Sunday, November 30, 2014

Come sing to the Lord

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. When possible on Sundays, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. With respect to your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

Serving in the temple usually means participating in worship and religious instruction through certain rites and ordinances that can only be performed in the temple, whether for ourselves or for the dead. By doing work for the dead via proxy, we simply offer the completed ordinances to those who have passed on and it us up to them to accept it or not. Blake and I try to attend and serve in the temple once a month, and it's been tradition for me, and now us, to go on the day after Thanksgiving. Sadly, I was sick this week, so we postponed this year's trip until Saturday, which was still wonderful.

We also got to go again today, but for a different purpose. This evening was the annual Christmas devotional for temple workers and officiators and their families and I was privileged to sing in the choir - Mormon Choir of Washington, DC. This is my sixth season with this choir and the temple devotional is always one of my favorite annual events.

We meet in the assembly room on the seventh floor, which is modeled after the Kirtland Temple. Speakers are chosen from the temple presidency and their wives as well as other church authorities. It's always a beautiful meeting and a rare honor to sing in the temple, which is usually a much more quiet place. 

I am grateful for the temple and the lovely way I get to kick off the Christmas season. This week, the choir will be participating in the lighting ceremonies for the Christmas lights on the temple grounds. Next week, on Saturday evening, we'll be singing our annual Christmas concert, which is open to the public. If you're in the area, you should come! If you are in the area and can't make it that night, there are events every night throughout December. You can find out more at

How do you kick off your holiday season?
Some of the lights out this year! Please pardon the fuzz.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Where is the path to Wonderland

Welp, it's finally happened. I've taken the plunge. Fallen down the rabbit hole.

I've joined Pinterest, and you can follow me by clicking on that link.

I've certainly liked the idea of Pinterest for as long as I've known about it, but I've known for that same amount of time that it was the perfect opportunity for a time-sucking rabbit hole. One could get lost there for hours. I already knew that I could get lost in recipe or crafting blogs without Pinterest, so I decided it was best I just stay away from having an account.

That doesn't mean I stayed away from it entirely. I looked at it sometimes to see what friends had pinned or to gather ideas. Once I started my current job, I discovered it was useful for ideas and lesson plans for the library. I would go months without looking at it and I didn't feel like I was missing anything. 

Then I got called to the nursery.  I started looking to the internet for ideas and a lot of them took me to Pinterest. I quickly realized that I couldn't look at pins without an account anymore, as they had apparently locked down the site to non-pinners. I began some occasional deliberation. Eilonwy sweetened the deal by telling me she had already created a panda board for me. 

After a month of pondering, I was looking online for ideas about teaching MLA citation to sixth graders and I could no longer deny that having a Pinterest account would be useful. I think knowing of its rabbit hole possibilities going in will help use it responsibly. I didn't even create a board or stat pinning until today, though I actually signed up on Tuesday. I'll likely limit myself to follow only people I already know in person or other internet forums and possibly set time limits on my browsing as well. I've been using Evernote to curate my recipe, crafting, and other inspirations, so I'll probably use a combination of both going forward.

Do you pin? How do you use it? How do you manage your time?  I'll take all the suggestions I can get!

Friday, November 28, 2014

And what's more, baby, I can cook!

When I lived in my tiny apartment, I had a two burner stovetop that only really worked on one side, a microwave, a tiny George Foreman grill, an old crockpot, and a toaster oven, and very little counter space. I really enjoyed cooking, but with limited resources, I had to get really good at mise en place - setting up and timing all my food so that it finishes at the right times.

3.5 years of that was great practice, but when I moved into my now apartment, I was thrilled to have, in addition to a microwave, a gas stove with four working burners, a full-sized oven, and we received a new crockpot, Griddler, griddle, and some really nice stainless steel, copper-bottomed cookware as wedding presents. And we have a dishwasher! And I have a really cute sous chef!

Basically, I have a real, grownup kitchen now, and even two years after moving in, I'm still in love with it. My mise en place skills still require practice, but with full-sized everything, and frequent help from my aforementioned sous chef, I'm feeling more confident all the time.

