Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thankful Thursday: First Day

I started another new job today. I was blessed with a paid summer internship at a financial advising firm, Waddell & Reed. The team I'm working with seem really great, and willing to let me dig in and learn some financial planning skills along with helping out with some of the usual internship stuff like... filing. Which I love. Not. But overall, it promises to be interesting. They have been very flexible, allowing me to schedule hours around my summer class and to avoid the worst commute times so I don't spend hours in traffic.

God is good, and I am grateful.

Originally posted at:

Book: Dating Big Bird

I went on a brief shopping spree at the library used book store last week. I was feeling temporarily liberated from my textbooks, and ready to feast on some brain candy. Only after reading this book, I was already tired of brain candy and ready for something better. Too bad the other books I bought are also brain candy.... I think I need to make work of spending my time in books with a little more substance.

This book is about a 35-year old single girl who is desperate to have a family, although she hasn't quite managed to find the right guy to be the father in her ideal scenario. She and a friend in a similar state of want begin discussing a deadline, a date on which they will make a decision about starting a family with or without the perfect guy. In the end, she and her friend make different decisions about how to reach their goal.

I suppose the story has some interest, but it was also rather predictable.

Dating Big Bird
by Laura Zigman
Originally posted at:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sewing Project: Drawstring Bag

I've had in my mind for a while a sewing project I've wanted to do, and with a few days off between spring semester ending and summer classes starting, I decided there was no time like the present. For a few years, I've been holding on to old jeans, mostly for a big sewing project that is still in my future, but also because I thought it would be great to make a purse/bag out of denim.

Recently, I've been spending a lot of time at D*sneyland. When I go someplace like that, I just can't stand carrying a purse, it's got to be a backpack so my hands are free. So for a while, I've been using this simple bag where the draw strings are also the backpack straps.

This was a freebie. No offense to the Eastern Municipal Water District, but I always wore it so the words were against my back because they're kind of ugly. The fabric is cheap and it's not going to last forever, so eventually I'd need something else. At some point, I realized that the style would be pretty simple to copy without a pattern, so an idea was born to make one out of some of the denim fabric I've been hoarding.

I'm not by any means a super seamstress, but I've started following a few blogs for sewing tips, and have been loving the tutorials and free ideas at Stardust Shoes. When I saw this post, an idea was born to use one of her techniques on my bag, so I bookmarked her tutorial on Reverse Applique.

Fast forward to this weekend, and I have some time to "play" with the sewing machine. Keep in mind that when I "play" it is not without the making of many mistakes, so there was some seam-ripping involved when I had to fix a few things. Remember, no pattern was involved, so I occasional sewed part of it together only to realize that I should have completed another step first... and therefore spent some quality time with the seam ripper.

I dug through my stash of fabrics and found some fun patriotic prints to use for the accents on the bag, and this is the result. This first photo shows the bag laid flat. You can see the basic rectangle shape. Rather than stitch together pieces of denim to make the right size, I used the legs of the old jeans, including the existing seams.

I made a couple design adaptations here. First, the original used grommets to anchor the bottom end of the straps, and I wasn't feeling like I wanted to attempt grommets in my finished project. (Not to mention I had neither the grommets or the tool to set them.) Second, I think the bag will be easier to use (that is, pack full of stuff) with a simple box bottom. So I added a box bottom, securing the backpack straps into that seam. Second, the original used grommets to anchor the bottom of the straps, but I am less confident of using hardware on my fabric items than in my sewing, so instead, I decided to sew the straps into the seams that formed the box bottom.

So what about that great reverse applique idea I raved about? My camera isn't the best at close-up shots, but here's a tidbit of the design:

And finally, here's the front of the bag with the full design, and also folded over to show the coordinating fabric I used to line the bag:

Yes, I know. I'm officially M*ckey crazy. But isn't it cute?? Can't wait for my next trip to the happiest place on earth.

Originally posted at:

Book: Redeeming Love (Re-read)

By the same author as A Voice in the Wind, Redeeming Love is a retelling of the story of the prophet Hosea, set in California during the 1840's gold rush era. Like his counterpart in the Bible, Michael Hosea is called to marry a prostitute. Like her counterpart, Angel shames him by returning to her old ways time and again.

Through her retelling, Rivers shows a picture of a God full of grace, love and tender mercies. She shows us a man obedient to God through challenges so great, he must only be able to endure them because of the God's grace.

This is a wonderfully written love story, but the love Michael Hosea for his wife is only half of it. The real love story is the life-changing love of a God for his people. And that is what makes me want to read this story again and again.

Redeeming Love
by Francine Rivers
Originally posted at:

Book: A Voice in the Wind

I am a fan of Francine Rivers, and up until now, had read quite a few of her books. I've actually had a copy of this one for years, and haven't gotten around to reading it. I tried once or twice before, but it was a "slow starter" and I just couldn't get into it. A month or two ago, as I was running short on fresh reading material, I picked it up again. And I can't figure out why I waited so long.

