Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas in fast forward

Christmas came and went without too much of a hullabaloo or fuss this year. There were some fabulous highlights, though:

* Tepanyaki with the girls on Christmas Eve. Our chef was kind of a dork, but it was hilariously fun and delicious, of course. Lacy and I wore basically the same outfit...we really are the same person...

* Going to the Christmas Eve Presbyterian services. My mom and sister had volunteered to help round out their bell choir, so we went and checked out their performance as they rang their hearts out for the Christmas Eve meeting. I saw my junior high band teacher there, too...

* Giving my sister the quilt I've been working on for the past two months. Yes, that's why I've been somewhat absent and boring in my blog postings lately. I worked hours and hours on that thing and didn't have much else to report in my life. And since I was trying to guard my secret like Fort Knox, I didn't even want to hint around it.

* Getting a GPS from Santa Claus. This thing is awesome, and seeing as I am a horrible navigatrix, it'll be nice having a beautiful British voice telling me when I've arrived at my destination. I love the way she says 'destination.'

* Rachel's awesome Christmas gift to me. She made me some sewing organizers, and apparently they became a whole family project as she raced to finish details and find components. There's a cute little set of drawers for odds and ends and then a hanging organizer for scissors, pins, measuring tapes, etc. I love to be organized, so this helps a lot!

* Watching 'Elf' on Christmas with my dad...and then quoting it later. If you've seen it before, there's a part where Will Ferrell drinks a whole 2-liter of Coke and then burps for a good 30 seconds. Then he turns to his half-brother and says, "Did you hear that?" One night while we were eating dinner, I burped pretty loudly and then my dad said, "Did you hear that?" We all laughed...until my 6-year-old nephew followed suit. Classy.

* Finding a sweet deal on hot, new boots. They were almost half price, and they fit like a dream. I feel like I could conquer the world when I zip those suckers up.

* Going to bed at about 9pm every night. Wow, if that's not pathetic, I don't know what is...

* Winning 'House of Fire' at my family Christmas party. Sarah and I were a team, and we started off pretty badly, but we came back to win it all! I sacrificed my shin to run to the bell in the myself a pretty bruise.

I hope YOUR Christmas was as joyful and pleasant! Onto a new year, complete with new challenges and fun times!

Cable cars, island prisons, long bridges, fabulous chocolate, crooked street...and no sleep!

A few months ago, my friend Melinda told us that she'd have to be working a lot in California. She does trainings down there during the week and then flies home for the weekends. The past month or so has been full of these fun weeks of her living in hotels and finding her way around Sacramento.

At the beginning of December, Melinda and I were talking about how the weekend before Christmas, she'd be stuck in CA. We'd been discussing how fun it would be for me to come visit and then for the two of us to venture out to San Francisco for a day or two to see the sights and have some good times. The next morning after we talked, I bought a ticket to Sacramento to come see her the weekend she'd be all alone.

Then came the research...what were the things not to miss in such a big city? The list kept getting longer as we'd remember things. "We could take a cable car!" "Oooh, the Full House houses!" "Let's go to Alcatraz!" And we had one day to cram it all in.

We decided to start our day at the crack of dawn at Coit Tower, with a big view of the city, including both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge at the same time. The sun rose over the water as we started our day with this lovely photo:

Hold it! Back up. Getting to Sacramento and then on to San Francisco was quite the adventure, and I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention the craziness we survived. Long story short: I hate snow. It delayed my flight FOUR hours, so instead of getting to Sacramento at 10:00pm Friday night, I got there 2:00am Saturday morning. When we finally got in bed at 2:30 that morning, we debated setting our alarms for 4:30 to get up and get ready for the trek to San Fran. But we had ONE DAY. And you bet we got our butts out of those warm beds that early to get a good start. Melinda was even prepared with Coke Zero and Diet Coke for us to drink on the drive in.

So yeah, if you can imagine 5:30am, we're trying to find a Wal-Mart that's open 24-hours and close to the freeway so we can buy breakfast and extra caffeine. Oh, and warm gloves and hats. Yes, even though we were in California, we were still battling temperatures in the thirties and forties (but as I understand it, Utah was way colder that day...). Since both Melinda and I are experts in efficiency, we hustled out of there and made our way to the big city just in time for the sunrise after 7:00.

