Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Sib Fest '016

This past weekend all of my siblings were together for the first time in nearly 4 years. It started with this:

And turned into this:

Sam, Gina, Casey Camille, Lindsay, Rachel, and Katie

Every family should have such a picture, right? I'm going to blow it up and frame it and hang it over my bed. I think we had just finished dancing to Bohemian Rhapsody. You can't tell but we are doing our best Freddie Mercury power stance. This was at our cousin Jared's wedding but it was basically nothing but rock n' roll and good times all weekend long.

We did make a quick trip to the beach and a longer trip around downtown LA, and then there was the wedding. But the best part of the weekend was just sitting around and laughing together. On Friday night we made boysenberry ice cream and watched ridiculous YouTube videos and sat around and laughed for hours until exhaustion hit and it was one of the happiest times I've ever had.

I recognized that it's a rare thing to grow up in a family of 8 kids (remember Erin). And that to most people it seems like a ton. But here's the funny thing. When we are all together I always get a sense of: Is this really all of us? Shouldn't there be more? And I'm not talking about all the people who weren't physically there (Casey's family were the only non-sibs present). It just always feels like there is so much joy and laughter and love that it should take dozens of people to generate it all. We are all keenly aware that to have this kind of relationship is special and I don't think any of us takes it for granted. Thus, the thumb-mic, power stance, joyful picture.

Here, have some more:

Addie and Graham Bone were part of the fun. Here's Graham trying to convince Boe to love him. Boe was skeptical.


I probably should not have put this first because you've no doubt died from the cuteness. Believe me, you don't even know the half of it. Graham is 100% grade A sunshine.

Once you've come back to your senses, here's Addie dancing at the reception.



Before the dancing even started she grabbed my hand and said, "Let's dance!" So we did for a good 20 minutes before anyone else came out to the floor. She just twirled and twirled all night long. That reception was a blast. And I generally loathe wedding receptions. I think they're usually a drag with bad cake to boot. But this was too much fun.

We went to Cantors after the temple and Casey ate a giant meat sandwich.


We also went to Cielito Lindo for taquitos the day before.


Of course we did. This is what Knechts do. Other things Knechts do: talk about maps and routes. Within hours of my two brothers being together they had already discussed a route to circumnavigate the eastern states by boat and the proposed expansion of the Metrolink gold line. 

Here's Addie adoring a taquito.



On our trip to downtown we went to City Hall to check out the view but also made it to the third floor, which I had never been to. And it is a beauty! How have I missed it all the times I've been? The mayor's office is on that floor and Sam and I went in to see if we could meet him. Why not? He wasn't in but the walls were covered with enormous pictures of him in front of iconic places. Which cracked me up. He's a good looking man, sure. But it looked like it was straight out of his portfolio from America's Next Top Model: Civil Servant Edition

Speaking of America's Next Top Model:


We took advantage of not being in stretchy pants and had Kylea snap a few pictures. That's going on the piano for sure.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The confetti cannons bursting in air

The Fourth of July is the best, right? It's like Christmas but you don't have to shop. And it's warm so you can go out and play a heated game of croquet, which we did. And there's home made ice cream and fireworks and you're surrounded by some of your favorite people. And the whole day is infused with that warm glow of patriotism - even in these dark, dark days of a vile, hateful, badly coiffed rock and a hard place with her own email server. As I stood in the church parking lot at 8 in the morning and watched the scouts raise the flag and marveled at how everyone has Americana attire I felt cheery and blessed. It's a pretty great place we live in.

And I kept that feeling all the way up to about 10 P.M. when I turned into a super crank  and nearly yelled out the window, "ENOUGH WITH THE FIREWORKS! GO TO BED, YOU DUMB HOOLIGANS!" They have been going off in our neighborhood for about two weeks now and it was crazy town on Monday night. Like, until midnight. And someone shot off a confetti cannon right in front of our house and our lawn looked like Mardi Gras threw up on it. Now, no one loves a confetti cannon more than I. I am nothing if not a confetti cannon enthusiast. I am, in fact, a little sad I missed it. However, I've never had to clean up after one. I'm glad the neighbors had a great time. But what was I to do with all this confetti in the grass?

This is how I ended up vacuuming my lawn. I got out the shop vac and sucked up all the little pieces like a mad woman. Mr. Across the Street was out as I was doing it but I'm sure he did not think I was crazy because he rakes his lawn every single morning. I'm sure that he understands that desperate times call for desperate measures. It had to have been kind of a funny sight though. But I didn't want to leave it because for one thing it looked trashy. And for another thing, I didn't want our gardeners to have to take care of it. I really love our gardeners. All they're supposed to do it mow and edge the lawns but they do so much more. They weed my vegetable garden, they prune the palm trees, they even take in our trash cans. I really didn't want them to have to deal with confetti. So I vacuumed the grass. It worked like a charm. And what I missed the sprinklers should dissolve in the morning.

