Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Throw some potatoes in a pan...

Here is a title of an article that recently came through on a cooking e-mail I subscribe to:  "Make the perfect hash browns without a recipe." Wait just one hot second. What sad soul needs a recipe for hash browns in the first place?! Hash browns are literally the easiest thing you can make after toast. (Aside: a piece of toast very nearly burned down my entire apartment last week, but that was a toaster malfunction, not a cooking malfunction.) You guys, there are people in this world who are like, "I'd love some hash browns right now but I just don't know how to make them."  Does this blow your mind? Having read the article I think what they actually meant was, "Here are some tips to make better hash browns because you already know the mechanics of it and are not a total dum dum  in the kitchen." Who wants hash browns now?

While we're on the topic of cooking, I think I have successfully perfected the recipe for a single serving homemade mac and cheese. I love mac and cheese, Katie does not. So it's not like I can make a whole pan of it. Plus I don't like left over mac and cheese because it turns into a mushy, greasy mess when you reheat it. So I've had to become resourceful and shrink down a recipe for the cheese sauce to just one serving. I'm talking minuscule amounts of everything. It's delicious, folks. And it's fast. I can get it done in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Which was perfect for last night because I was so very cold that the idea of waiting for soup to simmer was unbearable. And look, I know it's not -7, or whatever else you living in the Arctic North are dealing with but you have to admit that we Southern Californians are suffering a little when the road to San Diego is backed up because of SNOW!

Still more cooking: I made butter chicken the other night and it was just alright. Which makes that my second attempt at an Indian dish with only middling success. So now I'm convinced that Indian is one of those ethnic foods that is better ordered then made. I'll admit I had this thought as I was paying $7 for garam masala when there was a perfectly good Indian restaurant right next door that would sell me chicken tikka masala for just a few bucks more. We live, we learn, we have barely used spice jars in our cupboards.

Happy New Years, you beautiful people!! Treat yourself right.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Crime Scene Investigation

My friend Jen needed to get out of the house so Katie, Heather, Cindy and I took her up to Griffith Observatory on Saturday. I would just about say that if you're visiting this fair city and you're going to see just one thing, this should be it. The building is spectacular, the views are incredible, at night they point the telescope at some beautiful celestial object, it's free, and it's all about outer space. If the parking weren't an abysmal nightmare it would be perfect. We attempted to get up the hill but the line of cars was so long that we turned around and parked down at the entrance to Griffith Park and took the shuttle up. 

It was so beautiful up there. We saw the Tesla coil fire up, learned about why Pluto isn't a planet anymore (I'm not as broken up about this as you might think. You're still a great little icy object, Pluto. Don't get down about it.), and stood on the parapet and marveled at how lovely the city looked. And it was so clear we could practically see the buffalo roaming on Catalina Island (non-locals: that's very far away and we get a lot of coastal fog that normally blocks the view. And yes, there are actual buffalo up there, left over from a film shoot long ago.)

And now we have come to the part of the story that is REALLY INTRIGUING! As I mentioned we took the shuttle up but the line to take the shuttle down was so long that we decided to walk. It was a lovely day and it's just a little more than a mile downhill, easy. We all commented on how there were no cars coming up the road and how odd it seemed that on such a busy day and just a few hours before sunset the traffic had stopped. Then just before we got to our car we passed by a public bathroom at the entrance of the park and noticed that there was a small crowd of people and police tape around the building. 

And then we saw the dead body. Yep, there was a dead body, covered, to our relief, but dead just the same. He was a tall man and his poor feet were sticking out from under the sheet. There was no ambulance, only a couple of police cars so it had to have just happened. The small crowd looked to be mostly curious teenagers and no one seemed particularly distraught which makes me think he was alone. There didn't seem to be any blood. Oh Knights of Columbus, if there had been blood....Was he homeless? A hiker enjoying the sunshine? Was he murdered? Did he have a bad heart? I can't stop thinking about him. I still don't know what happened. And I'm not sure I ever will because I learned the hard way that you should never google "dead body found in Griffith Park." Yeesh!

We drove out past the long line of cars trying to get in, none of them knowing that the police had blocked the road. But how do you let dozens of carloads of people know that the first 5 minutes of Law & Order is going on up ahead?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Gift of Gab

Merry Christmas, Friends!

We started this Christmas Eve as we do every year, by going to the Avocado House and pouring caramel syrup over everything.

My gift to you is this link to the greatest Christmas skit SNL has every done:  The Sweeney Sisters' Bells Medley. That clip has a tendency to not be online ever so watch it a good 10 to 12 times just to get your fill because who knows how long it will be here.

I think you're great and I hope that your Christmas is filled with every good thing, especially the light of Jesus Christ. He is the best gift.

 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A wormhole that ended at fudge

I turned the radio to the classical station just as the 1812 Overture was coming to the bells and cannon part. Naturally, I risked future deafness and cranked the volume up to 11 because that part has to be LOUD in order to fully enjoy it. The windows have to rattle or you're doing it wrong. At the end of it the announcer said that the song commemorated the Russian defense against Napoleon, which I didn't know. So I looked up the battle and then fell into a Wikipedia wormhole that started out with:

-the 1812 Overture. It was played as the inaugural performance at Carnegie Hall and conducted by Tchaikovsky himself. Then moved on to

-the War of 1812 (not related, although Napoleon played a part in both)(war is so dumb) and then moved on to

-the practice of impressment by the British of American sailors. They would literally park next to ships docked off the American coast and climb aboard and sniff out any British born sailors who had taken on American citizenship and force them come back and fight for the Empire. This did not go over well. From there is was a quick hop over to

-US and British naval ships. We had one called the USS Frolic, which seems like kind of a pansy name for a war ship, but the British had the HMS Reindeer. That doesn't even make any sense! Then a quick stop through

-Dolley Madison saving my favorite picture of Washington. It's called the Lansdowne portrait but I like to call it the "Well, here's this table, I guess." portrait because his expression says it all. It was his poor teeth! And then I read up on

-Naval Battles of the Great Lakes, including the Battle of Mackinac Island which made me giggle a little because I really wanted them to all eat fudge afterwards. Except that fudge wasn't invented yet. How do I know this?

-Because fudge was my next stop. Did you know that it's an American invention? And that it became popular through women's colleges like Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith ("Go to Smith?! She couldn't even spell it.") The Vassar recipe appears to be the original but it's tricky and you could end up with grainy fudge. Ugh, the worst! It was the Wellesley girls who added the marshmallows.

Who wants to come over for a fudge making party where we try out all three recipes and see who is the victor? We'll wear frilly aprons over our tweed skirts and form-fitting sweaters and in between tastings we'll fiddle with our pearls and talk about which boys we danced with after the Harvard/Yale game.

And we'll listen to the 1812 Overture to bring this baby full circle.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Crafty

It was a crafty Thanksgiving season. Which is great because when I choose to do crafts during Christmas time I tend to find myself hunched over a pile of felt in tears because my fingers are so sore from stitching. But, just like my shopping, all of my crafts were done before December even started. I cannot emphasize enough how totally unlike me this is. But I've been feeling the old Christmas spirit since before Halloween so maybe that had something to do with it. If it did not go against my very nature I would have had all the decorations up in time for trick or treaters. 

First up, this wreath. 


I love it. I made it several weeks ago because I talked more at my ward's Christmas Craft Saturday than crafted and I was feeling unfulfilled. It doubles as a fall and Christmas wreath because GOLD! It's sparkly and the bonus of this is that after I made it I shook out the towel I was working on onto my stairwell and now the steps are covered in glitter. I hope all of my neighbors feel like royalty as they lug their laundry out. I know I do. True story: this is the first wreath I've ever made and hung and I like the look of it so much that I may turn into one of those crazy Pinterest ladies and have seasonal wreaths all year long. Somebody better stop me because I don't have any room in my wee apartment to store the off-seasons.

Up next, the stockings. I've made all of my nieces and nephews stockings. But I've failed that last two years at getting Addie's done so that was priority number one:


You can't really tell from this picture but she has embroidery floss pig tails. Cute!!! 

And here's Phoebe's:


That bunny kills me! 

Can we just take a moment to admire my lettering? I have the ugliest handwriting, it has zero grace or charm and I really believe it's the one thing that is holding me back from a true Life of Elegant Leisure. But I can't tell you how proud I am of my stitched writing. It was not always so. But the gift of the steady hand was with me that night. Christmas miracle!!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Naturally, I have opinions on Christmas trees.

