Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things That Make Me Smile

A photographer currently showing at my gallery sent me this photograph that he took, simply because he thought I'd like it. I love that, and I love this.

Besides the fact that it's a great photograph (color, composition, etc), I like the context. The construction downtown is a constant complaint of city dwellers and those who visit downtown. Besides the few detours and the limited parking, it hasn't really bothered me, I'm excited for the end result.

What I love about this photo is the way the city is attempting to make downtown a pleasurable experience for the pedestrian in the meantime. I know there's usually money motivating the city and the Downtown Alliance to "dress up downtown" (I should know, I go to the meetings every month), but it still makes me smile.

Here are some other things I've seen recently that make me smile:
  • People humming along to choirs singing Christmas carols
  • A guy running up to a door so he can open it for the lady a few yards ahead of them
  • People smiling as they read a text message
  • Little kids holding hands as they cross the street
  • When a guy moves to the street facing side of the sidewalk as he’s walking with a girl – to protect her from traffic
  • People shoveling off the snow covering the car next to theirs while they’re at it
  • Thank you cards in the mail
  • People with a full grocery cart allowing the person behind them to cut ahead and purchase their one item.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Yes, LAURA, there is a Parking Santa Claus

From: Laura Durham
Sent: Monday, December 06, 2010 2:36 PM
To: UCS Appeals
Subject: Dear Parking Santa:

I wish to appeal my parking ticket.

You should understand my only grounds for appeal is the fact that I didn't pay attention and I put my 2 quarters in the meter NEXT to my car. The meter that already had 20 minutes on it for the white SUV. I don't know what I was thinking, except the fact that I needed to run into Gardner Hall as fast as I could and deliver something for a concert tonight. You see, I'm a volunteer, and I took an hour off from work to make this delivery.

When I jumped out of my car with my 2 quarters I brought for this exact parking occasion, I felt very prepared and at perfect ease for having enough time to make my delivery. So when I climbed back into my car I was shocked to see the ticket on my windshield -- until I realized what happened.

I'm not expecting much, but I thought I would try. It would make my holiday season to not have to pay for being a volunteer. But if you can't do anything for me, I'll consider this $15 a Christmas present to the owner of the car next to me who might have gotten my ticket had I not fed its meter.

Merry Christmas,


>>> UCS Appeals 12/07/10 8:03 AM >>>

Good Morning Laura,

Would you send me your ticket information and license plate number so I can check into this further?



From: Laura Durham []
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 8:21 AM
To: UCS Appeals
Subject: RE: Dear Parking Santa:

Sure Suzy,

My ticket number is 1310003472.

Kind Officer #32
Lot L35 Row 1 Presidents Circle (I got an excellent spot)

Time Issued 13:38
Meter #79

My license number is xxx xxx


University of Utah
Commuter Services

APPROVED No further action is required on your behalf.

Your appeal to waive the meter violation is granted. Because this is your first citation I have changed it to a warning.

Have a great day,


I WILL have a great day :)

Wow, I never even thought of trying to appeal a parking ticket before. Looks like it pays to be on the "nice" list. Who says meter maids are the worst of all, having hearts that are two sizes too small? That was me. I take it back. My heart grew three sizes today. I have the positivity of *ten* Lauras, plus two!

Monday, November 15, 2010


I love dessert. I love eating dessert. I love making dessert. I love ordering dessert.

And 9 times out of 10, when I eat/make/order dessert, it's chocolate. For the longest time, dessert wasn't dessert unless it was chocolate. For awhile I've been trying to branch out and try new things, but my heart is still drawn to chocolate.

I've been living in downtown Salt Lake City for the past 6 years and I've eaten at a lot of restaurants and bakeries. I recently went to My Dough Girl (I had a free cookie card) and I got my favorite cookie -- the Margo. The Margo was the first cookie I bought there, but since then I decided to give the other cookies a try. But after my second Margo I decided I have a favorite and I should be loyal to it.

Here is a list of my favorite (chocolate) things you can find in Salt Lake City:

The Margo -- My Dough Girl

Is that cookie sitting next to lettuce? Is that supposed to be a garnish? Oh,'s probably mint. Yeah, that's what it is. Whew. So I was sold on the Margo because it combines chocolate with two of my favorite chocolate side-kicks: cinnamon and mint. You might have heard me say everything is better with cinnamon. I love it. I put it on my yogurt, I put it in my hot chocolate, oatmeal, applesauce, mmm...cinnamon. I also love chocolate and mint. Chocolate mint brownies are easily the first thing I grab for if I'm presented with an array of pastries at a party or reception. But if a plate of Margos were sitting there as well, I'd take a Margo for sure.

Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding -- Cafe Trio

My sister recommended this dessert to me. By the way, none of the pictures beginning with this one belong specifically to the restaurant I attribute them to. I just got them on Google. Anyway, the bittersweet chocolate pudding was the most delicious pudding I've ever had. And I don't really like pudding. But it was blissfully rich, creamy and decadent. And it came with biscotti.

Raspberry Chocolate Gelato -- Dolcetti's

I have actually never been to Dolcetti's, and I've never paid for their gelato, but the owner is an artist friend of mine. I've had samples of his gelato on several occasions. He comes to my discussion group. Our November discussion was at his home and he provided gelato for everyone. I wasn't feeling well and didn't really feel like eating ice cream, but I decided to have a taste of the raspberry chocolate. It was glorious, and I will happily pay for an actual serving the next chance I get.

