Monday, January 31, 2011

Magnolia Bakery

On my way to the theater district, I decided to pick a few things up from the famous Magnolia Bakery. I have heard mixed reviews about the bakery, but two of my co-workers raved about it so I decided that I at least had to try it. My sister also recommended to me the banana pudding and it was incredible! It is like a trifle of a light banana whipped cream mousse, fresh banana slices, and cake pieces. I got their smallest container and me, even being the sweet tooth that I am, I had to eat it in two servings throughout the night. It was REALLY good though. I am lucky that I tried a sample of their red velvet cupcakes in the store because they were GROSS. The cake was dry and the frosting was too airy but I knew that I still had to try a cupcake so I had one of their daily specials- pumpkin with maple cream cheese. Due to the intense richness of the banana pudding, I had to eat the cupcake for breakfast and it was still DELICIOUS. The cake was moist with the perfect amount of cream cheese frosting. I was given one of their bags for my purchase as seen on the right, and I felt like a New Yorker (or at least a tourist in NYC :-) I had the bag with me at the theater and one of the usher's stopped me to tell me to rave about the bakery and how she had one of their cupcakes the other day. At least for me, the bakery did live up to the hype with my purchases, although Sprinkles still has my cupcake heart :-)

F.A.O. Schwartz

Following my visit to the Frick Collection (I stayed until the kicked me out), I still had some time before seeing Spiderman (William had been busy all day and night with work meetings and dinners) and there is no real quick way to head to Times Square and the theater district from that area so I walked back along 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center. On my way, I stopped at the redesigned F.A.O. Schwartz and was blown away by what I saw there- particularly the prices. I loved it so much that I brought William back here on Saturday so that he could enjoy as well.

The grand entryway from the 2nd level.

You could get this complete Noah's Ark set with all of the stuffed animals for only $2,400.

I LOVE this giant puzzle globe! They have smaller ones for sale that include a display stand for when you have finished assembling it. I wonder what it would be like to assemble . . .

But, the Barbie section of the store was completely over the top. This is the special runway (below) that they have. It is mechanized so that when each Barbie reaches the top of the runway, the others stop and that one twirls around to show off her outfit.

But, truly the showpiece of the Barbie collection was . . . . wait for it . . . a BARBIE FOOSBALL TABLE. I thought that this was actually kind of morbid, like someone's little brother wanted to torture the Barbies by ripping off their arms and sticking poles through them but apparently this is a collector's item. Any guesses on how much it might cost?

I took a photo of the price tag because I knew that no one would believe me when I told them that this foosball table could be yours for $25,000.

The other section of the store that I thought was fun was a place where you could design your own Muppet. They have several different body bases and you choose all of the other features and they assemble it for you while you wait. It was at a more reasonable price of $100. Needless to say, while we enjoyed ourselves immensely at this store, we walked out of there with only these photos and our memories as evidence :-)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Frick Collection

The Frick Collection is one of the hidden GEMS of NYC museums. In all of my many visits to NYC over the years, I had never heard of it until reading about it in my 1,000 Places to See Before You Die book. It reminded me of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, though with fewer- though still impressive artifacts. Gardner Museum has artifacts EVERYWHERE you look while the Frick has them a little more spaced out, yet some REALLY impressive art.

The space itself is amazing- unfortunately, no photography allowed and their gift shop closes earlier than the museum (I didn't know that so I wasn't able to buy a book or any post cards- William was slightly relieved that I didn't buy yet another book :-) It was their actual home, though the cloister type courtyard was added when the museum was created. With the price of admission, you are given a free audio guide that provides commentary to many of the rooms and major works of art. Most of the art that was purchased during the lifetime of steel tycoon Henry Clay Frick and part of his will included stipulations for building a museum where his works of art could not be loaned out. I was stunned to see that that the collection has THREE Vermeer's including "Officer and Laughing Girl". There were also a Rembrandt, a few paintings by El Greco- my favorite being "Purification of the Temple", Goya- "The Forge", Velazquez, Hans Holbein's "Sir Thomas More" which the photo does not do justice for the amazing red velvet and the vivid green curtain in the background- one you definitely need to see in person, Constable, Gainsborough- particularly "The Mall in St. James' Park", and those are just the highlights. The museum also includes furniture, tapestries, sculptures, all within this incredible ambiance. This is a MUST SEE for art lovers.

Doughnut Planet

Just a few blocks away from the Tenement Museum was Doughnut Planet. I had heard about this place from several food blogs that I follow and it did not disappoint. I did not wait in line at all for my doughnuts- apparently there isn't much demand on a cold Thursday at noon but it is reported that the lines can be long on the weekends. And let me say that this place lives up to all of the hype. The creme brulee doughnut is THE BEST that I have ever had! It is pictured on the left and it is a yeast doughnut filled with a light custard creme and then the top is bruleed sugar which adds an amazing crunch and flavor. The tres leches one on the right was good, especially compared to your average doughnut, but it was nothing compared to the creme brulee one. The tres leches was a cake doughnut that was filled throughout with like sweetened condensed milk and then covered with a light glaze. It was extremely moist and delicious, but the creme brulee one is truly worth the excursion to the lower east side. I managed to eat my doughnuts in the shop since it was cold outside and not crowded but there is only a small informal seating area- a bench covered with little ceramic doughnuts (too bad I didn't take a photo of that). Even if you are not a doughnut fan, do not make a judgment until you have had a creme brulee doughnut from this place.

Tenement Museum

Following our overnight flight to NYC (I was happy I actually got a few hours sleep! William wasn't as lucky- we were in different rows), dropping our luggage off at our hotel- Fashion 26, we walked over to the Google office. I was able to get a visitors pass and have breakfast there. They had an interesting display of all of these old computers- it was great fun to listen to William and his co-worker reminisce about which machines were their first and favorites. I then headed off on my own to a place recommended to me by my dear friend Lisa was the one who recommended the New York Tenement Museum and she was right- it was really great! The museum is on the lower East side and you have to be part of a guided tour to even make it inside the building. I went on the first tour of the day- the 10:30 am tour entitled "The Moore's" which focused on the overall history of the building, along with a public health angle, of the life of an Irish family. The photo to the left is the actual museum at 97 Orchard. At the time these buildings were constructed, they were not the "ghetto" but one of the nicer working class neighborhoods. The conditions were still quite cramped with families sharing a 3 room apartment and common outhouse toilets in the back. This was actually one of the cleaner tenements since the landlords used to empty the drop toilets if they became too full. But you did have to schlep your water up and down possibly 4 flights of stairs. At the time, the Irish were on the lowest rung of the social ladder and the museum presented us with some traditional Irish folk songs that illustrated the troubles that they experienced first in Ireland and then living over here in the Tenements. Our guide was great and extremely knowledgeable, as well as passionate about the topic. I think that while this is definitely not one of the main tourist attractions, it provides a different view of what life was like for a good portion of New Yorker's.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hoover Middle School Dance Competition

My youngest sister, Sarah, teaches dance at a Hoover Middle School and her kids had their first competition today. I was there for about 3 hours and watched 3 of their dances. I didn't get the first one on video- it was choreographed by her high school teacher's aide.

My sister choreographed this lyrical number. Very elegant and beautiful

Two of her dance officers choreographed this number- I was quite impressed with the number. It was fun and you could tell that the students definitely enjoyed performing it.

Way to go Sarah!! This is her first year teaching middle school at the competition level and I think that she did a great job! I'm lucky that I live in the area and am able to attend events like this :-)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Amano Chocolates

We are so disappointed that we will not be able to attend the International Chocolate Salon this year in San Francisco like we have the past couple of years, but unfortunately, this year it falls on a Sunday so we won't be attending :-( We discovered last year about Amano Artisan Chocolates at the Chocolate Salon and they are actually based in Orem, Utah. We decided to visit their factory store and were not disappointed. They offered several of their chocolate bars as well as their painted truffles. But, the real winner was their toffee. I am not usually a huge fan of toffee, but my mind has been changed after having some of their deliciousness. It was so light, not overly brittle and had the perfect texture, as well as a mild dark chocolate that enhanced the flavor. We bought one bag and I wish we could have bought another one. But, we are happy that we did buy a box of their truffles- we haven't finished them yet, but so far I have mainly enjoyed the key lime one. Check them out if you are in the area- if you are a chocolate fan, it is definitely one that cannot be missed.

Christmas Eve 2010

We spent Christmas Eve with the Kunz Family- we missed you Corey and Bekky!! But we were fortunately able to talk with them via Skype- and we are excited for our new nephew to make an appearance in the next little while.

My mother-in-law made an amazing turkey dinner with all the fixings. And of course, we had the "Brains vs. Brawn" battle as well as the cross bow so it was definitely a successful Christmas. And Santa was EXTREMELY generous with everyone- especially William. He got 6 new video games :-)

And this is just "some" of the candy that we received

My father-in-law, Chris, and Karen enjoying their gifts

While the cross bow was his ultimate favorite, Charlie also LOVED the trucks that he got.

And he was just too cute when he was playing with them, as seen by this video

Stanley was mainly fascinated by Hershey Kisses Candy Canes.

Many thanks to my sweet mother-in-law for helping to make us have a perfect Christmas. We are so lucky to have someone so thoughtful and giving.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Christmas 2010

We are so lucky to be able to celebrate Christmas with BOTH our families. Christmas morning was spent with William's family and then we headed over to my parents in the afternoon. My dad works on Christmas morning and so we open our presents in the evening. We went and saw Tangled as a family (mine and William's second time- SUCH a great show) and then opened gifts. My mom still videos the entire event and has us say some of the major events that happened this year. Well, I said that it was a busy year for me working three jobs to which William chimed in so that we could live in our luxurious 500 square foot apartment :-)

It should be no surprise to anyone the main gifts we received from our families were all FOOD related. Even with sharing our candy with both families, we are still enjoying it and will probably be for the next several weeks. Our other gifts included the Chick-fil-a calendar that has a coupon for a free item once a month (as pictured with us below), Chick-fil-a gift card, gift card to Texas Roadhouse, and AMC movie gift cards

Truly, while we do love all of the food, the best gift we received was being able to spend time with our families.

Spankie's Christmas Miracle

I have mentioned my "puppy" Spankie several times on the blog. We got her when I was a junior in high school- 14 years ago. The years have been tough on this little black dog- she had a hip replacement years ago and that combined with arthritis makes it very difficult for her to get around. It was sad to see her "lose her confidence" and be scared to even walk across the kitchen wood floor sometimes since she can easily lose her footing. My parents have placed rugs strategically throughout the house to help ease this process. Some days she does amazingly well and goes on a long walk; other days, she doesn't want to get out of the car.

About a week or so before Christmas, my parents told me that Spankie had been extremely sick for nearly 5 days. She had horrible gastrointestinal issues and had stopped eating. My parents think that she might have eaten some bad garbage on one of her walks or her roaming around the yard while my parents shovel. Things were looking very terrible for the puppy- like she might not make it before Christmas. But, fortunately, there was a Christmas miracle! She completely recovered from the illness- her appetite returned with a vengeance and she was demanding treats repeatedly from everyone and she resumed her barking for patting. It was amazing to see that my puppy knows me. She doesn't run to the door every time I come home like she used to, but when she hears my voice, she wags her tail and gets all excited and flips over onto her back to have her belly rubbed. She really has become part of our family- the 4th Stults daughter. It meant so much to me to be able to spend a week with her.

Our beloved, spoiled Spankie :-) We are so happy that you are a fighter :-)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hakone Gardens and Kyoto Palace Restaurant

The weather was BEAUTIFUL here on Saturday (for January at least :-) at about 60 degrees so we decided to take advantage of it and do something outdoors. It ended up being our Japan themed day, since both places were in relatively the same area.

We first stopped at Hakone Gardens, which is the oldest Japanese Estate Garden in the Western Hemisphere. It was initially the personal garden and retreat of the Stein family who helped establish the San Francisco Opera. Mrs. Stein traveled around Japan for a year visiting their gardens and wanted to create one for her family in Saratoga, California. It is only $5 to visit the gardens and we were surprised by fairly large number of people visiting. I am sure that the gardens are much more spectacular when the Wisteria is in bloom but it was still quite lovely.

The gardens are perched on a hillside (the drive up is extremely steep- nearly straight up at times) but provides gorgeous views of the surrounding area.

They had a fairly extensive Bamboo garden that was fenced off to prevent local deer from devouring it

The landscaped area in front of the moon-viewing house was definitely the most picturesque

My favorite part was the four waterfalls

It was just a nice, relaxing day- but I would recommend going during the spring/summer time when more of the trees are in bloom.

I have been trying to get us out of our dining out rut- we tend to go to the same places over and over again. In an effort to expand our horizons, had a sale awhile back where you could buy $25 off gift certificates to local restaurants for only $2!! So, I bought several for San Francisco and Mountain View areas. Since Campbell is right next to Saratoga, we chose to head to Kyoto Palace which is a teppanyaki. Downtown Campbell is quite charming- neither of us had been there before so it was fun to walk around before our dinner reservation. We ate fairly early- 5 pm- and there were only a couple of tables that were filled. We actually ended up getting our own private show- aka no other couples were at our grill so it was almost like having our own personal chef. I was most impressed that he was able to flip an egg into the air and then perfectly crack it on the side of his spatula. The food was pretty much like Benihanna, but the meat portions seemed much more generous (to me anyways).

Poor William- he has to put up with my lacking chopstick skills. I have my own technique that works pretty well but William was trying to show me how to do it the proper way. Well, I was struggling with that, so much so that our waitress brought me special "trainer" chopsticks.

They have a paper wedged in between them and are wrapped in rubber bands. So embarrassing that she saw me struggling. It was quite easy to have proper technique with those but when I tried with separated ones, my hand easily tired and I kept losing proper position. I then went back to my old way but my hand were just too tired and so I just ate with my fork for the rest of the meal. William served his mission in Japan so he is quite dexterous with chopsticks so I am very glad that he is patient with me :-)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"I'm Gonna Be a Part of It . . . "

. . . . "NEW YORK, NEW YORK!!" I am truly BEYOND EXCITED for my trip to NYC next Thurs-Sunday with William. The primary reason why I am over-the-moon about it is because I just bought tickets to see "Spider Man", the musical on Broadway!! The music is written by Bono and the Edge and I have been so wanting to see it, and to make things even better, I was able to get an orchestra seat for only- $90!!!!! Thanks to another great Travelzoo theater deal :-) I would have paid that $150 for orchestra seats but I am more than happy to pay $90 so that I can see yet another show. I'm beyond excited- the only thing that would make it better was if Bono and the Edge were there themselves; sadly, they attended the performance earlier this week so they probably won't be there. But, I will be sure to keep an eye out for them :-) I am hoping to see a couple of other musicals while I am there, like The Addams Family and Mary Poppins, as well as going to some museums. If anyone has any recommendations including favorite foods/activities/etc. let me know. Lisa M, I am so sad that you just left NYC to be in Charlotte :-( I have taken your list into account though.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why William is the Favorite Uncle

As if the Rubik's cube was not enough, William decided that he still had to give the best gift to Chris' son, our nephew, Charles. And what better gift for a 2.5 year old then a . . . .

This was the first present opened and kept Charlie- and the rest of the family- entertained for the rest of the night.

The only drawback (or maybe blessing for my brother and sister-in-law) is that Charlie is just a little too weak to fully pull back the launch mechanism. Thus, for the rest of the night, he kept going up to people and asking them to help him get it ready. Then, he would shoot it up into the air (not at people, although his dad Chris kept breaking that rule by shooting William) and each time it would be shot, he would yell "Yess" or "All right!" and then run and get the arrow. This occurred over, and over again all night.

The best is that Charlie calls William "Bill"- but he says it with this southern accent like "Bi-i-ll". It is HILARIOUS! I was going to get it on video, but we didn't end up seeing them another time before we left since their whole family was sick. Not only did he love "Bi-i-ll" for the cross bow, but also for the large bubble sword that he bought him and then went and showed him how to use it outside. The bubble sword was short lived in comparison to the cross bow- I mean who can compete with a great gift like that :-)

Brains vs. Brawn

As many of you know, William has a long standing "special" gift exchange with his brother Chris. I have the "special" in quotes because basically, it means finding the most unusual and/or difficult way to open the present for Christmas.

I call this year "Brains vs. Brawn" and the photos below will illustrate both of these camps.

After William's "snotty" gift last year, he decided that he would go to the opposite extreme this year and give Chris the following challenge: The Rubik's Cube.

As you can see, this is not-your-average Rubik's cube. There are several letters on each square and on every face of the cube.

I thought that it was pretty difficult to follow all of the letters across each face but that wasn't tough enough for William. He then scrambled it all up and gave it to Chris to figure out. William was kind enough to leave the package instructions for Chris, but even then, it stil took him awhile

MEANWHILE- this other part was occurring simultaneously

Chris REALLY wanted to make William work for it this year- from start to finish- and Chris made great use of the resources at his job at the lumber shop. As you can see, besides wrapping up the gift nicely, he also wrapped it in shrink wrap. Under the shrink wrap was this wooden box.

Looks fairly innocent right? WRONG. Not only are there several layers of wood that are nailed together in multiple places, but there is also an extra bonus of a layer of GLUE holding it all together. (FYI- all of the following occurred with the presence of my father-in-law, ensuring that we would not have a special Christmas Eve trip to the emergency room).

William first tried the crow bar with zero impact. He then went for the chisel and hammer, also to no real impact.

Thus, he decided to pull out the power hand saw.

And finally with this, he had some progress- slow, but progress none the less. Chris had warned William at the beginning that there was something "fragile" inside but William had just thought that it was a gift card. So, while the power saw did help him to get inside to the gift, he actually sawed off the top part of his gift.

It's kind of hard to tell but you can see that he cut right through the box of his all time favorite cereal- Reese's Puffs.

While he was able to access them, we did not eat them because we did not want the added "fiber" from the woody shavings that also made it inside the box.


Ultimately, it was a DRAW. Both brothers finished up at the same time- one expended forth more mental energy and the other one physical energy. This being said, I have NO IDEA what they will do to try and top this for next year . . . .

Monday, January 10, 2011

Museum of Ancient Life

My mother-in-law has a membership to Thanksgiving Point and so on Monday January 3rd she took us there to the Museum of Ancient Life. It is a great museum- with so many amazing dinosaur exhibits. We also watched this fascinating film about how they do modern day coal mining- I had no idea just how specialized it was.

We found our dream type of countertop- with iron banded throughout (it looks kind of like gold!)

The dinosaur models were the most impressive. They even had impressive modeling around the display bones, as well as a large number of skeletons.

The powerful T-Rex- definitely the most impressive skeletons at the museum.

And even a baby woolly mammoth

So, while William decided to put sand in his hands,

I decided to go bigger and put the whole world in mine :-)

I highly recommend this museum for those in the Salt Lake/Provo area :-)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

3 Days vs. 3 Hours

As many of you know, William and I love to complete puzzles, especially when we are with his family as we were for about a week. Well, his Aunt Jeannine gave us a puzzle shaped like a Christmas tree and so we decided to complete it, since it was the season and all. This puzzle was the most difficult one we have completed YET even though it was only 500 pieces. It doesn't look that hard, but we weren't even able to complete the edges until nearly the end. Also, they had IDENTICALLY sized puzzle pieces that only slightly varied in color!! When we thought we were at the end, we had to switch out four different pieces since they were in the wrong places. It took us 3 days to complete this puzzle, with 4 people working fairly hard on it (William placed the most effort into it- I could only do a few pieces before I was frustrated beyond belief!). And here is the beast-

So, to regain our confidence, we then undertook this scripture puzzle which restored our faith in our ability to do puzzles since this 500 piece puzzle only took us 3 hours.

This other one took us several hours since we finished it over several occasions- we started it while on vacation at Disneyland and then finished all of the green pieces over the holiday. Still, with the two combined times, it still took MUCH less than that first puzzle.

The group together- all over 1,500 pieces.

If anyone is up for a challenge, let us know because do we have a puzzle for you.

Primary Release

Today I was released as a primary teacher. I have mixed feelings about it- I absolutely LOVED the class that I taught during 2010. They were pretty much my dream class. All of the kids truly cared about learning the gospel- they participated in class and remembered the lessons that I talked about. I did a Jeopardy game for our last lesson of the year (at least with me) and they answered every single question that I asked. I even asked some more obscure ones (worth 500 pts). Even my sister Sarah was impressed when she taught them and how they already knew parts of the story of Jonah and the whale before she had taught them. I was especially sad to see these kids go but they have a great teacher now. One of the girls from my class- Kennan- is moving to Utah. They had a goodbye party for her tonight and it was so fun to be able to see her and talk with her one last time. It was also great to be able to talk with her mother and tell her what a wonderful and amazing daughter she has raised. Her mother told me that Kennan would sometimes offer to do the lessons from our class for family home evening- seriously, what an incredible girl. I feel that I could say the same for all of the kids in my class.

At the same time, I was actually quite relieved to get released because the class that I would have this year is quite difficult. I had them come to my class a couple of times and it was extremely tough- even when I had William with me. I couldn't imagine how I would handle them when it was just myself this year. Maren, give my regards to Ryan and let him know that he is my hero for having that class. It was nice to be able to go to Sunday School and Relief Society after not going for nearly 2 years, but I miss the kids already. At least I am able to still talk with them at church :-)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Books in 2010

