Friday, December 28, 2007

Lizzy or Elinor?

I'm a sucker for online tests. My mom and sister-in-law told me about this one that tells you which Jane Austen character you are. Being a sucker for Jane Austen, I was on Google before they finished explaining it to me.

Both my mom and Kelly turned out to be Elinor Dashwood. I figured I would be the same, but it turned out I was Elizabeth Bennett. I took it again a few days later for good measure and turned out to be Elinor Dashwood. I realize I can be a walking contradiction, so that only makes sense.

Take the test girls, and let me know who you are. But make sure you take the right test. There was this really lame one with a question that asked: If you were portrayed in a film or TV movie, it would be by...

a) Emma Thompson
b) Keira Knightley or Jennifer Ehle
c) Gwyneth Paltrow
d) Kate Winslet

Please. So don't use the link on the Elinor Dashwood picture. Instead click on Lizzy Bennett and that will take you to a better quiz.

This got me to thinking about how much I love those Jane Austen movies and those scenes I would rewind to watch over and over again. You know which scenes I'm talking about. There's that one when Jennifer Ehle is playing the piano and Colin Firth glances over at her and they lock eyes for what seems like several minutes.

Then there's the one where Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennett are out in the rainstorm (2005 version) and they're yelling at each other and you think that they might, just might kiss. Oh and then later on in that movie when Lizzy comes to Pemberly and meets his sister. His sister gets up from the piano and walks over to meet Lizzy. There's this part where Mr. Darcy looks at Lizzy with adoring eyes. The first scene in the movie where he actually smiles I think.

While we're talking about Mr. Darcy, there's a scene in Bridget Jones's Diary (based on Pride and Prejudice) where Colin Firth and Rene Zelwegger are making dinner for her friends on her birthday. Colin glances over at her and watches her and you only pray that someday your own Mr. Darcy will look at you like that.

Am I swooning? OK. I am totally done with this post. Girls, take the test. Boys, you can go vomit now.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Home Alone

I've had the house to myself for the past few days. Now, my two roommates and I are fairly clean people. We are conscious of shared spaces and are generally very good at picking up after ourselves. But I learned something about myself these past few days: If there is no one else around, I WILL spread out.

Exhibit A:I have been known to leave shoes downstairs, or on the stairs occasionally, but these shoes have sat outside my own bedroom door for the past three days. Would it be hard to move them around the corner and into my room? No, not at all.

Exhibit B:

I always try to push my keyboard in and my chair in after I use my computer so Carri doesn't tumble over it when she walks out of her bedroom at 5:30 in the morning. Is it hard to push in my keyboard and chair? No. Why haven't I? Because I haven't had to. Oh, and my desk is never this messy either. I actually tidied up a bit before I snapped this photo.

Exhibit C:
I got a little artistic with this one. This is my gum wrapper I left on the counter in the kitchen. Is this one even a big deal? Not at all. But it's not like me. In fact, I almost threw this away instinctively a few times but stopped myself because I knew I needed to take a picture of it at some point for this post.

Wow. My blog controls me a little bit.

Exhibit D:

My leaving a pillow on the floor accidentally happens, but a blanket AND a pillow? Not to mention the book. Only when there is no one around to see it.

Exhibit E:

This is the best one. Not only did I leave one purse flung over the chair, in the background you can see a second green purse I left on the loveseat. What? Laura uses two different purses in a matter of two days? Yes. It's true. Oh, and the knitting I have sitting on the chair migrates from the couch to the chair to the coffee table on any given day. That's not an anomaly.

I'm happy to report I have since cleared my clutter and cleaned the house. It is ready for roommates again. Well, the downstairs at least. Maria comes home tonight but Carri isn't back until Tuesday so I don't need to clean off my desk or move my shoes quite yet.

Monday, December 17, 2007


This is my phone. I am generally satisfied with it. When I buy a phone, I don’t want a lot of features. In fact, I purposefully bought a phone without a camera, which is getting harder to find these days. I already have a camera, I don’t need one on my phone, and I don’t need internet on my phone either. I don’t even think I want an mp3 player on my phone because then I’d have to mess with headphones. I have an iPod. It’s smaller than my phone. And I like that.

I think it’s a little presumptuous of Samsung or whomever to create a phone with all these features that are useless to me. I don’t play the games on my phone, I barely use the “organizer” and I’ve never used the voice memo.

I think it would be quite clever of someone to start a business where you buy a phone that comes with the standard features: You can make and receive calls, text message and maintain a phone book. And then, just like when you go to build-a-car online, you can add your trim and accessories according to your needs and budget.

I thought of this last night when I was caroling at a nursing home in Bountiful. We started “O Come All Ye Faithful” a little too low so our bass couldn’t really sing his part. Someone said, “Who has a pitch pipe?” Of course no one did, but how awesome would it be if I had a pitch pipe on my phone? It would be so easy. There are 12 notes in an octave – there are 12 number keys on my phone. All I would have to do is switch from phone mode to pitch mode and each key would be a different note. See? Brilliant.

While I’m inventing fantasy features for my phone, here are others I would find useful. And it’s not like the technology isn’t there. I think it could happen.

For speaking to large crowds. Or getting the attention of noisy children.

My phone gives off a little light, but hardly anything that can help me make my way down Kristi and Stephanie’s stairs after a late movie night.

Digital Audio Recorder
Yeah, I know there's voice memo, but I need more memory. This would be extremely helpful when conducting interviews for my 15 Bytes articles. I wouldn’t have to mess with an audio tape. I could just plug it directly into my iTunes and import the file.

Universal Remote Control
All the numbers you need are there, the on and off button, volume. Just switch to “remote control” mode.

Yeah. This is a great idea. Move over iPhone.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmases Past

Most of my friends are familiar with my family’s tradition of celebrating a different country every year for Christmas Eve. My mom’s side of the family gets together every year and eats the food, sings the songs, and participates in the traditions of that country. The extent of this practice depends on the person hosting the evening. We’ve covered England, Greece, Germany, Mexico, and Poland.

