Friday, November 28, 2008

"I'm all alone in the world."

That is the best line in the best song from Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. My family had this video for years and years. We watched it so much, and would occasionally (at appropriate moments) belt out that awesome line. Apparently I sing it a lot because sometimes Chris sings it now too, and he's never even heard the whole song. At least he hadn't until tonight...
I found it on Youtube. Bless Youtube, every one.

Here it is. IF you don't have the patience to listen to the whole song (what's your problem? Is your life really that busy?), you can just fast forward to 1:31.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I am awesome.

I guess Chris and Lisa are sort of awesome too because they helped, but mostly I am awesome.

The turkey was excellente. It cooked in an hour and a half and was moist and tasty. Hooray! I feel like this is more proof that I am a grown up. Sometimes I feel like I need to prove it.

The picture does not show the three pies that Chris made: banana cream (the tastiest), coconut cream (the prettiest) and pumpkin (the not-so-awesome pie.Actually, all three of us worked on the pumpkin. And we followed two different recipes. This is why it was not so awesome). And he made the yams. Very impressive.

Lisa brought ingredients across state lines for the cranberry sauce and then worked on all the other dishes with us... as well as washing ten million dishes afterward. What a hero.

But mostly I am awesome because my flattened turkey fulfilled all my hopes and dreams. And there was a garnish, as you can see by the picture.

By the way, it doesn't look like much food in this picture, but it WAS.

Now I am ready for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


So, Lisa, my sister-in-law, is coming to visit us tomorrow for Thanksgiving. We are super excited. Our first guest in our sweet Nebraskan apartment. Chris and I found ourselves talking about how she's going to feel so glamorous because she gets her own bathroom. Thinking about it now, maybe she won't be so overwhelmed by that.

Anyway here's a picture of her with the mugwamp. It will be a joyous reunion for them both I am sure.

So, this is also the only time Chris and I have hosted a Thanksgiving. We debated about how elaborate to actually make it. Our debate went something like this:

So, how committed are you to turkey? I mean, it's very traditional, but it's also a bit bland. We could just have ham. Do you like ham better than turkey? Do you think Lisa would be disappointed if we didn't have turkey? How about both? Is that too much? It would be expensive, but maybe we could store it. Freeze it in soups or something. What do you think?

I like bikes.

After a while Chris did mention that he thought it would be cool if we each got our own big turkey drumstick and that's it. His idea was carefully and thoughtfully considered then discarded.

I decided to do a bit of research. This meant that Soapy and I went on our afternoon walk to the two grocery stores near us and I spoke at length to the guys who work in the meat department. In fact, we are now friends. In fact, many of the workers at the grocery stores know me by sight, and Soapy by name.

Anyway, they were really helpful and I got a sweet deal on a little turkey, and the good idea to just buy a little bit of thick-sliced, deli ham.

I already knew how I wanted to cook the turkey. I really like watching cooking shows, and this turkey will be the first time I have ever cooked something from a show. I'm sure everything will go just as I planned, and if it doesn't, I'm sure my post-Thanksgiving blog will be awesome.

I got the recipe from America's Test Kitchen: a highly reputable source. They said that a turkey's shape is not ideal for roasting; the high roofed chest cavity insures that the breast gets dried out before the thighs are done cooking. So, they recommend changing the turkey's shape.

For this reason I spent a good portion of this evening taking out the turkey's spine and pounding it flat. It looks a little...weird. Instead of this, it will be the shape of this (but of course it won't be that color, I'm not grilling it). It still seems like a really good idea. The turkey all gets cooked at the same time and it only takes two hours! As we speak that succulent turkey is soaking in brine (that was pretty fun to make).

That being said, listening to The Omnivore's Dilemma while planning a Thanksgiving extravaganza is messing with me. I don't want to talk about it very much. I am trying not to think about it, at least not until after the book is done (after Thanksgiving), but as I was cutting through bone tonight, I realized that I was actually cutting through what was once this:


Talking about Thanksgiving, I had my students write thank you letters as their ten minute writing assignment today. When they were done, I told them that I wouldn't be collecting them; instead, their homework was to give the letters to the people they wrote them for. One kid said that would be hard because the person he wrote it for was dead. I told him that he would just have to manage-- this is college after all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shy People Are Cool

They really are.

I used to look down on shy people. Mostly, because I was super shy as a kid and I hated feeling awkward and embarrassed all the time. I figured I was a sissy-pants for not overcoming my shyness and therefore anyone else who was shy was also a sissy-pants.

I also hated being around other shy people because we would all just stand around an bashfully scuff our feet on the ground. 1 shy person + 1 shy person = awkward city.

I much preferred being around extremely talkative people who could talk enough for the both of us, and never notice my deficiency. I admired people who talked a lot and who couldn't seem to stop talking. They didn't even seem to have to think before they spoke. They thought as they spoke, or sometimes much later.

I worked pretty hard in my life to not be shy (I made some hard core goals about this that are now kind of funny to me. One of them was to embarrass myself once every day--that was hard), only to discover that now I like shy people. I have a couple painfully shy kids in my class and they are my favorites right now.

Here are some reasons I like shy people:

I like people who sometimes don't have things to say.

It makes me feel gratified when I see shy kids hiding behind their parents and looking alarmed. By the way, the world is sometimes alarming. I'm glad someone realizes this.

I like that there are people feel that conversation, strings of words, can be so important that they would rather say nothing rather than mess something up. Words are important. Words create and destroy things. Thank you shy people for taking them seriously.

I like that shy kids often grow up to be quiet adults. That's really better than shy. A quiet person is super delightful. They talk when they want to but don't feel any undo obligation. Here are some people who are quiet who read this blog: Laura R and Papa G and sometimes Lisa, but she's more like a medium talker that leans toward quiet.

Quiet and shy people are pretty great. Also, it's fun to notice them because they are kind of camouflaged.

That being said, I did not marry a particularly shy person (at least not after five minutes), and I am going to do my level best to help Soapy be confident and unshy. I like talkative people. Sometimes I ask Chris questions about his bike stuff just to hear him talk (because that's the topic he can go on the longest without any word from me). Talkative people make me feel safe, like if I ever stumble when I talk they can pick up the slack for me.

But shy people are cool too. Today, you should go out of your way to greet a shy person. It will probably freak them out. That is another fun thing about shy people: they are easy to scare.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Not Marriage Material

So Erik, one of my little brothers, called me on Saturday to let me know he got engaged (whoop whoop!). I am super delighted for him. She is brilliant and kind and beautiful---a great addition to the family gene pool.

He's the last of us to get married. This is quite amazing---not that Erik is getting married, but that any of us got married. There was a period of time where we described each other as cool but "not marriage material." It was a joke...sort of. I, for one, could not imagine the type of person that would voluntarily put themselves in our company for eternity.

But first Matt found Sarah.
Then it was Tom and Kristen.
I married Chris.
Joe proposed to Stephanie (This is not exactly a picture of Stephanie, but I think there is a great deal of resemblance there).
And now Erik and Erica are getting married (Erica is in veterinary school right now. Cool, no? Every time I find a baby bird out of its nest I know who to call!).

(And who can imagine the weird events that resulted in my mom and dad getting married?)

Somehow, through accident, or luck, or faith (our mother's), or blackmail we all got (or are getting) married. And we didn't do too bad.

Back to Erik and Erica. I would like to tell you what I know of their engagement story. Erica, obviously, loves animals, and at one time told Erik about the the mating dance of the blue footed booby. I guess they talked about it a lot. It's pretty funny. Anyway, Erik took Erica to the temple and put on some blue slippers. He then did the blue footed booby dance. AND made her do it back before he gave her a ring. The way a blue footed booby dance ends successfully is when the male drops a twig in front of the female and she picks it up. Erik may or may not have made Erica pick the ring off the ground. By the way, the ring is super beautiful.

You see why I think no one would ever marry one of us. As my friend Jessi would say, we are "extremely questionable." However, since Erica joined in the dance it means that she is questionable as well. Welcome to this awesomely ridiculous family!

So hooray hooray! Erik's getting married! What a great weekend!

Friday, November 21, 2008


So tonight I am going to see Twilight! I'm going with a woman from my ward and her daughter who I think is in fifth grade. Chris is staying at home with the monkey. I am stoked stoked stoked. I hope I like it so much.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Elegant Semicolon

Despite the fact that I have an MA in English and have taught English for going on three years now, I have a sordid and disgraceful history when it comes to punctuation and grammar. Well, not really sordid.

I was pretty awesome with punctuation until the third grade when some teacher told me that the way to know if you need a comma or not is to read the sentence and wherever you stop to take a breath-- that's where you put the comma. I tried this out and got a paper back full of red marks. It turns out that I breathe differently than my teacher.

So, that's when I gave up on punctuation, especially commas (those little devils). I just put punctuation wherever I felt like it. Sometimes my teachers would circle my mistakes and sometimes they didn't care, but either way I still got pretty good grades on my papers so I figured it didn't matter.

Confession: I did not learn how to use commas until after I got my undergraduate degree (with a minor in English)and had already taught one semester of college level English which included a unit on punctuation.

After an pretty stressful class period where I may have made up some fake punctuation rules, I decided that I had a moral obligation to learn the truth.

I audited an editing class and met frequently with the teacher. Now I am proud to say that I know a billion rules about commas (but they are still tricky little devils and I am not always sure about them...even with all the rules). Also I have been freed from the shackles of ignorance and enjoy using many different punctuation marks including the much ignored semicolon.

Perhaps you are already comfortable with our friend the semicolon. I, on the other hand, had never used the semicolon before because it turns out you don't need to. You can go your whole life and never use one.

But here is my argument: You should use them. They are awesome. The semicolon is my favorite punctuation mark because it is so pretty. Not stuffy like the colon. Not boring like the period. It's fancy but with a little sly curl at the end. Take a look.

Nice, eh?

Also it is super easy to use. You can only use it two ways:

1.(And this is the most common one) To link two complete sentences that are related to each other

Take a look at these examples supplied by Debbie Harrison, my grammar and punctuation mentor and hero:

The boys mowed and edged the lawn; the girls weeded and planted flowers.

Susan cooks all the meals; Rachel does all the dishes.

I love to eat out for dinner; however, I can’t afford to do it very often because it is so expensive.

The use of the semicolon before "however" followed by a comma is the classic place to use a semicolon. If you don't know when to use a semicolon, use it there.

You may notice that in all the examples it would be absolutely correct to use a period to separate the two sentences. That's the beauty of a semicolon. That's why they are so easy. If two sentences are related at all in meaning you can kick out that period and stick in the much more elegant semicolon. By the way, it makes you look smarter; only class people use semicolons.

On to the second rule. It doesn't come up as much, but it made me feel really cool the first time I used it.

2. To link word groups together when each word group already contains commas or other punctuation such that the groupings could become confusing.

For lunch we had soup, the gourmet kind; sandwiches, the hoagie kind; and salad, the healthy kind.

The officers are Mary Boyce, president; John Kelly, vice-president; Marjorie Withers, Secretary; Ken Smoot, treasurer.

And that's it. So easy. I challenge everyone who reads this to integrate a semicolon into their next blog posting or into a comment on my blog (also, you have to attempt to use it correctly,and an emoticon is not -as of yet- acknowledged as a correct use of a semicolon).

The end.

p.s. I want you to know that I am not a punctuation snob. I usually have to force myself to notice my students' punctuation mistakes when I grade papers. I am not very careful proofreading my own work unless a grade or job depends on it. But I very much like knowing the rules so I can use them if I want. It's kind of like how it's important to know the commandments so you can pick and choose which ones to obey.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Omnivore's Dilemma

That's the title of the book I picked up today. Well, book on tape. I've started to listen to books on tape a lot. I get bored reading nonfiction for too long, but it turns out I like to listen to it as long as I can do something else at the same time.

So anyway, the omnivore's dilemma is this: What should I eat? That is all the book is about--just answering that question. It follows several food chains from their beginnings so you can make informed decisions about your meal. I have only listened a chapter so far (intriguingly called "Corn"), but I am already nervous about this book.

Here's why: I feel a lot of guilt about eating. I don't feel guilty about eating too much, or eating healthily. I feel guilty about eating irresponsibly. I worry about eating foods that come from companies that are cruel to animals. I worry about eating vegetables from places that pollute the environment. In the back of my mind I feel that some of my purchases encourage inhumane labor practices for people in third world countries. And to be honest -and I think I feel worst about this when I allow myself to think about it- I feel pretty lousy about eating animals at all. I mean, there's not really a need to any more. I could just eat legumes.

But here's the thing. I eat meat (and plenty of it). I never buy organic fruits or veggies and I always get whatever brand of whatever thing is cheapest unless Chris complains (hence our fancy-pants brown sugar). I do these things for three eventually unjustifiable reasons:

a)It just costs less money, and that seems really important right now.

b)Anything else would demand that I spend a lot more time thinking about and preparing meals. I only sometimes like cooking.

c)I really don't like legumes. Or at least the ones I know about.

