Moment of the day 4.30.2011


No school festival is complete without standing in line for 40 minutes for face painting.

My Salvation


I've recently stumbled upon Alexi Murdoch who sounds just like Nick Drake reincarnate. Which is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Happy Easter


Just a few cute pictures of us on our way to church today. We don't really do the whole Easter dress thing for the girls anymore. Tessa won't wear them and Sylvie's been wearing hers for months so it's not really a special occasion thing. But I did convince her to wear an Easter hat this year and it is adorable if I do say so myself. I think next year will be the year when I rock an Easter hat to church myself.

Church was lovely this morning. Working in primary on a major holiday is a mixed bag. It's a given that the kids will be antsy from the excitement and the sugar, and the administration of primary is hectic enough that there isn't always opportunity to sit in stillness enough to feel the spirit. Today was no exception. The kids were wild, the lessons were simple, but despite it all I had such an incredible witness of the special message today. I know that through the Atonement and Resurrection our Savior gave us the ultimate gift of salvation. A gift He gave through Love. It was a piercing and humbling feeling that shot clean through me as I sat in primary today. A knowledge that I do know Him, and that I owe Him everything.  Good news indeed.

Moment of the day 4.23.2011


Girls night at Emo's.  6th street, live music.  Pretending for a few hours that we aren't in our mid 30s with kids at home.


Happy Easter!

The Hunt

We headed out to to wilds of our backyard to get our easter egg hunt on this afternoon. 

Sylvie in the bunny hat I crocheted at her request this week. Knit head wear is always totally pleasant when it's high 80s and 1,000% humidity.

Tessa is usually the one that gets the eggs in the out of the way spots.

This was my favorite shot. Tessa going for an egg hung in the branches of our live oak. She definitely worked for that one.

Moment of the day 4.22.2011


I am currently obsessed with yarn.  How old am I?

When mommy's away

I found these pictures on my camera this morning.  The time stamp on the photos tells me things got a little silly while I was at book club Monday night.  No wonder their laundry ended up strewn around the hallway rather than put away.

Moment of the day 4.21.2011


While picking up my girls from school it hit me that we're headed into a long weekend.  Good thing? Bad thing? Only time will tell.

Moment of the day 4.19.2011


Sick. And stuff.

Let the Great World Spin


Let the Great World SpinLet the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I seem to have read quite a few books lately that have intersecting narratives and I very much like them.  It takes almost the entire book to unravel how all the different voices relate to each other, but in the end it was totally worth it.  I think it is such a rich way to discover the truth of a moment to hear it from so many different points of view.  I listened to this book and having different narrators for each story was such a great touch, really added to the effect.  Be forewarned that there is one character that uses rather vulgar language.

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The Tortilla Curtain

The Tortilla CurtainThe Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This really was a spectacular book.  I enjoyed the two narratives, one of the immigrants and one of the suburban family.  I felt like their humanity was very much on display.  None of the characters were completely sympathetic and I guess that felt even more real to me.  The author had a lot to say about the issue of immigration, but I never felt like I really came down completely on one side of the argument or the other which I liked.  He did however do a sensational job of pointing out the hypocrisies of the American characters.  Simply a great book.  Fabulous narrative, great characters, heartbreaking yet absolutely accessible plot.

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Moment of the day 4.17.2011


I haven't had my beads out in months and I had forgotten how happy they make me.  Such lovely colors, shapes, textures.  I favor stone and rich colors.  Yum.



I realize I've gone a bit overboard with the phone blogging, but now that I've trained my attention to look for "moments" they seem to be everywhere.  I mean how often do you come across a piano plunked in the middle of a bridge downtown while running?  Must stop to admire.  I adore my city.

Moment of the day 4.15.2011

Any day is a good day for yoga but today it was a necessity.

Moment of the day 4.14.2011


Reading in the front yard with my girls.  Perfection.



I'm not the only one that loves my bed.  This what happens when I try to read in the afternoon.