This year we’ve chosen Italy. So we’ll have a lot of pasta, cannoli, and Babo Natale.

But we didn’t always do this. Back in the day we just had a regular American Christmas – well, there was always a pinata. But we ate ham and turkey, sang regular Christmas songs and put on a musical program. When we were really little we did a nativity scene and my uncle Tony read the Christmas story. We’d all change into our pajamas and then my uncle Steve read a children’s book about a dog and some shoes or something? Lis, help me out there. And then Grandpa’s traditional organ concert from 11:30 till midnight at the LDS chapel down the hill continues on.

I was talking to Lisa and we realized we haven’t been documenting our foreign Christmases very well, but Lisa has gathered a lot of photos from Christmases past. So I can thank her for this little slide show.

Oh, I'm glad she didn't scan the one with me in the beret. I'm afraid that was neither a costume nor a French Christmas that year. My only explanation was that it was a gift from Grandma Durham.

It’s funny looking at these pictures, because I never thought about it before, but the living room in my grandparents house looks very similar to that of my parents house with the placement of the baby grand piano against the vertical windows.

I want a piano.
I miss Grandma C.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Small Annoyances

Everyone has those irritable days when even a small annoyance sets them off. I don’t have many of those days. And today actually isn’t one of those days for me. In fact, today, although I’m not feeling very well, I am full of love and gratitude and peace and forgiveness.

But I remember a few weeks ago I was at Roberts Arts and Crafts. It started out as a good day, but just being in that crowded store began a downward spiral.

Do you ever have a hard time committing to a check out line? You walk up there with maybe three or four items and all the lines already have three or four people waiting with full shopping carts. You survey your options. It’s a difficult decision sometimes because despite how many people are in front of you, there are other factors to consider: how full is their cart? Are they making an exchange? Is he buying fragile items that need to be individually wrapped? Is she going to wait until everything is rung up before searching in her purse for a checkbook? Does she look difficult? Is the cashier new?

So that day, as I committed to a line, I soon realized I committed to the wrong line. I stood there in silence, as customers who joined the other lines much later than I joined mine grabbed their bagged purchases and headed out the door. I passively listened to unnecessary conversations and pointless questions at the register. I observed with reserved patience. But after twenty minutes of not moving in that line, my purchases getting weightier in my arms, people bumping up behind me and kids flying past me on their sneaker wheels, I went ahead and decided I hated everyone in that store.

I bring this up because I just found a document on my computer with a list I must have made on one of those irritable days. I think I was saving this for posting on my blog when I didn’t have much of anything to say. So here it is:

Sayings/phrases I could do without:

“That’s hot”
I don’t know why anyone would want to join the Paris Hilton bandwagon…or, join her off the wagon.

“No worries”
Most people who say this to me say it instead of “you’re welcome” when I thank them for something. Or maybe it replaces “don’t worry about it. Which is fine, only I’m not worried about it, I just want to express gratitude.

“Git’r done”
I actually don’t know where this originated, but it’s usually said with a scruffy voice. Maybe if I knew where it came from I would understand the accompanying voice. Whatever, it’s annoying.

It’s not a real word. It means the same as estimate, am I wrong?

“Senior moment”
I actually have no idea why that rubs me the wrong way. Just…just don’t.

Most phrases beginning with “literally” because most of the time, they’re using the word figuratively.

These last three speak for themselves:

“Brain fart”

“Potty mouth”

“Artsy fartsy”

This is funny, because I have a lot of friends and people I really love who use some of these sayings. Don’t take it personally, but if you have any phrases you want to add to my list, please leave a comment.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I had another dream about the mouse. Oh, I’m sorry; I never shared my first dream. I thought about it, but ended up not posting it. But now that I’ve had two dreams about the house mouse, I think a post is well-warranted.

I never followed up on the poll either. For those of you who follow my blog, you’ll remember the majority believed the mouse just left on its own. I can report that despite the plethora of trapping devices and other deterrents that decorate our house, there is no mouse to be found. At one point, Maria and I thought he might be in the mouse house and we stared at it for several seconds on the table before Maria opened it. No mouse.

So the past couple weeks I’ve dreamed about our mouse. The first dream was really odd: as I was getting ready to leave the house, there was a huge dead mouse in the middle of the kitchen floor – more like a rat. And there were bits and pieces of other mice all around. I noticed this just as some EMTs came up to our door. They weren’t there for the mice (as my sister so deftly pointed out to me, EMTs are not exterminators). I believe they had the wrong house, but I was kind of hoping they’d take care of the mouse mess for me.

My second dream was just last night. Maria and I were getting ready to leave the house to go somewhere. The door was open as we were talking. I was in the living room and she was standing by the door. All of a sudden, this huge black mouse came running in and stopped in the middle of the carpet. He looked bigger than I remember him, but he was really skinny – and super stressed out. He looked more like a frazzled, cartoon mouse on crack. We just kind of looked at him for a minute as he stood on his hind legs, and then he frantically left the house.

So I’m thinking until I get some closure on this mouse thing, I’m going to keep having these dreams. Last week I was at our main office. This girl had a weird rubber mouse and trap on her desk. Like an idiot, I pushed the button that said “push me” and the whole thing lit up and shook as the mouse squealed. I’ll tell you what, I squealed a lot louder than that stupid rubber mouse. On Friday I was at the London Market on 700 East. I saw this cute little gray stuffed animal. I walked over to pick it up and it was a mouse. I disgustedly said, “Ew!” at a more than audible level. People were looking.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Temple Lights Tour

This year has gone by so fast. I can't believe it was time again for the ward's annual Christmas Lights tour on temple square. I remember it being colder last year, although last night was pretty cold too. But last night was definitely the most entertaining.