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake -- Faustina

On Saturday night, several of us girls went with Annie to a carefree dinner at Faustina -- a final dinner of sorts before she gets married this weekend. I not only had a delicious meal (gorgonzola stuffed beef tenderloin) but I splurged again on dessert. I loved every super rich bite of it before I could eat no more. This is in my top three desserts. I decided that after my best meal ever at the Chart House in Virginia.

So I covered cakes, cookies, ice cream and pudding. There's a gaping hole here for hot chocolate. I may fill that hole after the annual "Daddy Lights Tour" where my dad leads a family caravan around the city to see the best Christmas lights before we retire at the surprise location where the "best" hot chocolate is. Past hot chocolate spots have included The Garden Restaurant, Starbucks, The Cocoa Cafe (closed down), The Nordstrom Cafe, and Aunt Suzi and Jill's house. Both of my aunts merely provided a location for my dad to make Laura Bush's hot chocolate recipe (funny, I know). It's actually really tasty. I attribute it to the orange zest and of course, the cinnamon. Oh, and salt! You have to have salt. It can't be too sweet or you're missing out on chocolate in it's purest sense. There's something about salted chocolate that is irresistible.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Flats are for quitters"

I remember working at the LRC at BYU. I typically wore shoes with a bit of a heel. One day I came in tennis shoes and everyone was shocked at how short I was. I felt like I had been living a lie. I usually wear heels to church, but a few weeks ago I wore some black flats and when I got up to teach Sunday School, I found myself standing on my tippy toes to look over the podium. I felt like a little girl.

I love wearing heels, I like feeling taller and they’re good for my posture (and make walking uphill and stairs easier) but something has happened. I don’t know whether it’s current fashion trends or ten hour work days that make flats more appealing.

I do know that once I started working ten hour days I was in denial about putting shoes on that early in the morning. It would be snowing outside, I would be wearing nice slacks and I would be walking around in flip flops as I ate my breakfast at 6:30 AM. I ended up just wearing them to work sometimes (don't worry, I kept some nicer shoes at my desk).

Earlier this spring I bought those yellow Steve Madden flats you see pictured above. I had no idea I'd end up wearing them as much as I did -- at least two days a week -- even if they didn’t really match my outfit. I didn’t care. They were as easy as flip flops making them a good alternative. So I decided to buy them in red to give the yellow pair a break. And now you’ll usually see me wearing red or yellow flats. They’re just so dang comfy.

You may remember my purple wedges from before. They’re not EXACTLY flats, but they’re flattish. My sister recently told me all my shoes are the same. They’re not. I just wear my flats lately. According to 30 Rock’s Avery Jessup, that makes me a quitter.

And then this past Monday came and I found myself walking around in my yellow flats in cold, wet slushy snow and I realized the weather is dictating a turn in what I should be wearing on my feet -- something that maybe raises them above the wet ground a little more. I’m going to have to pick up my feet and give other shoes a try.

Anyone have boot recommendations?

Friday, October 22, 2010

This is Halloween

If you have not been to my house or talked to me in the past month, you probably haven't heard about my Halloween tree. I love my Halloween tree. It all started back in September when I was walking home from church and saw a dead branch that had fallen from a tree along the street. I literally stood there for 2 or 3 minutes and stared at it thinking, "I want this branch." I seriously thought if I didn't take it home with me right then and there someone else would come along and take it because it was the coolest dead branch I had ever seen. It would be perfect to hang little ghosts and bats on for Halloween and put outside my door. I don't have a picture of it, so you'll have to come to my house and see it.

Anyway. I had so much fun making the bats that I decided to take the craft on the road and make them with my friend's first grade class. I try to visit Miss Sorenson's Class once a year -- usually in the fall. I love her class because the kids tell me I'm pretty and give me hugs just because I'm there. Plus, every time I go we sing (Kristi's lucky enough to have a piano in her classroom and she teaches them all sorts of songs).

So this morning we made bats -- and ghosts for those who wanted to be different.

First you trace the bat:

Then you cut it out:

Then you glue a clothespin:

And put another bat cutout on top and, TA DA! You can clip that bat wherever you want.

Kristi has her class all decorated for Halloween and almost didn't let them take their bats home because they'd look so cute in the classroom, but in the end, they were allowed to put them in their cubbies.

This is Kristi getting the class ready to watch Rigoletto before singing time. Maybe it puts them in the singing mood.

One of my favorite parts is the question and answer period where today I got questions such as:

Why is your hair different colors?
(I got it highlighted a couple weeks ago)

Do you like science?

Do you do science?
(I asked them if they thought I was a scientist because I was wearing glasses to which they all replied "yes" and nodded).

Where do you work? and my favorite...

Why do you work?

Most of these kids are minorities and English is their second language. Some of the kids asked Kristi if I was her sister because they thought we looked alike. Kristi said they think we look alike because we're both white.

Check out Miss Sorenson's blog.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Trick or Treat

A FB friend posted this today and I couldn't resist. I'm going to have to buy a Clark Bar and a Twix so they can have it out...

I'm just as surprised as you are that Boston Baked Beans made it that far. Necco wafers didn't stand a chance though.

