Monday, December 28, 2009

Sweet Blood


I feel like Bella in Twilight. Remember how the smell of her blood was irresistible to Edward? Well, apparently the bugs on Koh Lanta feel the same way about mine. I am covered with little red bumps that itch- on my toes, knuckles of my fingers, behind my knees, and about 30 individual bites on my lower left leg alone. Yes, I really counted them.

The funny thing is that when I first started noticing these bites, I asked the rest of the family whether they had noticed a similar appetite among the little critters. The universal response was, "Bugs? Well, I think I might have a bite or two..." with an unconcerned shrug.

I have come to the inevitable solution that my blood is tastier than theirs. Ha! I win! Somewhat of a hollow victory, but I'll take what I can get. Fingers crossed, hoping there's no vampires about. Unless they're as cute as Robert Pattinson.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Exams are my life

Exam 1: Saturday Dec. 12, 8 am

I walk into my Religious Studies exam two minutes before it's supposed to start, still yawning, as I got out of bed about 45 minutes previous. I turn to my friend, Lucas, and ask, "So, is this your first one?" to which he replies, "Nope. I already wrote two. In two hours, I'm free for the semester." I am instantly overcome with a jealous rage. I knew I should have become an Ancient History major and rarely write exams! Then again, I'd have to write term papers. Shudder. I take one of the chocolate chip cookies that our instructor has so kindly provided to take away some of the injustice of the early hour and begin work on my exam. Luckily, my choice of questions is based heavily on the two readings that I had time for the day before and one of the essay-style choices is related to my term paper. Whew. Crisis number one averted as I walk out of the exam 30 minutes ahead of schedule. However, now it's straight to Dad's office to spend all day Saturday studying for Exams (aka Crises) number two and three.

Exam 2: Monday Dec. 14, 5:45 am

I roll out of bed in a panic– I didn't miss my alarm and my exam, did I? A glance at the clock tells me I'm exactly on schedule and I'm off to the University by 6:45 to do some last-minute cramming. By 7:50 am, I'm feeling pretty confident about the Nth-derivative test, total partial differentials, and the Maclaurin series. Unfortunately, my professor has decided (in light of the high average on the second midterm that we all worked our butts off for) to make the final a hard one. When there are only 10 minutes left in the exam, professor walks over to me and asks me how far along I am. Honestly, I've done about half the exam and there's an entire third of it that is indecipherable to my limited mental capacities and I tell him so. This statement prompts a kind gesture on his part to extend the exam time one half-hour. "Blast!" I think to myself. "I needed that thirty minutes to review my Marketing before my exam at noon!" In the end, I hand in an exam which has 6/11 questions completed to my exacting standards, with 3/11 showing some attempts before a hastily scribbled "Not enough time to finish this question" and the remaining 2 questions completed, but with what I'm pretty sure are incorrect answers. It's all okay, though, because I talked to my friend in the class who is a math major and even he had no idea what was going on. Ride the curve, baby!

Exam 3: Monday Dec. 14, 12 pm

I rush out of my morning exam with 1.5 hours until my next one. The back story of my Marketing class is this: I spent the last week of classes working feverishly on my group term project and missed the last two chapters of material because of sickness, term papers in other classes, etc. so I wanted to do lots of studying so that I actually know the material. Inevitably, I end up even more worried about my 8 am Mathematical Econ exam, so I spend my entire Saturday studying that instead. Which leaves me with the (supposed) two hours between exams to learn chapters 12 and 13 from my marketing textbook and review another 5 chapters. I can feel the fun. Fast-forward back to Monday at 10:30 when I rush out of my extended Math final. Forget the textbook, I've only got time for the slides on Blackboard. For the next hour and a half, I create snazzy acronyms and finger games to remember the zillions of theories and steps of marketing process that we have to regurgitate. One of my favourites: to remember the 5 stages of the product life cycle, all I have to remember is that I "DIG MDs" (aka I love doctors...?) and that this stands for Development, Introduction, Growth, Maturity, and Decline. Then I just have to remember what IMC, PMR, SMR, and MRA stand for and I'll do fine. Why does it seem like every class I take from Haskayne involves memorizing an unhealthy number of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms)?

