Monday, October 29, 2007

Hit or Miss

Sadly, I would have to say that lately we have been having more "misses" from the Hollywood Video by our house. But, there are a few gems that we have found- and then some painful films you should definitely avoid.

The animated films have actually been the biggest winners for us.
Meet the Robinsons: SO creative and fun- and a good story. And Rob Thomas actually wrote the song "Little Wonders" after reading part of the script- its a good song that I heard on the radio before and had no idea it was from the film, but I like it even more now
Surfs Up: Such a funny, cleverly done documentary style film about surfing penguins. Be sure to watch the bonus features where they show how they did the animation process to look like it was being filmed by a hand camera- super clever! Also, Jon Heder is one of the voices and is hilarious as a surfing chicken. The actors actually improvised most of their lines
Miss Potter: This isn't animated but it is so good- its a romantic one- about Beatrix Potter, the woman who wrote the Tales of Peter Rabbit children's series. It has Ewan McGregor in it and it is just so well done. Warning- I cried in this movie- and even for a half hour afterwards, but I also cried a little in the above two movies. I'm just a sensitive bawl baby

Now, onto the painful misses- that both of us are to blame. You really can't always trust the back of the boxes- they can be so misleading. These are hours and money that we wish we could take back
Invisible: had the potential to be good, but turned into a horrible, cheesy after-school-special
The Fountain: Very sad- cried through this one too- but is just really bizarre and out there
Celestine Prophecy: A spiritual story of some eastern zen religion- just didn't really come together for us
The Promise: Looked "promising" since it was by the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but a big let down. Just really surreal.

Moral of the story: animated flicks are the way to go and if you really haven't ever heard of a movie before, even if the back looks good, think twice about giving it a chance.

And if you have any good recommendations- PLEASE send them our way!

Benihana: Birthday Central

After a full day of shopping, we worked up an appetite and went to Benihana. Benihana is a Japanese temppanyaki restaurant, meaning that the chefs cook your food on a hibachi grill right in front of you. We went back in Salt Lake and it was the worst- no show from the chef and the food wasn't all that good. William promised me that not all of the Benihana's are like that and I needed to give it another chance. This one was MUCH better- we had a chef that did cool tricks like spinning his utensils, flipping shrimp into his hat, and also having a smoking/flaming onion- oh, and made a beating heart from the fried rice. I got the Benihana's Excellence- which is shrimp and teriyaki beef- and shrimp are always good, but the teriyaki beef was SO GOOD. The sauce was truly amazing- so flavorful. I just couldn't stop talking about how good it is. This is my definite recommendation- and their fried rice. They really have the best fried rice because normally I'm not a fan, but there's is great. But, while we had good food and a little show, that is not the main purpose of this post.

During the hour and a half that we were there, they sang happy birthday and the Japanese translation of "For He's and Jolly Good Fellow" while banging on the tambourine TWELVE times. It seems to me that Benihana is birthday central because we left at 7 pm and so I wonder how many times they ended up singing it by the end of the night. They bring you out a Buddha statue that has a candle in it and then take a Polaroid photo of you- so is that the major draw? Or is it the singing in a foreign language? Or the tambourine? The good food and a show at your table? I guess this is the place to go in the South Bay Area when you have a birthday.

Full of Surprises

So, I try to get William and I to do something fun and "cultural" (in a broad sense) of something that we haven't done before. I had wanted to go to this national park about 2 hours away called The Pinnacles but William had never heard anything about it in the 3+ years that he lived here and so thus, he was afraid that it would be lame. I was ok with it, as long as he came up with something different for us to do. And his response SHOCKED me-William said "I'm in the mood to go . . . SHOPPING". Yes, my husband said that he wanted to go shopping. It just goes to show you that my husband is completely full of surprises. Of course I had to take him up on this because just how often does you husband volunteer and show enthusiasm about going shopping. So, we did the ultimate shopping experience- the 143 stores at the Gilroy Outlets. And we walked by every single store- all 4 different buildings of them. We went in a fair number- definitely not every one- but here are a few of our faves.

Banana Republic: I got 3 shirts and William got 1
Van Heussen: William- 2 shirts (one that I suggested- this is the first time this has happened- and its not a turtleneck!)
Jelly Belly Factory Store: Tried pomegranate and mango jelly beans. Did not have the desire to try a garlic one
Sony and Bose Outlets
Rocky Mountain Chocolate: sampled the huge peanut butter cup and bought Tiger Butter (white chocolate with peanut butter)

And then there were the stores that just emitted their own smells from far away. They have an entire store devoted to GARLIC and any associated product you can think of. We smelled it several stores away and walked in and right back out since it was so potent. The other one that had an even greater smell radius was the Bath and Body Works Outlet. Now, I have been to many a Bath and Body Work store across the country, but I have never been to one that had such an overpowering combination of intense smells. After a minute of walking through the store, my eyes watered from all of the fragrances. And I smelled like the store for the rest of the day. At least I went there AFTER the garlic store!

All in all, we spent 5 hours walking around the shops, browsing, and buying. It was quite enjoyable- especially since William was in a shopping mood. I actually tired out before he did- but he was insistent that we walk by at least all the stores. Anytime William is up for shopping, I'll definitely take him up on it!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


I've been meaning to write this post for awhile, but I'm glad that I waited because I found a great quote that helps to sum up my feelings on the matter. I had the privilege of getting to know on a personal level Jane Clayson Johnson- former anchor of the CBS morning show and left television to become a full time mother. She received much criticism for it, but truly felt that this is what she needed to do. She tells a great story in the book about after becoming a new mother at age 37 how excited she was and she then went to a business dinner with her husband where all of the husbands lauded their accomplishments and the women said "Oh, I'm just a mother". That was just the opposite of how Jane felt and it is the premise behind her book, I Am A Mother. I recommend this book to ALL women because I feel that it is so critical. People have said to me, "Wow, here you are getting your PhD and all I'm doing is just being a mom."

Let me tell you, being a mother is SO much harder than getting your PhD. At least with my PhD, I can take breaks and decide not to write as much one day as another, but with a mother, it is a full time, 24 hour day. And there are no extrinsic rewards for motherhood- no one giving a Pulitzer Prize for Motherhood, or even a Nobel Prize. However, it is such a critical and crucial role in society. I so greatly admire all of my friends who are mothers, and most especially my own mother. She sacrificed so much of her professional life for us- and she willingly gave it up so that she could raise us. What an amazing and incredible example she has been to me- the ultimate example of sacrifice, love, and service. There truly is no one more Christ-like than a righteous mother. I know that circumstances in the world today are sadly such that not everyone has the opportunity to stay at home with their kids, and I realize that. I just think that we need to put a renewed energy and desire into being a mother and to truly revere the position.

I discussed this topic today with the woman that I visit teach. Even before we began the lesson, she commented on this topic of motherhood and how it can be really hard, but the rewards and just so great. You can't always see them day to day, but in the long term, it really pays off. In the Visiting Teaching message in the October Ensign is a quote from Pres. Spencer W. Kimball that is a powerful statement about the importance of motherhood:

To be a righteous women during the winding up scenes on this earth, before the second coming of our Savior, is an especially noble calling. The righteous woman's strength and influence today can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil times . . . .

A TEN FOLD impact larger than previous times. That quote hit me with such force that motherhood can be even more what it has been historically. This is the kind of spirit that we need to instill in every woman, whether she is a mother or not, about the importance of this position. We need to not criticize one another, or judge another for we do not know of their individual circumstances. Rather, we need to strengthen each other and help one another to be better mothers to all of those we come in contact with. I love in Jane's book how candid she is about this point of building a true sisterhood. I also love how candid she is about how difficult motherhood can be at times- exhausting, draining, frustrating- but it is all worth it in the end.

There is a season for everything, and we need to enjoy the place we are at now and, like Pres. Hinckley says, "do the best you can, but make sure it is your very best". I express my love and admiration to all mothers out there- and you all have PhD's in Motherhood in my book!

High Priced Luxury in the Sky

I don't know how many of you saw that the largest airplane in the world, Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 had its maiden flight on the 25th from Singapore to Sydney.