At one point during the Thanksgiving feast we all found ourselves in tears and I thought, well this is exactly how a Knecht party is supposed to be, right. I mean, we laugh and then we cry and then we laugh some more. Which is to say that it was such a lovely day filled with family and pie. And I have many, many things to be grateful for. Family and pie being two of them.

The rest of the weekend has been jammed with Christmas prep. This is going to sound outrageous to you but I'm almost entirely done with my shopping. I know! I'm going to admit that there are many years when I'm still wrapping things up on Christmas eve. But I got brave today and knocked most of it out. Brave because I just really hate shopping. Also, most of the things I'm making for Christmas are also done. You guys, it's not even December yet! I finished Addie and Phoebe's stockings and they are darling. Pictures to follow, after I get back from Utah next week and hand them off. Mom, Lindsay and I are taking a super quick trip up there to meet Phoebe and to see Casey, Kylea, and Addie before they move to Oregon. In case you're wondering, that's now two states I'm in a fight with because people I really love live there instead of here.

What are your feelings on Christmas tree decorations? I am of the opinion that they should be random and quirky. I think it's lovely to have a themed tree with matchy ornaments. But it's more homey and Christmasy to have an assortment of ornaments you've picked up along the way. The only time I've done a themed tree was when I had first moved out and didn't have any decorations except for one giant disco ball ornament so I went out and bought about 50 more disco balls in various sizes and hung them on the wee little tree that I picked up in front of Stater Bros. It was so glorious. But that was many years ago and now I'm bursting with weird ornaments that friends have given me. The Art Society were over this morning and they helped me and Katie decorate the tree. They got a kick out of the weirder ones, like the pig on skis.

This weekend I have watched 3 of my favorite Christmas movies. White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, and the Muppets Christmas Carol. Let the month of festivities commence!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Watching and Listening

Remember in the last post how I said I had to settle for ham because Costco was slowly killing my soul and I had to get out of there before tracking down the turkey? Well, jokes on me, because that ham was the best second-choice purchase I ever made. We had our annual Thanksgiving feast at the Institute today and that ham was a champ. There was no repeat of the "warm gelatinous ham fat" episode from last year because there was no bone to deal with, or gristle, or giant clumps of fat. I didn't gag once while carving it. Tis a Thanksgiving Miracle!

Total change of subject, because it's time for my first ever Israeli television series recommendation to you. I know, I know. But stick with me here. It's called Srugim, it's on Hulu, and it's really good. It's like Friends if Friends was set in the orthodox Jewish community of Jerusalem. But it's not like Friends because it's not a sitcom. And no one is sleeping around because men and women can't even touch unless they're married or related. You'll have to deal with subtitles but you're cultured and literate so that's no problem. I watched the first two seasons over three days in the summer and now the third is out. On top of being a really great show with loveable and believable characters, you also have the bonus of learning all about Sabbath customs. Like, did you know that they can't cut things on the Sabbath so they have to tear off sections of toilet paper the day before. And you thought that Mormons were strict with their Sabbath observance.

While I'm on the subject of media I can't get enough of, have you been listening to the podcast Serial? It's the story of a guy convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend. Except that we don't actually know if he did it or not. I have to be careful with when I listen to it because I don't want to have to stop in the middle of an episode. It's great for the gym. And for my drive to and from work. What I really need is for someone to listen to it so that I can sit down with them and say, "Can you believe Jay?" "What about that phone call that Adnan made?" "Man, these kids smoked a lot of pot." If you've been listening, do you think he did it?

And finally, one more media related topic. This time, a confession. I've been listening to Christmas music for the last week. I've broken my long-held vow of no Christmas before Thanksgiving but you know what, I'm not ashamed so you can just stop judging, okay. Roll out the holly!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Huggin' and a Chalkin'

1. Stacy sent out this clip asking us if we remember Grandpa singing it.

Um, only every single time he was around.



Sometimes all it takes is for someone to say "a huggin' and a chalkin'" or "over the mountain" and we absolutely lose it.

2. I had 4 cars towed today from my work parking lot. We've had a real problem with ne'er-do-wells  parking without a permit, smoking pot, drinking, getting into fist fights, and giving us a bad name with the neighbors. It's a private lot so our only recourse is to tow. They're not our students, they're just MtSAC students who find the seclusion of the place perfect for loitering. So I thought I'd crack down. I always feel really great about it until I feel like a jerk about it. But they're the ones breaking the law, right? And I give out lots of warnings before towing. Which most of them promptly crumple up and toss on the ground. The first time I ever had a car towed the owner came in about an hour later, understandably upset, and said, "I thought you guys were a church. Jesus would never tow a car." Well, I think he would. And then he'd hug you and help you find the impound lot.

3. I heard this morning that people spend 2-4 hours a day texting. TWO TO FOUR HOURS A DAY!! This is absolutely astounding to me. I think I sent one text today. Which means I spent about 30 seconds on it. What are these people texting about? I get bored texting after just 1 minute. If you find that you are in this 2-4 hour range will you please contact me because I am legitimately curious as to what you are texting all day.

4. I braved Costco today and wanted to die. Why don't they have signs on the aisles? Why is that fresh produce room so cold? Why isn't there a single person that I can ask for help? Why did 2 people tell me that I would find the pre-cooked turkey breasts in the meat section but not a single one would come back to show me? I went there specifically for the pre-cooked turkey breasts!! I had to settle for ham because I was so tired of searching. I made it half way through my list and decided to holler uncle and get the rest of the stuff at Smart and Final. You win, Costco.  You always do.

5. Here's another song Grandpa loved. He was always whistling Big Noise from Winnetka:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wanted: A Cave

Farewell everyone! I'm moving to a cave in the wilderness to live the rest of my days in peaceful, technology-free bliss. If you need me I can be reached by pack mull.

Why the dramatic reaction, Rachel? Well, I'll tell you. Our modem went out yesterday. And it's a very long and boring story and you all know well because technology problems plague all of our lives, not just the lives of people who are dumb about it (me!), so I won't bore you. But I'll just say that it took four very frustrating hours of my life to fix it, no thanks to anyone at Best Buy, Verizon, or the tech support in India. It's fixed and I'm smarter for it. But I've had to use almost all of my decompression techniques to get back the old Bluebird of Happiness, namely a long hot shower (sorry CA water supply. Blame India), toast, hot chocolate, and You've Got Mail. And now writing.

Here's my question: have any of you ever had a satisfactory call with tech support? I mean, has your problem actually been resolved with any sort of ease? Because I can't think of a single instance where it has for me. I've either been told that there's nothing they can do about it and that I'm just going to have to buy a whole new whatever or I'm told that it's going to take a bazillion dollars to be fixed. All I want is, just once, for someone to say, "Sure we can fix that. Easy peasy." And I want it done in 10 minutes max. Why does every tech call have to last an hour? And it doesn't matter if I'm calling some place in America or being routed to a call center in India. It always takes an hour and it never works out. And, as I realized tonight, the answer I was looking for is probably online. I just googled it and within 15 minutes the problem was solved. I desperately wish that I had thought of that before calling India.

On that note, did you know that in order to work in one of those Indian call centers they have to have a college degree. And that they're the most coveted jobs in India. And did you also know that 50% of the population there does not have a toilet to call there own? That means that 500 million people are pooping in the gutter. And a job at a call center can literally raise a family out of that sort of poverty. Can you imagine getting a job and saying, "Well, maybe we can finally live in a place with a toilet. Celebrate!"

I guess what I'm getting at is that it's been a very frustrating night and a cave in the wilderness is still sounding very appealing. Just one with indoor plumbing.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

YPS

1. If you've finished marathoning Gilmore Girls on Netflix and you're looking for something interesting to watch try Women in Space from the Makers series on PBS. Did you know that when the government was looking for people to go into space back in the 50s they considered sending up women, simply because they were lighter and would therefore need less fuel, food, and room in the capsule. They put several women through the same tests as they did the men and found that on top of being just as competent in math and science they also handled isolation better and complained less. But you know, politics and men. And thus a few decades passed before scientists had to figure out what to do with a woman who has to pee in zero gravity (this is one of the funniest moments in the film). If you are looking for a real endorsement of this, here it is: Katie was engrossed by it. And Katie really hates space.

2. We had the missionaries over for dinner tonight and Katie made Yummy Pumpkin Stuff, or YPS, for dessert. It was so delicious that one of the elders, in a prayer he offered before leaving, gave thanks for it. As in, "We're grateful for this meal, especially the YPS."

3. Confession time: I really like it when we have Daylight Saving and it gets darker earlier. I just do, okay. It feels cozy and makes me want to go to bed earlier, which is just grand. The last 3 nights I've been in bed by 10.

4. I had the worst charley horse of my LIFE last night. My leg cramped for a solid 5 minutes. I woke up screaming. This is unusual as I do not usually cry out when I'm in pain. But I definitely screamed multiple times last night. When it was all done I sat up and tried to catch my breath and the first thought that came to mind was, "Charley horse is such a weird name for this. I wonder where it comes from." Nobody really knows except that they think it comes from a baseball player named Charley Hoss who would regularly get cramps.

5.  I went to a surprise party for my friend Laura's birthday. I've never been to her house before but I had an address. So I parked my car and walked up her street and because it was so dark and none of the house numbers were lit I had to walk up everyone's drive and peer at their porches to see the number. But guess what you look like when you peer at someone's porch in the dark. A creeper. To make matters worse several of her neighbors were sitting just beyond the door and could see me looking in at them. Please apologize for me, will you Laura. And happy birthday.


Monday, November 3, 2014

The Cutest Pumpkin in Town

Well, I finally have a reason to like Halloween again. This little pumpkin showed up in time for trick or treating:


Welcome Phoebe Marie!!!!!! She had dark hair under that hat. And you may notice that she has a hint of the Orient about the eyes, much to the delight of Stacy. She has been praying for those eyes. I realize that most babies have a bit of the squishy eye but hers seem to be sticking. Sam and I would be thrilled to pass the torch to another generation. Phoebe, may you have many years of being asked by your grade school classmates if you're Chinese. (Do yourself a favor and click on that link. It is, without question, the funniest thing I've ever put on this blog.)

I was going to put up a manifesto here about how horrible Halloween has become but I can't word it in a way that doesn't make me sound like a cranky 80 year old. I mean, I am, but I don't want to be a total buzzkill. Instead, I'll just say this: please stop dressing your kids up like they've stepped out of a slasher movie. There is enough evil and violence in the world. Why would you want your 8 year old looking like they're about to murder someone?

On a happier note, my mom completely won Halloween.


She had ankle surgery 4 months ago and has gotten a lot of mileage out of that scooter. But I think she finally has found the greatest use for it. Boe is pretty cute in this too.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Not quite a pile of ash

In my last post I said we would talk about how I don't think it's much of a compliment when someone says, "You can NOT be 39." So let's.

I actually get this comment a lot because I spend my days surrounded by the Very Young who have no concept of age. To whom, in fact, 39 is nigh unto death. I remember being young and thinking that 40 would be the end of it all. So I get it.

I absolutely know this is meant at a compliment, but here's the subtext: "I think 39 is old and I'm so impressed with how you're not turning into a pile of ash right before my very eyes like that guy who chose the wrong cup on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." What's behind it all is that there's something wrong with being 39 and for now I've escaped it by looking younger than what they think 39 should look like. Folks, there's nothing wrong with being 39. Just like there's nothing wrong with being 16 or 52 or 78 or 3. Why do we feel like we have to cheer people up by telling them that they don't look their age. What if I want to look my age? I worked hard for this age! Those wrinkles around my eyes mean that I have spent a lifetime laughing.

"But Rachel," you ask, "what if I don't want to look my age?" Then dye you're hair and buy some face cream. I want you to feel good about yourself. But what I don't want is for you to think that there's something wrong with you simply because you've lived to be a certain age. On that note, lately I've seen advertisements for face creams that say what they're really doing is improving you. Which is just a bunch of baloney. Your wrinkles neither add to nor subtract from your value.

Don't think that it's not lost on me that I'm constantly referring to myself as an 80 year old woman, or that I have complained about feeling the effects of age (hello, arthritic shoulder!) But know that I don't think it's the end of the world. Plus, I'm jealous of the 80 year old ways. I'm going to be that sassy old lady, so you have about 10 years before I start saying what I really think.

I kind of want to get a group of people together and ask them exactly what it is about aging that makes them so uncomfortable. Is it the gray hair? Is it the thought of death? Is it that things stop working and their knees are creaking and there are weird bumps showing up in random places? Or is it that we have been conditioned to think that aging is bad? Do they genuinely feel like there is something wrong with getting older? I'm really curious about this. Who wants to be in my focus group? We'll eat cookies afterwards and watch the Golden Girls.

While we're on the subject, doesn't it just bum you out when you get excited for someone's birthday and they're all, "Ugh, yeah. Let's not talk about it." I mean, there is cake and celebrating in their future and all they can think about is the price of burial plots. We've got to stop this madness!

So I'm issuing a challenge. When you learn someone's age, instead of saying, "Wow! You do not look it." I want you to say, "Congratulations! Keep up the good work!" And when mentioning your age, stop looking like such a sad clown about it. Think of how smart you are for always wearing a seat belt and putting on sunscreen. You did it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My standard of beauty

Does anyone else feel sort of bad for Renee Zellweger and her new face? Like, what is she feeling today now that those pictures are out and she looks drastically different and everyone is all, "Hmmm. Ummm. Whaaaaaat?" Do you think she went to the event hoping that people would just comment on how youthful she looked? And now she's home crying into her scrambled egg whites because that was absolutely not the reaction? It's just awful to think about. I feel doubly bad because I've been guilty of commenting on her old face, thus adding to the obvious problem that these poor women in Hollywood have to care so much about their looks that they end up doing things to themselves that make them nearly unrecognizable. I've repented and won't say mean things about faces anymore. I'm sorry Renee. It was a perfectly lovely face. I hope you really, truly love your new one.

Which brings me to my complicated thoughts on altering our looks. On the one hand I wish that we could all just age with grace and perspective and wisdom, embracing our wrinkles and sun spots and dark circles and love handles and gray hair and still have the Bluebird of Happiness in our hearts to keep us young and fresh. And on the other hand I think that if you're truly unhappy about the way something looks, I mean really down in the dumps, you should have the freedom to change it. I wear mascara, don't I? Because I like the way it makes my eyes open up. Is there a difference between wearing mascara and getting botox injected into your forehead (other than botulism)?

I suppose the difference is that I can leave the house without mascara on. While I almost always wear it I don't think I'm a deformed short-lashed freak without it. It doesn't alter who I know I really am, is what I'm saying. The other day I slept through my alarm and woke up 10 minutes before seminary started (heart attack!!!). I had 5 minutes total to get ready which means that I had to cut it down to the bare essentials: clean clothes and brushed teeth.  I didn't even consider putting make-up on. But that's my standard. Other people's standards could be a lot higher. Higher as in cutting yourself up and putting a brand new face on because you don't like the face you've had your whole life.

Personally, I think it's all in our heads. You know how you feel when you're having a really gross hair day and all you can think is that the world will finally know what kind of hideous monster you are and they'll shun you and you'll spend the rest of your days in a cave. And then you walk into work and someone says, "Hey, you look super cute today." We have no idea what the world sees in us. It's usually a lot better than what we see.

Later, I will discuss how I think, "You can't possibly be 39," is not a compliment.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book the Old Lady Cruise!

I've had this shoulder pain for about 3 months now and I finally went in to have it checked out. You know how I am about going into the doctors. I don't go unless limbs are falling off. Or worse, I'm losing sleep. And I was losing sleep because of the pain. Unacceptable. So I went in and the doctor checked me out and we had the following conversation:

"So you didn't have an accident where you hurt it?"

"No."

"You didn't fall and land on it?"

"No."

"Did anyone or anything hit you there?"

"No."

"And it just started hurting one day."

"Yep."

"Well, it sounds like just regular wear and tear. You may even have a bit of arthritis. That's pretty common for your age."

FOR MY AGE?! She means 80, right? Which is terrific because that means I can retire and move onto one of those residential cruise ships that sail around the world year round. I can play bingo with all the other senior citizens who have arthritic shoulders.

