day and improved baking skills! Hope you find good things to bring light to your dark winter day.

so this is an ice storm

The ice storm came but it did not hit Lawrence nearly as hard as it hit other parts of Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The weather is being blamed for 23 deaths yesterday in those states - mostly car accidents, I think. Here in our neighborhood we had some cool-looking trees, but the roads were not bad and we never lost power. Like Melis suggested, we went shopping once things calmed down, and we fought no crowds and waited in no lines. We also enjoyed some exploring in the neighborhood (sidewalks were far more treacherous than roads, by the way) and some cozy time at home, watching movies, reading books, and playing games with neighbors.

The storm hit the city where I work mercilessly, though, and school is cancelled for the second day in a row because of power outages and road conditions. I'm glad I don't have to commute in winter weather and I'm not going to complain about another day off in the middle of the week, but I am concerned for the kids in my schools and their families. Their lives are complicated enough without these added complications.

Oh yeah, and about those Dove chocolates... they are gone.

10 December 2007

ice day

This is what the weather man is telling me:




So, there's a warming thought. Crazy weather is coming, and schools and workplaces around here are basically planning to shut down for awhile. It seems Shay and I may be experiencing our first "Ice Day" tomorrow. It somehow sounds much less romantic than a Snow Day. Snow Day conjures up images of kids waking up to see three feet of magnificent snow outside the window, rejoicing that school is cancelled, bundling up, running out to frolic in outrageous amounts of fluffy snow, and coming back inside for hot chocolate and a nap. Ice Day seems to suggest mostly hazards and power outages, without the benefit of a beautiful blanket of snow to play in. But I suppose it could still be a cozy shut-in day. If tomorrow is indeed declared an Ice Day, the following things will surely get me through:

* bag of Dove chocololates - when I broke down and bought them, I swore I would only eat 2 per day. A state of emergency would be grounds for changing the rules, right?

* warm p.j.s and delicious red slippers

* back-supply of crossword puzzles - we always save them, but don't always have time to do them anymore - perfect time to catch up

* the 75 tv channels that we get in addition to the 10 we pay for ("great reception," the friendly serviceman says)

* the comfiest (word, or no?) couch known to man, and a closet full of blankets

* an entirely lovable husband who makes me laugh and laugh - i will be entertained

* well-stocked bookshelves - flashlights and candles if needed

* ambiance of Christmas decorations

04 December 2007

apology accepted

-after a long and dreary cold spell, today turns out sunny and beautiful. in the afternoon it's warm enough to merit running the a.c. in my car, but instead i just bask in the warmness. literally t-shirt weather outside. it felt fabulous.
-tuesday is the day i see kids at community preschools. sometimes it's a hectic day, but today all kids on my schedule are perfectly behaved and so lovable and they melt my heart.
-a great cd that I've had on hold at the library comes in for me.
-dillons (local grocery store) moves the masses of poinsettias to the side this morning and in their place puts the most spectacular display of calla lily plants. they pretty much attack me at the door - there's one particular one that i cannot stop from jumping into my cart. they're so elegant.
-the sunset today? holy. cow. one of the coolest i've seen since we have lived in this town.

i suspect the world is trying to apologize for yesterday. it seems to be working.

03 December 2007

you'll think i'm joking

This post has been edited by the author for several reasons. It basically stated that my day was not good and that most of it was spent making sure that a repeat sex offender went to jail today. Don't get too alarmed. I wasn't attacked or hurt. Only traumatized. The end.

29 November 2007

attention parents: do not try this at home

I have no real credentials to justify this offering of parental advice. I'm not a parent. But, I do spend a good chunk of my week observing the results of other people's parenting. Also I deal with a lot of paperwork. And I have this to say about naming children: when you give your child a name, be kind. Do not make it unpronouncable. (T'Qhajani? Not okay.) Do not use multiple apostrophes in one first name. Do not give two siblings the exact same name, especially when it is the same name their father has. Spelling each child's name differently (Mychia and Mikah? Seriously?) does not make this practice less obnoxious. And finally, please, please don't get sucked into the idea that it is cute or clever to base all your children's names on the same one name. Having an Andre and a D'Andre will only complicate your life. Having a Cedric, a De'Cedric, and a TreCedrica will only give your children a reason to blame you for all their problems one day.

25 November 2007

look, we're crafty!

I generally avoid shopping on "black Friday," but this year I spent the afternoon strolling shamelessly around Michael's, purchasing items often associated with craftiness - hot glue gun. acrylic paints. floral wire. ribbon. Who am I, you ask, and what have I done with the craft-averse person who used to live here? Not sure. I guess Christmas is a special occasion.