Yesterday, we planned to eat around 5 PM. If you count when I made the homemade bread that became our stuffing, I actually started cooking at least two weeks ago. The turkey started defrosting on Sunday and I dried the bread on Wednesday. On the day of, I started making food around 11 AM and continued making things at various points throughout the day. Thanks to all the practice I've had and that same marvelous sous chef, everything was done within about ten minutes of each other and we sat down for our delicious dinner at 5:15 PM.

Yes, I'm bragging, but I'm feeling really pleased with myself right now. After dinner, we cleaned up what was still out, which was not a lot since we cleaned up as went with all the cooking throughout the day, a skill I learned from my dear mother. Then, while Blake completed the dismemberment of our turkey, I made a chocolate chip cookie pie and put it in the oven. By the time it had baked and cooled, our stomachs had settled enough to enjoy the fresh pie.

Sometimes, I still time things poorly, but it's okay. I'm still learning, and cooking is a skill I hope to keep developing.

Sous chef in training in the tiny kitchen, June 2012

Told you he was handsome

Stuffing made with homemade bread in the crockpot, probably the best stuffing I've ever had, if I do say so myself

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I wish turkey only cost a nickle

I've heard (and/or seen, really, via Facebook), several friends talk about how much they miss their family this week and how much they wish they could be with them for Thanksgiving. Now, I'm not saying they are wrong for having those feelings, but I have a confession to make.

I don't miss my family today.

Of course, I love my family very much, but right now the most important family to me is my baby family - me and Blake. And Malcolm, of course. My family of origin is a very close second and I enjoy when I can be with them. However, I have become accustomed to not having them around for Thanksgiving. I haven't been with my parents and siblings for Thanksgiving since 2005. Even growing up though, it wasn't just about our own family for the big day. I recall many Thanksgiving dinners with other families and friends. Sometimes just us, but probably less frequently than with others. So, it's never been a family only holiday. Christmas, on the other hand, was always a family only holiday, so I already know I'll miss mine this year, since we'll be with Blake's parents exclusively.

Again, I don't think people who miss their families today are wrong, or don't have their priorities in order, just that for me, I'm just really glad it's only my baby family again this year. We've video-chatted with both sets of parents today, and talked to a few siblings, but I have so enjoyed just having a quiet day as just the three of us. Dinner was really low-key (two crockpots for the win), we've binge watched the end of the first season of Blacklist, we watched the Macy's parade, napped, and we're having a Skype game night with Blake's brother and brother's wife.

It's been really chill and quiet, and I've loved it.

And I think Malcolm has really enjoyed having us around so much today too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Our house, in the middle of our street

When I was 12, I started training during the summer a junior interpreter at the McFaddin-Ward House in Beaumont, TX. It was built in 1905-1906 in the Beaux Arts Colonial style by a prominent local family who lived there for 70 years. You can learn more about the history here.

I don't remember how I found this opportunity, but I'm sure I had to apply and be selected. They picked probably ten applicants a summer. I was excited about it because I'd been to many events and field trips at the house before and, well, I'm kind of a nerd.

The first summer, I focused on learning the grounds and carriage house. There were a couple of 200 year old oak trees and a beautiful rose garden. The carriage house is where the staff would live, in addition to storing the cars and carriages.

The second summer, I got to start learning the house itself. The family didn't make many changes to it after the 1950s, and they were incredible record keepers, so we actually know a great deal about their lives and how the house was set up and used. There are several original furnishings and decorations and most of the house is open for touring.

Training consisted of memorizing facts about each of the areas, sections, and rooms, as well general information about how to be a tour guide. We also went on several field trips to other historical homes in the surrounding area to see how they did things.

Ultimately, I didn't give a lot of tours. The school year always got busy and passing the house tour coincided with my first reconstructive foot surgery, so I was, literally, not on my feet for a while. Giving house tours on three floors, with stairs, on crutches was not easy. I think I gave at least one grounds tour though. We also moved away shortly after my recovery.

In the end, it was a really interesting experience. I love local history anywhere I travel, so to be part of preserving and sharing it was an honor. I look forward to going back one day to visit again!