Exam 4: Tuesday Dec. 15, 3:30 pm

Lucky for me, I have a study group for this one. Big Slacker, Awesome Football Guy, Smart Mouth, Has Read and Memorized the Whole Textbook, Skinny Kid With Hemp Necklaces and I all meet in an empty classroom to draw pretty charts of Cournot and Bertrand Best Response Functions, talk about the predatory behaviour of American Airlines in the Dallas Fort Worth hub, solve Stackelberg equilibria, and bemoan the current job market that means that all of us Economics majors will be working in fast food. Smart Mouth and Has Read and Memorized the Whole Textbook, as the lucky ones among us who are graduating in a week, tell us all how inebriated they're going to get this weekend in celebration, and then we work out some critical discount factors to maintain collusion. Eventually, our professor walks into the room, writes "It's just an exam..." on the board, and goes to the back of the room to sort out our examination booklets. Luckily the test is all covering material that I know well and I walk out 30 minutes early, feeling confident.

Exam 5: Thursday Dec. 17, 3:30 pm

This one starts on Tuesday, as I walk through the cafeteria during a break from my entertaining study group. I spy Dr. Game Theory, one of my favourite professors, enjoying his lunch. "Hi, Professor!" I say as I go by. He looks up, asks me how I'm doing and how my studying for his exam is coming along. Chagrined, I admit that I've been pretty swamped with other exams and haven't cracked open my Game Theory notes or textbook yet. "You'd better get started." he replies. "It's going to be a hard exam." Thanks, Dr. Game Theory.
Fast-forward to the day of the exam. It's 1:30 pm and I've been studying for a few hours. I decide to take a little break and in doing so, double-check the location of my exam. Good, it's in SA 106, just like I thought. As I glance away, something catches me eye- the time of the exam. Does that really say 12:00?!? Blast. REALLY?!? After a few moments of stunned disbelief, I realize the implications. I'm screwed. (I ask for the forgiveness of all those whom my language may offend. I'm just trying to give an accurate picture of the words going through my mind.) I quickly make calculations on my head of various natures. I currently have an A in the class... what will happen to me if I can't fix this? If they started at 12, how much time is left in the exam? How long will it take me to book it to SA 106? How much of a mark can I squeeze out of 15 minutes of writing time? And the overlying question... how much does Dr. Game Theory care about one student in his class?
I decide to wait outside the door of the classroom until most of the other students have left, pointedly ingoring anything and everything they're saying about the exam. As I walk to the front of the classroom in which the exam was written, Dr. Game Theory looks up and says, "Louise!" (yes, I go by my legal name at school) "Where were you ? Is everything okay?" Hmm... things are looking better already. I explain my predicament- the somewhat embarrasing fact that I got the exam times mixed up. He looks around at the one or two other students in the room and explains the procedure for deferring an exam and promises his full support in my dealings with the registrar on the matter. As I leave, the last student from the room, he calls, "Wait, Louise..." I turn around and he continues. "Hmmm... I really don't want to have to write another exam. What are you doing right now?"
After confirming the TA's availability and clearing all the papers off his desk, Dr. Game Theory installs me in his office with an exam and two pencils, accepting my profuse thanks. He instructs his TA to look in on me every half hour or so, as "She's not a really a student that I worry about cheating." He wishes me a Merry Christmas and says as he walks away, "We don't have to tell the registrar about this." with a wink, firnly cementing his already somewhat secure status as my favourite professor ever.
And now I'm finished exams, at least for another semester. Let's hope my next set of tests follows a bit more of an orthodox pattern!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hiatus

I just had my first relaxing day in a month or more. Yesterday was my last day of classes and the day when I handed in my last two assignments for the semester... now all I have left is 5 exams! Joy! My favourite class of the semester has been my Religious Studies class, "Councils, Canonc, and Creed– the Christian Church 200-800 AD". Even as I registered for it, I affectionately dubbed it "Apostasy 101". It has not been a disappointment.

I wrote my paper on the evolution of the four-gospel canon and had such fun reading papers and books on canonical and apocryphal gospels, Marcion, Tatian and the Diatessaron, Irenaeus, and Athanasius' Thirty-ninth Festal Letter. Did you know that there were three main categories of apocryphal writings and that the third, Supplementary Gospels, is made up of mostly Infancy Gospels? Starting in about the 4th and 5th centuries, people were fascinated with the childhood of Christ and made up the most fantastical narratives about it. Did you know that the first major attempt at creating an official canon was by Marcion, who denied the concept of the Hebrew God and therefore cut out huge portions of the Gospel of Luke and denied the validity of all the other gospels?

