Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Update on Brandon in Vietnam!

Hey, Guess what!? Brandon is in Vietnam! I know most of you reading this already know that, but just in case you didn't, there you go. ;)

For any of you that didn't hear about the fiasco that occurred last Thursday, here's the run down on that:

Brandon went to the airport on time with the other four guys in his group, got through security and everything just fine. However, at the last minute they wouldn't let him on the 4:45 (mountain time) flight to San Francisco (connecting to the flight to Vietnam) because his passport expires April 22nd and to get into Vietnam you need a passport that doesn't expire for at least six months.

This stipulation is buried in the details when you book the flights, but Peter didn't notice when he booked the flight and Brandon didn't notice when he looked over the confirmation. So, Brandon was stranded in SLC and had until about 10:30 (pacific time) to be at the San Francisco airport to make the 12:05 flight with his group. And in the mean time figure out how to get them to let him on that one. He called the Vietnamese consulate (I'm pretty sure the phone numbers for that came from his parents! Woo! Shauna and Duane!) and the man he worked with finally agreed to try and help him (said no at first and then finally called him back randomly and said yes) by sending him an exemption email, but told him it would take a few hours.

Brandon scrambled to find a flight to SFO but couldn't find one. He eventually found one (had to buy a new ticket for that leg) to Oakland and then took a pricey cab across the bay to SFO and met up with his group. The official email exemption came through and though I don't know the details of his interactions with the airport employees at that point, it got him on the flight. I worried for the rest of the day (while he flew across the Pacific to Taiwan and then to Ho Chi Minh City) whether or not it would get him through customs and everything when he finally got to Vietnam, but all of that went smoothly.

"We've only been on this trip for 6 hours, but in those few hours Brandon was blocked from boarding our plane in SLC for a silly reason which resulted in tense phone calls to the emergency line at the Vietnamese consulate, a mad dash in a taxi from Oakland to SFO, and a last minute letter from the Vietnamese minister in DC. But miracle of miracles, this guy is still coming with us! - Grant"

So they left SLC on the 26th and after a layover in Taiwan arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in the early evening of the 28th and made their way to Hanoi from there. I'm not entirely sure what happened to the remainder of the 28th and 29th as far as their travel to Hanoi was concerned.

Taiwan International Airport layover (from Grant). Brandon said, "I took a nap on the floor behind a bench in front of the homee kitchen. Yes. I spelled that right. God bless Asia. We are going to try boarding in the next hour. Hopefully the next time you hear from me, I will be in Vietnam and through customs."

Hotel in Hanoi (finally some sleep!) "It took 40 hours, but we made it!" - Grant

View from the Hanoi hotel balcony (from Brandon)

Morning of the the 30th and they set off for Vu Linh where they had a home stay for the evening (a house on stilts next to a rice paddy)! I don't think I heard from them that day, but somewhere along the way this picture was taken.

Proof that they're stopping for food!

Morning of the 31st they set off for Ha Giang. It sounds like somewhere during the 30th Grant had a brief interaction with a water buffalo that resulted in him hurting his arm. Brandon said he headed back to Hanoi the morning of the 31st but I don't know what the plan is as far as he's concerned. Hopefully he rejoins them soon!

Brandon sent me these photos from the 31st,

Lunch in Yen The.

Really nice bungalow with a sit down toilet. ;)
And this one from Clay,

I like this one. :) 
For those of you on facebook, there is also a little tour of the bungalow they're staying in. Beautiful view. They seem to be doing well! Grant also posted a little video from midnight in Hanoi so it seems like he's doing alright.  Brandon said their plan for the evening was to take baths in wooden tubs and get massages. Not a bad way to bring in the new year!

They're approximately 14 hours ahead of me here in Utah (Mountain time) so they should be heading out soon towards Dong Van. More updates to come later!

Note: If you send him facebook messages or emails, try to send them in short snippets (a few sentences). Any more than that and he's not able to see all of them!

A Southern Holiday

Happy New Years Eve!

Here's an update from the last little while...

The weekend before Christmas brought bowling and the Dead Sea Scrolls, as planned. The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit was very interesting, though not perfect. It started off really well, with some live presenters introducing the story of the discovery to us. Really cool intro. And the set up of the whole place with lighting and everything was really good. I just wanted to see more on exactly what was recovered in the hundreds of documents.  A visual list would have been nice.

