Saturday, November 29, 2008

California Food and Fires

For Thanksgiving weekend, my family and I went out of town to enjoy the holiday with my grandparents who live in La Mirada, California. Well, maybe it was not all about my grandparents. Having lived in Southern California for at least ten years of my life, it is always fun to come back and visit the places that I used to frequent so often. While we did have the traditional Thanksgiving meal at my grandparents’ house, we also plan to eat at all of the restaurants we have so missed while living in Utah. I have come to the conclusion that eating was a far more important aspect of my life while living in California than it is now when residing in Utah. So far, we have already dined at In N’Out, which used to be a weekly meal for me when I lived here, and possibly the best Mexican food restaurant of all time, Don Jose (which I once also, ate weekly). It is probably a good thing that I moved away or else I would be extremely unhealthy. The rest of our trip we plan to also eat at Northwoods, Chris and Pitts, and Todai (a wonderful sushi bar). It might be a little odd that all I seem able to talk about is the food choices, but honestly, that was probably one of the biggest pulls of the trip for me. Sure the weather is warmer and there is more moisture in the air from the considerably closer ocean, but overall, the food is what got my family and I excited.
It’s so funny how, even after being away for at least a year (we usually drive down for Thanksgiving to visit with my mom’s side of the family), it feels like we never left. The congested freeways and the browned hills from the fires (although it was way worse than it usually is this year as detailed by news reports) seemed a familiar sight. I guess they were for me for a long time. The Orange County area was kind of always home base for me; although my family and I have lived in at least ten different houses throughout my life, this area is where my parents grew up and where they would always take me as a child. I do not really remember that I miss this place until I come back.
Okay, but on a completely different and less sentimental note, the fires were completely devastating. As we were driving, we could see the scorched trees and skeleton remains of buildings. The fire had apparently hopped the freeway and it was evident since apartment buildings were half burned only a few feet from where cars were driving. Strips of houses lay spared as the ground all around them were completely black. It was frightening but extremely eye opening, especially on Thanksgiving.
For the rest of the trip, my family and I plan on heading back through Vegas on the way home. We will stop at The Excalibur and kill a few hours until heading back to good ol’ chilly Utah. So far the trip has been fun, and I’m sure the rest of it will be too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It’s Thanksgiving…Where’s Francis?

Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite. We celebrate it with my mother’s family—a herd of 50+. They’re large, loud, insane, and wildly hilarious. You can bet that there will be enough food to feed a small country, five times more dessert than turkey, and at least five renditions of jell-o salad with marshmallows. Mormons sit elbow to elbow with the anti-Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the atheist, and Kelly, who worships home-brewed beer. At some point during dinner, Aunt Francis will disappear, sliding under the table to crawl around and pinch people from below.

My mother will hide all the matches from my cousin Camille, who likes to set things on fire. My father will hide himself from Camille, as she likes to kiss everyone on the lips almost as much as she loves to set things on fire. Some will watch football, and some will write out a plan of attack for the next day’s shopping. The smokers will be in and out of the back door constantly, the kids will invariably break something valuable, and sometime during the day my mother and sisters will perform a kick line while singing a Beach Boys song (loudly) to embarrass Kelly. All in the name of tradition.

Not conducive to writing papers, though. I’m in serious avoidance mode. I don’t have a basement to paint, but I just may reorder the bookshelves or something to put off these final papers and projects. Which reminds me… now is a really good time to visit your favorite English professors as they are cleaning out their offices for the big move to Elizabeth Hall. You wouldn’t believe how many discarded books I’ve collected in the past couple weeks—all without begging. It’s fabulous! (Couldn’t talk Dr.Rogers out of his Robert Browning, though.) A suitcase with wheels would be a great idea.

Satellite TV

I had grand Thanksgiving plans that have dwindled down a bit, but things should still be nice. I originally had my sister, her husband, my mom, my cousin, his wife, her brother, and my other cousin coming to my house. My cousins decided to go home to California for Thanksgiving, so it will now just be my family, my mom, my sister, and her husband. This will be fun. You never know how my mom will behave, but we are crossing our fingers that she will take her medication. Things have been good since she has been taking it. Or, she could decide to go off of it and then become offended and refuse to speak to me for three years because I will not divorce my husband and marry one of my high school boyfriends that she likes better. You never know.