And honestly, I have no idea what an Abba-Zabba or a Zero Bar is. But I hate Good & Plentys so I figured a Zero Bar had to be better than candy coated black licorice.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Grandma's House

I got a call at 7:37 this morning. Unfortunately, with my work schedule that’s not a bad time to reach me.

“Hi Grandma.”
“Did I wake you?”
“No, I’m just on my way out.”
“You know that furry scarf I gave you?”
“I shouldn’t have given that to you.”
“I can give you another scarf for it.”
“Grandma you don’t have to buy it from me, you can just have it back.”
“No, no, I want you to have something else.”

Grandma actually gave me several things last night. She called me last week to ask if I wanted a chair. I told her I would come check it out.

In a couple weeks my 90 year-old grandmother is moving out of her house and into an assisted living facility. It’s a little sad because she’s lived in that house my entire life. It’s “Grandma’s House”. When I walked in last night it smelled like her house and I immediately started to miss that smell.

Unfortunately the chair she was talking about is way too big for my house. She tried to give me a couple other chairs but they’re too big too. I asked if I could have the smaller rocking chair but she said someone else already asked if they could have it. I guess I arrived kind of late in the game. Most things already had beneficiaries. Grandma made it very clear that my father gets the Doug Snow painting and Carter gets the piano. In fact, she makes that clear every time I talk to her. I don't really like claiming things of hers right now anyway. She's still here. When I was little and my great grandma Eddith was alive, she would have us put our names on things in her house all the time. It felt funny. And after she died it was all arbitrary. I don't think I saw anything I put my name on anyway.

Grandma Durham continued to walk me around her house telling me who gets what. I admired a small table over by her sliding glass doors.

"This is nice" I said,
"Oh, I think that's from that one place. You know the funny store where you put things in boxes."

Somehow I knew exactly what she meant. "IKEA?"

"Yes! IJEA," she said.

We went into her kitchen where she gave me some food because I came straight from work. I had some nuts, yogurt and cheese. I meant to write that in order to express the random food she feeds me, but as I finished typing that I realized it isn't much different than what I would feed myself at home if I didn't feel like making an actual meal. I told her I was tired and couldn't stay very long. And then she began to tell me a story.

It was a story about a man who takes her on walks. And how he told her that his mother died. Apparently he was Catholic -- an irrelevant detail, but most of them are. She asked how he was doing and he said he would be fine. She was concerned at his lack of emotion over the whole thing. I think my mind started to wander, but when I came back she said something about a woman who never laughed and never cried.

"And do you know where she ended up?" Grandma asked,
"A mental facility?" I ventured.
"A mental facility. Now you can go."

Is Grandma trying to send me a message? Does she think I never cry? I immediately stopped asking myself questions and before I could go I found myself looking at scarves.

She tried to give me several but I turned them down. I did choose one that I might wear. Grandma called it "quiet but elegant." I also got a scarf with race cars on it. Why? I don't know. At this point I had abandoned the thought of "usefulness" and began to consider the fact that it's nice to have something of Grandma's and it's nice to have costume accessories.

"Do you like nightgowns?" she asked.
"No, not really."
"That's too bad because I have a lot of really nice nightgowns. But girls your age just wear tee shirts to bed don't they."

I began looking through her nightgowns because she was so proud of them.

"Oh, that one is a Christian Dior. I bought that when I thought I was going to marry Phil Richards. Remember Phil Richards?"

As we walked out into the hallway I noticed what looked like an old photograph on the wall by her bedroom.

"Who are they?" I asked
"That is my mother and her niece when they were little girls. Do you like that?"
"Yes, I do."
"I don't know, I guess I like old photographs."
"Take it."
"Do you think it will be worth something some day or something?"
"It's worth something to me right now."
"Aren't you cute."

Yes, yes I am. I have no idea where I'm going to put it. Not in a public space in my house -- that has been established. Because of the Victorian nature of the photograph what with the white dresses, blank, emotionless expressions, it is a little eerie if looked at in the wrong light. One of my roommates expressed if she sees it at night she'll think they're ghosts that used to live in this house. Somehow I understand. So Hettie Pearl Turnbow Divers and her niece will have to stay in my room where I know they're not ghosts.

Grandma asked if I collected Lladros, which I don't. But I do collect angels.

Grandma told me I could have her angel Lladro. And then she told me the story that comes with it. So here's the story, almost verbatim:

"There once was a man who lived close by. When he was very ill I would go over there and say to his wife 'Get out of here!' and then she would leave and I would read to him. I read St. Petersburg to him. And do you know what he told his wife? He told his wife, 'When I die, I want Betty to have this angel, because she's my angel."

I told Grandma I would happily take the angel. And I would call her Betty (after her). And that just tickled her to no end. I knew it would.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bad Scores

I love film music. I own many, many soundtracks, some of which are to movies I've never seen and have no intention of seeing, but I own them because I'm familiar with the composer and can bet that it's going to be good music.

Some of my favorite film composers:

Elmer Bernstein (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Age of Innocence)
Alexandre Desplat (The Painted Veil, The Ghost Writer, The Queen)
Patrick Doyle (Sense and Sensibility, Much Ado About Nothing, Gosford Park)
James Newton Howard (All of M. Night Shyamalan's movies, King Kong, The Dark Knight)

In fact, if you ever want to do something nice for me, buy me a good soundtrack for my collection :)

It's amazing what a good score can do for a movie. And what makes a score "good" (for me) is music that was clearly recorded with a live orchestra (that's the only way James Newton Howard does it) and it tells a story along with the writing. It doesn't intrude on or distract from the scene, but it enhances it. If the score is good, it's something you'll want to listen to over and over again, independent of the movie it was written for.

You know how some movies are re-released with additional scenes or they're digitally remastered or a studio recolored an old black and white film? People pay money to go back to the theatre and see these movies again with their "upgrades." What I'm wondering is if people would go back and see a movie if it was re-scored. Because I'm telling you, there are some good movies out there that did not budget for an original score -- at least a good one.

Let me give you some examples of a couple movies I love that deserve better music:

1) The Princess Bride (by Mark Knopfler)

Some if it's OK and suited to the Fairy Tale aspect of the story, but the synthesizer drives me nuts, especially toward the end of the movie.

2) A Few Good Men (by Mark Shaiman)

First of all, I looked it up and the CD only has 10 tracks, so Shaiman didn't write a whole lot for this movie. And the music seems really dated. I don't know if it's the composer's fault or 1992's fault. There's this one scene in particular where the music makes me roll my eyes. It's where Tom Cruise goes after Demi Moore who stormed out and started walking in the rain. He tries to convince her to get in the car and then this stupid music comes out of nowhere. It's forced and it's ridiculous.

I'm not sure how expensive it would be, or if it would be worth it to re-release movies with better music, but I would buy a ticket.

Here are some examples of some of my favorite film scores:

(FYI, my favorite track from The Village is this one)

I love that Patrick Doyle wrote a piano piece for this movie. And he uses it as an actual piano piece but it also adds to the mood and the story.

Last but not least, the music that accompanies the opening credits to my favorite movie. Not only is the music beautiful, everything about this movie is beautiful. I wish I could find the actual opening credits, but I can't.

Anyone else have favorite film scores you'd recommend (I have about 25)? Or movies with terrible ones that you'd like to see re-scored?

Oh, and if you want a CD of selections from all my favorite movie soundtracks, I have a playlist I can burn for you.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Lesson on Efficiency (Distraction)

Things I’ve completed in the last 2.5 hours since I sat down at my computer with the intention to work on my Sunday School lesson (in sequential order):

1. Straightened my hair
2. Watched an episode of Veronica Mars
3. Thumbed through a Real Simple magazine
4. Looked at pictures of the wedding dress Annie picked out
5. Downloaded the soundtrack to “Unbreakable”
6. Contacted a friend I haven’t seen for 4 years
7. Put a topcoat on my toenails that I painted yesterday morning
8. Realized I’ve only eaten one real meal a day all weekend
9. Ate a pickle and a wheel of cheese
10. Posted on my blog

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Coming back to work after being away for awhile is hard. Especially in the summer when I can wake up and say, "I really don't NEED to be at work today." You see, things tend to slow down in the summer, and I work much better when I'm busy. Yet I have to be here ten freakin hours a day.

Lately I've had little vacations that exposed me to a workless life which made coming back to the office even harder. I've spoiled myself the past little while with mini vacations. Driving back from California on Sunday I would look out the window and say, "Let's stay in Vegas" and then, "Why don't we just spend the night in St. George" or, "Anyone want to check into a hotel in Cedar City and see a play?"

I even planned ahead for my unwillingness to return to work and scheduled an ALL DAY Adobe Illustrator class for myself on my first day back (yesterday) so I wouldn't have to go to the office right after my vacation. But putting off the inevitable only lasts so long, so this morning I had no choice but to pull into the back of my building and prepare for another day at work.

A couple weeks ago my bishop pulled me into his office to talk about my calling (I'm a Gospel Doctrine instructor). He made a random comment that I haven't really thought about until today. He told me God has a way of providing you with what you need.

Because of the following, what I was expecting to be a hum drum day, wishing I wasn't here, was actually not so bad after all:

1. Lila reminded me that we had an appointment in the morning to tour the Jim Jones exhibit at O.C. Tanner. Even if there wasn't beautiful artwork to look at, I just loved walking around in that old building which is now O.C. Tanner's flagship store. If I couldn't have the building for myself, I'm glad someone with money got it so they could honor it's history and renovate it right.

2. We're in between exhibits right now and while I was gone yesterday Fletcher had been taking down the Design show in the gallery. One of my favorite things about my job is the people I get to see every day. Whether he's bringing me chocolate leftover from his committee meetings or pointing out that the only letters he left on the title wall were the ones that spell my name, Fletcher can always make me smile.

3. When you work with a lot of annoying artists with entitlement issues, you tend to stereotype them a bit. When you complain about how they never pick up their artwork you grow impatient. But today, a lady whose painting I've been holding onto for over a month came in with some cards she made as an apology for not picking up her work sooner. That was sweet.

4. Last but not least: I got a large envelope in my box today and inside was a certificate telling me I got an award for outstanding public service! A little ironic since I don't feel like my work has been outstanding lately (truthfully it's probably my attitude that hasn't been outstanding), but someone had to nominate me for this award. So the fact that someone in this state of Utah thinks I'm outstanding makes me feel good. AND I got two free tickets to my choice of production at Hale Center Theatre. I refuse to purchase tickets to Hale for reasons I'll explain if you want to ask me about it, but they do a good job so I'll take a free ticket. I think I want to see the Drowsy Chaperone...and I will be taking bribes for the other ticket.