The rest of the day passed in kind of a blur--but a glorious one. After sunrise at Coit Tower, we walked up Lombard Street, also known as "the crooked street." At 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday, we basically had the neighborhood to ourselves, and it was a crisp, beautiful day.

Then we found parking and made our way to Pier 33 to catch our "cruise" to Alcatraz. We'd decided on the earliest one so we could have the rest of our day to plan and play as we pleased (Lace, I think I caught one of those alliteration sales you are so fond of!). We thought it would be freezing cold, but it actually wasn't too bad for December 20th. On the island, we took an audio tour of the cellblock. It was quite fascinating learning how Alcatraz housed the worst of the worst prisoners and some of the mutinous and crazy things that happened there. For instance, did you know that some of the guards and their families actually lived on the island? Hmm...not ideal for kids growing up, if you ask me. Melinda bought a tin cup (supposedly like the prisoners used) at the gift shop...and I mocked her. :)

After Alcatraz, we took a walk up the bay to see Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. We stopped at a fun little restaurant with great views and had some lunch. And of course, if you're going to eat on Pier 39, you've gotta have seafood. We ate and then moseyed about and saw the carousel, some other fun shops, and even walked by a little magic show. If you haven't been to Pier 39, just imagine a permanent carnival. I bought some sunglasses at one of the stores because I was blind with how sunny it was, especially with all the surrounding water. Huh...go figure. And Melinda mocked me and my enthrallment with the carousel. Then we went and saw the famous Pier 39 sea lions. As we walked up further, there wasn't much to see at Fisherman's Wharf except for these cute little guys...

So we continued our trek and found Ghirardhelli Square. This was a little more up our alley...out with the carnival and in with the classy little shops. Everything looked like it came out of a scrapbook page. We stopped in at a little tea shop and saw people having afternoon tea with cute little cups and little pastries and sandwiches. The only word I can think of to describe it is 'precious.' Unfortunately, however, we had just stuffed our faces with lunch, so all of the chocolate and ice cream that abounded in the Ghirardhelli shop was not looking too appetizing.

By this point, my energy level was plummeting, and we still had to walk back to our car....which was a dozen blocks or so away. But it was a lovely day and downhill, so we enjoyed the sun and the fun houses we walked past. It's surprising to me that whomever decided to build San Francisco did so with SO many hills around. You're always either going up a hill or down it, no matter where you go. Our shoes padded down the pavement perfectly, and we made it to the car where I fueled up with some more Diet Coke (no, Coke didn't pay me for this endorsement), and I was ready to see more.

Our plan was to head to the Palace of Fine Arts/Exploratorium and then onto the Golden Gate Bridge. My awesome (read: failed) navigational skills got us on the highway for the bridge, but it wasn't much of a detour at all, so we just changed our plans accordingly. After we drove across the vast expanse, we parked at a little look-out point and hiked back across the pedestrian portion of the bridge. I found out later from my dad that 18 people died building that bridge. It doesn't look so bad when you're in a car, but actually standing on it and looking up, that thing is massive and imposing. Don't look down, either...even if you're not fazed by heights much, the sight is daunting.

We drove back across the bridge into the city and found the Palace of Fine Arts. The architecture of this building was exquisite, Grecian and so classic. There was a pond with a fountain, and the weather was just so lovely. We dallied around and got some pretty amazing pictures.

At this point, we also took the opportunity to work on our video diary that we had started earlier in the day (if I ever get the videos from Melinda, I'll post them here...maybe...). I watched it when we were done, and I asked, "Is that what I really look and act like?" Yep. Strange how self-aware we think we are and yet we actually aren't. Take a video of yourself or record your voice and see how weird it seems to watch yourself in the third person.

By now, it was only 3 in the afternoon. Don't believe it? Yeah, we couldn't either. We had seen most of the things that topped our list already. But we decided to head on over to Union Square to see the shopping and the Christmas decorations. Melinda was a trooper as she drove up some pretty big hills (she hates driving up steep hills) and we even got to drive down Lombard Street (Remember that crooked street? The one we walked up that morning?). We got some fun pictures of the buildings downtown as we headed into the metropolitan part of the city. It was really busy, it being the Saturday before Christmas. I had really wanted to go to H&M, and just my luck, we went to two! I love that place...and I spent way more than I should have. But all in the name of good fashion! Union Square was decked out with a beautiful Christmas tree and some sort of skating rink. By this time, we were about dead. We decided to call it a night and get back to Sacramento.