Monday before Christmas Brandon took me to the airport and we said our good byes before I caught my flight to Nashville (first class - a rarity!) and he headed home. Kyle picked me up in Nashville and we drove back down to Huntsville arriving just in time to go to bed. Because of the plethora of people in the house, Morgan and I stayed at a neighbor's house across the street. This turned out to be both very comfortable and somewhat amusing. These particular neighbors were mostly out of town for the couple of days we stayed there. We had the company of one of their more friendly cats on several mornings.

Tuesday - Christmas Eve - was mostly a take it easy day. We wrapped presents and cooked delicious meals, hung out and talked and played games. There were - let's see, 16 of us in the house of a regular basis? My parents, grandparents, four siblings, two spouses, five nieces/nephews (niecen - the best plural word I've come up with for nieces/nephews) - definitely a full house.

Christmas packages!

Christmas horde for 16!

Syliva and Dathan wrapping!

Rachel cooking!

Yopa cooking!


Vivian being cute!

Carina cooking!

Kyle relaxing!



Along with a full house came a stomach flu-ish bug that took turns working it's way around the house. Not fun, but mild enough to not be debilitating for anyone. I didn't get sick until the Friday after Christmas and even then I just felt a little sick to my stomach and it was mostly gone by Saturday.

Christmas morning we woke up early and everyone took their stockings down and sorted through the goodies. My parent's house has a mantelpiece but it doesn't have a gap in the back to catch hooks and after the fiasco of the mantelpiece falling off the fireplace a number of years ago when we had about this many people, we elected to hang the stockings in bunches on hooks in the kitchen. It worked quite well.
After stockings came breakfast. Quiche, fruit salad, and virgin strawberry daiquiris. Yum! With everyone being sick off and on the smell of goetta seemed like it would be more nausea producing than anything, so no goetta this year.

Once breakfast was wrapped up we all gathered round the literal horde of presents to begin the unwrapping party. Sixteen people, particularly when five them are children, means potentially a lot of presents. I got a number of wonderful gifts, particularly board games. :)



Christmas action!
There were two gifts that were particularly fun. The first was my dad's. This was from all of us to him (and my mom, though she was in on it with us). We got him tickets to go see Waiting for Godot (with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen) on Broadway in New York. So we all knew that somewhere Kyle had wrapped that up for him. But it got so much better. Kyle finally presented a set of three large packages tied together to my Dad and told him to open them up from top to bottom. So, he grabbed the first package and opened it to find a super-size kitty littler pooper scooper. Keep in mind that at this point no one had any idea what was going on besides Kyle. So we're all completely stumped and my dad is shaking with laughter at the absurdity of it. Package two turns out to a locked cash box with no key....hmmm...what on earth could a giant kitty litter scoop and a locked cash box have in common? Package number three opens to a box full of kitty litter and what looks suspiciously like little cat poop pellets. Gross! It isn't rare to see my dad laugh, but he was rolling in his seat as he realized his task. Yes, he sifted through that kitty litter and found that key! And opened the cash box and was completely stunned by the tickets. It was wonderful. An exceptional family experience. The kitty poop turned out to be tootsie rolls that Kyle had mashed together and shaped to be appropriate look-alikes and then dipped in water and rolled in the kitty litter. Almost edible. ;)

The second gift was Morgan's to Kyle. He opened up a giant TV box full of stuffing to find a tiny slip of red paper that led him on a treasure hunt from Morgan's coat, to our world map, to the book A Christmas Carol, to the DVD of V for Vendetta, and finally out to the pond dock where a tiny bottle bobbed at the surface of the pond. He grabbed the bottle and pulled the foot and a half length of twine attached to it that led to a package weighted down and sunk with rocks. A brand new frisbee once all was said and done. A fun variation from the normal gift giving.

(Morgan and I sank the frisbee the evening before and had some trouble in the process. We'd wrapped the frisbee well and taped a rock to the bottom of it, but when we tried to sink it, the air inside the bag wrapped around the frisbee kept the whole thing afloat. We added another rock to that and the whole thing finally began to sink with lots of little bubble coming up, only to descend about an anticlimactic foot into the water. All that work for a foot of water. ;) We dragged it a little farther off the dock, but it was still shallow enough to see.)

