The Best Laid Plans


I tried my hardest but in the end it really was just a stinky day. Dave is out of town and instead of sitting around and playing Wii all day (which was really fun yesterday) I was bound and determined to get out of the house and make a "memory" for my girls and their half gone winter break. It was yucky rain so our planned hike was a no go. Instead I took them downtown to the children's museum which they've been begging for ever since we went for Sylvie's 4th birthday. But we we had a late start because my phone's OS update took hours longer than I anticipated. (Yes, frustrating.) Then the museum was ridiculously crowded. And overpriced. And just not as fun as we remembered. So we cut that short and I promised the girls cupcakes at Sugar Mama's to make it up. After driving all the way over there we found it to be, you guessed it, closed! Awesome. At this point I was just ready to be done and we headed back home and fired up the Wii. Is it bed time yet?



It was a lot of work for a lazy girl such as myself, but I think I found a new Christmas morning tradition. This juice was spectacular. I doubled it ans we had plenty for our little family. Once a year is about right :-)

Christmas Day

Not the most festive or reverent way to begin a Christmas post, but Sylvie woke up with the most fantastic bed head on Christmas morning. Just had to be documented :-)

We started downstairs with stockings and a few presents under the tree.

Then upstairs to their room where the "big" gift was waiting - brand new desks. My girls share a room and it was time for a little private space so we got rid of the old table (also known as the thing under the huge pile of papers) and got them side by side desks separated by a wall of cubbies. They knew what they were getting, but Dave and I stayed up Christmas Eve (with the girls sleeping in the guest room) to assemble them and deck them out with some surprise goodies. So the girls hadn't seen them yet.

It was a really nice relaxed day at home. I prefer holidays with extended family, but living so far away that's just not in the cards right now. But the relaxation of home was welcome. We've all been really busy and it was nice just to stop and enjoy the day. Merry Christmas all!

Christmas Eve

We like to make gingerbread houses on Christmas Eve. Even though Tessa had already made one at school, there was no way she was going to let me out of it. And all talk of buying a kit was pure blasphemy. But it was a lot of fun and amazingly all three houses (two from Christmas Eve and one from school) are still sitting on my mantle completely untouched. I must have way too much other junk in the house if the gingerbread houses are being forgotten.

One Day Left!


I am notorious for starting projects and not exactly finishing them. I am only really crafty in spurts so things just get left by the wayside. I think this is a pretty common problem so I won't belabor it. But here is one project that I'm (mostly) done with. Yes, so I haven't finished the beading yet. It works! A few years ago I was really wanting an advent calendar and there just weren't any to be found in the stores that met with my satisfaction. So of course I had to make my own. Now of course, a few years later when I'm finally done, there are cute advent calendars everywhere. This is one of those times when procrastination (to even begin) would have paid off. But the girls love it and race after dinner to see what candies I have hidden in each pouch.

Way to grow up!


My mom sent me this collage of my beautiful sisters and I just had to share. They are fantastic women and the smiles they have given me are absolutely uncountable. There may have been one or two tragic haircuts over the years (I had a few of those too. Mom- I'm gonna have to call you out on that one) but they have always been beautiful.

I defy you not to bust a gut when you see Xandy's expression in that top photo! I laugh each and every time.

Sink or Swim


I became the defacto pianist for primary yesterday. This is a good thing but still a scary thing. We have had a really hard time finding a permanent pianist and I finally broke down and volunteered myself (I am actually the 1st counselor in the primary presidency). It's in exchange for no sharing time duty which I actually think is a pretty sweet deal.

I bought a piano in May and have been slowly but steadily remembering how to connect my fingers with my brain with the music written on the page. It's been a good 15 years since I've played and I wasn't ever really very good even back in the day. I am largely self taught and rather undisciplined. So I think I've made really good progress the past months and in the privacy of my own home I have been known to have a smug look on my face about how good I am. But in front of people when I can't stop to find a particular chord or play at whatever tempo I deem doable, I pretty much stink it up. A church calling playing piano is a dream gig of mine, but I really could have used another year to get up to speed. I guess that luxury won't be afforded me.

Not so Christmasy colors


Does this look like Christmas to you? Autumn color seems to come late in Austin and our Japanese Maple in the back yard is truly brilliant right now. In fact there is a lot of fiery color on the streets right now. Beautiful yes, but it seems to conflict on a visceral level when I'm trying to feel Christmasy.



I am in the process of blurbing my Growing Girls blog. Very, very excited about that. I do love this blogging thing, but there is something to be said about a book to be held in my hands. Anyway, there are two things I've learned about myself in this process: a) I am a horrible, horrible speller and b) I tend to use a lot of invented words that spell checkers are not so fond of. Flair, right?

