Monday, December 25, 2006

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Last night I went with my mom and my sister to the traditional Christmas Eve pageant at church. Every year it's exactly the same--same songs, same narration, even usually the same people playing the same parts. Sure enough, last night we saw the same multicolored lights lining the pews along the walls and the same tinsel on the angels as they stood to sing "O Holy Night."

I think the most touching part this year was the very human experience. I have to say that I loved the little shepherd boy who totally winced when the spotlight came on, covering his face with his crook. And I loved that Mary came in on her solo early, right when the angels were supposed to sing. She sang beautifully, without error, other than the fact that it wasn't her turn. The angels patiently waited, and sang their song later. Then, after more narration and music, Mary's real cue came and she sang her lullaby again, not missing a beat. No embarrassment, no shame, no wrong note. It was great.

My favorite part, though, was the first wiseman. This is one of the strangest, crustiest old men in the ward. I couldn't figure out how they convinced him to dress up in a shiney gold paisley robe with a velvet turban on his head. But there he was, resolutely marching up the aisle with his pearls (I don't remember pearls in the original story, but they were pretty fancy). He didn't really keep time with the slow melody of "We Three Things" as the traditional script called. Instead, he glided along quite quickly, with his eye on Mary and her baby doll the whole time. I realized that for him, this little pageant was very real--I watched his eyes glistening in the light of the Christmas icicle lights hanging in the front of the chapel. He sincerely, genuinely wanted to bring something to the Christ child.

Suddenly the Christmas message is a very real one--it means everything that Christ was born in a manger, because then He understands the depths and depravity of life. He also understands and welcomes our sincere efforts to know and serve Him.

A dear friend of mine shared this Christmas message with me. It is beautiful art set to sacred music, illustrating the true and very real meaning of Christmas.

Merry Christmas. May you find peace and light and healing in the very human, real, genuine experiences of your life.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ah... relief! I love the feeling of relief! I just turned in my final project for the semester, and I'm done. I finished my first semester of my PhD...

Relief is also the feeling I experienced when I woke up and realized my dream of being back in the MTC to go on yet another mission was just a dream. I don't even know where I was going... I was just wandering around the MTC in a bathrobe, trying to find a shower before the first orientation meeting, and wondering how in the world I could get my hair highlighted before I left...

So many ways to find relief...

Monday, December 04, 2006

I am a believer in red onions. I think a good red onion takes food to a whole new level. It makes a normal ham or turkey sandwich for lunch into a divine repast (add avocado, cucumber, pepper, and a good cheese and it's quite grand). So yesterday I made my roommate's famous bowtie pasta salad for our Sunday dinner, and I had nearly mixed the whole dish when I realized I had forgotten the red onion. With my penchant for perfection, I had to remix with the necessary red onion. I chopped a few slices and dropped them into my overflowing bowl. The more I chopped, the more my eyes began to sting. Finally, I had reached Red Onion Trauma. I could no longer see anything, and I had only added a few thick slices of diced red onion. My sinuses became as clear as they have ever been, and the only escape from Red Onion Trauma I could manage was a hot shower. The salad was a success. Here's the recipe:

Poppy Seed Bow Tie Pasta Salad
1 16-oz. bow tie pasta cooked and cooled
1 red pepper sliced (it's fun to use yellow and orange, too)
red onion sliced or chopped (watch out!)
1 can black olives drained
1 can mandarin oranges drained
*sugared pecans (your desired amount)
**poppy seed dressing

Divide dressing in 1/2. Add peppers, onion, olives, oranges, and 1/2 the pecans. Mix with pasta. Add remainder of dressing and pecans on top. Garnish with a slice of pepper.

*To sugar pecans, heat a non-stick pan. When pan is hot sprinkle sugar in pan. Watch for the sugar to melt. When all melted, add pecans and mix. Let cool.

**Poppy seed dressing
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 T. minced onion (again, beware)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1 tsp. mustard
1 T. poppy seed

Blend ingredients all together in blender/processor for 2 minutes. Sauce will be a little thick.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Spoons, spoons, spoons. We had the most eventful game of spoons this Thanksgiving, one that will surely go down in our family record books for years to come. While I don't think blood was drawn this year, we did have crazy antics of sliding across the table, bracing feet on someone's chest to tear away a spoon, and grabbing a spoon from an unsuspecting hand who was trying to stop the madness. My five-year-old niece loved watching the action from my lap for the first bit, but then it got a little wild for her and she actually decided to go to bed. (Since when does a five-year-old decide to go to bed?!) It was great times...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A couple of weeks ago I drove down to Jamestown and connected with my colonial past (yes, my uncle found a direct line in our family to Pocahontas). It was a beautiful day--blue skies, sun, vibrant fall colors, brisk air. Again... I am in love with Virginia and her trees.

I first stopped at Jamestown Settlement, a living history museum that has reconstructed the Jamestown Fort, port, and Indian village. There were people there in costume demonstrating building log boats, doing laundry, working in a blacksmith shop, skinning a deer, fixing a boat. It was all very cool.

After I left the Jamestown Settlement, I drove out past the cattails, where I stopped at Historic Jamestown--which is the actual location of the fort and New Jamestown, the town that grew out of the fort. Nothing is left of the actual fort (although they have recreated a wall along two sides), but anthropologists have been excavating and they found the foundations of the walls as well as some buildings and wells. The brakish water in the wells preserved things like leather shoes, armor, dishes, weapons. I decided that if I weren't a historian, I would be an anthropologist.

New Jamestown had brick ruins of buildings. Very cool.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Yesterday was a fall festivus of flavor, and it lasted all day long. We went to the Carlyle Grand for brunch and had this amazing eggs benedict over crab cakes. Incredible. I don't even know how to begin to describe it. You know how sometimes you are a little afraid of eggs benedict because of the runny hollandaise sauce? Everything here just sort of blended into the crab, which was so light and flaky and melted in your mouth. It was an incredible combination.

Last night we had an invitation-only event: everyone had to make something with an ingredient never before used. I have always wanted to make tomato bisque, and though I was mocked incessantly for never having used chicken stock (what can I say? I was raised with a mother who makes really good tacos and doesn't do a lot of other stuff other than your typical Relief Society casseroles and awesome dutch oven cooking), it turned out very well if I do say so myself. I sort of improvised on the recipe and added a bunch of my frozen pesto cubes as well as some balsamic vinegar. It was really good. I also tried some other amazing food: brussel sprouts with pancetta, bacon-wrapped figs, stuffing with pomegranate, parley-apple soup, etc. It was a grand evening with a lot of great people and great laughs. And tonight I must roll off to bed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Random memory. Today my colleague and new friend Misha and I have been talking about random memories of food, and I wanted to jot this down so I don't forget it. I remember once when I was probably about nine, I went Christmas shopping with my grandmother. It was just me and GranNomi, and I felt like a million bucks. I don't remember where we went or what we bought (I'm sure it was probably ZCMI at the University Mall), but I remember going home to her house for lunch. She made me a toasted open-faced sandwich with cheese and a hot dog split down the middle in the shape of an X. It was delicious--I'd never had such a creation, and I loved it. But mostly I loved her for spending that time with me, for making me feel so important, and for teaching me to try new things out of her refrigerator. She is always so creative--using what she has. How I love her. This is a picture of her when she was in a school play in Arizona--I think she was Becky in Tom Sawyer.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I love the Potomac River. I went running this morning on the Mt. Vernon Trail, past the airport, toward Old Town. It was incredible--a perfect temperature, sunny, blue skies, with autumn clinging on for a few more days. While most leaves had fallen, I ran through patches of gold and red. It was invigorating. I later met some friends for brunch in Old Town--what a great place. I loved driving down the crowded streets.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

There is nothing like zooming down country roads with the moon roof open, the windows down, Dave Matthews band blasting, and the sun shining in a very blue sky. I felt like I was flying this morning through the trees that look like they're on fire with color. It's invigorating.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I have a new love: NPR podcasts. I've recently subscribed to NPR's Story of the Day and This I Believe, and I've been a long-time fan of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, the NPR News Quiz. If only Car Talk were free... At any rate, this morning I was listening to the Story of the Day from October 25 about a family cocker spaniel: "The Dog Who Loved to Suck on Toads." I was laughing so hard I could barely see and I almost had to pull over as I was driving to work. You must look it up.

I love driving along Braddock Road in to GMU. It's a six-mile stretch from the freeway, surrounded by trees and homes and the occasional strip mall. This morning I saw a sign at a new cemetery (so it's not a hundred years old, but it's got a lot of graves): Fall Cemetery Sale. Just in case you were in need...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I love the Arlington Cemetery. I was on my way home from visiting some friends this afternoon, and the sun was so beautiful that I couldn't just go home and read, so I made a detour to the Arlington Cemetery. Today was the Marine Corps Marathon, and so there was still quite a bit of traffic and people, even at 4:30. I only had a half hour, but I loved every minute. I love the rolling hills and the green lawn, the stark white crosses in their perfecty symmetry. I love the older, grander headstones of the more accomplished leaders, and I love the list of battles and companies on each stone. While the mood is a bit somber, there is a beautiful peace and patriotism there. I loved the view from the Arlington House. I got to the top of the hill as the sun was setting, shining on the Washington Monument, the Capitol, and the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. I loved looking toward the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the new Air Force Memorial, and National Airport, with the patchwork of red and yellow trees, green grass, and white crosses. It was beautiful.

I also love Sunday afternoon naps. I usually have church in the afternoon, but this morning we had stake conference, so I got to stretch out on the couch in the sun and sleep for a bit. It was delicious.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I love yoga. I love the stretching, the breathing, the centering, and the balancing. I can push myself to new places. I love feeling my muscles warm up, pulling and contracting. My favorite poses today were the wrap, tree, and dancer. I feel like a new person.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I must say that I have a new love: 100% cotton sheets. I know, I know--they wrinkle and all, and I have been known to iron my sheets right on my bed (just ask my former NYC roommates who caught it on video!). But there is nothing like the crisp, clean feeling of 100% cotton.

I made some delicious pork cutlets last night. The recipe called for dried sage, and I thought I had some, but I didn't. In my panic to find a substitute, I remembered that we had a sage-looking plant out on the back patio, and I figured it was worth a try. It smelled sage-y, too, so I grabbed a few leaf-things and chopped them up very fine, and I'm not dead this morning. I really should find out what that plant is. It's next to our huge basil plant that I turned into pesto last week before it freezes, so I figured it would be ok.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I love the challenge of running against the wind. Strangely enough, I feel strong. Sometimes I need that physical reminder.

I also love trees. I've decided that trees are one of the greatest things about Virginia. I've come to appreciate them in an entirely new way, especially after living in Manhattan and Utah and Arizona. I love their height and depth. I love walking through groves of trees and little forests on campus. I love the varying shades of green and now, of red and yellow and brown. I love seeing the sun shine through trees. I love the sound of wind rustling through the leaves, and I do NOT love the squirrels that live in them.

I also love this new chocolate I found at Trader Joes with almond filling. Ah, it's the best.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Yesterday I went running along the Washington Mall. I must say, it was a glorious fall day. I had actually just signed up for a membership at Gold's Gym and though quite excited at the possibilities of a new exercise regime, I could not pass up a crisp sunny afternoon run. I started at the Lincoln Memorial, past the World War II memorial, the Washington Monument, then up around the Capitol, past the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court. I ran past the White House on the way back down the Mall. The air was crisp, the sun was shinging, the leaves were just starting to turn yellow, and there were tourists everywhere. It's sort of fun to dodge through the strollers and old women tour guides holding up umbrellas and talking as loud as they can about the Supreme Court--I feel like I'm a local and that I own this turf, and I welcome people to come exprience it for themselves.

I finished planting my 200 bulbs yesterday morning. I filled every pot and planter I could find, and crowded bulbs in front. I love the feel of dirt in my fingernails and the nurture and hope of blooms come spring. And I defy any squirrel who thinks my tulips and crocuses are his dinner.

On the food front: great dinner at Viridian in the District. There is nothing like a good blackened trout on fennel. And the summer squash pastry appetizers were excellent. Not so much a fan of the pipe dream beet-orange-goat cheese concoction, but it was well worth the adventure. I loved walking the streets of DC last night, smelling the autumn air and seeing all the great row hosues. I miss living in the City.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Today I love sunshine filtering through colored trees. And I love that trees change color at different times with different shades. For some reason this year I dread the loss of leaves, so I feel like I'm hanging on to the last leaf (name that movie!).

And for my food fetish, I had the greatest sandwich: a blt with my homemade pesto spread. Divine!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I've decided to create a blog where I can list the great things about my life. Too often I get bogged down in critical theory and grad school survival and working with a bunch of techies. I forget the abundant tender mercies all around me. I'm going to use this blog, then, to post the things I'm grateful for.

Today I am grateful for the fog and clouds because they accentuate the vibrant color of the changing leaves.

I am also grateful for French vanilla yogurt, granola, and craisins. Yum.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Start spreading the news; I'm leaving today. Ok, so not today, but Wednesday, May 24, I'm leaving New York for a grand new adventure. It's a bittersweet occasion; while I'm excited to spend a summer working on the Mountain Meadows Massacre at the LDS Church Archives, then move on to a Ph.D. program at George Mason University in northern Virginia, I will miss the pulse of the City. Yesterday I ran 20 miles in Central Park, loop after loop, drinking in the pounding of the New York Road Runners racers, the hot dog stands, the tourist groups at Strawberry Fields, the yoga class on the grass outside the marionette theater, the girls softball teams, the dogs and their walkers, the view of the city skyline against the reservoir.

I love the people I've encountered, the foods I've savored, the velocity at which I've moved, and the surprising delights along the way. My various jobs, dear friends, favorite geographic locations, delightful discoveries, challenging school experiences, have all created who I am and will always be a part of me.

If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.