Monthly Archives: June 2012

27 Jun

Lego My Lego

Posted by on June 27, 2012 at 10:25 pm

P.C.G.s AKA perpetually collective geeks: you know the type. These are the oddballs that stash giant Tupperware containers in their basements full of worthless toys that they felt compelled to purchase because only limited quantities were available and nerdiness demanded it. The habits of these hopeless geeks are the subject of my rant today or, more specifically, the habits of this hopeless geek for I too buy nerd. Now those of you that consider yourselves among the “too cool” and are about to commence with disapproving head shaking – hold on. You need not bother shuddering in annoyance because I, like the rest of the eternally pasty, am way too dorky to care about your endorsement or purported coolness.

Yes, I am the proud owner of all sorts of sci-fi and fantasy models, dolls, and action figures. I have Enterprise replicas that I painted myself and that look it. I possess Twilight Barbies with glittery skin. Lord of the Rings speaking Sauron doll? Yeah, I’ve got one of those too. The average person might be appalled by what I’ve deemed worthy of accumulating but my zealous stashing remains undeterred.

I don't have a favorite Minifigure, too many of them are awesome, but the elf, mad scientist, and barbarian warrior are definitely among my preferred.

Over the last year or two I have started amassing Lego Minifigures. These little guys are comically detailed and at around $3 apiece the price is right for stockpiling. They come in sealed wrappers identified only by the applicable series so part of the fun is trying to figure out which packages contain the guys you are missing. Sure, this means you spend a very long time in the store feeling up little men and that you end up with five soccer players when you really just needed one werewolf but those unmarked wrappers also mean you get the rush of surprise each time you cut one of them open. There’s nothing like the anticipation of tearing into a fresh Minifigures package with insides unknown. Two out of three nerds agree that it’s even better than unwrapping a mail-order bride.

I now have about 75 Minifigures and I’m ready to go out and purchase Series 7, the latest group to be released. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll go the extra hoarding mile and buy a whole box of these toys, like I did for Series 6, but I just might. Why limit yourself to a few men when you can have 60?

I permitted some of my little men to have a fieldtrip out of their box in order to facilitate an epic good vs. evil battle.

My little dudes may be plentiful but that doesn’t mean they’re too numerous for spoiling. I stow them away stylishly in a Lego specific container where neither dust nor gawking can diminish their mintiness. Only the best for my mini men.

Now that you have the scoop on my nerdy little habit remember to judge not lest ye be judged. Despite the wisdom of that timeless counsel I’m guessing many of you have concluded that only the geekiest of rejects would stoop to collecting toys meant for the infantile. You would be correct but I dare you to try buying a few of these chaps without getting sucked in by their miniature kilts, mullets, and skateboards. It’s impossible. You’ll find that you too are powerless against the appeal of their tiny banana peels. So don’t point a critical finger at me when the truly geekiest of rejects lurks somewhere beneath the disguise of your non-greasy skin just waiting for the right Lego man in a Godzilla suit to call it out.

19 Jun

The Father of All Thanks

Posted by on June 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Father’s Day serves as a yearly reminder to all of us that we do in fact have a dad and that we probably owe that man for plenty more than just some genetic coding.

Kids are chronically unappreciative. They must really think that money grows on trees and socks wash themselves. I’m sure as a child I too was guilty of what has now become one of my pet peeves: ingratitude. Maybe that’s the reason I feel compelled to write this post and absolve myself of some of my past sins. I wasn’t a bad kid, unlike Jason I didn’t hotwire tractors and drive them into fences, but I’m completely certain that I didn’t show my parents the appreciation they deserved. I now remember with chagrin all the times my hardworking father spent his weekends laboring in the yard and my homework or plans kept me from offering him a hand. And those many occasions when he paid for my college textbooks without complaint and got little more than a hurried thanks out of me. Rachel of my past, I am ashamed to have once been you. I’m glad I’ve grown up a little since then.

Jason's family spent Father's Day in the mountains. We had a nice picnic and then hiked to Stewart Falls.