I was really surprised that we fit it all in! At the beginning of my adventure, I was feeling a foreboding as my flight kept getting more and more delayed, and with the lack of sleep, I was sure we were going to hit a wall and not get everything done that we wanted. Or that I would get us lost (my navigational skills struggle...). But seriously, we couldn't have asked for a better San Francisco day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Tag (and not the gift type...)

Bree tagged me!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Whatever I can find in the drawer of wrapping supplies...I don't have a preference. But I can wrap a gift with the best of them!
2. Real tree or Artificial?
Which do I prefer or which do I have? I prefer real...currently in my living room is a tiny little artificial thing that I bought while I was in college. Seriously, it's two feet tall. Every year I tell myself I'll think about a real tree or at least upgrading to a bigger artificial one. And each year, I push it to the bottom of my to do list. Ho hum...maybe next year. ;)
3. When do you put up the tree?
Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving. Depends on when I get my lazy butt around to doing it. The last couple years, Rachel has taken the reigns and gotten the decorations out.
4. When do you take the tree down?
See above...whenever I get around to doing it in early January. Or Rachel will get sick of people mocking our everlasting Christmas spirit (right....try everlasting apathy!) and she'll take it down.
5. Do you like eggnog?
6. Favorite gift received as a child?
One year I was so jealous of my cousins who had rollerblades. I got some that year for Christmas, and we went down to our unfinished basement and skated around for the better part of the following months. I don't know if that's my favorite, but I sure loved those things. And where's the cutoff for being a "child"? Because one of my favorite gifts in recent years was my sewing machine. Santa was pretty smart...IS pretty smart. (Gotta be careful this time of year!)
7. Hardest person to buy for?
My dad. He says he has one of everything and two of most...sometimes people think he's joking, but he isn't. If he needs something, he's resourceful and he goes and buys it. Leaves the rest of us out in the cold when it comes to gift giving. Although the last couple years, I've been following in his footsteps, and I fear I've become just as difficult to shop for...I try to stop buying stuff about a month before Christmas, though!
8. Easiest person to buy for?
I always stress way too much about gift giving, so this is a difficult question...I'd have to go with...myself? Ok, that's a cop-out. Um...usually the people I actually live with because I can see their daily needs and wants.
9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yep! It's a wooden one my mom painted. Currently it's out on the coffee table, and people are afraid to move it. It's funny, though, because she made it so one day when I have children, they'll be able to play with it. The set is kind of like building blocks and is meant to be touched.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
What are these "Christmas cards" you speak of...?
11. Funniest Christmas gift you ever received?
Is it horrible that I can't think of one? And I'm sure some of you out there are thinking, "I gave her a REALLY funny gift that one time! I can't believe she doesn't remember it..." There, there...I'm running on only a few hours of sleep at the moment, so please forgive me.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
There are so many good ones! So many cheesy ones! Ones the make me cry because I'm happy! But I'd have to go with either A Christmas Story or Elf as my favorite.
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
I'm a spaz...I used to wait until I was done with school and then just get it all done in a day (usually a day pretty close to Christmas)...but recently I've taken to shopping online starting in early November.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Oh absolutely. And I found out that my grandma recycles hers as well...a few years ago, I got her a firefighters calendar to hang in her bedroom (she's a widow), and she kept up with it diligently all year. Then she gave it (yes, the out-of-date calendar!) as a gag gift to one of her other friends and apparently it kept getting passed around the older people circles in her neighborhood!
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
I don't know why, but cheeseballs always remind me of Christmas, so that's what I love to eat at Christmas. I guess I could eat them all year round, though? I also love chocolate-covered pretzels.
16. Lights on the tree?
17. Favorite Christmas song?
Once again...WAY too many to choose from. I'm going to have to go with O Holy Night. I also love the Mannheim Steamroller version of Silent Night. Listening to it right now, actually...
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Does traveling an hour up to my parents' count as actual travel?
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?
Wait...isn't the plural actually 'reindeer' not 'deers'? And yes, I can name them all.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
I don't even know what's on top of my tree at the moment because I think the star I had on there broke last year. Hmmm...nothing? I do prefer the star to the angel tree topper.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
We get to open pajama pants from our parents on Christmas Eve and then the rest on Christmas morning. I think someone in my family always has a heart attack whilst waiting to go see what Santa brought, though. Yep, even as adults we fight over who gets to go down has gotten better, though, as we've realized that five extra seconds of seeing your presents isn't really worth the hassle. I'd just as soon go down last every year...then you don't have the pushing behind you and the hushed whispers of "Hurry up!" (Yes, I was the kid who fought vehemently to go first...good thing we have the chance to grow up and realize our childish errors in judgment...)
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Traffic/crowds. And yes, Lisa...definitely snow! I hate having to plan my schedule around whether or not I'll be able to make it through the snow in my little Honda Civic.
23. Favorite ornament theme or color?
This is such a random question...I don't really have a favorite, but if I had to choose, it'd be silver and red. Not a typical combo, but I enjoy it.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
Ham and au gratin potatoes. Maybe I'm a grinch, but can't I eat these things year round? I mean, what's holding me back here?
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? I honestly don't want anything...but since my family makes me make a list, I'd have to say tall, black boots. If they're not by my stocking tomorrow morning, I think I might need a shopping buddy to help me find some...

