Party

2010/12/31

Do we know how to party or what?  I'm going to call Dave out here for two bad decisions - first the one leading to this high fashion ensemble and secondly the cheeto-dog Sylvie's eating, but if not on New Year's Eve then when?  Happy New Year!

Weirdness

2010/12/30

Here's the bizarro event of the day - I was scoping around my StatCounter data for this blog and I saw that there was more activity from international IPs than could be expected from a girl that doesn't know many people on the other side of the International Date Line.  When I dug a little deeper into the data I found an exit link that I didn't recognize. I clicked it and found that my recent post on hula hooping had been snagged and placed on hooping.org (linked here).  Seems to me they should have at least notified me so I would be aware of my new stardom.  I'm not sure if I'm creeped out or honored.  Waiting on a royalty check for sure.

My Favorite Albums of 2010

2010/12/29

Sorting through all the albums I've listened to in 2010 is a more daunting task this year since I've blown the door off of the record collection by jumping into Rhapsody.  There were 90ish new albums that I listened to with varying degrees of attention this year.  Wow.  Here are my standout favorites of the bunch in no particular order.  It's almost impossible to pick favorite tracks, but I've included videos for your enjoyment as well.

Sleigh Bells, Treats
For listening to when I'm feeling loud.


Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
For listening to when I'm feeling poetic and smart.


Broken Bells, Broken Bells
For listening to when I want to feel young.


Ray Lamontagne, God Willing and the Creek Don't Rise
For listening to when I want to sink into the couch...


Laura Veirs, July Flame
For listening to when I need some beauty.


The National, High Violet
For listening to when I want to understand...


Other 2010 albums I love:
  • Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
  • Joe Pug, Messenger
  • Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
  • Robert Plant, Band of Joy
  • Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
  • Mary Gauthier, The Foundling
  • Corinne Bailey Rae, The Sea
  • Glossary, Feral Fire
  • Jakob Dylan, Women & Country
  • Clem Snide, The Meat of Life
  • Spoon, Transference
  • The New Pornographers, Together
  • Frazey Ford, Obadiah
  • Guster, Easy Wonderful
  • Junip, Fields 
  • Deer Tick, The Black Dirt Sessions
You can also click to see other 2010 albums I like.

Unknown

My last book began with this quote and I found it amazing applicable to the venture of blogging. Or human relationships in general.
The unknown element in the lives of other people is like that of nature, which each fresh scientific discovery merely reduces but does not abolish

~ Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

A Visit From the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon SquadA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book was a fun ride for sure. The construction of the book is completely fresh and it kept me moving through the pages quickly. Each chapter was told from a different character's voice which I thought might make me less connected to the characters, but I was completely engaged with each one. Marvelous. Crazy good book.



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Love

2010/12/26

Creation never ceased on the sixth evening, it occurs to the young man.  Creation unfolds around us, despite us, and through us, at the speed of days and nights, and we like to call it "love".

~ David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet

Sundays

Sometimes we get a little stir crazy by the end of a Sunday. 

Merry Christmas!

It was a great Christmas here in Austin.  Lot of food, fun, and general good times with our little family.  I don't much like to write about specific gifts, but there may have been a certain someone in our house who upon learning that his company was gifting him an iPad for a year end bonus decided to give it to me instead of keeping it for himself.  That is an amazing act of generosity if I do say so myself.  I am giddy.

The girls with their stockings and in front of the tree before the wrapping paper carnage begins.  Notice that it is actually light outside.  Despite their intentions of arising at the wee hours of the morning, we didn't get our start until 7:30 or so.  Later in the day though we found a flashlight where Tessa had stashed it and she confessed to going down in the night to peek.




The girls posing in the snuggies my mom made for them.  This was probably the runaway hit gift of the day.  They also wear them backwards as super long capes as they zip through the house on their scooters.




We bought Tessa a mp3 player with some super cool headphones and this right here is a vision of our future.  Girl in her own world, cut off from us all.


Merry Christmas!

Gingerbread Day gone wild

There were more than a few lessons learned while constructing gingerbread houses this Christmas Eve.  It turned into something of a comedy of errors but as I kept reminding the kids, in the end you get to eat gingerbread and candy so how bad could it be?
  • Good thing: better frosting than last year and using canned goods as supports to aid in the construction process.  
  • Bad thing: trying to build on a rainy and humid day.  
  • Good thing: baking soft and thick gingerbread slices for good eating.  
  • Bad thing: trying to actually make a house that stands up out of those soft and thick gingerbread slices.  
  • Good thing: inviting friends over to cover up the fact that I bought more candy than should be allowed by law.  Added bonus that I don't swear or get as frustrated in front of company.
  • Bad thing: baking enough gingerbread for five houses.
  • Good thing: gingerbread.  Always worth it.

