Monday, July 26, 2010

Book: Eat, Pray, Love

Well, first of all, I started reading this book before I found out it was going to be a movie in about a month, starring none other than Julia Roberts. Really! Although, I can't say I'm surprised, because this book was GREAT! I actually became intrigued by this book when I read a review of Elizabeth Gilbert's next book, Committed, which I just requested from the library, and also because it surfaced once or twice as a possible book group read.

One of the most interesting things about this book is that the author is deeply spiritual, and talks about God, but has a completely different understanding of God than I do, making it clear that her God is more religion than relationship. Kind of. While her understanding of God is very different than mine, I found her devotion and pursuit of spirituality enviable. Although I'm getting ahead of myself here.

This book tells the story of the author spending one full year traveling the world after her entire life and marriage essentially fall apart. She begins in Italy, where she strives to learn Italian simply because she's always wanted to, and to learn the art of enjoying the pleasurable things in life, primarily food and "doing nothing." I for one, am like many Americans, and I really don't know how to relax or enjoy anything without either feeling guilty or getting bored and feeling like I should be doing "something" instead of doing "nothing." Four months in Italy learning how to chill out sounds kind of good.

As her time in Italy comes to a close, she returns to the US for a brief stay before departing to India for a time of meditation and spiritual study in India, living at an ashram. This is where I admire her spiritual devotion. Given, very few people can afford more than a week or two to dedicate to any kind of introspection or travel, and she spends nearly 4 months in India, meditating for hours each day. Through her time, though, she finds peace and understanding of herself and God. After India, she departs for Bali, and strives to understand balance. Her descriptions of the history and culture of Bali are very interesting, and again I found I was inspired by what she learned.

I very rarely mark pages in books, and I have to mention that there are multiple folded-over corners in my copy of this book. I found I could relate this author in some way, and even when I couldn't, I found her so interesting. I think that biographies are becoming one of my favorite genres, simply because I find it so interesting to read about other experiences, other perspectives, and other people's lives. I assume I will never spend a year living in this way, but I enjoyed every minute of reading about someone who did.

Eat, Pray, Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert

-- Originally posted at:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Here's Your Sign (Bunco edition)

Fans of Bill Engvall might recognize the "Here's Your Sign" reference, as he has a trademark bit using this expression. The idea is that those who routinely say silly things should wear a sign so the rest of us have advance warning. Now the disclaimer: the following story is completely true, although the person in this case who said the silly thing... definitely doesn't make a habit of this kind of absentmindedness!

Friday night Bunco was being held at a house where we hadn't played before. Somebody spotted my friend, the last to arrive, get out of her car and walk towards the house. I stepped outside of the front door and we had the following exchange:

Me: "Hey there!"

Her: "Oh, is this the right house?"

Me: "Ummmm no. This is a stranger's house... Bunco is next door."

[ Here's Your Sign ]

For the record... we BOTH had a good laugh over this!

-- Originally posted at:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Oh, dear

Back in January, I decided not to make any more New Year's resolutions, and instead focus on trying to make good decisions every day especially as it regards my ongoing efforts to be healthier (that's a euphemism for "lose weight and go to the gym, stupid.")

Well, six months into that experiment, it turns out that isn't a very successful strategy for me. Sadly, this became obvious upon careful quick review of my recent vacation photos. Nevermind that there are multiple other reasons this should have been obvious. It was. I just chose to follow the "I can ignore healthy eating and gym today" voice in my head on more days than I chose the "I will eat fruits and vegetables and burn calories today" voice. *Sigh.* I dearly hope that one day I will learn this lesson better and stop making the wrong choice. But goodness knows it's practically impossible to eat carrots and hummus when the alternative is Rum Bread Pudding. Oh, my.

So yesterday I went back to the gym, and it wasn't awful. I got to watch Opr*h, a guilty pleasure, while doing some jog/walk intervals on the treadmill. It doesn't matter that it was a rerun, since I only ever watch Opr*h at the gym, and you've probably already read through the lines and figured out that the odds of me having already seen any particular episode are pretty low.

I'm going to go have some carrots and hummus, because thankfully there is no more leftover bread pudding.

-- Originally posted at:

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Garlicky Onion Cheese Spread Recipe

This is for my friend Tami, who really, really loved this dip when I brought it to a church event this week.

Garlicky Onion Cheese Spread

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 green onions, slice the green leafy part into thin rings, but leave out the white bulb end
2-4 cloves garlic, crushed (1-2 tsp crushed garlic)

Soften the cream cheese by allowing it to reach room temperature. Mix in the sour cream, garlic and onion. Refrigerate until ready to serve. I like it best with pretzel chips, and it would also make a good sandwich spread.