Much of the remainder of Christmas was spent preparing a large meal for the 16 of us plus six more when more family came. The dinner was delicious and my grandparents presented a special gift to each of their grandkids. We sang Christmas Carols and washed dishes and had a wonderful evening. Morgan and I turned in early to watch Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind. We didn't make it more than half way before falling asleep.

Boxing Day Thursday arrived and a good day of rest was deserved all around. The kids played with their toys and we went and took some family pictures before coming back to play games and relax. In the evening we played Pandemic and kept in touch with Brandon who was headed to the airport. He called us with an entirely different fiasco on his end and we spent the next several hours trying to help him from afar. Things resolved to a point and we proceeded to save the world from disease (in Pandemic) and called it a night.

Friday morning I woke up not feeling great and with no appetite but we got everything packed and headed South to Florida just after lunch. Long hours of conversation and driving with a few detours to escape traffic on the way. We got to Orlando just after midnight and headed to bed.

Saturday morning bright and early we were up and at it! We drove down to Florida for a good friend, Lydia Weaver's wedding. My mom and Kyle were both shooting it. Pictures in the morning, pictures at the temple, pictures at the ring ceremony, and pictures at the reception. Long day but very fun. I'm really glad we got to be there.

Sunday morning we headed downtown to Island of Adventure. Michael, Rachel, Ari, and Kaleb had meant to go with us but they got another round of the stomach sickness stuff and decided to go another day. So the three of us headed to the park for one purpose: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. :) Prior to going, I'm somehow thought that "Harry Potter World" was a separate park entirely, but only once we were there did I realize that it was a new part of Islands of Adventure.

Let me first just say that this part of the park was exceptionally well done. All the details were spot on. Lots of creativity and thought was put into making this all seem real. The employees/cast of that part of the park were very active in their rolls, being helpful and unhelpful in their treatment of their apparent place in the world. One example of this was my mother inquiring about the empty space above some of the indefinitely closed shops. She asked if  it was used for something and the lady we asked told us that those shops were just closed for the day. My mom rephrased her question once more before I realized what was going on and told her that the lady probably couldn't answer our question. After all, this was a real village and we were only muggles. ;)


We had some butterbeer, walked through the castle and rode the ride, poked our head in all the shops and restaurants, went into Olivander's for a wand presentation (they like to choose a child for this and the child they chose didn't speak very much English but did surprisingly well all the same), and window shopped to our heart's content. I think I might prefer the simple butterbeer I make at home, but everything was still very fun. The only complaint I had about that entire part of the park was that when we were waiting in line for the castle ride, at one point they rushed us through where we needed to drop bags off and systematically separated one person from each group to go put the bags away. They said that the individuals putting the bags away would be able to "catch up" but gave no direction as to how this would take place. Mom went with the bags but we didn't see her for about ten more minutes as she slowly worked her way back towards us. They really need to work on that system. It was pretty bad.

One fun thing about parks like these is people watching. I'm amazed that someone can think it is ok to be walking along in the middle of the path and then come to a complete stop to take a picture of something. This happened to us alone at least three or four times. I just don't know what they're thinking....another interesting thing we noticed is that the two most popular languages aside from English that we heard were Portuguese and Spanish. The hodge podge of people from everywhere was wonderful, but there was more Portuguese there than I've ever heard anywhere. Kyle had several nice conversations with different families. ;)

I'd tentatively thought about catching a flight back to SLC Sunday night, but ultimately that one didn't look great and the one Monday morning 7:30 looked pretty good. I set my alarm for 5:40 Monday morning but then tossing and turning during the night reset it to what I thought was 5:30 but was actually 1:30. So when I woke up at 7:00 and realized what time it was, I wan't particularly thrilled. If everything had gone smoothly, I would have made that direct flight back to SLC. Instead I got to sit in the Orlando airport from 9:30 until 2:30 when I finally hopped on a flight to JFK. All the while I was watching for good flight combinations. Getting out of Orlando was easy, but those connecting flights to SLC looked terrible. As I was sitting on the flight to JFK (with a connecting flight that left to SLC at 7:30), my Dad texted me that there was a 5:30 flight that I miiiight be able to make if I hurried once I got there. It was two gates down from the one I'd be arriving at at 5:17. Thirteen minutes and two gates? Maybe... When the seat belt sign turned off I grabbed my bags and politely asked my way to the front of first class and then ran up the jetway to the airport, raced the not-so-short distance between the gates and arrived just as the gate agent was punching in the code to reopen the jetway door to walk down and close the plane. She asked me to close the door, printed me a paper ticket of my seat, walked me down, put me on, and closed the door behind me. I was literally in the JFK airport for no more than about 60 seconds. Crazy! Thank you all you people who let me ahead of you!