So, its not just that it is the largest that intrigues me- its what they have inside. They have 12 special suite compartments that have leather chair recliners and then an actual bed. If you buy the two suites next to each other, they actually turn into a bed. Here's the photo of it. And each suite has a 27" flat screen tv and laptop stations. Champagne, wine, and a lobster dinner are included. So guess how much the top bidder on Ebay paid for one of these suites- $100,000! And for that, he got to be the first person to board the plane. OUT OF CONTROL! $50,000 for one 8 hour flight. Is "a good night's sleep" and those luxuries even worth that much. I just can't even fathom paying it. Well, another couple got a "bargain" by getting another of the adjoining suites for $50,000- half price.

There is also a business class that don't have their own private compartments but have nice chairs that lay flat and a special bar for them. Here's what the "economy class" looks like- I could definitely handle that, as long as it was a competitive price with other airlines.

Wait- William brought up a good point- it just looks like Jet Blue! Thus, I have already experienced some of this luxury in the skies- but at great deals and FREE yummy snacks.

It seems to me that they are trying to make planes kind of like a cruise ship- well, only for those 12 people who can afford the suites. Which, unless that becomes the economy standard, I will probably never ride in. But, its fun to look at

What's Your Excuse?

Just we you think that you have heard all of the old excuses for missing school or work, welcome to the world of the internet. There is a website called "Excused Absence Network" where for $25 you can buy fairly authentic looking fake excuse notes- ones like look like a doctors note, or a jury summons. But, alas, this website has now been ousted by the media, with multiple stories being written about it newspapers around the country. In addition to getting out of work or school, people have also used them to get out of their gym memberships.

Hmm- maybe I could somehow get a note excusing me from my dissertation- "Cheryl Stults can only handle so much research and writing, and the dissertation length is just way too much for her". YEA RIGHT. If I turned in a note like that, they would just tell me- "Oh, what a shame. No PhD for you"- there would be no full excusal from that dissertation. I just wouldn't get my PhD.

But, for those of you who really know me, I would never use one of these "excuse notes" because I never even missed a day of school when I was legitimately sick. I am one of those crazy people who has perfect attendance from kindergarten to 12th grade. There were times that I was slightly ill and my parents wanted me to stay home and I begged to go to school. (I was not contagious during these times). I just love it that much. I have only met a few people who have done this, so I knew it was a sign when on my second date with William, I found out that he had done it too! I knew then that this was a match made in heaven. Thus, our poor children. It will take them a lot for them to be able to miss school. And now that I know about this website, I can be aware of it and try to anticipate it.

Does anyone have a good story about how they used an "excuse" to get out of doing something?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Found it

Just a little update- I found Brach's Candy Corn at Safeway last night. My Halloween will still be a sugar-fest

Monday, October 22, 2007

Continuing On

The Red Sox Won!!! Woo Hoo! My dad was cute enough to watch the game for me to give me the major play by plays since we don't have cable. They are continuing on to play the Colorado Rockies who have one 21 out of their last 22 games- it should definitely be a great series, mostly just because the Red Sox are in it!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Change of Heart

To be honest, I have never been much of a dark chocolate fan . . . until now. I used to think that the bitterness was just way too nasty. But, my mom has always LOVED dark chocolate and I thought that she was crazy- I always gave her the Hershey's Special Darks that I would get from trick-o-treating. And my husband William loves dark chocolate as well, and was always having me try different brands, saying that I just hadn't tried the right one yet. Well, he was right. I just hadn't tried the right kind.

Just about 20 minutes away from the Oakland Temple in Berkley is the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Factory. They give FREE one hour tours with 5 samples of different kinds of dark chocolate. William has been raving to me about this chocolate and he always indulges me with all of my adventures so I was willing to give this a try. And I'm glad that I did. I now have a new respect for dark chocolate, and fine chocolate making in general, after this tour.

The tour itself was mostly educational, telling about the history of the company and also every step in the process of creating incredible dark chocolate. I'm going to share a few of the interesting tidbits that we learned. Chocolate is actually a FRUIT due to its being the seeds of the fruit. So when you are eating chocolate, what you are really eating are the finely crushed up seeds of the cacao fruit. Wow! This can now count towards my five a day :-)

So the seeds actually have a mucus covering on them and so they are mixed in with pieces of the ripe fruit and placed in the sun to ferment the seeds. The yeast in the air combines to break down the mucus and then produces heat that activates the seeds. This process also gives the chocolate a fruity flavor to it. This can make it hard to have uniform chocolate. Thus, they have a guy at Scharffen Berger who is their official taste tester. He gets sample bags from different bean producers and tries some of each of the beans to see if they have the right taste/flavors that they need. Here's a photo of his tasting station, complete with a toaster oven to roast the beans and a coffee grinder to grind them up.
After they get the right beans, they then roast them in this giant roaster
Then, the beans are sent down this machine that shakes them and removes the papery skin from them, slightly breaking them up. At the end, what comes out are pieces of the beans called "nibs" and these DO NOT taste very good. Primarily because there is no sugar and each one is very different so you can get some ones that taste like dirt.
These are two granite grinders that pulverize the nibs so that they have a smooth consistency
After some more cooking processes, it is pumped through these pipes to be dispensed into plastic bar molds.
We had to follow all of these safety codes to tour the factory, since it is a working factory. I had to borrow some clogs since you couldn't have open toed shoes and everyone needed to wear a hairnet. Here's William sporting his and looking o so much like he belongs in the I Love Lucy episode at the chocolate factory. They even had beard guards for those with facial hair!

Scharffen Berger has only been around for about 15 years. One of the co-owners went to France and had the most fabulous dark chocolate and ended up working at the factory there to learn about the process so that he could produce it in the U.S. The way to truly enjoy a good dark chocolate is to let it melt in your mouth so that you can enjoy the flavors. The first kind we tried was 70% cacao and had a very fruity taste to it- I was surprised because it wasn't bitter like the other kinds I have tried. The 2nd kind was a semi-sweet one with 60% chocolate and it was ok- good, but not quite as good as the second one. The 3rd one was my personal favorite- it was a milk kind, but with 40% chocolate, so it actually has more of a caramel taste to it. Then, we had one that was 60% cacao but had the nibs interspersed throughout to give it some crunch. It also made it extremely rich. And then we had one of their "endangered, limited edition" bars- there are special blends of unique beans that once they run out, that's it. That particular crop is gone. Eh, it was ok- not as good as the 1st and the 3rd. On the whole, I was impressed by the tour and the chocolate- especially since it was free. But that is to completely entice you to buy some because we really enjoyed it. William also wanted to try the 80% cacao but that was just way, way too intense for me. That much had some of the bitter taste.

So for all of you milk chocolate lovers, don't completely write off dark chocolate- just make sure that you try the right one. And yes, I am enjoying a piece of melted deliciousness as I write this.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Halloween Travesty

I went to Target yesterday specifically to buy my favorite Halloween treat- Brach's Candy Corn. Not just any type of candy corn- if it isn't the Brach's brand, it isn't good. It just tastes like wax and gross. With two weeks remaining until Halloween, I thought it was early enough to get some. I searched all 6 aisles all full of candy (insane- and kind of disgusting- just how much candy is in one place), only to find the Brach's Indian Corn and Brach's Marshmellow Pumpkins- which are ok- and TONS of bags of several other different gross bags of candy corn. BUT ZERO bags of Brachs. So I asked one of the workers if they were out (or in just a different location) and he said they have been out for a week already. I asked when they would be getting more in, and he said not until Christmas. CHRISTMAS!!! Who wants candy corn at Christmas! You're telling me that there is a bigger market then as opposed to 2 weeks still remaining until Halloween! The Target by my house is going to be losing out on a lot of money by not getting more Brach's Candy Corns. Now I have to go on a search to the other drug stores and grocery stores to find some. But I most definitely will because it is the PERFECT Halloween treat!


I never really was a fan of baseball . . . . until I moved to Boston. There, I became a convert to the greatest team of all time- the Boston Red Sox. There is such an energy and a loyal fan base that has been in place ever since its existence. EVERYONE knows about the latest happenings with the Sox- old ladies on the street even. And the best was when I flew into Boston and they announced the score of the game upon landing. Welcome to Boston! Some of the greatest players in history have played for them- Babe Ruth even played for the Sox, before going to the "dark side" (aka NY Yankees). My love affair with the Red Sox began in 2002, 2 years before the "Curse was Reversed" when after a losing streak of 86 years, the Red Sox WON the 2004 World Series. And I was there for that momentous occasion. But, as exciting as winning the Series was, it was NOTHING compared to the series right before that with the Yankees. Boston was down 3 games to 1 to the Yankees which is the biggest rivalry in sports history. Just when you thought that things were over, the Sox come back and win 3 straight to beat the Yankees and head into the World Series. I have never seen such joy and celebration in my life! That truly was a much bigger deal than winning the series was that comeback.