More sugar!


'Tis the season for lots of goodies. And I've been at enough parties to get more than my fair share. Sylvie's party was a lot of crazy fun. I could tell her teacher was more than ready for winter break to begin. Let the parents deal with those sugar highs!

Gingerbread at 10:00 am?


Of course! And of course my daughter would be the one artfully displaying as much candy as humanly possible. She told me she wished she could just rip open the house and stuff it with candy.

Favorite Albums of 2009


Let me emphasize the no particular order aspect of my list this year. I'm taking a step away from the analytical (well, as much as a girl such as myself can) and just giving warm fuzzies. I've loosely arranged my favorite albums this year in tiers instead of strict rankings. (Yes, I'm a little strange - just humor or possibly ignore me.)

Super Love:
  • Eels - Hombre Lobo
  • The Avett Brothers - I And Love And You
  • Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
  • Pearl Jam - Backspacer
  • Slaid Cleaves - Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away
  • White Rabbits - It's Frightening
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!
  • Iron & Wine - Around the Well
  • Blitzen Trapper - Black River Killer
  • The Bottle Rockets - Lean Forward
  • Deer Tick - Born on a Flag Day
  • The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love
  • Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Seven-Mile Island
  • U2 - No Line on the Horizon
  • Wilco - Wilco (The Album)
  • The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
  • M. Ward - Hold Time
  • Ben Harper - White Lies for Dark Times
  • Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Honorable Mention:
  • Langhorn Slim - Be Set Free
  • Hayden - The Place Where We Live
  • Chip Robinson - Mylow
  • Elvis Costello - Secret, Profane, and Sugar Cane
  • Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard - One Fast Move
  • Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk
  • Regina Spektor - Far
  • Rhett Miller - Rhett Miller
  • Son Volt - American Central Dust
Special Shout Out:
  • Sufjan Stevens: The BQE

If you're looking for extra credit you can hear some or all of these on my profile.

The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Such a lovely little book. One that you could read so many times and still take away little pearls. And it's always surprising to me how it cuts to the quick with reminders of (now) obvious ways I am complacent. I haven't read it for many years and need to make it a more frequent friend on my nightstand.

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Sometimes you have to be loud

A friend invited me and the girls to see the Invincible Czars do their Nutcracker Suite this past Saturday at a little restaurant/bar called Jovita's. I wasn't sure exactly what we were in for but it was a fantastic time. They are a quasi rock band and they do a fantastic rendition of the classic interspersed with Christmas carols and rocking guitar solos. I'm thinking it needs to be a permanent addition on our December calendar. The video below must be from last year because it was so crowded that the dancing was pretty difficult for the kids. But still super fun.

New LDS emphasis: Care for the needy - Salt Lake Tribune


Reading this article made me really happy. It's a wonderful move for the church.

New LDS emphasis: Care for the needy - Salt Lake Tribune

'Cause sometimes I have no idea what to write

I found the coolest post today brimming with ideas for personal history and/or journaling prompts (slightly Mormonfied). I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, but I think it would be a lovely 2010 idea to tackle some or all of these on a daily basis. Hmmm...

Good Day even with a sore throat


I had one of those days where I must have been doing something right. I am still feeling a little under the weather and not particularly cheery, but I spent the afternoon cleaning my girls' room with them and then treated them to dinner out since it seemed to go so well. This is usually a recipe for disaster - even more for me than for them. Something about cleaning their bedroom really turns me into a beast (which is why I don't often help) and them into whining pools of tears. And usually restaurants are where they are at the pinnacle of rude behavior. But the whole day they were total gems. They were happy and got along and did what I requested in a reasonable fashion. They both thanked me spontaneously and profusely and gave me lots of hugs and affection (although this is simply a sparkly detail of their personalities, they are lovely girls). We weren't rushed the whole day even though it was full to the brim and bedtime, which is stressful a good chunk of the time, simply fell into place. Somehow the day just worked. I really need to get out of my own mad rushing current of volition once in a while and just serve my girls and their particular needs. Just be there. It makes all of us much happier.

Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage


Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a really fascinating look at the historical sweep of how the institution of marriage has changed. It provided a lot of good context for me how what we consider "traditional" marriage in the form of marrying by choice for love and personal fulfillment under the banner of the male breadwinner system is really a small moment in time in the sweep of it all. But kudos to the 50s!

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Music is so beautiful that it simply hurts.

Pie Day (formerly known as turkey day)


I realized today that I skipped over Thanksgiving here on my little blog. We were invited to spend the day with friends here in Austin, same crew as last year. It was a good day full of fantastic food and the best part of the arrangement is that all I have to do is bake. I made rolls and pies which seems to work out well for everyone. I found it helpful when planning this year to remember what I had made last year so I wanted to make sure and document here again. Same as last year I made my favorite Applescotch pie and Lemon Meringue. I make pie so infrequently that I can't leave those ones out. This year I added to the mix Turtle Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake. Mmmmm...


