Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night

I absolutely ADORE Vincent Van Gogh. He is truly my favorite artist of all time. I made a pilgrimage to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam back in the summer of 2006.
Here I am after the fabulous experience, complete with my books, posters and other items following visiting the museum.
It really was such an amazing experience for me to see the pictures with my own eyes because part of the beauty of his work is seeing the his thick brushstrokes that evoke emotion and feeling.

That being said, I was ecstatic to learn that there is currently an exhibit on Van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art. Its is entitled "Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night" and it is showing until January 5th. I so wanted to go and visit this exhibit in person, but given the current economic situation, it didn't seem worth the expense to see it in person. BUT, the MOMA has done an AMAZING thing and placed the exhibit ONLINE. They even have corresponding excepts from letters written by Van Gogh about the artworks AND audio tour exerpts to listen to. I have already seen both Starry Starry Nights in person and a few other works in the exhibition so it made me feel better that I have an idea of what was shown in this particular theme.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dancing with the Stars

I have never watched this show until this season and William and I are loving it. It is so hilarious. Like tonight- the guest judge is Michael Flatley, the Lord of the Dance. The announcer guy says that he has agreed to keep his shirt on to judge tonight, as he has always had his shirt off in every other performance I've ever seen him in. However, the best tonight was when Cloris and her partner did the "spin" near the end of their number. Sadly, William just barely missed it as he was getting home from work. But, I was able to show him this very low quality version on YouTube so he was able to get the idea better than my weak attempt to try to describe it while laughing.

All I have to say is that she's definitely got some moves for an 82 year old- and she knows how to charm the crowd and get the votes. She definitely spices up the show every week.

I think that my favorite number of the season (so far) has been Lance's gothic tango number- the choreography was so clever and just really well executed.

This number also has some slight references to "no strings attached" for me with the beginning and ending puppet type moves from the good old NSYNC days.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Whitney's Wedding

Our friend Whitney, whom I knew from Boston and William knew from both here and Boston, got married on Saturday to her best friend Mike. We were lucky enough to be able to attend the wedding reception at her mother's house nearby.

It was such a perfect evening- the dinner and dancing were held outside. You can see the pool with the theme of "lemons" (the yellow balloons)- her colors were blue and yellow and the place cards were also lemons. They also served several different kinds of lemonade- I like the Melon one and William liked the Guava. Its hard to see the band in the background but they were there- and super fun. How can you not like a band that plays "Billy Jean" by MJ.
They even had blue and yellow fortune cookies for us to take home
The wedding cake was very beautiful. We actually had another cake that they brought out that was super delicious- white and chocolate cake with a mousse like center.
The most creative touch of the night was the photo booth. It is one of those that you find at the mall or other entertainment area and you can get an instant strip of a few photos. William and I had our pictures taken and then we included a photo along with a personalized message in their guestbook. It was such a clever idea. And it was even more adorable to see the bride and groom enter there. I sadly realized that I never took a photo of the bride- she looked so radiant and lovely. We had a great time at the wedding in that we were able to see some friends from Boston and William was able to catch up with many people that he knew from the Stanford ward. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Lau!

Kiddie Halloween Trick-or-Treat

My special group of moms (and me) got together for a little mini trick-or-treating halloween party with the kids (and for us to get some of the goodies too :-)

Here are a few of them- Tori, Tyler, and Sarah- taking their buckets around. Some of them had an easier idea with the concept than others.
But they all were TOO ADORABLE! I have photos of a few of them- I sadly don't have all of them because my camera battery was running low ;-( I know though that some of the other moms have some that they will share :-)

The most popular costume was that of lady bug- we had 3. Here's Sydney
Tori the Pink Poodle
Tinkerbell (aka Livia)
Arggh Pirate Tyler- complete with hat (though not pictured here)
Hot Chick Leah
Spider Austin and Duck Duck Nora
Some of the not featured costumes include an Ewok, Tootsie Roll, and 2 more lady bugs. Yeah, my "dressing up" consisted of me wearing my Salem MA black shirt with a witch silhouette on it (hey, it was "special" in that I don't wear it every day)

And check out these adorable coffins! (seems like an oxymoron doesn't it ;-) And there's some candy inside
Kristen MADE these herself! I am super impressed- she said that she got the directions off the Martha Stewart website and so I found the link to them

I think that Caramel Popcorn is so very Halloween and so that was my contribution, the recipe courtesy of my mother-in-law.

Caramel Popcorn (from my sweet mother-in-law- Lynne)

1/4 c. margarine
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white corn syrup
Bring these 3 three ingredients to boil, then stir in
1/2 can Eagle Brand Milk
cook these to softball stage, remove from heat and add
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4/ tsp. baking soda
Pour over popped popcorn (I used 2 microwave bags)

William and I will be going to the scaled back Google Halloween party (given the economic situation) so more fun is to come!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Finishing What I Start

I noticed a few weeks ago that I had not finished some things that I had started a long time ago and so I have been making a concerted effort to get them taken care of. I just feel somewhat unresolved when I don't complete even small tasks and I am hoping that by getting in the habit of polishing things off, I will be able to finish the biggest project of them all . . . . THE DISSERTATION. Here are my lists of things I have completed and need to complete

  • listening to "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (it actually was a fairly boring book- way too long. But I did enjoy how they discussed Spain and its culture and places since I lived there
  • finally finished "Inclusion"- it was a good book, just VERY dense and full of facts and information
  • the quiet book games started at mother's group
  • 2 seasons of Prison Break (the show really is so addictive- I watched ALL the episodes during the time William was gone. I just have the first few from season 3 to catch up on)
  • the revisions for chapter that I am co-authoring with my adviser on the Internet and the Experience of Illness
  • read Devil Bones to finish off all of the Bones series
  • I started some other folder books while William was gone- it was very therapeutic to color. I just need to get them laminated at the place Lianne told me about (thanks Lianne! :-)
  • I am re-listening to "Freakonomics" because I bought the audio book years ago and started listening to it, but never finished it. Interesting, but I think that he is finding the most obscure explanations to the problems when they are really multi-causal
  • need to finish listening to Jesus the Christ- I was so near the end and then Lappy 1 died and never finished it up
  • John Adams book by James McCullough. I LOVED the first section of the book when it happened in Boston because I lived there for so long and loved the city. I lost interest when he went to France- but I am determined to finish it because I am eager to see the new HBO series about him
  • And the one that still needs the most work . . . THE DISSERTATION. I have to say that I have been better about working on it these past 2 weeks. Last week I wrote 15 pages and I have already done about 6 for this week so I am on a good track. I definitely need to keep this momentum up to finish it by my self- imposed deadline of having a draft by January. I found out today that I need to have my dissertation DEFENDED by April 8, 2009. That is the ultimate deadline that I need to meet.
So, I am capitalizing on my current momentum and am going to continue to FINISH what I start

My Sensitive Side

From the time I was little, I have always been pretty sensitive. I admit that I cry at things that most people don't. Here are a few examples from my past to illustrate that this has been occurring throughout my life. When I was about 4 yrs old, I watched the cartoon version of Frosty the Snowman and when he melted, I just started bawling and climbed behind a toy cabinet where my mom came and found me and asked "What's wrong?" and I replied "Frosty melted and she lost her friend." My mom tried to comfort me saying "He'll be back again next year" but it really didn't work. I had a hard time watching that show after that. Flash forward ahead several years until I was probably about 16. Nearly every year, my family has gone to a movie later on Thanksgiving Day with my cousins. This particular year, we saw Flubber- the remake of the classic Absent Minded Professor. For those who have seen the film, there is this little computer machine who is the assistant of the Professor and she is actually in love with him, but he just considers her to be a friend. Later on, she then saves his life and ends up dying. I start bawling and my little 8 year old cousins sitting next to me start making fun of me saying "It's just a machine, Cheryl. You don't need to cry" to which I reply "But she had feelings". This is similarly how I felt with ET and Short Circuit.

And you would think this sensitive, sentimental side would get better as I get older. I actually think that it maybe getting worse. The latest example happened this past Friday night. I was folding laundry and watching the show "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader". I really don't watch this show, but wanted something to keep me entertained. This school superintendent was on from Georgia and she said from the beginning that any money she won would go her district to help improve education for the kids. She kept winning- talking through her answers and then getting them right. She got up to the question that if she got it right, she would win a million dollars AND be the first person on the show to do it. However, if she got it wrong, she would only get $25,000. She could walk away at this very moment with $500,000- a LOT of money that would be very helpful for the school. This educator thought about it, and then said the most profound answer- "I have always encouraged kids to stay in school and so I can't 'drop out of school now' and take the money because what kind of example would that be setting for them. Yeah, here's where I started crying because this woman was not thinking about herself, but about the impact that her actions might set for others. She got the question right- it was about who was the longest reigning British monarch (Queen Victoria)- and became the 1st person to say that she is smarter than a 5th grader . . . . And what better example could there be than this woman who truly practices what she preaches.

So, while this was a very powerful, touching story for me, I still think that it is kind of funny that I cried during "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader". Just one more story to add to my previous archive- and I'm sure that there will be even more unique ones to come

Conclusion of William's Trip to London

William has been back now for over a week from his business trip to London and I have to say that I am SO GLAD that he is home! I missed him way too much. It was pretty pathetic because I would talk with him on Skype at like 1 pm and then I would stay awake until he would get to work the next morning his time (or 2-3 am my time) just to be able to talk with him again. I'm just that attached to the man :-)

As I noted earlier, William did spend part of Sunday sightseeing, but he wasn't able to do any more until Friday evening. He was SO BUSY this trip- he worked even harder than he does when he is back home. He put in a full day in London with meetings and then had several more afterwards with people back in Mtn View. So he was usually up until 2 or 3 am his time working. He has gotten a break since he came back home- relatively speaking :-)

William and I are truly so perfect for each other because when we travel, we always tend to pack things in. He went sightseeing on Friday night from 8 pm until midnight where he LITERALLY walked all of London- complete with the blisters to prove it. Check out the list of sites that he saw (well, at least the outsides since it was so late)
  • Victoria Station
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Queen's Walk
  • Green Park
  • Royal Academy
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Leicester Square
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • National Gallery
  • Nelson's Column
  • Admiralty Arch
  • Charing Cross
  • Embankment
  • Hungerford Bridge
  • Royal Festival Hall
  • London Eye
  • Westminister Bridge
  • Big Ben
  • Westminister Hall
  • Westminister Abbey
  • Westminister Cathedral
  • and back to Victoria Station
Yes, he walked ALL OF THAT in ONE NIGHT! I was shocked because it took me several months of living in London before I visited all of those sites. And my ambitious, pack-it-all-in husband managed to see it all in one night. I would have to say that he completely made the most out of his trip to London- both in terms of work and seeing the city.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pumpkin Heaven Deliciousness

I am a huge fan of pumpkin, yet, not pumpkin pie. There's something about the texture that just really bothers me. But, I LOVE other pumpkin items- pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, breads, ice cream. But, my absolute favorite I discovered last year. My friend Alecia made this dessert called pumpkin dessert squares and I was in complete hea-ven. I demanded the recipe and she reluctantly it to me- mostly because it is somewhat pricy. It is a jar of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter that you buy from Williams and Sonoma- thus, it is like $10 a jar (I did manage to get like $2 off). Alecia said that she had tried other pumpkin butters, but they just weren't as good. It also involves a yellow cake mix to provide the great crumbly texture on top. I think that the bars are better after they have fully cooled- they were still good warm out from the oven. While it is an expensive dessert, it is SO WORTH IT. I ate nearly 2/3rds of the pan over the weekend while William was gone- he isn't a pumpkin fan at all. I have one more jar and I am saving it for a little while later before making it. And I want to share the recipe so that everyone can have a little pumpkin heaven deliciousness.

Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter DESSERT SQUARES

Preheat oven to 350° F. Divide yellow cake mix, placing all but one cup in a mixing bowl. Stir in 1/2 c. melted butter and one egg into the cake mix. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9" × 13" pan. Mix the jar of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter with two eggs and 1/2 c. milk. Pour this result over the cake mix. Stir the reserved 1 cup of cake mix with 1 tbsp flour, 1/4 c. sugar, 1/4 c softened butter, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Mix together until crumbly. Sprinkle over top of the pumpkin layer. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into "2 squares

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spared from the Storm and Conservatory of Flowers

I went to a few cultural activities around SF while William was out of town. I went to the FREE exhibit at the Stanford Museum of Art entitled "Spared from the Storm" featuring paintings that survived Hurricane Katrina from New Orleans. They had several Monets, several Picassos, Miros, a Renior, Degas, and several other masters. It was quite a good exhibition especially since it was FREE.

I also went to another FREE entry at the Conservatory of Flowers. Dyan and Nora were kind enough to come with me. Fortunately, even though the entry was free, the crowds were not overwhelming. It seems to have similar architecture to the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England.
The conservatory inside had this beautiful stained glass
that spread beautiful colors throughout the room.
I liked the pond- complete with the lily pads
The pond was surrounded by beautiful orchids
But what I also found interesting to the orchids, was also the carnivorous plants. This one is called the "pitchers plant" and digests things inside of the pitcher
This may look pretty, but it too can be dangerous if an insect falls in the center tube
And finally, your typical venus fly trap jaws
Here are a few other unique flowers that I don't know what their names are. Love the beautiful orange shade and shape
This one looks kind of like a gothic lion flower- grrr
But, the best part of the Conservatory is the Butterfly Zone. We saw so many beautiful butterflies and the best part is that Nora LOVED them. She kept following them around with her eyes, and making happy noises when they fluttered around. None of them landed on us, but pretty close to us. I could even see the curled up tongue on this one
The majestic monarch
It was fun, but I'm glad that it was on a free day, I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much if it wasn't free.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Move and The New Place

Several individuals had offered to help us with our move; however, we thought that it wouldn't be so bad since we have a studio. Moving always takes longer than you anticipate and it turns out you have more stuff than you think.

We rented a truck from Budget again, and fortunately, they gave us the size we requested and not the beast like last year. I am such a wimp with very little arm strength. I did alright loading the truck, but the hardest was the coach- so heavy.

It was about 12:30 when we made it to our new place, only a few blocks down the street. William was such a trooper and needed that I needed all of my strength to be able to help get the couch in, so he graciously unloaded the rest of the stuff while I started unpacking inside. Finally, it was the couch. It took everything that I had to get it inside, but we did it. But, my strength was COMPLETELY exhausted. And we still had the mattress to do. I tried but could only make it down the ramp. William and his brilliant ideas came up with the idea that we take one of the empty larger roller suitcases and put the end of the bed in it so that I could wheel that side in while William carried the other end.

It was about 3:30 and we were already exhausted. And we still had to clean our old apartment. William is such a Saint that we gave it a complete cleaning, head to toe, cuz he thought that might not charge us a cleaning fee if it was awesome.

Just look at how spotless it is- literally just like when we moved in.

We even wiped down the baseboards .
And William spent forever on this tub- Mr. Clean could definitely see his shiny head in the reflection off the porcelain. We werie completely exhausted by the end of the day.

And in exchange for William unloading most of the truck, I completely unpacked our apartment. Unfortunately, the problem was that we had a 600sq ft apartment before, and we moved to a 500 sq ft. That means that we bought enough stuff to nearly fill our old place. We had to get fairly creative at where to put things so pretty much every inch of our new apartment is filled with stuff. Fortunately, William has incredible Tetris skills so he performed the most efficient stacking job ever. It just takes a little unpacking and then repacking to get what we need.

Here is our little place. I actually really like it- it doesn't seem very small to us, just cozy. However, when others come over it does seem a little tight.

One slightly quirky thing is that you have to pass by our bed to get through the main entrance.
Another quirky thing about our apartment is that the dishwasher is super loud, so we just have to make sure that we don't run it too late to bug the neighbors. The other problem is that we can't open up the silverware drawer fully without opening the stove first. Ah, the adventures of apartment living :-) At least it gives us great things to laugh about :-) We happily are saving money, in a sad relative to the Bay area way, but it is just perfect for two very happily married individuals.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


The long awaited, majorly delayed opening of the "original" cupcake store Sprinkles was just a few weeks ago at Stanford Shopping Center. My friend Dyan went and loved it so she thought that she would spread the cupcake lovin around to me. We actually only waited for about 10 minutes to get our cupcakes, which is probably the shortest the line has been since opening.

The boxes are so cute
And its even cuter inside
Yummy- I got the vanilla made with Madagascar vanilla (which was actually my favorite one of the two) and then a black and white with chocolate cake, vanilla icing and real chocolate shavings.
Dyan loved every bite of her rich dark chocolate
Sadly, its too good to share Nora- she just has to have Cheerios for the next few years until she can fully appreciate the deliciousness.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Brief Crafting Period

With William gone, to take a break from studies in the evenings, I have been undertaking a brief crafting period. And I probably won't be starting any more for awhile because it has taken a lot of information.

I collected stickers throughout my growing up, and I still have a whole box of them- many of them really cute. So, I decided to put them to good use and make some cards.
Awhile ago at mother's group, we started making these paper quiet/activity folders and I never finished mine. We had 3 different ones
ABC's Alphabet
Prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I had thought that this was going to be an easy project, but it actually took a lot more effort than I had anticipated. I colored the projects, labeled them, and then had to laminate them. It turns that it is super expensive to laminate at Kinko's- ($2 a page) and I found this out after doing 3 pages. I was going to have them do the 3 folders but since they are an odd size, it would have been $6 each. Fortunately, I found that out before having them done. I then tried these self-laminate pages that work ok, but not the best. It was fairly difficult to get everything to line up correctly. Then, I got these velcro pieces from Walmart and they are adhesive, and stick ok, but if you pull too hard, they come off. I'm not sure how well they will hold up for real use, but at least they look cute :-) I think though that after this, my crafting stint will end for awhile...again.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What Do You Say- Taking Chances

WOOHOO! It's official! I received the tickets in the mail today. My sisters and I are going to CELINE in Nov. in San Diego! If you don't know, we are HUGE Celine Fans. I first saw her LIVE in London back in 1999 but our favorite concert was when we saw her at her show in Las Vegas at Caesar's Palace. Our parents were so kind that we were able to get 3rd row seats on the far right hand side. It was an INCREDIBLE show- her voice is even better in person and the dancing was great too. At the end of the concert, she was walking off stage by us and the three of us were screaming and she looked RIGHT AT US and waved and blew us a kiss. I know that she made contact with us, probably due to our high pitched squeals. When we found out that she was again going on tour, we knew that we would see her- the question was which venue. It turned out that they just recently added a show down in San Diego, where my sister Sarah now lives, and so we will be there just before Thanksgiving. I am SO EXCITED to see her again and will prepare by listening- and doing my own singing along- to her songs. So what do you say?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

It's His Turn

William is currently out of the country in London, England on business with Google. This was a more last minute trip, coming up last Tuesday. Thus, the flights were SUPER expensive- $1,000- for me to have gone. I LOVE London- I've been there 5 times on study abroad and then just a few days stopover on other European adventures. As much as I love London, I would rather spend that money going to a place that I have never been before. Also, William does not have very much time for "sightseeing"- left Sat. morning and arrived Sunday morning and then starts work for the week there. He will be going on some team building outings in the evenings, and he wants to have more of these opportunities around the world, so he is doing this one solo. But, I miss him- at least it is now less than a week before I pick him up from the airport :-) And I am so HAPPY for SKYPE. I had heard about it before, but never used it until today and it works GREAT! I can't believe that I can talk to him FOR FREE whereas if I used my cell phone, it would be $1.50 a minute. The conversation was actually quite clear and no real time delay. William said that he went to the Victoria and Albert museum, Museum of Natural History, and Science Museum this afternoon, which are great museums and the best part about London is that they are FREE. And these are all in the same area. William's hotel is right down the street from the Google office- like a 2 minute walk- so I'm sure that he will be very familiar with the area by the time the week is over. So far, I'm doing alright- I have been trying to finish up a few craft projects that I started a few months ago. I'll show the project later on. And I'm sure that there will be a greater than average number of blog posts from me this week too :-)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Practice, Practice, Practice

From elementary school throughout high school, I took piano lessons from my next door neighbor, Mrs. Pond. She was one amazing woman- having patience beyond anything I've ever seen (well, with the exception of William) with me. She was one of the organizers of the new hymn book (well "new" as in 1985 or the last edition) and so she made playing the hymns part of my weekly practice. However, my main issue with piano is that I get exceptionally nervous. It doesn't matter if I was playing in seminary, young women's, or my recital, I am so anxious that I start shaking while I'm playing. After my graduation from high school, I basically stopped playing regularly, but I have occasionally played for institute, sacrament, or relief society. The good thing is that over time, my nervousness has diminished- some what. It is still one of my greatest fears.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. William and I teach Sunday School to the 12-14 year olds. Our lesson that Sunday was about having a positive attitude no matter what the circumstances. The Lord has such a great sense of humor and a way to really test us to see if we truly do practice what we preach. IMMEDIATELY after giving that lesson, a member of the bishopric pulled me aside and told me that I was going to have an additional calling- that of Relief Soceity pianist. A few weeks before, I had filled in for our current RS pianaist, a good friend of mine, who was out of town and it turns out that I had to play for combined RS and priesthood. I was so nervous that I messed up several time and felt so horrible that I nearly started crying during the meeting. William reassured me that I did fine, but I wasn't believing him. After that, I knew that the ward wasn't looking for perfection with their piano playing or else they wouldn't have called me. I very graciously accepted the calling, knowing that the Lord wanted me to have a positive attitude about this.

I have been practicing nearly every day on the little mini roll out, table top electric keyboard that William received as a gift from his mom. It works pretty well to have me get the basic chords down and I then practice before church on the actual piano. And you have got to love my little pocket hymn book- it hast proved resourceful again and again. At first, I was very concerned about this calling, but after a few weeks, I am starting to enjoy it, being able to practice a little bit each day. That is one of the great things about our church. I know that callings are inspired and that they provide us with opportunities to make things that we previuosly weak become stronger. I know that I will never be a concert pianist, but I am so grateful that my dear piano teacher taught me how to play the hymns to help me and others help sing our praises to God.

Fall Fest

Yesterday, for our Hot Mama's group and Me, we had a fall fest! Melanie was an INCREDIBLE host- she prepared a fabulous butternut squash and lentils dish (with curry- yummy) AND, if that wasn't enough, she made sugar cookies for us to frost. Here are my cookies- they definitely wouldn't make it on Martha Stewart- they actually look like some of the kids made them.
At least they taste super good.

And here's a candid of the rest of the group- just look at all of the kids playing and having fun :-)
And we actually had a great discussion about politics and society- adding some much needed interaction for me :-) Thanks ladies for a great time!

Bones and More Bones

I have been obsessed lately with the tv show Bones and the books that the series is based on. Kathy Reichs is a forensic anthropologist who uses scientific information to identify bones and provide them with an identity and possible cause of death.I even was able to watch a PBS special about how this discipline is being used to going to identify bog people who were interred several hundred years B.C. I have always been a mystery fan, from Agatha Chrisite to Jessica Fletcher to Matlock, and so Kathy Reich's books have been just a great addition. I love her books because she mixes scientific findings with solving crimes. The only problem is that I have nearly exhausted all of her books- I only have her latest book, Devil Bones, to read and I am on the waiting list for it from the Mountian View Public Library. So, now its time to find another series to get involved with. Any suggestions?