I have seen several games out at Fenway Park and even had the AMAZING honor and privilege of singing the National Anthem before one of the games. To be down on the field of the best ball park in America with the most loyal fans of all time is truly incredible. And my parents actually were there to hear me sing back in June of 2005. I have also been on the Fenway Park Tour 3 times- once with my friend Marie Ludwig and twice this past summer with both my in-laws and my dad. Here are a few photos of the ball park from all of the visits.

Marie and I in front of a nostalgic Fenway Park sign inside the Park

View of Fenway from the Press Box

Probably the most famous and desired seats in baseball on the "Green Monster"
View of the field with the beautiful Boston skyline in the background

My dad, in baseball heaven, on the Fenway Park TourMe with my in-laws Dennis and Lynne as we took the tour after William's graduation (William is taking the picture because he was dragged along on the tour. He does not like sports- and even living in Boston didn't convert him, sadly)

I have no desire to go to any baseball games out here- unless they are playing the Sox.And I have to say that my love of the Red Sox has remained just as strong as when I left Boston. Unfortunately, we do not receive any form of television so I do all of my following online. The Red Sox were down, yet again, 3 games to 1 losing to the Cleveland Indians, when they have come back now forcing a Game 7 to be played tomorrow night. GO SOX!!!!

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Power of Redheads

Let's give it up for the REDHEADS! We truly are fabulous- and FINALLY have some recognition for it. At the Priesthood session of this most recent general conference (Oct 2007), Pres. Thomas S. Monson publicly announced just how much he loved redheads. However, this did not make it into his text talk, but you can see it/hear it on the ASL quicktime video version. It is about 15 minutes into his talk.

He said telling what he said to a little boy with flaming red hair- "I know that boys with red hair can accomplish anything" and then said that when he was a mission president, he liked having a red head in each district because they were the "pacesetters".

Oh, and it doesn't end there. Then Pres. Hinckley gets up at the very beginning of his talk(this is also not in his written talk- but you too can see it on the ASL quicktime version of his priesthood session talk) and says, "Brother Monson, I'm waiting for you to dye your hair". HILARIOUS!!! Some of the best stuff happens at Priesthood session and I'm glad that William told me about it so that I could find it. I'm kind of sad its not in the written talks but happy that I still have proof of it.

So there you have it. A shout out to redheads in general conference.

Let me be honest up front here and tell you that I haven't always been a redhead. Up until I was about 7, I had blonde hair. This photo is of my one and only experience as a model. This photo was blown up and placed as the display for Kiddie Kandids in 1985.

And that has been the extent of my modeling- maybe because I became a redhead?!? No, I really feel that it is because I went through the funky, awkward years where I lived the 80's well into the 90's. I have to admit, I wasn't initially so excited at the prospect of being a redhead. I would say that my hair color was "strawberry BLONDE" because it had "blonde" in it so I still thought I was. I came to the difficult realization that I was a red head at a lip sync at the Girl Scout Camp Cloud Rim. Our group was doing a lip sync to "Under the Sea" and I wanted to be Sebastian since he actually sang most of the song. However, the rest of the girls told me that I had to be Ariel because I had red hair. That's when I realized that I am a redhead. Looking back on it, that should have been the coolest thing in the world to have been Ariel- I mean, look how gorgeous she is! And she is the central character.
And I really loved it in high school with two of my best friends, Brekke and Lauren, who also have red hair. We called ourselves "The Triplet Sisters" not only because of the red hair, but because we also unintentionally dressed alike. Not having planned it, we would show up to school wearing identical outfits like a denim vest, white shirt, and khaki shorts. And we were similar in personality as well. The Triplet Sisters were together again for my wedding. And Baby Audrey was wearing a red dress so she makes it in the picture. She doesn't have hair yet, but we know its going to be red like her mamma's

Here are just a few of the FABULOUS redheads throughout time.

