Saturday, January 29, 2011

On Wednesday afternoon I'll post all about our cross country adventures. Why Wednesday? Because on Wednesday we'll have real Internet instead of just iPhone Internet!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Books 111 - 118

Gah!  I'm so behind on writing about what I've read!  These were read sometime in November...  After we move I'll do a final update with a total count for the year, I promise.

111.  "Pretty in Pink" by Rachel Maude by Meg Cabot 223 pages
I am actually really liking the Princess Diaries series.  It seems pretty true to a 15 year old's point of view.  Not much happens in each book, but they are fun to read.  Thanks for the suggestion, A!

112.  "Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey 227 pages
This is the first Dave Ramsey book I have read.  I felt like I already knew everything that he was talking about because my parents taught me all of the exact same things growing up.  I don't really like his view on credit cards.  I know they are a dangerous temptation for many people, but I don't think they are completely bad like he does.  I have always paid off my credit cards (all two of them) in full each month and I don't buy things just because I have them (ask T - I go back and forth on buying something that is $2 because I think we might not actually need it).  Overall, I think it was a pretty good book, especially if you don't know where to start with money.  T and I both read it and I like knowing that we are on the same page about money.

113.  "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Ken Kesey 281 pages
This was... interesting.  As you probably know, it takes place in a mental institution in the 1960's.  Sometimes it was hard to tell what was real, which I think was kinda the point.  There were some underdog type story lines that I really enjoyed.  There were some things that just seemed so savage that I wondered if it was really like that in a mental institution in the 60's.  I liked it, and I liked the ending, but I don't think I will read it again because the subject matter is just so depressing / disturbing.  

114.  "Princess in the Spotlight" by Meg Cabot 223 pages
115.  "Schooled" by Gordon Korman 208 pages
Meh.  It's about a kid raised on a combine who has to go live in the suburbs and how he adjusts to today's world.  There were some funny parts.

116.  "Just One Wish" by Janette Rallison 264 pages
Totally unrealistic story about a teenage girl who tries to fulfill her sick brother's wish of meeting a famous TV star.  But it was still a fun read.

117.  "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot 328 pages
I liked this one.  It's a non-fiction.  Henrietta Lacks was a black woman who died of cervical cancer in the 1950's.  Her canerous cells were taken without her knowledge or consent.  These cells (named HeLa cells) were amazing - some of the first cells to grow extremely well in a lab.  The rest is taken from amazon.com's summary "HeLa cells were building block for countless breakthroughs, beginning with the cure for polio. Meanwhile, Henrietta's family continued to live in poverty and frequently poor health, and their discovery decades later of her unknowing contribution--and her cells' strange survival--left them full of pride, anger, and suspicion. For a decade, Skloot doggedly but compassionately gathered the threads of these stories, slowly gaining the trust of the family while helping them learn the truth about Henrietta, and with their aid she tells a rich and haunting story that asks the questions, Who owns our bodies? And who carries our memories?"

It was shocking to hear about the conditions the Lackses and other poor black families lived in (then and now).  It's also incredible how far science has come in 50 years.  This book is a lot of science and a lot of ethics and a lot of troubled past and for me that made it a pretty entertaining book, but I could see how some people wouldn't like it.  I think Skloot did a good job of not trying to make Henrietta's family look like saints, but accurately portraying them as they were.  Some really wanted to know what happened to their mother (Henrietta) and some just wanted to get any money they could out of it.  I didn't care for the ending, but it is pretty obvious that real life doesn't wrap up as neatly as fiction. 

118.  "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel 319 pages
Ugh.  I hated this book.  I would have stopped reading 20 pages in, but it was for book club so I read the whole thing.  It is supposed to be this deep meaningful book about religion and life and existentialism, but mostly I found it to be boring and full of crap.  It's the type of trendy book that everyone is like, "Oh, I read it and loved it, there's so much symbolism." but really no one gets it or likes it.  It's about a boy who gets shipwrecked on a tiny boat with a tiger and the way he survives.  Mostly I found myself wishing the tiger would just hurry up and eat the boy because the boy was so unlikeable.  Not much happens for entire book.  Sometimes a book with no action can still be good.  This is not the case for "Life of Pi."  Don't waste your time.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Oh, LA

Someone please explain why it was 80 degrees at the beach today, but when we tried (multiple times!) to go to the beach in July it was 63 degrees.  It's just not adding up.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Rose Parade! - Part Two

We woke up at 5 a.m. and got bundled up to go to the parade.  We didn't bring anything but donut holes, orange juice, and the camera.  I'm so glad that T refused to camp out overnight because it was cold!  I know you probably think we have just turned into wimps, and maybe we have, but it was only 39 degress by 7 a.m.!

Traffic was backed up across all the lanes at the exit we wanted.  So we hopped in the car pool lane and took the next exit where there was no line.  Someday, SoCal drivers will learn.  Until then, we will just keep out-maneuvering them.  We found free parking about 1/4 mile away from the parade.  Way better than paying $20! Originally we were planning to find a spot near the last mile of the parade because we heard it wasn't as crowded.  But our parking spot was straight out from mile two (out of five) so that's where we headed.

We got to the parade route about 6:15 and found a pretty great spot right off the bat.  The people in front of us camped out and had chairs out on the street so we were able to stand right behind them on the curb.  It was great because they were mostly sitting and we were up higher and had a mostly unobstructed view.   Then we just waited.  And waited.  And waited.

The parade started at 8 a.m. and we were two miles in (out of five) so we didn't see anything until about 8:40.  Paula Deen was the Grand Marshall.  I don't care about her either way, but I just couldn't figure out how they make the flowers stay on the car.  I also like that her car is under the Rent-A-Car sign. :)


We bought a program so we could know when Cousin J's band was approaching.  It was kinda pricey, but it helpful and it was for the Boy Scouts so we didn't feel bad about it.

The Ferris Wheel on the float was spinning so fast it almost made me sick.


The building in the background of all of these photos is an Office Depot.  I didn't bring my cell phone to the parade, so if we got separated the plan was to meet across the street from the Office Depot.  It was just like living in 1999 - making plans instead of calling each other. :)


At first I thought the hula dancers were barefoot!  How cold!  And unsanitary!  But they had on nude dance shoes.

I wonder if this guy switched arms half way through...

I'm glad we were close to the start because if we had gone to our original spot we wouldn't have seen anything until 9:30!  And we would have been stuck in traffic leaving!


It is crazy the things some people can make with flowers!

I wasn't sure if I would be able to get a good picture of Cousin J, so I practiced taking photos of the middle of the snare line of every band that came by.  Of course we don't really care about the other bands so I deleted them.  But I was getting ready.


These next three are the Beverly Hills float.  Would you expect anything less?




Oh, those Canadians... this one doesn't even know what a horse is supposed to look like! :)

I want a flower car!

Go Burbank!



This float was my absolute favorite.  The flowers were off the hook!



And of course the main reason we went to the parade - to see Cousin J in the Wyoming High School All State Marching Band!  They were marching right into the sun.

I think the picture practicing paid off.   Cousin J is to the right of the tallest guy in the snare line. Look at those perfectly synchronized steps!

It's hard to take a good picture of marching bands because they don't stay still!

I wasn't sure if I had a good enough shot of Cousin J so I ran following the band .  And it was WAY crowded.  Like single file only, get lost very easily, crowded.  It was hard to catch up and even harder to find a good spot to take a picture because now I was at the back of the crowd.  But, I did get two more shots. 

They sounded (and looked) really great.

I didn't think about this until we were driving home, but I should have tried to get some video of the band!  Oh, well.

The drive home was ridiculously easy.  On a normal weekday it would take us 40 minutes to get from Pasadena home.  It only took us 20 minutes after the parade to get home.  Somehow we completely missed all the parade traffic.  Go team!

We had such a wonderful time.  If you can go to the Rose Parade, you should.  If we were going to be in SoCal next year,  we would go see the floats late on New Year's Eve and just watch the parade from home because the floats are impressive at the parade, but even more so when you are only two feet away from them!  It was so worth it to go to the parade and see Cousin J!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Weekend

This weekend we flew out to D.C. to find a place to live.  That is a long flight, yo.  But at least it was a direct flight both ways. We left LAX Friday at 4:53 p.m. and arrived at Dulles Saturday at 12:30 a.m.  The flight there actually didn't feel that long.  There was some extremely light snow greeting us which of course made me practically giddy.  It was cold - and that is how January is supposed to be!

We snagged a rental car and headed to our hotel - near the other airport in the D.C. area.  We checked in and checked our room for bedbugs (not present, for the record).  I went in the bathroom and saw on the wall the biggest cockroach I have ever seen.  It was about three inches long and fat and sooooo gross.  I asked T to come take care of it.  It was so huge it would have made a horrible crunch sound and left a horrible mess if we tried to kill it with a shoe.  We were trying to decide what to do when it crawled behind a mirror.  No way could I sleep knowing that was in the room with me.  So T, being the wonderful dude he is, went to the front desk and got us a different room.  And all was well.

We got up the next morning at 7 (4 SoCal time) to a wonderful dusting of beautiful snow.  Our first apartment appointment was at 9 and we just kept going the entire day.  I thought apartments in SoCal were pricey, but D.C. is even more expensive!  I guess I should clarify - we didn't look at any apartments actually in D.C., everything we saw was in Virginia.  I can't even imagine how expensive they would be in actual D.C.!  But maybe the D.C. and SoCal apartment prices even out because every apartment we looked at came with a fridge, stove, microwave, washer and dryer, and dishwasher.  In SoCal you are lucky if you get a full size stove and that's it!

There was lots of note taking and comparing.  We found a place we liked.  We both thought it was overpriced for what it was (okay but not amazing), but a good price compared to others, and it was in a good location.

Our last stop for the day was a place T found but had not made an appointment with.  And we loved it.  From the first step inside we were impressed.  All the other places were nice, but this was the first place that actually impressed us.  It was huge (twice the size of our current place) and has several large east facing windows.  There was so much natural light, even on a cloudy day at 4:45 p.m.  The ceilings are ridiculously high.  Everything is practically brand new.  The kitchen is open and not a tiny alley. 

So after much discussion and number crunching we went back on Sunday and signed.  Yes, it is expensive, but only $30 more than the other place and we definitely would be getting our money's worth here.  Yay!!!  We have a place to live!!!  This place is like a trendy New York loft or something. Here are some photos shamelessly pulled from their website:

Part of the lobby

Club room and pool

Gym and golf range (the same one Tiger Woods uses, if you are interested.  I'm not.  But it looks fun to try.)

Kitchen and living space.  LOVE those windows.  If we weren't already planning on going to the National Mall for the 4th of July we could seriously watch the fireworks from our balcony.

Bedroom

We're excited to live here.  Plus there are some great extras: a 24 hour concierge, key fob access required inside the elevator to select a floor, covered parking, shuttle to / from the metro during peak hours, plus the girl we met with was the nicest ever.  She reminded me a lot of my favorite cousin M.

We checked out where T would be working then we took the metro into D.C. and checked out where I would be working then walked over to the White House.  We saw a sniper patrolling on the roof of the White House.  We wanted a picture of the West Wing (like the wonderful TV series!), but it was obscured by a temporary fence. 



We also saw two secret service agents with serious guns leaving the White House and let me tell you, those dudes definitely look like they mean business.

While riding the metro we realized it was "No Pants Subway Day!"  It was a fun surprise.  Those people must have been cold (it never got above 34 degrees our entire trip) but they sure didn't show it.

T drove us everywhere.  We took the GPS, but T knew for the most part where we were going because he worked in the D.C. area for a summer a few years back.  T was pretty much amazing this whole trip.  I heart that guy.

Our flight back to SoCal left at 10:10 p.m.  You wouldn't think the airport would be crowded that late, but it was as busy as SLC in the day time!  The flight back seemed much longer.  We landed at 12:40 SoCal time and finally got into our own bed at 2:30 a.m.  It was definitely a busy weekend.  We saw 10 apartments and made a decision in one day.  If that's not productive, I don't know what is.

We're so excited for our new east coast adventure!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Rose Parade! - Part One

We have been trying to do all the touristy SoCal things and what is more SoCal than the Rose Parade on New Year's Day?!  It worked out perfectly for us to go this year because my cousin J was in it!  He played the snare drum in the Wyoming High School All State Marching Band.

After a bit of internet-ing and talking to a few people we made a plan.  I wanted to camp out overnight and T definitely did not.  So we didn't.

Late on New Year's Eve we went to the start of the parade route where they were lining up the floats.  We heard that it was awesome and it was!  So many roads were blocked off and we ended up walking about half a mile to see the floats.  At first we were nervous because we weren't sure if we were allowed in that area, but it was totally fine!  The streets were well lit with cranes with spotlights so the floats could see to maneuver.

The Wisconsin float was the first one we saw.  No one else was taking pictures so we weren't sure if that was allowed.  We took these two on the sly.

Then we figured out that taking pictures was allowed so we went to town!  The tops of the tall floats weren't lifted to an upright position until they were on the main street.  During the actual parade we saw some floats that were three or four stories tall.

The parade looks cool on television, but seeing the floats up close is totally different.  It really is amazing.
And really, really delicious smelling. 

I was ridiculously excited to see everything up close. 


A nice tipsy man took this photo for us:

The "state fair" float by Discover

Many floats used crushed flower petals (the orange and white stripes, for example), not just whole flowers, to decorate.

I know this is a lot of pictures, but I seriously could not get over how beautiful all the flowers were!

This boat float was huge.  The tire alone was taller than T.

I wish we could have seen this guy being lifted upright.

Some detail work from the same Indian float.  That's corn husks and different beans ever so carefully arranged.  Everything on all the floats looked this cool close up.  That's a lot of work and patience!

The Dole Paradise float was amazing.

I'm Reagan-ing!
True story: While we were in front of the Reagan float a mom and her young daughter walked by.
Mom: Ahhh, the Reagan era.  Those were the good days.
Girl: What?
Mom: Of course, I'm kidding.  We're the only Democrats in Pasadena.

This made me giggle because most of the time I feel like the only Republican in our area.

All the volunteers wore white jumpsuits drove white Vespas.



This float kind of creeped me out.  But look at the "safety measures" of chairs and seat belts.  The float is only going 3mph and the seats are in the center on the lowest level - are seat belts really necessary? 

Some of the floats were still being worked on.  Also, note that "Save the Children" is a registered trademark.  I mean I applaud the attention to detail, but really?...


Why, yes, that is Jesus made out of flowers.  I didn't even know what to say.   I definitely didn't know what to say when we saw the float during the actual parade and there was a man dressed as Jesus on the float.

Right after the Jesus float was this incredible train float:
The train float after the Jesus float made me think of the time I was with nephew D (age 4 at the time) looking at a picture of Jesus with children.
S: What do you think Jesus is telling the kids?
D: Ummm.... TRAINS!!!

The flowers were incredibly gorgeous.  I wanted to lie down on them.  Except there was a strong police presence and I probably would have been arrested.  And T said he wouldn't bail me out.


So we rang in the New Year on Orange Grove Ave checking out the floats.  Then we went home and slept for four hours.  We had to get up at five a.m. to head back out to Pasadena for the actual parade.  Stay tuned for Part Two!