With a bit more patience, I would have discovered this was not an exception to Rivers' ability to weave a good tale with strong, distinctive characters, and enjoyable to read. Set in the early Roman empire, sometime not long after Christ's death and the fall of Jerusalem, we meet characters from various backgrounds who find themselves struggling to find their way in Rome.

Hadassah, a slave from Jerusalem and a Christian, quietly and humbly serves her spoiled mistress Julia and her family. Julia's brother seeks the wealth Rome has to offer despite his father's wish that he take over the family business. Atretes, captured in Germania, is a slave of the fighting arena, forced to kill or be killed in vain, as he serves as entertainment in Rome's insatiable thirst for blood.

Each makes decisions that affect their own lives and those around them, until at the end, their stories are intertwined, and the heartbreaking choices of one threaten all of them. As soon as I finished reading, I requested the second book in the series from the library, I will look forward to it arriving!

A Voice in the Wind
by Francine Rivers
-- Originally posted at:

Book: The Red Tent (Re-read)

I did not spend my entire holiday weekend reading. However, I've slowly been accumulating a stack of books that I've finished reading without blogging about them, this is the first of three.

~ ~ ~

I love this book. I think this reading was probably at least my 3rd time, possibly the 4th or maybe even the 5th. I received my copy as a gift, on my birthday in 2001, from a friend who loved it, too. (I know this because she was kind enough to write in it, ensuring I will never part with this copy!) Diamant is terrific story teller. I have since read some her other novels, and while I generally recommend her has an author, I have enjoyed this one the most.

The Red Tent is a fictionalized history of the four wives of the Biblical Jacob, and "their" daughter Dinah, born to Leah. Other than a brief mention in the Biblical account, we don't know what happened to her after her brothers avenged her honor at Shechem, thus the fiction which tells of her life both before and after that.

The title dwelling was a place where women had a respite from their usual work for a few days during each new moon. A few days spent only in each other's company. Babies were born in the red tent. Friendships were formed. The bonds of sisterhood deepened. As the only daughter in the family, the story tells her upbringing by four mothers not just the one who gave birth to her.

Some may not like this book because it embellishes the Biblical account and fills in narrative where it is quiet. It is a work of fiction, so like any book in that genre, it can't be read as truth. However, it is a beautiful story, one I highly recommend.

The Red Tent
by Anita Diamant
Originally posted at:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sing Me a Memory: My Savior, My God

Worship at my church was awesome today. I was singing on the praise team today, which I love, because I get to worship at Wednesday rehearsal AND on Sunday. The songs this week included several favorites that hadn't been in the rotation recently, so it seemed like our rehearsal was punctuated with an, "I love this song!" for pretty much every one of them.

One of today's songs I remember singing for the very first time at this church, only a few weeks after I'd started attending there. I don't remember the exact circumstances, but I remember that my heart was not at peace. I was frustrated, or upset about something. I think that in my state of mind, I most likely did not feel like even going to church that day, so it was one of those Sunday mornings when I showed up out of obedience and not out of desire.

Then we sang these words:

My Savior loves, my Savior lives,
my Savior's always there for me
my God He was, my God He is,
my God is always gonna be

I was overwhelmed with the reminder that God is eternal, He is powerful, and most of all, His plan for me is SO much bigger than any crazy, earthly, temporary circumstances in my life. This was over three years ago, so I no longer remember anything about that particular Sunday. But every time I sing this song, I remember God's perfect timing in using it to teach me exactly what I needed to hear the first time I heard it.

My Savior, My God is written by Aaron Shust.
Originally posted at:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

At least this wildlife was outside...

Here in Fallbrook where there is lots of open space, there are a lot of critters around the house. Usually they are outside, although it seems more than a fair share of spiders find their way inside. Lots of crickets, too, and once - a lizard.

Outside, various critters have been spotted: an owl , a hawk, hummingbirds, finches, and orioles (among other birds,) gophers, rats, mice, rabbits, scorpions, a tarantula, and more than one kind of snake, including rattlesnakes. Two summers ago, I came much closer to a rattlesnake than I ever wanted to without a thick layer of glass separating us.

Today, I noticed this guy right outside the window:

Isn't that just great? I actually heard him before I saw him... well, I heard some scuffling outside when he attacked the unfortunate critter that became his lunch. Later, he slithered off toward a patch of sunlight, presumably for an after lunch nap, and I snapped this photo. This is a gopher snake, and I'm guessing he's about 5 feet long. These aren't poisonous, and they are actually useful for controlling the population of rodents, so I left him alone after snapping a few photos.
-- Originally posted at:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Red Bull Air Race

For the third year in a row, the Red Bull Air Race came to San Diego this weekend. I first saw the race two years ago, and it was so cool I was disappointed to miss it last year. So this year, when some of my family decided to make a weekend of it and go camping in Coronado (across the bay from San Diego) to be close to the big event, I definitely wanted to join the fun.

Picture small planes flying 200+ miles an hour through an obstacle course that floats on the water. They must fly low enough to pass through each gate, but high enough not to end up in the drink. It's quite impressive to watch.

