13 December 2008

the evolution of a tradition

December 2003: I learn the art of making lussekatter (saffron pastries) from Swedes. It's part of the celebration of Luciadagen, which becomes my favorite Swedish holiday. I think to myself, "Self! Wouldn't it be fun to make this a tradition at home?"

December 2004 and 2005: I spend hours in the kitchen trying to replicate the joyful baking moments of yesteryear. I end up with mediocre imitations of the lussekatter. I'm never quite sure what to do with them once they're baked, because they're um... sort of an acquired taste situation. I discover that saffron is really expensive in this country. Still, I feel all warm and happy inside because, come on, it's Lucia Day.

December 2006: Utter failure. Shay wonders if we accidentally dumped concrete mix into the dough at some point? We keep the buns long enough to photograph them and send pictures to Swedish friends so that they can laugh with us. Then we dump most of them hastily into the trash. The rest we use throughout the year as paperweights, doorstops, and projectile missiles.

December 2007: After years of trial and error, I finally get it right. I revel in the beauty of my lussekatter and am actually brave enough to deliver them to friends, in the true spirit of Lucia.

December 2008: I manage to keep tradition alive with the help of Pillsbury. The cheap imitations taste nothing like lussekatter, but you do get to smother them with sugary icing. Also preparation took me five minutes.

Happy Lucia Day to you! Thanks Pillsbury!

02 December 2008

recipe exchange

A good Thanksgiving recipe:

11 November 2008

in review

**We lived through a ladybug invasion and emerged victorious. And by "victorious" I mean that all our efforts to stop the invasion were totally futile, and then suddenly one day the bugs were just gone. I never thought of ladybugs as pesky until I spent an entire morning relocating armies of them, only to have Shay find this many (plus a few not pictured - casualties of the war, you know) in our bedroom window later. By all accounts, baffling.

**I convinced Shay to part his hair for Halloween. Coupled with his jacket ($2.25 at Goodwill) which had nice bulky shoulder pads in it? Irresistible.

**I had a bad cold for awhile. It lingered on and on last week, until I was essentially healed by Gilmore Girls. Yes, on Saturday I bundled up on the couch and watched four straight hours of Stars Hollow cheesiness. Then I napped. I woke up feeling significantly better than before. Everyone should be allowed their guilty pleasures. Mine, apparently, just happen to have medicinal powers.

**Holy beautiful Kansas! This fall I have really loved coming home to this neighborhood.

31 October 2008

what? no sticker?

If I had known voting early would be so anticlimactic, I probably would have braved the long lines with everyone else on November 4th. But what's done is done. And I'm glad it's done. For one thing, this has been the longest presidential campaign known to man, and it is delightful to finally glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel. For two things, I'm excited about some of the choices on the ballot this year. And if you want a third thing, I'll say that it just plain feels good to vote. Even when you are denied your basic human right to wear an "I Voted" sticker as you exit the polling place.

You should vote too. But if by chance you are not excited by any of the choices presented to you during this election, I suggest you look into this guy's platform. He might make a good write-in candidate.

Because I'm pretty sure that surplus of donuts would eventually trickle down to the huddled masses.

(Edited to confirm: yes, this is an actual piece of wisdom penned by an actual 7-year-old, as seen this week at one of the schools where I work.)

21 October 2008

going out on a limb

I've neglected the blog world for a couple of weeks. Now, finally, I emerge from my blogging silence to cover this important topic: turkey legs. At every city festival and local fair there is aways some group of upstanding citizens selling smoked turkey legs. They are gigantic and meaty and they actually look yummy in a sort of medieval way. Unfortunately they are usually being sold in close proximity to the funnel cake booth, and if I have five dollars in my pocket at one of these shindigs, we all know it will end up in the hands of the funnel cake people.

This weekend at the Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin, I had more than five dollars in my pocket, a rarity that needed to be celebrated. I decided to give the highly-recommended turkey legs a try. And I have this to say about them: the first few bites are delicious. But if you have ever spent time in a cadaver lab, you should probably stop after those first few bites. It does not take long for a partially-eaten turkey leg to start to resemble parts of Mrs. Raymond, the 60-something woman who graciously donated her body to the anatomy lab of your university.

And you will wish you had just ordered two funnel cakes instead.

09 October 2008

the death of a nice idea

Sorry, but someone else is going to have to take on the burden of saving the world. Carpooling, apparently, is not for me.

My commute to work takes around 30 minutes. In August, someone from work moved into my neighborhood, and asked if I'd be interested in carpooling. I clapped my hands and jumped for joy and said yes, of course I would. For the first few days, it seemed too convenient to be true. Then within two weeks, three other people had joined our carpool, and carpooling got slightly more complicated. Still it seemed worth it. Yes, there were trade-offs to be made, but carpooling was saving me an increasing amount of money and was making my environmental ego increasingly healthy.

Then one Friday, I had to drive to work alone, because I needed to make some stops after work. This is what I learned on that Friday:

(1) I pretty much hate carpooling.
(2) Those 10 extra minutes of sleep are a really great 10 minutes.
(3) I prefer not to be expected to socialize at 7 a.m.
(4) Sometimes it is nice to actually hear what I am listening to in the car.
(5) It makes me really happy to be able to leave when the workday is over, instead of a half hour after the work day is over, which turns into 45 minutes, which turns into an hour....
(6) I do not like taking the toll road like everyone else. I like taking the old two-lane highway. It has more hills and turns, and the scenery is fantastic. It makes the drive seem less like a yucky industrial commute and more like a Sunday afternoon joy ride.
(7) I love having those few minutes in the car to myself every day. It keeps me sane.

And so it happened that as I was riding along in the carpool one day last week, I blurted out at a random point in an unrelated conversation, "I'm not carpooling after this week!" I did it with a little more volume and enthusiasm than I probably meant to use, but I couldn't take it back. It was out there. And I'm undeniably glad. Today I left work 2 minutes early, and I listened to the same song 3 times in a row on the way home, and I sang along obnoxiously, and I reveled in it. Well worth the cost, I'd say.

25 September 2008


Dear friend at tennis class:

The etiquette advice we received on the first day of class is not meant to be all-inclusive. For instance, it did not include anything about ball management, and we all know how important ball management is to a smooth game. If you need things spelled out in detail, let us add a point #5 to this list.