And if you'd like to do this in the short time before the season ends, feel free! Tag, you're it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lyric deafness

Have you ever listened to a song again and again and belt out the lyrics, only to find out later that you're completely wrong? I must be part deaf or my brain synapses aren't all connecting right because I am notorious for this problem. You've heard of people being tone deaf...I'm 'lyric deaf.' A few examples:

* Weezer's Why Bother? -

Real lyrics:
'Why bother? It's gonna hurt me
It's gonna kill when you desert me'

For at least a year, I had been singing this song like this:
'My father is gonna hurt me
He's gonna kill when you desert me'

Don't worry that my substituted lyrics make absolutely no reasonable sense...I figured that Rivers Cuomo had a sort of dysfunctional family and this was his punishment for when girls dumped him. Ok, honestly, I didn't put two and two together that this isn't a coherent chorus. How did I find out that these were not, in fact, the right lyrics? I was looking through the Pinkerton album track listings and saw "Why Bother?" and wondered what song that was. All the sudden, a little light in my brain turned on, and like a brick to the head, I realized how stupid I had been.

* Alien Ant Farm's Smooth Criminal -

Real lyrics:
'Annie, are you OK?
Will you tell us that you're OK?'

I honestly thought the words were:
'Annie, are you OK?
But you're jealous...but you're ok?'

Come on, why wouldn't Annie be jealous? I mean, that could be the reason the singer is asking if she's ok, right? Come on, at least give me a little credit does make sense the way I sang along. And in my defense, my co-worker at Burger Bar sang it that way alllllllll the time. How was I to know it wasn't right? The Internet, Annie, the Internet. I'm obviously not ok.

* Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby -

Real lyrics:
'Santa honey, there's one thing I really do need,
The deed
To a platinum mine'

As a small child, though, I was apparently not familiar with the glories of this precious metal, because I heard it like this:
'Santa honey, there's one thing I really do need,
The deed
To a-plattin' the mind'

Yes, I know there's no such word as 'plattin',' but I thought I was just too young to understand what Eartha was warbling about. And it didn't help that as we did the little dance to it (see #9 from this post...this song had a big impact on my life apparently...), we even did actions like touching our fingers to our temple. Whatever it was, she really wanted it for Christmas...

There are really many more funny instances like that. Come on, everyone misunderstands lyrics, right? I think I struggle in general with singing along with songs. How come I can never remember the verses, let alone the chorus? And I'm always singing the right part...just at the wrong time. I have so many friends who are music afficionados...maybe I'll leave it to them! However, I do ask for your patience and only minor mocking, should you catch me in my bumbling.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My grown-up Christmas list

When I was a child, I would make a list for Santa Claus every year with things like a portable CD player or rollerblades. Sometimes I was disappointed about not getting the things I wanted, but most years, the haul at Christmas was smile-inducing. As an adult, and especially as I've become more independent, it's difficult to come up with a list of things I'd like...mostly because I buy the things I want when I want them. (Spoiled myself, much?)

This year, if I could, these are the things that I would really like. Santa, if you'd oblige? (I haven't included obvious things like peace on earth or an end to world hunger...everyone wants those...)