Photo courtesy of the McFaddin-Ward House website

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Turn off the idiot box, it's a disease just like the chicken pox

I love tv. I just do, and I'm not sorry about it. I have lots of other interests and hobbies, and of course I do love me a good book, but I also love just turning something on the television for 20-45 minutes and just letting a story unfold in front of me. In recent years, I've even gotten better about actually focusing on it, and not just watching while I compute or internet surf or something. Sometimes I do something crafty, sometimes I just snuggle on Blake, sometimes I just sit there and watch.

And that's okay!

Shows I currently watch

Criminal Minds
Face Off
Call the Midwife
Once Upon a Time
So You Think You Can Dance
Grey's Anatomy
Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Shows Blake and I watch together

Big Bang Theory
Covert Affairs
Doctor Who

Shows I'm rewatching with Blake for his first time

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Looking at it all listed out like this, that does seem like a lot of tv, and I'm not even listing the shows I I've already watched all the way through. Honestly though, at most I might get one or two episodes in a day, if that. Thanks to Hulu+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime that just collect episodes for me, and other providers of tv on the internet, I'm well behind on most shows, and I really appreciate the ability to watch (and sometimes binge watch) tv on my schedule, because that's the only way it works for me. I can't even tell you what day all of these shows even broadcast. Not everything is of equal quality, but having a variety of shows gives me more flexibility in watching whatever suits my mood, just like being in the middle of several books at once. We cut most of our cable last year (just a few basic channels now - mainly for news and the occasional live event), and switched over to using the Roku, and I really like it. I also like the larger tv we bought with wedding gift money.

The weirdest thing I think is watching two shows featuring David Boreanaz - one from the late 90s and one from today. He's aged well, but he's definitely aged.

What are your favorite shows?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Friends do things together, la la la

I love my family of origin, I really do. I also love the family I married into. But I also love the family I've chosen, namely my friends. I have some amazing friends and I do like to talk about them. Apparently, this is my 100th post related to friends.

I read a book as a kid that talked about "little while friends" - the friends you make for just a short time, whether that's at the park for a day or only for a few years while you are in similar stages and places in life. I've had many little while friends. Facebook has changed up little while friends since you can stay "friends" with someone a lot longer than they are actively involved in your life, but sometimes being passive friends is nice too. When you think, "I wonder how so and so is doing", you can look at their Facebook page, provided you're still friends and they've updated lately. And when you do see each other after long absences, you don't have to spend quite as much time catching up.

Granted, I can't even remember all my little while friends names now. I remember faces, experiences, and the like, and that will have to do. A lot of people have made positive impacts on my life, even if I only knew them for a short time and have largely forgotten them by now. I hope I've done the same for them.

Long while friends, on the other hand, are even more treasured. Once these friends enter your life, they stick around through all the changes, moves, hard times, good times, and even the everyday mundane times. They always have your back and you have theirs. The relationship may ebb and flow over time, naturally, but it always exists.

As much as I've been blessed by any little while friends I've been lucky enough to meet, I've been even more blessed by my long while friends. Some I'm fortunate even to talk to every day, some every few days, and some even less than that. Some I haven't even met in person, yet. But they are my family of choice, and I know that if I need them, or they need me, we'll be there for each other.

As with so many of my posts recently, I feel like I'm barely scratching the surface of this topic, but I hope my friends, long while and little while and everything in between know that I love them and are glad they are in and ever have been in my life.

Final thought, after selecting a bunch of photos for this post - I don't think I have enough photos of me with my friends. I didn't do an exhaustive search of all the photos I've ever had, but I saw enough to notice some definite gaps. I hereby challenge myself to do better and take some more photos of me with my friends! If you're reading this and we're hanging out together in person, help me make this happen!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Truth is reason, truth eternal

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. When possible on Sundays, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. With respect to your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

We believe that truth can be found in many places - good books, science, and even other religions. When we call ourselves the one true church, it means that we believe that we are the only church with the whole truth of the restored gospel, as preached by Jesus Christ during His ministry on Earth.

