Dolls

So, some of you know I have 1 sentimental collection- 12 Madame Alexander Dolls.  I started this collection when I was 8 or 9 years old because my grandma collects them.  The first one I got was near my birthday and we were at FAO Schwartz in San Francisco.  They had a special edition snow white doll that I wanted so badly, begging my grandma to get it for me as a birthday present.

She said “you can’t take care of a special doll like that”.  This was a well justified comment as I was a messy, messy kid.

“I promise I will take good care of it.”  I have always done well when given a challenge and a challenge it was!  Over the years I have treasured my dolls, displaying them proudly as  a beautiful collectible, a reminder of my relationship with my Grandma, and a mark of my childhood dreams and ambitions.

I’m proud to say I still have most of my dolls including my original love Snow White:

Snow White Winter Doll 1990 Disney Princess Special Edition Series

I’ve only had two doll casualties over the years.

The first one was when I was 13 or 14.   My cousins were staying at our house and my little cousin Elizabeth decided to play with my dolls.  This included taking out the braids to my Hungary 1981 Alexander doll.  The rest could be redressed and salvaged but not the Hungary doll. I’m not kidding when I say I was devastated and oh so angry.   What made it worse was that nobody seemed to care about my loss and brushed it aside as ‘kids do things like that. Isn’t that amusing…’.  While that may be true, it doesn’t help another kid who has seen her prized possession destroyed.

Ever since this happened I have always tried to be more sensitive to a child’s sadness over a lost toy or game.  It may seem stupid to us but it may be a big deal to them.  My dolls staying in pristine condition meant that I could take care of something, that I was independent, and responsible- traits that have always been at the top of my must have list!

Anyway, I was pretty upset but never thought to replace it figuring it was an old doll and unreplacable (this was before ebay!).  However, recently I happened to check on ebay and there it was for a great price! (great and bad thing about Alexanders is that most of them do not go down or up in value from the price they are originally sold at ).  The child in me was vindicated and happy to see the doll return to my collection- love when I can do that!

The doll is restored! Madame Alexander Hungary 1981

Anyway, the 2nd doll loss happened a few weeks ago.  Because of my chronic pain I occasionally have my apartment cleaned.  On one such occasion they cleaned, left and I thought nothing of it.  The next day I noticed the clothing on my Alexander India 1980 doll was askew.  To my horror as I adjusted the sash the head came off! And then the elastic inside broke and the whole doll became dismembered!

Have your children look away! The trauma!

Initially upset I emailed the cleaners and they were actually amazingly sympathetic and offered to pay for the doll to be replaced.  She even said she felt ‘sick inside for me’.  Afterwards I found out that occasionally an old Alexander’s band will become brittle and snap without any provocation.   I offered to pay for my cleaning and still working that out but am still grateful for their sympathy (much more so than I got from the loss of my Hungary doll!).  They are honestly the only thing in my apartment I really care about.  Maybe some of my Christmas ornaments are as valued but that’s the only thing I can think of to compare.

Fortunately I also found it on amazon for a good price (not quite as great a deal as Hungary but its more rare).  Now all of my dolls are restored and looking beautiful! Hopefully my grandma won’t read this blog but if she does she will probably forgive 2 casualties after all these years!

Madame Alexander India 1980

I’m not a nick-knack kind of person and I admit I’m being a bit melodramatic for comedic effect, but everyone should have a collection right?  I have my books and my dolls!  What do you collect?  Do you have anything from childhood that you treasure?  I think anything that we value as a child is extra meaningful as an adult.  I know its just a possession but its symbolic of the child I was and the relationship I still have with my grandma, who is one of my best friends (and who has always seen my potential despite the mess!).  I’m grateful to have both dolls back and that it all worked out.  🙂

My Dolls are:

World-

India 1980

Hungary 1981

Scotland 1986

Betsy Ross 1987

Gone with the Wind-

Scarlet Picnic 1994

Mrs O’hara 1992

Poor Scarlet 1998

Ashley’s Farewell 1996

Little Women-

Jo and Beth 1986

Jo Goes to New York 1995

Snow White Winter 1990

My Doll Collection

April Randomness

Here’s one of my random posts!

FOODSAVER

My new freezer is awesome but I also tried out my foodsaver for the first time this morning.  I got a great deal and am excited to add it to my garage of culinary gizmos.  There’s just something about seeing vacuum packed food that makes you feel like you’re in the future!

My first saved food!

I’m hopeful that the eggs will stay yellow with the air being sucked out.  I’ve had bad luck with freezing eggs.  They get kind of gray and gross.  It makes cooking breakfast in advance hard and I hate cooking breakfast.

The limes and peppers are leftover from my last bountiful basket.  I hope to use them for salsa and hopefully there will be tomatoes in the next basket, which I am getting on Saturday!  My friends Erin and Kate are splitting 2 baskets with me. Oh la la!  It is really exciting to wonder what you are going to get and everything has been so delicious the anticipation is palatable!

(Using the foodsaver and freezer supposedly food can last for 2 years! This should save me a lot of money throwing away uneaten food).

DOTERRA

I have mentioned it a few times but in recent years I have become a fan of essential oils, particularly from Doterra because their oils are not merely aromatic.  They help me with my pain, ward off illness and even boost my mood. I used to have a roommate who was super into essential oils and it drove me crazy so I will spare you a spiel.  I just wanted to share a new idea my friend Jill told me about.

With a low thyroid I get dehydrated more quickly so I have to focus on drinking lots of water.  My new trick is to put Doterra lemon/lime oil in my water and it is sooooo good!  Its so much better than a wedge of lemon or lime.  Its sweeter and less bitter than you’d expect.  Its really delicious.

BADGER RUB

On a related note I have found a rub for muscle relief I love.  Its called Badger Sore Muscle Rub.   It’s one of the only muscle rubs I’ve tried without menthol which provides mostly placebo relief.  Essential oils are great but sometimes too strong for use in public.  Badger rub provides relief but it smells nice and lemony, not overpowering.  The little container goes a long way and at $10 its a great price!

I could easily wear this to work or around town and nobody would notice anything offensive.  Its a wonder product!

Life at the Gym

PROGRESS AND GOALS

So just got back from a tough workout with Coach Dave- 1500 yards in 300 intervals each time going faster. My best time was 7 min 14 sec which I feel really good about.   I’m going to keep training and working hard for the Great Salt Lake Swim that which is coming up on June 9th.  Its a 1 mile swim but the water will be pretty cold so it will be a challenge.

I have also signed up for the 5K at the Deer Creek Open Water Swim!  This is the longest I have ever attempted but I have close to 6 months to prepare and I know I can do it.  I figure most of my friends did the 5k last year and I can hold my own with most of them.  My Dad might be able to come and be my paddler which would be a great experience together.  Its so motivating to have a race to look forward to.  Thanks in advance to all who are working to make both races happen.  They need volunteers for simple tasks if anyone is available June 9 or August 11th let me know.  Can’t wait!

I also am determined to get below 250 if it kills me.  Ok maybe not kill me but you get the idea.  I’ve worked so hard and last week I had a weight gain.  Was totally bummed out but I’m using it as a catalyst to try even harder.  I decided to sign up for a fresh meal delivery service here in Salt Lake that will help me get a better idea of portion controls and limit my diet with greater ease (with my new freezer this is even easier).  Its not something I would want to do forever but I think to help me get ready for the race it will be worth trying out.  Plus, the company does not have auto-renewal so to try it out for 2 weeks can’t hurt.

I’m also continuing with the bountiful baskets and between my freezer, portion controlled meals and lots of fresh produce I figure I will be doing all I can to eat right.

I know its weird but I love post work out photos. Its like a way of saying to myself- yes I did that! Don't you love the goggle eyes and swim cap line!

Sometimes in my quest for greater success I can forget how far I’ve come.  Take a look at these 2 photos one is from 2010 and one taken today.

2010 with my awesome trainer Michele. She has been with me through literally thick and thin! Weighed around 305 lbs
Michele and I today. Weigh around 260

I admit in 2010 I had hoped for a more dramatic before and after but I can tell a difference.  I certainly can feel the difference. It feels good to be able to say I tried as hard as I could to take care of my body and despite what felt like the gates of Hell opening up after me last year I am still pushing forward.

NEVER JUDGE

I also had a good experience today at the gym.  There is a lady who is in my ward who also goes to my gym.  She seemed sweet but on the surface not someone I would have a ton in common with (wears a ton of make up, dresses in designer clothes etc).

I was just in a good mood and went up to her and said ‘we should work out together sometime.  I’m sure you’re way ahead of me but it might be fun.  I’m kind of a lone warrior here.”  She said she would love that and asked if I did other things besides swimming.  I said ‘I’m not the most coordinated person in the world (huge understatement) but I will give most anything a try. I like kickboxing, yoga, spinning, working out on the machines. “

She seemed really happy that I talked to her and afterwards texted me saying “Can’t wait to work out with you :)”.   Just goes to show you shouldn’t judge by appearances. You lose out on a lot of friends that way.

She also said ‘you always seem really positive at the gym.  I think it would be great to work out together.’ This made me happy that people are watching me and maybe even a little inspired despite all my moaning and groaning!

BIKE

I’m also thinking about buying a bike.  The idea is to find a bike that I can tottle around Draper on turning everyday experiences into an active experience.  I need a bike with a seat that is large and frame that’s easy to mount.  Most bikes I don’t feel balanced enough on or that it can support me but this one looks very interesting.  Its called a Trek Navigator 2.0 and has 21 gears, low frame, big seat, front shocks and the local bike shop price is actually lower than I’ve found online.

So far the reviews I’ve read online are really good.  Thoughts?

SPRING WALK

One last thing.  Yesterday I was without a car because I have a company car and on occasion the company needs to use it!  My friend Jill was super duper nice to let me use her car so I could make my voice lesson (which was awesome.  I’m learning Defying Gravity and it is so thrilling! I’ve come so far and feel the song encapsulates the last  couple years of my life. ) .  Anyway, after dropping her car off I got to walk home in the beautiful Spring weather.  Everything is lush and smells delicious.

I snapped this quick pick with my camera phone (all of these photos were taken with my camera phone.  Not bad hah!). I’m so grateful to live in such a beautiful place and that God gives me glimpses of His grandeur on occasion.

Sometimes I forget how beautiful Utah is and how stunning the mountains are. Often I have to look up and remember that they are there and it takes my breath away. I'm so lucky to live here and I never want to move.

Sophie Kinsella

I would like to send a shout out to another wonderful read by the British author Sophie Kinsella, which is a pseudonym for Madeline Wickham.  When I first read Confessions of a Shopaholic in an airport delayed I thought ‘here’s this silly story’ and then I found myself laughing once, and then again and again.  Plus, I related to the way Rebecca shops and rationalizes her money away.  It gave Rebecca a warmth and familiarity from the start because dealing with money, debt and the temptation of new things exists for all of us.  There is also a slight message to the Shopaholic stories that things are just things and that it is the people who matter most.  (the movie totally got the character of Rebecca wrong, mixed around the great story and set it in Manhattan instead of London.  Big mistakes.)

Just as Rebecca deals with shopping the character in the Undomestic Goddess must confront the over-work in her life, or lack of life.  She can’t have time to meet with her family for her birthday or learn how to use her vacuum and then crisis, the lawyer becomes a housekeeper in a grand house.  She must learn to cook, clean, and live. Can a hard-edged city lawyer learn to appreciate the needs of a house? The story has lots of humor and romance. I love it!

Undomestic Goddess is probably my favorite Kinsella novel. I love anything that is about work, why we work, why we over-work, work vs. family etc. Especially interesting is the contrast of old vs new work.

In I’ve Got Your Number is her newest novel and it conquers smart phones.  Through admittedly ridiculous turn of events a man and woman must share 1 phone (think the movie Pillow Talk in the modern era). They go back and forth exchanging each other’s emails and becoming more involved in their lives.  Its a very good book and great romance. I laughed out loud a lot and her lead character Poppy felt like one of my best girlfriends.  Kinsella also knows how to make a setting humorous and without being gaudy, slapsticky, or over-the-top.

Its easy to criticize the plots of Kinsella’s books.  They are thin on plot but her characters and situations are spot on.   Yes they are predictable and obvious but they are also funny, relatable and speak in an authentic way to real problems.  Whether its conquering housework, shopping, or managing 2 phones, the characters feel funny and real as they go about the experiences of their novel.

Well, I’ve hid it for months because it seemed like ‘dumb chick lit’ writing but I’m coming out and saying it- I like Sophie Kinsella and think she is a good writer.  She makes you laugh and question your own habits.  It is great! It is easy to dismiss someone because of the genre they write in such as chick lit, but are there not always authors that succeed in a genre, or despite a genre?

I’m no longer going to be a closeted Sophie Kinsella fan.  Silly, romantic, fluffy they may be but they make me laugh, pause to think and smile at the characters happy endings.

I hope that she continues to write more stand-alone novels because I’ve loved all of them that I’ve read- Undomestic Goddess, I’ve Got Your #, Remember Me etc.  The shopholic books were great for the first 3 and then got a bit tired, as most series do.

Although being British there is a bit of language in her books particularly the F word so you’ve been warned.

What books do you like despite not normally loving the genre? Do you think genres stop you from reading certain books? Have you been surprised when you gave a new genre a shot?

The comments have been a bit dry lately.  Make my day, make a comment!

Conference Twitter

As I mentioned in my last post the General Conference of my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is this weekend.  We have one session left and it has been a wonderful 2 days of spiritual feasting.   One thing that has made the experience more powerful for me is twitter.  There are 2 twitter handles #LDSConf and #twitterstake that so far has been 99% faithful Saints pointing out quotes and insights as we all listen to talks.

Some of you might say ‘how can you concentrate on the message while focusing on twitter.  I would argue that I focus on the message more because the learning experience is expanded.   When I was a little girl I went to a special school- Reid School- in Salt Lake.  As part of their curriculum my teachers at Reid always used more than one learning method to teach concepts.  For instance, when studying multiplication the teacher spoke the sums, wrote them on the board and then we repeated out loud the answers.  This created a visual, auditory and tactile learning experience.

I only attended Reid School for 6 months but it had a profound effect on my intellect and educational development.  I always try to learn in multiple ways.  When I was in college I used to call my mother and say ‘I just need to explain this to you’.  Simply reading a textbook or listening to a lecture was not enough for me to absorb information, but speaking it out loud kept it in my mind.

When I follow General Conference on twitter I am reading, typing, listening and watching.  Plus, with DVR I can go back and listen again to anything I might have missed.  This is also just the first of many viewings.  Sometimes I will have a pen and paper and other times nothing at all.  Each time I learn something different; however, the twitter interactive experience can only happen while watching live and I think it is worth taking advantage of.

One person @Stan_Way on twitter posted this photo of his set up for watching Conference.  I think it is awesome.

By the way #LDSConf was the 2nd most popular twitter handle yesterday.  Sounds like I’m not the only person to get on the bandwagon!

Its amazing how quickly the videos from Conference become available.  Yesterday I mentioned this talk by Elder Holland and it is already up on youtube.  It is an instant classic and touched on many topics that I’ve been pondering lately.   I also appreciated Elder Holland’s explanation of the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard- something I’ve always wondered about.

This talk by Elder Scott was also very moving.  So touching how he thanks his wife who has passed on for her continual inspiration.

I would also like to say a public thank you to the recently released presiding bishopric and relief society presidency.  Bishop Burton has served as presiding bishop since 1995.  Sister Beck has been in either the Young Women’s presidency or Relief Society presidency since 2002.  I’m grateful for their service.

I am particularly sorry to see Sister Barbara Thompson getting released.  As a single member I always looked forward to her talks and perspective.  She is also a terrific speaker and her talks have helped me in many ways.

Well, one more session to go!

General Conference Brunch

Had such a wonderful morning!  With my family being in town I decided to host a little brunch before the Saturday morning session of my church’s General Conference.  This is an event put on by the leadership where we hear talks, beautiful music and inspiring words from the prophet and apostles.  I look forward to it every 6 months, but with all the challenges lately I was particularly anxious for the guidance of my leaders.

The first session was wonderful with an emphasis on families and on enduring trials.  President Eyring’s talk especially moved me.  He said “Trials aren’t always for punishment, but rather for polishing”.  I’ve felt polished lately! He also said “If the foundation of faith is not embedded in our hearts the power to endure will crumble”.  This a sobering reminder that without studious watch-care my faith could erode.  I will not let that happen.  I will do whatever it takes.

So, back to the brunch.  I love to entertain and make things beautiful and appetizing.  It was a pitch-in (or potluck) but I made 4 quiches and an Easter Cake.I also got some daffodils and have a few other Easter decor pieces.  All and all I think it turned out pretty well.

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I don't usually get to exercise my cake decorating skills very often but that's the fun of having company, they can eat most of the cake! The frosting I made was to die for. You use 1 part butter, 1 part butter flavored shortening whipped well, lots of vanilla, tbsp milk, 1 lb powdered sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder and 1 bar melted dark chocolate. Most of the decor I made. The flowers are purchased (great tip. Wilton flowers. Saves time and making tons of colored frostings). Plus, they look so pretty!
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Madi and I. Don't we look cute?
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Daffodils. One of my favorites. Anyone who follows me on pinterest knows I love fresh flowers of any kind. I would like to learn to make flower arrangements. Anyone want to take a class? 🙂
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The quiches were made using Marie Calendars crusts thawed. Then I bought 4 different meats from the salad bar to save time- bacon, chicken, turkey, portabello mushroom. I sauteed vegetables I had on hand from my bountiful basket including bell pepper, onion, zucchini, mushrooms (you could put anything in it). Then I roasted sweet potato (could use any potato). Put meat, potato in pie plates. Then add chevre goat cheese. Whisk 6 eggs, 1 cup milk or 1/2 half with 1/2 cheddar cheese per quiche. Put in vegetables. Pour egg mixture over other filling until it is brimming. Cover with tin foil. Bake for 30-40 minutes on 400 degrees. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes or until fork comes out clean. Can be served cold or reheated. Freezes really well. Better than any other egg casserole I've tried.
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One of my best entertaining spreads. Isn't it beautiful!

I’m getting my freezer in a few hours so it will be a great to store my leftover quiches in it right away!  Hurray for appliance purchases.

What a great day!

Howards End

Howards End

Feeling some Downton Abbey withdrawals?  Here is a recommendation to see you through until the next BBC adaptation of Great Expectations comes in April!

Howards End by E.M. Forster

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love both the movie and now the book. In fact, the movie is pretty much a perfect staging of the book, so if you like the movie you will probably like this.

It might sound odd but one of the things I love about this story is its reassurance that there is a potential for good in all of us- the rich, the poor, the educated etc. There are no villains or heroes in this story. Everyone wants to be good and lead a good life. If society, philosophy, business, or family pressures push them away from their good intentions- isn’t it still comforting to know that those intentions exist? I love Helen’s insistence that Mr. Bast not give up his “I am” for in giving this up he would be giving up his existence. She could not let humanity whittle him down. I also admire Margaret for finding the humanity in Mr. Wilcox. This is I am sure the same essential part of him that Mrs. Wilcox found and it probably allowed her to love such an imperfect man.

I love that I love every character in this story and yet I hate them all at the same time. Isn’t that the way real human beings are? Don’t we all have noble and evil in us? I believe that by ending the novel the way Forster does he concludes that a peaceful medium is obtained by most of us in life (this is symbolized by Howards End- which seems to be thrown about just like the characters- in between London and Oberton for most of the book). He is saying that the greatest peace comes from reconciling our place in the world, our right to be, and the rights of those around us to be happy with what God has given them.

The characters are particularly impressive in Howards End because so many are dynamic and interesting.  When you have a supporting character like Mr. Bast getting an entire story arc you know good writing is taking place.  In fact, it is hard to think of an accessory character in the whole story.  Everyone is studied and pondered upon.

The novel also deals with the concept of saving. Mrs. Wilcox tries to save Margaret by giving her Howards End, Margaret tries to save Henry through love, Margaret and Helen both try and save each other and certainly Helen tries to save the Basts. In the end, goodness, hope and loyalty save all and provide all with wisdom, self awareness and comfort.

My only fault with the book is I wish there had been one religious character. As comforting as philosophy and literature can be I find they fall short in satisfying eternal meanings in life. A religious character would have at least demonstrated a contrast.  I admit this desire is partly egotistical. There is something validating about reading characters that see the world like you do (a sensation I so rarely have)  and it is comforting to hear your voice coming out of any text.  On the other hand, we can learn more about ourselves through opposing points of view.  Still, in a book claiming to touch on every sphere in society it would seem that religion might factor more or less into one of those spheres.
I love A Room with a View but I like Howards End even more. RWV tells us that finding our inner-self comes from looking out of our sphere of influence- from embracing adventure and romance with all the lusts and philosophies that accompany such passions. It tells us that finding our match brings perfect completeness; whereas, Howards Ends says that finding the humanity in all people including ourselves makes us fully human. I LOVE this book!

View all my reviews

The movie is just amazing.  With such nuanced performances from Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Hopkins.  Plus, its gorgeously shot by the Merchant/Ivory production.  If you are having a Downton Abbey withdrawal rent this wonderful film.

Gosford Park is another winner, written by Juliian Fellows who also writes Downton Abbey