It's been over a year in the making, but I've finally finished the blanket I promised Sylvie for Christmas.  Of course done now just as it's getting hot and blankets are not high on the wish list.  But I'm legacy building here so I've got the long view in mind.  All my crafting lately seems to be with an obsession to make things for my girls to remember me by long after I've kicked the bucket.  Slightly morbid yes but a good motivator for me.  Sylvie picked out the pattern and the yarn, it was just up to me to put in the uncountable hours to crochet it all.  This was my first attempt at a granny square quilt and I will not be repeating it any time soon.  Yes, the individual pieces are super easy to make, but assembling the entire blanket was something of a nightmare.  If you turn it over you'll find lots of yarn ends sticking out.  I was going to try and do the right thing and spend another umpteen hours hiding them all, but Sylvie insists that she likes them that way.  Fine by me.  I'd be a little more exuberant about finishing it except that the pieces of Tessa's (same pattern, different colors of course) are sitting in my bedroom beckoning me to begin the arduous process of assembly all over again.  Next Christmas maybe.

Moment of the day 4.13.2011

I loooove my bed.  I read here, crochet here, watch TV on my iPad here, not as often as I used to but occasionally nap here.  I lay here when I want quiet, when I'm tired, when my head aches, when I'm lazy, when I'm sad.  I bought a fancy shmancy mattress topper and some rediculously expensive pillows this year and now it's even more divine.  It is high on my grateful list on good days and bad.

Moment of the day 4.12.2011


I splurged with some gift certificates and bought a Roomba.  Several weeks and many customer service calls later, it's still not working.  I got yet another replacement today and it also does not work.  Really?  But they are "very sorry for any inconvenience" this may have caused me.  Grrrrrr!

Moment of the day 4.11.2011


Working from my front yard this morning.  Early morning rainstorm made the weather divine.  Smells great, sounds lovely, feels perfect.

Moment of the day 4.10.2011


Sundays.  It is impossible to stave off the crazies.  Completely impossible.



I am a consumer of information.  And how.  The very first app I researched and bought when I got my iPad for Christmas was *the* perfect rss feed reader (River of News if anyone wants to know).  I read my feeds on my computer as well and on my phone too when I'm stuck in line or waiting to pick up the girls (I love Feeder for WebOS).  Always reading.  Anyone who's talked to me for three minutes knows how I love to preach the gospel of Google Reader.  I don't necessarily read every single thing that come across my feeds, but I do skim most of it.  Breadth and not depth seems to be my phase of life.  Occasionally when I am too far behind, I do hit that "mark all as read" button but I don't like it.  Anyway, I thought I'd share a list of what's in my reader other than friend's blogs.  You can also see pieces I've liked and shared on the "read me" widget on my side bar.




Plus a whole bunch of Data Visualization and Business Intelligence blogs for work.  More than you want to know.

And now you know why I begin every conversation with, "I just read an article..."

Moment of the day 4.9.2011

Once again a cold winter ravaged our yard but seemingly overnight the green has reappeared to stunning effect.

Moment of the day 4.8.2011


Cricket had his first trip to the groomers last weekend.  The insane amount of pollen in the back yard and his "street sweeper" butt hair were an impossible combination and I was too tired to take the clippers to him myself.  Needless to say, he is exceedingly handsome now and has been getting way more positive attention from me than normal.  He came to visit me in my bedroom while I read this afternoon.

Something to touch and remember

I wasn't able to visit the visitor center or gift shop at the Grand Canyon due to our premature exit to the ER, but I did take home some rocks for souvenirs for my girls.  (I learned after the fact that this is illegal so please don't turn me in.  I promise I won't do it again.)  It was really amazing how many colors and types of rocks you can find in the Canyon.  Beautiful.  But it was my lucky rock that I brought along as a talisman to keep me going through the day.



This is what happens when you send a girl to time out on "the black bench" when it's the end of a long day.

How Close is it to Never?

Weird conversations going on around here.  It started a few days ago while searching for a birthday gift for my daughter's friend.  She informed me that she was "really into fat unicorns".  "That would make a good band name", I replied.  "Definitely", she answered.  (How a 10 year old girl becomes fixated with fat unicorns is another story.)  The conversation was somehow resurrected today on our way to piano lessons and I decided that "How Close is it to Never" would be a perfect choice for my band name.  I tried to cajole a band name out of my other daughter but she was having none of it until we sidetracked into a new name conversation.  I told her that I needed her to come up with a band name and so I could write it on my blog.  Then little miss "fat unicorn" got agitated that I would be writing about her with reference to this particular subject.  She reminded me of a promise I had made to give her veto power over anything I wrote about her on my blog.  I asked her if I could write about it if I changed her name.  To which she agreed without reservation.  I'm not totally following that logic but for the remainder of this post she shall be known as Emily, per her request.  Well, my other daughter was all over that and she quickly told me that she wanted her new name to be Silbo and her band name was "Puppy".  Well there you go, new names and band names.  The inner workings of our car conversations.  I still think my band name is the best.  It's a good answer to your question.

actually emily's band is better (post script by "Emily")

Inner Space minus Martin Short


When I heard Sylvie's class was going to Inner Space Caverns for their field trip I immediately thought of the *classic* and much beloved by me 1987 film.  But no, much to my dismay, there was to be no miniaturization or science fiction plot.  But we did get to see really cool caves and pan for gem stones.  Almost as good.   Mostly I was just happy to spend the day with my girl.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the HedgehogThe Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such a lovely book to read.  I loved the characters, loved the different narrations, loved the short chapters, loved the many musings on things philosophical and otherwise.  Just lovely.  I think there was a lot of meat hidden underneath it all and I'm eager to discuss it with my book group later this month.

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I've been blogging for just over three years now.  Which means it's almost three years since we moved to Austin.  Some days it feels like that was eons ago, sometime it feels like just yesterday.  Since when did time move linearly anyway?  I feel much more connected to the Austin version of myself than at any time in the past.  Of course mostly because it's tangibly in the present, but also because there are so many more words written down to remind me.  Smart stuff this journaling thing.  Every month I like to look back at the same month's posts from prior years and I am always amazed at how much I've forgotten.  Such joy I get from seeing how cute Sylvie's cheeks were or remembering back to a time when Tessa wore pink.  Growth.  Journeys.  The stuff of life.

Brain Freeze


The girls were unhappy with the prospect of me traveling last week so I devised a little scheme to motivate them through the week. I told them we would go out for frozen yogurt when I got back and that for every book they read while I was gone they could get one additional topping. This was my second attempt at a reward plan after a pay-per-page idea that would certainly have bankrupted the family kitty.

Tessa earned five toppings (although I'd wager one or two of her books read were beneath her reading level) and Sylvie earned six.  Their topping choices were very much in keeping with their general preferences and personalities:

Tessa had both strawberry and mango sorbets with blackberries, strawberries, kiwi, chocolate chips, and cherries on top.

Sylvie had both cookies & cream and cheesecake yogurt with gummy bears, cookie dough, mini m&m's, chocolate covered raisins, oreos, and sprinkles on top.

Dave and I each finished only one book last week, but let's just say we had as many toppings as we wanted.  Parents' prerogative.


I am a crafter only in fits and spurts and I am recently obsessed with making crobots. Crochet!  Robots!  A perfect fit!  I've done 5 out of 20 of the creations in the book I bought, who knows where it will end?

Grand Canyon 2011


I am still feeling a little euphoric after last Saturday's hike down and up the Grand Canyon.  It is sad to me that it's over and I'm already itching to go again.  It was way better than I had thought and not nearly as hard.  Just a perfect day in so many ways.  There really are four stories within this story of the Canyon and I.  It was a really big day for me and I want to capture it all so if you're not in the mood for long winded, just scroll down to see the pretty pictures.  I promise I'll understand.

The first layer of my story is one of sleep.  If aliens were to come down today and want to know something about how I operate I'd say, "Hello, my name is Amber and my first priority is sleep."  I do not do well even missing 1 hour off of my regular eight, so making it through this weekend was a special kind of miracle for me.  Thursday night I slept poorly from nerves, but that was to be expected - packing etc. stresses me out.  I flew to Phoenix Friday and slept the night at my friend Audra's house.  That is if sleep is defined by napping fitfully only to wake up every hour convinced that I had slept through my alarm.  I went to bed at 9sh but was up just after 2 with no chance of getting back to sleep.  Yay.  We were out the door at 3 to pick up the rest of our group and hit the road.   The adrenaline of the day kept me going on the hike and I felt really good.  But by the time we got to dinner around nine o'clock that night we were all a little loopy from lack of sleep.  Giggling.  Tears.   Soooo sleepy.

I got to bed around 11 but woke up around 2 something crazy parched from the climate.  That wouldn't have been so bad if we hadn't all woken up just a short while later at 3:30 am to take a fellow hiker to the emergency room.  Nancy had started having abdominal cramps as we headed up the canyon the afternoon before, but they got to a pretty scary place in the middle of the night and we headed to the nearest ER which was a few hours away in Flagstaff.  After all that's happened since, I look back and I'm amazed she hiked all the way up in so much discomfort.  It took the doctors all of Sunday and some of Monday to really assess the situation, but she ended up having surgery Monday to repair a kink/dead spot/break/problem (my non-medical self is still sketchy on details) with her intestines.  Completely non-hike related and I've probably said a thousand prayers of thanks that it didn't happen 12 hours earlier.  Anyway, we were at the ER until 1 or 2 that afternoon when Nancy's husband came up and we finally headed home.  Propped up in waiting room chairs may not have been the best place to recover or rest, but it certainly solidified the camaraderie as we all got a little punchy and silly throughout the day.  Nancy was on morphine for her pain and honestly, she was just as lucid as the rest of us.  We stopped for lunch before leaving town and then arrived back in Phoenix around 5:00.  A little too late for a nap so we toughed it out until 8:30 or so and then I had a blissful, solid, amazing 9 or 10 hours.  Heaven.

The second story is one of my body.  I've been wanting to hike the Grand Canyon for a long while now, but I've been a little nervous.  That seems like a sane enough reaction to such a plan.  It's just hard to gauge what an experience like that will really feel like. I haven't done really significant hiking since my girls came along 10 years ago so I didn't know how my body would hold up.  I've been getting ready for the hike by hitting the stair machine at my gym and taking three days off of work to tear up Barton Springs trail.  But that's only 12-15 miles and pretty flat so I wasn't sure if that would be enough.  I'm still running 9ish miles a week and that definitely helped prepare me.  But in the end I really think my regular yoga practice is what made the hike so easy on my legs.  Anyway, I felt amazing the whole day.  Going down ended up being harder on me.  Probably the last mile or two on the down grade my calves started complaining and if we had another mile or so I would have been in some real pain.  They felt like total rocks.  But once we hit the flat at the bottom there were no more worries.  Going up was obviously harder on the cardio, but we didn't go at a very fast pace and there was really no time when I felt out of breath or in need of a major rest.  My legs felt wonderful the whole way up.  No trouble with any major muscle groups or joints.  I've been having a little trouble with my left knee in yoga and I've felt it as I hiked getting ready so I was really worried how I'd feel at the end of the day, but not a single peep.  Funny enough, after getting out of the canyon, it was the walk back to the car where my feet really started aching.  But not a single blister and that is amazing since my feet are sensitive and prone to trouble.  Sunday and Monday I had to reacquaint my calves with the process of walking every time I sat for more than 20 minutes, but they were always good after moving a bit.  How good I felt during the hike and during recovery is a big part of me wanting to get back and do it again.  Soon!

And of course there is the story of the canyon.  How many words have I already written here without even touching on it?  It was much more beautiful than I had imagined.  I haven't been to the Grand Canyon since I was a girl.  We never even went in our nine years living in Phoenix which should be a crime.  But hiking it was definitely the way to see it.  I was amazed by the different colors and formations of rock.  I was amazed by the beautiful fauna on the canyon floor.  It was a cloudy day and the play of sunlight and shadow on the Canyon was breathtaking.  We began on the South Rim going down the Kaibab trail.  We started out at 8:00 in high 20's temperatures and the first half an hour was a little scary because the trail headed down, at a pretty fair grade, with ice and show on the trail.  I was starting to wish we had rented crampons but it only lasted less than 30 minutes.  And I miraculously did not slide off the trail to my death.  We hiked at a pretty leisurely pace, stopping seemingly every 6.3 minutes for a photo opp as my SmugMug gallery can attest.  All five of us had cameras and we were well documented if nothing else.  We hit the first bridge at the bottom around 11:30 and that was a happy time for us all.

We headed over to Phantom Ranch, ate a little lunch and rested up.  I had to try really hard to enjoy the way down because there was a voice inside of me was worried about the hike up.  But I did a pretty good job of enjoying the moment.  After a nice rest we got ourselves back in gear and headed over to Indian Garden where the climb out begins up the Bright Angel trail (still on the South Rim).  We knew at this point that we were going to be fighting to get out by dark and I was a little nervous, but we were still in good spirits.  It was barely sprinkling, but in general the temperature had been perfect all day.  It was so beautiful on this leg.  A little more green an intimate as compared to the seeping panoramas of the Kaibab trail.  Wonderful variety in the Canyon.  The way up is more psychologocial for sure.  Every time you look up it seems impossible to see the sides of the Canyon towering so high above you.  Even half way up when the floor looks incredibly distant, there is still so much elevation to conquer. 

As we got closer to the top we had a few minutes of hail and we heard from some hikers coming down that we still had a few miles to go in mud and ice and less than an hour until sunset.  That was not good news but we were still pretty okay as a group.  I was worried but there's really only way out so on we went.  The trail did get pretty mucky, but it wasn't really bad until the last few switchbacks when the ice formed again and we were finally exposed to the wind.  We only had one slip and fall as a group due to the mud on the trail, and all in all that's a pretty good record for a motley group like us.  We had to use flashlights the last 15 or 20 minutes, but we weren't alone on the trail and that was a big morale boost.  It could have been worse a lot worse if the rain/hail had kept up.  Finishing was crazy sweet.  Just after 7:00 which made it a solid 11 hours for 17-18 miles on the trail.  We took an easy pace throughout the day and I consider it a good bang for my buck that we eeked every last moment of daylight out of it.

My last story is the human story.  The Canyon is a wonderful place, but it's the people that really made this such a marvelous and singular weekend.  There were five in our group, some new friends and some old friends.  I'm so glad to have done it with each and every of them.  I enjoyed meeting Kat who is such a positive, friendly, and woman open to the good of the universe.  It was great reconnecting with Nancy and getting to know her better.  Bummer on the emergency room - she is such a kind, friendly, and super funny woman.  I had great conversations all day with Pam.  She was our trail blazer for most of the day just as she is in life.  Inspirational woman there.  Thanks so much to Audra for stepping up to support my dream, making me commit, for planning it all and getting us all with the plan.  She is the best example of what it means to be a friend.

So finally here are some of my favorite pictures.  They tell a much better story than my gazillion words.  The rest of the photos are in my SmugMug gallery here.  I'm going back to the Grand Canyon again as soon as I can.  Who's up for version 2.0?

P.S.  My apologies as I've just run a count and the above totals 1,872 words.  I am a little exuberant about my adventure.

On the shuttle heading to the trail head

It was coooold at the top. Mid to high 20s.

There was a lot of stopping to pose for pictures the first quarter.

The cloud cover made for some breathtaking vistas.  The sunlight and shadow enhanced the beauty of the canyon.





The first bridge is a very happy sight.

I am grinning because my calves finally have a break as we hit the flat.

Indian Garden is a beautiful spot to catch one last rest before the climb out begins.

And here we are at our victory dinner at Bright Angel Lodge.  The food was great, but sitting down was even better.