And because my neighborhood is still shooting off the odd firework I think it's fine to post a patriotic song. Possibly the greatest of them all.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The smoking barrel

Prepare yourself for what you are about to see:


Oh, that's just me shooting a gun.

I know what you're thinking.  That I was abducted by a duck hunting cult. But I wasn't! I can see how you would come to that conclusion considering my stance on guns. But I try to be reasonable about this, that guns are out there and plenty of good, responsible, not-dumb non-killers own them. And I should be less terrified of them because, to quote Fran from Strictly Ballroom, "A life lived in fear is a life half lived." Not that I'm going to go out an buy one, but I shouldn't cower at the thought of them.

So when Jim, a guy in my ward and a gun enthusiast, invited me and Katie out to go skeet shooting I thought I would be brave and go. Plus, it sounded like fun.

And it totally was! I get why people do it. Yelling, "PULL!" and then firing is kind of thrilling. And we went to the Olympic shooting range out at Prado. I shot where the Olympians shot! The metal podiums are still there! I can't believe I did not get a picture with me standing on them. I'm such a dummy. Next time. There's still a chance that the Olympics will be back in LA in 2024 (oh, please, please, please, please, please! Although shooting won't be at Prado. I know this because I just spent the last 20 minutes looking over the bid and then another 20 minutes imagining me being named #1 Super Star Volunteer of the 2024 Olympic Games.) in which case I can go to the shooting competition and chat with the athletes because I will be an expert by then. I was an okay shot for my first time. Not great, but I didn't totally embarrass myself. My goals was to hit at least one and I far surpassed that. I got bunches of those clay pigeons. Katie did even better.

I would like to say farewell to my right arm though. It was a good 40 year run with it but I'm going to have to have it amputated because HOLY CATS IT'S PAINFUL TO SHOOT. This was not a surprise. Everyone who shoots says this. But that doesn't make the pain go away. Or the welts. Or the bruises that will follow. But I'll carry them as mementos of this day.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Get out of my head, Charles Dickens!

1. I hate to break it to everyone but that Strawberry Moon everyone was talking about the other night may not have been special and rare for the reason they thought it was special and rare. We get a Strawberry Moon every June. That's just the name of the full moon in June. March is the Worm Moon. October is the Hunter's Moon. Any red or pink tint to it was just plain old pollution. Or in our case, smoke. What made this particular Strawberry Moon special was that it came on the summer solstice. That is the rare and special bit. Which means it was the perfect time to get all those pagan rituals checked off your to-do list.

2. I finally got around to changing two sprinkler on the back yard. I've changed one before and it was surprisingly simple so I figured I could do it in a jiff. And I would have, except that when I was unscrewing the broken sprinkler the thingy that it screws into that connects it to the pipe broke off inside of it, thus necessitating: 1. digging an enormous hole around the pipe and what remained of the broken thingy, 2. trying every wrench in the tool chest to get the broken thingy off, 3. driving down to Home Depot with the sprinkler and the broken thingy in a bag, 4. running into my home teacher and go-to gardening guy Rex IN THE SPRINKLER AISLE of all places and 5. having him point out all the things I would need plus getting some helpful tips from him on sprinkler maintenance.  After some minor issues with the new sprinklers (lesson learned: get the kind with the screw-on top) I was good and muddy and the grass is now getting plenty of water. Look at all the things I am learning! Six months ago all I could tell you about sprinklers was that you should avoid running over them with a law mower and now I know all sorts of interesting things. Like, for example, the thingy is called a riser and it is used to adjust the height of your sprinkler in relation to the pipe.

3. I finished Bleakhouse by Charles Dickens. This took my entire life to read. It was 850 pages of the smallest print imaginable. It's basically the size of the Old Testament. But I loved it and miss it because it has been my friend for many weeks. And also because I think I may be the reincarnate Dickens. And here's why. His character Esther said, "I sobbed a little still, but that was because I had been crying, not because I was crying then." THIS IS MY CONDITION! How many times have I cried because I had been crying? Hundreds of times! Crying begets crying. People who don't have this happen to them don't understand this phenomenon but Dickens clearly does. There were many, many times throughout the book where I would sigh and say, "Dickens just gets me." I suppose this is what makes a good writer. The good ones can tell a story far outside your realm and yet connect with you with feelings you recognize instantly. Geez, Dickens. Come back to life so you can be my boyfriend.