I'm working on day three of a really bad cold/flu/sore throat thing that is really starting to annoy me. Day one was physically the worst but at least my DVDs of the Gilmore Girls kept me occupied. Each day I've gotten subsequently more bored, more restless, more generally depressed. Today I actually slept until almost noon - which I haven't done in recent memory - but I gleaned almost zero satisfaction from it. I'm just really sick of sitting on the couch. Bad TV is no consolation and I fall asleep when I try to read. Being sick sucks. I had to miss the Christmas concert that I've sacrificed umpteen hours of my Sunday evenings to for practice. Missed a Christmas party, a school carnival, a few yoga classes and other appointments. Arghhh! Can I be done now?

Or at least done complaining...

Year In Review 2009


So here's the deal - I am finding that I need to swallow my pride and admit that I in fact cannot do it all. I am struggling to find the balance this year to actually enjoy the holidays and not succumb to the stress of being too busy. And even though it pains me, I've decided Christmas cards are getting nixed off my list. I love Christmas cards and I don't want to miss out on such a great tradition, but for this year at least they are feeling like a "to do" and not the expression of love that they should be. I do feel bad about it but I'm going to go with my gut that this is a simplification I need to make right now.

So here's the adorable pictures I was contemplating for featured presentation on our Christmas cards. I'll try over the next few weeks to blog some highlights from our 2009. I was reading in Time magazine this week about how this past decade was worst in recent memory for the American people. This is the decade when I really came into adulthood through the crucible of early parenting so it was definitely hard for me, but the article made me grateful that there is a lot I can count as right in my little life. (And also made me feel some justified in the angst and anger I feel as I read about current affairs.) 2009 has been a good year and hard year and a year filled with regular life.

And I still say we call the decade the aughts. Pass it on!

Another reader


Sylvie's kindergarten class got to rename themselves in the spirit of Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves. (I have little context at this point considering Sylvie is tight lipped about what happens at school.) Anyway, Sylvie chose for herself "Loves to Read" and it makes me beam. She is on fire with the reading spirit and it is a joy to witness.

A little color on those trees


I chaperoned Tessa's field trip last Wednesday to Westcave Preserve. She commandeered my camera for most of the day so I was nervous to see what pictures I would find when I finally downloaded them. There's enough I think to give you a feel of the place although it's really hard to do it justice. It's just wonderfully beautiful there and we had gorgeous weather as well. A little autumnal in the scenery, but still warm enough for shirt sleeves. It was a lovely day.

The 50 Best Albums of the Decade (2000-2009)

This list (linked below) makes me happy. And since I'm sure one or two of you are always wondering what the crazy music I post about sounds like, they even have audio streams for the albums. I can't say I love all of the albums they deem decade worthy, but this is a pretty good cross section of the tunes that make me happy. I think they're chicken for not actually naming the decade though. I vote for the aughts - pass it on.

The 50 Best Albums of the Decade (2000-2009) :: Blogs :: List of the Day :: Paste

And cleaner air to boot!

I've been pushing over the past few weeks to get my head back in the game and put a little more creative juice into making my house a home. I tend to push to get a room 85% of the way decorated and then forget little details (like putting actual pictures in the frames I hung how many months ago). But try as I might I still felt like my downstairs room were not really full or lived in looking. Until I finally went and bought house plants today. Tada! I had dozens of plants in our Phoenix home and had to give them all away when we moved (18 months ago now!). And I just haven't bought very many to replace them until now. Instantly I'm more in love with my home. I just need that living, breathing element in a room to really feel like it's mine. I don't know why it took me so long.

Thankful to be tired


Sylvie was up last night with a really bad earache. And I'm sad and/or embarrassed to report that it took me eons to actually wake up and attend to the situation. It was one of those situations that I could kind of hear her crying in the back on my mind but just couldn't actually wake up to do anything about it. I guess that nighttime mommy radar thing takes practice and I am thankfully on the other side of that hill. There's something to take heart in for all my new mommy friends that are right in the thick of it - there is actually and end to that particular dark tunnel. Anyway, I am somewhat in amazement today that I survived those early years at all because after sitting up with her for an hour or so I am completely trashed today. Granted I am dealing with a cold and a flare up of my generally mild asthma, but I just don't know how I did this on a regular basis. So there you go, my perverse form of gratitude for the day. Is worshiping sleep idolatrous?

