"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of. but do it in private
and wash your hands afterwards." --Robert Heinlein.

We've moved!

For the next two years (Summer 2014-Summer 2016) I'll be blogging our family's adventures in China at www.chinesemileposts.wordpress.com

Monday, March 31, 2008

Book Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale



Jamie has asked my opinion on this book more than once, as have a few other people. I haven't been ignoring her inquiries, I just keep forgetting. So, to stop looking like I am avoiding this, and since I don't feel the desire to tackle Princess Sparkley and force her to do her math lesson for the day (subtracting with tens and ones), I'll share my little opinion with you now. Only interrupted by the need to plug Baby X's mouth with his binky occasionally as he's napping next to me, has freed one had from his baby burrito bundle and uses that one hand to repeatedly pluck said binky from his mouth... even while appearing to be snoozed.

For those of you out of the loop (usually myself), Shannon Hale is LDS. She graduated from the University of Utah. I've only read one other book she's written, The Princess Academy which was a Newbery Honor book. A great book. I even bought it for my book loving niece for her 8th birthday (it's written for more the pre-teen crowd would be my guess).

Austenland, as you can imagine from the title, deals with Jane Austen. It reminds me a lot of Bridget Jones's Diary, but cleaner, and more fantastical. I don't remember anything especially R-rated about BJD, but the movie was R-rated, so maybe there was something in the book and I've just forgotten. It's basically the same story as any modern day Jane Austen connected book, a thirty-something girl is obsessed with Jane Austen, more specifically Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth included). She compares all the men she meets and dates to Darcy and therefore, has been rather unsuccessful in the love department. She ends up with a two week trip to a sort of Austen resort where she dresses and plays apart along with other guests and actors. There's a Mr. Darcy of sorts, love, misunderstandings, etc.

I liked this book. It was fun and quick and entertaining. I'm also not a huge Austen or Colin Firth fan. I've read that devoted Austen fans hate the book (I'm not sure about devoted Colin Firth fans). I read Pride and Prejudice in high school and absolutely hated it. I read it again for a Literature of Women class in college and loved it. And I've read it again, for fun, since then. Once I discovered that I actually like Jane Austen, I've read Persuasion and Emma, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. But that's all I've read so far. And I didn't see the Colin Firth, BBC version of Pride and Prejudice until sometime last year. [And due to the library I checked it out from having lost one of the two dvds in one of their sets, I watched it backwards. Starting with disc two, then realizing I needed to check out the second half, then realizing that "the second half" was in fact the first half. I just thought the people who made the movie had decided to tell the story in a different order, with flash forwards and flashbacks, etc.]

Back to the book. It wasn't highly intellectual, but that isn't often something I require of a novel. I like books for entertainments sake. It's like watching a movie for escapism or fantasy. That's what a book is to me. So I enjoyed this story. Although I didn't thoroughly enjoy the ending. It seemed abrupt and weird and still sort of left you hanging. That aside, it was a fun read.

But now I'm curious, Jamie, and others, what did you think? I'm worried that Jamie has read it and thought this was the worst book written and is right this minute forming a new opinion of me. Have you read it Jamie, or were you just picking my brain to see if you should waste your time?

As for picking of brains, has anyone read Eat, Pray, Love? What did you think? I keep checking it out from the library and having to return it before I get around to reading it because there's a waiting list. Is it a must read?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Movie Review: I Am Legend



My husband IMed me from work yesterday to see if I wanted to get the movie I Am Legend from Redbox last night to watch after the kids were in bed. I agreed. All I really knew about this movie going into it was that it starred Will Smith and seemed along the lines of Independence Day - - a huge, action packed, end of the world sort of movie. Which I guess, it sort of was. I wasn't extremely happy about it once it started because all of the silence in the movie indicated to me that at any second something loud and really scary was going to happen... sort of like in The 6th Sense when all of a sudden that ghost walks pass and freaks everyone in the theater out. I wasn't completely wrong. But I also wasn't completely scared by this movie. So I was surprised when we read about it on Wikipedia as the closing credits rolled (our new habit when we watch a movie) that it is described as a post-apocalyptic science fiction horror film. If that had been the description on the back of the box (which we didn't have since redbox doesn't do boxes), or I had read that description on Wikipedia before watching the movie, I probably would not have watched it, or at least dreaded it. That being said, I liked this movie. I'm more of a romantic comedy sort of girl along with dramas (which this sort of is, I guess), but definitely not a fan of horror. And, The X-Files aside, not really Science Fiction either. But I'd give this movie 4.5 stars. And I totally love that Will Smith has gone from that goofy rapper with huge ears on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to a top grossing Hollywood movie star. Love it!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My love hate relationship with the Internet

Since I'm an expert (read: amateur) blogger, I've been asked to help teach a Relief Society mini Enrichment on blogging. That being said, I've been reading up on internet and more specifically, blogging safety and have decided to ask all of you that have my last name listed in your links to please remove it. I searched for myself on whitepages.com last night and was surprised when my address actually appeared. We've always been unlisted and have never shown up online in the past. And I'm a paranoid person... hence the fact that my kids are named under pseudonyms and I'm in the process of trying to make up a name to refer to my husband and myself rather than our first names. Thanks.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My apologies to Mr. Grisham

I'm not one to start a book and not finish it. There are probably only a handful of books (not school assigned) that I haven't finished once I've started them. I've just added another book to that list - The Appeal by John Grisham. It's not that the book is bad. It's just that I'm a sleepy person as of late and it's moving too slowly to keep my interest. And I'm a fan of Mr. Grisham's books, so I've read them all, but after awhile, they seem to all have the same basic plot. And the titles... don't even get me started with the titles. The Firm, The Testament, The Client, The Appeal, etc. I couldn't tell you what anyone book is about because they basically all have the same title. I hope that it is the publisher that thought these titles were clever, and not Mr. Grisham himself. Plus, this book, it seems an awful lot like Erin Brockovich, which I never saw all of, but I saw enough about it, and a small part of the actual movie on tv once. So, I've retired this book... for now. I plan to finish it... someday. I've already put in about 104 pages worth of reading time. But the newest Lisa Scottoline book just became available for me at the library, and as a new release it's a two week check out. So my apologies Mr. Grisham, I'm putting one writer of legal thrillers aside in favor of the other.

Holiday Burnout



I have this advice for anyone reading my blog who doesn't have kids or has really young kids... don't go overboard with the holiday thing until they are old enough to care. I think I've carved a pumpkin every Halloween, even in college, even when newly married, even with a tiny new baby. Now I'm wondering why.

It hit me yesterday when my kids reminded me we needed to get egg dye for our Easter eggs that I'm totally burned out in regards to holidays. And now is when my kids are way into it. They didn't care about dying eggs their first or second Easters, when I was way into it for the pictures and just because the holidays are so much more exciting when there are kids around to enjoy it. The thought of having to dye eggs today just about threw me into a deep depression, but we did it, being only slightly paranoid about our table, floor and children being dyed bright spring colors. Now the Easter Bunny just has to come hide them. And then he has to stuff candy into plastic eggs. And hide them. And fill the baskets. And then the kids will wake up tomorrow and want to hunt for them. This was way easier when "the Easter Bunny" was someone else.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Food Obsession

I thought it was sort of funny in college when my trips home to California revolved around food and which restaurants I needed to eat at on my trip. And then I was going home 3-4 times a year. So maybe it's less fun and more sad that even for this short trip home, when I'd actually only be in CA for twoish days, I still had a mental list of where to eat.

In my college days, my list was as follows:
Somis Market & Cafe
In N Out Burger
California Pizza Kitchen (there didn't used to be any in Utah, and we live near one now)

Sometimes it would include:
Surf City Smoothie
The Habit
Ottavio's (has the yummiest penne and eggplant dish... mmm)
Sal's Mexican Restaurant (okay food, crap location, yummiest salsa)

This trip I ate:
a combo burrito from Somis Market
a Double Double w/ no onions from In N Out
a strawberry banana smoohie from Surf City
a basket of strawberries from the strawberry stand by the church (best ever)
AND as a bonus, right by ASU and my BFF's house is a Gandolfo's deli (one of my must stops when in Utah)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

BFF

My BFF (since we were roommates our freshman year at BYU) got married Saturday in the Mesa Arizona Temple. My super sweet hubby bought my plane tickets and made me go. I was worried about traveling with Baby X when he's so tiny and he's had heart problems, and then I'd put off buying my ticket for so long that there weren't any cheap flights available. But my husband bought my ticket and sent us on our way. So nice.