I almost dropped my backpack on some poor gentleman's head in first class putting it in a compartment. Adrenalin and anxiety combined tend to occasionally give me poor coordination. ;) But I was on and super excited to be heading home. :) A friend from church picked me up and I happily fell into my bed when we arrived. And maybe signed up for Spartan Race before actually going to sleep! Woohoo! Good things ahead!

As usual, this is only a handful of the photos!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013 is Almost Over!

Hello from the (late) middle of December!

As usually, I've been wonderfully terrible at picture taking...I need to make it a more casual thing, and take some pictures on my phone. I'm thinking of sending my proper camera (little, but nice than a phone camera) with Brandon when he heads to Vietnam, but we'll see.

Christmas shopping abounded up until last week with the last few things that we needed to get. Last Wednesday we went to Brandon's work Christmas party. It was fun to hang out and talk with some of his coworkers while eating good food.

Friday we drove down to St. George (with considerably good driving conditions in comparison to when we drove down last year!) and were quite surprised at the amount of snow that was there (and had been there for a week!). Even more odd was the way it stuck around. If you looked at the north side of the street (facing south) the yards looked like normal St. George, but if you looked at the south side of the street (facing north), it was covered in a few inches of snow. Down in St. George we did lovely Christmacy things like make and eat quiche Lorraine, make and eat a delicious prime rib dinner, wrap and unwrap presents, sing awkwardly ridiculous (but fun!) Christmas songs, listen to talks and songs about and by the Special Needs Mutual (Angie lead the music with a directing wand - it was surprisingly impressive - grand sweeping arms at each resolution of the music), chat with each other, play games, and of course a quick three hour trip to see The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. Because that last one is super-Christmacy. It was a good weekend and far too short (as it usually is!).

We had another work Christmas party just yesterday (my work party this time!) which started with a delicious dinner at the Dodo, coasted on a white elephant gift exchange that went throughout dinner (I ended up with a 16-GB thumb drive shaped like a Panda and Brandon ended up with a large colorful ornamental aluminum/tin pig. We're thinking about adding wings to it and declaring it the Cincinnati Flying Pig of our relationship.), and then wrapped up with a fun performance of Elf: The Musical at Pioneer Theater.

And now we're squarely in the middle of my last week with Brandon this year (blow to the heart!). We've got some fun plans for this weekend (Miracle on 34th Street or bowling on Friday? Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit and West Coast Swing on Saturday?) and then I'm off to the South on Monday evening or Tuesday  (Christmas Eve) morning and Brandon heads far far away to Vietnam for two weeks starting Thursday (Boxing Day). I'm only a little mopey...already. I'm going to miss him. :)

It has been exceedingly busy these last few weeks and will be quite busy on until just about the end of the year and then I'll have to figure out a proper routine so that I can stay busy without any trips to look forward to!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Wagner Shepherd's Pie

I have the hardest time keeping track of my family recipes that are written on paper now that so many of the recipes I like come from online. So here's the recipe for Shepherd's Pie that I grew up eating. I'm planning on making it tonight. :)

