Sunday, October 30, 2011

Throw Out 50 Things

I recently read "Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life" by Gail Blanke and really enjoyed it (really, it's good stuff - read the first pages from link!).  I'm not saying that this book helped me find my life, but it definitely helped me toss a bunch of stuff out.  My goal is that each time we move we have fewer boxes of "stuff." 

I really like the author's "Rules of Dis-engagement" for throwing things out.  If it (the shoes, photo, book, etc) weighs you down, makes you feel bad about yourself, just takes up space, or is not contributing anything positive, out it goes.  It doesn't matter if it is expensive or if someone important gave it to you or if it is still functional, just throw it out.  If you can't decide if you want to keep it or toss it, then toss it. 

Throwing out 50 things is harder than you think because 5 pairs of shoes = 1 item.  20 old magazines = 1 item.  It took me just over a month to finish this book, mostly because I didn't read the next chapter until I had finished throwing out stuff from the previous chapter (this is definitely the way to read this book).  I was not so much into this book toward the end when it started talking about clearing the mental clutter because I wanted to get rid of stuff NOW and mental clutter takes a while.

Keeping track of what / how many things I tossed really motivated me to toss out more (for the record I didn't toss anything that belongs to T).  So here's my list of things I tossed or donated to Goodwill.

1  5 pairs of shoes 25  7 books
2  4 pairs of pants / shorts / capris 26  5 textbooks
3  2 belts 27  1 jacket
4  4 bags 28  3 pillows
5  6 tank tops 29  1 dress and veil
6  5 bracelets 30  3 bowls
7  1 watch 31  1 combination lock
8  1 shrug 32  17 dead pens
9  1 bra 33  old school papers
10  9 shirts 34  photos
11  3 cooking items 35  paint samples
12  1 set of curlers 36  craft paper scraps
13  1 mascara 37  3 craft supplies
14  1 make-up brush 38  fabric scraps
15  18 hair ties 39  old ideas about who I wanted to be career wise
16  2 eyeshadow sets 40  old records (bank and car)
17  2 hair products 41  12 magazines
18  1 lotion 42  2 plaque awards
19  7 make-up samples 43  2 games
20  1 body spray 44  the fear that I peaked in high school
21  1 giant water bottle 45  letting one thing ruin my day
22  twisties and rubberbands 46  high need for security
23  ugly green RIT dye 47  comparisons to others my age
24  1 serving dish

I didn't quite make 50 things, but 47 (with 114 individual items!) isn't too shabby.  Getting rid of stuff is such a good feeling! 

Anybody else doing a purge?  What are you getting rid of?

Friday, October 28, 2011


Just to be upfront, this is a very long post.

A few Saturdays ago T and I visited Gettysburg.  It's only about two hours away from D.C.!  How did we not know this sooner?!  If you visit D.C. for four or more days, definitely take a day (really, it will take all day) to visit Gettysburg.  It's worth it.  If you're really into Civil War stuff, plan on two days in Gettysburg.

Our drive to Gettysburg started out very foggy.  That should be the Potomac River 15 feet directly behind me, but it was so foggy you couldn't see it!

We started our visit by stopping at the Visitor's Center.  We skipped the cyclorama painting, the film, and the museum mostly because they all cost money and those things together take two hours and our visit lasted all day as it was! 

T with Lincoln.  (Our guidebook came with augmented reality content for iPhones.  Basically you download an app then if you act like you are going to take a photo of a certain site, a historical figure associated with that site comes into frame and you can resize and move them to appear in your photo.)

I didn't realize how huge area wise the Battle of Gettysburg was (about 25 square miles!).  Considering how big the area is there are several different touring options.  You can get a free map at the visitors center and follow the auto tour route, buy tickets for a bus tour with narration, buy any number of CD audio tours, or hire a licensed battlefield guide who will drive your car for a two hour tour.

T and I chose to buy an audio tour (Gettysburg Field Guide second edition narrated by Wayne Motts put out by TravelBrains) because it seemed to be the best combination of information, flexibility,  and affordability.  The audio tour we bought has a lot of human interest type stories in addition to facts and mostly follows the auto tour route.  The CD tells you when to listen; sometimes while you are driving to the next location and sometimes while you are parked at a location.  The CD came with a guide book that has battle maps that were pretty helpful because there was a lot going on in the Battle of Gettysburg.  The guide book has almost everything word for word as the CD (deaf people like history, too!).  If you're going to visit let us know and we'll loan you our CD and guide book!

The leaves were starting to turn in Gettysburg!

If we visited again with more than just the two of us I think we would hire the guide.  It's strange that the guide drives your car but it makes sense because they know where everything is.  Anyway, at several places we overheard the licensed guides talking and they were fantastically knowledgeable and friendly.

Before we left the visitor's center we picked up a list of free guided tours and times.  Since our audio tour doesn't cover the Soldier's Cemetery, we planned to go on that free tour (about 45 minutes long) in the middle of the day.

This was at our first stop, McPherson Ridge.  Don't worry, I didn't really know any of the specifics of the Battle of Gettysburg before this and it is still very confusing to try to keep everything straight. To make things even more confusing, there are monuments and memorial plaques literally every 50 feet.  If you stopped at every monument or plaque, it would take days.  This is a pretty typical looking monument.

Here's the up close.

And even closer up close because the numbers blow my mind.  The 1st Brigade started with 21 officers and 445 men.  Total they lost 15 officers and 322 men.  That's 75 percent.  Gettysburg is a very sobering place.

After our first stop we zipped over to the Soldier's Cemetery for the tour.  As always, the National Park Rangers are excellent tour givers.  I highly recommend taking one of the tours.  The Cemetery was supposed to be for Union soldiers only, but a couple of Johnny Rebs ended up in it by accident.  The gravestones are arranged in big arcs.  The arcs are arranged by state and regiment and each gravestone has as much information is known about each soldier.  Some are blank, some just have a regiment number, some just have ranks, and some have names.

This cemetery is where President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg address.  There is a monument to that speech in the cemetery.  It's the only monument in the world dedicated to a speech.

This is a memorial for the 1st Minnesota.  The 262 men of the 1st Minnesota rushed 1,700 Alabama soldiers on Cemetery Ridge.  Within 15 minutes 82 percent of the regiment was killed, wounded, or captured.   Their charge gave just enough time to rush reinforcements in and hold the Union line.
The quotes on either side of the monument "All time is the millennium of their glory" and "These dead shall not have died in vain."

 The Gettysburg countryside is so picturesque. 

T with one of the cannons at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial.  The Memorial was dedicated in 1938 by FDR on the 75th anniversary of the battle.  About 1,800 Civil War Veterans were present that day, all in their 90's. Pretty sure this is where they got the idea for the eternal flame for JFK.

Gettysburg is lovely country.  This is the McClean house and barn.

The North Carolina Memorial.  You can see the wounded officer pointing the way, the color bearer in the back, a battlefield rookie, an old veteran saying words of encouragement into the ear of the rookie, and a battle hardened soldier leading the way. (That's a description we overheard one of the the licensed field guides giving, otherwise I would have no clue.)

Virginia's Memorial with General Lee and his horse Traveler on top.  It's really strange for me to think of Virginia as being a southern state.

With General Lee in front of the Virginia monument.

Louisiana Memorial.  I really had no idea what was going on here, but it's kind of out there so it fits Louisiana.  Later I read in the guide book that there is a fallen artilleryman and the "Spirit of the Confederacy" is rising over him.

Gettysburg is just so lovely in the fall time.

On Little Round Top looking over the Slaughter Pen towards Devil's Den.  Little Round Top is where 350 men of the 20th Maine held off two regiments from Alabama.  If the 20th Maine had lost Little Round Top, most historians agree that the Union would have lost the Battle of Gettysburg.

At the bottom of Little Round Top with Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, leader of the 20th Maine.

With Lee at Devil's Den.  Before they charged the hill, Confederate sharpshooters hid behind these boulders firing at Union soldiers on Little Round Top.  The area between Devil's Den and Little Round Top is known as The Slaughter Pen for obvious reasons.  This location was supposed to have a sharpshooter show up, but Lee did instead.  So I took another photo with Lee.

The Pennsylvania Memorial.  These bronze tablets go around the entire monument and hold the names of every Pennsylvania soldier who fought at Gettysburg.

T looking good at the top of the Pennsylvania Memorial.

How wonderful is it that the men of Pennsylvania wanted to honor the women?  Pretty wonderful.
I think it is interesting that in the North the Civil War was often referred to as "The War of the Rebellion" and in the South it was often called "The War of Northern Aggression."

This is a New York monument.  If you see a monument that is bigger or unusual looking, odds are that it is a New York monument.  I think they have more monuments than any other state.

The one mile field that the Confederates ran through during Pickett's Charge.  They were trying to reach the stone wall in the foreground.  And they did for just a moment before they were pushed into retreat by Union forces, ending the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg is wonderful and sad.  It is full of amazing stories of brave soldiers on both sides and a heavy reminder of the price of war. 

If you visit (and really, you SHOULD visit), don't go in summer - it will be sweltering hot and you do get out of the car quite often to check out memorials and read plaques.  Start by visiting the visitor's center when it opens and picking up the list of free guided tours at the info desk.  Then take the audio tour (stopping at whatever point to go to the cemetery tour then get back on track with the audio tour).  T and I ate in town, but it was kind of a hassle because none of the tour stops are in town and parking in town is hard to find, even in the fall.  I would bring a picnic and eat it at one of the stops (we saw a ton of people doing this and wished we had planned ahead).

Gettysburg is one of the places I really want to visit again.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

29 Months

You thought just because I was out of wedding photos that this series would end?!  Ha!  We are still married, so on the series goes.  I thought that I would share a bunch of our engagement photos.  I'm pretty sure that the only engagement photo anyone has seen of us is the one we included on our wedding announcement.  And I really loved our engagement photos.  So here you go.

These photos are from Valentine's weekend 2009.  When I left Utah it was snowing.  But L.A. gave us a perfectly gorgeous 75 degrees, clear blue (not smoggy!) sunny day.  One of T's awesome film school buddies took these for us.  All of the photos were taken on the Los Angeles Temple's grounds.

Awww... we are so cute!  This was like the third photo of the day and it is one of my favorites.

We're so casual because we get our pictures taken all the time. 

One of maybe three shots where you can sort of see my shoes.  They were ivory with a rose design.

This is our "blue steel" look.  Also, I think this is the best my arms have ever looked in a photo.

One more shoe shot.

Eeek!  We're getting married!

I'm pretty sure the weather was just SoCal trying to get on my nice side. 

"Hey.  Guess what.  I have a secret."

(whispering) "We have so many engagement photos that these posts will go on forever.  Forever."

See you next month!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

People Skills

A while ago I was using self check out at the library and one of my books wouldn't check out.  A library worker asked if I needed help.  His voice startled me.  Not in a scared way, but more of an in awe kind of way.  It's not that I wasn't expecting his voice - I was.  It's just that his voice was so gentle.  I've heard soft / shy / friendly / patient voices, but this was the first time I've actually heard gentle. His voice immediately made me feel at ease.  First time that has ever happened to me.  I really think that is what Jesus' voice sounds like. 

People people:  they blow my mind.

Another people person I know is Bishop Schwab - my bishop from Salt Lake.  He brings out the best version of everyone.  I feel like I am the smartest, prettiest, funniest, most interesting person in the world when I'm talking with him.  Some people really do have gifts and really are people people even if I am not.  And because they are people people, for just a minute when I am with them I am too.

Do you know anyone like that?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown and family

T has an aunt who lives about three hours south of us.  T's grandparents flew out to see said aunt and said aunt thought it would be fabulous if T and I came down for a day at the same time.  So we did.  And she was right, it was fabulous.  And not just because I got to watch football on TV for the first time in over a year.

We all visited Colonial Williamsburg.  Yes, that is the place where everyone dresses and acts like they are in colonial times.  Colonial Williamsburg is definitely a pedestrian town.  In the historical areas there are no cars or bikes.  So we moseyed.  The weather was WONDERFUL and it was quite a lovely time.  

Most of the historic homes / businesses / gardens require a ticket for admission.  We didn't get tickets (because they are $38 for one day for one adult! though that one ticket does get you into everything) but it didn't bother us because once you've seen one historic home / business / garden you've seen them all!  Okay, not exactly, but kind of, yeah.  

An old time-y looking man and his oxen in front of some sort of historic building.

The architecture is pretty impressive.  This is in front of the Governor's Mansion.  Please note that the statues on top of the gate are UNICORNS!  Awesome!

Also impressive are the period actors.  They really do speak that way.  We walked past a group of young ladies and overheard their conversation all in old english talking about needlepoint and such.  One of them asked if we needed a laundress.  Fun!  Also fun was Grandpa Stig stopping to have a conversation with one of the actors.  In case you don't know, Grandpa Stig talks to everyone about anything and can go on for quite sometime.  
We were too far away to hear the conversation, but we think eventually the actor made some old english excuse to get away from Stig.  Ha ha!

The stocks were pretty fun, but not realistic.  I mean, where are the masses to shun us and toss things at us?

All of the places you need a ticket to visit are marked with the British flag (you know, from before the colonies rebelled).  Coincidentally, T was wearing his England shirt that day.

There are things to do if you don't buy tickets in Colonial Williamsburg.  There's lots of walking about to do, demonstrations of many old time-y skills, lots of gift shops, and the little fife and drum drill practice (which we missed).  There are also things to do in the non-historic areas of Colonial Williamsburg.  The vibe and shop type in the non-historic areas kind of reminded me of Park City, Utah.  We bought a guitar Christmas ornament at one of the little shops.  Neither one of us plays the guitar, but the ornament looked pretty cool and it was only $6 so we bought it.  Yay Christmas!  Only 72 more days!

Since Jamestown is literally only 15 minutes away we stopped by there, too.  From what I understand admission is usually $15 per person, but because it was a Saturday it was free.   It's pretty crazy to think how much of Jamestown has been preserved and how much still hasn't been discovered.  There are several active dig sites.  I would recommend taking one of the ranger tours here.  The rangers are really knowledgeable (as always - go National Parks Service!).  We didn't take a full tour, but we caught the last 10 minutes of one and it was really great.  

Here's John Smith, who was actually a pretty rough and tumble type dude

The original Jamestown was much smaller than I expected.  A good chunk of it is now covered by the James River.  Erosion.  It's real.  

On the Jamestown property (though not part of the original settlement, obviously) is this Washington Monument lookalike.  For the record, T's grandparents were not part of the original settlement, either.  Ha ha.  Up close the fake Washington Monument looks like it has a flat top.  It is actually the Jamestown Tercentennial Monument erected in 1907 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the settlement.

We headed back to the house for some DELICIOUS grub made by T's aunt and uncle.  This is the only shot I got of everyone.  T's aunt took most of the photos. 

A totally unrelated note: This aunt has a sheltie whose fur was super matted.  They shaved most of his body, but left his head alone.   So basically this dog had the haircut of a lion.  It was hilarious.

I'm SO glad we down to visit.  This was the first time I had really met T's aunt's family.  They are such wonderful people and I really love them.  I'm kind of gushing, but that's just how it is.   The same aunt and uncle were in D.C. last week for a quick trip and we met them for lunch at Serendipity in Georgetown.  Really, they are fun people!  

If you're visiting D.C.  I wouldn't drive down to see Colonial Williamsburg / Jamestown.  If you live a day's drive away, it would probably make for a pretty good short family vacation.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Best. Photos. EVER!

So, I saw the photo below on


It is part of the best flickr stream EVER!  All the photos come from a haunted house called Nightmares Fear Factory in Niagara Falls, Canada.  I want to go there SO bad.

I LOVE haunted houses, which might not really make sense considering how much I despise scary stories and scary movies.  I seriously can't handle them at all.  They get in my head and creep me out for days and give me nightmares.  I avoid them completely.  Even slightly suspenseful / scary books or movies I read / watch in the middle of the day when I am not home alone. Scary / suspenseful is so subjective here because I am a wimp in the scary genre.  For example,  I had to watch "Jurassic Park" during the day. 

But for some reason, haunted houses don't do that to me.  Oh, I'm definitely the girl screaming and hiding behind her friends but I LOVE it.  Haunted houses don't get in my head, they are just an awesome adrenaline high.  Like jumping out of a plane.  Except jumping out of a plane is better.

Anyway, a few more awesome photos from the Nightmares Fear Factory photostream on Flickr:





I REALLY want to see what is causing this reaction!  There are so many photos in this set; check out a few, they will definitely make you laugh.

How do you feel about haunted houses and scary stuff in general?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RIP, Steve

As you are probably already aware, Steve Jobs passed away today at the age of 56.

If you haven't read the commencement address he gave at Stanford in 2005, it's well worth your time.

One of my favorite excerpts:

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Because of you, Steve, I have a job today. And I can't thank you enough.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

iPhone wonderfulness

I took all of these photos with my iPhone this past week while in the car (don't worry - T was driving, not me).

The "Welcome to D.C." sign has changed.  It's in the exact same spot but the new one is bigger and has a more childlike font.

It's fall!!!  My favorite season!  Okay, it's fall like.  Today is the first day that has really felt like fall.  This tree is definitely getting a jump start on the season.  Literally all of the other trees on this parkway are still completely green.  This tree is making me VERY excited for the upcoming weeks.

T with silly bug eyes from his sweet headphones (seen in action here).

On Thursday T and I walked around the Potomac Park right by his work.  We were treated to this lovely sunset.  Also, when did it start getting dark at 7:00?! 

Driving home on Friday the sunset was just as wonderful and it lit up the Lincoln monument beautifully.

Isn't this sunset gorgeous?!  No wonder the light on the Lincoln was fabulous!

Gotta go.  The second session of General Conference is about to start.
Okay, I'm back. 

This is currently my favorite song (thanks for sharing, mom!).  It's called "Marry Me" by Cherie Call.  The song was written as a promo for a book that I haven't read.  But, I LOVE this song.)