Every holiday season Shay and I talk about switching out our usual Christmas tree ornaments and doing something new. We've wanted to incorporate some of the little trinkets and knick-knacks we've collected as we've traveled to different places, and do sort of a Christmas-around-the-world tree. This year we actually took the time to put it together. It was all kinds of fun.

If you're having trouble sorting out the randomness that is our tree (can't imagine...), here's a breakdown.

The bulky paper mache-looking bulbs are covered with antique maps. This was a great idea in my head but they were a bit interesting to actually make. You can thank Shay for ones that look really good.
The little hanging oreos are adorned with different flags. Thank you Italy, Portugal, and Mexico for having Christmas-colored flags. That really helps. And sorry, other countries, that I don't always know the right orientation for your flags once I've cut them out. We probably made a few mistakes.

The poinsettias are just there because we like them. They add color and flair, I think.

and everything else on the tree basically falls into two categories - (1) little things with sentimental value that we brought home from places we love

and (2) things that looked cool and were cheap at World Market.

Still a work in progress - it lacks a tree-topper and a proper tree skirt. (Any ideas for the top?) It is definitely looking like piecemeal, homemade decor on a cheap fake tree. But, I adore it. And, it was seriously fun to work on it with my husband, with Christmas tunes in the background. Ah, Christmas. It's good.

23 November 2007

oh, the first snowfall of the winter

When I left for work Tuesday morning it was autumn. By the time I got home that afternoon, it was winter. It came that fast. By Wednesday we had our first snow storm. The snow didn't really stick to the ground, but it looked amazing falling from the sky. As I drove around running errands, I simultaneously mourned the end of a fabulous autumn, and got excited about all that's good about winter. If I had been anywhere besides my warm and cozy car at the time, my sentiments probably would have leaned more toward the mourning side.

I do love seeing the first snow of the season, though. It builds anticipation for Christmas lights, scarves, hot chocolate, and other cozy things. Also I run around for the rest of the day with the lyrics to "the first snowfall of the winter" running through my head. Usually it's Karen Carpenter I hear singing them, but sometimes it's the Bing Crosby version, and sometimes the two mix and it sounds all wrong. Also I get hung up on the part about folks and their surreys and fogetting about their worries, because what on earth is a surrey?

15 November 2007

i see where they're goin' with this...

I can't help it - Brian Regan makes me laugh. And, I like to laugh. So, I like Brian Regan. We are off to nearby Lincoln, NE this weekend, to visit a friend and to enjoy some live Brian Regan stand-up action. This clip about the Pop-Tarts is old but it is still a favorite.

13 November 2007

the heart of life is good

I have been a lazy blogger. Sometimes I check my own blog hoping to find something new here. It's strange how I always find the blog looking just the way I left it.

We've been busy. We are happy. My favorite things at the moment are singing at the top of my lungs on the drive home from work, playing Boggle with Shay and kicking his trash consistently, and walking up the street where we live and stepping on crunchy leaves every step of the way.

Thanksgiving is looming, and I am feeling the thankful vibe these days. Life is full of so many good things.

04 November 2007

rock chalk jayhawk

Everything about KU has been pretty easy to love - the stately old buildings, masses of trees and a lot of gorgeous open space, great sports teams, a very spirited and supportive community, lots of history, decent school colors. The only major obstacle to KU conversion that I have run into is their goofy mascot, the Jayhawk. This cartoonish, grinning, made-up bird seemed a bit cheesy at first. But now that Homecoming week has come and gone and I have partaken in many Jayhawk-centered festivities, even the goofy bird is growing on me. (Perhaps the turning point was when I realized, hey, I'm coming from a place where we all rallied around a giant blue cow. Shouldn't be too critical.)

These are mostly for Holly, because she wanted to see some KU sights, but here are some pictures of campus that we have taken this week. Enjoy!

01 November 2007

good for a "laugh"

Thanks to Robin's blog for introducing me to The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. I found it "hilarious."

If I ever started a poking-fun blog (I seriously almost put "poking-fun" in quotation marks, but stopped myself), the topic would be... misplaced modifiers! Yay, my favorite linguistic phenomenon! I would include such delights as the gas station sign that said "We cannot sell gasoline to anyone in a glass container." (This seems like plain old prejudice to me; people in glass containers are people too.) But the one example that really needs to be documented, and will probably go down in history as my all time favorite, came from the mouth of a friend's mom. She began her talk at her son's missionary farewell with this dramatic line: "Taped to the wall, I daily read this quote...." Now, try to keep a straight face during a somber moment with that mental image running through your head.

