Huh?

My photo
Utah, United States
One night while tucking Abby into bed she sweetly chimed, "good night! Sleep tight! Don't let the bed bites bug you!" I like her thinking. Sometimes life bites. The trick is to not let it bug you.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royally Interested

For your royal pez.
Why are Americans so interested in the British royal wedding?

I've heard and read many comments lately, from friends planning to view the wedding live (4am here in Utah), to friends definitely NOT planning to view the wedding (and making that clear to everyone who brings up the subject), to people like me, who just want to see some good recap footage at a more respectable hour. I haven't come across too many folks who are either unaware or uncaring altogether; even the disinterested seem to be animated in their disinterest, making them inadvertently a part of the hype (which strikes me as funny).

I am an American. Why am I even remotely interested?

I confess to having an interest in the royal family that began during my childhood. When I was little and my Gran took her yearly trips "back home," I sort of assumed that she knew the queen. I remember after one trip when I asked her if she had seen the queen, Gran replied jovially, "och yes! I had tea with the queen!" I took her seriously. She brought back different royal paraphernalia over the years- souvenir china from the Queen's Silver Jubilee back in 1977, various Charles and Diana literature and commemorative coins.
Scott and Abby, Wesminster Abbey, July 2007.

My dad even woke me up (at what must have been 3 or 4 in the morning) to watch Charles and Diana's big day when I was 10. (Sigh.)

I did not rise at a ridiculous hour to watch the wedding today, but I flipped the television on before I left my bed this morning to catch a few images. The bride was lovely, the groom charming, the crowds impressive and the bells delightful. Scott was annoyed by the crass American news commentators, but what can you do.

As an adult, my interest in the British royals is now more academic, maybe. Where as a child I was caught up in the splendor and fantasy of it all, now I find it more interesting to look at who has been on the throne over the past few centuries and how things have played out based on their policies and personal choices.

Queen Victoria, 1819-1901
I feel so sorry for poor misunderstood King George III, who suffered from a blood disorder with symptoms that were misdiagnosed as madness. I admire Queen Victoria who ruled during a time when women in her country (and this one, for that matter) had limited public influence. I have become more and more disappointed in tacky King Edward VIII for abdicating for Wallis, though I'm glad he did, because I think his brother did a good job and I like Queen Elizabeth II. I thought the Queen Mother was cute. Not too keen on Prince Charles because I was on team Diana, and don't get me started on Camilla. Prince William seems to have his head screwed on straight, though, and I'm very pleased he has married such a seemingly dignified, modest woman as the new Duchess of Cambridge.

So maybe my interest in the royals is more than just academic. Okay, I flat out dig them. Chances are, anyone who has endured this far through this blog post does, too. I hope they maintain their traditions, keep their act together and make their countrymen proud.

And I hope now my angelic Gran occasionally sneaks a peek of the queen and her tea.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Star Trek: the Next Generation of Geeks

Wes got into the car after school yesterday and began telling me about a discussion he had with a few classmates. You see, our family watched the most recent Star Trek movie last Monday night for Family Night. I guess the topic came up in class, so Wes participated in the discussion.

Wes is actually pretty familiar with the Star Trek series', having seen several Star Trek movies, episodes of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. I'm not sure if he's seen any of the original series episodes, but I suspect he's seen a couple. Or at least You Tube clips of them. Anyway, I guess the consensus in the conversation was that the most recent movie was "am-may-zing," and a brief discussion ensued regarding the cooler aspects of the action. Eventually of course, they began to extoll the genius of the various television incarnations.

Then one of the guys said, "Star Trek is really cool, but I HATE The Next Generation."

Wes turned his head sharply to look directly at me, his face taking on an aghast expression. Eyes popping out. I think I snorted and laughed. I've created a monster.

A year-or-so ago I began bringing home library DVDs of The Next Generation, which I will henceforth abbreviate to TNG. We are not so cool as to own our own library of them, but the Salt Lake County Library System has quite a large collection, especially of season 3, for some odd reason. My kids devoured them, as well they should have.