5. Extra balls should be kept in a pocket or ball clip, in your hand, or against the fence. In other words, it is not okay to regularly keep an extra ball in the sweaty bosom of your tank top. Especially when the ball belongs to someone else. For one thing, it looks ridiculous. For another thing, yuck.

23 September 2008

simple pleasures

Here are some reasons why, if you are ever in Lawrence on the last Saturday of the summer, you should pull yourself out of bed before dawn and go straightaway to Monarch Watch's annual monarch tagging event at the Baker wetlands:

-everything (including gigantic, icky spiders and their intricate, icky webs) will look enchanting when the sun rises and the dew glistens like crazy.

-you will see monarchs in unbelievable quantities. and you will be amazed that in all your life you had never really noticed how lovely they are.

-there aren't too many things more precious than seeing a toddler chase after a butterfly with a net, and there are few things more hilarious than seeing your husband do the same thing. there will be a few good laughs at the expense of random strangers. do you need a lesson on how not to take yourself too seriously? then boy is this the saturday morning activity for you.

-if your timing is just right, you will be nearly trampled by two large male deer. this will be alarming in the heat of the moment but will provide a great story for later. so, all things considered, still a perk.

-you will stalk and catch butterflies for hours, and it will never get old. you will still oooh and aaah at each one. to the end of the day, you will still giggle every time you throw one back into the air and watch it fly away to Mexico.

19 September 2008

30 days has september

September has been the Jekyll and Hyde of months. The first couple of weeks were gloomy. Constantly cloudy. It rained non-stop for a solid week, and last Friday we capped off the fun times by hunkering down in the basement during a tornado warning. I'm more of a desert creature, you see, and I thought I just might go insane if I had to go another day without seeing the sun.

Then, just as I was about to start a campaign for the removal of an entire month from the calendar, September revealed itself as, oh, basically the most perfect time of year imaginable. This last week the weather has been spectacular and the days have been full of so many good things. Kansas sunflowers. Khaki and brown. Pumpkin-flavored things. Fall sports. Bike rides. Apples. Outdoor shopping. Hay. I dislike hay immensely because it makes me sneeze, but it looks so pretty all golden and rolled up like that. I like driving with the windows down at night - it feels fabulous. I like listening to acoustic singer-songwriter-type music, and thinking it's the perfect soundtrack for September in the midwest.

September can stay for awhile longer, don't you think?

09 September 2008

untapped talent

I have only played tennis a handful of times in my life. My earliest game of tennis involved only me and took place in my back yard. On the lawn. With a badminton racquet. It happened this way partly because there was not a proper tennis racquet to be found at my house growing up, but mostly because, let's be honest, I wouldn't have known the difference if I had found one.

Yet somehow I always felt, always knew, that given the proper equipment and some quality instruction, playing tennis could be my life's calling.

Yesterday was page 1 of a humorous story called Lex Takes Group Tennis Lessons. Note to self: start looking for new calling.

In the meantime, the class is hilariously fun, in an odd sort of way. But when it's over, I should probably look into badminton as my possible purpose in life. Or perhaps something that does not require me to swing a racquet of any kind.

Done anything mildly embarrassing to bust out of your comfort zone lately? I'd love to hear about it.

17 August 2008

life rolls on

Hello, internet. It's been awhile. Let me tell you how it is to have my husband home after a month of separation. It's bliss. Also I will tell you what it's like to be working again after a summer off. It's a lot different than not working. Lastly, let me tell you about the sweet potato french fries and smoked chicken wings at Vermont Street Barbeque. They are delicious.

But enough with the chit chat. The real reason for this post is that Shay brought the camera home, which means I finally have proof that during my stay in Slovenia I did not only take pictures of European mullets. Of course, I also made an effort to capture man-capris wherever they were spotted. And a few other items of interest.

This video is long. If I had made it for you, I would have kept it short. Unfortunately, I made it for me, and I had a hard time parting with even the most inane and unflattering of clips. You can watch it if you want, or don't. But I'll probably watch it one more time just for kicks, because oh my goodness, it just makes me smile. Those were good times.

04 August 2008

today is a very good day

Even the edited version of Love Actually did not manage to win me over. It does have its great moments though. The introduction scene, for instance, is fabulous, and I think about it pretty much every time I'm in an airport.

I love a good airport reunion. Your clothes are all disheveled and you've got a nest of plane hair on top of your head, but the person waiting for you is happy to see you all the same. It's beautiful. Nine hours and twenty-three minutes to go until my own much-anticipated airport reunion, but who's counting?

01 August 2008

it must be just me

Here is what I learned today:

If a friendly sales associate calls you from Borders on Friday August 1 at 8:30 p.m. and says,

"Hi, the book you ordered has come in and you can pick it up any time."

...and you say, "Great, what time to you close tonight?"

...and she says, "Actually, there's a special event at the store tonight, so we won't close until after 1:00 a.m."

...and you are thinking, "Perfect, since I can't get there at a decent hour but I really want that book in my eager little hands!"

...do not take the bait.

Do not go to Borders at 11:00 p.m. unless you are prepared to witness female hysteria the likes of which you have not seen since the New Kids on the Block were cool the first time.

How was I to know that the "special event" was a midnight-release party for the latest book in the Twilight series? Apparently I have not been checking the countdown widgets on all the Mormon mommy blogs frequently enough, because I was caught completely unaware. It was like stumbling upon a party that all your friends were invited to except for you.

I won't knock the books because I haven't read them. But I'm not really interested in reading them, in the same way I'm not interested in reading the collected works of R.L. Stein. They just seem kind of... meh. So I'll admit I'm baffled by all the hysteria surrounding this series. I can understand the teenage girl response, since the books are clearly targeted to that audience, but why are so many adult women blogging about their deliciousness, and camping out at Borders for the latest installment? If you are a fan, what do you love about Twilight? Help. Me. Understand. Please.

And if you are not (yet) a fan, would you please just tell me so, so that I don't feel so utterly alone?

29 July 2008

dear lufthansa:

I'm all for labor unions. I can even support a well-coordinated strike when necessary. But you listen up when I say that if you do not get my husband back to me on August the Fourth, as originally planned, I will probably cry. And you will probably lose your standing as my very favorite airline.

That's all.

