Thursday, December 31, 2009

Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles.

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love."

For me, Christmas started when I received a beautiful Christmas swag all the way from Maine Wreaths in early December, from my Grandpa. It smelled so wonderful that I decided to keep it in the house for a couple of days before I hung it, as the sole Christmas decoration we put up this year, on the front door, where it's still hanging. I know Christmas is over, but it's a decoration that is more seasonal for me, as opposed to strictly holiday, and I love seeing it every time I come home. (Picture to come.)

On December 19th, we (SLCA) sang the works of  Rachmaninoff, Respighi, Ramírez, and Rutter to a sold out house in Libby Gardner Hall during our holiday concert. Read the rave review here. SLCA requires a large time commitment with rehearsals, individual study and practice of the music, and extra rehearsals before concerts, but it's always worth it once we're on stage and singing. It really is rewarding and I just love adding all this exceptional choral music to my repertoire. Not to mention, singing with a great director like Dr. Brady Allred, and with such wonderful singers and friends.

The Christmas season would not have felt complete without attending the evening Christmas Carol service with friends or the noon concert with my mom of Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols, both at The Cathedral of the Madeleine. The choristers of the Madeleine Choir School truly fascinate me with their poise and discipline. Great concert atmosphere, great singing, and a great way to celebrate Christmas!

Then off to Dad and Nancy's or as we like to call it, Resort Montrose. I arrived on the 23rd and had a full day with Dad and Nancy to myself! Loved it! We talked, ate Phở, talked, shopped, tried a new frozen yogurt bar down the street, sat by the fire, talked, read, wrapped presents, talked, and talked. It was great! The next day, Christmas Eve, Marina and Shepherd arrived separately (Marina flying in from NYC and Sheppo driving down from San Francisco) in time for a Christmas Eve dinner of tamales (yum!), traditional opening of Christmas pajama pants, and a hilarious showing of Hangover.

Christmas morning brought the unveiling of so many fun gifts (future posts on these). Isn't it fun when you're so excited for everyone else to open the gifts from you, almost as excited about opening your own gifts? That afternoon, we drove over (in Shepherd's new car) to Auntie Vicki and Uncle Hank's for the traditional family Christmas Dinner.

Enjoyed delicious fare including: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans with carrots and pine nuts, southern pineapple casserole (delish! -- Thanks Amanda!), shrimp cocktail (I could live off this), and a bunch of desserts that I didn't even try.

Saw cousins who have grown a foot since the last time I saw them. Held my newest baby cousin, Henry, born in November. Enjoyed catching up with everyone. We ended the night at home reading. All in all, a great Christmas day.

Since the five of us don't get to see each other often enough, we spent the rest of the weekend just spending time together talking, reading, enjoying new Christmas gifts, listening to music, walking around The Americana at Brand window shopping, seeing Up in the Air, and going out to Min's Kitchen for a delicious Thai dinner.

Sunday, I flew home. And Monday, it was back to work. But like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I still felt like I was on vacation this week. Work was quiet since so many people were on vacation. I just felt a whole lot more relaxed at work than I have in awhile. It was nice.

A great Christmas season it was for me. And after finals, it really was relaxing and most enjoyable. I hope yours was too!

Photo of The Cathedral of the Madeleine found here.
Photo of the organ at Libby Gardner Hall courtesy of Tom Sparks.
Photo of Southern Pineapple Casserole found on a Google Search.
All other photos courtesy of Nancypants.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Have I ever mentioned my complete and total love for Skype? No? Well, let me begin now.

First off, for those of you who have yet to use it, Skype is communication tool whose features include: instant messaging, video conferencing, and telephone calling (voice only). You can transfer files directly, as well share your computer desktop (meaning you can essentially show the other person via video conferencing, everything that you see on your computer screen.

Computer-to-computer calls are free. Yes, I said free. Instant messaging is free. Video is free. The only cost associated with Skype is if you truly use it as a phone and have a telephone number associated with your account. This allows you to call other land-lines, which would then incur a cost. But for all intents and purposes (my intents and purposes), it's free.

Skype was written by Estonia-based developers and founded by Swede and a Dane. In case you don't know, I come from (as in my ancestors are) Swedes and Danes and more recently, have an adopted place in my heart for Estonians. Plus. Plus. And plus.