We don't just look to our own people for truth and understanding though. I've heard C. S. Lewis quoted in General Conference, and we're encouraged to get an education as well study our own faith for ourselves and come to our own testimony. I've personally read various Eastern philosophies and I love talking to Muslim, Catholic, or even non-religious friends. Truth comes from all sorts of sources.

And sometimes it's nice when something from my own faith is quoted outside of that context. The school I work at is an Islamic school, and just this week I noticed that Gordon B. Hinckley, a former prophet and President of our church, is quoted on an inspirational note in the hall.

Truth is truth, no matter its source.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

There can be miracles, when you believe

For the record, I love Prince of Egypt. I've been telling Blake, occasionally, for the last two and a half years we should watch it together sometime. Of course, I love musicals in general, as well as good animated films. I also love me a well choreographed fight scene, after taking two semesters of stage combat in college.

For our weekly date, Blake and I went to see Mockingjay Part I this morning. (Yes, a morning matinee, then Costco for lunch, which is totally a date my 80-year-old grandfather would take my 77-year-old grandmother on, so basically we're the oldest 30-year-olds I know.) One of the trailers was for the newest Ridley Scott film, Exodus: Gods and Kings.  It wasn't exactly the following trailer, but close enough.

So then we had the following conversation:

Me: Yeah, I don't think there were epic battles between the Israelites and the Egyptians in the Bible story. Granted, we only believe in it as far as it is translated correctly, but that wasn't in the Bible, right?
Blake: I don't think so.
Me: So I'm not so sure about this movie.
Blake: Well, there probably wasn't singing and dancing either.
Me: *raspberry*

So, as it turns out, I appreciate gratuitous musical numbers way more than gratuitous battle scenes. Discussing this again on the way home, I mentioned that Val Kilmer and Ralph Fiennes voice Moses and Ramses, respectively, in Prince of Egypt, so I think I won a few more points in the Reasons Why Blake Should Watch It With Me.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Just one step, look at where one step leads you!

This may be my second year at the school, but I still don't know my way around the entire building. I was given a tour as part of my signing of my original contract and again during orientation, but it wasn't until two weeks later I finally felt confident enough to say from most of my routine places that I knew how to get back to my office from just about anywhere. It took me at least four days to find the women's restroom on my floor. I didn't even know about the administrative supply closet that I am allowed access to until the beginning of this school year. Now, I think I could get back to my office, but that's because anywhere new would only involve a few steps of backtracking to familiar territory, rather than the whole route.

Yesterday, I figured out where the "green room" is. I knew we had at least two gyms. I couldn't tell you how to get to the girls' gym with very much certainty, but I think I could find the boys gym. They're probably right next to each other, but I have yet to fully investigate this. I go different ways to get to them if I need to.

But yesterday, not only did I find the green room, but I discovered we actually have practically the equivalent of an athletic compound. Of course, leaving the green room, what I thought was the door to the stairs was actually a closet. So I have some work to do. There are several rooms near the gyms for health and physical education. Rumor is that there is even a weight room. We only have a few sports teams, but they actually have a fair amount of space, and I might need to explore this more, just to satisfy my own curiosity. I do know that some of the locker room space is actually being used as office. I wonder if that guy ever gets lonely. I actually haven't seen him in weeks . . .I also wonder if we have any other locker rooms, because the ones I know of don't seem to be in use.

I certainly don't know where everyone else's offices are, but I found one of my friends' offices last week when I was turned around trying to find one of the second grade classrooms.  It's a big and confusing school and there is not actually a lot of reason for me to know where everything is. The only reason I needed the green room in our PE wing was because of an after school Zumba class, which is not part of my regular duties, but something I'm happy to be a part of!

This was a high school in the county before our school rented the building, and there always some quirks to an old school like this. Rumor is that we'll be moving to a brand new building in a few years, and I'm sure I'll get lost there too!

Now, a mystery I'll probably never solve is why and how these books magically appeared in my office when I wasn't looking . . .

Half a set of 1992 World Books and other assorted reference material. Yay!