Back in nineteen eighty yadda when TNG came out, I thought that the world had been overtaken by symbiont geek-beings who were commandeering the television air waves. (Little did I know. Oh, how little did I know.)

I remember having a brief conversation in my Latin class (first clue) with my friend Jun about it. I was expressing a common view of the time that it was lame to try to ride the success of the original. Jun simply shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said, "it's actually a pretty good show." Jun was impossible to argue with. He's too friendly and he always makes sense. So, I just left it there and went on my ignorant way.

Not my creation, but cute!
Fast-forward a few years to 1993. I'm at the Uof U and dating Scott. Scott and I had an evening Japanese class together. Scott was living at home (lame) and I had a cool college apartment with fun roommates and a nearby hot tub (hip). Scott liked to come over after class, serendipitously pull his swimsuit from his backpack and take a dip in the hot tub which conveniently closed at 10, just in time for TNG re-runs. (I am aware that I ran-on in that sentence, but I sure enjoyed it.)

Soooo, I basically became a fan of TNG out of humoring the guy I liked. I can't think of any other scenario in which I would have been willing to give that show a try. Lucky for me I did, though, because it became our nightly ritual for YEARS. At least until 2003 or 4, or whenever FOX 13 finally took it out of it's late night line-up.

Now Patrick Stewart is one of my heroes, and the reason I made Scott promise me he wouldn't do anything rash if he began going bald. We didn't consciously name our son after Wesley Crusher, but we do have suspicions that the name took hold sometime during 9 months of faithful viewership. We also like to utilize handy quips such as, "you weren't like this before the beard," when applicable.

Wes's school conversation degenerated into a debate over which was the bosser character, Spock or Data... Data could "kick Spock's trash"... Spock wasn't a robot and he had cooler ears... Oh help me. I need to sit these boys down and explain how both characters were integral to the vastness of the storyline. And how Spock is cool because he hosted "In Search Of" and how yes, Data would kick his trash.

Oh yeah, and my dad met "Q," so we're just cool. I think now I'll go bake a cellular peptide cake with mint frosting.

This is not our fam, but I think I'd like to meet these people. Mom was smart to go with a season 1 Deanna Troi wardrobe selection. I wonder if Dad is really a doctor or something, ala blue uniform. Read many fabulous comments about this photo at Awkward Family Photos, another of my favorite time-wasting sites.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Crock Pot Ham Bone Soup

We have a ham bone in our house, and no, I'm not talking about Ian. Perhaps you have one left from your Easter feast, too. I love this yummy recipe, a change-up from typical takes on ham bone soup I've had before. Lots of the ingredients are things I keep handy in my pantry and food storage, and you probably do, too.


  Ingredients

  • 1 ham bone with some meat
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can peeled and diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 (15.25 ounce) can kidney beans
  • 3 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cubed
  • 4 cups water
  • 6 cubes chicken bouillon

Directions 

Place the ham bone, onion, tomatoes, kidney beans, potatoes, and green pepper into a 3 quart or larger slow cooker. Dissolve the bouillon cubes in water, and pour into the slow cooker. 

Cover, and cook on High until warm. Reduce heat to Low, and continue to cook for 5 to 6 hours. Serves 4.

 

I added a bay leaf and carrots, left out the peppers per Scott's specs, and doubled the recipe to the extent my average-size slow cooker allowed. I found this recipe at allrecipes.com, my new favorite cooking site. 

 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I was asked to deliver an Easter message about the resurrection in church today. This is not my complete talk, as much of it was extemporaneous, but here is the gist of my message. I hope everyone had a beautiful Easter.

In a world filled with war and grieving, economic and natural disasters, uncertainty and loss of hope, how wonderful it is that we have a day set apart to remember God’s plan of hope for us.

This is the day that gives humankind the greatest reason for hope, the greatest reason to celebrate the life of our Savior. The day that reminds us that because of our Heavenly Father's great love for us, he provided a plan that will allow us to be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life. Standing at the pinnacle of the Savior’s experiences on earth is the amazing miracle of the resurrection.

As with other aspects of the Savior’s life, His resurrection was not only an experience that was necessary for his own personal transition into Eternal Life, but also an example for us to gain a greater understanding of our own purpose and plan. 

1 Corinthians 15:20-23 
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept . 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die , even so in Christ shall all be made alive . 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

Easter is a wonderful time to contemplate the symbolism of the resurrection of Christ. Every year at Easter, we are given a reminder that not only is death not permanent, but it is possible to change, through Christ’s atonement. We can forsake evil and end lives of sin, and be reborn into a life of striving for purity and righteousness. We see this symbolism in the ordinance of baptism, where immersion in and then exit from water represents the resurrection of Christ and being reborn as his follower.

When I think about the beautiful promise of the resurrection, I am filled with joy at the thought of rising and being reunited with those I love. It is this promise that has helped me to carry on after the deaths of my loved ones. It is what sustains me through difficult times in life, knowing that there is a bright eternity filled with happiness and everlasting life ahead.

We may not understand why the world must experience the turmoil and sadness inherent to earthly existence, but just as the disciples of Jesus’ time, we are invited to have faith that through our trials, if we endure them well, there is a bright and beautiful future awaiting us.

I express my love and gratitude for my Savior on this Easter Sunday and always. In His name, Amen.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Places I Love...

Pasadena


Where to begin? How do you sum up what is special about the place you spent your entire childhood? Well, here goes.

I know some people grow up looking forward to the day they can escape their hometown. Though I haven't been an official resident since 1993 (when I got my Utah driver's license), that is not the case with me. Pasadena is a wonderful place, and though it was not my destiny to spend my entire life there, it was a great place to grow up.

The old homestead.
One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting on the front seat of my mom's white '67 Mustang with blue interior, turning on the AM radio and listening to "Windy" while heading east on the 210 freeway. No seat belt, of course. Ah, the good old days! I think one of the most beautiful stretches of freeway in the country is where the 210 turns into the 134, between Orange Grove and the San Rafael/Linda Vista exit. Not just because that is the exit to the Nicol family home, but because it is just crazy picturesque. Lush freeway plantings frame views of the Colorado Bridge, the Rose Bowl, the Arroyo Seco, the San Gabriel mountains and that cool old court building that is in all the old Pasadena paintings.
View under 210 fwy, Colorado bridge in background.

Really, if there is one word to describe Pasadena, it must be lush. Maybe I only think that now that I live in a semi-arid desert. Truly, though, when you think of what Pasadena has represented over the years- roses in winter, for example- it fits.

Pasadena found its place on the map in the early part of the 20th century when big business tycoons and other wealthy east-coasters started building winter homes there (Wrigleys, Gambles, et al). They of course hired famous architects to build their homes (Greene and Greene, Frank Lloyd Wright and their minions). Charming Victorian builds made way for Bungalows and Spanish villa-style homes, and as neighborhoods started to furnish the landscape, smaller versions of the iconic homes popped up. Homes like my  parents', built in the late 1920's, are typical of Pasadena. More building took place in subsequent decades, so the now well-established neighborhoods also have lush, established landscapes.

San Rafael Elementary School
I think most people who grow up in Pasadena- or who move there because they like it- appreciate the historic nature of the city. The public school buildings are beautiful and old. "Old Town" is a trendy business district where people spend their Friday nights milling about, enjoying the refurbished old (and made to look old) shops and restaurants. And do most city dwellers in the world care about what their city hall looks like? Pasadena City Hall is iconic to Pasadenans. I understand it has been equipped to host large weddings in the courtyard now! Not the typical scene for a city hall wedding, for sure. As high schoolers, my friends and I actually went to "hang out" around city hall at night, sometimes just to sit on the ledge of the fountain to chat.
Pasadena City Hall

I'm realizing in relating all this that when thinking about what I loved about Pasadena, the setting is inextricably connected to my memories. It is easy to get all wrapped up in the high-fallootin' charm of the city. Certainly there is more to love about Pasadena, and bearing in mind that my opinions were formed over 20 years ago (and are not necessarily high-fallootin'), here is my list of favorite things:

  • I love the damp, humid chill of Pasadena evenings.
  • I love the yummy smell of the night-blooming jasmine everywhere.
  • I love the thump of bass you hear as you drive by backyard parties.
  • I love the jogging scene around the Rose Bowl.
  • I love seeing familiar Pasadena sights regularly on the big and small screen.
  • I love that when you suggested "taco truck?" everybody knew exactly where you would find said truck.
  • I love the Norton Simon Museum and Gamble House.
  • I love the great restaurants, from Tops to Shogun.
  • I love that my personality was shaped by diverse and interesting friends and teachers, in school environments completely unique to Pasadena.
Some of my familiarity with Pasadena developed on my bike with my friend Leslie. The first day I met her I took her on like a 5 mile ride (we were in the 4th grade) and shocked her into friendship with me. We would cruise the lesser-known roads of our neighborhood, ride across the different bridges that span the Arroyo Seco, venture over to the Orange Grove side of the hood and sometimes ride down into the Arroyo itself. There was a cool casting pond down there where we collected tadpoles. Also, Robert Reed's home was a short bike ride from my house, and we would cruise it hoping one of the Brady boys would come strolling out.

Robert Reed
Another great thing about Pasadena: random obscure celebrity sightings are common. The great legend of Glen Summer Road is that Eddie Van Halen played in Jimmy Cronin's garage band next door. I was too young to appreciate their tunes, and I think my mom actually called over there once or twice to ask them to turn down the volume (snicker!). I finally met (using the word loosely) Robert Reed (rest his soul) while working at Jacob Maarse Florists. Well, I rang up his order. He was nice. I didn't get to participate in the Super Bowl half-time show with Michael Jackson at the Rose Bowl with lots of my friends, but I did see him at Magic Mountain (which is not in Pasadena. I digress.).

I didn't always love everything about school as a student, but one thing is for sure, I would be a very different person had I not attended Pasadena public schools. I dare say my perspective on the world would be different. I know the schools have changed a lot over the years, but when I was there, I had lots of amazing teachers who cared about their students and taught well. Because I was in the very diverse environment that was the PUSD, I learned about living and cooperating with people of different races and cultures. I made friends who are dear to me to this day. I know the unique influences from my growing-up years have made me the person I am today, and I'm very grateful for those influences.

Wes, self portrait at 2010 Rose Parade. Sorry for poor quality.
Finally, one cannot talk about Pasadena without mentioning The Stadium and The Parade. I never did get to go to a game, but went to the parade many times. Camped out once (it was a BLAST, but once was enough). For my friends and me, as far as we were concerned, we had ownership in those events. We were significantly tied to them, whether or not the organizers realized it. We all tried out for the Rose Court, and celebrated together when our good friend Mona became a princess. We thought we were something else for having our high school homecoming games in the Rose Bowl, and it really was thrilling to be a kid on the field with the band and as a cheerleader. I even participated in a couple of church events in the Rose Bowl: first a huge conference with LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball in 1977 or so, then in 1987 for a massive youth dance festival. Both times I truly felt like everyone else was there on my territory.

Ah, Pasadena. So much more to say, but some things just have to be experienced to be understood. My perception of Pasadena is based on my unique experience. Fortunately, my experience was positive enough to leave me with a fondness for my hometown. I suddenly have a late night hankering for tacos.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Places I Love...

After a gondola ride at Snowbird.
Utah   
aka "the land of mine inheritance". A little Mormon humor for my pleasure. 

I've been wanting to write about my favorite places for a while. Not because I want to give a travel log or anything, but just because I have been impacted by them and want to share. Some of the things I love about my favorite places are common, some obscure, but in every case significant to me. I thought I'd start out with my present location.

I can't imagine there are too many people interested in reading this who don't already know my life's story: So Cal girl who left home for college in the late 80's and spent the next 5 years going back and forth between home, Idaho, Japan and ultimately, the University of Utah. (How I ended up at the UofU and subsequently met my husband, Scott, is a little freaky and a post for another day.)

Prior to making the move to Utah, I spent all but one summer of my life vacationing here. My grandparents' home is at the foot of Utah's Ben Lomond (right), near a couple of canyons and a lovely river. When I was a child, staying with my grandparents was the closest I ever came to experiencing life in a rural environment, having always lived in a suburb of Los Angeles. They had a huge yard with vegetable gardens and fruit trees, shared a fence with neighbors who had horses (the horses loved us for feeding them my grandma's apples) and of course incredible mountain views.The summer days were hot and dry, the nights breezy and comfortable, and the occasional evening thunderstorms always an anticipated treat.

Utah was where I first camped, caught a fish, dug a potato out of the ground, built a tree house, held a baby kitten, ate a tin-foil dinner, spit a cherry pit, rode in the back of a pick up, shot a bottle rocket and got a perm (not all vacation choices warrant sentimentality).

I had fun cousins, aunts and uncles in Utah, and it seemed like every time we went to the store I met a new relative. I loved poring over the family photo albums and reading the events recorded in the family Bible. A few generations worth of ancestors had lived and died in my mother's childhood home, and I always had a sense of connection to my heritage when I was there.

With such fond memories to fuel my impressions, I never found it difficult to imagine myself here. So, when it came time to make college plans, Utah seemed like a logical choice; away from home but near family, familiar enough for an easy transition. I've loved it since day one, and though I will always have a fondness for my home town (another Place I Love), I've never looked back.

A few of the many reasons I love Utah:

  • I love that the high schoolers have their proms at the state capitol.
  • I love the glorious fall colors and the first snowfall.
  • I love the graffiti-free school yards and great teachers.
  • I love my proximity to canyons and lakes.
  • I love my surprisingly diverse neighborhood.
  • I love 101.9 the end.
  • I love Pioneer Day.
  • I love the roadside produce stands.
  • I love that we now have In-N-Out... a little flava of my youth when I'm feeling nostalgic.
  • I love the easily navigable Salt Lake International Airport.
  • I love living among adorable families of quail.
  • I love that my children are growing up with the things I loved about this place.
    Andrew in Great Grandma's backyard.

Abby and Bobby.
Wes fishing at Powell.
Ian & view from Sunrider's roof.
I camped last summer, but haven't caught a fish in years (if you don't count the catfish that Rob Carlson caught with his bare hands when I chummed it at Lake Powell a couple of years ago), nor have I had another perm since I've lived here. Our neighbor's cherry tree branches encroach on our yard, but I never eat the cherries, let alone spit out the pits. I do love the view of the snow-capped mountains through its blooming branches in the spring, though, as well as all of the many other blooming trees that decorate the landscape annually.

Utah isn't for everybody, and there are a few things I do not love about it (could they please start a new driver's training class here called "how to navigate a 4-way stop"?!).

It would be nice to live a bit closer to the rest of my family, and I sometimes miss the beach (and let's be honest, Disneyland).

But as for me and my house, I guess you could say, this is the place.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You Say It's Your Birthday?

Happy Birthday to my hubby! Weird guy that he is, he actually asked for a race entry for his birthday. Scott doesn't just go running, he goes run-nang, ala Forrest Gump. Bless his heart, I should be grateful I don't have a superficial guy who wants designer jeans for his birthday, but I still can't help but roll my eyes and smile. You go, Scooter!