26 July 2008


There are a few housekeeping-type items that have come to mind lately. Allow me to bore you with them.

(1) I love that so many friends and friends-of-friends are blogging these days; however, I can't quite keep up with you. Don't feel slighted if I don't add your link to to my sidebar. If I know you and I like reading your blog, I keep track of you by adding you to my google reader account. (If you read blogs but you don't use google reader, you will thank yourself later if you just go there now and set up an account.) If you want me to link to your blog, I would be happy to. E-mail me at inthewoodland [at] gmail (dot) com.

(2) If we know each other, then I most likely will have no problemo with you linking to my blog from yours. Please don't link to us using our first and last names. Sorry if that cramps your sidebar style.

(3) Lastly, who are you, anyway? Yeah, you, lurking over there. Months ago I added a sitemeter to this blog out of curiosity, and I noted with some surprise that people besides my mom are reading this blog regularly. Many people will read a post in a day and only a few of them will comment. Also hits are coming regularly from places where I am pretty confident that I do not know a single living soul. Or a non-living soul, come to think of it. Which is fine, assuming you unknown people in the unknown places are not crazy stalkers of the concealed-weapon-toting variety. New readers are always welcome, but feel free to introduce yourselves. If you don't want to leave a comment, you can always e-mail me at the above-mentioned inthewoodland [at] gmail (dot) com.

Thanks and happy blogging!
The Management

19 July 2008

summer entertainment

Stop everything. Have you seen North & South? If you haven't, you should. Tonight. Or maybe right this very minute. This BBC mini-series-turned-DVD has long been on my list of things to maybe, possibly watch sometime, when I ran out of other options. Once last year I even brought it home from the library with the best of intentions. Unfortunately every time I picked it up and saw the label Two Disc Set!, I balked at the thought of spending four solid hours watching it (and no, I have never been able to get through the thirty-hour-long Pride and Prejudice from 1995; please don't shun me, period drama fanatics.) Thus, North & South ultimately went back to the library, unwatched and unappreciated.

This week when I picked up the same North & South at the same library, my thought process went more like this - four hours of corsets and cravats? How lovely! Because time is exactly what I have these days. And corsets and cravats and Victorian romance could be exactly what I am lacking.

I watched. I enjoyed. I savored. And you might like it too, especially that last scene at the train station, which is basically perfect.

Other mass media that may possibly keep me from losing my mind:
-podcasts of This American Life; All Songs Considered; and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me
-So You Think You Can Dance, my current guilty pleasure
-sampling new CDs, for instance Amos Lee's latest
-the book She Got Up Off the Couch, because it just makes me laugh

What is keeping you entertained this summer? What are you watching/listening to/reading and loving?

13 July 2008

a sunday sermon on divine intervention

I'll let you in on a bit of my (somewhat pathetic) pleading earlier this week. The wording has, of course, been paraphrased.

"...and thanks for this, and that, and gosh I'm so blessed and blah blah blah. Okay, so it's true. But really. Let's be honest with each other here. I feel stuck in a big fat rut today. This whole business of living on a different continent than my husband is wearing on me already. I KNOW! ALREADY! I feel silly complaining, when this situation is clearly something Shay and I, after careful deliberation, chose to bring upon ourselves. But I'll still admit that it stinks. I miss having my closest friend around all the time. There is so much empty space in this house. It's too quiet at night. I've had some great times this week, but there are these little moments of loneliness that just - ugh - they could drive me crazy. I don't want to go crazy. I bet you don't want me to go crazy. So I'm doing everything I can to handle this well. Any help you could offer me in climbing out of this rut would be greatly appreciated."

And this was my favorite voicemail of the week, which came that afternoon, from Jen (my friend of, oh, 15 years) and her husband Li. Again, I can only paraphrase:

"Hi! We're not living in Florida any more. Kind of unexpected. Long story. But we're driving to Philadelphia today and then heading to Utah for the rest of the the summer. Can we come stay with you on the way? I want to come see you."

Now, folks. I won't say that I summoned a miracle. And I won't say that having Jen close by for a little while made me any less bothered by the fact that Shay is far away and will still be far away for three more weeks. I'm just saying that I asked for some help mixing my life up a bit, lest I start to descend into a pit of despair, and I ended up getting an impromptu visit from one of my closest friends. It was just what I needed, and someone knew it. Those are just the facts. And I'm sticking to them.

04 July 2008

oh, you shouldn't have

It sounds like there are going to be festivities and fireworks displays all over the U.S. today. To be honest, it's a little more fanfare than I expected to meet on my return to my home country, but uh... okay. I'll take it.

I am home from Slovenia and am mostly unpacked. What a great trip it was. A few things I am missing already:

*waking up in this lovely pastel-colored city:

*eating sour yogurt + crunchy muesli for breakfast - trust me, it's heavenly

*admiring the Alps

*seeing flower boxes in almost every window *counting the number of ice cream stands I pass on a given route (once I counted 13 on a ten-minute walk)

*eating dinner along the river, while people-watching and soaking up the cafe culture

*being able to walk nearly everywhere I need to go, and having easy public transportation for everything else

*spending most of the day, every day, with Shay

A few things I am especially appreciating today:

*my comfy bed

*friends close by and family more easily contacted

*not having smoke blown in my face everywhere I go

*not being barked at by ornery grocery store clerks, postal workers, restaurant employees, etc.

*frequently seeing random people smile, hold the door for each other, say thank you, and show other evidences of warmth and humanity

*having a shower curtain, and a shower head that attaches to the wall - poor Europe, have you still not gotten the memo about some of these advances?

*the flexibity that comes with having a car

*air conditioning as a given

*the quiet beauty of my own little neighborhood

*a happy, healthy, full life in a prosperous country that, despite its problems, is still my favorite place to be

30 June 2008

mullet of the day

Just wanted to share the joy. I have no other words for this.

24 June 2008

the slovenian life: your burning questions answered

Q: How is Slovakia?
A: I will surely let you know how it is, if I ever go there.

Q: You're in Slovenia? Why the... ?!
A: It's because of Shay. He became interested in the coutries that formerly made up Yugoslavia when he was a missionary in Croatia. Now he's working on a PhD in history and focusing on eastern Europe. He studies languages in order to do research from original sources in the coutries he's interested in. So, he's here doing language studies.