Anne of Green Gables- I have always had a special affinity for Anne since Lucy Maud Montgomery is my Great Aunt.

Ron Weasley- The funniest- and my personal favorite- of the Potter gang
Julia Roberts-there have been so many movies that I love of hers- Notting Hill, Runaway Bride, Ocean's Series
My new sister in law- Bekky Kunz

And we will still include those who "moonlight" as red heads too- since they know that being a red head is just the best and that we have the most fun. This includes my old next door roomie Natalie Williams who truly looks FAB-U-LOUS as a redhead!
But, I must say that red headed couples are the cutest. From the days when I used to play with Raggedy Ann and Andy

Little did I know that I would have the most HANDSOME red head of all as my husband-

who is a pacesetter that can truly accomplish anything!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Sweet William

Did you know that there is actually a type of flower called "Sweet William"? I actually discovered it when I was at Mount Vernon a few weeks after we started dating back in 2006. I saw it as a sign- especially since it is so true. So thus my nickname for him of "My Sweet William". And today is just one example of how truly SWEET he is. He drove all the way out to Stanford to see this documentary with me, all because I wanted to see it since I have never been to Yosemite before (he has, so he didn't really see anything new in it) but he did it just for me. And then when we got home, I was teasing about how I wanted some ice cream and he then got up, not even saying a word, and made some for me! I truly have the SWEETEST husband in the world and I'm so glad that he has a sweet-tooth and indulges mine.


So, how you define my productivity level toady depends on what you call "productivity". If you are defining it in terms of how much work that I did on my dissertation or other research, I only did about 1 1/2 hr. That would probably be defined as a low productivity by some. On the other hand, if you look at productivity from a different standpoint, it was a high yield day.

I went on a run, returned our dvd rentals, took my friend Gerry Schwaller to the San Francisco Airport, saw the "Yosemite's Structure and Textures: Photographs by Eadweard Muybridge, Carleton Watkins, Ansel Adams, and Others" at the Stanford Museum of Art, and the one hour documentary about Yosemite entitled "Yosemite: The Fate of Heaven" also at Stanford.

By taking my friend Gerry to the airport at 3:30, I learned that rush hour traffic in the Bay area begins about this time. I was totally shocked by just how crowded it was- though not nearly as painful as what we endured on Saturday going to Half Moon Bay. Gerry was kind enough to buy me dinner at El Torito mexican restaurant in exchange for my giving her a ride. Let me say that is quite a fair exchange and I am willing to do it any time- just as long as it is at the El Torito by the airport. The restaurant sits right on the bay and we got a booth overlooking the water. We could see planes take off and land- but it was more in the periphery so we were able to enjoy the beautiful scenery. It was truly soothing to sit there. Below is part of the view from our table- but the photo doesn't do it justice.

In this other photo, there is a plane out on the runway waiting to take off. Unfortunately, my camera isn't the best so I wasn't fully able to capture it, but at least you get the idea.

Thanks Gerry for the great food, view, and even better company!

Next, I got to battle real rush hour traffic down to Palo Alto so that I could go to the Yosemite exhibit. I really enjoyed it because of how they grouped the works. They categorized them according to the landmark in Yosemite that was photographed and placed them side by side with other photographs of that same landmark. It was so fascinating to see that even though they were photographing very similar scenes, how they chose to frame it had a powerful impact on the feelings and emotions from the photo. For example, one photographer took a wide angle view of Half Dome while the other only isolated the cliff face. They were both great, but the isolated one evoked more of a sense of the sheer grandeur of it.

Here is a photo of a photo by Ansel Adams (hehehe- so funny to think about a photo of a photo). This is entitled "Thunder Clouds over Unicorn Peak"
This really didn't turn out very well since I couldn't use flash, but I just LOVE the grandeur and majesty of the clouds! So amazing. I also liked his "Clearing the Winter Storm" (I didn't take any more photos of photos since they really didn't turn out very well). I also really liked Watkins "Pompompasos- The Three Brothers". And the best part about this whole exhibit is that it was FREE!