(I don't know exactly what that means but I figures it translates to something like "I am smiling so much because I have broccoli for a nose instead of a legume!")

So there is my confession. Will I change? Probably not soon--unless this book has some easy, inexpensive answers. Also, I may not finish the book if it makes me feel too bad.

Also, I dedicate this posting to Lisa because she is the only one I know who has tried to be a vegetarian. Also, she flosses.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Religion and Bird Series Part IV (inspired by Chris's Blog)

So here's my story. I was twelve. This means that I had graduated from Primary and sixth grade and was now in Sunday school (with boys lol !!1!) and in middle school. This story has to do with Sunday school, but I brought up middle school in order to remind you of that time and all the awkwardness it involved. That is the social climate in which this story takes place.

Anyway our Sunday school teacher was a quiet, determined woman we had already made cry once that year. She planned her lessons with great dedication and read them out to us in a whispery voice. It was hard to hear her and people soon began talking to each other. I don't think we meant to be rude so much as we were clueless. Anyway, one day she left the room crying and we were all pretty mystified (but not overly mystified because it turns out because this happened in a bunch of my primary/Sunday school classes growing up. Is that weird? I never thought about it before. Has this happened to a lot of people or was my class just really bad?). After that we tried to be a bit more attentive but I don't know that we always did a good job.

A girl moved into our ward that year. I don't remember name. It was something a little bit different like Mellessa or Machelle. She was really really skinny with a pointy face. She always wore long, old fashioned dresses with big collars; I think her mom made them for her. The thing I noticed about her right away was her super long, tangly hair. It was long enough that you know she thought it was very beautiful but also tangly and gross in the way only little girl hair can be.

I was kind of intrigued by her Girl of the Limberlost appearance and introduced myself to her. But I never had a satisfying conversation with her. She talked in a mythical, breathy type way that left me wondering if she thought she was some kind of woodland fairy.

She was home schooled, so we only saw her at church. She was definitely a loner, but not in a way anyone should pity. Despite our apparent ruthlessness to teachers, the girls in our class were very nice and frequently tried to include her. She was always polite and kind in return but distracted, sometimes stopping in the middle of conversations to look into the distance.

One day we were all sitting in class. Our teacher's husband had come in and given us a lecture on respect and not making his wife cry so we were all trying to be good (good=quiet). Our teacher, after speaking for a long time asked a question. "Have any of you ever had an experience where you prayed and your prayers were answered?" If ever there was a class not in a mood to answer personal questions about prayer it was us. The air was still tense with her husbands tirade. None of us had anything to say.

Then the long haired girl raised her hand. Quietly but excitedly she said, "When I was little I used to really want a bird to come and fly and land on my hand. I didn't want to catch it or anything, I just wanted to have it on my hand for a little bit. So I prayed that it would happen. I prayed really hard for days and days, maybe two weeks. And then one day, I just knew it would happen. So I walked over to the window and stretched out my hand like this" She lifted her hand and cupped it slightly "And a bird flew in and landed right on my hand. It stayed for a couple of minutes then it flew off. It was so nice."

We all stared at her. The teacher said something like, "Thanks for your example. Yes, prayer is important and..." The lesson was soon over and everyone acted like it never happened. Her family moved out of the ward soon after that---I don't think they stayed longer than a month total.

I thought about that story all the time. It was so weird and not weird. What kid does not think it would be cool to have a bird just land on their hand? That would be so cool! But it doesn't happen, and no one prays for that kind of thing. That's weird. Mostly I wondered if I prayed for that, would it happen? But I never tried.

Years later, after my mission, I was talking to a boy from my old Sunday school class. I said , "Hey, do you remember that girl with he long tangly hair who told us one day that she prayed--"
He interrupted me, "Yes! The one who prayed for a bird to land on her hand and then it did! I still think about that sometimes."

Right before I graduated BYU I was walking down the JFSB halls and I SAW her. The same long homemade dress and long tangly hair. I passed her in the hall, wondering if it could really be her, and if so what a crazy world. Then I ran back, grabbed her arm, and asked her if she had ever lived in McLean, Virginia. She said yes.

I suddenly got very excited. I told her I remembered her. I told her about the bird story. I told her that I thought about it still.

She smiled. She said she still thinks about it all the time too. Then she looked off into the distance and kind of wandered off.

That's my bird story.