Pages

Monday, August 31, 2009

Death by Crochet

So I took a little break from blogging last week. For some reason I took a lot of naps, which was nice. This week I'll try to get back to my regular blog posting.

What's really been keeping me away from blogging, however, is not work, or napping or a hectic social life. Things that you would expect might be occupying a 20-something with no children. No. Rather, I've been busy doing the same thing as your grandmother, perhaps your great grandmother: crocheting.

I'm trying to make an afghan for my grandmother and it might just take everything I have in me. I started crocheting a few years ago and have made a few pieces. I started this afghan back when I started crocheting but never got very far. Finally I made a resolution that I'm going to finish it to give it to her for Christmas 2009. Only it's a ridiculously ambitious project for a beginner. It will be riddled with mistakes. Luckily, since it's for my grandmother (Nan), perfection is not the goal. She would probably love it if I gave her cat litter. However, since I'm going substantially beyond cat litter with this incredibly time consuming labor of love, I'm hoping to displace my sister in the coveted role of Favorite Grandchild.

Several years ago Nan had surgery. Diana made her a card. And to this day, that is the nicest gesture someone has ever shown her. Or at least it seems that way to hear her tell it. She always emphasizes that that was the only card that she received and she was so thrilled to get it handmade from Diana. Diana and Nan always had a special relationship but that card seemed to elevate Diana to Favorite status. So, we'll see what she thinks about my afghan. Some of the stitches may be wrong and the squares might not all be the same size but by golly it's got to at least put me in the running!

Here's a picture of one square that I finished. I thought it turned out charmingly... but they don't all look so nice. The picture is rather dark but it has a flower in the middle and I think the outer stitches are pretty. If anyone is a crocheter or knows someone who is really good a crocheting, I have lots of questions so please let me know!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Berries

Whew! Where have I been!? I certainly haven't been paying too much attention to my poor little blog. Unfortunately, I haven't been up to anything really exciting to tell you about now. Well, not exciting if you don't like fruit. If you love berries like us then perhaps you'll enjoy this little post.

Yesterday we went to a little farm about 1 hour south of SLC to pick raspberries and blackberries. It was very enjoyable. The weather was nice and so was the conversation. I continue to be impressed with the produce here. I mentioned a few posts ago how much I love the peaches. The blackberries are also the most delicious that I've ever tasted. Eating a huge, juicy, tender blackberry just plucked off the bush is such a treat! Delectable. The store bought ones pale in comparison.

So, we came home with 10 lbs of blackberries and 9 lbs of raspberries. We're freezing some, and maybe canning some, and gorging ourselves with the rest. A few months ago we went to pick cherries at this same farm and I wrote about it here. But if you missed that post, I'll mention again why I love picking my own fruit so much. First, it's much cheaper. We paid $2 per lb for blacks and $2.25 per lb for raspberries. That's so much cheaper than the store where you pay $3-$5 for a tiny carton. Second, as I already described, the taste is incomparable. Finally, I like to eat local as much as I can because I think it's healthier for us and for the environment.

Yes, this is a visual definition of the word dork.

Tonight I made a Blackberry-Lemon Upside-Down Cake. It was easy and delicious. Try it while berries are in season!

Blackberry-Lemon Upside-Down Cake:

Yield

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons butter or stick margarine, melted
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place 2 teaspoons melted butter in the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan; sprinkle with brown sugar and lemon rind. Top with blackberries; set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Beat granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons butter in a large bowl at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Add the egg and vanilla; beat well. Add flour mixture to egg mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Spoon batter over blackberries.

Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack. Loosen edges of cake with a knife. Place a plate upside down on top of cake pan; invert onto plate.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 239 (18% from fat)
Fat: 4.8g (sat 2.7g,mono 1.4g,poly 0.4g)
Protein: 3.7g
Carbohydrate: 46.2g
Fiber: 2.4g
Cholesterol: 38mg
Iron: 1.5mg
Sodium: 224mg
Calcium: 97mg

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mischief.