I know, fascinating stuff.

While I was on my mission and was only allowed to read certain books, I became quite interested in the early church after reading James E. Talmage's Jesus the Christ. When I found out that the university was offering a course on early Christian history, I had to take it. Overall, it's been one of the best and most interesting classes I've ever taken.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Way The Kids See It

I finally found my camera the other day and downloaded my pictures from the roadtrip that Elena and I took to Edmonton and Slave Lake 2 months ago. One of my favourite things about the trip was little Ben and his obsession with my camera.

One of the first times that I took it out to take some pictures, Ben was fascinated. He asked if he could hold it, and because I thought it was so cute, I showed him how to hold the button down and take pictures all by himself. Little did I know that I was kissing my camera goodbye for the next few days. Ben walked around the living room for about twenty minutes, snapping the shutter every few seconds (luckily for both my battery life and my memory card, he didn't press hard enough to take a picture every time). The only way that Ben let me have my camera back was if I promised to take pictures of him, which I was expected to show him on the screen within 5 seconds. Everytime I told him, "Just one more picture, Ben, then Auntie needs her camera back." he would wheedle another five minutes of photography bliss.

I ended up with some very cute photos, though–
after I deleted the 30+ pictures of light brown carpet and a selection of books. I especially love the one he took of Brigham.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Live Long and Prosper

For the past few weeks, I'd been trying to figure out what I could be for Halloween. For my piano recital last Saturday, I ended up just wearing a black cape over my jeans and t-shirt (luckily most of the kids thought it was cool anyways, since I'm their awesomely cool piano teacher) but I wanted something better for the young adult party last night. Our family went to London Drugs mid-week and I was browsing through the costumes when I saw the perfect one: A Star Trek Outfit.

Unfortunately, the outfit was in a size more suited to a three-year-old boy than a 23-year-old girl who's 6'1". But who wants to buy their Hallowe'en costume anyways? I figured that I'd go to Old Navy, find a v-neck shirt in one of the Star Trek colours (rusty red, mustard yellow, or the classic dark blue), wear it on top of a black shirt, and make myself a little badge out of tinfoil.

Fastforward to Friday. I realize at school that I don't own black pants. Oh well, I've been needing some anyways. I'll just have to drive to the Tall Girl store in Sunridge on the other side of town after school and buy some black pants.

When I get home, I start working on my comm badge. One granola bar box, some skillful work with glue, scissors, and tinfoil, and 30 minutes later, I pressed it to my chest and said "Beam me up, Scotty." It was exhilarating.

Elena and I decided that the only time when we would be able to squeeze in the trip to Old Navy would be on our way to the party, so she got into the car dressed as Pippi Longstocking (braids pointing straight out, mismatched socks and all) while I was clad in black from head to toe. Let's just say I got waaaay less weird stares than she did.

When we finally arrived at the party, I was in full form. Elena made me say "Redd to Enterprise" and "Beam me up, Scotty– there's no sign of intelligent life here." about every fifteen minutes. It was great.

Final calculations:

New black cords with a 38" inseam: $79.99
1 roll of tin foil: from Mum's pantry
Red v-neck: $7.50
Black turtleneck: $7.50
My new reputation as a Trekkie: priceless

Conspiracy Theories... Part II


I'm taking an Industrial Organization class this semester. For those of you without the Economics vocabulary, that means a class where we study the behaviour of firms in various markets and analyze their potential for market power.

Don't leave! Don't fall asleep! I promise it'll get interesting!

So far, we've looked at firms in the competitive market, monopolists, and oligopolists. We're working right now on the concept of cartels and oligopolies and using game theory to determine their motivations to collude with each other to raise prices. It's actually quite fascinating to see how people get away with this stuff. And to learn how to do it ourselves. I've pretty much mastered the art of maximizing profit and getting away with it (at least on paper) so beware if I go into business as a monopolist. Or join a production cartel.


Today, my professor asked us to think of ways that members of a cartel can enforce their illegal collusion and destroy free-market America as we know it. Other than mob-style tactics, we came up with the idea that if information about different firms' prices and quantities are commonly known and generally accepted as reliable (which will only be true in the case of some third party like the government reporting them), then other members of the collusion agreement will be able to detect and punish deviants.