I guess what I'm trying to say is on a day when I came in planning my escape, I got what I needed to make it through to 6 PM. Tomorrow should be OK too. I hate to wish the summer away, but I'm really looking forward to September when things pick up again.

Monday, August 09, 2010

That stupid apricot cost me $6

Living in the “Marmalade District” on Apricot Avenue sounds all quaint and romantic until the apricots from the neighbor’s tree fall all over your driveway leaving a mushy mess. I came back from a 3 day vacation to find that my car has served as a shield for the driveway. I was able to remove most of them, but there were streaks of apricot on all my windows – not to mention one half baked apricot on the hood of my car that wouldn’t come off without me sacrificing the general cleanliness of my hands -- and I wasn’t willing to go back inside and get the proper supplies to remove it. I stood and thought that maybe it would come off in the wind, but then I looked at my watch and decided I had time to go through a car wash. I needed gas anyway.

I am generally opposed to drive-thru car washes for some reason I can’t explain. I prefer to do it myself with the hose and a bucket of sudsy water. The gas pump asked me what kind of car wash I wanted – only it didn’t tell me the difference in price and I had a hard time distinguishing which was more expensive “Super”, “Supreme” or “Premium”. I went with super; ironically, it sounded the least “super” out of all of them. I just wanted that stupid apricot off my hood.

I got my receipt and saw that my choice of car wash was $6. Is that expensive? I don’t know. Like I said, I usually wash mine myself (and don’t get me started on the “pre wash” buckets they have outside the automatic car washes. If you want me to pay you to wash my car, why are you asking me to do it myself before I go in? Geez).

I sat with anticipation inside the carwash, eyeing that apricot and waiting for the high pressure hoses to blow that sucker off my hood. Nope, it was holding strong. Dangit. “Maybe when I go through the dryer at the end it will shove that apricot off” I thought. Well, it kind of did. It got the majority of the fruit off, but now I have a streak of apricot flesh in it’s place. If I had time to take it off I would have, but I had to get to a class. And now, I am picturing the sun dehydrating that apricot into a nice strip of fruit leather on my car out in the unsheltered parking lot.

Looks like it’s going to be a battle to see who gets the unfortunate spot on the driveway for awhile.
(note: that picture above is not from my house. It's from Google)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Before I send them to the virtual landfill...

I just got a notice that my mailbox is 91% full and I need to clean it out. I went to my "sent mail" folder which I often neglect when it comes to deleting emails and I have stuff from 2005. Wow. That was before I had a blog! And before I had a blog, all my good stories were told to my friend Ilene via email. I've saved these over the years because there's good material in here. Here are a couple stories I shared with Ilene that I think are worth retelling. Or at least remembering.


St. George

Maria and I went to St. George this past weekend. Mic (EQP) invited a bunch of people down to his condo. While we were there we visited a friend from our ward and his development. It's going to be a golf course and it will have 3500 houses as well. It's going to be called "Ledges". Sounds a little suicidal to me. The name, not the development, I'm sure he'll be very successful. He's a retired lawyer. He's thirty three and he's retired. And so he made all these good investments and now he's super rich.

So we go down to Mic's condo and there are about 17 people staying at this place. There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It was crazy. But it was fun. When we first got there everyone was just kind of crammed in the living room watching the huge plasma screen. Mic was flipping through the channels when he finally landed on the end of Predator. I've never seen Predator, but it was all pretty predictable to me. Maria and I were kind of playing the hecklers along with some other girls. Mic was like, "Don't give it away!" and we're all, "Um, we've never seen this before it's just predictable." I said something like, "I would love to see the script for this movie; it probably consists of twelve lines." Finally Mic says, "Man, you can't watch movies like Predator with girls."

Silence for about 3 seconds...

Random girl: "I wonder what Predator's mother is like..."


Steve is the ward's executive secretary. He called me on Thursday wondering if he could drive down with me and Maria. I was like, "Sure" especially since he wanted to drive. Steve was hilarious. He didn't bring any CDs to listen to because he'd rather have conversations. So every now and then he'd give us a topic of discusison and we would discuss. We talked about nicknames and how he prefers that we just call him Steve. His mother calls him Steven so we shouldn't. His buddies call him Steve-O but we shouldn't because that will destroy any possibilty of a romantic relationship in the future. And then occasionally he would turn on the radio. We'd listen to music and then he'd turn the radio down and say, "OK, now it's time for some quiet and self-reflection...just enjoy the silence and think of new topics of discussion." And then periodically he would turn down the radio and say, "All right, I think it's time for another evaluation of the trip. How are we doing? Anyone hungry? Cold? Any complaints?" The best though was when an 80's ballad would come on the radio and he would snap his fingers out of rhythm.

Each time we hit Utah County on the way there and back, he would get all tense, impatient and testy. He hates Utah County and he says it stresses him out. Our favorite game was when we'd change to 100.3 FM to listen to "Delilah". This is the soft rock station and people call in with their sappy stories and problems and Delilah acts all understanding and plays their requests. We would tune in during a song and guess what story a caller told that prompted the request for that song. We decided to play this after listening to this lady tell a 8-10 minute story about something really lame and then she requested "In my Father's Eyes." We were all hypnotized by the lameness of the story, waiting to hear what lame song she wanted to request and after the song played for 5 seconds, Steve shut the radio off and said, "Well. We could have saved ourselves a bunch of time and just listened to that on my CD."