After seeing these photos, it was time to meet up with William and watch the also FREE Yosemite Film. There was commentary from a Stanford Professor and she gave the best quote about the filmmaker calling him a "human tripod". I have to admit that he did a great job with the cinematography. It was made back in 1989 and was narrated by Robert Redford and it had some incredible time lapse images over the seasons of beautiful landscapes. It also had a political aspect to it, about trying to preserve the land, yet still have others be able to enjoy the park. They had this classic documentary scene where they have short excerpts of people trying to put up their tents- and getting part way done and it collapses. It was totally true- girls camp right there for you. They also showed these two Jewish boys who were from the East and backpacking- they wanted a decent 4 day hike and made the mistake of asking a ranger who gave them more than they could handle. Especially that they were each carrying 3 books around- one of them had a big Hebrew Bible that he showed to the camera. Now there is an example of dedication to your faith! I also learned from this cute grandpa type ranger that there are snow fleas on top of the snow. I'm definitely not as excited about them as he is- something about the word "flea" gives me the heebie jeebies (what a great word- it is truly so descriptive and even more fun to say and looks quite funny when written). Anyways, I really enjoyed it and really want to go to Yosemite sometime- not quite sure when.

I think it was a pretty productive day- except for the research aspect of it. And there is always tomorrow to do that . . . . . .

Monday, October 15, 2007

Super Saturday!

We did not initially plan for our Saturday to be this fun-filled, mainly due to William being quite sick with a head cold, but things don't always turn out like you plan . . . . they turn out better.

Firstly, let me say that William is such a TROOPER. What a great, sweet, and sacrificing husband he is. I had been saying that I wanted to go to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival for weeks and even though he had been so sick for several days, he came and didn't complain at all. This was the first time either of us had been to the festival, and we learned some things that we will never repeat. The number one thing is to NOT TAKE Route 92 into town. It is generally the shortest way to get to Half Moon Bay only taking about 40 minutes (according to Google maps) but even by 9 am when we left, it was stop and go traffic about half the way. Thus, it took us 2 hours to get there. Fortunately, the drive is quite lovely through the mountains and then the part that I enjoyed was seeing all of the PUMPKIN farms off to the side of the road. Here is the one that had the most pumpkins on display.

I was completely shocked by just how many PUMPKIN FARMS were along our journey. There would be 2 or 3 right in a row, with signs for more down the road. This is the popular thing here in California while back East in the Boston region, APPLE FARMS are everywhere. Time for a little reminiscing . . . . . . . . . Here are a few fun photos of me and my visiting teaching partner, Kirstin Randall, taking our sweet Bounhome Sirisavath to the Harvard, MA apple farm (yes, there is town- not just a university- named Harvard) about this same time last year. We had such a great time, picking all sorts of delicious apples and especially the INCREDIBLE cider donuts. We kept going back for more- they were hot, fresh, and delicious.

Here is Bounhome enjoying one of these fabulous apples.

Back to 2007. These pumpkin farms not only sell the obvious pumpkins, but they also have things like corn mazes, rides, inflatable jumping areas- its a real event. But, they also have some unusual things- such as iron dinosaurs. Random.

Parking was a mess but with a little driving around and a quick stop to Burger King, we got a great space just a short walk away. They call the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival the "World's Pumpkin Capital" and that's exactly what we saw- the 1st 2nd, 3rd, and 4th biggest pumpkins.

The pumpkin was the highlight of the little parade- here's photos of the 1,524 pound beast. I wonder how many pies and other pumpkin items you can make from it . . . . .

It was quite the interesting parade. In addition to the pumpkin, they had Tony the Tiger and Keebler Elf,

a garbage truck float with kids throwing candy out of it (I definitely wasn't going to battle for that!)

a walking bell choir

a John Deer Tractor pulling another large pumpkin- but nowhere near the beast- only 800 lbs

and a family of skeletons

This little girl definitely had the best view of the parade.

ANOTHER FLASHBACK- the parade reminded me of all of the 4th of July parades that I attended in the small town of Richfield, Utah where my cousins lived. This was the highlight of our vacation, mostly because we would strategically position ourselves to get candy. In the early days of going to the parade, they were very generous with the candy- we got definitely more than we could eat while just sitting there. And let me tell you, we fought hard for that candy. Getting up and running up to the trucks before our seats and then after them. The most coveted prize though was a drink from the Coke truck. I think there was only one year that I ever got one, despite all of the running and begging that I did. For some reason, the candy picked up off the street tasted better than anything we could have bought at the store.