Our bishop led the tour. Is he an official tour guide? No. And the temple square workers don't like that one bit. But he was wearing a suit and yelling at the top of his lungs so he drew a crowd. And he is very knowledgeable when it comes to church history and symbolism and everything, but I felt bad for the people who latched onto us, because they didn't understand that only half of the things that come out of JP's mouth are true.

The Bishop mentioned he got kicked out of Temple Square before. I thought he was just joking, but after last night I believe it. He kept asking us to keep our eyes out for anyone that “looks serious.” He did manage to get us kicked out of the Visitors Center for giving an unauthorized tour. A nice missionary couple politely watched him for awhile until they interrupted him, shook his hand and asked that we speak to a sister missionary so we can learn a few things. The Bishop said he knows where they are outside and he'll take us to them. But instead he took us to the Museum of Church History and Art. Fortunately a girl in our ward is an official employee of the Museum so she ran ahead and warned them that we were coming.

As we left Temple Square the Bishop turned around and said, “Wasn't that great?! Can you believe we made it out of there? Seriously the fact that we made it out of there is a miracle – considering all the cameras they have on us. And the misinformation.”

Not to mention the laser pointer. He had the laser pointer on the temple showing us the “pilasters” and the sunstones and moonstones and which rooms were which. I mean, it could have easily been mistaken as a sniper.

My two favorite things I learned that aren't true:

1.The columns in the temple are hollow because they wanted to fill them with methane gas so there could be torches at the top that burned 24/7

2.When the Bishop was climbing up the temple for a documentary film, a man opened up one of the windows and started throwing out cyanide for the pigeons. And they had to time it just right so the pigeons wouldn't immediately fall down dead in the bushes, but have enough time to fly away and die somewhere else.

As we walked to Paul's for hot chocolate afterwards, we passed the Bishop's house on West Temple. Bishop glanced over at his house and said, “The guy who lives there is crazy.”

Friday, November 30, 2007

Can you draw the pirate?

I would like to dedicate this to my mystery hater.

Draw the Pirate

Posted Oct 17, 2004

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Call me Dub

The last video game I remember liking was Mario Cart. Kart? I don’t remember if they got cute with that spelling or not. I think I was in high school.

When I was a lot younger I spent hours trying to clear Castlevania. Once I did, I lost interest in playing it again. I can still hear the music in my head. I also remember spending a lot of time with Super Mario Brothers, Dr. Mario, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gauntlet, WORDTRIS and Clue.

Video games were never part of my college experience. None of the guys I knew had enough money to own (or time to play) any kind of gaming system. I remember watching someone play a game on PlayStation once. I think this was when the graphics started getting more sophisticated. Players weren’t just in the foreground anymore. They were on different planes and it kind of freaked me out. Too 3-D for me.

I like simpler games I guess. I can spend a long time playing Tetris and Pac-Man. I feel really fried after that though – especially Tetris. Even the next morning I have lingering hallucinations. I go outside and visions of deconstructed mountains slowly fall and fit together.

However, the other night I was at a friend’s house and somehow got sucked into the Xbox. I wasn’t all that into it at first. I was more interested in the more familiar Guitar Hero going on in the same room. There were a lot of people there, and everyone took turns with the games. I think what we were playing was called Fuzion Frenzy. People kept handing off their controllers to me. I didn’t try very hard to understand how to play the games, and so I didn’t do very well. And I was constantly asking the other players which color I was.

It wasn’t until there were only four of us left at the house that I ended up really getting into the games. The guy who owned the system explained each game like he was talking to a group of four year-olds, but that’s what I needed. I just had an IM conversation with my friend Rhett who told me Fuzion Frenzy exists so girls can have something to play while all the guys play Halo, which, I’m not ashamed to admit, does not offend me in the least. (Somehow, amidst all the madness, I have maintained a safe distance from Halo. I’m not against playing it, I’m just not intrigued by it.)

So anyway, I got the hang of it and I started winning a lot. I do best at Sumo, the one with the tanks, and then the one where you try not to run into each other’s laser tails and the one where you wrap your laser around the little people and the token thingies. (Before you laugh at my ignorance, please remember at no point have I ever claimed to know anything about video games and what is current). I didn’t think I would, but I eventually got the hang of “Twisted System” and started winning that one. The one where you’re racing tanks is probably the most frustrating one because while most of the other games move really fast, my blasted tank would only go so fast and although I know it wouldn’t make any difference, I would push harder on the little joystick (or whatever) thinking that would make it go faster. But it didn’t. And my thumb is still recovering.

There was this one game called Centrifugal Farce that I really wasn’t good at. But at one point in the night my friend Jane and I tried to break down the word “centrifugal” and figure out what it really means and what that has to do with the game. While we really thought we were getting down to something, our friend John silently mocked our intellectualizing.

Before I knew it, it was well past midnight and I couldn’t believe I had been playing video games that long.

The first time I ever met my friend Rhett was my first night at the Gateway. It was about 2:30 AM and there was a fire alarm (not uncommon at the Gateway). So everyone was evacuated outside. While most of the people looked semi-conscious and half dressed, Rhett (and was it Clint?) were still in their day clothes like they haven’t been asleep at all. And they hadn’t. They had been up playing Halo for hours. That blew my mind. And then I got to know them better and it stopped surprising me.

But now I totally understand how addicting those games can be. It’s easy to play them over and over again and not realize how long you’ve been doing it. I mean, when I watch movies or television that late at night, I can’t help but get sleepy, but it wasn’t until I consciously decided it was late and time for me to go to bed that I began to fade.

I’m not saying I’m going to go out and buy an Xbox. I’m just admitting, I never thought I would really enjoy it, but yes. It’s fun.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Last night I performed at a fundraising concert. Baldassin Pianos, which is just across the street from my office, hosted the concert. A few months ago a lady from the Historical Society asked if I would be willing to perform. I thought it might be fun to do a duet with my Grandpa Christensen. I asked Mom if she thought he'd be willing and she replied, "Oh, Grandpa would LOVE to do a duet with you."