Mischief. Penelope. She loves her mischief. She has an innocent-looking exterior with a dainty little meow but inside she is shrewdly planning into that which she will next get (I tried to do that sentence without the dangling preposition just to see what it sounded like and it was so absurd that I had to leave it that way. Funny!). It's not that bad, actually. But she has been pulling more shenanigans lately. You know cats, how they love their shenanigans.

Exhibit A:
Apparently this bag was just begging to be shredded and she could not resist its siren call. This concerns me a little bit because this is the trashcan where we deposit all of their "business" before we take it to the dumpster. Seems like it could easily fall over if she is clawing at it. And if that happened , I'm pretty sure I'd throw her into the dumpster with her "business." She'd probably love it in there. All the stuff to shred!


Exhibit B:
We can't keep any sponges or dish cloths in the sink. For some reason it's her favorite nighttime activity to drag them out of the sink and bat them around the kitchen floor. Can you imagine anything more disgusting than chewing on a sponge that is filled with soap and food particles??? But she loves it. I guess when you have to clean yourself with your own tongue, maybe the sponges aren't that bad. But, we put them away now so that's no longer an issue.

On Saturday she made a giant leap from a dresser in our closet all the way to the shelving at the top of the opposite side of the closet. It was actually a pretty impressive leap- probably 4-5 feet. She stayed in the top of the closet doing who knows what for a few hours (probably more mischief). The way down wasn't so smooth. She knocked over several boxes that crashed to the bottom of the closet. Luckily there was a nice, big (okay, gargantuan) pile of dirty clothes to break the fall. Thank goodness I hadn't done any laundry! We should probably keep those clothes there just in case!



Moi? No, it was like that when I got there.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

When does one acquire judgment and foresight? I mean, developmentally speaking. Is it 5 years old? 10th grade? If I had paid more attention in my developmental psychology class perhaps I would remember. Oh well. That is neither here nor there. The point is Peter and I appear to lack those things! Years of school do not buy common sense, apparently.

Every Friday night we have been trying to go rock climbing. Peter has this guidebook for rock climbing the Wasatch range. It does a good job of describing the climbing routes and a decent job of describing how to get to the climbs (usually you have to hike a bit) but it does an abominably poor job of giving you any actual distances between the parking lot and the climbing wall.

So last night we parked at about 7 pm. We thought we'd probably have at least an hour of climbing which is enough for us to each do one or two routes. The problem is that we didn't factor in the 40 minute hike- one way! We also didn't account for the fact that it's been getting darker earlier. We embarked on the trail to get to the wall following all the landmarks listed in the book. It wasn't that the hike was that long, but the final part was spent scrambling up a small talus mountain. It can really be slow going to navigate loose rocks. The trouble with not knowing how far you have to go is that you're always too willing to think "I'm sure we're almost there!" Lesson #1: You are not almost there. If you don't know the distance of your hike, save yourself the trouble. Turn around, get in the car and go to Starbucks. You'll have a much more pleasant Friday night.

We finally made it to the wall and it wasn't actually that dark. The cliff behind us was lit up, glowing with the last rays of the day. Providentially, we had also found that Peter happened to have a headlamp in his bag, if we were to need it. So, I wasn't too nervous at that point.

It's amazing how quickly night can fall. Right after Peter started his climb I began to hear the evening chorus of crickets. Soon bats began fluttering above me. "It's nighttime," I was thinking as a panic began to well up inside of me. Lesson #2: Days get shorter at the end of the summer! Plan accordingly.

Peter finished his climb and the mountain behind me is no longer glowing, it's shrouded in smoky darkness. How did we end up in the mountains, in the dark, with a 30 minute hike ahead- a hike down a perilous mound of loose rock, no less- and only one headlamp?? We should know better! Lesson # 3: For crying out loud, if you are going to go up into the mountains anywhere near the proximity of dusk, bring a jacket and as many flashlights as there are people!