And then I laughed for a good five minutes.

Monday, July 05, 2010

I'll show you how my garden grows.

I've had several friends / family ask how my garden is doing. Honestly, I'm worried about the brussel sprouts which seem to have been taken over by a disease or some sort of insect. I planted one plant inside my magic square and about 5 others outside the square, and the one inside the square is doing much better than the others. Way to go Mel's soil. I attribute it to you. So far I've harvested lettuce, spinach, cilantro, and broccoli. Oh, and LOTS of strawberries.

Below we have a little white blossom which I hope
will be a red bell pepper one day.

And here we have leeks that are growing
much more slowly than I expected.

My onions seem to be doing well. Sometimes I can't differentiate
between these and the leeks. Good thing I put a little sign.

I agree with what Ilene told me on the phone yesterday. Tomatoes are
the whole reason you plant a garden. Wait...Ilene I remember you being the roommate who didn't like tomatoes. Now I'm confused.

Red romaine. I love how I won't have to buy lettuce for the rest of
the season as long as I keep taking the outer leaves of my
romaine and it keeps growing up and up and up...

Mmm...strawberries. I have to admit, this strawberry patch
was in my plot before I got here.

Hey little buddy! You're the cutest bitty
corn cob I've ever seen.

This spinach. Man. I wish I could keep it around all season, but I think
it's season is coming to a close. I eat a lot of spinach -- okay,
I drink a lot of spinach.
So this is one of the most
economical things I planted.

I don't know what I expected from my broccoli. I think I just expected more. I took one big bunch home before it started to flower and now whenever I'm at my garden I just pinch off these little shoots and I eat them while I'm there. Still good.

I planted this red leaf later in the season. I haven't really harvested any yet. I'll do that on Sunday when I feed guests who I promised a
"garden harvest meal." Mostly it will be a salad that I harvest.

The insects got some of my cabbage leaves, but I don't blame them.
They look delicious.

My parsley is finally catching on to the idea that
it's supposed to GROW.

ONE little lavender shoot. Maybe once I cut down the red romaine
it won't feel so dwarfed and it can work on it's confidence a little more.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chloe, 7.5.5

I can't believe Chloe is almost eight years old. Last month I noticed she's starting to look more and more like a kid -- more so than a "little kid". I guess she's getting taller and she's lost some of her baby fat.

Of all the girls, Chloe was the most conscious about getting her picture taken. She had specific places she wanted to be photographed and ideas about what she should do in the picture. She asked to see the photos on my camera's LCD as we went along. She told me she hates black and white because it makes her "look like the moon." For more Chloe-isms visit the left hand strip of her mom's blog.

Things I love about Chloe: she's creative, imaginative and sometimes she talks like a story book. Chloe likes crafts, outings, playing make-believe and baking. She likes the process of making food more than she likes to eat it though. I thought it would be fun to make some fresh lemonade. She was very excited to squeeze the lemons. I told her we were making strawberry lemonade and she told me she didn't like strawberries, but she had no objection to making strawberry lemonade. She just wouldn't drink any.

I was impressed with her ability to resolve what could have been the demise of the morning fashion show. Chloe, Piper and Sadie all had different ideas as to how it should be run, and they each ended up boycotting the whole idea, arms folded, lips pouted in their separate corners, until they could have it their way. I left them alone and Chloe came through with a compromise and the show went on.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Piper, 4.10.17

I knew I wanted to get some good pictures of these girls, but I wasn't sure exactly how to do it. The idea I came up with was to have a fashion show. They got real excited about that -- especially Piper, who started planning her outfit when she was still in the bathtub. You can't tell from any of these pictures but she picked out a sporty black mini skirt with white stripes to go with her pink floral shirt. She also demanded accessories and a particular hair style. She knew exactly where she wanted that green ribbon, let me tell you.

Piper has the picture-taking "head tilt" down. She needed no direction. My favorite thing about Piper is how sweet she is. She told me she loved me about 6 times that day. I also love her curly hair, the things she says when she prays, and how willing she is to do what you ask -- even though she usually forgets about it the second she turns around.

Piper is a good big sister to Sadie and Tessa. She's also getting older and more hip to Chloe's big sister tactics. Chloe's reverse psychology has no effect on her these days and when Chloe stood up from our picnic blanket and tried to get Piper to come see something "really cool", Piper casually said, "You just want my good spot on the blanket."

I didn't even pick up on that one.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sadie, 3.1.10

I wanted to be consistent and make Sadie's portrait black and white like the other girls' but that strawberry blonde hair and those blue green eyes would not let me. They are irresistible.

Sadie did not like getting her picture taken. She kept asking me to stop, so I'm lucky I caught her by surprise otherwise she would make a sarcastic smile or whine and say, "Stop it Laura!" What I love most about Sadie is how excited she is to see me and how she runs up and gives me a big hug, looks at me, smiles, and then hugs me again and doesn't stop until I set her down.

She likes juice, Sun Chips, resting, and washing her own hair. Sadie and her older sister Piper aren't the same height, but they do share clothes. They also share a vocabulary as Sadie uses words Piper didn't when she was her age. I was particularly impressed with her correct use of the adverb "badly" when she was trying to emphasize how much she wanted some candy.

Sadie loves her big sisters and wants to do everything they do. She does not like walking though. We walked about three blocks to the park for a picnic the other day and after one block Sadie started to whine. She dropped her shoulders, hung her limbs as if they were dead, raised her pouty lips to the sky and exclaimed, "I'm tired! I don't want to walk anymore!" Next time I'll know to grab the double stroller.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tessa, 1.1.5

I spent almost 24 hours with my four nieces last Friday while their dad was at work and their mom was in Manhattan. I got some great pictures and I can't just do nothing with them, so I'm featuring all four of the "Belles" this week.

This is Tessa, she is the youngest. She LOVES getting her picture taken. She knew just what to do as soon as I pulled out my camera. She turned on and started smiling for me. She may have an acting/modeling career ahead of her. What I love most about Tessa is her little rosebud lips. They are so cute I can't even stand it. I was worried when I spent the night on Thursday that I would wake up to her crying and she would never stop because she is a total Mama's girl, but she was unbelievably well behaved. I picked her up and sat down with her at her mom's dressing table and let her look in the mirror while I brushed her hair and she was happy as a clam.

She loves being held, climbing on top of her sisters, dancing to whatever is playing on iTunes, and gnawing on apples. I handed her an apple at lunch just to see if she would hold it and she spent the next 30 minutes chewing on it. She would not let me pry that apple from her wicked superbaby grip.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

While you were sleeping, I was walking. But I was also asleep.

My newest Facebook friend is a girl who lived next door up until I was about 7 years old. She was kind of my first best friend and I played at her house a lot. My memories of her have mostly faded, but one remains very vividly, and that was the time I slept over at her house.

I don't remember how old I was, but I remember waking up in their bathroom in the middle of the night. I was in their upstairs bathroom which is odd, because we were sleeping downstairs, and the bathroom down there was much more accessible. When I woke up, I couldn't remember how I got there, which really frightened me. I stood up and went over to the door to find I had locked myself in. I began to cry and struggle with the doorknob, desperately trying to get out as if I was stranded somewhere and this door was the only way to return to civilization. It wasn't long before my friend's mom came to my rescue.

This sleep walking episode isn't an isolated one. Fortunately, sleepwalking is something that belongs only to my childhood. Of course, I don't remember any of this, and barely believe it. At least a few instances have been recounted to me by my brother, Carter. I asked him to retell the family fave:

"When I was 11 or 12 I would get left in charge of Laura and Lisa, who were 2 and 6 years younger than me, respectively. They were pretty good about going to bed at a decent hour and I would usually stay up until Mom and Dad got back.

One night the girls had gone to bed, and I was watching TV. I heard footsteps coming down the stairs. This wasn't too unusual. Laura walked in. Okay. Fine. She went into the kitchen and opened the fridge. Something seemed to be a little "off" about all of this so my attention was on her and I forgot about whatever show I was watching. I observed her as she took a gallon of milk out of the fridge and set it on the counter. I had no idea where she was going with this. She then started unscrewing the lid off. The lid came off. The lid fell on the floor. Yet she kept unscrewing. And unscrewing. I wondered how long she could possibly stand there and mime unscrewing a milk cap. As my amusement turned to nervous disturbance, I asked her what she was doing, but I got no response. She just stared straight ahead with dead eyes and unscrewed the milk cap, which was long gone. So I jumped up and went over and took the milk from her and tried to break her trance. This seemed to do the trick, as she left the kitchen without saying a word.

I replaced the milk in the fridge and sat down. Then I heard the sound of running water in the bathroom. Nothing too weird there. But the water kept running. Minutes passed. So I ran over to find Laura in the bathroom, running water in the sink, and staring at it. Um. Okay. Realizing I was in the presence of psycho weirdness, I turned the water off and gently escorted her out of the bathroom. I watched her go back upstairs. There were no further incidents that night. But I mean, weird. Right?"

I don't know if Carter told me about this the next day or years later, but when he did he had me and Lisa rolling on the floor laughing. I guess it's true, I mean, you don't make this stuff you? He actually omitted a detail -- which I appreciate, but I'm confident Lisa can fill you in on it if you want.

(image courtesy of Miriam Shenitzer)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Product Plugs 2010

As I'm anxiously anticipating eating this for dinner tonight, I wanted to share one of my recent finds that I can't get enough of.

Buitoni All Natural Wild Mushroom Agnolotti. I'm not a big fan of packaged foods, but this ravioli is the BEST packaged pasta I've ever eaten and possibly better than any ravioli I've eaten at a restaurant EVER.

I'm not exaggerating. The first time I tried this I topped these sweet little squares of bliss with marinara. They were SO good, but I felt like the flavor of the marinara was intrusive on the divinity that was the crimini and portabello mushroom/cheese filling. So now I top them with a browned butter sage sauce that I make while they're boiling in the pot of water. Heaven is only $3.99 folks.

So this got me to thinking of all the other recent products I've been fortunate enough to add to my recommendation list. Here you go:

My coworker Lila introduced me to these. I bet she bought them at "The Store" because it's her favorite place to go and her favorite thing to talk about.
I don't eat a lot of crackers. But I do eat a lot of THESE crackers. I bought one of each expecting to like the Vermont white cheddar variety the best, but was surprised to favor the Wisconsin Colby. Go figure.