Grandpa loves the piano. He's been teaching lessons pretty much his whole life, and he also taught choir at Highland High School for about 20 years. I can't go anywhere without Grandpa knowing somebody. Last night was no exception. One of the employees at State History was a student of his. He's also very devoted to his grandchildren. I am really lucky to have a 78 year-old Grandpa as lively as mine. He still teaches piano, he still plays tennis every week and he travels all over the place. He's the best. I can't tell you how many people from last night told me how lucky I am. I know it.

I kind of felt bad (or uncomfortable) because Grandpa had to suffer through the band before us. They were made up of a group of lawyers and anesthesiologists. They call themselves Malpractice. It would have been fine if they played three songs, but they played about six I think -- a bunch of covers. I have to say the little kid on the piano was pretty adorable. Anyone ever heard this song unplugged before?

I think it was during this song that my boss Lila had just about had it so she got up to peruse the pianos in the store.

So Grandpa and I played Carol of the Bells Fantasy. It was a hard piece for me to learn. Listen for the part where I miss a whole measure and then Grandpa skips a measure somewhere so I have to skip one to catch up. Most people would say, "Oh Laura, nobody noticed." Well. I noticed. And if you practice really hard on something and you mess up, it's a little disappointing. But I think we did fine.

I was just thrilled to be playing that $250,000 Fazioli piano. I also played another piece by myself called "A Rose Breaks Into Bloom." That one was really hard to learn because it's so chromatic. But I think I pulled it off pretty well. I'm good at faking my way through chords my little fingers can't extend to. Sorry. No video of that one. You'll have to take my word for it.

Check out this picture of me and my mom. A little spooky, I know. Lisa and I found this picture last week and then Lisa found this dress the other day. I had to try it on. When I showed this to Mom she said she liked my dress better than hers. But I think she looks much better in it than I do.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hate Mail

There’s nothing like a good piece of hate mail to spice up your work day. This is one of my favorites so far. I love hate mail from artists because although they may not put a lot of thought into what they’re saying, they do put time and effort into the visuals.

For example, this particular piece has three colors. This artist went to the trouble of using not only a black sharpie, but a red ball point AND a yellow highlighter.

It’s too bad the person who sent this to me is a coward; otherwise I might give them a little more credit. Rule of thumb when complaining to the establishment: if you want to be taken seriously, sign your name. And maybe use your own stationary rather than recycling (and defacing) the postcard I sent you. And the fact that this person spelled “afraid” with two “f”s doesn’t help either. And I have never seen anyone abbreviate “you’re” as “yr” before. I suppose there was somewhat of an editing effort because as you can see on the back of the card (below) this person inserted a word they forgot in the red writing with black ink before submitting it to the post office.

I love how this person actually went to the trouble of scratching out their name and address before pasting mine over it (I blacked out my name, phone and email for internet privacy reasons). However, they didn’t do as thorough a job as they hoped. Fletcher and I were able to make out “Pierpont” in the address. Ah, an ArtSpace artist. You guys are going through a hard time aren’t you? You hate everyone right now, don’t you?

Fletcher is taking this postcard to an art opening tonight where all the ArtSpace artists filled out surveys. He’s going to do some handwriting analysis and perhaps come back with my mystery hater.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dear House Mouse,

So. You decided to stay. I don’t know if you know this but I saw you scurry from the back door, across the kitchen and underneath the dishwasher last Saturday. I let it go. Of course, I hid what little food I had.

I don’t know how you did it, but you survived for a week in our house. I saw you bolt from the kitchen across the living room and behind the television the other night. I didn’t scream that time, but I decided it was time to have a little talk. Obviously, you didn’t heed my advice because this morning, I saw you up in my bedroom.

Listen. I am a kind-to-creatures person and I would rather not take the measures that most people would. So this is what we’re going to do: Tonight, I am going to leave the back door open for 20 seconds. This is your chance to escape. I know it’s a scary world out there; there are dogs and cats, but I’ve seen you run, and you are way faster than they are. There are lots of fun places to go outside. There are trees and shrubs, and believe it or not, there’s more stuff to eat out there. We haven’t been shopping for weeks. You did look a little thin this morning, if I may say so. I know you’re struggling.

So I ask you, house mouse, to take this opportunity to dwell elsewhere. You have 24 hours. If you have already decided to decline my offer, I ask you this: Would you rather be poisoned or trapped?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Quarter Day, part 2

Look who came to buy some quarters from me! My very own Uncle Tony. He was just as surprised to see me as I was to see him. After dozens and dozens of sales to crazy coin collectors who came from all over, it was nice to see a familiar face. Thanks for the picture Tony. I'm glad you had your camera phone.

Apparently, he's a numismatist. Look it up.

So we sold about $15,000 worth of these collector coin sets. People were handing me 20s and 50s and 100s like they didn't even care. And they were weird about their commemorative quarter sets. If the pointless red stamp on the back was smeared just a smidge, they felt gypped.

Zions Bank gave away quarters and little green piggy banks to all the schoolchildren. They were also selling rolls of quarters outside. Apparently one lady came in with a roll of Utah Quarters (worth $10 I believe) and wanted to buy a collector coin set. Seriously, she already had 40 Utah quarters right there. I know I'm not a coin collector, but trading 40 quarters for 2 quarters doesn't seem like good business sense to me.

It was a lot of fun though. The governor spoke outside at the ceremony and he was really cute with all the grade school kids. Speaking of cute grade school kids, check this out. I dedicate this youtube video to Maria. I must confess, it made me a little teary just because they were so dang cute.

So cute. The event would not have been the same without all the kids. They were so excited to be there. Here are some pictures from the event:

Friday, November 09, 2007

Quarter Day

It's 7:22 AM and I've already been at work for an hour. The Rio Grande Depot is going to be more like Grand Central Station today -- for today, is the official launch of the Utah Quarter.