So, we began our descent climbing down the jagged rock mountain of broken bones and dreams (that's not actually what it's called that's just what it felt like at the time). At the base of the gully we entered into the black forest of doom. Did you know that you cannot see anything underneath the trees at night? You probably already knew that! And so did we, but that was not impetus enough for us to pack another lamp, or you know, to get out before dark! So we struggled through the forest with only a narrow globe of light to guide our way. We found the creek where we had to cross and walk downstream to pick up the trail on the other side. At least the creek was slightly lit because it didn't have a canopy of trees above it choking out all rays of light like a black hole. So we crossed but we could not find the trail on the other side. These were perhaps the most harrowing moments of this ordeal. We began to fight our way through dense foliage, limbs clawing at us, looking for the trail. At one point Peter said "where the heck are we?" NOT THE WORDS THAT YOU WANT TO HEAR.

Finally, thankfully, the trail opened before us. From that point on we had a little more light and the terrain was smoother so we soon made it back to the car. And, wow, am I thankful that it wasn't worse. Can you imagine if we had not had that lamp or if one of us had fallen and had not been able to continue?! We did pass a homeless man on the way up the trail so maybe he could've been of assistance. It's probably best that it didn't come to that though. Don't ya think?

That headlamp was our godsend, literally. God was watching out for us even in the midst of our foolishness. We seem to keep making little mistakes like this. Usually they don't result in such scary scenarios. Think then hike! I'm going to try to adopt that slogan from now on. (Lesson #4: The word order of slogan is critical! Do not interchange verbs!)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

4 years!

Today Peter and I have been married for four years. It's gone by so fast. And I'm glad those 4 years are over! Mostly the part about being in medical school. It's nice now that we both have gainful employment! We're movin' on up.

In honor of the day, here are 4 reasons that I love Peter (though there are many more):

1) He did the dishes last night :o)

2) He puts up with a lot of ranting and raving from me and has never once called me insane. (Though he has probably thought it. It's nice that he doesn't say it out loud and instead patiently deals with my idiosyncrasies.)

3) He agreed to let me get cats and even lets them sleep on the pillow at night. And cleans out their litter box! This might seem like a silly reason. But he loves the cats because they make me happy and that's sweet.

4) He trusts God with his life and our futures. When we were in Africa and found out Peter didn't match for residency we both could have easily panicked. We had no idea what we would do and we had limited ability to contact people in the states. Peter especially could have given into disappointment and been anxious and resentful. But he was humble and chose to be patient and to strive for contentment in the midst of uncertainty. And God has blessed us abundantly through the job He provided.

Here's to many more years together! And a passel of kids and pets to come hopefully!

Recipe of the Month

This is one of our favorites! It's easy, healthy and delicious! It's one of our staples from cooking light. You could add chicken if you need meat to complete your meal. But we love it just as it is.


Orzo with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Goat Cheese



For a make-ahead meal, cook the orzo, then toss with the rest of the ingredients in a 2 1/2-quart casserole dish. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Bake at 375ยบ for 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Yield

6 servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups)

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) package orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with garlic and oregano
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and diced
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese

Preparation

Cook the pasta in a Dutch oven according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain, and toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in pan over medium heat. Add zucchini; cook 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in parsley and next 5 ingredients (parsley through bell peppers). Cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in pasta and cheeses.

Nutritional Information

Calories:
429 (20% from fat)
Fat:
9.3g (sat 4.3g,mono 3.3g,poly 0.9g)
Protein:
17.4g
Carbohydrate:
67.5g
Fiber:
3.9g
Cholesterol:
15mg
Iron:
4.2mg
Sodium:
781mg
Calcium:
228mg
Cooking Light, MARCH 2003

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thoughts on Health Care Reform

Oy Vey. I like politics. I really like to keep up with news. But when it comes to synthesizing that information to form an actual opinion, I am pitifully unable. My brain swims among all the opposing views. Just when I think I'm resolved on a certain point I hear another side and then I'm undecided again. Just to give you an example of how dramatically my views can vacillate, last election season I was torn between Ron Paul and Obama. (I really like Ron Paul and I find libertarian ideas intriguing but in the end I don't think they're realistic.) These are the reasons that I have not yet voted in an election. I just keep changing my mind!