Now comes the best part. Our prof opens up the Alberta Energy System Operator website and shows us how the government has so kindly posted the daily data of the bids of individual energy generators and suppliers in Alberta– so that "consumers can be informed". How many people get a kick out of reading the daily, even hourly, changes in bids for electricity provision? Well, besides my professor. Then he goes on to tell us that this is exactly the information that all the firms need to be able to run a giant oligopoly of electric providers and to effectively find out which firms are cheating on the agreement and giving us cheaper power!

Yes, you heard me right. The government is assisting possible the illegal exercise of market power by cartels of power generation companies.

That's not all– ever since I started this class, I've been on the lookout for the tactics I've learned in class. I've spied firms creating artificial homogeneity in their products to raise prices. I've heard ads that promote price discrimination through created market segmentation. It's everywhere! Sometimes I feel a little paranoid about it all. But I swear it's REAL!

Maybe in Friday's lecture we can make some tin foil hats. I think mine is about due.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My BA... Be Anything!

Due to my current midlife crisis (I have no idea what I'm going to be doing next year) I decided to meet with my career counsellor today. I e-mailed her last week to set up the appointment and told her a little about what I'm interested in:

Marketing Research Analysis (I've just recently learned a little more about it and think it would be something I'd enjoy), Commercial Brokerage (arranging the buying and selling of businesses? Maybe sounds like a good option). I originally wanted to go into financial analysis, but early on in my economics degree learned that I prefer microeconomics to macroeconomics and would be better suited to something more related to the micro aspect.

I've thought about going to grad school for economics after finishing an honours degree, but part of me wants to just be out of school. The problem is that I have no idea what I want to be when I'm out of school. The way I explained it to a friend of mine is "When your main life goal is to have five kids and make homemade bread every Wednesday, it's hard to fit into the commonly accepted schooling and career system."

Suffice it to say, however, that I've been looking into lots of options. I'm not ruling anything out. I've looked into the pastry chef program at SAIT (cool, but would just require more school), commercial brokerage (no one from the one Calgary company that accepts recent grads as trainees will return my emails or calls), marketing research analysis (actually quite fascinated by this one, information has been a little tricky to gather but I'm not giving up yet), and even applied for an internship with the Bank of Canada (I have yet to hear back from them).

I love my subject, I really do. I like economics and find it intriguing. Nothing gets me through my mid-university crisis like going to my Game Theory class. I just wish that I would have listened more carefully when I asked people 4 years ago "Are there jobs for people with Econ degrees?" and they responded "You can do ANYTHING with an Econ degree!"

I hope that includes being a pirate. Or a spy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nerd Points

Today I was working on a big assignment due tomorrow with some other people from my class. I let slip one of my signature big words– I think it might have been emporium, although I can't quite remember– and there was some confusion among my fellow students as to my meaning. It reminded me of a game we played when I was a missionary in Oulu, the "Nerd Points Game". It all started with a game of pseudo-Balderdash played in the Outreach Centre. In one round, I used some fun, exciting, and unusual words. Although my entry wasn't the official winner, Elder Taggart honoured me with the bestowal of a "nerd point" for my trouble.

Thus began the Nerd Point Game. Whenver any member of our district used particularly large words or a complicated turn of phrase, they were awarded one nerd point. I'm not really sure why this came out in a blog right now, but suffice it to say that I've been studying game theory for 3 hours and copying out a good copy of my calculus for the past hour. I think I'll go to bed now.

Greetings from Purgatory


In a desperate attempt to break free from the outer darkness known as "midterm week" ( I know it sounds harmless, but that's how they get you!) I send this message out into the blogosphere and wait for help to arrive.
Save me! I've sunk so deep I don't know if I can ever get out! It all started so innocently... I singed up for five classes at the U of C in the fall semester and I thought to myself, "Just once won't hurt... I can handle this... moderation is for wimps." Then came the readings, the little assignments here and there. I thought they would make me cool, that everybody's doing it. Well, we all know where those kind of rationalizing thoughts get you. Soon I found myself holed up alone in the library for 7 hours on a Saturday, with calculus, game theory, and marketing strategies coming out of my ears. Then I was skipping FHE to memorize the Boston Consulting Group Growth Share Matrix. Next thing you know, I'll be (gasp) a full-on KEENER.
I know that I've gotten myself into this deep hole of purgatory by my own agency and I'll have to write the four midterms this week whether I want to or not (I guess there are a few remaining options, like faking my own death, fleeing the country, or maybe just failing the class, but I'm not sure that even those would succeed). So wish me luck, and if you don't hear from me by Sunday, know that I failed and that I've been lost in the depths of midterm hell for all eternity.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Smoked Turkey


It all started a few weeks ago when Mum and Daddy announced that they were going away for Thanksgiving. They had received a weekend in Windermere as a gift and went for their anniversary. They broke the news to us as gently as they could. After the shock of realizing that we would be on our own for the holiday (gasp!) and after Peter shed a few tears for the turkey that would not be this year (at least until American Thanksgiving, when we're having the missionaries and possibly my old companion), I thought to myself, "Well, I could make some kind of roasted fowl..." I got really excited and thought of a few roast chicken recipes that I'd seen throughout my years of cookbook perusing, Elena had grand plans for pies galore, and we planned to eat our very own festive meal on Sunday.

That is, until the dishwasher broke. After washing our own dishes for two weeks, suddenly the reality of hand-scrubbing a roasting pan and a zillion pots kicked in (aided by the memory of Christmas '06, when we had 15 people in the house for the holidays and our dishwasher decided to go on the fritz just in time for our turkey dinner). Suddenly I was thinking more along the lines of, "Let's have a frozen pizza on paper plates" seemed more my speed.

All in all, when a member of Mum and Daddy's ward heard that we were alone for Thanksgiving and invited us to join them, it was a welcome invite. Especially since the furnace has also been acting up and the house has been sitting at a cozy 16 degrees since Friday night.

Elena went ahead and made her pie, which we took to our hosts, and we set off for Peter's friend's house, where we would be enjoying this year's Thanksgiving dinner. Our hosts warned everyone that this year, they had smoked their turkey, and so everyone should try it first to see if they liked it before heaping their plates high with meat. It was so delicious! Every single bite was moist and tender and tasted like applewood (in a good way). The gravy made from the smoked meat had a delicious flavor and Peter and his friend started inventing ways to eat more of it even when the potatoes were all gone. The incredible meal was topped off with pumpkin, lemon, and sugar pie and a game of Star Wars Battlefront (which I lost spectacularly!).

The only problem with that turkey dinner is that now the leftovers are at their house instead of in my fridge! What I wouldn't give for a smoked turkey sandwich today at noon...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

In the spirit of the season, here are some thing that I'm thankful for. In no particular order.

I'm grateful that Calgary seasons finally decided to get their act together and the +30 September ended. Now I can wear my cute cool-weather clothes that I brought home from Finland!

I'm grateful for General Conference- one of the best weekends of the year.

I'm grateful for the old-fashioned radio shows that I can download every week that bring me such joy and entertainment while I ride my bike/the bus to school.

I'm grateful for Friday Forum.

I'm thankful that my scuba diving course ended last week so that I only had to swim in 13-degree weather and not the stuff we're having now.

I'm grateful for my little ibbi and the way they call me "Auntie Neen".

I'm thankful for a temple close by and one being planned even closer. That really came into perspective yesterday when, at the temple, I thought about the saints that would travel to Helsinki from Russia, the Baltics, and Belarus and do sessions 24/7 for a week.

I'm thankful for the mountains. When I lived in a flat country for 18 months, I didn't really realize how much I loved the mountains until I got back to Calgary. The first time I went hiking after my mission, it felt like coming home.

I'm grateful for the smell of Elena's pie still lingering in the house- I can't wait to have a piece!

I'm thankful for pretty much everything to do with Finland.

And I'm grateful for my family full of loveys.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My semester has purpose! And meaning!

Today I had about 10 minutes between eating lunch at the institute and leaving for class, which, as anyone will tell you, is not sufficient interval to crack open a textbook and do any real work. I got talking to my friend Becky about the story of Leon the frog, an epic tale of an innocent green frog searching for greater meaning in his life by pursuing the unattainable light at the top of the stairs. This journey of self-discovery and wonder is written, line by line, on the stairs of the Social Sciences building– all 13-plus-basement floors of it. I've read portions of the story as I've walked up to the fourth floor, where the economics department and all my lovely professors have their domain, as well as a snippet here and there whenever I find myself going from one floor to another in Social Sciences. Becky and I wondered how it had gotten started, and more importantly, whether the chapter written on the stairs from the basement to the first floor, now faded, had been lost to us forever. 