Coin collectors from across the country are setting up shop upstairs. We're going to have the Pony Express, horses and buggies, fancy automobiles and futuristic trains up and down Broadway today.

I am in charge of 2,000 fourth graders who will be performing "Iron Wheels a Rollin" at the ceremony which starts in two and a half hours.

I would be outside helping, but I already taped up all the reserved parking signs for the Governor's Office and Zions Bank people. Now we're just waiting for tables and chairs to be delivered and the quarters to be delivered. Zions Bank has to deliver the quarters in locked up cases.

This is serious stuff.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Just another visit...

I typically come away from a visit to Grandma Durham’s with a few things: a piece of jewelry she didn’t want, a spritz of perfume she thinks is nice, a Cummings chocolate she swears is new but I believe has been in the fridge for months, and other random things she doesn’t want to keep anymore. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I leave $50 richer.

My sister and I went to see Grandma Durham on Saturday. It’s usually a good idea to bring someone along so she doesn’t focus all her attention on you.

I remember one time, I brought my friend Josh Peters to see Grandma. She was so excited to see me with a boy that she focused all her energy on him which was great. From that visit came one of my favorite Grandma Durham moments ever.

“What is your name?”
“Josh what?”
“Josh Peters.”
“Oh! Do you know Josh England?”

Yeah Grandma, all the Joshes know each other.

Anyway, the purpose of this last visit was for me to practice her piano. I brought my sister Lisa who brought her 2 year-old, Jack. Before I went into the other room, Grandma asked me if I had eaten lunch. I said no, and she excitedly walked to her fridge to get me a Dannon Activia. She told me it would help me with my digestion. There are two things I love about this: a) I expressed no concern for my digestion, and b) a 4 oz yogurt was her solution to my not having anything for lunch.

After lunch, I went into the other room to practice and let Lisa and Jack entertain Grandma. But Grandma, giving equal attention to all, came in and told me how she LOVES that piece I was playing and explained to me how she doesn’t play the piano anymore since Grandpa died because they used to play duets.

When I was done practicing, we all sat down and Grandma accused Lisa of putting highlights in Jack’s hair. Lisa attempted to explain the effects of sun rays on blond hair. Grandma didn’t buy it.

Grandma showed us a scarf she was knitting. She was dissatisfied with it – probably because it was the most abrasive yarn ever. We told her she was not going to like that scarf and she should make dishrags instead. She dismissed the idea and insisted Lisa take the yarn. Lisa refused. I told her I use yarn I don’t like to wrap gifts, so she told me to take it.

Then she told me to stretch my back on her yoga ball.

Now it was time for the educational portion of the visit. Grandma asked Lisa (who wasn’t in the room at the time) if she read the article in Newsweek about women. Lisa yelled “No!” from the kitchen as she tore Jack away from the Mount Olympus water dispenser. Grandma then proceeded to read from the current article. Apparently a gynecologist wrote about how the media is telling women how we should be. We humored Grandma as she read us a passage. Lisa had to leave the room again and so Grandma asked me, “Laura, are you happy with the way you are?” I’m used to these little Oprah-esque sessions with Grandma, so the question didn’t annoy me too much. “What do you mean, with the way I look? The way I act?” I asked as I wound the ugly yarn back into a ball.

“All of it.” She said.

“Well, maybe we should never be fully satisfied with the way we act. We should be seeking to improve ourselves.”

“Do you know what that makes you?” she asked. I waited, knowing she wanted to answer for herself, “A good Mormon.”

Of course there was a hint of sarcasm in her voice, but of course she’s right.

Grandma also showed us a cashmere beret from a shop in York that she bought from a catalog. Grandma loves to buy things via catalog and QVC. Does she keep the things she buys? Rarely. She gives them away because she ends up not liking them. She also gives away the things you give her because she figures they will make a nice and convenient gift for someone else.

We were there for a good 40 minutes when Lisa picked up Jack, a signal that let me know she was ready to go, which meant (to me, at least) it would be a good idea for me to go as well.

Grandma followed us through the kitchen to the back door. There was a bowl of watermelon on the table. She asked if Jack wanted some. Lisa said no (Jack actually licked a piece earlier and put it back).

I don’t remember why, but I think we all sang “You’re a Grand Old Flag” in the kitchen before we left. Oddly enough, Grandma and I sang that when I visited her in the summer. Only we were laying on her bed (you had to be there). That was when she explained the rules of football to me just in case I married someone who liked football.

Lisa and I took notice of the candy bowl on her kitchen table. I wonder where I can get this pill/candy mix:

We gave Grandma a kiss and walked to our car. She yelled, “Come visit me in the summer!” Lisa and I exchanged a confused expression and waved back.

I used to visit Grandma more often when I lived in Sandy because Holladay was on the way home from work. I didn’t really call before hand. I would just happen to be in the area and call from my car to ask if I could come. She rarely answered, so I would leave a voice mail and then she would call me right back.

Sometimes she wouldn’t call back, but I’d stop by anyway. Her car would be in the driveway, her lights would be on, I could hear Seinfeld on the television, but she wouldn’t answer her door. I would call her again from my cell phone and she would answer and I would say I’m outside her door and she should let me in.

So now, whenever I call she asks, “Hello my Laura, are you outside my door?”

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Halloween 2007

I don't have much to say about Halloween this year. I dressed up as Mrs. White from Clue. I tried to recruit more cast members, but it didn't really work out. After three or four visits to Decades I finally had a finished costume. Thank you to Trisha from State Archives who showed me how to tie a noose. Well, she didn't really show me how. I had her hold my rope at the work party and I turned around for three seconds and she retied it for me. Some costumes are all about the props.

Here are some pictures from Halloween night. I can't look at the picture of me and Dallas for very long. He looks like he's going to devour me.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The computer is smarter than the VCR.

When I woke up this morning my clock said 8 AM.

I went downstairs and turned on Meet the Press.