The Picture of Dorian Gray


The Picture of Dorian Gray  (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a book I'm sure I'll find myself reading over again. There are so many ways to view (and enjoy) the constant stream of quips that Wilde offers up. So much food for thought. The dilemma is such an interesting one. The story itself offers incredible amounts to reflect on. Add to that how incredibly enjoying Wilde's writing is and it's no wonder it's a classic.

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Fishers of Men


The Kingdom and the Crown, Vol.  1: Fishers of Men (The Kingdom and the Crown) The Kingdom and the Crown, Vol. 1: Fishers of Men by Gerald N. Lund

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It's taken me a long time to move through this book because I mostly read it on Sundays. It's a nice way to create a different feel to my days on Sunday without giving up my love of novels. The story is a very interesting one and I love the fresh perspective it's given me to imagine what it must have been for the Jews who witnessed Christ's ministry first hand. Engaging story and I'm looking forward to the next in the series. Which is good since this one offers little resolution as a stand alone book.

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The Hummingbird's Daughter


The Hummingbird's Daughter The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I remembered loving this book, but after suggesting it for a book club selection I got nervous that it wasn't as great as I had remembered. But I loved it even more after a second read. So lush and rich with characters, humor, wisdom. His writing is captivating and I enjoyed every moment.

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This has been one of my favorite spots this week. I am only a half time employee here at GCC so I take nice long lunches and come over to the campus library to read. Outside on the beautiful grounds is a great place for such leisurely activities too but since it's been in the mid 90s this week (!!!) the library is the more attractive option. Just wanted to share one of the small things I'm grateful for.



Among Schoolchildren


Among Schoolchildren Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm having a hard time quantifying how much I liked this book. It was immediately engaging and very satisfying to read. I love his style of writing and hoping to read more of his books. The immersion reporting he uses is a very engaging style of non-fiction. I really did enjoy it front to back. But when it was all said and done I'm not sure that I felt emotionally drawn into the book or much changed by reading it. Probably worth more than three stars, but I'm hesitant to give it more.

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Tunes for Traveling vol. 8


Back to Phoenix for another week in the office. I'm getting a little bored of these trips but employed is a good thing. Sur mon iPod:
  • The Black Keys
  • The Flaming Lips
  • Jason Isbell
  • Kings of Leon
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Pearl Jam
  • Queen
  • Radiohead
  • The Strokes
  • TV on the Radio
  • Violent Femmes

More gardens


Noticing a theme yet? Weather is yummy therefore Amber heads to the places with lovely green things. Today we went to the Zilker Botanical Gardens. My girls love the stone pathways all throughout the Japanese gardens. And thankfully no on ended up taking a swim with the Koi. Lots more pictures on our SmugMug site here. Warning: my girls were in a photo mood. Every rock required a pose. Honestly, I pruned them as much as I could.

Happy Halloween!

My girls were uber traditional this year dressing up as a princess and a witch. Man are they cute.

We had a chili cook-off / carnival / trunk-or-treat last night at the church followed by a family party at Tessa's friends house. And tonight we'll have dinner with friends and out to the neighborhood for more candy gathering. Can you say too much? But it's all worth it if they'll share their Twix bars.

Sylvie likes to get her rock star moves on lately every time I try to take a picture. Probably better as a movie, but the collage gives you get the general feel for it. Although it doesn't allow for her totally awesome sound effects.

Needing sunshine in my life


It was quite simply too nice of an afternoon to be indoors. (And now that we're home and I'm yelling at the girls to clean their room this supposition can certainly be confirmed.) High 60s and marvelously sunny and clear after yesterday's storm blew out. So my girls and I headed over the the Wildflower Center to enjoy the afternoon.

We saw lots of butterflies which is always a big hit with the kiddos. I had fun showing the girls how to make a red mess on your hands from crushing cochineal. And we found the oddest fruit - the osage orange. Honestly, when I first saw it on the side of the path I thought someone had dropped their green plastic something. Just the strangest color and texture. Kind of like a green plastic brain.

Good afternoon. Something much needed by me.



Practices started this week to get ready for our church's annual Christmas concert. I love singing in the choir and Christmas music is just a bonus. This year we aren't doing any pieces from Handel's Messiah and I'm a little bit disappointed. I appreciate the challenge it presents year after year no matter how many times I've sung it. (I am a rather average alto and miles away from anything professional or trained.) The text always speaks so beautifully to me of the beauty and majesty of the season. The power of the music and the simplicity and repetition of the words allows me to really meditate on the miracle our Savior has presented to us.

Some of my favorite verses from Isaiah 52, where much of the text is taken from:
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.



Pumpkin carving time. I'm not a huge fan of Halloween, but I do love roasted pumpkin seeds (and watching the girls sift through the gunk to pluck them all out), chili and cornbread, spiced cider. And maybe a little thing called chocolate fun sized candies.