26 October 2007

best things about today

1. Gerber daisies from a boy

2. Not setting an alarm for the morning

3. A fun short haircut, just for a change

4. Catching up on book club reading

5. The leaves in Lawrence finally showing some great colors

6. Trying a new restaurant

23 October 2007


Shay and I got up early Sunday morning to watch a meteor shower before the sun came up. It made me think of the days with the roommates. Heidi's dad used to keep our apartment apprised of the important events of the time, such as the need to celebrate days like 03/03/03, and the best middle-of-the-night times to catch a certain meteor shower. During one such middle-of-the-night occasion, we were huddled in blankets on the steps in front of Pine View, hoping to witness something fabulous. And someone, we'll call her "Danica," asked famously, "How do astronomers know when there's going to be a meteor shower? I wonder if they just look up at the sky and think, hey, those ones look loose!" This bit of wisdom was of course recorded in the Apt. 2 coffee table quote book later.

I pulled the quote book out of the good old nostalgia box this week and I have loved leafing through it. I am shamelessly sentimental these days. Roommates! When are you coming to visit me?!

19 October 2007

happy weekend!

To celebrate, I think I'll post a bit from one of our favorite comic strips. Enjoy the weekend, everyone.

15 October 2007

a few pictures

that I wanted to post but didn't. Just for an added measure of randomness. Good times!

nauvoo or bust

Our fall break trip ultimately took us to lovely Nauvoo, Illinois, and we had a great trip. If I were in a creative mood I would write something clever and create a magnificent slide show of the few pictures we took along the way. I am in no such mood, so I will just post pictures and thoughts in an incredibly random fashion!

The first thing I have to say is that our camera functions on a hit-and-miss basis. This is how I end up with three pictures of Shay pretending to undress in a 70s-decor Community of Christ meeting-hall-that-doubles-as-a-camp-lodge... ...but zero pictures of some of my favorite sights in Missouri and Illinois. You'll have to take what you get, I guess.

First off, here is some prime real estate in Adam-Ondi-Ahman , where we stopped Thursday to eat lunch and walk aroud a bit before making the trek across Missouri. I think I expected the place to sparkle or something. It did not. It is a pretty valley, at least.... These are our deluxe accommodations at Camp Nauvoo. For $10 a night, you too can stay here and discover just how deluxe they were. The cabins were picturesque in the morning, but a bit scary at night.

Thus, we set up camp on the floor of the the main lodge instead of in the spooky cabins. As I mentioned, the lodge once was a religious meeting place, so it was an interesting place to sleep. Great place to play indoor soccer. Many games of Apples to Apples were also played here. And there were some magnificent early-morning walks.

A major highlight of the trip: the spectacular Nauvoo temple!

We did baptisms on Friday morning. Was this an act of selfless service and religious devotion? or a way to upgrade from a primitive shower house to luxury shower facilities? No one else may ever know. But we also did endowments and sealings on Saturday afternoon, so we saw quite a bit of the temple. It is a gorgeous place. Inside and out, the attention to detail is amazing (and I'm digging the lime green/bright yellow color scheme going on in some of the ordinance rooms). Being caught up in the work of the temple and enjoying the peace that comes from being there was a perfect way to spend a chunk of the vacation.

On to "Old Nauvoo". I am probably going to be struck by lightning for saying this, but Old Nauvoo has a bit of a "Mormon Disneyland" feel. It weirded me out at first, but I got over it and ultimately enjoyed getting my free gingerbread cookie at Scovil Bakery just as much as the next person. In fact, I learned how to make bread in a "bustle oven"...

in addition to other useful domestic skills, and rode in a covered wagon pulled by a couple of oxen named Gabe and Gary.

Jane and I enjoyed a lively sermon (by Shay) in the room where the Relief Society was first organized, above the Red Brick Store.

We also made a side trip to Carthage Jail on Saturday, which was one of my favorite visits of the trip.

It is great (overused word of the day?) to visit these sites and have some kind of real-world context for the stories and experiences I have heard about all my life. Somehow it gives me an increased appreciation for the sacrifices people made in the early days of the church, and maybe even a better understanding of why they did so.

10 October 2007

time to hit the road

It's time for a vacation. I know this because a string of craziness at work and unlikely fiascos at home culminated yesterday, with the dramatic overflowage of a toilet in our house. Luckily by today everything plumbing-related has more or less been taken care of, and everything at work has been shelved for now. KU's fall break starts tomorrow, and I've taken some time off work, and Shay and I are going on a road trip with friends. All I can say is, vacation could not have come at a better time.

03 October 2007

going clubbing

I love the idea of book clubs. I was hoping to join one when we moved to Lawrence, and a couple of weeks after we settled in, the wife of one of Shay's professors invited me to join her group. Score. I joined. I read. I said about ten words the first time we met. Maybe eleven if you count the "thanks" I uttered to the host when she handed me my dessert. I am so funny sometimes, in new situations and around unfamiliar people. But I think I'll get a little more comfortable and participative as time goes on. I had better pipe up soon, I suppose, or they are going to catch on about my being there for the food.

So far we've read and discussed "Their Eyes" and "Life Studies," and this month we're reading "Nightfall." None of these are books I would have picked myself, and I guess that's the beauty of a book club, isn't it?

A bunch of my good friends from the homeland are also starting a long-distance book club, which I am excited about. We're starting out with "The Great Divorce" and we'll see where it goes from there. I think it'll be a fun way to keep in touch.

So, I've got a bunch of reading to do. If you have must-read recommendations for future book club selections, post them here!

02 October 2007

visions of tex-mex danced in their heads

A new low point: I actually had a dream about the green chile chicken salad at Bajio. You know how you have dreams sometimes that are so nice, that you can't help being a little disappointed when you wake up and realize you were dreaming? The Bajio dream was right up there with that one where I win the lottery without buying a lottery ticket and then I spend the next year traveling around the world in a hot air balloon. It was a good dream. Then it ended.

It has been a full two months since I last saw a Cafe Rio, a Costa Vida, a Bajio, or any decent tex-mex establishment, and apparently the withdrawl symptoms are setting in. Is there a cure for this? Does anyone know?

25 September 2007

tag, i'm it

I suppose you are not really a blogger until you have been tagged and have tagged in return. I was tagged by Catlin to list 8 quirks or habits or interesting facts about myself. Here goes:

I wear blue a lot. I don't mean to buy things in blue all the time but I seem drawn to it like a mosquito to a bug zapper. I usually am happy with what I bought, though, so perhaps the bug zapper analogy is not the best.

I am always leaving cupboards, drawers, and doors open. I have no idea I am doing this until I nearly (or actually) hit my head on an open overhead cupboard. On a related note, I am a little bit clutzy in the kitchen.

I ran a marathon once and I loved it. It was one of the best times I've ever had. I rarely run anymore. In fact most days when the thought of going for a run crosses my mind, I am left trying to imagine how I could ever have found it so enjoyable.

I'm a little bit of a grammar stickler. I at least think people with a Ph.D. should know the difference between their, they're and there, and should know when to use an apostrophe in "its." Sadly, many do not. My proofreading days at USU provided many sad tales of this kind.

My feet are almost always cold.

I am bothered by people and businesses who take advantage of vulnerable populations (Quik Cash places and door-to-door salesmen in impoverished neighborhoods, this means you).

I cannot eat a sandwich if it has condiments on it. Mustard? Icky. Mayo? Blech. I prefer the bread toasted, and if there are potato chips around, I'll stick a few between the meat and the cheese for extra crunchiness.

One of my silly aspirations is to write an essay for NPR's "This I Believe" series. I've actually started writing one several times, but I've never deemed any of my efforts good enough to make it past the first draft stage.

There it is - more about me than you ever wanted to know. I tag Melis, Tara, Amber, Brit, and Lisa. And Shay, who gets short break from intense studying now and (I'm sure) will want to spend his extra time blogging about himself. And anyone else who wants to play. Have fun!

21 September 2007

life's crucial questions answered

Yesterday, when person number two million and seventeen asked me, "So is Kansas as flat as they say it is?", I knew it was time to reference this article. Awhile ago I checked out this little book that professed to include 100 interesting things about Kansas. In truth, only about half of the tidbits kept my interest long enough for me to finish a particular section. Anyhow, it was through this book that I learned that there was an actual geographical study to determine if Kansas were flatter than a pancake. Science at its finest! Who funds such a study, I wonder?

You will just have to check out the article to discover the truth of the Kansas flatness matter.

18 September 2007

navigational errors

Utah may have some urban planning issues, but they were definitely on the right track with that whole streets-in-a-grid-system thing. If only the Lawrence founding fathers had been similarly inspired. I am still learning to find my way around town, and I actually managed to get a bit lost this weekend. It was most unfortunate. But what can I say? The layout of this town must have been patterned after a picture a preschooler drew on the wall with crayon. It makes very little sense. And the naming of streets? What is that about? Apparently it is about making some of us feel stupid. In downtown Lawrence, for example, many streets are named after states. The State Streets didn't seem to be arranged in any particular order until I was told by a native Kansan (and I quote): "It's actually not that hard to find your way around Lawrence if you keep in mind the order in which the states entered the Union."

Well, sorry young sir, didn't soak up that bit of historical trivia well enough to use it to navigate the streets of Lawrence. But maybe someday I'll get it down.

For now I'm just longing for the days when things seemed orderly and logical, and finding almost any given address was essentially as easy as finding point (3 , 4) in a third grade math book.