She gave me a pamphlet that had some cartoonish pictures of activities that could cause this sort of pain. And with the exception of pitching in a local softball league, I do every single one of them. Reaching for my purse in the back seat while sitting in the drivers seat, yes. Carrying a heavy purse on one shoulder exclusively (and before that a back pack), my whole life. Carrying enormous loads of groceries all at once, of course, because if I don't do it in one trip then I have failed. Reaching up for and retrieving heavy objects, all the time, because I'm short and have to reach for everything. She also said I have the tensest shoulder muscles she's ever felt, which could be a contributing factor, and that I must have a really stressful job. Sure, if sitting around eating tootsie rolls and talking to college kids about super hero movies is stressful, then okay,

She took some x-rays to rule out a tumor or anything torn and sent me home with exercises and drugs and a suggestion to stop using my right arm for repetitive motions. Easier said then done, Doc. Have you tried using your mouse on the left side of your key board? Hard. Although my shoulder does feel slightly better today since switching over.

The ray of sunshine in all of this is that I have to go to physical therapy, which means I get to hang out with senior citizens in stretchy pants. I'm going to scout out a good roommate for my cruising years.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Art Society Field Trip

Heather sent me an email saying that Jarron mentioned what he would like the next Art Society to be. He said, "Either we go with Rachel to LACMA or antique shopping." Can you believe this kid? I mean, seriously.

So Kaiya, Jarron, and I had an LA adventure on Friday night.

First we got dinner at the Original Pantry, this old diner in downtown, where I had the best omelette of my life. It got middling reviews on Yelp, but that omelette may be worth paying for parking. The kids were properly impressed with the downtown vibe.

Then onto LACMA, where we:
 
messed around in this is cool installation that was just a bunch of hanging yellow tubes and pretended we were swimming in a pond,



sketched Picasso,


posed with sculptures,


and mirrored paintings,


and took the requisite picture in the lamp installation. I mean, anyone who has ever gone to LACMA has a picture with the lamps, right?


Lest you think these are serious, high-class kids I should mention that before I could stop them they both spit off the forth floor balcony of the contemporary building. Fortunately, it was onto a walkway cover so no people were harmed in the antics. Also they would get very close to the art. Now, I have this issue too. I just love the texture. I want to touch every painting I see. But I would remind them that getting kicked out of museums is not what the Art Society is all about.
 
Naturally, there was Neveux ice cream at the end of the night. Which means that they also got to see Hollywood at night, which is an adventure. But this is what I love about these kids. They're always up for it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Punch Bowl Set

1. Lydia had some time to kill between our song practice and a girls night so we went over to the Upland farmers market and looked at antiques and ate empanadas and got a demonstration of some stun guns. The antique shopping made me recommit myself to finding the perfect punch bowl set. You know what I'm talking about right? The glass punch bowl with the little matching cups and the ladle. I firmly believe I cannot become a full-fledged Lady of Elegant Leisure without one. Naturally, Grandma Knecht had at least half a dozen complete sets and I could just kick myself for not snagging one when they were offered. But I was going off to college at the time. How could I possibly have known the significance of a good punch bowl set at that age?

2. Remember how I've told you before that you wear too much perfume? I stand by that. I love you, but you're making the deep recesses of my ears tingle. It is not a good feeling. Anyway, I have a bit of sympathy for you now because, if you can believe it, I have found a perfume that doesn't make me gag. This. While putting it on this afternoon I liked it so much that I wanted to wear more. I refrained, of course, but I get it now. You have my permission to slightly resent me when you're applying your scent and you stop at just one spritz even though you're tempted to do more. Don't do more!!!

3. The classical station is holding their membership drive and today's give away was a CD of 100 Christmas carols which means that they played a lot of them on my drive to and from work. Thus making it the first carols I've heard in the pre-Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas season. And for once I wasn't cranky about it. Normally when I see decorations or hear carols in October I get a little feisty. But this filled me with good cheer and made me rethink my no-carols-til-after-Thanksgiving rule. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Space Lip Balm

You really should have been watching the space walk this morning. It was so fascinating! Two guys aboard the ISS stepped out into space and replaced some doo-dad on the outside and you could watch the live-feed on NASA TV. Which I did, naturally. Well, I mean, I had it on. Because it was 6 hours long. If you saw how cumbersome their gloves are you would not question the length of time it takes to change shape ship doo-dads.

Camille and I were messaging each other periodically with questions. What will they do when they get to the dark side of the earth? They keep working. What is the "booty tether point" or the "burrito" they keep talking about? We never figured it out. Of course, we discussed the obvious thing, what about the bathroom. But we learned from our best friend Col. Chris Hadfield that they wear diapers. For such an exciting job there has to be some indignities, right?

Then Camille posed this very important question, "What about Chapstick?" You can't apply lip balm on a space walk. You guys, 6 hours without lip balm is a total nightmare! Remember, I took 12 tubes of Burt's with me for 3 months in Tunisia. I certainly don't go through a tube a week but you can never be too prepared. I start to panic when I don't have any on me. I know it takes the astronauts years to prepare to go into space. There has to be some sort of chapped-lip survival course for them to take in between spinning in centrifuges and practicing doo-dad replacements underwater.

When I get the call from NASA that they've come across this blog and have realized that I'm the perfect candidate for their moderately-humorous-blogger-in-residence program I'm going to have to have a serious talk with them about their lip balm technology. There are always questions about why we spend money on sending people up into space. And the obvious answer to that is, "Why wouldn't we, dummy? It's space!" But the not so obvious answer is that some of the technology out there today was first developed for or because of space exploration, such as an artificial heart pump that was modeled after the space shuttle's fuel pump, if you can believe it. But I think people would stop asking that question if the bearded space nerds of NASA could come up with a lip balm that lasted 6+ hours. Let's get on this, team!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bearded Space Nerds

Continuing our quest to become even bigger space nerds, Camille, Lindsay, and I toured the Jet Propulsion Laboratory yesterday. It's a NASA facility that is in charge of unmanned missions into space. So the Mars Curiosity rover? That was them. Cassini out at Saturn, Galileo at Jupiter, and Voyager 1 that is now well beyond our solar system, all built and controlled by JPL. We were with a pretty large group but this is how we knew we were amongst friends, everyone asked if we could keep the tour lanyards. You know you can comfortably spend several hours with strangers when they see the importance of a lanyard.

Some highlights:

1.  The place is teeming with bearded space nerds. This is just a slice of heaven for me.

2.  We got to see the BSNs working on a satellite that will be launched into Earth's orbit in January. It's called SMAP (Soil Moisture Active-Passive) and, in a nut shell, it will monitor weather. While we were checking it out the project manager wandered by and we were able to get the details of it. Like where the parts were manufactured. Let's hope the Russians don't find out I know this information. The PM didn't have a beard but he did have a speech impediment, which may be just as great.

3. Here's a fun fact about Voyager 1:  it is one of the fastest moving man-made objects in space. It goes just under 1 million miles A DAY. That's a lot of miles. And yet it will still take 40,000 years for it to be closer to the closest star than it is to our sun. We have got to get moving on this warp drive business. We are never going to be prepared to fight the Klingons at this rate.

4. Another fun fact about Voyager 1: it has a gold record on it that contains a collection of sights and sounds from Earth. Jazz, thunder, Beethoven, some kind of ethnic drumming, what sounds like someone opening a candy bar wrapper. And then a bunch of scientists talking about space stuff. You can actually listen to all 5+ hours here.  It was put on there on the off chance an alien comes across it in the vastness of space. Isn't that just the dreamiest thing you've ever heard of? But I will say for something that was created in the 70s, there is a shocking lack of Abba on it.

