Friday, October 31, 2008

Have You Voted Yet?

This morning, I spent some time and filled in my ballot for the elections. It was great to vote for president, but that's only a small part of what I did.

There were many other leaders, judges, and initiatives to vote for where my vote counts and will make a difference. It fealt great to practice my right to vote, have my voice heard, and make a differenct.

Sometimes I wish I lived in a state like Ohio or Pennsylvania where it would be a rush to really know your vote for president might change the outcome of the election. In Idaho, the delagates will go to McCain and in Washington they will go to Obama. That's OK though. I may actually be deciding the outcome for the governor of Washington or how I-1000 will turn out. I have power. So do you! Make sure you make it happen by next Tuesday.

And for fun, you can watch this non-partisan video:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jack o' Lanterns!

Last night, the DH and I found pumpkins at Central Market and brought them home to carve. I was inspired by one of the brother's family pumpkins and the DH used a stencil. I decided to go old school and design my own and cut it completely freehand. I think it's the best pumpkin I've every carved, but that's mostly because I'm carved some pretty sorry pumpkins in the past. Now mine just needs a word bubble above his head with the word "Argh!" in it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Highlights for the last week

The past week has been pretty good, but I'll have to settle on a few highlights:
  • Dinner at Hy's Steak House in Honolulu with the DH
  • Sleeping in my own bed again after a long trip
  • Autumn party at Bop and Beep's place
  • Hearing about everything I missed while I was gone (specifically my Relief Society responsibilities)
  • Going to the temple with the DH yesterday

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Three Cups of Tea -- a Book Review

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin is a fantastic story about Greg Mortenson and how he tries to change the world. After reading the book, I have the utmost respect for this man. The way that he was able to put aside his own life, forge bonds with people far more unlike than like him, and find success in a country rife with war and corruption is astounding. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but I really am impressed with the man and what he has done.

David Relin worked very hard to get an unbiased look into the world and the work of Greg Mortenson and I feel like he did a good job of keeping the story even-keeled. The beauty in this book is not with the most refined writing, but with the story.

One of the parts I loved was when Mortenson found out that there was a fatwa against him. A fatwa is a legal pronouncement by a religious cleric. There were some in Pakistan who were very much against a Christian building schools in their country and believed that he was trying to indoctrinate their children. On the contrary, he was trying to educate them to fight against the indoctrination going on by the Taliban in the madrassas that they were building. At any rate, Mortenson had built a strong network of allies by showing great respect for the Muslim people and their religion. As a result of the way he lived and the example he set, the higher ruling bodies overturned the fatwas against his school building.

The lesson that I took from this is that he was successful because of his integrity. He loved the people and their war-torn country, respected their differences, and lived what he believed even at great personal sacrifice. I have great respect for such a man.

All in all, I highly recommend the book and think it's an important read for people who want to learn more about a part of the world that we generally have very little knowledge of.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Playing on my iPod This Week (Oct 27) -- This American Life

I had a great time traveling, but I must say that it was much easier getting there and back with my iPod in hand. The time went by very quickly while I was catching up on old episodes of This American Life. I've learned more about the housing market, economic crisis, federal judiciary system, and organ donation from this series than I thought possible. There's always something informative or entertaining. It's on TV too, but it's on Showtime and I draw the paying-for-TV line at premium stations.

I get my episodes from iTunes, but you can get them from the TAL site as well. Sometimes I actually listen on the radio, but it's usually while I'm running errands on Saturday and I'll miss a big section of the show, so I still have to catch up on the podcast.

Sleeping in My Own Bed

We ended the day Thursday with more relaxing, enjoying the ocean breezes, and a forgetable dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. We didn't care thought. We'd had so much fun that we were just enjoying more of the same.

Friday morning, we decided to enjoy breakfast and just laze around a bit and then head back to Honolulu. We bought a box of pineapple in the airport before boarding the plane and spending the next six hours thinking of the great memories we'd made and the lovely thought of sleeping in our own bed.

As always, one of the great things about a vacation is enjoying being home again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Island Paradise

Tuesday was a pretty fun day. We started with a trip to the Hawai'i temple. It's much smaller than I expected, but it was very pretty inside. We got out of there around lunch time and then we spent the rest of the day touring the entire island. We had intended to go to Hanauma Bay, so we drove along the coast stopping to take pictures along the way. It was a nice slice of paradise. When we got to the bay, we saw the sign that they were closed. It turns out that Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays. Oops! By that time, we were halfway around, so we just kept on going. We drove with the top down on the convertible and had a lovely time of it.