I don't have anything against milk, but I saw Almond Milk on sale at Sunflower Market one day and had to try it. I think I had to try it because I saw Dr. Oz talking about it on Oprah one day. I'm so impressionable.

Anyway, I really like it, and it has fewer calories than regular milk. I don't like it in my cereal however. I love it just plain, but it's perfect for my green smoothies. It doesn't separate like milk does. It's a dream. And now that I see they have chocolate almond milk from this picture, I'm going to have to track that down as well.

Those wheat thins have made an appearance in my cleverly cute and stylish lunchbox by Martha Stewart. It has three compartments and a little ice "shelf" to keep everything cold. Only one downside: no handle. That's ok though. I just throw it in my big bag on my way to work. This caters to my need for order and simple design. And cold food come lunchtime.

My dear friend Annie bought me this salad dressing emulsifier after she caught me eying it at Sur la Table one day (she's good). I was so excited. Not only does it perfectly blend salad dressings, it's like a toy so you just want to press down on that lever and spin the whatchamadinger inside all the time. I love it. You just pour the ingredients directly in the bottle and stick it in the fridge for when you want more later. This is perfect for me because I don't like most store bought dressings and they usually expire before I can eat it all anyway. Making your own salad dressing is cheaper and you can make as little or as much as you want.

Moving away from the food related products... I found a toner that I need to remember to stick to.
Target carries Boots brand stuff (a huge chain in England, at least). Target has gone all British with their Boots products and Liberty designed waste baskets and boxes. I love it. $7.99.
Whatever it is in this toner my skin is drinking up and loving. After I ran out of the first bottle I bought Neutrogena alcohol free toner for some reason. Probaly because I was at Smith's and it was cheap. My skin rebelled, but because I'm stupid and sometimes cheap, I had to wait until that was all gone before I bought new toner. I mean, it's toner. It's not like it's keeping me alive or anything. But it's keeping breakouts to a minimum and helping hydrate my pale, pale complexion.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ready, Set, Hike!

The name Laura essentially means “victory.” I double-checked that as I prepared to teach Gospel Doctrine on Sunday. We were discussing Naomi, Ruth and Hannah whose names bore great significance to their stories in the Old Testament.

I asked the class if anyone knew the meaning if their own name and if that knoweldge has affected their character or the way they live their lives. I was surprised when only two people knew what their name meant, and neither of them really cared. I guess I was expecting too much.

Laura comes from “Laurel” which means “crowned with laurels” which means “honored”, “victorious” or “leader of the group”. Honestly, knowing that hasn't really changed the way I live my life either.

Yesterday I was victorious but I was definitely not “leader of the group”.

My friend Mandi invited me to hike Grandeur Peak. It’s a four hour hike, and you summit the mountain. I like hiking, and I always feel good being outdoors, but I always hesitate to accept those invitations – especially from people who are clearly in better shape than I am. I don’t doubt that I can finish the hike – it’s just that it takes me longer to get there.

This is the same story with snowboarding, water-skiing, running…I usually only go with people if I feel safe and comfortable with them and trust they will be patient with me and not resent me for lagging behind or slowing them down (this is a Capricorn characteristic by the way).

I have some really good friends that I feel safe doing these things with, but I’m afraid I let this hold me back sometimes and I end up missing out on a lot of fun things because I don’t want to be the girl everyone has to wait for. Mandi was an awesome hiking companion. She waited for me when I needed to stop and catch my breath and she didn’t make me feel like I was holding her back (even though the last time she hiked this mountain she only had to stop twice).

Mandi told me the first time she hiked Granduer Peak she cried because she didn’t know what she was getting into. She wasn’t used to the elevation, she wasn’t used to the continual steep incline and she was with people who kept going and going and didn’t let her stop and hang back until she was ready.

There’s something to be said about pushing yourself even when you feel like your body can’t take it anymore. And I actually did pretty well -- much better than I feared. But I think there’s something equal to be said about being ready for something – ready to continue on (contemplate LOST finale here). And sometimes that can make all the difference.

With that said, here is a sample of what was running through my head during the hike:

Oh my gosh, we’re not even to the trail head and my legs are tired.

I was in better shape when I walked to work every day. Stupid government. Making me work at 7 – 6 so I don’t have time to walk anymore.

Was it easier to do this kind of thing ten years ago? Am I just feeling my age? (Down comes a wrinkly old Grandpa with a walking stick). Nope. That can’t be it.

Does everyone have a dog? Aren’t the doggies going to get tired?

I wonder if Mandi would hate me if I told her to just go ahead and I’ll see her up there.

That guy is carrying a 4 year old on his back? Oh man.

It’s a good thing it’s not blazing hot. I don’t think I would make it.
Why are my legs tired? I wonder if I could take tomorrow morning off. Yeah, I think I'll do that.

That guy is RUNNING. He’s running uphill.

The view at the top was gorgeous. And it felt really good. And I came to work on time this morning and I don't even feel that sore. I need to do this more often, and I'll get better. I need more people like Mandi, or maybe I just need to trust that more people are like Mandi.

Snowball fight. The snow felt really good.

Me pointing out nothing in particular because we were just posing.

Mandi actually fell a couple times, but this wasn't one of them.