After a quick google, search, we realized that the original story was written in the early 1970s by some students with a mission. Over time, it's been rewritten as the indelible ink fades, with new editing and additions by each generation. Becky and I figured that it's time for the original tale to be restored to its former glory– that is, if we can track down a rare first edition in time for Leon's prestigious 40th anniversary. So far, I've got plans to look up the archives for the Gauntlet, the campus newspaper, and contact the original author to see if she's got it written down anywhere. 

I've got a mission! Before I leave the U of C campus for good either this spring or next, Leon the Frog deserves to be re-written in its original glory.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What'sa matter? Are you... chicken?


Being a pedestrian in Calgary, especially on campus, has become a most interesting sport... that is, if you get a thrill out of wondering whether you'll have to run, jump, or dive out of the way to avoid a broken leg, like I do. Get a thrill, that is– I have yet to actually experience the broken leg. But every time I come to a crosswalk on the U of C campus, I get the fun of playing a game of chicken with a 4000 lb. vehicle approaching at 30 km/hr. Granted, not that fast, but still...

Here's how the game plays out: I walk happily through the fall weather on my way to my Industrial Organizations class. Luckily for most drivers, I am already above the average alertness for a university student because my ears are headphone-free. As I approach one of the drives that meanders through campus, I see a vehicle coming my way. Just to make sure that they've seen me, I slow down. Not that I'm forfeiting my pedestrian's entitlement to the right-of-way, I just would prefer to arrive at my class in one piece. Some vehicles, however, take my hesitation to mean that they can start to speed up in an attempt to get through the intertsection before me. 

Not so fast, bucko. I'm still walking. 

All the cars eventually come to a halt at the crosswalk, the aforementioned speed demons with a bit of a screech and all the others to a gentle stop. But they all watch me crossing with an impatient glance to their car clock, assumably thinking to themselves, "Gosh, why can't this girl just fly, or apparate to class or something? It would save me sooo much time!" The speed demons also give me a look that says. "Silly, why did you stop walking when I sped up? Obviously I was going to stop and not run you over. That's what accelerating the engine means!"

I'd rather arrive late than dead. 

Or chicken.

Needless to say, I have yet to lose. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Continuing Love Affair

Remember 2 years ago when I wrote of my roller-coaster relationship with a certain office at my university? That's right, the registrar. I don't know why I consent to be in such an abusive relationship, but it's one of those "can't live with you, can't live without you" situations. Every school year, the registrar helps me get into the classes I want (via my long-term student status and it's attending early registration date and my fake minor in business) and I feel happy to have such a considerate friend in the registration business.

Then the school year hits and I remember why we have this love-hate relationship. 

This year's complaint: why on earth can't you release the exam schedule before the middle of November? This concern arises from the fact that my dad bought me a ticket to go to Thailand at Christmas. Our tickets are for the 18th of December and the University of Calgary's exam period runs from December 11th to the 21st. Unfortunately, I won't know until approximately a month before my plane leaves for China whether or not I'll have an exam on that same day. 

Grrrrrrr...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Hiking... or, Why I Love Alberta

This summer, a friend and I have been trying to go out hiking a few times. On my suggestion, we went to Galatea in July and had a great hike. When I got an email from him on Monday with the title "Hiking", I was excited for another nice trip out to the mountains– then I read the message: "It will be a fairly intense hike: ~25K round trip, includes some scrambling/quasi-rock climbing and fording a river, and we will likely be leaving Calgary around 4:30AM." 

Hmm... maybe I'll rethink my excitement to go to Lake of the Horns.

As I pondered the state my legs would be in after such a hike, as well as the amount of sleep I would get the preceding night (I already had plans for the night before that would prevent an nice 8 pm bedtime), I thought, "Well, if my friend thinks I can do it, I sure as shootin' am going to try!" so I replied to the email with a response that I would see him bright and early Wednesday morning. 

We were on the trail by 6:30 and despite my slight grogginess from a nap in the car, got a good start. In the parking lot, we were able to see our final destination, a waterfall coming downa cliff in a dip between two mountains, off in the distance. The sun was slowly coming up behind the mountains to our backs and I've never seen Kananaskis look so beautiful. The river crossing hit at kilometer 1 and the chilly water was a very refreshing wake-me-up. 

After about 8 or 9 km of gently rolling hills and gentle sunlight through the trees, I was thinking, "This is not nearly as bad as it sounded, and look how close that waterfall looks!" Than we hit the incline. My friend and his dad kept up a brisk pace as the incline went from slight to gradual to somewhat steep to grueling. I started taking breaks here and there to keep my heart rate in healthy limits, gratefully joined by my friend's mum, who (luckily for me) doesn't share her son and husband's competitive intensity.