Why else should you love it? Well, when I say you can communicate for free, I mean... you can communicate for free. Now we all know that the instant messaging tool is one that can be found and used for free just about anywhere. You have GoogleTalk, Yahoo Instant Messenger, MSN messenger, etc. But it's the video conferencing that gets me excited. With a few hiccups here and there, based on your internet speed, it really is a great way to keep in touch and truly feel like you're just sitting next to the person on the other end.

I have to remind myself more often than not (the me, who forgets that I should be more modest sometimes) that when I click to make a video call, I should probably already be fulled clothed, instead of waiting for the connection and seeing a picture of myself on the screen in my underwear! (The larger part of your screen is the other person on the other end, but you see a very small square of what the other person sees -- you in your underwear.)

Luckily, I use Skype most often to talk with Agnė in Lithuania and Lindsay in Qatar. And they already know my dress code.

So, have you started thinking about all the people you wish you could see more often? You live far away from family and you just want to see them or they want to see you... or see your babies? Just download the software at It's easy to get started and quite user-friendly once you get going. Just make sure you have a webcam.

Now if all of this hasn't convinced you, let me share with you the concrete reason I believe in Skype.

This face.

Enough said.

Photo of Leoni courtesy of Lindsay and Travis.


Soon, people. Soon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Waiting for Christmas.

I have lots of things to tell you and Christmas-y stories to share.
A few pictures, even.
Family, friends, and of course, food.
Southern pineapple casserole.
Shrimp with cocktail sauce. Mmm, my favorite.
Fun times with cousins.
New sweet baby boy.
Christmas with Dad in the black hat.
Matching Christmas pajama pants.
And presents.

But I'm on vacation.
Well, in my mind I am.
I'm still going to work, but I have no school, no SLCA rehearsals,
and I just don't feel like blogging yet.

But soon...


Friday, December 18, 2009

Gingerbread Creations.

"Creativity comes from looking for the unexpected and stepping outside your own experience."
~Masaru Ibuka

My mom and Stephen hosted a Soup Dinner and Gingerbread Party the first weekend in December. An annual tradition of theirs since they got married in 2001, the event brings in relatives and friends, both far and near. Now, this is no ordinary gingerbread house making party; in fact, only a few houses are even made each year. Typically, we see more aircraft carriers, weapons, space stations, lighthouses, and vegetable gardens. (The vegetable garden was my last year's idea gone bad. Don't ask.)

Two years ago, I was quite please with my cityscape, though if given more time, I would have made several more skyscrapers.

But this year, I outdid myself. (Which wasn't hard to do, considering last year's vegetable garden mishap. There are no pictures for a reason.) Really though... I put some thought into this one. So did my eye doctor. "Your eye doctor," you ask? Yes, he and I sat down and discussed the matter that morning because I needed to redeem myself. I needed something that was recognizable. Something interesting. Something unique.

So, in keeping with the tradition of eclectic gingerbread creations, I built a gingerbread outhouse. Yes, an outhouse. Laugh if you must. But at least everyone knew what it was as soon as they saw the crescent moon. You can't deny it's unique. And every gingerbread village needs an outhouse of some kind, right? And those trees? Aren't they fantastic?!

Yes, I'd say I redeemed myself from last year.

Now maybe next year, I'll need to redeem myself from this year and make something a little more... refined. :) Maybe.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Random Photo: One can never have too many Humpty Dumpties.

"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall;
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again!"

~Traditional English Nursery Rhyme

Baby Bella's security item was a soft, flat Humpty Dumpty also known as "Hummy." Afraid that Hummy might get misplaced or left behind at preschool or dropped and lost forever at the grocery store, Nancy made sure Marina had a replacement... or four.

Love this!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wish List: This T-shirt.

"I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose."
~Woody Allen

Monday, December 14, 2009

I have Christmas secrets!

"Secrets are made to be found out with time."
~Charles Sanford

And I'm not telling.



Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Christmas Haiku. Fun times.