Paradigm Shift

2010/12/21

Having to turn on the car's A/C kind of kills the joy of our annual drinking hot cocoa while driving to see neighborhood Christmas lights tradition.

70s makes for some fine hula hooping in the park weather though.

Hula Hoopers Extraordinaire

2010/12/20

My friend made (yes, made) hula hoops for me and my girls and they are fantastic.  At first neither girl could keep it up, but now they are both pros and can go for minutes.  The hoops are nice and heavy so they're much easier to use.  Who knew there was a quality issue when it came to hula hoops?  The girls now play in the driveway every chance they can get.  Well, they've been playing in the driveway ever since I made a final ban on hula hooping in the house.  That was a disaster waiting to happen.  Maybe I can hula hoop some of those Christmas cookies off of my middle?




Bluegrass Christmas

2010/12/18



A friend invited the girls and I to the immortal Alamo Drafthouse to see a free screening of Emmit Otter's Jugband Christmas.  This being Austin there was a live bluegrass band to play a small set of songs from the film for us while we waited for it to begin.  We were absolute front and center which was not to great for movie viewing, but wonderful for seeing the band.  The Alamo serves gourmet food at your seat so we got yummy treats on top of it all.  Great morning.  So many fun things to do during Christmas time.

Norwegian Wood

2010/12/16

Norwegian WoodNorwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book was much more grounded in reality than the others of his I've read, but still just as engaging.  Definitely one I will pick up again and see if I can glean another layer.  A lot to say about love and death and life.  He is such a gifted story teller.



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Party time

2010/12/15

December seems to be evaporating before my very eyes. The girls are almost out of school and this morning they both had class parties.  They both had breakfast parties where sugar featured rather heavily.  Tessa's class at least had a few casseroles, but I heard a few of Sylvie's classmates remark with incredulity, "This is breakfast?  This is breakfast!" as they stared at their plate full of donuts and pastries.  Yum.  Both classes had craft stations and various activities involving frosting and glitter.  Tessa seemed to be completely indifferent to the fact that Dave and I were in attendance, but Sylvie still lights up when she sees her parents at school.

McPike's Mustangs


Smith's Super Kids (who are now taught by Mrs. Dye, might have to work on the alliteration)

Year In Review 2010

An annual recap has been a lot harder for me to write ever since I've started blogging.  It's all here among the pixels but my clinical logorrhoea makes it easier for me to write endlessly rather than summarize. But I do happen to be a mighty fine list maker so let's go with that.  I could also graph it for you but I don't need to let all of the crazy out of the bag quite yet.

Speaking of crazy...  Can you find the theme?  Life, eh?
  • A new dog to add to the family.  And an old crazy dog still too.
  • Dave ran marathon #3.  Crazy man.
  • Birthdays number nine and six for my beautiful girls.  
  • Lots of girlie sleepovers and playing on the street with friends.  This makes me happy.
  • Lots of crazy awesome music.  Concerts, albums, and the stuff floating in my head.
  • Purple hair.  The crazy is implied.
  • An incredible amount of yoga which is crazy wonderful.
  • Crazy beautiful wildflowers this spring.  So glad my mom could come and see them.
  • My crazy detailed "week in the life" project which I both loved and hated.
  • A gorgeous trip to the Redwoods of California.  Uh-mah-zing!
  • Lots of piano.  Tessa's in her second year of lessons and Sylvie in her first.  One makes crazy complaints and the other drives me crazy with her incessant joyful playing.
  • A fun trip to the beach.  Crazy bad sunburn!
  • A crazy hot baseball game in Dallas.  Fun to hang out with friends.
  • A CRAZY long road trip to Las Vegas for Thanksgiving and Phoenix on the way home.  
Plus school, work, and a whole lot of daily life in between.  Merry Christmas to family and friends near and far.  I love blogging but I realize that sometimes the personal tidings can get lost in translation.  Know that each of you are loved.

I Know

I felt a fair bit uneasy after I posted my mega list "About Me" the other day.  Probably some due to the fact that it was a rather narcissistic exercise, but also because I realized that it described much about me, but not *who I am*.  So an addendum...

I am a woman who is loved.  And who loves.
I am a daughter of God.