I looked at the VCR and it said it was 7:04 AM.


I walked in the kitchen.

The microwave said 8:04. The oven said 8:04.

I shrugged it off.

Earlier tonight I was at my parents.

The microwave said 7:15. The oven said 7:15.

The VCR said 6:15.

I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.

I walked into my Dad's study.

HIs VCR said 6:15.

"Why do all the VCRs think it's an hour earlier?" I asked.

Ah ha! It occurred to both of us at the same time. They moved Daylight Savings back a week this year. The VCRs were on auto time-set but were uninformed about the change. I checked the computer and the computer knew what was up. I watched my dad try to manually change the time on the VCR twice. The stubborn machine would have none of his nonsense and kept switching the time back.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pictures and pictures and pictures...

Thanks to all who came to the Pictures and Pitchers of Water Party on Friday!

And a particular thanks to those who helped out with the food (Kristi, Joe, Mike, Maria).

Notes to me: pigs in a blanket are way better when you use lil smokies. Next time, make more Jell-O Jigglers.

And thanks to Rhett for the lending of the water cooler. I still need to get that back to you.

I’m so glad it was a warm night so we could hang out on the porch as well as inside. I was thrilled that so many participated in the photo contest. I just realized I didn’t submit anything, but that’s OK. I also didn’t get a chance to vote. Oh well. Plenty of other people voted. I apologize for not keeping track of the runners up. I was kind of busy downstairs so I sent Pete up to tally the votes. And our winner is yet again, Jon Madsen. Congratulations Jon! Sorry there’s no prize. If you want a prize, tell me what you want and I’ll get it to you. But for now, all I can offer is a slide show of the submissions with “winner” attached to yours.

I apologize if you submitted a photograph and it’s not in this slide show. I had to use what people left and what people emailed me at my request. If you submitted something and it’s not here and you would like to see it here, simply email me and I’ll slip it in. This slide show also includes a couple photographs by people who were unable to bring photos to the party, but wished for their talents to be represented.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I Won! I Won!

I am on a roll with the drawings lately! Friday we had our DCC meeting. That is, the Department of Community and Culture – the Utah Arts Council’s parent department. They always have drawings at these meetings: at the beginning, the middle, and the end. A strategy to keep people from leaving I assume.

I remember my first department meeting. I was still a little part time temp at the Utah Arts Council. But I won the drawing. I won a $50 gift certificate to Thanksgiving Point. That was a great prize.

And then there’s this prize: 2 hours off. Woo hoo! My coworkers cheered (with the exception of one that enviously shouted “Booo….” I know who you are…

Anyway, I know I should be grateful for this little certificate and all, but c’mon…what kind of a prize is that? It even says it’s subject to supervisor approval. Geez. The department is getting cheap if you ask me. State History was giving away historical photographs. They probably found those laying around at the last minute and brought them as prizes, but still, that’s a heck of a lot more interesting than two hours off. Whatever work I miss during those hours I’m away I’ll have to make up for later, right?

I wouldn’t be surprised if at the next department meeting they use the new DCC golf shirts as prizes – the shirts they offered us for free on Friday. Or maybe they’ll take away our sick leave benefits and then offer sick leave as a raffle drawing.

I don’t know one person who enjoys these meetings. (Read about last year’s by clicking here). When I walked up to get my 2 hours off certificate I thought about asking if my two hours could begin now and then excuse myself from the meeting. But that would have been disrespectful. So I returned to my seat and continued my game of Yahtzee with George on his blackberry.

Actually, there was a segment of the meeting that I thought was interesting. David Hart from the Capitol Preservation Board gave a presentation on the Capitol Renovation. I love State Capitol buildings, and I absolutely love our Capitol Building. I love that I live right by the capitol, but I hate that it’s been dark for the past few years and surrounded by heaps of dirt and yellow tape. Last week I drove up Apricot Avenue and saw even more lights coming on the capitol building as I pulled into my drivewy. It made me so happy. I volunteered to be a docent for the re-opening tours, so I’m excited about that.

If you’re interested, you should visit They have a lot of photographs on there. They have a virtual tour you can take, and they even have webcams logging the construction from day one so you can see a time lapse progression video from different angles of the Hill. Pretty exciting stuff!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Did you know...

Pork is the world's most widely-eaten meat.

I read that fact online. That's interesting, because I would have thought chicken. But maybe that's just because I'm not thinking outside my little United States of America.

So today, when I ordered a taco from the Rio Grande Cafe for lunch, instead of defaulting to chicken as my meat of choice, I thought, "You know what, let's do pork. Like the rest of the world."

I like random facts. I gathered a bunch of factoids from that I was not aware of until now:

Traffic lights were used before the advent of the motorcar.

The opposite sides of a dice cube always add up to seven.

Half the world's population is under 25 years of age.

US Post Office handles 43% of the world's mail. Its nearest competitor is Japan with 6%.

TIP is the acronym for "To Insure Promptness”.

Statistics show that people with high, medium and low income groups spend about the same amount on Christmas gifts.

80% of millionaires drive second-hand cars.

The oldest person on record is Methuselah (969 years old).

The Bible, the world's best-selling book, is also the world's most shoplifted book.

New Zealand is home to 4 million people and 70 million sheep.

The first electronic mail, or "email", was sent in 1972 by Ray Tomlinson. It was also his idea to use the @ sign to separate the name of the user from the name of the computer.

The largest web bookshop,, stores almost 3 million books.

The names of all the continents end with the letter they start with.

The first city in the world to have a population of more than one million was London.

Eskimos use refrigerators to keep food from freezing.

About 50% of Americans live within 50 miles of their birthplace. This is called propinquity.

On average, you speak almost 5,000 words a day - although almost 80% of speaking is self-talk (talking to yourself).

Over the last 150 years the average height of people in industrialized nations increased by 10 cm (4 in).

Men loose about 40 hairs a day. Women loose about 70 hairs a day.