As far as comfort, the day will be nice because I will be in my own kitchen. I am cooking the turkey and several sides, while my mom and sister are bringing ham, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and rolls. I'm personally looking forward to the marshmallow-covered yams. They are the only reason I enjoy eating Thanksgiving dinner. The rest I could do without. Well, except for maybe the triptophan.

My sister and her husband are going to bring their Wii, which I have never played. My four-year-old daughter Olivia is looking forward to this because she gets to play it at her cousin's house and has been begging us to get her one. My husband is a CPA and does not see the point in spending money on a video game system. I tend to agree with him on this, but I really wish I could talk him into getting satellite TV. The Miss America pageant is coming up in January and only airs on TLC. I would like to watch it from the comfort of my own couch instead of begging a friend to invite me over.

Satellite TV would have come in handy last Saturday when BYU was spanked by Utah. We watched the game at my in-laws' house. My mother-in-law forced my father-in-law to invite my brother-in-law, who is a Utah fan. He did so much smack talking that I had to remind him that he did not graduate from the U (or any college for that matter) and that until he does, he has no right to cheer for them. (Rude, I know, but it was all the ammunition I had). I threw a few pillows at him and by the end of the night I refused to speak to him. As a BYU graduate, I wanted to watch my team lose in peace. That did not happen. That is why we need satellite TV.

Then again, what time would I have to watch all of the many channels on satellite TV with the two papers, annotated bibliography, and math survey analysis that are due on Monday. Is there an end in sight? I think after Monday I will be able to answer that question if I am still alive.

I Could Write a Novel

Okay, so I could tell quite a story about Thanksgiving, but I won't because of various reasons. But if you want to know what I'm doing I'm heading out to Tooele and eating dinner with my in-laws. It should be fun. I hope. We didn't realize that's where we would be until last night. My husband called me, excited that his mom had offered to let us come out. Before that our plans varied from visiting my brother, my uncle and family in Salt Lake, visiting my husband's boss, visiting my co-worker, visiting my boss, etc. We had plenty of invitations, but we were holding out hope that the golden invitation would come through.

We originally thought about going out tonight, but I don't get off work until late tonight and there are still pies and rolls to be made! So we're heading out tomorrow. There's a chance we might go see a movie tomorrow and a chance we might come back into Salt Lake to visit my grandma who is visiting from Las Vegas. Our plans are flexible.

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that seems to be a good time to get family together. That's my favorite part, although I have spent quite a few Thanksgivings since I've moved away from home at other people's homes instead of my own. I think the worst part about spending Thanksgiving with someone else's family is you miss out on your own traditional foods. But that's okay, because you also get to try other people's traditional foods. Chocolate Chip pie is still my favorite Thanksgiving food.

In the end, I'm just glad someone else is making the turkey this year!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I love slacker prompts...They mean I have permission to do what I usually do anyways.

Anyone that has seen my room knows I have a problem. I'm not sure it's diagnosible, but I'm pretty sure there are others like me.

My problem is books. Now most people wouldn't think books are a problem, but when, like me, you compulsively buy them, books can become a problem. I love Amazon (and I'm pretty sure Amazon loves me too...and my debit card.) I swoon over library book sales. My extended family is prone to just giving me books that they don't want anymore. This problem wasn't so bad a year or two ago. I kept the correlation between books bought and books read basically consistent. This past summer I fell very far behind, and I don't have much time to read for fun right now, but I keep buying books, so I keep falling further and further behind. It drives me crazy. I buy books to read them, but I can always rationalize, *oh, I'd better buy it now; I'll have time to read it sooner or later.* Gah.

Why bring this up? My mom used to point out the joys of libraries to me. She's given up on me, quit chastising my impulsive buying, and now she just asks to borrow my books. Now, I have nothing against libraries. When I was little, before I discovered Amazon, I spent a lot of time at libraries. The librarian and I were on very good terms, and he thought I had very good taste in books and was always willing to recommend a few he though I'd like. (Michelle stops to wonder why she is sharing her nerdy, nerdy stories...ah, well. Press on.)

Here's my problem with libraries. I hate giving books back. Once I've fallen in love with it, I do not want to give it back. I want to keep it, cherish it, return to it again and again.