I've been keeping up with the health care reform news because 1) I, like everyone, will need health care at some point and 2) as a doctor and a nurse, our lives and livelihoods are inextricably tied with the health care system.

Here are some disparate resources that I have found valuable/interesting in learning about the debate and forming the small fragments of opinion that I do have:

I think that there needs to be universal coverage. However, universal coverage does NOT necessarily mean socialized medicine (I am not in favor of a single-payer, government-run system- which doesn't seem to be what the legislation is proposing). A year or so ago, Peter and I watched a documentary on PBS called Sick Around the World. It opened my eyes to the fact that many countries that have universal coverage (and most developed countries do) have a combination of public and private options. If you click on the link you can watch the entire thing online.

I also like FactCheck.org. It's a nonpartisan group that tries to clarify or debunk popular myths. Like the myth that there's a clause in the current reform legislation requiring death panels to encourage the old and infirm to refuse treatments and die earlier.

One thing that concerns me is the amount of influence that special interest lobbies will have over this legislation. The NY Times has already reported on a deal that the Obama administration made with the big pharma lobby. This has made me think that I need to get more involved in local politics. Our politicians are supposed to answer to you and to me, not to big lobbies. When the President himself has to ask the Pharmaceutical Industry what it wants before any legislation is passed, that pretty much eclipses "we the people" out of the equation, does it not? It makes me angry to think that good legislation may not be passed if special interests don't stand behind it. Where have all the John Adams gone?? But, I suppose I can't complain because I have never voted. (But, I'm still going to complain. :o) )

Any thoughts???

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My cat boss wants me to write a full report on the defense tactics of string.

One small step for a cat, one giant leap for cat-kind. So there's a cat in Georgia that has earned her GED online. I'm really thinking that I can work this to my advantage by getting Penelope and Theodore through school and then working full time in high paying jobs. Early retirement for me!

They're pretty ambitious so I think the GED will be a breeze for them. After that it's Harvard.
I'm pretty sure some of you will be working for them one day. That shouldn't be too bad. They take a lot of naps.

"I need constant surveillance on the activity of that infernal green mouse. How does he continually return to taunt me?!? Get that to me by noon. Or by 3. Whenever. After my nap."


"This company's number one goal is to reduce the casualties produced by curiosity."

Just a little fyi, I'm pretty sure the bonuses will go to those with the best ear-scratching technique.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday Ramblings

Peter and I got up at 4:30 this morning on purpose. Why would we do that on a Saturday morning? Is it because we've finally cracked under the pressure of our hectic lives (you know, all the camping and hiking takes its toll on a person!) and now I'm writing this entry from the county psych ward? No. Though that would probably make for a more interesting post. We were just trying to go to the Ogden Hot Air Balloon and Arts Festival. The website makes it clear that if you want to watch the balloons take off you must arrive on the wrong side of dawn. So we arose at 4:30 AM to drive 1.5 hours to Ogden. It rained the entire drive. This didn't bode well, we knew, but sometimes storms pass through really quickly so we thought there was still a chance that the balloons would take off as planned. Sadly, it was not to be. We arrived at about 6 AM, slept in the car for 1.5 hours while waiting to see if the rain would depart. When it didn't clear up, we left. But on the way back we ate breakfast at this local diner. I had a cinnamon roll the size of my head. It was all kinds of delicious! But I think I shaved about 10 minutes off of my life expectancy with all the butter that was on that thing. But it was worth it! Cinnamon heart attack goodness!

On the way back we went to the Salt Lake Farmers' Market like we do every Saturday morning. Texas is well known for its peaches. Georgia has famous peaches. Growing up I never heard anything about legendary Utah peaches. But they exist. This must be a well kept secret so that Utah people don't have to share. The peaches here are so mouthwateringly sweet, succulent and huge. I even have to say that they surpass the Texas Peaches that I used to buy at the Houston farmers' market (but the ones in Houston are still delicious).

Meanwhile, Theadore wants you to know that something is missing in his life.


He's so funny. I'm used to cats meowing desperately when they're hungry. Theadore doesn't really do that he just maintains a silent vigil near his food bowl.

Here he has taken matters into his own hands and is attempting to extract food through osmosis. Just kidding. We fed him. And he just jumped up on the fridge to oversee the goings on in his domain.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In the News

So, I read this article today on msnbc. It decsribes how a muslim woman was banned from a swimming pool in France for wearing a "burquini," a full body swimsuit which many muslim women prefer to wear swimming.

If you've been paying attention to the news lately you might have heard that Nickolas Sarkozy has tossed around the idea of banning burqas in France (France has already banned overt religious symbols in public schools including Muslim headscarves, Christian crosses, and Jewish skullcaps). Mr. Sarkozy claims that burqas are opressive to women. Okay, perhaps they are in some cases. But some women choose to wear them. Is it not also oppresive to limit women's religious choices? Some might argue that it is also oppressive for women to be constantly bombarded with unrealistic, media-enhanced body images like we are in the states. In that case, perhaps we should make the bikini illegal? Or perhaps we should just outlaw advertising altogether?

I'm not muslim, I'm not necessarily supporting the burqa here. But I am supportive of someone's right to choose to wear a burqua. I believe in religious freedom because, as a devout Christian, I want to be able to practice my own religion with out hindrance.

So back to the article. The swimming pool claimed that they denied the woman entrance not because of her religious affiliation but because of strict sanitary standards that french pools have. Maybe this is true, the article points out that France does have unusually strict public health standards:

"These clothes are used in public, so they can contain molecules, viruses, et cetera, which will go in the water and could be transmitted to other bathers," Guillaume said in a telephone interview.

"We reminded this woman that one should not bathe all dressed, just as we would tell someone who is a nudist not to bathe all naked," he said.

Guillaume said France's public health standards require all pool-goers to don swimsuits for women and tight, swimming briefs for men — and caps to cover their hair. Bathers also must shower before entering the water."

I understand public health codes, but does anyone realize that people pee in that pool? It's true. I don't care what anyone says. People urinate in swimming pools. That's as certain as death and taxes.

Another person quoted in the article was Alan Kelyor, the mayor of the region where this incident took place. He said:

" he could not understand why the woman would want to swim in head-to-toe clothes.

"We are going back in civilization," he said by telephone. Women have fought for decades for equal rights with men, he said. "Now we are putting them back in burqas and veils."

Okay, Americans don't understand why European men like to wear tiny speedoes (although, this article sheds some light) but that doesn't mean they don't have the right to wear them and the rest of us have to deal with it! And again, is it not also "going back in civilization" to restrict people's religious rights?

I don't know about the burquini incident. Maybe it was just about sanitation regulations, if the regulations are that stringent. But, my concern is that France is supposed to be a democratic nation and I see these laws banning religious apparel as a threat to all religious people and to democracy. Furthermore, France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe and it is on its way to alienating about 5 million people which doesn't sound like a good idea to me. I think France needs to make sure that freedom of religion doesn't become freedom from religion (for those who believe). Secularism taken to the extreme can become as oppressive as any religion ever was.


In more adorable news, there was a big birthday in SLC on Monday! A 251 lb baby girl elephant was born at the SLC zoo! This is the first African elephant born in Utah ever and the first elephant of any kind born in UT in 90 years.

Don't baby elephants just turn your insides all gooey? A picture of a baby elephant can elevate my mood from hum drum to giddy. Is there any more pitifully awkward, hideously charming animal on our planet?? Oh my gosh! Happiness!

Here are some baby elephant pictures Peter and I took in Kenya:


I have another Nobel idea! Don't you think the world would be a better place if everyone had a baby elephant?!? Instead of working on something rediculous like healthcare reform, our government needs to address the issue of us, the people, not being able to snuggle a baby elephant every day! I think that is a violation of the pursuit of happiness clause.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's Grate!