Scott in New Orleans, saving some of his Beignets for later.
I wanted to post a funny birthday video on Scott's Facebook page today, so I spent a few minutes analyzing the You Tube selection. I picked one that I thought first offensive, then realized it was right up Scott's alley.

You Tube has no shortage of birthday-related videos, but as with every other subject matter, you sometimes have to wade through the lame and annoying to find the charmers. This one is the epitome of Nicol sister humor, I'm sure Lesley and Valerie would agree. I didn't post it to Scott, however, because it makes a few references that certainly don't apply to him, and I didn't want to give any cause for misconception!

So now on to baking Scotty's cake. He will be pleased to know this isn't it, but if you get some twisted joy out of ugly cakes, be sure to take a trip to the Cake Wrecks blog. Please go to the bathroom first. You will laugh your head off.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SCOTT! HAPPY BIRTHDAY SCOTT! HAPPY BIRTHDAY SCOTT! HAPPY BIRTHDAY SCOTT! HAPPY BIRTHDAY SCOTT!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Channeling Wayne Dyer...

I am not a Wayne Dyer fan. Not because I think he is evil or wrong or anything, but mainly because PBS always breaks him out during their pledge drives and it messes up my personal viewing schedule. Specifically, he always seems to preempt Lark Rise to Candleford, which should be some sort of misdemeanor. I have given him a try. A couple of tries. He seems to just say lots of feel good stuff you've heard hundreds of times before, and he likes to showcase his daughter's singing. Why am I reviewing Wayne Dyer? I guess because I heard him say something once, the one thing he said that stood out and stuck with me. Something about when you wake in the night, don't go back to sleep, listen. Hm. Well, if I was supposed to get a message last night, I'm not sure it registered.

I woke up during the wee hours, startled by house sounds that happen when my furnace goes on. I listened for a minute. More snap-crackle-pop sounds, typical of my house. My heart was thumping and I knew I wouldn't fall back asleep right away, so I did a patrol of the house. Doors all locked? Check. Wes fell asleep with his light on again? Yep. Turned off lights, let the dog out and back in again. Went back to bed and couldn't fall asleep. I can't get Japan off my brain. I feel so awful for the people affected by the Fukushima nightmare. I said a prayer for Japan. Then I started to worry about what would happen in a comparable earthquake here, am I living in an unreinforced masonry house, would people in the basement be squashed, yadda. All the while I have an old Scottish tune stuck in my head. After finally falling back asleep, I woke again this morning with the same tune stuck in my head. I think it was even in my dreams. Weird night.

I listened last night, and the only message I got was that I should sleep with cotton balls in my ears, 'cause if I do wake up, my REM sleep will be a lost cause. As will my morning. Now I'm just bugged and blaming Wayne, if for no other reason than he is there to be blamed. And it's easier than blaming my furnace.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Summon Your Eagle Powers!

(Thanks, Scott aka "Nacho")

My friend Heidi turned me on to a website that has a ustream live broadcast of an eagle's nest. Two days ago the eggs began to hatch, and the last egg is expected to begin hatching any minute. You can see the two little fuzzballs and the remaining egg every now and then as the eagle moves around. When I first went to the website, I thought, "wow, this is tedious!" Didn't think I'd last long on that site. Funny enough, it becomes a little hypnotic watching the eagle, and now I keep checking back in case I miss something!

I guess I find it nice to be witnessing this rite of spring because winter seems to want to keep its grip on us as long as possible this year. The 6-or-so inches we got yesterday weighed so heavily on our budding globe willow, 4 or 5 large branches fell. We only found out because our neighbor called to let us know. Enjoying a lazy Sunday and still in my pjs, I got in my car and drove through the storm to the other side of the house to investigate (I know, I just bumped my carbon shoe size to 12). Photo taken today. Happily, snow is melting.

Considering it is still early April, I realize I'm being unrealistic not to expect snow in Utah. After all, about this time last year we had occasion to build a snow bunny!