This results in massive library fines.

Honestly, I'm pretty sure it's just cheaper for me to buy my books on Amazon than it is to keep shelling out money to the librarians. With Amazon, I give them money, and they give me books. I like that system. The librarians always want to take my money AND my books. This does not make sense to me. I now owe Weber State $35, and they just told me I'm not allowed to check out any more books (or graduate, presumably) until I pay them. Granted, this is less because I wanted to keep my books and more just because I've been using them for my senior thesis and completely forgot to renew them. *sigh* Library fines have been a reoccurring problem in my life.

I wonder how much money the library makes each year off of fines. They have a pretty steep rate. I was only three days over for ten books.

Anyways, despite my monetary/book woes, I am happy. I'm looking forward to a few days away from school, even if I will spend a chunk of it finishing up my thesis and starting to write my bib essay. Even though I will just be doing school away from school, not having class is a welcome relief. I'm not going to complain about delicious food either. I'm also excited because one of my best friends is coming home from South Africa tomorrow, and he speaks that Xhosa tongue clicky language, which is just cool. Hopefully I'll get to see him over the break, get some homework done, distract Michael from his homework for a while, eat delicious food, and come back ready to push through the last couple of weeks.

Also: we all talked about grammar issues we struggle with a while back. I have a new one: possessives. I never used to struggle with this, but now I get all confused about ownership and what merits that apostrophe and what doesn't. I blame a few articles I've read on plagiarism and the ownership of words and ideas, and my grammar just getting mixed up in the confusion. Recently I even confused "it's" with "its" which I haven't done in years. I laughed, but I really do need to sort out ownership before I go crazy wondering who owns what, and what can be owned, and what sorts of things can do the owning. Absurd.

Monday, November 24, 2008

And the last shall be...well, last (and first)

Sheesh...what a way to top off a crummy week. I spent Friday stuck in traffic with three screaming kids and a check engine light on the way to my crazy step-sister-in-law's wedding (her third), Sunday doing early Thanksgiving in a small space with a large number of in-laws, today dealing with snarky math professors, and now tonight Dr. Rogers has beat me to the punch with the new prompt. I think I'll move to Australia.

On top of that, I thought for sure I would get the "Weirdest Tutorial of the Week" award, but Cheyney wins hands down. Wow. You couldn't make some of this stuff up.

Well, I guess if I don't get first place, maybe I'll qualify for Miss Congeniality.

So, this guy brings in a paper on shoplifting--basically a treatise on why shoplifting is bad (talk about a thesis needing complicating). He discusses some pretty original ideas for how criminals can get away with shoplifting, and then some, um, unique ways for dealing with shoplifters. Throughout the paper are various injunctions ("Please don't shoplift"), threats ("If you shoplift, you will have to pay the price"), and rhetorical questions ("Why do people get away with stealing free stuff when I have to pay for it?"). Then comes the final section of his paper, entitled "Experience," in which--you guessed it--he describes his own experience with shoplifting, being diagnosed with and treated for kleptomania, and doing community service as punishment for stealing. His concluding line? "Worst of all, I can never go in Shopko again." (I know I'd be sad).

Definitely one of those where-the-heck-do-I-start moments (actually, I started by checking for my wallet). The thing is, his writing was okay--the punctuation was in place, and the subject and verb were getting along quite nicely. And I didn't want to offend him, since it was somewhat personal material, and I'd rather not have him suddenly switch hobbies from larceny to assault (fortunately, I know what I should do in such a situation, thanks to Agostinelli, et al.). So we started by discussing the use of second person (i.e., avoidance of) in research papers. I also pointed out some of the places where he directly addressed the reader, and suggested that some further research or support of his argument might be nice there instead, making his case stronger. I also gently proposed a slight shift in thesis, since it was after all a research paper, from arguing that "shoplifting is bad," to research on innovative ways businesses use to deter shoplifters, or new and better treatments for individuals suffering from kleptomania. He agreed, made some notes, and left.

I'm going to spend my Thanksgiving weekend being thankful that I'm not reading bizarre final papers, that I'm done surveying ornery math teachers, and that I still have my wallet.

And, of course, procrastinating my bibliographic essay. I think I'll paint the basement.

Slacker Prompt

What are your Thanksgiving plans?