4. Joe Cocker's "Feeling'Alright" came on my iTunes this morning, which is always a treat because I love it, and for the first time I noticed the cover art for the album. Prepare yourself:


What is even going on here? There was a meeting, I'm sure. Producers and executives and agents and probably even Joe were sitting around a studio conference room and all of them were like, "I think we should go with the picture where he looks like a cross between Baby Huey and Dr. Frankenfurter." The thing is, this is a pretty accurate depiction of what he looks like when he performs. I always feel super awkward watching him. I won't make you. I'll just post this video of the song with some psychedelic visuals. Let's get your weekend started off right.

Monday, June 20, 2016

"And I can't stand him."

Greetings from Satan's Broiler. It is HOT here. If I left out a pan of fruit puree in the morning I could have fruit leather when I got home from work. Every time I step outside my mind starts screeching, "We're all going to diiiiiiiiiieeeee!!!!!"  And I can feel all the water in my body leaving the extremities for my core to keep my vital organs working. On top of this our mountains are on fire. Which makes for a very cozy armageddon, don't you think. Sometimes California is all, "You think you can tame me. Well, think again, darlings!" And then we are forced to recall that we live in a desert wilderness that's prone to fires and floods and sits on top of a fault line. Hey, come visit! We'll have the air on.

Remember how I last wrote about going to see To Kill a Mockingbird at the Million Dollar Theater and how it was so hot I thought the sweat pooling up on my back was going to soak through my shirt and ruin the faux-leather seats? Well, Lindsay, Susie, and I went to the Theater at the Ace Hotel, another glorious old beauty in downtown, to watch Singing in the Rain and mercifully, it had air conditioning. I mean, I didn't need a sweater or anything but I also didn't require an IV of fluids to rehydrate after the show. And it is so gaudy I could cry. Gaudy in the best possible way. I think the designers came in and said, "I'm thinking King Triton meets Liberace. Let's just filigree the heck out of this thing and go from there!" For the record, if someone compared my decor to Liberace I would think it was the highest compliment.





Ariel? Is that you swimming by? Your dad's pretty mad. 

Fun fact: at one point during its lean years a church bought it. Can you imagine?! 

Before the movie none other than Gene Kelly's wife came out and told us some stories about the movie. Now, before you start wondering how they wheeled a hospital bed out onto the stage because of her advanced age, let me tell you that he was 77 when they married in 1990 ...and she was 31. Which means that she wasn't even alive when Singing in the Rain came out. No judgement. Gene Kelly oozes charisma.

Isn't Singing in the Rain just the best? Don't you feel so happy when you watch it? This is actually the second time I've seen it in a fancy theater. I watched it several years ago at the Egyptian in Hollywood (sadly lacking in excess filigree) and I've watched it a couple times at summer movies in the park. Watching it with a crowd is the best because it really increases my love for the human race when I hear people laughing at parts I laugh at.



via GIPHY

Thursday, June 9, 2016

More seersucker, please

Success of the week: I watched To Kill a Mockingbird and I didn't sob openly, as I normally do. I mean, I cried because I have a soul, but it wasn't my normal blubbering. This is probably because I was watching it in the Million Dollar Theater in LA which was built in 1918 and they didn't think about air conditioning back then so all of the moisture that would have gone to tears had been sweated out. I mean, I'm sure that they did think of air conditioning in the abstract as in, "Geez, this cotton petticoat is a killer. I wish that this gorgeous building had some kind of internal cooling system. Well, I'm glad I brought my fan from Olvera Street." As I assume Olvera Street was the number one source for cheap decorative fans back in Days of Yore as it is today. So there's no air conditioning in the Million Dollar Theater and you can really feel it when you're sitting on faux leather seats with a few thousand other sweltering saps. As we were herding ourselves out through the lobby into the cool night air there was also a very pungent aroma of marinating human emanating from us all.

And yet, while we were watching the courtroom scene I really got how those people must have felt sitting in there on a hot southern summer afternoon. So maybe there is air conditioning and the good people of the Los Angeles Conservancy were just trying to create atmosphere.  Well done, guys!

Also there for atmosphere: Atticus' seersucker suit coat:


I will say this forever, you just can't beat a seersucker suit and I wish that more men would wear them. They are so genteel.

Here's something funny, I got the idea that there were several people in the theater who had never read nor seen To Kill a Mockingbird. Because there were audible gasps when the verdict was read and when Bob Ewell attacked the kids. Does this seem possible? I know that my love for both the film and the book border on crazy but did these people not go to school? Isn't it required reading? It made me want to ask someone what else they had never read. And then I wondered what reading gaps do I have that would shock people. Watership Down? 1984? Animal Farm? The Hobbit? (Although I have really tried with that one.)