A person remains conscious for eight seconds after being decapitated.

Unless food is mixed with saliva you cannot taste it.

King Henry I, who ruled in England in the 12th century, standardized the yard as the distance from the thumb of his outstretched arm to his nose.

Our eyes are always the same size from birth.

All the planets in the solar system rotate anticlockwise, except Venus. It is the only planet that rotates clockwise.

Earth is slowing down - in a few million years there won't be a leap year.

The shortest scheduled airline flight is made between the island of Westray to Papa Westray off Scotland. The flight lasts 2 minutes.

The fewest airplane passengers killed in one year was 1 in 1993 and the most was 583 in 1977 when two Boeing 747s collided on the runway at Los Rodeos airport, Tenerife, the Canary Islands.

About 2.4 billion CDs are sold annually. The number of recorded CDs and blank CDs sold has been about equal.

A grand piano can be played faster than an upright (spinet) piano.

A group of geese on the ground is a gaggle - a group of geese in the air is a skein.

Sharks are immune to all known diseases.

Millions of trees are accidentally planted by squirrels that bury nuts and then forget where they hid them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I Won! I Won!

I never win anything. Well, I say that, but I don’t know how true it is. Well, it’s true when it comes to contests and drawings.

But for some reason, I have won both drawings I’ve entered at Arctic Circle. My business card is like a magnet to their hands. The funny part is I don’t even remember entering this last one. The last time I walked into an Arctic Circle was probably in July or August when Kristi and I went there to get a shake before we watched the Tenth Anniversary Edition of Les Miserables "in concert" at my house. It was the same day we went swimming at Jenn’s pool and then drove all the way up to Roy to the Burger Bar. That was a perfect summer day.

Anyway, that must have been the last time I was there, I don’t go very often. Unless I went there with Jim and Fletcher for lunch one time…that sounds vaguely familiar. Hmm. I’m excited for my free combo meal. What should I get?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Pictures and Pitchers of Water

Hey everyone! I’m back after taking a little blogging break and I wanted to invite you all to the second annual photo contest held at Apricot Avenue on Friday, October 19th. Last year the contest was combined with a mocktail party. This year, I decided to combine it with a Kool-Aid party.

You see, Kool-Aid turns 80 this year and I think it deserves a celebration. I used to drink it a lot as a kid but then I guess I grew out if it. My friend Marni would make Kool-Aid when we were roommates a few years ago and I remember drinking it and thinking, “Kool-Aid is good” as I poured myself a second glass. Anyway, there will be pitchers of water around the house and a variety of Kool-Aid mixes so you can mix your own.

I decided to suggest a theme for the photo contest this year. And the theme is “water.” You can be as loose and creative as you want with that. And to be perfectly honest, you can bring whatever photographs you want. It’s just a suggested theme, but I made a little slide show of water pictures to inspire you.

Do you like the steam effect? Just to be clear, whether or not you follow the water theme will play no part in the voting process. And there are no size requirements on the photographs this year. Bring whatever you have whatever size you have; you can print it on paper or whatever. Just bring it and I’ll put it up on our walls.

I hope this gives you enough time to get some photos together. If you don’t have any, that’s cool too, come on over and vote for your favorites.

Party starts at 8 PM! If you have photos, try to come a little early so we can display them. If you want to help out with food, just let me know, I’ll be thrilled.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Planets

The other day I was stuck in a lot of traffic so I decided to sort through the CDs in my glove compartment and I was thrilled to find my copy of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” I thought I lost it. I’m listening to it right now.

Last Saturday night my mom and I went to the Utah Symphony’s first concert of the season where they performed “The Planets.” Abravanel Hall was packed. I remember the first time I heard this piece was in Abravanel Hall, maybe…fifteen years ago. The last time I heard “The Planets” performed was back in 2003 in London. That time it was a little different because some guy named Colin Matthews, feeling bad for Pluto, was commissioned to write a piece for the ninth planet (Holst wrote these before Pluto was deemed a planet in 1930). My mother and I both agree it was quite presumptuous of Holst to write an entire work for the planets in our solar system, thinking no more planets would be discovered. However, last year Pluto was stripped of its planet status and demoted to a star. So maybe Holst knew something we didn’t.

It kind of makes me wonder if that Pluto movement will ever be performed again. Probably not. I don’t remember it being that great anyway. Who does this guy think he is amending Gustav Holst’s work? Well, it was a commission.

Moving on…Besides the awe and wonder outer space embodies, I think one of the reasons I love “The Planets” is because it’s program music (as opposed to concert music). Definition of term: music intended to evoke extra-musical ideas, creating mood, imagery, or a scene. That would explain my love for film music as well.

I have so many thoughts on “The Planets” I thought I would write my own program notes. My Grandpa Durham used to write the program notes for the Utah Symphony (or he wrote the reviews in the paper, I’m not sure) I don’t know a lot when it comes to writing about music, but it’s just my blog, so I’m not worried about people taking what I have to say seriously. It’s not like I’m adding a planet to the work. However I do take issue with the order in which these pieces were performed:

MARS: the Bringer of War

Anyone who passed the second grade knows the pneumonic device that helps you remember the order in which the planets are beginning with Mercury, the nearest to the sun. “My very energetic mother just served us nine pizzas” (again, to be current, we have to scratch Pluto, so maybe “mother just served us naan” or something).

All the other planets are performed in order, why did Holst switch Mars and Mercury? I asked my mom this question and she said “Because you have to start off with a BANG!” as if it didn’t bother her at all. Later that night we met up with Barlow Bradford, and I asked him the same question and he had the same answer (which I thought was weird).

Well, it does start out with a BANG. In fact, it’s kind of terrifying. The drums pound as if they’re going to come and get you, yet you want to stay and find out what will happen.

VENUS: the Bringer of Peace

After Mars shoots you with a healthy dose of adrenaline, Venus slows your heart rate back down with predictable patterns and a heart-wrenching violin solo that comes and goes. There’s something nostalgic about this movement. It reminds me a little of golden-age film and tv music, so maybe some film composers mimicked this style a bit.

MERCURY: the Winged Messenger

Again, I don’t know why this couldn’t have begun with Mercury. It’s exciting enough. I don’t know why I’m so hung up on things having a practical order. Holst really did a great job of communicating a sense of flight in this piece (Mercury is the winged messenger, after all). My mom’s favorite part is about 1:40 into the piece after there’s all this build up and then the strings play a downward minor scale (if I were smarter I could tell you what key it was in). It sounds like Mercury was shot from a slingshot and then it happily soars off.

JUPITER: the Bringer of Jollity

Even though both my mom and I have favorite parts from different planets, Jupiter is our favorite one. It’s just so happy and boisterous, and you get a sense of the expansiveness of Jupiter.

At parts the tempo speeds up and you get excited, but then the symbols sound and the piece slows down a little. Holst wrote a beautiful theme for Jupiter that was later cast as a patriotic song for England. Random fact from my mom: this was Princess Diana’s favorite hymn. When the hymn began, Mom placed her hand over her heart. I noted she didn’t think to do that at the beginning of the concert when Keith Lockhart led the orchestra and audience in “The Star Spangled Banner.” She wishes she were British.

SATURN: the Bringer of Old Age

Apparently this one is Holst’s favorite. But it’s so sad! There’s this ticking of the clock and a tolling of the bell that sounds so ominous. It kind of sounds like some huge entity is going to come swallow you whole. And I don’t understand why Saturn brings old age.

But my favorite part of the whole work is in the last minute of Saturn. It’s so simple; it’s in the last minute after you feel like you’ve been floating in a trance for awhile. Suddenly the strings come in quietly and slowly play four notes of a major scale, and then when they repeat it, the scale changes to a minor key with the fourth note. I don’t know how something so small – something that lasts only a few seconds can make me feel so good, but it does. I’ve just been playing that part over and over again on my iTunes.

URANUS: the Magician

This one kind of sounds like an army of munchkins coming after me. I realize that's a ridiculous description, but that's the imagery I get. It starts out with trumpets and trombones warning you that something is coming and then they march toward you and then they run toward you. Eventually, it’s not so scary. I think you realize the magician is more crazy than dangerous. It slows down and then it starts to sound like the Nutrcracker for a split second. It might be the flutes or the triangles, or the whole “magical” feel. I need to be more proficient in musicology to sound like I know what I’m talking about.

My favorite part of this piece was watching Keith Lockhart. He was more animated in this piece than he was in Jupiter. His knees would come up, his arms would flail, but the best part was when he jumped up on both feet and landed in third position.

NEPTUNE: the Mystic

This whole movement is so quiet you barely notice it’s there. It’s beautiful and ethereal but doesn’t have a melody really until the very end when the womens chorus comes in. By the way, the chorus is offstage, so if you’ve never heard this before, it kind of confuses you. My favorite part was when the old man sitting behind me leaned over to his wife and said not-so-softy, “Where’s the singing coming from??” The singing continues with the orchestra until the instruments fade away and the voices are left singing until they eventually fade away. At this point, you kind of feel like you’ve floated so far off into outer space that you’ll never get back.

Yeah, Earth doesn’t get a movement. I guess we’re all supposed to know what Earth sounds like.

Wow. I just spent a lot of time writing this. It’s probably the most enjoyable thing I’ll do all day (I have a bad attitude about work lately). Time to go grocery shopping for Gallery Stroll. If you’re around tonight, you should stop by!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


To me. Yes, I'm that lame. I'm writing myself a congratulatory post. You see, I won an Arty this past week. If you don't know what an Arty is, don't worry, it's probably because you're one of the many people I know who don't read City Weekly.

I must admit, I didn't know I won this award until someone emailed me with "Congratulations!" in the subject line. This email came from someone I met several years ago. He sends me mass emails about three times a week advertising his writing workshops and other things. So normally I delete all his emails because I don't need to know about the next writing workshop or literary reading. And normally I delete all emails with "Congratulations!" in the subject line because they're typically bogus. But coming from this guy, it interested me enough to open it.

He said, "Congratulations on the mention in City Weekly!" I thought, "Huh? Oh, maybe they wrote about the Rio Gallery or something." I knew it was their Artys edition so maybe we got an Arty. I walked on over to the Rio Grande Cafe to pick up a paper, and to my surprise it was me, Laura Durham who got an Arty. (If you click on the image above you can scroll down and read what they wrote about me).

It feels good to get an Arty, especially because I'm not an artist. My Arty was for "Best Artists' Helper". Suddenly an email I received earlier from a friend made sense when he opened with, "How's the city's best helper doing?" I just figured he was trying to butter me up and get me to say yes to the favor he was about to ask of me.

Anyway, I prepared a little speech for I have several people to thank for this award.

I would like to thank my coworkers at the Utah Arts Council. There are few that measure up to the pleasure that is your company. If it weren't for you, I would have run away from this government job a long time ago.

I would also like to thank all the artists who come to the visual arts seminars time and time again for your attention and interest in the boring side of being an artist. Or as City Weekly put it, "not pretty." (I'm still trying to figure out what the pretty side of being an artist is.) Your loyalty motivates me to be your helper.

And of course, thanks to the lovely person out there who nominated me. Although I hear City Weekly handpicks people and organizations who advertise with them, makes up a category they fit into, and then gives them an award as a marketing tactic (that would explain categories that really only apply to one person or organization: i.e. "Best Snake Dancers" or "Best Knocked-up Nun". But that's cool too. If that's the case, thank you to City Weekly for giving the Gallery Stroll a deal on advertising in your paper. And thanks to Kristina who writes the checks to them. I still don't know where all that money comes from and I've stopped asking.

I'm just excited to get a plaque with my name on it.