"A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom."
~Robert Frost

Katie and I are sitting on the couch right now; I'm working on a final paper due tomorrow at 5pm, while she is writing an email to our friend Derrick, who is serving a mission for the LDS Church in France. (She's making more progress in her writing, than I am in mine.) About two minutes ago, she turns to me and says, "Do you want to write a Christmas poem for Derrick?" Now, let's all understand this wasn't really a question. If I couldn't tell by the inflection in her voice, the stare I got in return clearly indicated there was only one correct answer. But, a poem? Seriously? Uh huh, yeah, since I'm so well known for my stellar poetry skills. So of course, sassy as I am, I turn back and say, "No, not particularly." But oblige her, I did, and here's my marvelous creation. A haiku, of course. 5-7-5. Easy enough, right? I hope you like it; it sure provided us with a few good minutes of hearty laughing. And Robert Frost's words above are rather fitting, don't you think? :) Enjoy.

Roads covered in snow
Soon, Santa will bring us gifts
Don't forget Jesus

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Salt Lake Choral Artists present "Laud to the Nativity"

"Blast this Christmas music! It's joyful and triumphant."
~ Grinch (from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas)

Don't miss our holiday concert, "Laud to the Nativity," on Saturday, 19 December 2009 at 7:30pm in Libby Gardner Hall. Tickets can be purchased here.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

My Dilbert Creation.

"The world is but a canvas to the imagination."
~Henry David Thoreau

So once a long time ago (I'm guess something like more than ten years ago) in a computer class, we were assigned to work with this Dilbert cartoon and sort of make our own creation. Coloring and cutting and pasting (it was a very basic Windows class, if I recall). I switched around the clothed Dilbert with the boxer-clad one and wrote in my own text. I must admit that I never read Dilbert and so I had no idea what the characters were like and I don't even remember what the original text to this particular cartoon was. But I've always thought it was funny. So here you are.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Mama's Bank Account.

"You meet one of the nicest families imaginable; a family that should restore or reinforce your faith in human nature, and give you a great many chuckles in the bargain."
~Philadelphia Inquirer

Today, while at home trying to nurse my scratchy, hoarse, bass voice, I finished reading a delightful little book called Mama's Bank Account written by Kathryn Forbes. I picked this book up from a book exchange shelf at the gym. I'm always looking for books worth reading on that shelf, and this one captured my interest as I read the back cover:

There is no mother in fiction more resourceful, uncorruptible, and endearing than the Mama of these charming adventures about an immigrant Norwegian family living in San Francisco. It is Mama who knows how to deal with the doctor's avaricious wife when Papa needs an operation. It is Mama who finds recompense when the roomer leaves without paying the rent. It is Mama who discovers a way to keep her children from growing up afraid, with a mysterious bank account.

Sounded like the perfect light read I needed after finishing the whole Twilight series. (Yes, I finished Eclipse and Breaking Dawn several weeks ago. All before the opening of the movie New Moon. I told you... I got sucked in!) Plus, I'm in the middle of studying for finals and finishing final term papers and projects. I needed an easy, but enjoyable read to distract me every now and then. This was just the book.

Of course, the fact that this family lived in San Francisco and Mama truly loved the City helped capture and keep my interest. I could easily relate when they spoke of the cosmopolitan life they lived.

The story is told as a series of recollections through oldest daughter Katrin's eyes, but focuses on Mama's interactions with the family, friends, and neighbors. Mama is tough, determined, resourceful, proud yet humble, feisty, strong, loyal, loving, optimistic, and happy. She and Papa are good, honest, hard-working people determined to make a good life for themselves and their children in San Francisco in the 1920s. The story focuses on their simple aspirations and dreams, as well as their struggles and sorrows. Mama reminds us of the significance of living of good values and in essence, how your love of family can move you to do things you may have thought impossible. Optimistic even through hard times, Mama ends many of the chapters saying, "Is good. Is good."

The book has such a warm quality, that reminds you of the importance of family and the powerful effect good honest values can have on your life. Plus, Mama loves San Francisco. A woman after my own heart.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Random Photo: A smile does wonders for your appearance.

"I've never seen a smiling face that was not beautiful."
~Author Unknown

So I have to admit that I really love this picture of Robert Pattinson. Not because I'm a die-hard Twilight fan who is Team Edward all the way or anything, but because...

wait for it...

he's smiling.

Robert Pattinson plays Edward in the Twilight movies. He has made Edward into more of a solemn brooding character who rarely smiles (which is not the way it is in the books). So this picture of Edward Robert is refreshing.

And simply put, don't you agree that a smile just makes someone more attractive.