Before the show we went to the finally re-opened Clifton's Cafeteria. And when I say cafeteria, I'm not kidding. You walk down rows of food with your tray and pick up what you want. I had the meat loaf and apple pie because what else would you get at a cafeteria? This place has been around for decades but it closed for remodeling several years ago and took forever to reopen so I was excited to go. The food was good and plentiful, but pricey. I suppose you're paying for nostalgia and all the kitsch. It is Kitsch Heaven. And a place for all your taxidermy dreams to come true. We ate right next to a stuffed raccoon. We were running late for the show so we didn't get a chance to look around as much as we had hoped but I don't think it's going anywhere so I feel pretty good about my chances of going back. I've heard they have a meteorite there which I obviously need to see. And Ray Bradbury spent years hanging out there, writing and holding court, and you can sit in his booth. Confession: Bradbury was a gap in my reading until a few years ago when I finally got around to Fahrenheit 451

Monday, June 6, 2016

Summer of Culture

1. On a trip to Utah last weekend we got to celebrate Camille's birthday with fancy tacos at Oteo in Lindon and fancy ice cream at Taste in Provo. Look, I generally prefer cheap tacos and ice cream. In fact, once the price starts to go up on a taco you begin to wonder if people even know what a taco is. But these were gooooood. Even a great taco can be improved with a homemade tortilla. Okay, all of life is improved with a homemade tortilla. I should learn how to make them, right? But I'm not going to get a fancy taco press because I am opposed to kitchen tools that only do one job if that job can be done with a multi-purpose tool you already own. Avocado scooper/slicer? Junk, if you have a spoon and a knife.

2. Aside from Camille's birthday we were up in Utah for Tom's baptism.

This kid. There isn't a sweeter human being on the planet. He is loving and generous and funny.

3. Speaking of sweet kids, I went back to Upland last night to see the kids from my first seminary class graduate, to openly weep over them, and to refrain from bursting into an overly-dramatic rendition of Sunrise, Sunset. They're awesome. I mean, each and every one of them is just fantastic. I was pretty nervous to teach seminary and these kids made it (relatively) easy. Oh how I love them.

4. The summer of cultural events has begun. Don't you just love all the fun things that you do during the summer? Concerts and plays and outdoor movies. Winter Rachel is all, "Bed. Cocoa. Cozy nights in, please." But Summer Rachel is all, "Let's go out and be enriched in the sunshine and the cool evening breezes." Last week Katie, Lindsay, Susie and I went to see 42nd Street in Hollywood. I've seen it before but let me tell you, I would see it a million times because: tap dancing. It is packed with tap dancing. And there is nothing more joyful than 40 people tap dancing in sparkly outfits to Irving Berlin songs. If it comes your way you have to see it. Locals, it's playing at the Pantages for a few more weeks. Treat yo self.

5. And treat yo self to this picture of Ron Swanson and Prince Harry after a polo match with Prince William awkwardly waving in the background.


I wonder where polo ranks on the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

We all know what you're thinking, Mr. Whiskers



I desperately want this to be a real thing. But it is unnecessary.

Because we all know what your cat is thinking. And it is this:

"I hate you. You're dumb and ugly and you annoy me. If you weren't the one providing my food I would sit on your face until you stopped breathing. And then I would eat your face. I know you tell your friends that I'm the best cat and I don't walk on the counters but I totally walk on the counters. You think squirting me with a water bottle is going to stop me? Think again, bozo. You know I have poop on my paws, right? I go and stomp around in my own poop and then I walk all over you and your pillow. Or I lick my paws and then I lick some of the fruit in your fruit bowl. Not all of the fruit, because I'm playing with your mind. You'll never know which of your apples has my poopy saliva all over it. And I absolutely put that fur on your toothbrush on purpose. I've been planning your demise for years. Go jump off a cliff."

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

You know, a rally.

Well, the Russians are at it again. Those doping, low-down sneaks! Will they stop at nothing to win?! In a nutshell there was a whole clandestine government-sponsored switcheroo going on with urine samples at the Sochi Olympics. The guy who was forced by the Kremlin to run it and then forced to resign once it came out has had to flee for his life to sunny LA (do you think I could meet him?), which was a smart move considering that two of his colleagues mysteriously died just months after the story broke. There's been a call to ban Russia from the Olympics. I will sign that petition. Should we have a rally or something? Let's make t-shirts and have a rally. Stop messing with my Olympics, Russia!

Do you also think of this scene from An American Tail when you hear the word rally? I have literally only seen that movie once and yet it comes to mind every single time.


Plus, it's Madeline Kahn, which naturally leads me to think of this:


via GIPHY

Speaking of flames on the side of my face: I think my allergies are trying to tell me something, and that something is that they hate me and want me to be miserable and live the rest of my life as a sniffly, snotty, droopy-eyed zombie who doesn't have any friends because I've driven them all away with my constant nose-blowing and throat-clearing and awkward ear-scratching. It is the worst it has ever been, folks. If I were a cartoon character I would have a cloud of pollen over my head and beehives coming out of my ears.

I had a student in the institute a few weeks ago who had a bad cold and sniffed - and I'm not exaggerating because I timed them - about every 20 seconds. And I put up with it for an hour. AN HOUR!! Finally, I couldn't take it anymore so I went over to him with a box of tissue and said, "Darling Child, I know you're feeling miserable, but either you blow your nose or you leave the building because I can't handle your sniffing any longer." And he apologized and then DIDN'T BLOW HIS NOSE AND CONTINUED TO SNIFF!!! Only quieter but I could still hear him because I am a neurotic human being with mutant selective hearing. So I kicked him out. And when I pointed him toward the door he said, "Where am I supposed to go?!" I told him I didn't know but not to the library and not to class and not around any other human beings because he clearly did not care that he was gross and germy and totally unfit for society. One of my job responsibilities is to help these kids be functioning adults and one of the realities of adulthood is that when your nose is full of boogers, you blow it. I am absolutely going to needlepoint that.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dole Whip It Good

Gina, Chris, and Levi came into town this weekend. As you might know, Chris teaches ballroom dance at UVU and his touring team was in town to perform at Disneyland so Gina and Levi tagged along and then I tagged along when they went to the park.

Some observations:

1. Levi was both apprehensive and thrilled with the day. Mostly thrilled. Autopia was a mistake because we told him that he would get to drive a car and he took that to mean that he had to actually drive a car and the look on his face as he was driving was just too much. Like at any moment he would lose concentration and they would crash and the day would be ruined. Gina eventually took over. I remember having the exact same reaction when I was a kid although that could have been because my dad would shout out, "We're going to run into those rocks! Keep turning!!" He also loved to tell us that those were actual cannonballs being shot at us on Pirates of the Caribbean. It took years to not instinctively duck. 

2. I saw MANY middle aged men roaming the park alone, most of them in Disney gear. Um, what gives? I know that plenty of people love Disney with a fiery passion and, as I discovered later that night, there is a bit of joy in being by yourself at the park - who loves a solo adventure more than I? - but don't these fellas have jobs? Maybe they're all independently wealthy eccentrics, in which case why didn't I befriend one in the hopes of finally finding a Wealthy Benefactor. Dumb, Rachel. Really dumb.

3. So you know there's an app that tells you the wait time for rides. But did you know that it also tells you the wait time for a Dole Whip? Technology has changed our lives in so many delightful ways. 

4. The Peter Pan line is always the longest. But it is also always worth it because Peter Pan for president, is what I say. 

5. Gina reminded me as we were in line for Small World that she was the first person I went on that ride with. The same could be said for most of the rides. I've spent more time at Disneyland with Gina than anyone else. We should get matching ears or something to commemorate. 

6. The rest of the gang went home to put Levi to bed but I wanted to see the parade and fireworks so I stuck around. The crowd had already gathered but I just made my way to a good location and asked whatever group looked the friendliest if I could squeeze in with them. I was between a elderly couple from Arizona and a cute little family from up north. We became fast friends. The beauty of Disneyland is that most people are genuinely happy to be there. They're tired, but they're full of good cheer.

7. A warning to people who take videos of firework shows: prepare to be judged! (Ahem) What are you doing with your life?! You're wasting it, is what you're doing. Fireworks are definitely one of those things that are better enjoyed in the moment and not through the small screen of your phone. And certainly not the next day on that phone. You miss what makes fireworks great: the flash of light on your face and the boom that you can feel in your chest. Taking a video of fireworks is like putting your uneaten french fries in a take-away box. Nobody really enjoys french fries the next day. And are you ever going to watch that video? You're not! And heaven help the poor sap you try to show it to. A fully grown woman who has probably seen dozens of firework shows in her lifetime was standing in front of me and drained her battery recording the entire spectacle. And guess what I just did right this minute? I looked up "Disneyland Fireworks 2016" on YouTube and found several videos of the full show. Look, do what you want with your life, but remember that while you're recording there is a short girl standing behind you, judging you as she jostles around looking for a better view other than through your phone. (End of Judgement.) (Who am I kidding. I will never stop judging you on this!)

8. Look at this face: