Saturday, December 19, 2009

For Shannon Hale

If you are not Shannon Hale (and let’s face it, most of you aren’t), let me explain this post. Shannon Hale is a Newbery Honor-winning author of books for adolescents and adults. She also happens to be LDS like me, and like many of you. One of her latest books, The Actor and the Housewife, is the story of a Mormon housewife from Layton, Utah who meets and subsequently becomes the best friend of her biggest Hollywood crush. It is hilarious, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking, and I highly recommend you read it! Ms. Hale announced a contest in conjunction with the book’s release, and the following is the entry that my book club and I came up with. Bon app├ętit!


Dear Ms. Hale,

We are six Texas transplants, five of us married, four with kids, all LDS—including one Relief Society president (bless her!). Let us introduce ourselves by way of our Readers’ Polls:


Rebecca

Height:

5’9” in her favorite heels

Build:

Working on her Maria Sharapova tennis body

Age:

4th anniversary of her 29th birthday

Born:

Ft. Bragg, North Carolina

Resides:

In the “Enchanted Manor” in the heart of Castle Hills (model A3—all 756 sq ft)

Marital Status:

Single; last date was with a man old enough to be her father; still holding out hope her husband didn’t die in the war in heaven

Memorable roles:

Sister Bertha (disgruntled singing nun in her high school musical’s version of the Sound of Music), glorified babysitter and distributor of historical facts at local high school

Best Features:

Shocking red hair and sexy freckled legs

Readers’ Rating (of her Jell-o):

Jiggly Smooth


Katie

Height:

5'5'' on a good day

Build:

Small, but well-padded

Age:

33

Born:

Walnut Creek, California

Resides:

In 2600 square feet of tract home heaven, deep in the heart of San Antonio, Texas, in a neighborhood where opossums eat the cat food on the back porch and deer casually roam the sidewalks

Marital Status:

On the verge of celebrating a decade of wedded bliss

Memorable roles:

Reader of bedtime stories, obsessive shell seeker, and She-Who-Dazzles-With-Baked-Goods

Best Features:

The crookedness of her grin, her Spock ear, and her alluring finger-toes

Celebrity Crush:

Paul Newman (whom she fully expects to meet in the hereafter)

Readers' Rating (of her Thanksgiving pie selection):

Mmm, Mmm, Good!


Mandi

Height:

5’8” (okay, really 5’7 ½”, but does the DMV really check this stuff?)

Build:

Baby’s got back

Age:

34

Born:

Tucson, AZ: the land of saguaros and brown as far as the eye can see, and where mansions and trailer homes share the same street address

Resides:

In a perfect two level home located in a cul-de-sac where the kids can and do roam unsupervised (hopefully they have clothes on)

Marital Status:

Happily married to a very hard-workin’, hot man who saves lives daily (a physician)

Memorable roles:

Gestator. lactator, star main dancer in a modern dance piece when 38-weeks pregnant (in a purple and pink unitard), and She-Who-Can-Throw-Together-A-Children’s-Sacrament-Meeting-Program-In-Her-Sleep.

Best Features:

A huge smile that inexplicably shows more gums than teeth

Celebrity Crush:

Hugh Jackman. Any one who can sing and dance and looks like THAT!!? Ouch!

Readers' Rating (of her Whole Wheat Bread):

Luscious and the Best in the Lone Star State


Jen

Height:

5’3” - “Though she be but little, she is fierce”-Shakespeare

Build:

Petite, or so her mother says and insists she shop in that section

Age:

26

Born:

Orem, Utah

Resides:

In a cozy 1964 red brick home with black shutters, shaded from the sweltering Texas heat by giant hardy oaks

Marital Status:

Considered a 6-year newlywed

Memorable roles:

Best wacky song artist of 2009, family paparazzi, and She-Who-Always- Needs-A-Special-Treat

Best Features:

Her sparkly brown eyes, tiny bony ankles, and the freckle on the tip of her nose

Celebrity Crush:

According to online quiz: Ryan Reynolds

Readers' Rating (of her OREO Shakes):

America’s Favorite!


Amy

Height:

5’7 ½” (but who’s counting that ½”?)

Build:

Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice

Age:

3(cough)4??? Already?

Born:

Watonga, Oklahoma

Resides:

In a cute one level 1500 square foot tiled home where peace and quiet don’t exist…

Marital Status:

Happily married to a jack-of-all-trades guy

Memorable roles:

Fastest activity chairman/planner in the west (2 weeks to put on a Christmas dinner), accidental flasher on a cruise ship, blogger extraordinaire, She-Who-Tells-Her-Girls-“Tell-Your-Sister-You’re-SORRY!!”-ALL-THE-TIME!

Best Features:

Her dazzling blue/gray chameleon eyes: they change color in a flash depending on what she wears and by how she feels…. Watch out James Bond

Celebrity Crush:

He’s old enough to be her father, but George Strait has her heart

Readers' Rating (of her photography):

Oooohhhh. . . aaahhhhh. . . gasp. . .


Debbie

Height:

5’9” unless slouching to give husband the illusion that he’s as tall as his wife

Build:

Built to last

Age:

Who’s counting?

Born:

Ogden, UT

Resides:

In a “pointy” (as described by a 7-year-old) 70’s era home featuring a hot pink front door

Marital Status:

Blissfully married and keeping it that way

Memorable roles:

Alto unsuccessfully impersonating a soprano, facial ventriloquist (can suppress a yawn and display captivated interest simultaneously), and yard sale junkie

Best Features:

Smiley blue eyes and crow’s feet to prove it

Celebrity Crush:

Charlton Heston, a man with priorities: wife, guns, and the Ten Commandments

Readers' Rating (of her flower garden):

Lovely and Fragrant!


We all read The Actor and the Housewife and then got together on the only night in November that worked for all of us to eat treats and discuss. We all brought whatever we had on hand for ice cream sundaes and had us a party! The discussion was lively. One friend admitted that if her celebrity crush had asked to kiss her on the steps of the state capitol, she would have said, “Heck, yes!” We loved the character of Becky Jack, a realistic Mormon woman in a real world, complete with bad words, tattoos, alcohol, and genuine trials of faith. The story is fantastical, but the themes are universal: What do you do when you know what is right for you but everyone tells you it is wrong? What is love? What is friendship? How do you balance loyalty to self and to all those who depend on you? We all related to Becky in our own way, and her challenges resonated with each of us. Thank you for writing a book about an LDS character that is neither cynical nor sugar-coated. Thank you for your delightful prose which made us laugh out loud one moment and broke our hearts the next. Thank you so much for letting us see a ward potluck through Felix’s eyes! And most of all, many thanks for creating this contest and giving us the chance to put this together for you. We have had a great time.


Your appreciative readers,


Rebecca, Katie, Mandi, Jen, Amy, and Debbie


P.S. We will be having a follow-up night out to hear about some of the previously undisclosed information in the Readers' Polls--Amy, you seriously flashed someone?!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Beach Camping: The Camping Part

We thought beach camping would be a sandy disaster, but the campground was a dune away from the actual beach, so the sand was minimal. It was nice to sit around the campfire listening to the waves--well, it was nice after Natalie went to bed and we no longer had to constantly keep her from tripping into the fire. The day before, after our Thanksgiving feast, we had made foil dinners with our leftovers: a layer of mashed potatoes drizzled with gravy, sprinkled with turkey, and topped with dressing and one more protective layer of potatoes. We threw them on the fire for our camp dinner, and they came out steaming hot and SO DELICIOUS.

Valerie and Adam Carleton: LOVE the head gear!

Tyler (otherwise known as Mini), Jen, and David Wheat: lovin' the foil dinners.

As waited for dinner to cook we got drizzled on a bit, and the drizzle produced a fantastic double rainbow over the Gulf.
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Beach Camping: The Beach Part

Over Thanksgiving weekend we went beach camping for the first time at Padre Island National Seashore with our friends the Carletons and the Wheats. It was so much fun that we want to go again ASAP! The weather was cool but comfortable and we had the beach to ourselves. The wind was perfect for flying our kite:

After the kite flying I went off on a beach walk in search of the elusive sand dollar. When I left Natalie was doing this:

When I returned she was doing this:

She was half-dressed and soaked, shivering and turning a pale shade of blue, but there was no getting her out of the water. We've got ourselves a beach girl! Huzzah!
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Howling at the Moon

Yep, I was one of those crazies who went to the theater to see "New Moon", the latest installment in the uber-hot "Twilight" series, at 12:01am Friday morning. I'm not a fanatic by any means--I enjoyed the books but I didn't even see the first film in the theater. All my friends were going, though, including several who have grandchildren, so it was all about peer pressure and a general desire to be a part of the action. I literally had to wake myself up to leave for the theater at 10:30pm, and when I got there the scent of popcorn in the middle of the night was a violent assault on my senses. I expected a rowdy crowd of tween vampire enthusiasts, but our particular theater was pretty sedate--no screams of, "Marry me, Edward!" or howling when Jacob came on the scene. There was a collective intake of breath every time one of the male leads took off his shirt, which was about every 5 minutes. So, you know, the general male chestiness kept me awake and alert for the duration. Overall a good time was had by all.

Here I am in the middle of the gang, looking fetching in my fleece warmup pants and tennies. I am a HOTTIE after midnight! (Pat, Leslie, Katie, Laurie, and Dinah)

The young women from our ward made t-shirts that had Jacob's face on them and said "I'd imprint on that!" Which is really funny, if you've read the books. Their YW president is with them--can you pick her out of the crowd? (Emmie, Jen, Sabrina, Hilary, and Erika)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ultra-Running

I get rolling waves of the chills when I watch this video by Matt Hart about Ultra-distance trail running. Ultra-running is running distances longer than a marathon: 50k, 50m, 100k, 100m. The trails in this video are amazing.

Last year when we were in Utah we visited Bryce Canyon. After dinner the girls played in the pool and went to bed while I went back into the park and ran trails for a few hours. It was fantastic! I love covering all that distance and seeing so much beautiful scenery so quickly.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Jungle Jack

So, have you ever heard of Jack Hanna? He's done all sorts of animal shows on TV. I think his current show is called "Into the Wild". We have a bunch of VHS tapes of an old show of his called "Zoo Life" that Ella has watched several hundred times. He comes to Seaworld every year and we love to catch his show when he comes through town. He brings out lots of exotic animals and tells all about them. Yesterday we saw a couple different types of owls, a 20+-foot python, a lemur, flamingos, penguins, a warthog, a macaw, and a spider monkey, among others. We learned that if you are ever bitten by a python you should sit still and wait calmly for the snake's jaws to unlock, which only takes about half an hour. Hey--this blog is nothing if not educational!
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Paletas son buenas

So, we gave Natalie her own popsicle to eat. Not just any popsicle: a Paleta from El Paraiso Original, a Mexican popsicle joint that we recently discovered here in town. Mmm... they are so tasty. Natalie enjoyed a Strawberry Fruit paleta. I lean towards Pineapple Fruit, Ella prefers Strawberry Ice Cream, and Greg likes the Pecan Ice Cream, the Banana Ice Cream, the Cookies & Cream Ice Cream... (Greg likes ice cream.) We have yet to try the Pickle flavor. If you come to visit we'll get you one and you can let us know how it is.


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Good Times With Grandma

On Halloween morning, we went with my mom to the Guenther House for a yummy, yummy breakfast. Good food eaten in a mansion, AND there's a gift shop! What's not to love?

After breakfast we went to the farmers' market at the old Pearl Brewery and then explored the new stretch of the Riverwalk that opened just a few months ago. We ran into a friend from church who drives the water taxis on the weekends and he gave us a free ride, which was very fun. Natalie protested at first, but once we got underway she thought the boat was pretty cool. In this picture she is freaking out ("Oooooohhhhh!") over the art installation hanging under the freeway...

...which is a whole school of these huge sunfish strung under the overpass near the Museum of Art. Natalie, lover of all finned things, lurves them.

The new section of the Riverwalk features the only fully recreational locks in the USA--the barges (and the occasional police boat) are the only vessels that use the locks. We descended 9 feet and then, of course, rose back up on the return trip. It's no Panama Canal, but it felt delightfully exotic.
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Down on the Ranch

While my parents were here in October we went to one of my favorite places, LBJ State Park in the thriving metropolis of Stonewall, Texas. What makes it a favorite is the Sauer-Beckmann Farm, which is run circa 1915. Ella likes to go in to the farmhouse and see all the old gadgets and furniture. Natalie pet the calf and cracked up at the roosting hen, and we all got a kick out of the two huge pink pigs running around their pen. We then drove through the LBJ ranch, which was pretty interesting. If you ever find yourself in Stonewall, I highly recommend stopping by.


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Deep-Sea Natalie

Actually, I suppose she was Coral Reef Natalie. We called her Nema. She learned to walk just in time for her debut as a clownfish, and she thought she looked pretty funny in her costume. (So did everyone else.) Check out the tail fin on her!



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Ella the Good

Grandma Kathie outdid herself yet again with Ella's Halloween costume this year. Ella wanted to be Galinda from Wicked. Not that she's seen the play, but she knows all the music and has seen clips on YouTube. She does a mean "Toss, toss!", let me tell you, and her rendition of "Loathing" is not to be missed.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

State Fair of Texas: Old Fashioned Family Fun

It was a cold, wet day at the Fair--even the hundreds of deep-fat fryers scattered liberally across the fairgrounds couldn't ward off the chill. It didn't actually rain on us, though, and the weather kept a lot of people home. We had a fun day and tried to experience all the fair had to offer:

Fried food (see separate post)
African acrobats--the lowest limbo I have ever seen
Car show
Petting zoo (again, separate post)
Dog show--Natalie LOVES doggies
Puppet show--Ella thought the marionettes were pretty cool
Butter sculpture
Rides
All kinds of exhibits--crafts, food, animals, etc.

Here we are with Big Tex, the symbol of the fair. His jaw is hinged, and he periodically gives announcements.

Ella and I rode the 212-foot tall Texas Star, the tallest amusement ride in the western hemisphere.

We spent the entire ride freezing our patooties off.

Ell had a grand time piloting her own plane.
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State Fair of Texas: What a Zoo!

So, if you know me, you know that I really like a good petting zoo. For some reason I like being slobbered on by whatever animals you've got, and the possibility of having my clothes chewed up and my toes stepped on just adds to the thrill. The petting zoo at the state fair was fantastic, full of all kinds of animals from the expected (pigs, sheep, donkeys, and a million goats) to the exotic (zebras, camels, a longhorn, a small giraffe, ostriches, emus, llamas that for some reason had been shaved to resemble poodles, and a kangaroo with a joey in her pouch). Ella bravely fed some of the animals, and Natalie, who has yet to develop any sense of fear, was highly amused by everything that approached her for a sniff or a lick.



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