Well, I did not come close to my record set last year of 87 books but I was impressed that I was able to come fairly close even with working 3 jobs. For 2010, I read 75 books. The vast majority of the books read towards the end of the year were "kid books" as I like to call them because they are literally found in the children's section of the library. Yet, many of them are so good and to me, of the calibur of Harry Potter. I am a particular fan of the Hunger Games series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and the 39 Clues. I also love the Greg Mortenson books- "3 Cups of Tea" and "Stones into Schools". I have several that I started in 2010 that are still not finished so I have carried them into 2011. Let me know of any "must reads" or if you have any questions about the following list. I echo the quote of Thomas Jefferson- "I cannot live without books", as is evidenced by their appearing in nearly every available space of our 500 square foot studio apartment.
  • In Too Deep- Jude Watson
  • The Black Circle- Patrick Carman
  • Beyond the Grace- Jude Watson
  • The Sword Thief- Peter Lerangis
  • One False Note- Gordon Korman
  • The Maze of Bones- Rick Riordan
  • The Best Medicine- Mike Magee and Michael D'Angel
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth- Jeff Kinney
  • The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales from Africa- Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Battle of the Labyrinth- Rick Riordan
  • The Man Who Lied to His Laptop- Clifford Nass
  • Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellvue- Danielle Ofri
  • The Double Comfort Safari Club- Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Titan's Curse- Rick Riordan
  • Kitchen Confidential- Anthony Bourdain
  • Eat, Pray, Love- Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Age of Empathy- Frans de Waal
  • It's Not the Media- Karen Sternheimer
  • Gang Leader for a Day- Sudhir Venkatesh
  • Spider Bones- Kathy Reichs
  • The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary- Jeff Kinney
  • 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life- Cami Walker
  • The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: Primary Phase- Douglas Adams
  • For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage- Tara Parker-Pope
  • The Sea of Monsters- Rick Riordan
  • The Lightning Thief- Rick Riordan
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days- Jeff Kinney
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw- Jeff Kinney
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules- Jeff Kinney
  • The Lost World- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Who Moved My Cheese?-Spencer Johnson
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid- Jeff Kinney
  • Stones into Schools- Greg Mortenson
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society- Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • Middlesex- Jeffrey Eugenides
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns- Khaled Hosseini
  • The Invisible Gorilla and Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us- Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
  • Getting Things Done- David Allen
  • A Train to Potevka- Mike Ramsdell
  • The Turn of the Screw- Henry James
  • The Woman in White- Wilkie Collins
  • The Alchemist- Paulo Coehlo
  • Exploring the Connection Between Mormons and Masons- Matthew B. Brown
  • The House of Mirth- Edith Wharton
  • So Much For That- Lionel Shriver
  • No Apology: The Case for American Greatness- Mitt Romney
  • Robinson Crusoe- Daniel Defoe
  • Catching Fire- Suzanne Collins
  • Damned Lies and Statistics- Joel Best
  • The Man From Beijing- Henning Mankell
  • The Portrait of a Lady- Henry James
  • On the Road- Jack Kerouac
  • More Damned Lies and Statistics- Joel Best
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Scones- Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
  • In Cold Blood- Truman Capote
  • The Eye of the Leopard- Henning Mankell
  • The Happiness Project- Gretchen Rubin
  • Italian Shoes- Henning Mankell
  • How to Be Alone- Jonathon Franzen
  • Kennedy's Brain- Henning Mankell
  • Glass Ceilings and 100-Hour Couples- Karine Moe and Dianna Shandy
  • The World According to Bertie- Alexander McCall Smith
  • Death By Prescription- Ray D. Strand
  • Love Over Scotland- Alexander McCall Smith
  • Our Daily Meds- Melody Petersen
  • The Therapeutic Nightmare- Morton Mintz
  • Super Freakonomics- Steven D. Leavitt & Stephen J. Dubner
  • Cry, the Beloved Country- Alan Paton
  • Powerful Medicines: The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs- Jerry Avorn
  • Espresso Tales- Alexander McCall Smith
  • What the Dog Saw- Malcolm Gladwell
  • Three Cups of Tea- Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
  • Have a Little Faith- Mitch Albom
  • 360 Degrees Longitude- John Higham

"I'm a Back"

For those not familiar with Super Mario Brothers for Wii, this is what one of the characters says after they die and are allowed to re-enter the game- "I'm a Back". I thought that was the perfect title to begin the blog post after my long hiatus.

Firstly, let me just say that everything is GREAT! I truly do appreciate all of the emails, facebook messages, texts, and in-person requests making sure that everything was okay with us since I wasn't blogging. Let me explain what I have been up to for the past few months. In August, we went on a trip to Utah for the Kunz family reunion and celebrated my 30th birthday with my family. I went European and took a blogging break for that month and I very much intended to resume blogging in September.

However, with 10 days before the beginning of the quarter, Santa Clara University called me and asked if I would be willing to fill in last minute for one of the other full time professors who had an "emergency" (not sure what) but couldn't teach the class. The books had already been ordered (there were 5 and I was only familiar with 2 of them) but I was able to get a very rough syllabus together for teaching Social Problems in the U.S. I really LOVED this class- maybe even a little more than Intro- although I would definitely change some of the readings for next time. But, this class is the reason for my blogging hiatus. I was working 30 hours a week doing qualitative research in addition to teaching the class, which takes up an incredible amount of time to prepare and grade, so any free time I had was not spent on the computer, but squeezing in some cultural adventures- primarily with my husband- to keep my sanity :-) We also spent 2 weeks in Utah for the holidays, together with both our families so much time was spent having fun there. Thus, blogging suffered BUT I'm a back now since I only have ONE job for now- doing research at Palo Alto Medical Foundation- thus leaving me with more time to catalog many of the adventures that we have experienced and will experience.

While I am kind of sad to not be teaching again, since I really do enjoy it so much, I am very happy to have a "break" and reconnect with everyone. Thanks to everyone who has been patient awaiting, and expect much, much more to come for 2011 :-)