Q: What language do they speak there?
A: They speak Slovene. It's a Slavic language and it shares some basic features with Croatian. When Shay speaks Slovene it sounds quite nice. But he has some work to do if he wants to sound like a local. When Slovenes speak to each other on the street or in the grocery store or at school, it generally sounds like this to me:
"You idiot! I am so angry at you!"
"Well, good! I did it just to make you angry!"
"You would! I can't stand you!"
"I hope I never see you again!"
They are likely to be chatting about last night's soccer game or congratulating a friend on her recent marriage, but often the tone doesn't seem to match the message. It cracks me up.

Q: How long will you be there?
A: I'm here for three weeks total. Shay will stay for a few additional weeks after that. We were apart for five days once and it was uncomfortable. So, that should be interesting. That's a post for another day.

Q: Will Shay get to visit some of his mission areas?
A: Not really. He'll spend a few days at an archive in Croatia and might see some friends in Zagreb, the capital. Last year we visited some of his mission areas and other places on the beautiful Adriatic coast, during last summer's Croatian vacation. You too should visit the Croatian coast before you kick the bucket. You won't be sorry.

Q: Speaking of Lonely Planet guidebooks, do you remember watching Lonely Planet episodes in 9th grade geography?
A: Melis, I totally remember those days in Mr. Scholzen's class. Shay does too. In fact (as I reveal the true extent of our nerdiness) we still check out episodes of Lonely Planet from the library sometimes. Vicarious traveling is awesome.

And now, if you don't mind, I have a few questions of my own:

How many days can I wear the same pair of pants before washing them?

Is it okay to eat burek all the time (a decidedly not-figure-friendly cheese-filled pastry) if I'm willing to walk 2.5 km to my favorite burek stand?

Why do all the women my age here look like Slavic Barbie? Are they just genetically blessed? Because they eat burek all the time too.

Why do I get a receipt when I pay my 17 cents to use a public restroom? I bet it costs 10 cents to print the thing. That doesn't seem very efficient, now, does it?

Since when is the MULLET experiencing dramatic popularity? I am sorry to report that duirng this trip, variations of the classic 'do have been spotted frequently on "hip" young sirs in Zurich, in Vienna, and all over Slovenia.

20 June 2008

checking in

Since Shay started school on Monday, I've been left to my own devices for about 4 hours a day. It's an invigorating feeling to find my own way around all this newness. I've loved seeing some of the sights off the beaten path.

Still, I am hardly a city girl, and I am excited for a side trip to somewhere quiet. We are heading out to Bled Lake today. Let's all hope for good weather, shall we? Because I would really like to paddle a little rowboat out to this marvelous island today:

And hey. I haven't been very good at answering the questions you've asked, by comment and by e-mail. Well, don't you worry any longer, because I see a lot of spare time on the horizon next week. Look forward to a post where I will answer all your burning questions about Slovenia and about the meaning of life. Do you have more that you want to ask? Feel free to add them here.

17 June 2008

planes and trains and automobiles

We spent a day and a night in Vienna, and then took a train to Ljubljana. My gosh, I love trains. I sat with my nose practically pressed against the windows, oohing and aahing at the greenness against jagged mountains, the old walled cities, the idyllic villages in gorgeous valleys, the castles tucked away in the hills. Most of the locals were reading the newspaper, thinking, "Ho hum, just another ride through the Austrian countryside.˝ Well it all feels new to me. And I like it.

It was raining when we got to the station in Ljubljana. It rained the next day as well - cold, constant rain. When I woke up to the sound of rain the next day, I cursed Ljubljana and all its inhabitants, and especially its weather predictors for being right. But the sun came out that afternoon, and I got to wander around the city with my camera and without a coat or an umbrella, and I forgave quickly - because how could someone stay mad at a city this lovely?

This is where I intended to post pictures, but the world is conspiring to make that impossible for me today. So take my word for it - this place is exceptionallz lovely. And I'll post visual proof the next time I get the chance.

Thanks for all the well wishes! It seems they have come true.

10 June 2008

leaving on a jet plane

We're off to Slovenia tomorrow. Shay is starting summer classes at the university in Ljubljana, and I am tagging along for three weeks. Shay has a class schedule, government funding, and a basic grasp on the local language. I have a Lonely Planet guidebook, a camera, a tight budget, and a basic need to visit new places. So maybe the resources aren't evenly distributed between us. But I expect we are still going to have a pretty great time.

I'm planning to blog now and then once I settle in. But there is always the possibility that I'll get lost in a hilltop village with no internet access in sight, and I'll decide to stay forever. So let's get our goodbyes out of the way right now, just in case. Nasvidenje, folks. It's been real.

31 May 2008

and on the sixth day, there was perfection

an early-morning bike ride to the farmer's market with shay
a couple of hours at the library reading newspapers and magazines
almost finished the crossword puzzle
a tasty lunch full of farmer's market exploits
the first swim of the summer
a great book to read in the sun
games and dessert with friends

summer, i think you and i are going to get along just fine.

30 May 2008

summer of saturdays

I have a great job working for the public school system in a nearby city. Give me a pen and a legal pad (because who doesn't love those cheerful yellow legal pads?) and I can make a nice list of things about my job that make me happy. But I'm probably not the only person who has ever felt, at the end of a year in the public schools, like summer break was the greatest perk of all.

Oh, summer vacation. How we love you.

Only, now that you are here, what on earth am I going to do with you? It feels like I just had five Saturdays in a row. The first few were pretty awesome. Several times a day I would think things like, Wow, I'm going running at noon on a weekday! Wow, am I still reading in bed? or, Wow, I'm watching daytime TV! By the fifth day... fewer wows. More hmmms. I can't deny that I've loved the indulgences, but I'm almost exhausted from filling all that time with my own creativity.

Today I decided to whittle away some time giving the blog a makeover. What? You can't tell? That's probably because I tried about 20 different combinations of layouts, color schemes, headers, etc., and in the end I published something that looks virtually the same as the old blog, with a few barely-detectable changes. Let's just say I'm not the kind of girl who moves her furniture around every couple of months just for fun.

Here's to a summer full of Saturdays! Any ideas about how to fill them?

20 May 2008

random visitor

3:05 a.m.

Me: "Shay. Wake up. Someone. Knocking. I don't want to answer it." (How dependent I've become in a few short years....)

Shay: [mumbling and dragging himself to the door]... [looking out peep hole to see a strange woman dressed like an 80s punk rocker, only with more piercings]... [warily opening door]

Scary stranger, quietly: "Are you Nate?"

Shay: "Nope."

Scary stranger: "Oh."

Shay [in his head]: But if I were, would we be moving on to some sort of illegal transaction right now?

Scary stranger: [already getting in her car to drive away]

You know what? I don't even want to know what that was about. But it was mildly entertaining to speculate and laugh about it for the next half hour, until we finally got to do what normal people do at 3 a.m. - you know, sleep.

13 May 2008

finals week widow

Shay has been busy with school these last weeks of the semester, and he still has a few more days to be holed up studying and translating things and writing papers before he can come out and play again. I, on the other hand, am getting down to a point where I am deliciously un-busy, and I want to celebrate that fact every single day. The timing is not good. It takes extraordinary amounts of self-control for me to leave Shay alone and let him work. It doesn't help that he prefers to study and work at home. Every day I'm hard pressed to come up with things to do that keep me entertained, but are not so enticing that Shay will be tempted to join me. A few things I've tried so far:

* Watching movies that Shay doesn't like. Unfortunately it turns out he doesn't dislike them as much as he professes to, because sometimes he still chuckles at the funny parts. From the office. I hear him and I yell, "Am I distracting you? Or is that journal article just a riot?"

* Getting the heck out of the house. This seems an obvious solution to our problem. I tried this on Saturday, and I came back with two pairs of shoes, two shirts and some shorts. So it's effective. But it could get expensive.

06 May 2008

we need to talk

Dear Blog,

Let me preface this by saying: it's not you. It's me.

I haven't been as interested in you lately. I used to think about you almost every day, but these days life rolls on for a week or more without you even crossing my mind. When something funny or interesting or exciting happens, I don't always think to share it with you. You're a patient listener, and I know you think I am fabulous and witty. But the truth is that I don't always want to be fabulous and witty. Sometimes I just want a place to say whatever comes to mind, and not worry about whether it comes out in complete sentences or whether it might be of interest to anyone else. So, I still resort to the good old fashioned journal once in awhile. I hope you're not jealous.

Don't worry, it's not like I'm going around checking out other people's blogs, while ignoring you. I'm not. I've actually become a little disenchanted with your type in general. In a lot of ways you are all the same - attractive and fun, but too high-maintenance at times. You put up a front of being the ultimate great communicator (and you do have some good things going for you there), but there are times when you suck hours and energy from my life that would be better spent communicating in other ways with actual humans.

I'm not about to call it quits. You have been good for me in a lot of ways. But if it's going to work out between us, we are going to have to work through some of these issues together. Just be patient with me, okay?


21 April 2008

on being mormon

It's the end of a busy time at work. To celebrate our survival skills and to reward us for dealing gracefully, my boss planned a little retreat for our department for our inservice yesterday. I say retreat and not "retreat," since it was nothing like those mislabeled "retreats" with contrived get-to-know-you games, endless meetings, crowded sleeping arrangements, and not a single five-minute period in which one could actually, you know, retreat. This day was simple and enjoyable. One of the perks was that my boss hired two masseurs to be available with their comfy little chairs throughout the morning, to give neck and shoulder massages. After laying out the plan for the day, she went to great lengths to make it clear that massages were in no way a mandatory activity. Anyone who wanted to opt out was welcome to do so. Please don't feel like you have to have one. It's fine if you don't want to. On and on and on. She probably spent five minutes of precious retreat time detailing the procedure for how one could confidentially remove his or her name from the list to avoid getting a massage and yet avoid making a scene.

To which we all privately responded in our hearts, "Whaaaah?! Who in her right mind wouldn't...."

But at last we moved on. A half hour later my boss came to my table. She whispered, "So you're okay with... everything?"

I quickly surveyed my situation: while many people I knew were attending a riveting inservice on bullying prevention in a stuffy gym, I was in a plush meeting place, my feet up on a neighboring chair, and I was working my way through a heap of beautiful fresh fruit, while shooting the breeze with people whose company I enjoy. This one was a no-brainer.

"Uh, yeah."

"Okay. I just didn't think... I didn't know if you would be allowed to do the massage thing."

I'm searching her face, first to see if she's serious, then to look for clues. Why is she saying this to me? Because she's confusing me with someone who has chronic neck issues? Because my mom called to say I had to come right home after breakfast? Because my getting a massage would send my husband into a jealous rage?

Oh. Of course.

I'm giggling. "Um, you mean because I'm Mormon?"

She nods. In all seriousness, she nods her head.

"Right. Whew! For a minute there I had forgotten about Mormon Commandment 87b. 'Thou shalt never have thy neck and shoulders massaged by unfamiliar professionally-trained men, lest thou thereby be found unwholesome. But, if thou must have thy neck and shoulders massaged by a strange man, thou shalt do thy best not to enjoy it.'"

Don't you worry. I took the commandment loophole route. I got my silly massage, and did my very best not to enjoy it. I failed at that effort though; even after all the hooplah, it was positively lovely.

15 April 2008

grow something wild and unruly

Springtime makes me a little bit crazy.

Exhibit A:
I am compelled to stop and swoon when I see these tiny, sweet terra cotta pots with the modest label "GROW KIT." Not only do I swoon, but I buy an armful of them before I even realize what's going on. They bear pictures of chives. Basil. Strawberries. And more. I have no idea what is in them. Could be just dirt for all I know. I have no idea what I will do with them if there turns out to be some kind of actual seed product inside. My track record with house plants is dismal and makes it pretty clear that I lack the necessary skills for fostering plant life.

But when the whole world seems to be burgeoning and blossoming and sprouting new life, how can you not want to grow something?

10 April 2008

coulda woulda shoulda

If I were having a viewing party to celebrate the return of "The Office," I think it might include:

* Chili's take-out
* stapler jello
* warm soft pretzels
* lemoñadé
* Angela's double fudge brownies (or sugar plum fairy wands!)
* a jar of jelly beans from the reception desk

Each person in attendance would have to wear a label on his/her forehead with a different racial/ethnic group written on it, and we would all try to guess what our labels said based on the comments of our friends. Maybe sumo wrestling? Maybe a hot-dog-eating contest? Maybe yogurt lids for party favors? Maybe Schrute Bucks awarded to those with the best look-alike costumes? Talk about Funtivities.

As it is, I am at work until late tonight, screening/assessing hordes of preschoolers at my district's "Kindergarten Round-up." (They're not livestock, people. I think it's time to come up with a new event name.) I will probably get home just a few minutes before the much-anticipated episode airs, where I'll hunker down on the couch, watch and laugh with Shay, and then promptly fall asleep before the credits have finished rolling. I am tired today.

But maybe, just maybe, I can pick up a few bottles of lemoñadé on the way home.

08 April 2008


It's 2 a.m. and we are finally winding down with some soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. We loved watching Kansas win the national championship game in overtime tonight. I still can't believe they pulled it off, but I'm glad they did. We watched the game from Allen Fieldhouse and my ears are still ringing from the loudness of that place. We went downtown afterward with a group of friends and were pretty entertained by the craziness to be found on Mass street. People were packed into the street for blocks and blocks. A small number of them were even sober. Regardless... it was so fun to be caught up in the energy of something exciting tonight.

Those of us in this family who are students are not overly concerned about waking up tomorrow, since all KU classes have been cancelled in celebration of the win. Those of us who have real jobs, however, and were only pretending to be students for a day, still have to leave the house in about 5 hours. So, rock chalk Jayhawk. This non-student is signing off.

02 April 2008

that kind of day

A direct quote from the last e-mail I sent from work today - a sort of plea directed at my boss:

Input? Ideas? A large object with which I can club myself over the head? I’d appreciate any of those things today.


Yes, it’s been that kind of day. A want-to-club-myself-over-the-head-in-frustration kind of day.

It comes on the tails of yesterday, a day in which I woke up with a start after having a nightmare about work, rushed out the door in a frazzled state, and ran around like a crazy person until noon, and then finally took a deep breath. And saw myself in a mirror for the first time all day. And noted that I was wearing two different earrings. Not in the sense of, like, I am the infidel who has two piercings in one ear; more in the sense of, well, I had one earring in the left ear, and one quite different earring in the right.

That’s right, a so-frazzled-that-I-make-accidental-fashion-statements kind of day.

What kind of day are you having?

30 March 2008

adoption tag

I can't pass up this tag from our friends Holly and Chase, who are working their way through the adoption process. They keep hearing from others that networking is one of the best ways that parents considering placing a child for adoption can be connected with families who are looking to adopt. So, I've been tagged to pass on the link to Chase and Holly's newly-created adoption blog. We are super excited for these two to become parents. So, if ever you get the opportunity, spread the word. Their contact information, along with their caseworker's contact info, can be found at http://www.chadoption.blogspot.com/.

22 March 2008

weekend edition

Whew. Shay and I have definitely enjoyed the week-long break from our regularly scheduled lives. My parents flew in a few days before our spring break started and they stayed with us until Wednesday. The weather was basically wretched the entire time, for which I apologized daily, as if it were as much a matter of my control as the thermostat setting. But my parents were good sports and we still managed to show them around our little corner of the world. We loved having them here.

Lawrence's annual St. Patrick's Day parade
(My parents thought I was insane when I suggested that we should attend
despite the pouring rain. Clearly, Lawrence is chock-full of crazy people.)
photo from the
Lawrence Journal-World

The day after the departure of the parents, I was whisked away on a "secret adventure." We were several miles down I-70 before Shay let me in on where we were headed. We ended up 150 miles from home at a bed and breakfast in the sleepy little one-stoplight town of Lindsborg, Kansas. Why drive 150 miles for that, you ask, when you've got a perfectly comfy bed and a perfectly good box of just-add-water pancake mix at home? Well, if you know me, then you know that since leaving Sweden I have been basically in love with all things that remind me of Swedishness. So when Shay found out that there was a little town in Kansas that celebrated its Swedish heritage to the point that it called itself "Little Sweden, U.S.A," he thought he should probably take me there to check it out. And he did. And it was the cutest, sweetest thing a thoughtful husband has ever planned for a Swede-o-phile wife. And the trip was hilariously fun.

There was so much Swedish nostalgia to be found that I couldn't even take it all in. Did I have any desire to eat pickled herring for breakfast? Of course not. But I loved that it was part of the breakfast buffet. I felt a happy pang of remembrance when I turned up my nose at it and went for the knäckebröd and lingonberry jam instead. We browsed shops full of folk art and imported foods and books and Swedish music and cheesy t-shirts. We stocked up on Marabou and Bilar. We ate Swedish pastries at charming little bakeries. We visited tiny Bethany College where the mascot is (any guesses?) the Swedes. Shay even packed our kubb set so that we could play at the park and feel like a couple of Scandinavian senior citizens. Also, remember how I was recently in need of a pig-shaped cookie-cutter? Well, behold:

My need is now met. Oh, the simple joys of life.

Speaking of joys, I hope you all have an absolutely lovely Easter. I am looking forward to it.

12 March 2008

grand opening

The Wood Bed and Breakfast is officially open for business. We have parents coming to visit tomorrow, so we've been putting the finishing touches on the guest facilities this week. This mostly involved (1) vowing to not use the extra bed as a shelf any more, (2) clearing out three square feet of closet space in the extra bedroom just in case our guests, I don't know, bring clothes with them, (3) hanging a few pictures that have been waiting on the floor near their intended destination for a good two months now, and (4) filling the kitchen with several food items in addition to the fruit, cereal and milk that we generally subsist on.

We are stoked for the upcoming parents' visit, but I think it would be a pity to go to all that work just for one set of visitors. Thus, we are currently accepting reservations for April 2008 through, um, at least 2011. The accommodations are modest, but the breakfast is pretty much gourmet (if you're into Honey Bunches of Oats you'll be delighted), and you probably can't beat the prices. Plus, the company is stellar. See you soon?

10 March 2008

rosier in retrospect

The day you get this e-mail is the day you start to remember planning a study and writing a thesis as being more enjoyable than it actually was.

"I am writing regarding the review of manuscript# AJSLP-08-0001, 'The Influence of Morphological Awareness on the Literacy Development of First-Grade Children' submitted to American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. Two expert reviewers, the Associate Editor Dr. Laura Green, and I have reviewed your manuscript. All agree that it is worthy work. I would like to invite you to revise this work based on suggestions outlined in the remainder of this letter; I hope that with your careful attention to these matters, this work might be accepted for publication in AJSLP."

I am really excited about the possibility of my thesis research showing up in a journal in the near future. It looks like it might happen! So, wah hoo!

Pondering on the subject of research and the silliness that it can sometimes be, I remembered this forward that my friend Bob posted on our class blog when we were in school. It makes me laugh.


I didn't look up the original reference.

These data are practically meaningless.

An unsuccessful experiment, but I still hope to get it published.

The other results didn't make any sense.

This is the prettiest graph.




I think.

A couple of others think so, too.


Rumor has it.

A wild guess.

Three pages of notes were obliterated when I knocked over a glass of soda.

I don't understand it.

They don't understand it either.

Mr. Blotz did the work and Ms. Adams explained to me what it meant.

A totally useless topic selected by my committee.

I quit.

08 March 2008

the catchall post

Been awhile since I posted. Wondering what's going on? Not a lot. Here are the issues of the day as I see them:

1. Shay and I have been trading off being sick for a couple of weeks. Ick. I'm happy to announce that everyone in our house is now healthy. We're excited to air out the house today and clean all those germs away.

2. My lovely friend Heidi gets the gold star for being my first visitor from the home state. Heid, it was great to see you last weekend during your visit to the stunning midwest. Come again. Soon. And friends, silver and bronze stars are still available.

3. I like listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" on Saturdays. I haven't heard it in ages but it's pretty funny today.

4. Rachel Ray's 30-minute meals take me an hour sometimes. I know I'm not the fastest vegetable dicer in Kansas but it can't be just me... is it just me?

5. I'm all for appreciating each of the seasons in their time. But, enough with the snowing and the freezing. Enough already. I'm ready to start appreciating spring.

28 February 2008

good news

Word on the street is that the days of the Relief Society "Good News Minute" are coming to an end, by direction of the General Relief Society Board. We don't have such a Minute in our ward here, so I had almost forgotten about it, but they have certainly done this in every other ward where I've lived in the last several years. If you're unfamiliar with the Minute, it occurs at the beginning of the weekly Relief Society meeting in many wards. The person conducting will make the week's announcements and then say something like, "Now we'll have our Good News Minute. Does anyone have good news to share?"

Of course it was meant to build camaradarie and sisterhood in the R.S. On many Sundays I thought it was a nice way to allow people in the ward to uplift and support each other. But I admit that I sometimes found myself shaking my head through the whole Minute. In my Young Single People wards it could easily become the "I'm Engaged!" Minute. In my Young Married People wards it was often the "I'm Pregnant!" Minute. In Family Wards it served as a prime opportunity for people to brag to their neighbors about their above-average children. And scattered throughout were moments of pure awkwardness, wherein a dear sister would say something like this: "I think Suzy has some good news, but I don't know if she'll volunteer to tell us!" (Meanwhile Suzy's face turns bright purple as everyone turns to look at her and begins to speculate about what her good news could possibly be. The awkward factor increases significantly as people realize Suzy has no desire to share her Good News with a large group of people.) Also unavoidable were the Fill Up Time If Nobody Has Any Real News comments, such as "I got a great deal on bell peppers at Smith's yesterday!"

Well, if it is indeed true that the Minute is no more (which I haven't confirmed - this is based solely on gossip), then I say, good-bye, Good News Minute. You had your high points. But in the end, I imagine we'll be better off just getting on with the lesson.

26 February 2008

today we salute you, mr. piano tuner guy

We've been saved from the horribly discordant sounds that have pervaded our house lately, by an unlikely hero in a flannel shirt and unibomber shades. When he showed up to tune our piano, I was so impressed with his charicature-like appearance and his hilarious seriousness about the job that I could not help referring to him for the rest of the day in the style of the Bud Light "Real Men of Genius" ads. So today we salute you, Mr. Piano Tuner Guy.

I am well-versed in these stupid commercials because my first year in college, back when the ad campaign was still called "Real American Heroes," my roommate and I used to ceremoniously listen to each day's commercial on the radio at approximately 7:23 before heading out for the day. (Could that be right, Brit? I swear it was before 7:30, but now that I think about it, I can't imagine you getting up that early on a regular basis.)

Then I heard one of these ads just the other day, and I reluctantly admitted to myself that I still find them funny. It must have something to do with the back-up guy belting out hilarious phrases in the background. Here are bits of some old favorites. But I'm pretty certain that none of these guys could take Mr. Piano Tuner Guy in a showdown of heroics.

Mr. Garden Gnome Maker
"Anyone can dress up a yard with a shrub or some gladiolas. But it takes real guts to use a small, brightly-colored ceramic man. Many a night, you've slaved over a hot ceramic-man-maker, knowing somewhere there was a lonely pink flamingo, or a cement frog, who needed a buddy."

Mr. Cargo Pants Designer
"You finally gave us what we wanted: the millitary look, without all that bothersome drilling, marching and shooting.

Mr. Movie Theater Ticket Ripper Upper
"Truly the long arm of the law at the movie theater, you and a velvet rope are all that keep the huddled masses from a free flick."

Mr. Tiny Dog Clothing Manufacturer
"Great men ask the tough questions, ‘Where did we come from?’, ‘What is gravity?’, ‘How do you help a Schnauzer through a fashion Crisis?’ You see no irony in designing a thick fur coat for an animal born with a thick fur coat."

Mr. Airport Baggage Handler
“SFO, ORD, LAX. The complex airport codes are almost unsolvable. But that's OK, because thanks to you, everything is going to Tulsa. Thank you, O’ King of the Carousel. You give us all a reason to ‘carry on.’”

Mr. Artificial Tree Maker
“Nothing brings out the holiday spirit like a giant steel pole, with nine feet of green pipe cleaners attached to it. Your trees may lean wildly to the left, O’ Purveyor of the Pine, but your heart is always in the right place.

Mr. Basketball Shoe Designer.
"Every year you make staggering advances in technology. Like air. More air. Slightly less air. And a separate air chamber for maximum air."

Mr. Baseball Designated Hitter

“Our question: What's it like to be a professional baseball player who doesn't even need to own a baseball glove?”

Mr. Male Football Cheerleader
“Fourth down and inches, the game's on the line, and it all comes down to you. Will you call for a perky pyramid, or a line dance?”

20 February 2008

the best things in life

Let us treasure up in our soul some of those things which are permanent…, not those which will forsake us and be destroyed, and which only tickle our senses for a little while.

– St. Gregory of Nazianzus

I suppose every once in awhile we get the chance to prove to ourselves whether we just like to say that money and possessions don’t matter that much to us, or whether it is actually true! Such is the case when your purse is stolen, and you lose a good bit of cash, several gift cards, your family’s only phone, all your credit cards and ID cards, not to mention the only attractive purse you have ever owned.

Of course, I reacted by taking a long bath, taking up yoga, reading Thoreau and thinking, "Gosh, my life has been cluttered with materialistic detail anyway - how fortunate that I experienced this reality check!"

Or, maybe I reacted by losing patience with a less-than-proficient English speaker at a credit card company who was only trying to be helpful, crying in frustration for awhile, and then sitting on the couch in an annoyed stupor until I feel asleep.

But the interesting thing is that life goes on, whether you are mad or not, so eventually you stop wasting your time being mad. You find a way to get by without the money and the stuff that you thought was crucial to your survival, and you find a new purse too, though it is not nearly so cute as the one you had before. And maybe in a weird way you even start to appreciate the reminder that there are things in life that are more permanent and more important than others, that can't be swiped from you by people with malicious intentions, and that maybe you ought to base your happiness more on those things than on the temporary things that consume so much of your time and energy lately.

That's a good perspective for now, at least. By tomorrow, I might need someone to read Thoreau to me and let me kick a hole in their wall. Any takers?

16 February 2008

on the saturday schedule

On Saturday mornings I have a standing appointment with a real breakfast and the newspaper, two little luxuries I don't always have time for during the week. I leave so early on weekdays that my breakfast preparations often consist of pouring dry cereal into a ziplock (go Quaker Oat Squares!) so that I can snack later in the morning. And on busy days sometimes the newspaper goes straight to the recycle bin without anyone glancing beyond the front page. Saturday is different. On Saturday Shay and I usually get to make and eat a real, yummy breakfast together. It is one of the best times of my week. Then after breakfast I can sit in the living room and enjoy the New York Times or the local Journal-World, or both, if I feel ike it. I know you can read almost any newspaper online these days - and for free even! That's great news. But it is well worth the cash to me to enjoy spreading the actual, tangible newsprint on the floor, and make little piles of "read" and "unread" and "don't care to read" sections, until the living room looks like the aftermath of a tornado. My day is off to a good start. Hope yours is as well. Happy Saturday!

11 February 2008

dear santa:

you were pretty good to me this year, so i just wanted to say thanks for all the gifts. also, um, just for future reference, the next time you are thinking about delivering a fleece jacket or a fleece anything for that matter, will you stick to colors other than black? or else, could you also supply the necessary 82 refills for my lint roller and perhaps leave me an elf too, to provide the daily labor required to keep the thing looking presentable?


08 February 2008

small talk

I do not like small talk. Maybe I am just socially inept, but I'm not always sure how to respond when people try to fill silence by talking about mindless things neither of us cares about or, worse, by asking me questions that they do not really need/want an answer for. A scene from today:

Me (to co-worker): If you can stick around for a minute, I'll print a copy of this for you.

Co-worker: Okay, thanks.

[3 seconds of silence while I sit at computer and open document]

CW: So! Uh... [clears throat]

CW: [looks around and spies picture of me with husband, on wedding day, in wedding attire] [points to man in picture]

CW: Is this your husband?

Me: Um... [turning to see what she's pointing at] nope. It's not.

06 February 2008

snow day

I find out at 6:30 this morning that I'm not required to report to work, due to extreme weather. I look out the window and to me, the weather does not seem that extreme. But instead of arguing, I slip back into bed. No complaints from me.
Today has been fabulous. To make it an official snow day, Shay and I created the most hideous snowman ever to grace the neighborhood. We named her Lumpy Longstocking.
Lumpy in the formative stages, when we still had reason to hope that she would be attractive.

Lumpy in all her glory. So much went wrong between picture 1 and picture 2.

03 February 2008

off to see the groundhog?

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow yesterday and predicted six more weeks of cold, gray winter. It doesn't seem like much of a reason to celebrate. For the sake of tradition, we celebrated anyway. Are you looking for something to fill the gap between New Year's and Valentine's Day? Then you, too, should observe the day of the weather-predicting rodent with some kind of festivity. I always enjoy it.I have watched the early-90s flick "Groundhog Day" every year on February 2nd since, I don't know, 1995. I mostly have my friend Jen and her family to thank for instilling in me this sense of Groundhog tradition.

This year the festivities of the day included friends, food, games, and of course a screening of the classic movie, in all its stupid hilariousness. Oh, and a new mascot, which was a random find at a little store on Mass street last week. I think he will be given away as a door prize next year, but I couldn't part with him quite yet.

Phil-in-a-cheesecake (got the idea here)

Phil, the celebration mascot

Happy Groundhog day to you! Enjoy those six long weeks of winter, and hope for a better forecast next year!

28 January 2008

mourning, but thankful

So many loving tributes to President Gordon B. Hinckley floating around the blog world today. I have loved reading them, so thanks for writing them. He has served as the prophet of my church for half my life.

Thanks, President Hinckley, for the years of tireless service. Thanks for the wit, the optimism, the Perpetual Education Fund, the many new temples, the media smarts, the consistent messages about always trying to be a little bit better and little bit kinder.

His passing is sad news for the millions of us who love him and revere him as a prophet. But it makes me happy to know that he is reunited with the "girl of his dreams."

27 January 2008

just me posting about me again

Catlin passed along a google image tag and I wanted to play, too. Now I am finally getting around to it. You are supposed to type your answer to each of the questions below into google image, and post a photo from the first results page. Here's what I ended up with:

age you will be on your next birthday:

your favorite food:

your middle name:

your college major:
your favorite color:

a place you would like to visit:

where you live:

name of a past pet:

one of your favorite places:

your favorite holiday:

a bad habit:

your favorite animal:

Do you want to play too? If so, consider yourself tagged.