Shepherd's Pie 
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1/2 med. onion, chopped
- 2 cans tomato soup
- 2 cans green beans (I'll be substituting this with frozen vegetables (carrots/corn/peas) since Brandon doesn't like green beans)
- 4-5 potatoes, mashed
- grated cheese
- salt/ pepper/ seasoning salt
- butter
- milk  
1.Preheat oven to 350 F
2.In large pot, boil cut up potatoes till tender (Start by washing the potatoes and cutting them up into thirds and putting them in a pot and covering them with water. Cook on high (boiling) till the potato pieces are soft when you stick a fork into them. About 20 minutes of boiling. (Make sure you don't boil the water away)).
3.In large skillet, brown ground beef over medium high heat. Add onions to ground beef when beef is about half done. Add salt and pepper. When onions are tender/translucent, drain grease and add tomato soup and green beans and reduce heat to medium low.
4.Drain potatoes, mash and add butter (approximately 1 TB) and milk (not too much) till desired texture is achieved. Add seasoning salt to taste (Johnny's Seasoning).
5.When beef mixture is warmed, spoon into deep casserole dish (or 13 x 9 glass baking pan) and cover with mashed potatoes and grated cheese. Bake for 35-45 min. or until heated through.
6.Remove from oven and allow to sit for about 5 min. then serve.

We'll see how it turns out tonight! Any maaaybe I'll add a picture - if I remember to take one.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Little Tidbits of Updates

Little update for today.

Tuesday we had our first legit snow storm. Driving on Tuesday? Miserable. It was like everyone had forgotten how to drive in the snow. Unexplained road congestion abounded. Brandon and I went to the gym after work. I was pretty ticked with traffic by the time I got there and on top of that, the instructor for kick boxing never showed (I can't blame her as traffic was terrible). I decided to relax in the hot tub and sauna instead and that was probably just as well as the heat helped to (ironically) cool my frustration. Fitting for the day, we then headed to a Tuesday night special at the theater and saw Frozen. Loved it! Both beautiful and highly amusing. I definitely recommend it.

I've come to the conclusion that unless I'm absurdly busy (which I rarely am at work), 3:00 is my low point of most days. As in, as the clock nears 3:00, I most want to take a nap or relax for awhile. It wasn't until the last few weeks that I became fully aware of this, as up until recently I was taking my lunch as late as 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, right on top of my most tired hour. Only recently when I've been attempting to take lunch no later than 1:30 has the 3:00 hour become increasingly noticeable.  Humph. I'll have to see what I can do about that.

This upcoming weekend looks to be pretty unencumbered with activities. And I don't mind that at all. It's nice to have time to relax and pursue minor interests - but I have to plan ahead a little to make sure that I actually do something rather than nothing. It's far too easy to do nothing, and I almost always regret it afterward. Any project, however successful, is better than wasting the time away.

Happy Thursday!

Monday, December 2, 2013

An Alabama Thanksgiving.

Happy December! And a Happy Post-Thanksgiving since I'm just getting around to this! Brandon and I successfully made our way to Nashville and then to Huntsville and had a wonderful time before safely returning to the West. It's back to the daily grind now, but I'll admit that I feel somewhat refreshed from the week break I had.

We arrived late Saturday evening and were greeted by a large rental vehicle (large being big enough to fit six people comfortably) containing not just my parents (who we'd expected) but also Kyle and Morgan. :) We dropped off our stuff at the hotel and then drove downtown to BB King's to listen to live music and dance a little. My parents had been to BB Kings before, and as it is a restaurant, hadn't though there would be any issue with Morgan being there (she's 16). Mom and Morgan ran in ahead to put our name on the list and pay (there was a music cover charge at $10 per person just to get in, but when my Mom said there were six of us, the lady behind the register said, "Let's just say there are four of you.") while the rest of us parked. When the rest of us came in, it was only then that we were carded. Morgan stood back behind the register and was able to slip by unnoticed. :) She looks like she could be 21. ;) The music was loud and fun, and the food delicious. Back to the hotel and to bed!

Sunday morning we got up not too early and headed out on the town. We couldn't have picked a nippier day to be out and about. I'm not sure what the temperature was, but it was cold! Really cold! We grabbed breakfast at a delicious little place and then drove around and about for a bit, driving down Broadway and around to some of the other sites. We stopped by a dress shop my mom had wanted us to see but they didn't open for another thirty minutes so we hopped back in the car and drove over to the Parthenon. Not really on the way, but in the process of heading over, we drove by the capital building and were somewhat puzzled by a very long but neat line of people that snaked around the plaza in front of the capital and down to a Sheraton just down the street. After driving around the block a few times and puzzling over it some more, my Dad finally jumped out of the car (after no one else would get out) and ran over and asked someone. Auditions for the next Star Wars movie! Fun! But they really couldn't have picked a much more miserable day to stand around outside for hours.

The Parthenon was also not quite open when we got there, so we jumped back in the car and went back to the dress shop (now open) and poked our heads around in there for awhile. Perhaps I'm just very opinionated or I have certain things I look for in clothing styles, but where many of the dresses were really cool, most of them were just slightly off in the details. As in, the fabric design or material wasn't quite what you'd want, or the cut of the neck was just a little awkward. Really cool dresses, but with those missing details, not quite worth the price.

Back to the Parthenon (now finally open), we spent awhile going through their little museum and then admiring the giant statue of Athena in the main part of the building. Very cool.

After the Parthenon we headed out to The Hermitage. The Hermitage was pretty cool, but the main part of it was an audio walking tour of the grounds. As I've already mentioned, though it was beautiful outside, it was also practically unbearable for anything longer than about ten minutes. We wandered for awhile and then decided we needed to grab a bite to eat and then head home, a good decision as we made it home just in time to drop off the rental and then hang with the Grandparents and Thor. :)

Note from Sunday. Somewhere in the middle of the day I started to notice something resembling bites on my arm and upper chest. By the end of the evening several more had appeared. They're just about all gone now, but I still have no idea what they were from. I'd say fleas, except it was mostly exposed skin they bite. I'd say bed bugs, but I was sleeping in the same bed as Morgan and she didn't have a single bite. It remains a mystery. In the process of researching it a bit we discovered that female pregnant women who wear black with O+ blood type are the most susceptible to being bitten by mosquitoes. I qualify for all of those qualities save one, I've never been pregnant - I guess I'll really have to watch out if I ever have any children. What can I say, the bugs just love me.

Monday was pretty laid back. In the evening we had a dinner party with the extended family (cousins, aunt, and uncle) as most of them were headed down to be with other family for Thanksgiving. It was a delicious Italian feast. :)

Tuesday morning started with bagels (Yum!) and then we headed with my parents over to the Space Center to see the Da Vinci exhibit. Pretty cool stuff. And then a few rockets, because they're cool too. ;) My favorite part of the Da Vinci exhibit was a careful analyses of the Mona Lisa. I guess they let a photographer take some incredibly high definition photos of the Mona Lisa complete with a variety of other types of photos (infrared, etc.). The end result attempted to shop the Mona Lisa as it was originally painted with all the intricacy of detail and color. Very different from what we see today.

Tuesday Evening Brandon and Dad headed to see Catching Fire and the girls (just ended up being me, Casey, and Mom) stayed home and had a little jewelry party complete with warm beverages and fun conversations. I took apart a random pearl cluster and created a surprisingly pretty pearl necklace.

Wednesday the family and friends (Tami and James came!) headed over to Scottsboro to a store called Unclaimed Baggage. The idea behind the place is pretty cool. People leave/lose luggage and items on airplanes and public transit and this company (and others like it) somehow purchase that stuff and resell it. On top of that, when you travel, you tend to take your favorite things, so the selection is likely to be higher. The electronic section alone was pretty cool to see. I don't think the items were marked down enough to make many of them worth it, but it was weird to see ten iPads stacked together like crackers. I'm so used to seeing the packaging rather than the items. We spent several hours there. In the end I cam away with only one item, a pair of Lululemon pants that I know would have been much more expensive brand new from the store. Super comfy.

Finally Thanksgiving on Thursday! We started the morning with a delicious breakfast of quiche and goetta. Much of the rest of the day was spent relaxing and working on food. The only thing I really contributed to this go around was helping Kyle with the rolls. We'd sort of spaced about the rolls so we decided to experiment with a homemade roll recipe in the bread maker. It turned out really well. We ended our Thanksgiving feast with a musical glass chorus (spur of the moment as we were all sitting around the table) by Kyle and Morgan. The ending project for the evening was putting together our travel map of the United States that goes on the wall. Before we put any pins in, Dad wanted to draw the long trip on to make sure we at least covered that. And then the pins were in! One or more in each state for me!

Friday morning we took a nice little walk around the neighborhood ponds (finally a day nice enough to go outside) and then back to the airport and bound for Utah!

I've only included a handful of the pictures here. The rest (about 90 total) are on facebook to enjoy when you get a chance!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Mundane Details

It's been more than a week since I last posted. And I, sadly, have no good excuses. Except that there's not much to report. A little bit of Christmas shopping here and there, trying to build my own Christmas list (one of my least favorite things to do). We did go to a late showing of Catching Fire last night (got home around 2:00 - yikes!). :) I am happy to report that I thought it was much better than The Hunger Games.

We've had a strong wind advisory for the last 24 hours or so (set to continue for about another 24 hours). I didn't notice it until I was driving home from the gym last night and it was pushing my little car around on the road. 40-50 mph winds were the average speeds, but with gusts of up to 80 mph. It's supposed to be a little calmer today, but there was a lot of debris all over last night. I cleaned up an entire bucket of fallen apples from the tree this morning (the good thing about this is that there are almost no apples left to fall) and that was just the ones in the driveway. I'll get the rest this evening or tomorrow morning. 

Best news in a few weeks is that we're headed to Tennessee/Alabama tomorrow evening! Finally a break from work, a chance to head home (in almost a year), and a chance to see my family. :) I'm quite excited. And there will finally be some more pictures to post, guaranteed. ;)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Month Long Week

I don't know why, but this week has felt a month long, and we're not even quite to Friday yet. It might have been the long three hour birthday meal with friends back on Monday. That made it feel like Monday was Friday, but then we jumped from "Friday" back into four more days of work, rather than the anticipated two days of semi-relaxation that usually follow Friday.

Maybe it also has something to do with the somewhat busier evening schedule that we've had this week as well, not allowing for as much Brandon time as I'd like. I'm pretty selfish with my Brandon time.

In fact, with that in mind, I've been considering the whole extroverted/introverted concept. My natural inclination is to say that I'm an outgoing introvert. When in crowds, I can take the crowd energy and run with it and enjoy it, but it is very draining. I need time alone to recharge my energy supplies. With one significant exception. Brandon, a lone anomaly, does something nearly exact the opposite of most people. Instead of feeling drained by him, I now I feel like I need time with him in order to feel fully energized. As in, after long expanses of time (relative to my standards of what "long" is) without seeing him, no matter how much time I get to myself, I can't manage to refill that energy supply. It's quite inconvenient.

I've been slowly working on trying to rebuild my "me" time's capability to recharge my batteries, but it is a slow process. I need to start gearing myself up for the two weeks (and change since I'll be gone a few days before he leaves) he'll be out of the country on an adventure. I'm fairly certain that my excitement for his travels will help me a good amount.

I recognize the significant value of being independent in the things I do, of being able to function on my own with very little input from others, but where I excell at certain aspects of that, I fail rather miserably at others. I'll figure it out. Eventually. ;)

Totally unrelated, I read Steelheart this week (a birthday gift from Brandon). It was excellent. I thoroughly enjoy most of Brandon Sanderson's writing, and this was certainly no exception to that. While I am impatiently anticipating Words of Radiance (another Brandon Sanderson book that is the second in what is meant to be his epic series), it was a good read.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy Veteran's Day!

And hey, maybe it's my birthday too. ;)

We just got home from a delicious three hour meal at the Melting Pot with eight or nine of our friends. Brandon and I "split" a four course meal (one of their options where you get a cheese fondue, salad, main entree fondue (with meats and vegetables), and a chocolate fondue). Delicious. And (at least for me) super filling. Too filling.

I'm normally the kind of person that inhales my food, eating all the time but in little bits. Even though our meal was spread out over a much longer time and we never ate a great deal at any one time, I felt much fuller after our meal than I usually like to feel. That aside, though it is nice to do other things with my time, there is something refreshing about having a long meal where the empty space has to be filled with conversation.

I didn't take a single picture during the evening, but I enjoyed it immensely. :) A good day.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ender's Game?

Much anticipated, we went and watched Ender's Game last Thursday (a week ago) at a "midnight" showing at 8:00 PM. I fully approve of midnight showings now being as early as 8:00. Don't get me wrong, it was fun to go wait in the lines with groups of friends until midnight the opening day of most of the new Star Wars movies and Lord of the Rings, but the ease of being able to pre-select a seat and not be up all night is also quite nice.

I went into the theater with high hopes but low expectations. I love the books (if you haven't read Ender's Game, go read it - I don't care who you are, how old you are, or what you normally read - it is worth your time), and as a logical result was concerned with how they would recreate the many excellent qualities and depth of the book. There were already some weird details from the trailers (like the tattoo on Mazer's face) that had me a little on edge.

Entirely surprised, while the movie was most certainly not perfect, I liked it a lot more than I thought I would and though it was much more balance than I would have expected. The book is made up of a great deal of character development on Ender's part, several fairly flushed out side character developments, lots of battle game action, lots of conversations between the adults observing, and lots of time spent on the battles at the end. The movie took out almost all the side character development and focused nearly entirely on Ender's character development, the conversations between Graff and Anderson (also helping Ender's character development), and the general arc of the movie. There was hardly any time spent on the battle games (sad!) and not even that much time spent of the battles at the end. All of the main characters were introduced but there was essentially no character development for most of them. While I can definitely complain about the absence of many of the important things from the book, as well as the depth of the book, I feel like the movie was still able to accomplish a shallow retelling of the messages from the book. And even a shallow retelling of those was moving.

Again, not perfect, but I definitely enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Remember, Remember!

We celebrated the 5th of November (Guy Fawkes Day) yesterday. I'd been planning a little party for about a month, but yesterday morning I came outside to four inches of snow on the ground. Not exactly the best outdoor party weather.

All the same, when I got home after work, while there was still some snow on the ground, it wasn't as bad as the morning had been. I'd picked up some wood from my roommate Katy's parent's house (they have a massive pile of wood, mounded easily higher than my head) over lunch and once that was over by the outside fireplace, I attacked the various delicious things in turn in the kitchen. Brandon, incredible as he is, showed up around 6:00 and helped me with the several recipes I had going at once. I'd already made parkin and bonfire toffee, which just left bangers, six can soup, and gunpowder punch. I also had fresh bread that had just come out of the breadmaker, carrots, licorice, starbursts (for roasting) rollos, and other sodas to drink. Lots and lots of food. There were about 15 people RSVP'd, but by the end of the evening I think only about ten made it (including my roommates). A little bit of a let down, only in that there was too much food. But at least it was delicious food. ;)

Brandon, between helping make the edibles, also got the fire going in our little outdoor fireplace. He said that when he initially started it there was briefly a moment of concern about the tree branches above the chimney of the fireplace, as the flames licked through the top of the shoot. But the fire relaxed and returned to a normal size fairly quickly. He also snuggled all the chairs up closer to the fire, making the entire thing much cozier.

The party got a late start and was a little sparse, but we ate, chatted, roasted starbursts, and warmed ourselves by the fire for quite awhile. After most everyone had left one of our surprise guests (someone who I didn't know) decided that it was time to burn his little Guy Fawkes effigy. And so we did, reading the "Remember, Remember" poem as he burned. It was surprisingly fun.

We'd also planned and set up to watch V for Vendetta (in retrospect, we should have tried to make that happen outside where we could sit by the fire and simultaneously watch the movie), but by the time we got to a good space for that, we only had two party guests left. They generously helped us clean up before heading home and then we went over to Brandon's and watched the movie there. I only got about half way before the exhaustion of the day won over and I headed home to bed. Fun day, though!

Brandon and I have fully entered a space where most of our friends are married and besides hanging out with those friends (who have obvious obligations in other areas), we're not particularly social. The somewhat weak draw of people to the gathering could have been a result of it being a Tuesday night and cold outside, but I think it's more likely that we've simply narrowed down our circle of intimate friends to a number that warrants smaller gatherings. I'll have to remember that for next time!

November Halloween

Happy November! 

We celebrated "Halloween" on November 1st by way of a blues dancing down in Provo. There are some years where I'm really in the mood for Halloween and other years where I'm just...not. This year was more on the not in the mood side.

So, aiming for an easy costume, I opted to go for Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina.

I got my hair cut the week before and so I decided to just curl it and pin it up to simulate the short hair look (sans Audrey's bangs, which I opted out of).

Brandon chose an even easier costume and simply went as a Wombat. :)