I ended up flying into California and driving to Arizona with my parents. So I got to see my entire family, go to the wedding, and feel like a 14 year old on vacation with her parents (except throw a baby in there somewhere).

Here are just a few pictures from the trip.



bride and groom after the wedding



the beautiful bride



me and Angela at the reception


Baby X also had some milestones on this trip:

first and second airplane trips
two new states (CA and AZ)
new counties (you'll have to check my husband's blog to see how many)
started smiling just as we left and smiled lots on the trip
started cooing and making non crying, grunting, or hiccuping noises


trying to capture some smiles




sort of a smile, right?



oh, and he really discovered his tongue and wanted to show everyone

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mother to One



I've been the mother to only one for about 4 1/2 hours now. You see, Baby X and I are flying to Los Angeles (where my entire family lives) and then driving to Phoenix, to see my bestest friend, Angela, get married in the Mesa Arizona Temple. Unfortunately, my husband's Spring Break is not until next week, and the wedding is this Saturday. Besides, Spring Break for him just means no school and lots of overtime work. So Princess Sparkley and Buddy got shipped to Grandma and Grandpa's in St. Louis. Not really shipped, we drove a bit over an hour, Grandma drove about three, and we met at a mall "in the middle." Basically we drove to Missouri and a bit further east and she drove across the entire state of Missouri. But she picked the meeting spot, not me.

I love my kids and wouldn't trade them for anything, but being mother to only one is SO MUCH easier.

My backseat is not overcrowded.

I can play whatever music I want, sing loudly, and not have to turn the volume down every 30 seconds to answer a question.

I drove in peace. My kids ask about a billion questions a minute. I realized this last week when I was sick, had a sore throat and couldn't talk. They ask questions nonstop!

Running errands at Target was super easy. One kid out of the car, one kid into a cart, one kid back into the car. And he slept the whole time. Fabulous.

I guess I'd forgotten what it was like when it was just me and Princess Sparkley hanging out, running errands and stuff before Buddy came along. But lately, this three kids going everywhere I go thing has been getting a bit hectic. So this is a nice little vacation... for all of us, they're living it up at Grandma's, getting spoiled and maybe I'll get to nap whenever the baby naps like I want. I just won't mention that the only kid is a newborn who just had poop explode out the back of his diaper, all the way up to his shoulder blades. (Which, CRISTIN, I didn't take a picture of to post.) I'll pretend that didn't happen and continue thinking this is easy.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Chocolate Caramel Oatmeal Chews

*

I'm thinking of making up a batch of these right now because I LURVE them. Plus, I like to think of them as a breakfast bar due to the oatmeal content. Sort of like an oatmeal raisin cookie is breakfast. :)

Chocolate Caramel** Oatmeal Chews

a Pampered Chef Recipe

Ingredients:

2 cup quick or old fashioned oats

1 ¾ cups flour, divided

¾ cups packed brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup butter, melted

1 cup butterscotch caramel ice cream topping

½ cup chopped pecans

1 (6 oz.) pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips

vanilla ice cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Combine oats, 1 ½ cups flour, brown sugar and baking soda. Add butter and mix until crumbly. Reserve 1 cup of this crumb mixture. Press remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x13 baker. Bake 15 minutes

Combine ice cream topping and ¼ cup flour. Whisk together until smooth. Drizzle over the crust. Then spread to edges.

Combine the reserved crumb mixture and pecans in a bowl. Sprinkle this and chocolate chips evenly over the caramel mixture and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, cool completely and cut into bars.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.



*Isn't it convenient when someone else has taken a picture of the exact recipe I'm planning to make and posted it on the internet for me?