When we got back to the North Shore, we stopped in Hale'iwa to get dinner at what one of the guide books said was the restaurant with the best burger in town. We were NOT disappointed. We had a great dinner, then enjoyed some Hawaiian ice before heading back to the hotel and turning in for the night.

On Wednesday, we got up early and headed to the big city of Honolulu. We started our tour there at the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. It's a beautiful memorial and we enjoyed the little boat ride out there and the whole tour for that matter. We then left Pearl Harbor and headed for the stadium. We went to the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet where you can buy all the tacky tourist souvenirs for half the price of any other shops. We made our way all the way around the place with several purchases in hand.

It didn't take us as long as we expected to do those two things, so we went to see Iolani Palace and then went to the dollar movie (where it was air conditioned) and watched Journey to the Center of the Earth. It was a pretty stupid movie, but entertained us for a while. We went to Aloha tower and Waikiki Beach before heading for our dinner reservation at Hy's Steak House. Our dinner was fantastic (much better than our last steak house dinner at El Gaucho). We both enjoyed our dinners and then had a wonderful drive back to the North shore.

Today, we started with a swim in the ocean. It was so beautiful! The water is fairly warm and there is a bit of a cove here, so the waves aren't too strong. It stormed last night, so there were great waves today. It made our swimming more fun and the roads in the area very crowded. There was a huge difference in the amount of traffic and the boards in the water today over the other days we've been here. We spent a little time in Laie, getting additional souvenirs, and then went all the way out to the West. The towns are quaint and the people are super nice. We drove as far as you can until the road ends and took pictures along the way. On the way back, we stopped so I could get another shaved ice (which I love, but the DH couldn't get into). Down the road a little farther, we stopped for the DH to get a fresh coconut. We were both happy!


I'm in Hawai'i. 'Nuf said.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Enjoying the Aloha Spirit

We've spent a little time at the spa, where the DH got a massage and I got a pedicure. I'm now sporting opalescent blue nail polish on my toes -- very hip! We also went to the Dole plantations, which I think the DH and I both agree should not be on the list of things to do while on O'ahu. It was the most touristy thing I've seen here. We also drove along the North Shore and saw some of the surf towns along the way. If you're keepin track, the rain has been very little and today was sunny the entire day. I even got a tiny bit of sunburn on my face and neck.

We also spent a lot of time at the Polynesian Cultural Center today. Although it's also quite touristy, there is so much that's interesting and educational that I would recommend it to just about anyone. When I came to Hawai'i several years ago, I went to one of the big luau's. I enjoyed the PCC quite a bit more bacause we got to see demonstrations and learn all about several islands in addition to Hawai'i. I also thought this show was better than the Luau show, but I'm sure that's just a matter of taste. We had a very friendly guide named Loana from Tahiti. We also enjoyed chatting with several of the other folks in our little tour group. There were a few families and several couples and I think we all had a good time.

The highlight was the Samoa demonstration. The host was a great entertainer in addition to teaching us how to husk and open a coconut. We also got to see a young man climb a coconut tree. I was pretty impressed and how he just sprung up the tree.

At the final show, the best part was the fire dance. there were five guys all dancing with sticks on fire. Very cool! We're worn out from the walking and the sun, but so happy and relaxed too. Tomorrow, we're off to see more!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


The DH and I are on our first big vacation since our honeymoon. We've been planning it since early last Spring, so there's been a lot of anticipation for this. We're now very happy to be in Hawai'i, enjoying the surf and some sun. At the moment I'm writing this, it's raining outside, but even with the rain it's beautiful and relaxing.

When we arrived in Honolulu, we picked up our rental car and then took the long way to our hotel on the North Shore. We drove by Waikiki beach, Diamond Head, Haunama Bay, the Polynesian Culturale Center, Hawai'i temple, and a couple of golf course. The whole time it was just beautiful. We stopped a couple of times along the way to buy fresh coconut and bananas from a roadside stand and eat lunch from the Shrimp Shack.

When we got to the hotel, we put on our bathing suits and went out in the ocean. It's fantastic! We just relaxed the rest of the evening and ate dinner at the buffet in the hotel and watched a movie before falling asleep. Or, to be more accurate, I fell asleep while the DH watched a movie.

This morning, we found a ward pretty close by and went to church at the Kahuku 1st ward. The people were friendly and everything was pretty familiar -- one of the nice things about visiting churches wherever we go.

On the docket now... some relaxing, and then more relaxing, and after that a little more relaxing.

Mahalo, Tinkerdoodle!

Saturday, the DH and I left for our vacation in Hawai'i. Being in Hawai'i is great, but there is a six-hour flight between home and vacation. That's a long time to sit with not much to do, so I came prepared with the iPod, books, and magazines. The time goes especially fast when I'm listening to podcasts, so I was thrilled to have the iPod along.

Some of you may know that the iPod Nano has a defect. Apparently, it's pretty common, but I hadn't taken the time to research. The problem is that every once-in-a-while, when you go through the menu to get to a song or podcast, it freezes just as you're getting to the actual thing you want to listen to. It won't do anything, including turn off. The only way I could deal with it was to let the battery die and then it would reset itself.

Here's where Tinkerdoodle comes in. The DH was describing my problem to the iPod owners he works with and she said she had the same problem and there was a fix. You just hold down the middle button and the menu botton at the same time until you see the Apple icon and it resets. It takes about 15 seconds and then you're back to listening to whatever you want. Just like that!

Well, as soon as I got my iPod out to listen to it on the plane, it did the ol' feeze up. Had I not gotten the great tip from Tinkerdoodle, then I would have been iPod-less the entire trip, including 12 hours of boring flight.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sharing the Love

Dan asked for the recipe from Sunday's dinner. We just had a big Ham's back end that we cooked for three hours and then made home-made Mac 'n' Cheese. The recipe is below, but this is from Martha Stewart and will take you two hours and $30 to make if you do it by the book.

Here's what I do differently. I don't make my own breadcrumbs. I buy the already made ones in a can at the store. Also, I use the already grated cheese from the grocery and try to get it when it's on sale. Safeway now has Asiago cheese already grated, so I use that and mild cheddar. The combination is really good. I also use about 10-20% more noodles because I think the recipe makes too much sauce. And finally, I leave out the nutmeg. I only like nutmeg in sweet treats. I think it's wierd in mac 'n' cheese and chicken and dumplings.

Also, this takes about 20 minutes of hand's on time to make, but totally worth it.

Macaroni and Cheese
6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into ¼- to ½-inch pieces
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
5½ cups milk
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4½ cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1¼ cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni

You can easily divide this recipe in half; use a 1½-quart casserole dish if you do. Serves 12.

Heat the oven to 375°. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the bread crumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1½ cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.

Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1½ cups cheddar and ½ cup Gruyere or ¼ cup pecorino Romano; scatter bread crumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

Good Times

I feel like I've been too busy to breath lately. Work just doesn't seem to let up and the DH and I seem to overbook ourselves between work, church, music, and everything else we like to do. Don't get me wrong. This is not a complaint. Really, it's just more of an observation.

I thought this week was going to be a little less hectic, but several church responsibilities have proven that to be a bad assumption. I'm responsible for refreshments and the program for Education Night while I'm out of town this weekend, so it's been a scramble to get everything done. Still, I've had a pretty fun and entertaining week.

These are the highlights:
  • Easy peasy Friday night with the DH and no plans. We went out to dinner and then came home and watched TV from the DVR.
  • Making a Christmas present for the SIL at our Relief Society activity on Saturday morning. I can't say what it was (because that would spoil the surprise), but it was fun to learn.
  • Ballard Art Walk and dinner with friends. We had a delightful time chatting and looking in shops and seeing art.
  • Ham and mac 'n' cheese for Sunday dinner. I haven't made the soup yet, but it's on the list for Thursday.
  • Completing the program for Education Night and deciding that it doesn't look too bad. I'm not a designer, but I could play one on TV.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Playing on my iPod This Week (Oct 13) -- Chicks

The DH has a knack for putting together play lists. He really is good at it and I appreciate this skill. Last week he made me a disc of all female artists and it's been playing a few times on my CD player in the car. It's great music. One of the things I like best about it is that he selected some of the songs that aren't played quite as much by those artists. Good stuff -- and so smart!

One of the songs I really like is Nancy Griffith's Don't Forget About Me. It's like honey, smooth and sweet. I also love Trisha Yearwood's Wrong Side of Memphis. Now that's some good stuff.

I don't know what the video is about (it's just wierd), but the song is great:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

More Highlights

The DH and I have been SUPER busy the past week. I'm ready for things to slow down.. like really slow... like a trip to Hawaii! It's only 10 days away. But that's not really part of my highlights. Even though it's been busy, all the activities have been a lot of fun.
  • Breakfast at Mae's with the brother, SIL, and their kids.
  • Issaquah Salmon Days with La and Lo and getting our ceramic pot.
  • Listening to General Conference -- there were some fantastic talks.
  • Having the DH cook awesome dinners for me on Sunday AND again on Monday.
  • Seeing Natalie MacMaster (even if she was pregnant).
  • The first half hour of seeing Chris Thile (mandolin) and Edgar Meyer (bass). The best was the Bach they played together.
  • Hearing Terry Tempest Williams at Seattle Arts and Lectures. She's an interesting character and shared moving stories.
  • E-mail from the parents, telling us about their trip.
  • Chatting with Ann on the phone (and reading about her trying to burn herself).

So much has been going on, but I looked at the calendar and after tomorrow, it calms down considerably.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Natalie MacMaster is Pregnant

You may not care that Natalie is pregnant, but I do. I was very disappointed to find out. Normally, I'm all about the baby love. Pregnancies are exciting and fun (for everyone but the mother in some cases). But Natalie is a performer in the Cape Breton style that includes step dancing while fiddling. It's just not the same when she's pregnant.

I saw Natalie MacMaster for the first time at Bumbershoot several years ago. It was one of the most spirited live performances in memory. She played a variety of folk tunes and danced the whole time. The entire audience was mesmerized and we had a fantastic time. So, about a year and a half ago, she was here again and playing with the symphony. I convinced the DH that he'd love hearing and seeing her and we went to the performance with high expectations. The music was wonderful, but Natalie was pregnant, so the dancing was not quite as lively. We had a great time, but I was a tad bit disappointed that she wasn't able to give that amazing performance that I remembered.

So, this year Natalie is on tour again and I really want to see the full show with the DH. We got tickets and as we were walking toward the Kirkland Performance Center, I told the DH, "she just better not be pregnant." We got there and she came out on stage -- visibly and obviously pregnant. OY! She had several outstanding performers with her and we got to see a bit of dancing with the playing, but Wow! That girl is all about making the babies. This is number three and they're each only 18 months apart. This may be the last time we see her live. If she comes back later, I need to figure out how to ensure that she's NOT pregnant when I buy tickets.

Playing on my iPod This Week (Oct 6) -- Bebel Gilberto

I found my CD case and discovered some old loves there. One of them was Bebel Gilberto. I'm sure you know her father. He's the musician who performs The Girl From Iponema. His daughter Bebel is very talented as well. The music is considered World Music and has a definite Bosso Nova beat to most of it. I find that I really enjoy Brazilian music. It's mellow, but still has a beat, which makes for some happy music.

I have the album Bebel Gilberto and like every song on it. Her album Momento seems to be just as good.

Just take a listen and I'm sure you'll be taken in. This one is Aganju.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Life's Biggest Time Wasters

This morning I was thinking about how much time I can wast on Soduko or solitaire. I've become particularly fond of the Mah Jong solitaire game on the new Windows Vista. It's certainly a vice. I can play for half an hour without even realizing that I've been at the computer that long. Fortunately, I just have the Soduko daily calendar, so I only do one puzzle a day. It's not quite so bad.

A couple of days ago, a former co-worker was seen at the coffe shop down the street. He was not particularly well-liked, so someone asked if another co-worker wanted to run over there and see him -- acting not a little snarky about it. I had not had more than five minutes' thought about the individual since he had left the organization and found it interesting that he would be the subject of conversation, much less that anyone would take the time to worry about where he is now and what's going on, unless it was because he was a friend. I realized that this is another way that we can end up wasting a lot of time and energy. We tend to keep coming back to things that may have offended us or bothered us in the past, even though they are really water under the bridge at this point.

It made me wonder how much time I've wasted on worrying about things I can't change or behavior I've witnessed that I didn't like. Have I held on to things that are totally unproductive (and unfortunately, the answer to that is too often yes)? Have I spent time thinking about how others act when I have no controll over them, but only how I act toward them?

I want to be more mindful of how I spend my time and energy. I always feel like I have too many things going on and I really do have too many good things in my life to spend any time on either things I can't control or things that ultimately bring unhappiness. Worrying is not easy to stop, but I'm sure I can make an effort.

More Highlights

Work has been a little hectic (though I think I may be caught up by the end of the day), and so has the church responsibility, but there have still been some really bright moments in the last few days.
  • Mahler's 8th Symphony. Brilliant!
  • Continueing to read Three Cups of Tee. Informative.
  • Dieter Uchdorf's remarks at the women's broadcast. Moving and motivating.
  • Chicken and dumplings for Sunday dinner. Tasty.

I hope the last week has been good for you!