Back to 2007, I was so tempted to revert back to the candy grabbing days as they were again throwing it from the floats. But my William told me that he would buy me all the candy I wanted from the store and that I should let the kids have their turn. The true voice of rationality right there. So no candy was received by me this day.

BUT, I did get an even better treat- PUMPKIN ICE CREAM! It was truly delicious. MMMM- what a great taste of fall. It was worth the drive for that ice cream.

Here are some additional images from the festival-

the portable ATMS (we truly do live in a have it now, commercialized society)

cute kids in costumes

pumkpin hats- I only tried it on for the picture, as it was very overpriced ($20)

the giant partially carved pumpkin- we watched the artist begin to sculpt it right there

And then, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place pumpkin winners

I have to admit that I was disappointed by the festival because these that I have shown here were the only pumpkins that we saw. The majority was arts and crafts vendors- which is ok, but I was envisioning something more like the Life is Good Pumpkin Festival that goes on in Boston . . . . . .

ANOTHER FLASHBACK. So the same time last year, I ended up going twice to the Boston Life is Good Pumpkin Festival. Now, this is a pumpkin festival!They set the world record for having the most carved and lit pumpkins- over 30,000! Its quite spectacular. I took the adorable little girl that I tutored for Books and Basketball, Esther Jackson, to the festival and we totally had such a great time looking at all of the pumpkins and getting the free food samples.

This was my favorite part was watching their unique carving method- of using a chain saw and an electric screw driver! They were able to process a lot of pumpkins fast- but that's also a lot of pumpkin guts too!

When we were there at 1, they were only at 15,732 on the "ScoreGourd"

I then went back later in the evening with William to see the Commons all lit up with over 30,000 Jack-o-Lanterns- 30,109 to be precise.

Back to 2007. The town of Half Moon Bay actually reminded me alot of Martha's Vineyard with the colorful, gingerbread architecture.
We refused to deal with the traffic back on the 92 again, so we decided again to take a prettier route along the Pacific Coast Highway, the 1, even though it was longer. And it turned out to be well worth it and much less frustrating. Here's some photos of the beach and actual Half Moon Bay-

I also really liked this tree- it just has such a great shape
A beautiful lighthouse off the 1-
And we stopped and watched some KITE SURFING for about 15 minutes. This was the first time that I had seen it and I was really impressed- especially since its hard enough to surf, let alone try to negotiate the kite with the sometimes unpredictable wind. It was really cool, though you sadly cannot tell from the photo where you can only see the kites.
We had meant to just take a road that cuts across the mountains to by pass the traffic, but we passed it since the drive was so beautiful and ended up in Santa Cruz! I had wanted to come here anyways so it worked out great- especially since William is such a trooper. Santa Cruz is another beach town that has a giant boardwalk. The boardwalk eerily reminded me of Lagoon- they had many of the same rides- even the ride through haunted house, magic carpet, sky buckets, rock o wheel (although the names are now different).
We actually didn't end up riding any of the rides- William has been on them all and told me I could ride which ever ones I wanted, but they looked just like Lagoon so I knew that they would only be "ok"- and so I decided that we should get Gilroy Garlic Fries instead (which actually was a mistake since they used fairly large pieces of garlic as seasoning so William and I probably had the equivalent of a whole clove, which was more than we had been anticipating. BUT, it was definitely better than the other option of the deep fried twinkie they had there (William has actually tried it. I am revolted at even the thought of it))
It is just such a fun ambiance to walk around and have the beach right along side of you, complete with sailboats and another lighthouse.
Santa Cruz was definitely unplanned but it was quite a pleasant and worthwhile detour than being stuck in traffic again. And if you think that was the end of our day, we actually drove back to home and went grocery shopping, rented videos, and ate at Chili's (oh- they are having this INCREDIBLE deal right now- for $11 you can get a salad, a side, a half rack of ribs, and ANY dessert! We got the molten cake of course- sooo goooood- and I took the ribs home). So, it was after 8 by the time we got back home after leaving at 9 am and William was so amazing and didn't complain once. And the next day, he was actually much better! I'm sure that all of the fresh air and fun of Super Saturday was the cause of that :-)