**Where do you stand on the pronunciation of caramel? Is it carAmel or carmel? Does it matter?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Potty Training Tips



Ha! The tile of this post fooled you. You thought you were going to get a peek at all of my great potty training wisdom. You were wrong. I need YOUR help. Buddy is almost four years old* and has pooped in the potty (sort of- see above picture) three times in his entire life. He does okay peeing in the potty, if I remind him. But he's in a pull-up most of the time because I'm tired of cleaning undies he's pooped in. He assures me that he doesn't know when it's happening, but goes in a corner to take care of business. We've tried EVERYTHING! Stickers, treats, rewards, "Buddy" Day, parades, promises of toys, a new pillow case made out of the race car fabric at the store that he loves**, a frozen custard sundae from Sheridan's, etc. Nothing works. I need your help.


*As a side note, Buddy had delayed speech, and my husband has read that there is a connection between kids with delayed speech and late potty training.

**The kid is seriously obsessed with fabric, he threw a huge fit last time I took him fabric shopping because I didn't buy him the race car fabric he wanted. But I was strong, I didn't give into the screaming fit (he's not usually a fit thrower, especially in public) and he's been promised this fabric once he's regularly pooping in the potty.

Worst Baby Names of 2007

If you've read my blog at all, you know I'm totally obsessed with names. I found this list of the worst baby names of 2007 and had to share. I should forward the list to my family so they'll stop bugging us about our newest babies name, which my brother offered to pay to have changed legally.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Laundry



Just up the street from our home is a dry cleaning store. They have a sign in their window for "Fold 'N Go" laundry services at 69 cents per pound. This always makes me think of rich people who live in New York City. It seems as though those are the only people who would pay to have all of their laundry done for them in this manner. It intrigues me and every time I see the sign I make a mental note to weigh my laundry basket next time it is full. I finally remembered. My laundry, basket included, weighed 22 pounds. So it would cost me $15.18 to have it washed, dried and folded. At times, that would almost be worth it. Except that it wasn't even a very full basket of laundry, it's been much worse. And I can only imagine how much my basket of laundry weighed in college... when I only did laundry because I'd run out of clean underwear. My best friend/roommate would resort to bathing suits to hold off the laundry washing a couple more days, I think I even bought more underwear once. I lived half a block from the Wash Hut in Provo, but would drive my laundry basket over due to the largeness and heaviness of it. There was no way I could walk down the street carrying it. Especially due the the fullness of the basket and the high likelihood that underwear would fall out on the sidewalk somewhere between my house and the laundromat. Would you EVER consider paying to have your laundry done for you? Rich or not so rich?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

FYI: Cadbury Mini Eggs*



For those of you as obsessed with candy/Cadbury chocolates/chocolate in general... Cadbury Mini Eggs** are back in stores for Easter. AND, if you happen to have a Sam's Club membership, or a good friend who does, you can buy a 42 ounce bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs. Woo hoo. Two years in a row now I've accidentally gone to Sam's Club*** when they've had their Easter candy out and found this delicious treasure.

*Thank you to Cecily for introducing me to Cadbury Mini Eggs on our Colorado Road Trip of 1998 or 1999 or somewhere thereabouts.

**These aren't the chocolate eggs wrapped in foil that look like real egg whites and yolks when bitten into, these are candy coated, Cadbury chocolate eggs, similar to the Peanut Butter M&M egg (also in stores now) in size.

***Our Sam's Club is in Topeka, about 45 minutes away, so we don't make the trip too often.

Food Snob




I'm a food snob when it comes to meals that go together. Not nutritionally, or even appearance-wise (my mother would stress over having cauliflower with potatoes with chicken because they are all basically the same color). I just want my meals to go together and taste good together.

It's possible that I have some sort of weird complex. I also don't like to mix my food. It seems like most people I've encountered have no issue with stabbing each pile of different foods on their plate and eating them in one bite. I've gotten better about this... but when I prepare my food plate, each type of food has it's own pile, and if possible, they don't touch each other. When I was a kid we'd eat dinner at my Aunt and Uncle's and their kids essentially stirred the food on their plate into a giant mush and ate it. I nearly lost my appetite watching that.

Meals I've been served that totally gross me out together, but separately would have been fine:
Chicken Parmesan with twice baked potatoes or mashed potatoes
Chicken Parmesan with cinnamon raisin bread

As a kid, my husband was fed pizza and peas for dinner because apparently his parents figured that even if they ordered pizza, they still needed a vegetable. But frozen peas??? They are gross on their own. What about a salad? Carrot sticks? Etc.
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