With Father’s Day just last week I figured this was probably an opportune time to confess my failings as a daughter and acknowledge that I am indebted to my dad for far more than I can reckon. My dad has always had tremendous faith in his children. Not once did he doubt our capabilities. He was certain that we would all go to college and he was certain that we would succeed in our careers. He saw the scientist in me long before I did.

My dad taught me at an early age the value of being healthy and that exercise isn’t synonymous with torture. I started running with him when I was in elementary school and I always looked forward to our yearly backpacking trip up in the Uintas. While my dad can still run circles around me, that early focus on physical activity has led to me being active throughout my life, which is probably why I don’t weigh 400 pounds today.

I learned from my dad that persistence and perseverance are far more valuable than innate talent. Just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I never concede defeat and I guess I can blame that stubbornness on my father. Thanks Dad, I can’t tell you how often that determination has come in handy even if it makes others want to strangle me on occasion.

If you stood close to the falls for more than a nanosecond you got surprisingly wet, which wasn't such a bad thing.

I also have another dad besides my dad. My father-in-law Keith, though obviously not around when I was a little tike, has been a part of my life for over a dozen years now. You’ll never meet a guy happier to help out or easier to get along with. I’ve truly enjoyed having him in my family and appreciate his frequent assistance with our home projects. I owe him big for whatever part he played in raising a pretty terrific kid. Jason is a stellar husband and human being so thanks Keith for that.

I know these meager thanks don’t make up for years of thanklessness. I think parents never really get paid back for their investment in their children. I certainly don’t see a way to make things even with my folks but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t say thanks anyhow. So muchas gracias por todo mis padres! I am a fortunate girl and I hope something of what I have become makes you glad that you decided you wanted a little me all those years ago.

13 Jun

The Taco Touch

Posted by on June 13, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Jason and I like barbecues and good food and summer so, not surprisingly, we are fans of eating good food at barbecues during the summer.

One of my favorite barbecued meals is fish tacos made Bobby Flay style. They’re stuffed with goodies prepared from scratch: citrus vinaigrette marinated orange roughy, smooth tomato-serrano chile salsa, and avocado-tomatillo sauce. Mighty tasty! After the tacos have been gobbled we prefer to finish off this dinner with some grilled butter-rum glazed pineapple topped with vanilla mascarpone. Oh the scrumptiousness!

This grilled pineapple is fun to make because the rum glaze creates big flames on the barbecue and it's fun to eat because it tastes good.

While these fish tacos and their flavorful trimmings aren’t too complicated to create, it’s a pretty time-consuming process. Cilantro, limes, onions, garlic, jalapenos, tomatoes, cabbage, tomatillos, avocados, oregano, scallions, and lettuce make for a lot of washing, chopping, juicing, and roasting. But when you sink your teeth into that harmony of peppery creaminess and crunchy zestiness the hassle of hours of dicing is all but forgotten.

The fact that Aaron wasn't cooking didn't stop him from sporting my girly apron.

Since Jason and I are quite fond of these recipes many of you have already sampled them hot off our grill. Last weekend Jason’s brother Jeremy, his wife Kara, and our friend Aaron came over to do just that. Our favorite grilling recipes didn’t let us down and the weather was ideal for outdoor libations. A gentle breeze made the evening air perfectly pleasant as we chatted and joked around on the patio. It was nice catching up with the group while hitting our taco spots.

Mmm! Thanks Bobby Flay for making the world a yummier place. The few of you who haven’t been over to gobble our fresh from scratch fish tacos and other grilled delicacies, what are you waiting for? Invite yourselves already. It’s pretty easy to convince me and Jason to barbecue anytime.

9 Jun

Putting on the Gritz

Posted by on June 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm

You know that patriotic song that finishes with some line about the greatness of America from sea to shining sea? Well, Jason and I have witnessed firsthand the greatness of this country from one side of the continent to the other over the last month. Just a few weeks ago we were dipping our feet in the Pacific and last week we splashed into the Atlantic.

I had to travel to Charleston, South Carolina for a conference and good-natured Jason happily went with me to see a state neither of us had visited before. My seminar was just a two-day affair but we stayed a couple extra days to gluttonously savor the flavor of Charleston. Even though we’ve literally almost spent more time traveling the last month than we’ve spent at home, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to explore some new territory.