My cousin Michael is a huge fan of all things aeronautical, and took these terrific photos. This is what really fast looks like:

For some of the gates, the pilots must fly through at a 90-degree angle, they call it "knife edge." There's a 2 second penalty for not executing the angle precisely. One of the final four flyers dropped from 2nd to 3rd place due to receiving this penalty.

Other targets must be flown through exactly level, like this one. Because the turns on the course are quite tight, it's a balancing act to pass through the gates in the correct orientation and maintain the speed required to win. This particular gate was hit several times on Saturday, essentially shearing off the top of the cone. The gates are inflatable, and can be replaced in under 5 minutes by a team that arrives at the floating gate by boat. (Sorry no photos of a destroyed gate.)

For all the targets, the pilot must fly so that the cockpit is vertically between either the red or blue areas on the gate. In both of the above photos, the pilot is positioned correctly. The penalty for flying too low through a gate is bigger than the penalty for flying too high through a gate. The penalty for flying too low other than at a gate is an unscheduled swim, and this pilot came really close. There were scuba teams ready throughout the race to go diving after sinking pilots, just in case.

Interested in seeing more? Check out this video from the race website, it shows the planes in action.

Originally posted at:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Disneyland's Club 33

Disclaimer: This post is about my magical experience at Disneyland's Club 33 this week, and might be just a little too much detail for a non-Disney fan. I just wanted to capture all the details before I forget them, so feel free to come along for the ride....

The adventure begins at some point in the afternoon as we wander through Disneyland's New Orlean's Square, and past the doorway marked only with the address "33." Other than the sign, and an inconspicuous intercom box inside the doorway, there is no indication of what lies beyond the door. I got so excited the day before that I, naturally, did a web search and did some reading about it.

We are told to arrive early for our 6:15 reservation, but then are asked to wait until then before we are invited inside. Let the picture taking begin! We took individual photos of each member of our party by the sign, and then again as we stepped inside.

The staff was very accommodating of our obsessive photo-taking, which is great, since I'm sure this is the only time I will every be walking through this door! The ground floor lobby includes only the hostess desk, the staircase and the lift to the second floor restaurant. We take another photo here, as we are informed this is a popular photo spot - I'm guessing they see a lot of starry-eyed first-time visitors!

At the top of the stairs, there is a smaller dining room to the right, which is directly over the Blue Bayou restaurant entrance. We are walked to the left, and down a hallway which I later realized takes us over the street below, to a larger dining room which overlooks the Rivers of America.

The ambience is impeccable. The room has high ceilings, gorgeous dark wood crown moulding, a beautiful fireplace, and fresh flowers. The staff is friendly, and indulgent of our savoring the experience of eating at the one and only Club 33, giving us plenty of time to take in our surroundings and ponder the menu before we order. The table is set for a multiple-course meal with dishes that were designed especially for Club 33.

The menu is divided into two choices: a pre-selected 5-course meal of the chef's choosing or a la carte selections for appetizer, main dish and dessert. Jeanine and I both opted for the 5-course meal, and it was amazing!

-- * --

1. Romaine Lettuce Salad, Balsamic Caesar Dressing

2. Seared Rare Ahi, Garden Carrot Risotto, Jalapeno Mousse

3. New York Steak, Roasted Fingerling Potato, Freestone Peach Reduction

4. Regional Artisan Cheese

5. Valrhona Chocolate Creme Anglaise Barr, Hazelnut Nougatine

-- * --

I think my favorite part of the meal was the Seared Ahi, which literally melted in my mouth. So delicious! Although, it's hard for a dessert lover like myself to admit that anything was better than the beautifully prepared chocolate creationg that ended my meal! Besides the fact that everything tasted wonderful, the presentation was beautiful and being such a visual person, that only added to my enjoyment.

Jeanine was presented with a special birthday creme brulee dessert, complete with a glowing Tinkerbell. (I just realized as I posted this photo, that the chocolate design on the edge of her plate says "Birthday," further proof that every detail was perfect.)

The entire meal was a relaxing, unrushed experience. It was hard to believe at times that this oasis, a beautiful, quiet delightful restaurant, was right in the middle of what is usually one of the busiest areas of the park. I had no idea how much time had passed while we enjoyed our meal until we stepped outside just before dessert to see the view from the balcony to find Disneyland was empty... the park closed at 8:00, and was empty and quiet.

And then, although nothing about the evening was rushed, it was over too soon. Because the park was closed, we are escorted from New Orleans Square through Adventureland and back to Main Street USA. This was the most surreal part of the experience, walking through an empty Disneyland, the memory of a dinner at Club 33 fresh in my mind.

This was an experience I will never forget. Given the chance, I would go to Club 33 again, although truly, I feel I've been lucky beyond my wildest imagination just to go once.

***This post is especially for my friend Chris, who loves Disney way more than I do. If lightning strikes twice, and I am lucky enough to go to Club 33 again, I hope that it is with you.***

Originally posted at: