Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Short, Sweet Trip to Phillydelphia

I got to escape to Philadelphia for a quick but pleasant trip with Peter this past Sunday into Monday. He had to give a lecture at Wharton (the business school at Penn that he went to), and I always love going back to Philly and Penn since I spent four great years of my life there. My sister Elizabeth and her boyfriend Justin were kind enough to come down from Massachusetts to watch John so that I could go. We left at about 3:30 on Sunday afternoon for the four-hour drive, and were headed back home by 3:30 on Monday afternoon. Quick trip indeed! But it was worth it.

It's always nice to go back to Philadelphia together. It's a special place for us. It's where we met and fell in love. Ten years ago, in November of 1998, this was the kind of thing I dreamed of (a Wharton-educated husband, coming back to campus to visit with him, etc.) At that time I was a freshman at Penn, a seemingly random Ivy League school that I somehow got into. I decided not to go to BYU in favor of giving Penn a try. It was a little scary at first, but it turned out to be a completely wonderful, life-changing experience.

Peter and I met ten years ago in Hill House, the dorm we lived in. It's funny that our room number at the hotel on this visit was 568. My room number freshman year when and where we met was 569. It was in that room that Peter first stopped by to introduce himself almost exactly ten years ago this fall. It's great when funny little "coincidences" like that happen!

We stayed at the beautiful Inn at Penn, where I spent all of Monday morning until it was time to check out. It's so nice to be able to sleep in every once in awhile! After that I walked around campus a bit (feeling nostalgic and sentimental), snapped a few pictures, ate a delicious chicken and veggie crepe for lunch in Houston Market (where I used to eat a lot), and read in the Penn Bookstore until Peter was done with his lecture and lunch. Then we headed back home. It was a great little relaxing getaway for me. Thank you Peter, for having a lecture to give so that I could enjoy a mini-vacation in a place that I love!

A few pictures of campus

Locust Walk, the main walkway through campus.

Rich and famous businessmen
We went to school with Donald Trump's kids. I saw The Donald Himself once on campus. And you know what else is funny? The big construction project on campus during my four years there was Huntsman Hall, the new Wharton building that alumnus Jon Huntsman had donated lots of money to build. I liked walking by the construction site during my time there knowing that a fellow member of the church was responsible for it. It was like my own version of BYU. And then at graduation, Jon Hunstman Jr., the current governor of Utah and also an alumnus of Penn, was one of the speakers. Someone sitting near me whispered to someone else, "Hey, did you know that guy is Mormon?" And she said, "Really?" And I just smiled to myself.

Some pictures from the drive back home

(Still in Philadelphia)
That big sprawling building in the background behind the sign and highway is the famous Philadelphia Museum of Art, the one where Rocky Balboa runs up the steps to that iconic song "Gonna Fly Now." I haven't seen the movie but it feels like I've seen that scene hundreds of times.

Crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge from Philadelphia into New Jersey.

This is a bad picture of New York City in the distance (it was rainy and I was in a fast car). That tallest pointy building in the middle left is the Empire State Building.

Another not-so-great picture. Sorry! This is the sprawling George Washington Bridge, one of the world's busiest bridges. It connects New Jersey and New York. I was apprehensive about crossing this bridge for awhile after 9/11, but it doesn't make me nervous anymore.

Headed home (to New England, not Long Island!)

I miss New York and living close to it when we lived in NJ.

On a side note, Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I hope you have a great holiday!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bitten by Twilight

I finally got with the times last week by reading the publishing sensation that dethroned J.K. Rowling & Harry Potter: Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. Since I wanted to see the movie, I had to read the book first to develop my own picture of everything, so it was the perfect time to finally start this series. I'm not sure what took me so long to do this. For some reason I tend to stay away from things that get really hyped up. But if I do decide to "partake," I'm usually not disappointed, and this was no exception. I really liked the book. I stayed up late reading it for a couple of nights in a row, rendering me useless with headaches and total overtiredness the next day. But I could hardly help it. I was fascinated by Bella and Edward's newfound, strange but beautiful mortal-immortal love.

One of the good things about waiting to read these books is I don't have to wait a year for the next book to come out. They're all out and available now, so I get to have instant gratification instead of spreading it out over a few years. (I've heard something about a fifth book that the author stopped writing because the manuscript was leaked on the Internet. Is that true?)

I admire the author, Stephenie Meyer. I like that she randomly had a dream one night about a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire, and then sat down and wrote the book in three months flat in the free time she found while being a stay-at-home mom of her young sons. She was 29 when she wrote Twilight, only a year older than me. Apparently she had little trouble finding a publisher. And now look what it's turned into! Having worked in the publishing industry in New York City, I know that this is very unusual. It's extremely difficult to get published by one of the big houses when you're a first-time writer with no connections. She is one lucky, talented woman, that's for sure. And of course I like it that she's a fellow Mormon.

So I saw the movie yesterday afternoon. And I liked it! Although I must say, having just finished reading it the night before, the book was a lot better (which is usually the case with books and their movies), and I had a few little complaints. Like the hilarity of Jasper looking perpetually constipated for almost the whole movie, and some unsmooth dialogue and transitions that made things at times too abrupt. I can see why some movie critics didn't like it very much--they'd have to have read the book to fully understand and appreciate the deeper story behind it all.

Anyway, despite those things, it was overall a very good movie. I thought that Bella was perfectly cast. And even though he wasn't exactly what I'd envisioned for Edward, Robert Pattinson will forever be immortalized as the dashing Edward Cullen in the minds of many girls and women throughout the world, mine probably included. He looked pretty hot in his suit at the end too. I was happy!


Within a few weeks I'll start reading the second book, New Moon. I'm sure I'll be up late at night with that one too. Unfortunately now I have to wait like everyone else to see the rest of the movies. It's okay. I can take it. And for those of you who are making fun of me as you read this (ahem, Alyson?!), you might want to be careful, or one of those non-vegetarian vampires might come and sink his teeth into your neck for your mockery!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thanksgiving's Not 'Til Next Week...

...But I want the food NOW! I've been craving Thanksgiving foods for the past few days. It's driving me a little crazy. I can't get the thought of juicy turkey, perfectly cooked stuffing, hot, soft rolls, sweet potatoes, and all of those other delicious Turkey Day goodies out of my mind. One thing is for sure: I'm really going to enjoy next week's feast when it finally comes. Especially since I don't have to cook it. Sometimes I can't believe that I'm 28 and have never cooked a Thanksgiving meal. How'd that happen? This is how: it's easy when you switch off between your family and your husband's family every other year. I wonder how much longer we can get away with this? I'm guessing we won't have to be responsible for the big meal until I'm at least in my early 30s. If it can last beyond that, all the better! This year we're spending the holiday in Massachusetts with my family. All we have to bring is a chocolate trifle for dessert and three bottles of sparkling cider. That definitely works for me!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Letting Bygones Be Bygones

Yesterday John McCain met with Barack Obama in Chicago for about 90 minutes to discuss (what else?) politics and the like. It was the first time they've met with each other since the election two weeks ago. I'm glad they seem to be getting along well now (although now that I think about it, they didn't seem to totally hate each other during the campaign, which is a good thing). I was very impressed with McCain's concession speech on Election Night; it was gracious and he said just the right things. I think I would be a little bit more of a sore loser if I'd put all that time, money, and effort into campaigning for so long. Then again, maybe it wasn't such a bad thing to lose this race. Being President of the U.S. is an extremely challenging, difficult, and even dangerous job. Maybe McCain is a little relieved!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Some Thoughts on Blogging

He's what makes me a "mommy blogger."

There was a little blurb in The Wall Street Journal a few days ago about mommy bloggers that I found interesting, particularly since I fall into that category. There are an estimated 3 million mothers out there who are blogging about mom-related things and other various topics. Wow! A little over half of those women post to their blogs at least once a week (that would be me), and 500,000 blog on a daily basis. That's a whole lot of mommy-blogging going on in the country!

I've had my blog for a little over a year now, and I really enjoy it. I like having a public outlet to express my thoughts, opinions, experiences, and pictures. It's a good way to connect with and stay in touch with friends, and it's a great way of "meeting" people from all around the country and even the world who you would never know otherwise. It's fascinating to get a glimpse into other people's lives and see what life is like for them. I've always found that interesting, and it enlarges my world-view in a fun way.

That said, blogging by its nature can be very time-consuming: there's your own blog to maintain with your postings and pictures, and there are many other blogs to read and keep up with if you choose to. I enjoy doing both of those things. My problem is the big chunk of time it all takes. How do you find the right balance between maintaining your blog, reading and keeping up with all of the blogs you follow, and oh yeah, living your own life?

For most people, life is already busy enough. I have one child and I don't work outside of the home, but I'm still always busy. The daily tasks of a stay-at-home mom are a full-time job: being an attentive mother, keeping the house clean and organized, preparing meals, running errands, driving to preschool and other activities, taking care of the pets, doing yardwork, etc. Then add to this all of the other things involved in living life:

  • exercising and staying healthy, or trying to get healthy
  • having a social life and going out and doing things
  • reading newspapers, magazines, and books
  • reading the scriptures
  • working on your church calling
  • watching TV shows and the news
  • doing your hobbies (other than blogging)
  • working on various projects around the house
  • spending at least a little quality time with your husband
  • keeping your career skills up (in my case, by doing freelance editing work)
  • trying to get at least seven hours of sleep a night,

and the list goes on. How does blogging fit in when you want to do all of these things? I guess it somehow does if you want it to. But at least for me, it's often at the expense of other things. For example, I'd love to read for pleasure a lot more than I currently do, watch more movies that I know I'd like, learn some new skills, and spend more quality time with my husband and son. Sometimes I feel very guilty when I'm on the Internet instead of with them. Not that I need to be with them every waking moment, but there are times when my Internet habits have made me neglectful of more significant responsibilities in my life.

I like blogging way too much to give it up! I just want to figure out a way to get it to fit into my life in a more efficient, less stressful way. Because if it's stressful, why do it? Maybe restrict it to just two or three days a week? Become less of a perfectionist and don't edit and proofread everything I write as much as I do? I don't know. How do the three million mommy bloggers and other bloggers out there do it? What do you do to fit it into your life? I'm really interested in how other people who blog make it work (or don't!).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Twisted Trees of Salem

I don't know if it's something in the earth there, or maybe it could be magical witchy powers in the air, but there are some seriously twisted trees in Salem, Massachusetts. I've never seen so many trees like this scattered throughout one town. In a way, they're very reminiscent of the things that took place in Salem's history, like a natural legacy of the twisted-up lies and accusations of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, sprung from the earth which now holds the victims, accusers, and others of that time.

Many of the strange trees we saw were in the graveyard, which I found out from Alyson's post is named the Old Burying Point and is the second oldest graveyard in the country. That's pretty old! I wonder if graveyards make trees grow funny over centuries of time, since roots are likely disrupted with the digging and burying that takes place there. Do you think so?


Sharon commented in my last post that she was surprised this tree hasn't been cut down, since it looks like it's about to topple over on to the graves. My guess is that they monitor it and it must have roots of steel, otherwise it would get the ax, literally. It's weird how it looks like it's twisting up out of the ground like that. What a bizarre angle!


This tree was right outside of the house that is Nathaniel Hawthorne's birthplace. I took this picture of it while waiting to go into the House of the Seven Gables.

Weird, huh? I took more pictures of other trees but they didn't come out well enough for me to keep. The trees add the perfect ambience to a fascinating place--not that it needs any more ambience than it already has!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Bewitching Day in Salem, Mass.

On Saturday, November 1st, my good friend Alyson and I went up and spent a fun day in the (in)famous, historic town of Salem, Massachusetts, which was fitting for the day after Halloween. We'd both been there before, though I hadn't been since high school (my hometown isn't very far from there). Salem is about 2.5 hours north from where Alyson and I live in Connecticut, and about a 1/2-hour up the coast from Boston. Okay, so that's enough geography. On to the pictures and the fun things we did and saw that day, including a number of real, practicing witches! I have to admit, they've always fascinated me.

The weekend before going up there, I read a popular new novel that's set in Salem, The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry, who lives there in town. It was fun to read it and get a feel for Salem from a native's perspective, and I felt more familiar with the sights and streets because of it.

One of the things the novel mentioned a few times was the statue of the first settler of Salem, Roger Conant, who settled there in 1626. The statue is located right near the town common, and it was one of the first things we saw when we got there.

We went to the Salem Witch Museum, which is in an old church and has a really cool presentation on the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, as well as a very interesting exhibit about the history of "witchcraft" and "witches" up to today, which I learned a lot from. I put those words in parentheses because of what I learned there. It was very informative!

Then we walked around and explored for a little while and had a delicious lunch of roast prime rib at a great little restaurant on the harbor.
Alyson and a really cool ship

Salem has a lot of fun little shops. I liked how the baskets hung from the ceiling in this one. That is such a classic colonial New England thing, and I love things like that. I feel like they're a part of my heritage, since this is how many of my ancestors lived.

The New England Pirate Museum is in Salem. Pirates and witches; what a combination! We didn't go into that Museum but Alyson did get friendly with a pirate:

These were a few of the other fun sights we saw while walking around downtown:

I'm pretty sure this was a real witch. Male witches (or rather, Wiccans) do not like to be called warlocks--that's a derogatory term to them. That's one of the things I learned at the Witch Museum.

A real witch shop, with what are most likely some actual witches waiting outside to go in. There were many Wiccans in town for the weekend because of Halloween.

We went to a really neat old cemetery near the town center. It's over 400 years old! Judge Hathorne, who unfortunately didn't exercise much good judgment during the Salem Witch Trials, is buried there, among many other people, including pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower. From what I saw the graves date back to the 1600s, possibly even earlier.

Isn't this tree perfect for a historic graveyard? I was amazed at how many twisted trees like this are in Salem; so much so, in fact, that I'm going to do a separate blog post devoted to the strange trees of Salem.

I love the deep sense of history that graveyards impart. They are so fascinating. It's a good thing they don't make history literally come alive, isn't it? Ha ha.

Who knew that old graveyards could be so lovely?

Next we went to The House of the Seven Gables, which dates back to 1668. It's the house that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote his famous novel of the same name about. It's a fascinating, beautiful place, especially if you're a history lover and if you like reading classic literature.

There were very pretty gardens out back, and the ocean was just beyond that. It was beautiful.

This is the back of the house. I spy with my little eye three gables from this angle.

I got a kick out of this sign. In some ways, I'm totally a colonial girl at heart. It's in my blood!

Alyson and I are kindred spirits--among many other things, we both love American history, New England, books, photography, and...ghosts!

"Half way down a by-street of one of our New England towns stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst." -Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of Seven Gables

Did you know that Nathaniel Hawthorne is related to the above-mentioned Judge Hathorne? He was so ashamed of the unfair Judge because of the innocent people's deaths for whom he was responsible in the Witch Trials that he put a "w" in his last name to distance himself from him.

The last thing we did before leaving to return home to Connecticut was the Terror Trail. We went to the Common for a walk around town led by a long-time resident who told really good, true ghost stories, ones from history and ones happening today to people he knows in town. We loved this!

Famous Salem Town Common.

These were a few of the sights during our ghostly walk:

I bought some good books and the cutest shirt that day. Check out the shirt. It's perfect for me, especially at certain times of the month:

It was a very fun day in a very cool place. I'll be going back again, many times in my life, I'm sure. Every American should try to visit Salem at least once in their lifetime because what happened there is such an important (albeit tragic) part of our history. If you liked reading about Salem here, you must go see Alyson's take on our trip at her blog, New England Living. She's an excellent writer and she makes her pictures look stunning, beautiful, and larger than life because of her amazing photography and Photoshop skills, and her blog has become pretty famous as a result!