The banks of the Cooper River were pocketed with swamp lands. Those marshes were surprisingly pretty.

The Nathaniel Russell House had ornate oval rooms and a three-story spiral staircase. I felt like I should start gossiping about Mr. Darcy in its hall.

Charleston is a quaint old town with a sophisticated Southern feel and a whole lot of humidity. Since I’ve been to the South many times I was not surprised by the thick wall of moisture that greeted us when we exited our airplane. Nor did the row of rocking chairs lined up in the airport for flight waiters to relax in astonish me. Jason was a little taken aback by both though. Ya ain’t in Kansas no more honey.

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge's diamond-shaped towers looked interesting from any angle.

The Morris Island Lighthouse lies 300 yards off the shore at the tip of Folly Beach. It made for a nice backdrop.

Charleston’s significant role in America’s past was apparent from both sides of its narrow topsy-turvy streets. Its avenues were lined with tightly-packed antique homes and worn cobblestones. Porches with wicker chairs and rockers invited the world to sit back and take a load off under roofs that had quietly seen the passing of generations and the making of nations.

The shrimp and grits at High Cotton were highly delicious. How can you go wrong with fried okra, sweet corn, and a garlic broth?

Slightly North of Broad or S.N.O.B. was one of my favorite restaurants out of the many fantastic we tried.

With my conference taking up most of our first couple days, the only sightseeing we really got around to those initial nights was viewing delicious food as it traveled from our plates to our mouths. Charleston, it turns out, is something of a hotspot for fine Southern cuisine, especially seafood. The city seemed eager to ease into relaxation quickly in the evenings so everything closed early, except restaurants. Most shops locked their doors at 5 but bistros welcomed guests up to 1 AM. Therefore, Jason and I were forced to spend our nights eating. What a trial. We had fried oysters, apricot glazed flounder, crab cakes, stuffed hush puppies, and sautéed snapper with basil puree. That was all very good but what I craved most, and ordered almost every single night, was shrimp and grits. Too much of a Yankee to know what grits is? Imagine something along the lines of polenta but creamier. Grits is a tasty complement to pretty much everything. (And yes, grits is singular.) It’s hard to find grits that is cooked right and impossible to find it at all here in Utah. Too bad, I would trade wobbly green Jell-O casseroles for grits any day of the week. Even Jason, a diehard grits skeptic, was converted by the flavorful dishes I ordered in Charleston, which he readily sampled but was too cynical to get himself.

The walls of Ft. Sumter, where they were still standing, were 5 feet thick. Originally this fortress was designed to fit 135 cannons but it never got fully loaded.

This huge live oak tree stretched 145 feet across. It rested on the banks of the Ashley River long before colonialists did.

Even with all the extra grits weight we were carrying around we still managed to waddle through a lot of Charleston. We visited the Nathaniel Russell House, an antebellum mansion that had been skillfully restored and reminded me of something out of a Jane Austen novel. We walked along the shoreline at various parks and meandered down Rainbow Row where the pastel color scheme of the historic houses brought to mind tropical flowers and inviting Caribbean waters. We toured Middleton Place, a renovated plantation along the Ashley River that had grounds so expansive it took us a few hours just to walk through them. The maze of paths at Middleton Place wound through countless pockets of earth hedged by walls of camellias, magnolias, and bamboo so thick it was easy to imagine that if you held still for long enough you too would sprout roots into the fertile soil. We took a ferry out to Ft. Sumter where the first momentous shots of the Civil War were fired. We also made it to Folly Beach and sorry Californians, this water was warmer than what we waded through a few weeks ago in Santa Monica.

Cypress Lake was really a swamp that bordered one side of Middleton Place.

Middleton Place had so many picturesque plants and ponds that you didn't know where to point your camera.

This tree looked lovely bowing a greeting to the pond lilies.

If history enthralls you, if enormous live oaks draped in weepy vines give you that peaceful insignificant feeling, if shrimp and grits entices you to keep cramming up to your uvula then Charleston just might be the perfect place for you to visit. It has all the charm of the Deep South plus the friendly natives speak what can easily be identified as English while they feed you until your eyes pop. Sign me up and roll me home!