* A few extra hours to sleep in every morning. Just set all the clocks back, hold off the sun, and make it so I don't have to hit snooze on my alarm just yet!

* One year that I can dedicate to traveling the world. Oh, and the funds to do it with.

* Better fashion sense.

* The ability to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and not have to worry about gaining weight.

* A time machine to go back and right some wrongs, maybe lessen some mistakes. Not much...I wouldn't want to change the entire course of history.

* Good eyesight.

* Less winter in Utah. Snow is pretty...but it is cold, wet, difficult to drive in--just plain annoying, if you ask me. And yes, I have been skiing before. :)

* A man with whom I can communicate and who respects me. It wouldn't hurt if he were good looking to boot.

* One of those 'EASY' buttons that Staples has on their commercials. I'd take that sucker everywhere! Big project at work? Easy. Gourment dinner? Easy. Singing that duet at church today? EASY.

* A Keane concert tour stop, anywhere in the U.S.

* More courage to get out there and actually make a difference for myself and the world.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Deck the halls!

Now that it's officially the holiday season and I've broken out the ol' Christmas CDs and started to feel all warm and fuzzy inside, I've gotten to thinking about why I love the month of December so much. Well...

* The house can smell like anything from baking cookies to peppermint to evergreen...all smells that have good associations in my mind.

* Holiday music. It makes me happy and makes me cry (happy tears!) and gives me a break from all my other playlists. I've become sort of a grinch, though...I make myself wait until after Thanksgiving to break it out. Growing up, my dad didn't like us to play it before turkey day was over, and I always thought that was so lame, so one year after I'd moved out, I started at the beginning of November. By the middle of December, I was so sick of my Christmas collection. Now I wait. My dad was wise! It's like if you eat ice cream all the time, the allure of ice cream just isn't the same....

* Making Christmas treats. I struggle with these sometimes (especially a new fudge recipe I've been perfecting the last couple years...), but when it all turns out, the calories are completely worth the effort.

* Anytime you want to talk in hushed, secretive tones, you can always use the excuse of, "It's Christmas! You can't ask questions at Christmas!"

* Feeling more giving. What happens to America that for one month we set aside our self-serving, miserish attitudes and decide to be kind and giving? I don't know if that's the case for everyone, but it seems like people open up their hearts and wallets a little more to those less fortunate. Guilty, party of one, right here. Just this week I was shopping for Christmas gifts for some less fortunate kids and finding myself so excited about it! I guess one month of generosity is good for some of us more selfish folk.

* Cheesy Christmas specials on television! And the good ones, too. Our TiVo gets so full of these that it starts automatically deleting things.

* The color red is everywhere in such a cheerful manner! Bows and paper and is my favorite color, so seeing it in all its Christmas glory is kind of a bonus.

* Days off work and school. I haven't been in school for a few years, but at least for a couple weeks, my siblings and friends are free from the stresses of finals and term papers. I remember one year, I was done with the semester on December 7th. So glorious! So a shout-out to everyone who's still plugging away...the end is in sight!! And when you come to the working world (or at least fake it like I do...), the couple vacation days you get (or take) around the holidays are so nice.

Things that are particularly great about this Christmas:

* I have quite a few projects in the works that are bound to make some people's Christmases quite merry and bright. No hints!

* As of today, I haven't had to slip slide on the road as it's snowed! I'm pretty sure I'll get to fight that fight later this month, but for now, I'm happy as a clam.

* has made my shopping fairly simple and non-claustrophobic. I'm trying to be prepared enough that I don't have to fight horrible mall traffic or Wal-Mart lines at the last minute. Although one time, I did ALL my shopping on December 23rd. I felt like such a guy...(no offense worked great for me that year!)

* No boyfriend this year...I don't have to worry about the 'perfect' gift or stress over something homemade (one year I made a quilt for my guy...yeah, he dumped me three weeks later...ouch!).

* Christmas is on a Thursday this year--and I'm taking the day off the day after it. Long weekend for me!

...and of course, I would be completely remiss if I didn't mention the best part of Christmas. For me, it's hope. I don't want to get all cheesy or preachy, but celebrating Jesus Christ's birth gives me hope that I can be a better person.

Hope your holidays are bright!!