About Me

2010/12/13

That little "about me" button at the top of my blog has got me thinking.  I'm not terribly satisfied with the buckets blogger provides by default so I thought I might do a more satisfactory job going free form.  I am a thirty-something mom of two beautiful daughters who is gainfully employed half time using the analytical part of my brain.  The rest of my hours are where I use the analytical portion of my brain for free.  Things important to me are my testimony of Jesus Christ and my membership in the LDS church, my family, friends, yoga, books, music, and dark chocolate.  I love being outside except when I'd rather be curled up on the couch which is a lot.  I get stressed when I don't exercise.  I run but I don't like it.  I eat more sugar than I should.  I love cookies.  I like TV and movies but really think I should be a better person and just turn the screen off.  I like sunshine and hate wind.  Love the mountains but not the beach.  I love trees.  I hate hot weather but hate cold weather even more so living in the sunbelt suits me just fine.  I l-o-v-e Austin.  I am extremely tidy but not very clean.  I paint my toes but not my fingers.  I don't color my hair except for purple.  I am sensitive to noise but do love to have music playing all day long - sometimes loud.  I like to do the yucky stuff first, but I also tend to be a procrastinator.  Quite often my to do list makes me grumpy but I can't live without it.  I am a problem solver.  I get things done.  Unless I'm feeling lazy in which I excel at taking it easy.  I am logical.  I am opinionated.  I find it virtually impossible to sit in a chair with both feet flat on the floor.  I am a better critic than creator.  I am a mediocre but adoring piano player.  Ditto as a singer.  I am politically liberal compared to many of my friends, but probably more center compared to the country at large.  I am a little uptight but like to play it cool.  I'm not competitive except for in my few choice arenas of excellence.  I need things to be done NOW.  I am slightly obsessed with efficiency.  I hate having to choose between form and function - I want both.  I need things to be lined up and symmetrical.  I love color.  I hate the phone.  I love my computer.  I'd rather not cook but I do it.  I am neither a morning person nor a night owl.  I love sleep.  I love stars.  I am snarky and a talker and like big words.  I like to understand things.  That makes me happy.  I love my little blog so obviously get a buzz from the intersection of writing and self disclosure.  And it helps me understand.

River

2010/12/10

I don't think of this a Christmas song, but I heard a cover of it the other day on a Christmas album and I had to go follow it up with the original.  Nothing could ever match the emotion in Joni's voice.

Early words

2010/12/09

Here are two of my favorites from the stack of school work my dad gave me over Thanksgiving. I didn't know any of this existed and haven't laid eyes on them since creation. The first piece pretty much fits with my sense of being a girl that took herself way too seriously although I certainly do not recollect an obsession with unicorns. I was in tears the first time I read it because I simply could not stop laughing.  The second seems extremely foreign to me and I guess that's why it makes me smile.  Such sassy talk was certainly not normal for me. I was eight and nine respectively when I wrote them.


Plans

2010/12/08

My good friend Audra has agreed to hike the Grand Canyon with me next April when I return to Phoenix.  I cannot possibly overstate how excited I am for this.  I've been wanting to do this for years but just haven't gotten my act together enough to make a plan and do it.  It's been a long time since I had a real goal, a glimmer on the horizon, to work towards.  Feels great.

There has been a little nay saying in my house when I've casually mentioned this idea over the years and it's got me a little nervous about what I'm approaching, but I'm not too worried.  I'm in fairly good shape for a lazy person and I've got time to get my cardio up a bit before heading out.  My leg strength is good from yoga although I'm sure I'll have to find something resembling a hill here and kick it up a notch.

If anyone wants to join us, let me know.  My positive thinking vibes are telling me it will be spectacular!

The Corrections

2010/12/07

The CorrectionsThe Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I've been feeling like my enjoyment of books has gone extremely flat over the past few months - starting to wonder if it was just me or what.  So it was that much better to really savor a book with such extraordinary construction - great characters, wonderful language, smart themes, really just amazing.  I am hesitant to give 5 starts without the caveat that there is some strong sexuality in the book so not a choice for everyone.  The audio production was fantastic as well.  I am thrilled to remember why I love books.



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Winter Trip Leg 7: Home

2010/12/06

Home.  What else is there to say?  We had scheduled two days for the journey but figured there was no real point in stopping.  Not like Fort Stockton has much to offer us.  Especially when my pillow is calling me from across the miles. 16 and a half hours in the car and we finally made it home.  Deep breath.

Winter Trip Leg 6: Friends

I don't think I really anticipated how great it would be to see Dave and the girls reconnecting with old friends. It made me see the whole landscape differently. People are definitely what we miss most about Phoenix.  It was actually a little confusing to me being in Phoenix with my family.  It's almost as if it's become my little place to be away, and being there with them in tow really brought me back.

Tessa and Sylvie were back as fast friends almost immediately with their former best buddies.  Yes, things change but there is certainly something elemental to their friendships.



The boys relived old times watching Monday Night Football while I went out with girlfriends to chat. I'm sure it is well known what a talker I am and by the end of the week I had really worn myself out.  But it's great to maintain connections with the women that I learned how to be a mama with.


In Tessa's age group of our social circle there were oodles and oodles of boys but these two girls stuck together to balance them all out.  They are growing up to be beauties.  So wonderful to catch up with her and her family.


My dear friend Audra opened up her home and threw us a party to reconnect with so many old friends.  It was a great time.



Our great friends and hosts the Dents had another addition to their family since we left and the girls were very excited to meet her.


Thank you again to the Dent family for having us in your home.  Your family is beautiful and I love being able to get such wonderful and intimate glimpses when I return.  'Til next time!

Winter Trip Leg 5: Remembering Phoenix

While I was at the office last week, Dave took the girls around to remember the fine city that we called home for almost a decade.  I was more than a little jealous to send them off to have fun without me, but it was good to have a little daddy daughter bonding. 

First on Tessa's list was definitely the Science Center.  I'm not sure Dave was looking forward to this one considering the ten billion times we visited while living in Phoenix, but I think a good time was had by all.  Enough new stuff to keep stave off boredom for Dave and also make Tessa complain about how much has changed since her glory days.


The zoo was probably first on Dave's list.  No way to count how many times we went there - even before we had kids.  Sylvie insisted before and after the trip that she did NOT want to go, but I think the pictures will testify that she had a great time.  The girls were in a posing mode because this is only a fraction of what I found on my camera at the end of the day.  Crazy beautiful weather too.


We drove through our old neighborhood and neither girl had much recollection of our old house.  Tessa did remember the tiny greenbelt at the end of our street which she affectionately called "the dandelion field".  But the park adjoining our neighborhood community center was another story.  We drove by and Tessa started chanting, "The purple park!  The purple park!"  Excitement ensued.  We only had a few minutes to play, but they were savored for sure.


Friday our friend Patrick took the day off and took Dave and the girls jeeping through the desert.  The girls didn't really want to go but once they were out they had a complete blast.  Come to think of it Sylvie didn't want to do much of anything all week.  At least that's what her mouth said, she seemed to enjoy it all when in the thick of it.  She was only 3 when we moved and she doesn't seem to remember anything or anyone from Phoenix, so I'm sure this trip had a different flavor for her than it did Tessa.

Winter Trip Leg 4: Vegas Baby!

2010/12/05

We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel downtown Vegas while visiting my family, but we hadn't spent much time on the Strip so Saturday we went with my mom and siblings to check out some of the action.  We wandered through a few casinos and took a trip to the m&m store (four stories!) and Coke store as well.  Sylvie loved the m&m store with a passion; I had a lot of fun at the Coke store where we bought a international sampler of 16 of the beverages Coke sells in other countries.  Italians drink some disgusting stuff. 

Our hotel was really cool and especially fun since we love the Rock and Roll music so much.  Although I for one absolutely hate the craziness that is learning to find your way around those ginormous casinos.  The girls got more than one lecture on how the spectacle is financed by gambling losses.  But yes, a super awesome hotel.


Winter Trip Leg 3: Festivities with Family

We spent Friday with my dad.  More fabulous food and general silliness with the fam.  I never laugh so hard as I do with my siblings.  We played tons of games and just generally enjoyed each others company.  My dad pulled out some old school work of mine that he found and we enjoyed much poking fun at elementary school Amber.  There are sure to be some gems from the stack show up on this blog over the coming months.  Priceless stuff.  Good times.


Winter Trip Leg 2: Thanksgiving Day

Ah, Thanksgiving.  It felt strange not having to prepare any food this year.  Mostly I just sat around my mom's house and watched everyone else busy themselves.  I did slice the fruit for a salad and get the cranberry jelly out of the can.  Big responsibilities.  I was a little droopy from the driving so it's probably best that nothing important rested on my shoulders.

There was much playing of Wii.


And of course general horsing around. The girls were restless after so much time in the car and my brother Ben has a way of spurring them on.  Uncles are for tickling, right?


Xandy was very proud to make the rolls all on her own. I was dubious watching her methods, but I think they turned out better than mine.


Anna pinch hit as the turkey carver since the boys were in the other room watching football and practicing selective hearing when we asked them to help.


Yummy food and great being with family.  My mom went to a lot of work getting things ready and it was a great day.