5.  We had the absolute worst tour guide. Curtis. I wanted to shoot my foot off every time he opened his mouth. First, he sounded like he had marbles in his mouth but talked at hyper-speed. And second he repeated everything he said at least 5 times. Here's some classic Curtis:  "This is a 1/3 model, which means it's 3 times smaller than the actual satellite. And the actual satellite is 3 times larger than what you see here. Because it's a 1/3 model." He would then say this again just to make sure we got it. And then a third time to make sure we had lost our will to live. He was the Voyager 1 of tour guides, he went really fast without getting anywhere. My absolute favorite moment was when Camille asked a question about a counter we saw in Mission Control that turned out to be Greenwich Mean Time and Curtis spent a few minutes explaining how clocks work, "Do you see these numbers that are showing 51, then 52, then 53, then 54? Those are seconds. Right next to them are the minutes. And then the hours." Did you get that? Don't worry, he'll cover it again. Fortunately, we were just happy to be there and were excited to see everything, so Curtis didn't ruin it for us. But sweet land of liberty!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Mother Of All Sing Alongs


As far as sing-alongs go, the Sound of Music Sing-Along at the Hollywood Bowl is the Mother of Them All. There you are, sitting under the stars in the cool night air, singing your guts out with 17,000 other nerds, most of them are wearing some sort of Swiss/nun/girl-in-white-dresses-with-blue-satin-sashes get up. Everyone goes bananas when the camera spots Julie Andrews coming over the hill. There are a lot of wolf whistles when the Captain shows up. We boo the Nazis. Rolf is shown all the disdain he deserves. (What a dummy. I don't know what Liesl was even thinking.) And the Baroness gets hissed.

A few words on that. I'd like to say a word on her behalf ("the say it Sister Margaretta"), her eyebrows demand some kind of respect.


Also, you can't fault a girl for falling in love with the Captain. Who among us hasn't, I ask you. And she found him first. And he, by all accounts, was courting her. She's rich, she doesn't need a man to take care of her. She must be in it for love. And the amazing schniztel the cook prepares. I think she gets a bad rap. I mean, obviously Maria is the greatest and they belong together. But I think we need to cut the Baroness some slack. 

It was a particularly fun group of friends this time around. Angela brought her girls and it's always refreshing to spend time with teenagers who like being with the old ladies. Plus, teenagers are particularly good at group shots.


At one point before the movie started and I was remeniscing about the time we came to this event and a woman dressed as a nun barfed right after intermission and had to be carried out in a wheel chair because she was so drunk. The guy sitting in front of me overheard me tell this story and he turned around and said, "The last time I was that drunk was at my junior high graduation." Say what?! "And my dad was the one who gave me the whiskey." Double say what?!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Elegant Leisurewear

If you're looking for a style icon for your Life of Elegant Leisure look no further than Patricia Neal in Breakfast at Tiffany's.



This basically has everything you need for running errands about town. Errands such as lunch with a Swedish art dealer or picking out the perfect gilded cherub to hang in your boudoir. It has pockets to stash your calling cards and a dramatic collar to block the masses from breathing on you as you get into your chauffeured town car. And remember that a Lady of Elegant Leisure never leaves her penthouse without a turban.

As for your quiet moments at home, in between planning the menu for a dinner party in honor of the new mayor and keeping up your correspondence with foreign diplomats, there's this number:

 
You know you're really killing it when you accessorize with a poodle.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hot Flash

1. Mel Brooks had a prosthetic finger put on just before he stuck his hands in cement at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I mean, come on! That is comedy gold. And if you click on that link you can watch a clip of it and see how tickled he is by the whole thing. That guy is a treasure.

2.  Does anyone else agree with me that those selfie pole thingies that you can attach to your phone are ridiculous. I've seen too many pictures recently of people with poles in them. This is absurd.  Why can't you just ask someone to take a picture of you? Or do what the rest of us do and just hold your arm out. Or stop taking pictures of yourself. I tell you this as a friend, you look a little dumb holding that pole.

3.  My seminary class is an hour long hot flash. I teach on the stage in the gym and there's no AC vent up there. It is, to say the least, a muggy mess. During most of the year it's no big deal but when we're experiencing apocalyptic temperatures around here it becomes a problem. That problem being how to effectively teach as a puddle of sweat. The kids seem immune to it. But also, I think kids are weird, temperature-wise. The other day I was stopped at a red light and a kid crossed the street in front of me wearing a hoodie and it was 106 outside!  Maybe I'm just a really athletic teacher and I can stop worrying about going to the gym. I am eternally grateful to Amanda who convinced me to get a fan the last time she was out here. I really thought I would only use it to choreograph dramatic Latin dances but now I think it will come in handy for when I swoon from the heat and the kids have to revive me.

4.  I call dibs on Hot Flash as my superhero name in about 5 years.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Books that Stick

Cynde, Stacy, and Teresa have all challenged me on Facebook to list the top 10 books that have stayed with me. (Oh brother, how grateful am I that this does not involve any ice or buckets.) I am happy to oblige but not on Facebook because, as you would expect, I can't keep it to 10. And I'll probably comment on several of them. Isn't it just the worst when you're FB friends post novellas when all you really want to know is what they had for dinner?

As you know, I forget most books a few days after I finish. So if a book leaves a big enough impression on me to be not just remembered but also regularly thought of, referenced, and recommended then that's a big deal. All of these books, on first reading, made me feel like I had come across something entirely new.

And now, the list:

1. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Stay golden, Ponyboy.

2.  The Trixie Belden series. Girl sleuth solving mysteries and getting in and out of scrapes with her friends. Also, they had matching jackets. Where do I sign up?

3. Anne of Green Gables and The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. When in doubt, ask what would Anne Shirley do?

4.  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. It was the first of hers that I read. And thus it began.

5. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a perfectly written book.

6. East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Of course.

8. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This book haunts me. I side-eye it every time I pass my bookshelf because it won't leave my brain.

10. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. This is the book that turned me right off Dickens and then 20 years later, turned him into my literary boyfriend.

11.  These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner.

12.  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

13. Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. I snort-laughed my way through this

14. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

15. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

16. The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel

17. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.

18. The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman.  Out of all the books I've loaned and lost, this is the one I miss the most.

19. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

20. On Writing by Stephen King. His novels are way too scary for this delicate flower. But his thoughts on writing have been invaluable.

21. The Wednesday Wars and Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt

There. Let's read books!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Our (county) fair is the best (county) fair."

Katie, Laura, Heather, and I made our annual pilgrimage to the LA County Fair on Saturday. Here's what you should know first, it was hot. Imagine taking a slightly damp blanket right out of a drier and wrapping it around yourself while having a hot flash. This is what it felt like. Only hotter. We spent the majority of our time walking through the shopping halls, the cool, cool shopping halls. And we snagged some fans from US Representative Ed Royce's information booth. I don't actually know who he is but those fans saved us so, ED ROYCE FOR PRESIDENT!!!

Speaking of which, don't you think it's funny that US Representatives set up info booths at the fair? Do people really stop and talk shop? I don't know about you but I'm too busy looking at useless kitchen gadgets and finding the weirdest fried foods to talk politics with people who volunteer for a congressman. I mean, sure, if Ed had been there I may have chatted before taking the fan. But at that moment I think I was on the hunt for one of those cooling towels you get wet and then snap a few times and it stays cool for 4 hours. Found and purchased, by the way.

The fair of today is not the same as the fair of my youth. Mostly there are just way fewer animals, which is a huge shame. I love looking at the animals. How often does anyone in LA get to be up close and personal with a cow's runny nose? In fact, several years ago, that was their marketing ploy. Come to the fair, city slickers, and see real live animals! I have so many memories of rows and rows of exotic chickens and long-haired bunnies and pens full of pigs. Not anymore. Now there are just a handful of cows, sheep, and goats. And notably, there are no more horses. Anywhere. The Clydesdales are gone. The horses for the western shows and fancy buggy competitions are gone. And there are no more horse races. This was a blow. The horse races have always been my favorite part of the fair. They turned the horse arena into a garden. I suppose that gardens are fine, but anyone can have a garden. What we really want are stables full of horses. Sunrise, sunset, right?

But the furnace like heat and the lack of animals did not stop us from have a great time. We did look at a lot of useless kitchen gadgets. And we didn't pass a single food sample without trying. And we watched a blacksmith demo that made me want to take a blacksmith class. Have you seen my forearms? I think I could be really good at it. Laura and I went down the giant slide. And we saw the Handicapable Foot Stompers Square Dance Club. And if that wasn't the most joyful thing I've seen in ages, I don't know what is.

And to top it off, I got 2nd place in the quilt square competition. Which isn't saying much because we live in a time when everyone gets a ribbon. So I shared it with several other people. But I don't care because now I have a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place ribbon from the fair and all of my dreams have come true. Up next, Best in Show.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Bo

From time to time I'll get a call at the Institute from someone who has questions about the church. This happens because our houses of worship don't have anyone in them during the day. The Institute is not a chapel but if you look us up on Google it lists us as the LDS church, which we are, just not a physical church building. This confuses everyone who isn't Mormon. Anyway, these people have usually called several chapels only to get messages and they're a little frustrated by the time they get to me.