The consistency will be thick, but if you prefer it to be more like a dip, add more sour cream.

-- Originally posted at:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

This was a book club selection, and another interesting title I probably never would have discovered on my own. The story unfolds during the era of Chairman Mao's cultural revolution, and tells of two young men who are banished to a small Chinese village for "re-education." Their only crime was being the sons of doctors, and for this they paid with hard labor and separation from their families with no hope of appeal.

As time passes, they steal a suitcase of contraband books, all by European authors, from another young man whose re-education is complete and will be returning home. The men have become friensd with the daughter of the tailor from a neighboring village and they share what they learn from the forbidden books with her. In the end, their plans do not yield the results they had hoped.

I probably could have gotten more out of this book if I'd read it more carefully and given it more thought. However, I enjoyed it as I enjoy many biographies, for the insight into life in another time and place.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
by Dai Sijie

-- Originally posted at:

Monday, July 5, 2010


I'm reading a book right now called Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, a New York Times bestseller from a while back. I've been surprised at how much I've enjoyed this book so far, and have already marked several passages by folding the corner of the pages. Lest those of you who mourn the premature death of any book due to folded corners, I should disclose that I inadvertently left this particular volume in the back window of the car on two successive days of extreme heat, and the folded over corners are now the least of it's problems. The entire spine has melted, leaving me with a looseleaf book that requires a rubber band if I have any hope of holding the book together. Take my advice: don't leave your book in the back window of the car on a drive through the Utah desert.

I liked this particular passage from the book in which the author is writing about how very different she is from her sister:

Here's another example of the difference in our worldviews. A family in my sister's neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, "Dear God, that family needs grace." She replied firmly, "That family needs casseroles," and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace.


-- Originally posted at:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Colorado Vacation Day 10 | Home Stretch (and one more National Park)

First thing this morning - well, after a yummy hometown breakfast! - we drive through Zion National Park. Again, every turn was just amazing! One of the most interesting things at this park is a very long tunnel through the rock walls of the canyon. This photo was taken at a roadside turnout just below the tunnel. The "window" in the rock is a vent for the tunnel. 

-- Originally posted at:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Colorado Vacation Day 9 | 3 National Parks

I've driven through Southern Utah before, but only on the interstate, and had never seen the National Parks in the area. Today was one of those days when literally every bend in the highway revealed a new panorama of beauty. It was another 100+ picture day, these are just a small sample.

Arches National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

We pulled into Bryce Canyon as the sun was setting, and had just a few moments to snap photos before it was too dark. For all the stops, really, I was left wanting to see more of the stunning landscape.

-- Originally posted at:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Colorado Vacation Day 8 | Time to Head Home

The reunion ended this morning, and so began the trip home, which turned out to be an adventure in itself, for all the right reasons. The drive started with another trip through the park over Trail Ridge road, and then south and west heading into Grand Junction, CO. At the top of the ridge, there is one stop where you can hike up on the tundra, and climb on a few rocks, from which there is a 360-degree view of the Rockies that is completely breathtaking. This photo was taken at what felt like the top of the world. At the left of the photo is Trail Ridge Summit, and on the right in the distant background is Long's Peak.

One other car from the family was also headed west, and as it turned out we all stayed in Grand Junction, so we got to enjoy one more evening together. We ate dinner at Famous Dave's and played a round of Ticket to Ride.

-- Originally posted at:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Colorado Vacation Day 7 | Cousin Time

There were 8 of 9 cousins present from my generation at this reunion, and one of them, David, wrote a song for each of his 5 cousins at the reunion (2 others that were present are his siblings.) On the the last night, we cousins surprised him in return with our own tribute to David. I hope to get the lyrics to each of the songs at some point so I can post those, too. Here we are serenading David, from left: Danny, Gene, me, Gene's wife Barb, Jane, Jane's husband Zach with Kai on his shoulders, Ray and Ray's wife Genevieve.

Just after the week's last serenade, all 8 of the cousins in the next generation were lined up on the couch for a photo. From left to right, oldest to youngest, is: Mark (5), Lily (3), Julia (2), Jaelyn (2), Charlie (19 months), Kai (14 months), Cordae (10 months) and Samuel (5 months): 

Also on this day, 12 of us tackled what was probably the most adventurous activity: white-water rafting. No photos of that yet, those were taken on a waterproof film camera, and aren't developed yet!

-- Originally posted at:

Colorado Vacation Day 6 | Family Day

Today was a more mellow day. Nearly everyone spent some time in town shopping, and our family had lunch together at Poppy's, where we enjoyed the exact same gourmet pizza choice. Like many of the mornings, we enjoyed a big breakfast together, today, I cooked almond french toast - one of our family favorites.

-- Originally posted at: