Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How to be HOT

Hot, hot, hot
The air is hot, the style is hot, my chocolate is hot and melted. After looking at all the fashionable men and women, I feel like the anti-hot. I am totally sporting the "Utah Housewife" look while I'm in Berlin, but worse: It's Utah Housewife without air conditioning. Not hot. I got back from sightseeing this afternoon and immediately took a long, cold shower to cool off.

I have started taking photos of unsuspecting men for a blog entry that I will later title, "How to Look Hot :: Men of the Continent" or "How to Look Like a European Man in Three Easy Steps." You can choose which title you like best. I need to find some quiet park bench where I can hold my camera in hand like all the other tourists, while stealthily photographing the PEOPLE instead of the SIGHTS.

Loud, loud, loud
I thought I was over my jetlag on the first day. Miracle! And then last night happened. I couldn't sleep. I lay awake in the semi-darkness, counting car horns since I couldn't count sheep. The noise in this city never slackens, never dies out. There was one minute when a stillness slowly crept on the street below me. I waited with baited breath to see if the car tires, horns and engines would actually be silent for an entire moment. Just as the sound had died to almost-impercepibility, the process reversed and a car revved around the corner and awakened the street. Isn't New York supposed to be the city that never sleeps? I think it ain't got nothin' on Berlin. This place never stops moving.

Smells, smells, smells
I am trying to keep a good attitude about the smells. I am saying to myself, "Breathe it in. It is part of the atmosphere of a big city." I am sure that if I were to return one day, I would chuckle to myself and say, "Ah yes! I would recognize the smells of Berlin anywhere! What a sentimental return to the past!"

Until that day, I am trying in vain to love the cigarette smoke and general grime in the air. The air is thick with scents every moment. I can feel the air going into my body, especially on Unter den Linden, where my throat cries out in allergic pain.

Wet and dry
The air is so wet that my jeans stuck to my legs yesterday in a rather unfortunate way. The cloth chafed against me with every movement, refusing to relax and let my legs breathe. Today I am back to wearing my loose, shapeless khakis.

After about ten minutes outside, I can put a hand to my face and feel the perspiration running down it. It is so, so hot and humid that I don't know why I keep trying to put on makeup. What's the point?

My hair is suddenly not itself. It's taking on some kind of strange personality of its own, curling outward at the ends and frizzing all around my face. I don't know what to do with it, but I think I may have to put it in a pony tail because of the heat.

I miss the accessibility of WATER at home. I normally drink and drink and drink all day long. Here, I have to pay 2.5 euros for a glass of mineral water. The result is that I am gradually dehydrating myself, which I can't afford to do when it is so hot. Must... figure... out... water...

Photos online on Picasa Web.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Guten nacht, Berlin

Did you know that if you leave Salt Lake City at 4:40 p.m. and fly direct to Paris, you never truly lose the sunlight? You go from sunset to twilight to dawn instantly, and a few short hours later, the sun has risen again. There is never darkness.

I left my comfortable home 24 hours ago: kissed my children goodbye, cried and turned away. I boarded a plane to Paris, spent 10 hours and 45 minutes wishing I could sleep well on planes, got off the plane and into a bus, out of the bus and into the Paris airport, walked all the way across the airport, bought a croissant (just so I could say I did--it wasn't really that good), boarded another bus that took me all the way back across the airport to another waiting plane, flew 90 minutes to Berlin, settled into a top floor apartment of a hostel (!), walked for hours around Berlin, caught the underground back, ate dinner in a small mexican restaurant and cheered in disbelief as the US scored two goals agains Brazil in the Confederations Cup. (Too tired to watch the whole thing.... I'll have to get the final result tomorrow...)

I realized in the Paris airport that I could hardly remember enough French to say "One croissant, please" or "thank you." I recovered my wits enough on the plane to Berlin to say, "Eau, sil vous plait." I was delighted when the flight attendant promptly turned and poured me a cup of water. I actually communicated something in French! I was equally excited when I asked a German man for help and he understood what I was asking. What a crazy, exciting thing to realize that these people, however foreign they may seem to me, are not completely out of reach.

I listened in amazement to my Dad and our taxi driver discuss American politics, German debt, Barack Obama, finance, the philosophy of war-making, etc. I was amazed at how much I understood and wondered at why such a well-educated, clearly intelligent man was driving a taxi for a living. The taxi was a Mercedes. Perhaps that is a hint of something I don't understand.

I started--and finished--Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and was moved by the powerful messages. So true that we distill our lives into convenience and entertainment and "happiness" instead of depth, meaning and triumph over challenges. What a book. What an author.

I wrote three nonsensical, sleep-deprived pages about the way the clouds looked. I know you're dying to read that, but I'm sorry. I'm too tired to do data entry. You may have stream of consciousness tonight until I completely lose consciousness. That is all.

My feet finally started hurting, I finally started feeling drowsy and I discovered that I am very allergic to Linden trees while I was walking Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate. I tried not to cry as my Dad reminded me of the simple ease with which we can walk from the former West German Berlin, through the gate and into the former no-man's land. He said that when he was younger, he visited Communist Berlin and saw people gather at sunset to wave good night to their families on the other side of the gate. A symbolic, powerful gesture of love despite separation. Now we walk through, peacefully rubbing our hands against the stone pillars and snapping photos of the architecture.

I never knew that vacationing could be this exhausting. I miss my children and my comfortable routine and my small, quiet suburb. The hint of communism has left a subtle, bitter aftertaste on this town that I cannot wash away. Buildings are blackened and covered with soot. Some buildings that used to be landmarks are now green fields. This city almost chokes one with its' bitter history and struggles. Tomorrow we start to discover some of the beauty that has not been bombed away or dismantled by human folly.

Guten nacht, Berlin. Schlaf gut.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Day

There must be something in the water here: I've been crafting again. And not just a little bit this time. Oh no no no. I have been virtually swallowed up by bits of paper, glue sticks, double-stick tape and scissors. Call me crazy, but I think it was fun. I've also been baking up a storm. I can't help myself. It was Father's Day, which sounds to me like "A Good Excuse to Bake Some Delicious Food and Pretend Like It's For The Fathers" Day.

Here's what my oh-so-domestic side came up with for Father's Day:

Banana Crumb Muffins for breakfast

Whole wheat blueberry pancakes with cinnamon, blueberry syrup and toasted pecans

Gift card inside a homemade pillow box (so fun to make!)

Homemade Card #1 (inspired by this from marthastewart.com)

Version #2 (my person favorite)

I found this on the Martha Stewart website and loved it. I changed it up a bit by adding a different color backing, which also made the entire thing more stable. I used folded bits of the backing cardstock for the "legs" which hold it up. Inspiration here.

I am very proud of this one because I took the idea above and made my own template. The photos were much smaller but the end result was super cute! I made one of these for both my father and my father-in-law. It took a bit of time, but it was well worth it.

This is what the back looks like.

A few photos were sacrificed to the cause ...

Okay, it was a "Very Martha" Father's Day. This is yet ANOTHER Martha Stewart Dad Day craft. Inspiration here. Of course hers is a bazillion times cuter than mine, but I get an A for effort.

We added a patriotic twist to Father's Day dessert with perfectly ripe strawberries from our backyard and blueberries (not from the back yard, but we do have some dying blueberry bushes that I want to revive someday). These are vanilla cupcakes made from the Williams-Sonoma Mary Ann Cake recipe, which has become my staple cake. We added a cream cheese frosting and they were perfectly delicious ... but not as delicious as the cupcakes below ....

I know: these ones aren't as beautiful. I'll give you that. But wait until you hear what that topping is: CARAMELIZED WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE. *drool* The middle-right cupcake has ganache atop the cream cheese frosting (good blend of flavors, but didn't do the ganache justice). The bottom left frosting is the ganache and cream cheese mixed together. Check back soon for my blog entry all about the joys of making caramelized white chocolate. It's a miracle. If you just can't wait, you can check it out at David Lebovitz's blog and see some photos that are CONSIDERABLY more attractive than mine!

I didn't even photograph our pre-Father's Day dessert with my Father-in-Law. Just close your eyes and imagine a white plate, drizzled with caramel sauce and topped with a homemade brownie, homemade vanilla ice cream and freshly whipped cream.

Imagine my surprise this morning when I hesitantly stepped on the scale and found that I was a pound or two LIGHTER than I was in the middle of last week! If this kind of eating promotes weight loss, I'm going to be a rich, rich woman when I reveal my secrets!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Positive Affirmations & Top 50

I know, I know. The whole idea of "self affirmations" sounds so silly that you wouldn't be caught dead practicing it, must less blogging about it. That's what makes you appear normal and what makes me appear quirky. I'm okay with that.

I have been thinking a lot about the choices we make to be happy or sad or angry or amused. I'll blog more about that later. I picked up a magazine article about self-affirmations and thought it would be a fun experiment to try. The idea is that by putting these validating principles in your mind, you are taking that first step toward choosing to make that thing a reality.

So here are some positive affirmations to go with some random thoughts about life. Enjoy.

"I am beautiful."
I went through all of my youth convinced that I was unrepairably ugly. That's a sad way to live as a teenager. It was so built in to my self image that I didn't even bother fighting it.

Well, I'm fighting it now. I feel more beautiful at 30 than I did at 18, despite being 75 pounds heavier. (ACK!) I may never be a paragon of beauty, but I can at least put an effort into it. This year I've lost 20 pounds and I am planning to keep going. I am more adventurous with my clothing, hair and makeup than I was as a teenager. (Keeping in mind that going from 0 to 3 on a scale of 100 may not be amazing to you, but I am happy with an improvement.)

Which brings us to today: I'm getting braces. Again. I had them for over five years. All through high school and most of college. (Wow.. it occurs to me that I started 9th grade when I was 15 and had finished almost all of my college coursework by age 20. That's an amazing five years.) I'm embarrassed to be doing this all over again. I'm not happy. But I'm grateful that I can do it, even though it will make me feel like a clumsy teenager again.

"I am talented."
I got an email from somebody this morning, telling me I'd found a spot on their list of the top 50 Mormon websites. Since I have no idea how they determined their top 50, I'm not going to let myself get too carried away here, but it's fun to be recognized. Check it out here:

Apparently, there are others who think my blog is worth reading. I have 47 subscribers, according to Google Reader, and that number increases regularly. Thanks to all of you who take the time to read through my aimless ramblings! My blog was also nominated for an award over at the Utah Baby Guide, which is fun.

And let's not forget that I earned 69 cents last month from my ads. That's gotta be encouraging.

"I have amazing self control."

This is what I am telling myself after a horrible yesterday. I actually spanked one of my children. That's about the worst thing I can imagine so I am naturally blogging about it. I don't believe that spanking is effective in most circumstances. There have been a couple times when my oldest was so emotionally out of touch with reality that a swat on the behind really snapped him out of it, but in general I think it's a really cruddy thing to do.

The kids and I had a rough day yesterday. Rough. About three thousand time outs for each of them--even sweet little Elijah who is so well-behaved. By the time my husband got home, I ran out of the house screaming and swearing I'd never return. Well, technically, I just gave him the status report and went to my singing lesson. Then I took some much-needed "ME" time and spent a couple hours at the temple. I came out refreshed, invigorated and ready for one more day of Mormon Motherhood.

I woke up this morning to cranky, demanding children and immediately started putting kids in well-deserved time outs. Again. Then I realized that even a few hours in the temple couldn't make one more day like yesterday bearable. So I made a decision: I have amazing self control. I will not yell at the kids. I will not lose my temper. I will not run to the pantry for chocolate because I need to cope. I will be an example of patient virtue and love. When the kids act up, they will be disciplined in a patient, loving, unemotional way. I have amazing self control.

After making that conscious decision, the day has gone more smoothly. The kids are still talking all over each other and questioning every single thing I say ... deep breath ... but they are mirroring my calm mood and catching themselves before they really lose their tempers with each other. I'll take every small victory I can get. This makes life go from "unbearable" to "survivable." My eventual goal is to make summer vacation actually "enjoyable" but I am not holding my breath quite yet. Baby steps... baby steps...

Monday, June 08, 2009


Found some old stuff. Laughed about it. Blogged about it. Words were kind of funny but not very charitable.

Letter arrived a couple weeks later. Person I joked about wrote to apologize for anything he might have done that offended me ... 15 years ago. Out of the blue? Coincidence?

Uncomfortable feeling.

Did he see the words that were so casually thrown out to the world? Did he blush at my harsh criticism and think he was at fault?

I blush at my criticism and know who was at fault.


Apologies will be spoken. Publicly now. Privately later.

A good reminder that wit is fun but kindness is better. Yet through the tumult of questioning myself, I become stronger as I ponder the rippling effects of my actions. A friendship, long since dead and gone, will be revived. Out of the ashes, rebirth.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Aww, baseball. That tradition of American traditions; that symbol of the red, white and blue. The word alone conjures up images of summer sunshine and shared smiles. Baseball. It almost brings a tear to your eye.

Unless you're me.

If you're me, the word "baseball" conjures up images of endless innings of guys standing around scratching themselves in embarrassing places while waiting for something--please, SOMETHING!--to happen on the field. People stand around. They chew and spit. They stand around some more. The crowd goes wild.

I would be more entertained in a completely dark room. At least I'd have my anxieties and dreams to keep my mind busy.

So why--why? WHY?--did I sign my oldest son up to play baseball this summer? What could have possessed me to purposefully fill my summer hours with this tedious, monotonous, utterly atrocious "national pasttime"?

I think it was the peer pressure. When Joseph began toddling around, I started putting a soccer ball in front of his feet. He would toddle, kick, toddle, kick, step on the ball, fall on his face, toddle, kick. It was fabulous. I adore soccer games and couldn't wait until he was old enough to play. That's when the peer pressure began.

"Maybe he would be really good at baseball," my Mom said pointedly. "He doesn't have to like soccer just because you like soccer."

"I hate baseball," I replied. "Why would I sign him up for baseball when I'd have to go to his games and pretend to enjoy watching people standing around the field not doing anything? Whoop-de-doo."

"Don't be selfish," she would reply, finding a vulnerable target in my psyche.

This conversation has been repeated over and over with my Mom. Every time the kids play in her backyard, she pulls out the bat and ball and starts the indoctrination process. The mental retraining. The not-so-subtle, not-very-sneaky grand-parental sabotage that she excels at.

And as it turns out, Joseph is good. (mental expletive) The boy loves it and is really not half bad. I have no idea how he'll do in a public setting when there are a million distractions--he didn't even look at the soccer ball when he was in U6 soccer because he was having so much fun just running after the other kids and laughing--but my Mom's treacherous betrayal was effective and Joseph's first baseball game is today. (Actually it was last week, but I was out of town and it got forgotten in the confusion.)

And so I sacrifice myself up in exchange for the delighted smiles of my seven-year-old. I'm sure it'll be worth it the first time I see him hit that ball and run to 1st base. At least, it better be worth it. If not, my Mom and I need to have a few words.

And as for me, I think there is a Real Salt Lake game (with David Archuleta performing afterward) that is calling my name. Really, I think I deserve it.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Virtually Screwed Up

I am starting to get the impression that I spend too much time with my technology. I opened the blinds upstairs and looked out the window. I was AMAZED at the crisp, clean colors and thought, "Wow! That resolution is amazingly lifelike." Then I remembered that I wasn't looking at a computer, TV screen or iPod. Huh.

Time to get out more, eh?