I had such a call today. It started a little rough but then turned into something so wonderful that I wanted it to go on forever. It was an older gentleman who even though he was raised in Burbank and has lived in La Puente (he pronounced it poo-enty. It's pwentay.) for 35 years "in a custom home, thank you very much" he still has a drawl that tells you for sure he wears suspenders and has breakfast at a diner every morning with several other gentleman of a certain age. His name was Bo.

He was very concerned for two reasons. First, he was concerned that when he called one of our buildings that the message was only in Spanish. "I don't even speak Spanish!" I explained to him that that particular building only has Spanish congregations attending. That calmed him down. Second he heard a rumor that we don't honor the American flag. I told him that we were politically neutral but that we do have flag poles in front of every building and that the 4th of July pancake breakfasts are legendary. So that's that.

And then things took a funny turn. Bo started rambling. He went on for about 10 minutes. Here are some snippets:

"I was going to ask my friend Merle about the American flag. He's a Mormon. Not a high priest, but the one just below a high priest but he doesn't want to be a high priest because he says he'll fall asleep." (Note: High priest is a office of the priesthood, usually made up of older men who have a reputation of being dull. Many jokes are made about high priests, mostly by elders, the group just before high priest, the one that Merle belongs to.)

"I married a hot red-head. She's a Cath-o-lic and I'm a Methodist but I don't go to church, I just pray. My goal every morning is to not get into a fight with her but I've already messed it up today."

"My mom always tried to be respectful to her 4th husband."

"Back in the 70s I permed my hair (Note: this is when I LOST it.) and when I went to visit my dad he said, 'Hey there, Bo!' And I said, 'What do you mean?' and he said, 'Bozo the Clown!' and it just stuck."

"I have this room that's my library slash museum slash entertainment center. I'm going to get me one of those Samsung curved TVs to hang next to my cuckoo clocks."

He told me all about his time in Vietnam as a corporal, 3rd recon (I don't know what this means but he said it at least 3 times). He told me about his knucklehead kids and his first wife (not the hot red-head). He got choked up when he talked about his dad and said he was his best friend and the greatest example he could have had. He identified the race of every single person he mentioned if they did not happen to be white (which my grandpa did and I find to be kind of racist but also endearing in that old man sort of way.) I learned all about his antique clocks and how often he has to wind them. He ended by asking me to say a silent prayer tonight for the service men AND women overseas.

Generous of you to include the ladies, Bo. Tell Merle I said hi when you have breakfast with him tomorrow and compare suspender straps.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Future President Takes in a Concert

John Williams, composer of every famous film score you know (Jaws, Star Wars, ET) puts on a show every summer at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Phil. It's a fun night. People dress up as Princess Leia or Indiana Jones. He does a million encores to get in all the pieces you want to hear. When Star Wars plays a sea of light sabers start swaying in the darkness. It's a nerdy sight to behold.
Yes, we're far away. The Bowl is mostly for the experience rather than the nearness.

This year they showed clips of the Olympics while the orchestra played one of the anthems he wrote and it made me want to recommit myself to becoming an Olympian. I think I have a shot at canoeing. That's easy, right?

Thanks to freakishly light traffic (35 minutes from Pomona to Hollywood on a Friday afternoon. This should blow every one's mind!) the sisters and I got there super early. Early enough to get good (for the Bowl) parking. Early enough to eat our dinner in leisure and in the light. And, early enough to make friends with the future president of the United States.  Spencer, age 9, was sitting in front of us and turned around and started one of the most entertaining conversations I've ever had. He plays the violin and is on a basketball team. He wants to perform at the Hollywood Bowl. His goal for the 4th grade is to make as many friends as he can. And he wants to be the school president but has to wait until he's in the 5th grade. He told us all about his family's vacation to Zion and Bryce Canyon with a stop over in Las Vegas where they toured a chocolate factory. He read a book on the process of making the chocolate. Before the show he sat down next to me and asked, "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name." At intermission he asked, "How are you enjoying the show?" and then offered us slices of cake.

How do you get kids like this? I realize that precociousness is born but is there some sort of magic potion I can take that would get me a kid who puts on his fancy argyle socks because he feels like regular athletic socks would be slumming it at an outdoor summer concert? His mom seemed totally cool, she didn't hover or coddle. She just let him hang out with us and said that he does this sort of thing all the time. They slipped out before the encores started so we didn't get to say goodbye. And all of us are kind of in mourning that we won't get to see Spencer again. Until he becomes president. I'm telling you, the kid is on track.

In other news, in case you were wondering how the Universe made it up to us for the amazing traffic out, it took us nearly 2 hours to get home thanks to several accidents that shut the freeways down. We were dead stopped, engine turned off, for 30 minutes. Camille and Lindsay sang the whole opening number of Newsies, with parts, and then we watched about 20 minutes of Spice World on Lindsay's phone until a cop started motioning for us all to turn around and drive back to the nearest exit which then deposited us into East LA - Land of a Thousand Taco Trucks. If you're looking for a taco at 1 a.m., go to East LA.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Post hibernation nap

Remember how I said I was ready to get out and do things now that I finished my summer hibernation? Well, can that thing be a nap?  You're all welcome to come over in your jim jams and join in. There's plenty of couch space. But it's naps for me this weekend. Because teaching seminary is exhausting! I mean, I knew this already, but my lazy summer kind of did a memory swipe. I'm so very sleepy. For the past 3 days I've gotten into work and immediately starting thinking about how comfortable the couch in my office looks. This is a bad sign because that couch is nasty. Who knows the last time it was cleaned. I mean, the floor would possibly be a better option because I know that gets vacuumed. I could pull a George Costanza and sleep under my desk.

But, I already love my new class. I only really know 3 of the 12, the rest are from other wards and stakes, but they all seem to be really great kids. When I broke the news on Wednesday that we sing all the verses of the opening hymn, and that we sing them loudly, and one of them was going to have to come up and lead it, they did it cheerfully. They're eager and happy and they seem to be up for adventure. This has the potential of being a lovely year.

Happy Friday, by the way. The up side of getting back into seminary is that Fridays have meaning again. This is how I'm feel about the upcoming three-day weekend:

Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer of the Lone Wolf

And so another summer comes to an end. The Institute kids came back yesterday and seminary starts tomorrow  and I have to start going to bed at 3 pm because that's just what 80 year old women do. But I'm ready for it. Mostly because this summer has just been so relaxing. Truly, I feel very rested, like I've spent a month in a sanitarium taking the waters.

Last summer was a blur of crazy activities. This summer was a lot of taking naps after work or watching movies. And generally when I get to the end of a summer like this, a quiet summer, I feel out of sorts, like I should have done more. In fact, in the middle of this summer I thought about how it's been so low-key and that maybe I should ramp things up because I didn't want to feel like I had frittered away all this leisure time. But then I realized that I was having the summer that I wanted. I wanted to be in my stretchy pants 100% of the time. I wanted to spend a whole evening reading. I didn't really want to go anywhere. I mean, I did do things, but not a lot. And many of those activities were solo ones. This was the Summer of the Lone Wolf.

And now I find myself wanting to plan activities with friends. September is historically a packed month for me and this one is no different. I have several trips to the Hollywood Bowl planned and the fair is coming up in a few weeks. I'm ending my book club's summer hiatus. I got a haircut that actually has to be done, meaning, it can barely be put back in a pony tale. This morning I needed to be up by 6:15 and I actually got out of bed at 5:45 because I felt like it. This, literally, never happens. I am the worst at getting out of bed. But I spent the summer hibernating and now I'm waking up. Who wants to do something fun? As long as we're done by 3 pm, I'm game.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Trained at Space Camp

I decided I was going to celebrate my birthday by going to the CA Science Center and seeing the space shuttle Endeavor and convincing them to let me take it for a spin. I was successful on two counts. Look, I've seen Space Camp, which means that I know that an average person like me can fly a space shuttle. It wasn't that hard for Joaquin Phoenix to do and I'm obviously smarter than him. But they were unmoved so I just took pictures instead.

First of all, it's massive.


I mean, of course it's massive. It had to carry large things into space like satellites and whole sections of the ISS.


And it's covered in scorch marks and dents from space debris hitting it, which is terrifying and awesome.


It's a pretty good exhibit. There's lots of information on all its missions and a time-lapse video of the trek it made across town from LAX to Exposition Park (here's an abbreviated version). I spent about an hour in the hangar just checking everything out (I think I may be better alone at museums because I could spend days in them when the rest of my party has died of dehydration waiting for me to finish up.) But here's where it could improve. They could let me fly it. Or at the very least, they could let me inside of it. Is it too much to ask to sit in the captain's chair and fiddle with the instruments? While wearing space suit? And a head set so I could talk to Mission Control? I don't think it is. I would pay extra for it. Certainly more than the nothing I paid to get in. 

Later I went over to the IMAX theater and watched the 3D movie on the Hubble telescope. And Sweet Land of Liberty! You have to see this movie! It is so awesome!!! I have a wacky astigmatism that makes 3D movies hard to watch but after a while I was just so mesmerized by what I was seeing that I hardly noticed my eyes wigging out. 

And finally, I saw a lot of really cool things that day but these early astronaut boots were among the coolest. Double laces, zipper, and silver. Sign me up!

Friday, August 15, 2014

In my pursuit to bring joy to you and to make this world a little better, I feel it's my duty to share the newest Pracercise video.




It is majestic. I could watch her and her Gentleman Friend Victor prance through the fields with the horses for hours. I think she may be wearing one of those tops that you find at truck stops along the I-15. The kind that are just a ball of squished up fabric that magically stretches to fit any size. And you know that Victor woke up that morning and thought, "Yep. Today's the day! These pants are going to kill it!"

I really hope she only speaks in rhyme all the time. Like she calls up her girlfriend Sheila (I am absolutely certain she has a friend named Sheila who supplies her with all her chunky jewelry) and says, "I just went to Target to pick up some Clorox and walked out with Titanic, toothbrushes, and pink socks."

Naturally, I have come up with an elaborate tale of how Joanna met Victor. It starts with them sitting across the aisle from each other on the senior citizen bus to a local casino and ends with Joanna calling up Victor to see if he'd like to go line dancing with her since Sheila's lumbago was acting up. "Hey, Victor, how are you? Do you know Slappin' Leather? Sheila's back has gone south on account of the weather." The rest is history.

Have a great weekend!  Remember to get yourself a Slurpee (or a slushy equivalent) and let me know about it.  Let's make this the best Get Yourself a Slurpee Day ever!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Spicy

1.  Spice World is now streaming on Netflix. Which means that you now don't have to wait for me to invite you over to watch it. Which is great for you because that would not happen anyway. I've done it before and am always really disappointed when people don't appreciate it the way I do. How can I be friends with people who don't love Spice World?

2.  Amanda was in town last week and in between eating a lot of food we ended up at Cost Plus World Market and sat on one of their display couches for 3 hours and had a nice long chat. It felt very much like we were hosting our own TV show. You guys, Amanda and I should TOTALLY have our own TV show. We would say something funny and then pause for laughter from the ladies shopping around us. Then we went to Bert & Rocky's so Amanda could reconnect with her true love, chocolate orange ice cream. Those were really happy times when she and I were roommates and we would already be in our jim jams and one of us would say, "So, ice cream?" and we'd get up and put our bras back on and drive over to Bert & Rocky's.

3.  Guess what's coming up! GET YOURSELF A SLURPEE DAY!!!!! Technically it's on Sunday but I'm not going to ask you to break the Sabbath, even for a Slurpee. So we'll celebrate on Saturday AND Monday. That's right folks, we have a two-fer! As usual, please send me pictures of you and your loved ones enjoying a slushie beverage. Text (you have my number, right?), or post it on Facebook or Instagram (@rachelsaysso). There are just so many options for sharing the love. And, as an added bonus, if you share a picture you will be entered to win a $15 gift card to 7-11 or Sonic (Everyone has a Sev or a Sonic by them, right?) I am all about the giving.

4.  After paying for my groceries today I went to put my wallet back and my purse flipped over and the entire contents of it spilled all over the floor, thus exposing my collection of broken hair clips. There were at least 4. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Night of Nachos and Neil Diamond

Here it is folks, the 1000th post on my blog. If you're interested, I've compiled a list of things you're going to need to celebrate:

a pinata
nachos
Neil Diamond's Greatest Hits
your fanciest muu muu
a slushy beverage of your choice

Or maybe that's just my list.  Look, I'm not going to tell you how to celebrate. You have your agency. I just think that nachos and Neil Diamond would be appropriate.

I don't like placing any kind of importance on stuff like this because later this week I will write the 1001st post, which is more than 1000 (math!), so big whoop. But it does make me reflect. And while this blog means next to nothing on the grand scheme of things, it means the world to me. It means the world to me that people read it, and that friends will comment on it, and that ladies in my parents' ward will come up to me at wedding receptions and say how much they laughed at such and such. That's a big deal to me. I like making people laugh.

In that vein: have you seen Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda?  It's about a shark/octopus hybrid fighting against a pterodactyl/barracuda hybrid with lots of carnage on the beach and on jet skis. (First lesson of ocean safety: don't go out on a jet ski when a sharktopus is on the loose.) It's Jaws meets Jurassic Park meets Randy, your stoner neighbor who leaves Taco Bell wrappers on your lawn in the middle of the night.  My family caught about 5 minutes of it last night and in that we saw a woman run out of the water and shout, "SHARKTOPUS!!!!" and a man say in a gravelly voice, "From now on, we're doing it MY way," and that was all I needed. Instant classic!

Anyway, thanks for reading. I think you're great. Enjoy your nachos. And I'll help you get the Neil portion of the evening started. Sing out like you mean it!

 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Living the dream

1. Did anyone see Rac's comment on my last post:  "You are living the dream. Except for that rash thingy."  I'm totally using that as a tag line! Because ain't that the truth. When I finally get around to making Rachel Says So windbreakers that will be on the back. Good one, Rac.

2. In the category of Knechts Make Me Laugh I submit the family dinner we had on Sunday at my aunt and uncle's house. It was a What About Bob themed meal. Fried chicken, hand-shucked corn, salad with no tomato, and mash potatoes and gravy, Marie. Sarah was even wearing a "Don't hassle me, I'm local." shirt.

3. We've had Gina and Levi in town this week and it's been delightful. Levi has finally stopped ignoring us and has recognized that he has really fun aunts. And he's kind of hysterical. You should see him sing. a.) he's on key, which is astounding for a 2 year old, and b.) he sings with such gusto. At the end of each song he lifts his little face to the sky and shouts out the final note and shakes his head like he's Pavoratti. It is glorious.

4. I've had seminary training all week at 6 am and it's reminded me of how waking up to an alarm is the absolute worst. I cannot find a soothing enough alarm in my phone to make it any easier. Even the softest most gentle ones sound like air horns at 4:45 in the morning. What I think I need is a recording of someone slowly whispering, "Rachel. It's time to get up to start the day. You're a good person and I'm going to make you a smoothie. Your hair looks amazing." I wonder if Colin Firth would be available to record that. And to come over and make me a smoothie each day.

5. It has just struck me how funny a word smoothie is.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Beach Bum

What is the point of SPF 50 sunscreen applied every 30 minutes if you are still going to get burned?!?! I mean, we were vigilant! But nothing can withstand the demon sun against our delicate northern European skin. All of us got pink. Red in some spots. But not so terrible. It was definitely manageable.

That is until I developed a freakish sun allergy. When has that ever happened? Never. I've been able to frolic in the sun my whole life, with proper protection. But now suddenly I'm like Dracula. (I'm going to write a post about how this has been the year to say about my body, "Well, THAT'S never happened before." Which officially makes me 80.)  By Tuesday night I got this weird rash on my neck and arms that would inflame any time the sun hit it. Which was all the time. And it itched and burned and turned me all splotchy and I felt kind of miserable. That was a bummer. And I ended up going home on Thursday which was an even bigger bummer. But then I was in a Benadryl haze for most of Friday and I slept in my own bed and showered in a place that had not been peed in by thousands of humans and I was feeling much better.

But the time there, even cut short, was lovely. So, so lovely.  I've mentioned before that one of the things I love about beach camping is that it is expected that you look like a beach bum. There's no need for make-up. Your hair is always in a ratty ponytail. You're either in your bathing suit or stretchy pants all day long. You have sand in your ears and dirt on your feet. You and everyone around you smell like camp fire and salt water and roasted marshmallows. It's heaven.

Things of note:

1. There were dolphins every evening leaping out of the water and riding on the crests of the waves.

2. We have this old, old, old table tent cover thingy that was the bane of our existence as kids trying to put it up. All we wanted to do was get down to the water but we couldn't until the whole site was set up. I have many memories of standing around that tent with all of my siblings, holding up a pole while my dad fumed over it. Instead of doing the sensible thing and borrowing an EZ-Up from someone we decided to bring the old beast. And Katie, Lindsay and I had it up in about 30 minutes. And none of us swore. And it stayed up the whole time. We felt like superheroes.

3.  I earned my fire-starting merit badge. And hatchet-wielding merit badge for chopping up kindling. I'm not even a girl scout.

4.  The ISS flew overhead one night as Lindsay showed us constellations. We all waved.

5.  You know when you catch a wave on your boogie board and your legs get all floppy in the surf? That's one of my most favorite sensations in the world.

6. Limited access to technology. Because the only outlets to charge your phone were in the bathrooms. Gross.

7. Hours of leisure time. We read and played games and sat and looked at the waves crashing or the fire burning for endless hours. With plans to do the same thing the next day.

8. Falling asleep and waking up to the waves crashing below. You can almost imagine that you're not in a tent.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Not burning

I'm going beach camping for a week so you won't be hearing from me until at least Monday. Don't be sad. I'll think of you fondly as I sit on the sand and not get sunburned. I'm too old for sunburns. I mean, seriously, how dumb was I in my youth when I knew that I could not tan and still I happily sat out in the sun for hours without any protection whatsoever and then spent the next 3 weeks in agony. Oh the blisters! Oh the itching! Oh the pain and the burning and the peeling! And then I would do it all over again because a body has to tan at some point right? Wrong! But no more. The only sunburn I will permit are the random spots I manage to miss with my SPF 50. There are always a few.

My family would go beach camping every summer for most of my teen years. There is nothing better. You know when you go on vacation there's always this pressure to do something. But when you're beach camping the only thing you have on your schedule is the ocean, interspersed with walks to the camp store, leisurely meals around the fire, and long games of Phase 10. Every youthful memory I have of it is dreamy.

See you on the other side, Moon Doggy!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bees, Crickets, and Flappy Birds

You guys, Nature is trying to tell me something. I don't know what. But here are some signs:

1.  A few weeks ago we discovered that hundreds of bees had died in our car port. The ground was covered in all these dead bees. Sometimes the wind would pick them up and swirl them around. How did they die? And why were they all dead right there on the pavement? Did they hit some kind of invisible wall that only bees can feel?

2.  Last week I was sitting in the chair in my room and reading before going to bed when I heard a thump on the light above me. And then when I looked up I saw a cricket coming toward my face. It landed on my shoulder and just sort of sat there until I FREAKED OUT and it leaped onto the wall. I had a serious staring contest with it, trying to decide what to do. It was way too big to smoosh. And it was at a weird angle so that I could not cover it with a cup and slide a paper under it to carry it outside. And I didn't want to swat at it for fear that it would leap at my face again. And I certainly could not sleep with it just sitting on my wall because you know that it would climb into my hair and host a Tupperware party or something. So I did the only logical thing, I ceded my room to it and slept on the couch. I have yet to see it again.

3.  The day after the cricket incident, a crow strolled into the Institute. The missionaries who frequent the place left the door open AGAIN (so help me Elders, if you don't start shutting that door and stop wasting all those tithing dollars on lost air conditioning, I will write to your mothers! Also, stop banging the door when you open it.) and a crow just hopped right in. Naturally, I barricaded myself in my office with several of the students because I hate birds and I think I would die if one flew into my office. They're just so flappy and unpredictable. At any moment a bird could fly at you and peck your eyes out. He wandered into the classroom, after a failed attempt at taking over the director's office. But he would not be shooed outdoors so one of the elders grabbed a sweatshirt and bravely bundled him up and set him outside and finally shut the door. And then the bird just stood there, staring at us through the glass door. Plotting, no doubt.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ukulele Lady



You would think that a ukulele fest in LA would be full of hipsters and Zooey Deschanel look-alikes. But it was mostly just a bunch of old people. Which meant that it was right up my alley. The Music Center puts this on every summer and I decided to see what it was all about. I have a ukulele that I inherited from my grandma and I know about 4 chords. Which can actually get you really far but I wanted to learn a little technique too. So I headed over to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and joined 300 fellow strummers for a few hours of serious thumb and pinkie pain. Who knew that playing the ukulele would hurt so much? The teachers all said this was to be expected. Maybe they should have put that in the flier.

Despite the pain, it was a blast. There were several classes and I met some fun people. You all know my theory about going to things like this, you're going to have fun because you're surrounded by people who are fun and looking for it. Everyone is already invested. They took the effort to get down there and have a good time with like-minded people. That's why going to these sorts of things alone is not a problem because you're bound to make friends.

I felt like most of us were all at the beginner level but I was at a disadvantage because it seemed like everyone there knew a ton about ukuleles. Nearly every person I talked to had extensive knowledge about brands and styles and shops and old men living in grass huts in Hawaii hand crafting instruments. Apparently if you own a ukulele you have to know everything about it before you actually learn how to play it. All I know about mine is that it was my Grandmas. And it's a cheap-o little thing that I love. Which is enough for me.

Also, everyone pronounced it without the y sound at the beginning, which I know is the proper pronunciation but I can't bring myself to do it. I'm not Giada, okay!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cursed feet

FOR THE LOVE OF FLIP FLOPS, I HAVE GOT TO STOP CUTTING UP MY FEET!!! It's like a gypsy woman has placed some kind of curse on my poor feet because they've been a disaster all summer.

Near the end of seminary the porta-pulpit I use in class fell and landed on my right foot and left a substantial gash on top of it. And then about 4 weeks later, after it was nearly healed and I could start wearing something besides flip flops, I  clipped the back of the same foot with a metal gate door and said so long to about 3 inches of skin.

Just yesterday I put on sneakers for the first time without any bandages and only minimal pain and I rejoiced.

So of course today I stubbed my left pinkie toe on a shopping cart wheel and it lifted the nail and I left a trail of blood in the Stated Bros. parking lot. A trail of blood that I hope will finally satisfy the gypsy woman so this curse can be lifted. Do you think if I explained that I can't get pedicures with open flesh wounds she'd help me out? Gypsy or not, every woman understands the peril of gnarly feet.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Amber Waves of Grain

Circumstances brought us into possession of 120 sparklers. And a neighbor had music playing from his truck all night. Which is how the annual Knecht Independence Day Spectacular: A Very Ghetto 4th ended with us dancing in the streets to slow jams with 5 sparklers in each hand while illegal fireworks exploded overhead. Look, there would have been dancing in the streets without the sparklers and the music, but that just meant that instead of a really fun night it became a magical night.
 
And it looks like we have a new Knecht Family Tradition: painting on major holidays. We did it on New Years Eve and now again on the 4th. It's a blast. None of us claim to have any real talent for it (Lindsay could though) so it takes the pressure off and we just have fun. The theme was America, natch. We ended up with original works of apple pie, baseball bats, the flag, fireworks, and I did amber waves of grain:
 
 
 
It was America all over the place. And it was beautiful.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Keep it classy, America!

Happy Independence Day! Oh, I just love this holiday. There's the Twilight Zone marathon and corn on the cob (you remember how I taught you to butter it, right?) and illegal fireworks going off in the neighborhood while we dance in the street. It is a glorious day.

But you know this already, so I'm going to do a public service here and give my list of appropriate and inappropriate uses of the flag on clothing. Celebrate America by not being tacky:

Appropriate:

1.  Simple flags on a t-shirt or a hat.
3.  Flag pins.
4.  An Uncle Sam hat,  because it is iconic
5.  Any tastefully artistic rendering of the flag
6.  Converse, because Chucks = America

Inappropriate:

1.  Leggings
2. Shorts
3. Denim diapers











4.  Swim suits
(Basically just keep it away from your crotch.)
5.  Whole shirts (you have to turn in your passport if it has a denim collar.)



















I know you're trying to be patriotic and fun. But can't you just wave a flag and lose some fingers to a rogue firework like the rest of us?

Have a great day and let freedom ring!