In the same Macy's shopping spree that I've mentioned several times now, the one where we purchased our latte maker and my beloved knife (all with store credit), I also bought the little beauty in the picture above: A microplane grater. It was only about $10 and I love it. I have another grater that works well for cheese and vegetables. But I could never grate citrus peels well with it. I had trouble getting enough zest and I would have to press so hard that the fruit would end up crushed.

Those days are gone! This little grater is made specifically for citrus. It grates very finely and I just have to apply it very lightly. In my experience, grating citrus peels is not the most important cooking activity. I don't do it that often. But when it's required, the zest usually adds an essential touch to a dish. So this is one of those things that you might not need often but when you do need it, your life will be easier because of it. And your food will be more delicious.

Also doubles as convenient prop microphone.

Monday, August 10, 2009

We're Almost at Critical Capacity

One thing that has, I won't say surprised me, but definitely has affected me since we got our cats is the amount of cat hair that collects on a daily basis in our duplex. The sheer volume. Metric tons of cat hair, I am sure. Come wintertime I might be harvesting it and fashioning a cozy nest in which I can curl up and dream about scorching deserts. But right now I am just trying to eke out an existence not completely insulated by a coat of fur.

I knew this would happen, which is why I say it didn't surprise me. But I've never had only inside cats so I didn't realize the extent of the situation. I shudder to think about the amount of cat hair that I have imbibed, inhaled or absorbed through osmosis.

Cat hair. It has superpowers. It has adapted itself to exist everywhere and in all conditions. From the dark caverns under the furniture to the high altitude bookshelves. From the tropical humidity of the bathroom to the tundra-like freezer. It can float like a feather and stick like glue. I see billowing tumble weeds of cat hair rolling softly down the flat plain of our hall. It swirls in the gales under the fan. It collects on the sheer cliff-faces of our curtains.

Though I do try to keep the hair under control. I have resigned myself to its presence. I know that if I tried to completely eradicate the cat hair, that showdown would only end one way. The cat hair would organize itself, shaping its members into a mythical, griffen-like monster and devour me whole.

Last Monday at work, I questioned whether I might be a little too resigned to living with cat hair. It was a super busy day at work and we were short staffed. I had to scarf down my lunch in 10 minutes. As I was eating my soup, I noticed a hair in it. For a split second I thought about removing it. But I was so tired and in such a hurry that I decided it just wasn't worth the effort. I just kept on eating. Theodore sleeps on my pillow so I'm kidding myself if I think I haven't already ingested enough cat hair to coat at least a litter of six.

I think that I might have an idea that will catapult me into Nobel Laureate status. It is a small vacuum that can be attached permanently to a feline's back and collect the hair as it falls off. So, I'm going to go ahead and start looking into plane tickets to Sweden now. Because when all of the other Nobels are announced it's just going to be a mad rush.

Now, please don't let the fact that I knowingly eat cat hair keep you from coming to visit. I do put up a valiant effort against the fur. I sweep every day and dust and vacuum every week. I also comb the cats which doesn't seem to be effective at all. Anyways, I promise, you won't have to eat cat hair unless you want to!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Grizzlies and Wolves Beware. There's a New Kind of Wildlife Around!

And that wildlife I'm referring to are the Ness Children. They are cute and smart but still wild. On Thursday morning all 10 of us packed up, loaded the cars and headed to Yellowstone National Park. Our goal was to get on the road by 10:00 am. Guess what time we actually got on the road. Go on, guess!

10:30 am!! I'll bet you thought I was going to say 1 pm. We were early! (Early for us!)

So, we arrived that evening. Here is some of what we saw in the park:

Elk

Coyote

Bison

You might be asking yourself "What is the difference between a bison and a buffalo?" We've all pondered this question at one time or another. And now, my friends, I have the answers to put your minds to rest. According to this website, "'Buffalo' is the popular name often used to describe North American bison; however, this is a misnomer. In fact, buffalo are distinctly different animals from bison. Although both bison and buffalo belong to the same family, Bovidae, true 'buffalo' are native only to Africa and Asia."

Next time you hear someone erroneously refer to a bison as a buffalo you can say with authority: "You are mistaken, sir (ma'am)!" And proceed to school him in the true nature of things. He will much appreciate it, I'm sure.

We did two full days driving around Yellowstone visiting each of the tourist villages. Unfortunately, Peter and I had a miscommunication regarding our camera and it died the first afternoon. Otherwise, I would have taken about 1,000 more pictures. The landscape is so beautiful there. It is a feast for the eyes.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

Nesses.

More Nesses.

The Dragon's Mouth steam vent. As the water ebbed and flowed it made a growling sound like a dragon I suppose.

Old Faithful.


These next pictures are from Peter's dad's camera. A lot of them were taken by Isaiah. He's quite a good photographer!

Thermal Pool. Don't you just want to jump in?? But that's not a good idea because you would be scalded.

All 10 of us near the Old Faithful Visitor's Center.

Bubbling Mud Pot.

Fountain Geyser. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time to catch this one. It's not very predictable. But it is quite spectacular. Its eruptions are up to 100 ft high. You can get up really close to it. We were probably 20 feet away.

When we were driving out of the park there were herds of bison everywhere. They blocked traffic crossing the roads. It took forever to actually get out of the park but it was fun to see them up close. I don't know how well the video below will work. But it is footage of a bison that was walking down the road right next to our vehicles.


video

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Nesses do SLC

Before the Nesses came to visit us a co worker told me about a thing called connect pass SLC. So we looked into it and found that it is a pass that costs $20 for adults, and $16 for kids. It's good for two days and it gets you into about 12 different SLC attractions. There's also a meal included. So we bought passes when the Nesses were here and it was such a good deal. It payed for itself by 12:00 pm on the first day. I was off work for one of the days they were so I accompanied them on their adventures. And hoo boy, it was a marathon day of fun and yawning (some of us run out of steam earlier than others!). So, if you'll be coming to visit, you might want to take advantage of this!

Our first stop was Discovery Gateway, Utah's Children's Museum. We walked into the entrance which had a few whimsical art pieces and some giant gears that the kids could play with. We had to wait there for a few minutes while we worked out tickets and parking. While we waited the kids lamented "there's really nothing to do here." I was like, "how about you wait 2 minutes until we actually get into the museum before you make that judgment." Patience: it's a learned skill.

Busy as bees. The little ones are playing in this giant beehive. They had to grab plastic balls and deposit them at a certain place in the hive. Then the balls would travel up and around the hive and come out somewhere else and the whole thing would begin again. I thought this was so funny because the kids really did become like little bees buzzing around. They were super focused on the task of transferring those colored balls. What industry! It almost puts real bees to shame!

Meanwhile some older Nesses (and a Stephens) displaying their musical stylings. You can see the beehive behind them.



Climbing on the rockwall.

Savannah (on the right) has charisma. I could see a television career in her future.

We had to ride the train to eat lunch at Lionhouse pantry in downtown SLC. All the kids were really excited to ride the train. It was cute. Though I was a little nervous because sometimes the doors open and close really quickly giving you approximately 0.5 seconds to get on board. But we made it there and back again without incident. (Thank you, God.)

After lunch we went to the Planetarium which also has an IMAX theater. So we looked around at the exhibits for a while then we saw a 3D movie called Under the Sea. It was very cool. But I have to admit that I dozed off. And I was not the only one.

That evening we all went to Liberty Park and grilled hamburgers, chicken skewers and corn on the cobb. We invited our friend, Dr. Mize, who went to med school with Peter and is in SLC doing his OB/GYN residency. He promptly took over the grilling duties because, as it turns out, he has the most grilling experience. Well done, Ben! Everything was delicious!

Joe, Diane and Anna relaxing.

The kids playing on the playground. This was one of the most exhausing days of my life. But so much fun! The next day the Nesses continued their adventure. They went to Snowbird ski resort and took a tram to the top of the mountain. Then they visited an aquarium. All of that was included on the pass. It was an excellent deal. It kept them from being cooped up in the duplex all day terrorizing the cats. :o)

Monday, August 03, 2009

More Books!

This is the other book I've read recently that I thought was fantastic. I picked this book up because it was about $1.00 at half-priced books and because it was a classic. I imagined that it would be incredibly dull. With a title like Crime and Punishment I pictured some long, tedious commentary on the inner workings of the Russian legal system. Despite these expectations, I started the book and was very pleased to have been totally mistaken.

This novel is a gripping psychological drama almost from the beginning. So, if you're just interested in a juicy crime drama you would probably like it. Beyond that, if you like to ponder deeper themes, there is plenty of food for thought. This book provides, like, an entire all you can eat buffet for your brain. I read it in May and I'm still thinking about it. It covers a wide range of themes like poverty, personal conscience, sin and redemption as well as the broader themes of Russian philosophies against their historical backdrop.

Wow, I really wish that I was in school and could write a paper on this book. Why did I not become an English teacher? Why?

This book is not light hearted. It's rather dark and disturbing at times but there is a glimmer of hope. The tone of the book personally resonated with me because I feel that the somber portrayal of human nature and the human condition is accurate. But also accurate is the opportunity for rebirth and redemption which is portrayed at the end of the novel. I won't go into more detail or I might spoil the ending for you!



I have one more suggestion but this one is kind of a long shot. It's the Lord of the Rings trilogy on tape performed by Rob Inglis. Peter and I were able to listen to this one because we had to drive from Texas to Utah twice in the month of May. But we actually just finished it on our way to Yellowstone last week. It is very long. But the narrator is fantastic. He does all the voices including female voices and he sings! Each character is totally recognizable. The subtle nuances in this man's voice will blow your mind. He is very talented. These are excellent books, so I recommend them for reading or listening. It is quite an undertaking to get through all three but it can be done and it is well worth it.

"Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to... "

- Frodo to Sam
J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, August 01, 2009

May I Reccommed...

I have read a few good books lately and wanted to recommend them as summer reading suggestions for anyone that has time to read and is looking for a good book. Since these are summer reading suggestions I meant to post this last month but never got around to it. Oh well. Perhaps some of you will still have time to pick up a book before the summer ends.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.

This is one of my favorite Jane Austen books. She only wrote six novels and I've read all except Persuasion. Out of all of those I have to admit that I did find Emma and Mansfield Park rather dull. But those feelings are more than compensated for by my ardent fondness for Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and now Northanger Abbey making Jane Austen probably my favorite author.

I love the heroine in this novel, Catherine Morland. She is more sweetly naive than some of Austen's other leading females. In the book Cathrine is obsessed with reading gothic novels. She gets into trouble as she begins to interpret her life through the lens of a fiction novel and detects dark gothic mysteries where there are none. The whole thing is so lighthearted and witty. It is like a deliciously fluffy, iced cupcake for your brain. It's a quick read.

Here is one of my favorite excerpts. Catherine (CM) is talking to Henry Tilney (HT). She is puzzled because Henry's brother asked an engaged woman to dance even though he earlier said he hated dancing. CM, being so sweetly naive, suggests it is because he felt sorry for her because her fiancee is away. But Henry knows his intentions are not nearly so honorable: the brother is an incorrigible flirt.

"Henry smiled, and said, 'How very little trouble it can give you to understand the motive of other people's actions.'

CM: 'Why?- What do you mean?'

HT: 'With you, it is not, How is such a one likely to be influenced? What is the inducement most likely to act upon such a person's feelings, age, situation, and probable habits of life considered?- but, how should I be influenced; what would be my inducement in acting so and so?'

CM: 'I do not understand you.'

HT: 'Then we are on very unequal terms, for I understand you perfectly well.'

CM: 'Me?-yes; I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.'

This post got kind of long so I will post my other suggestion tomorrow. :o)