My legs aching and the trail becoming less and less followable in the shale, we suddenly hit the "quasi-rock climbing" that had been promised. My friend, already at the top of the ridge, was kind enough to wait for us within view before going to the lake. As I scrambled up the cliff, sweating like a pig in the sun and my legs feeling like spaghetti, I thought, "This had better be the most beautiful lake I've ever seen, with the best view of the valley, or else it wasn't worth it." when suddenly, I came over the crest of the ridge and saw a pristene blue-green lake tucked into a bowl just behind the cliff. Little scrubby pine trees grew in the soft, heathery turf and when I turned around, I could see the mountains reaching out for miles.

At moments like this, all of my desires to get away from the place I've lived my entire life melt away. I get tired of Calgary sometimes and wish I could live in faraway, exotic places, but when I go out to the Rockies, I know that I could never, ever, leave for good. I'll always have to come back to be near these mountains.

So, aching legs, sunburnt scalp and all, once I had a belly full of trail mix and my friend suggested scrambling up the sides of the valley for a view from the upper ridge, I knew it would be worth it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Baking Binge


For the last few weeks, Mum, Elena, and I have been taking a cake decorating course at Michaels. I've wanted to learn how to decorate pretty, fancy cakes since I got my Martha Stewart Baking Bible and salivated over the various recipes. After buying a gigantic kit that includes everything from a cake leveler to 15 different icing tips, I started out. There were some hitches on the way- a circus cake that looked like various birds had flown over it with indigestion, for one- but it was all worth it for my final cake (above). 
You see, this course required us to make cake every week to bring and decorate. This meant that there were up to three cakes in our home at any given time. Plus, Elena and I threw a baby shower for a friend and I had to make cupcakes for that. Our house was chock full of baked goods. With the leftover batter and icing from the shower cupcakes, I made the strawberry cake of goodness featured above. Here's the recipe, as requested:
(For a cake, fill the space between the layers with the leftover jam instead of icing. It's way better)

Makes 2 dozen (or, as I found: 80 mini cupcakes + three petit-fours + one 7-inch layer cake)

  • 3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8 large egg whites
  • Strawberry Meringue Buttercream
  • 24 small fresh strawberries, washed (hulls intact), for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.
  4. In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes. Do not overbeat. Gently fold 1/3 of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture.
  5. Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each with a heaping 1/4 cup batter. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cupcakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack. Invert cupcakes onto rack; then reinvert and let cool completely, top sides up. Frost cupcakes with strawberry meringue buttercream, swirling to cover (I like to put the frosting in an icing bag and give them swirls, like at Crave). Cupcakes may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Garnish with strawberries just before serving.
Strawberry Meringue Buttercream:

Ingredients

Makes 5 cups

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) strawberry jam, pureed in a food processor

Directions

  1. In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees).
  2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg-white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.
  3. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.) Beat in vanilla. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes. Stir in strawberry jam with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Easy Button

Yesterday in church we had a lesson about prioritizing and putting important things first in our lives, and the teacher asked us to share some of the more trivial things in which we get caught up. I figured that in a room full of YSA Relief Society sisters, someone had to say the one that no one really thinks of... and even if they do, they're too embarrassed to say it, especially with the 28-year-old single member of the bishopric sitting in the back.

"Sometimes it's easy to get distracted with worries and concerns about whether we'll get married. Or our lack of dates."

Some girls looked awkward. Some nodded and smiled, agreeing completely and happy to know that they were not alone. Some looked around confidently, as if to say, "I NEVER worry about that" but you know that they secretly do. Because they're girls.

This experience reminded me of an event that happened soon after I returned home from Finland- one that sums up this eternal search for a potential spouse that all of us YSA embark on.

My Dad's calling is as a Family History Consultant. This means that he's an expert in setting up accounts on FamilySearch.org. When I got home, he lost no time in helping me get started on the new FamilySearch.org. After entering in all the pertinent details about myself, I was presented with a fascinating view of my family tree, showing my parents, grandparents, and ancestors all the way back to the 1600s on some lines (kudos to my Daddy for his stellar Family History skills). I kept myself fairly amused for about 20 minutes going back on various family lines to see where everybody came from.

Upon returning to my home page, where it showed me on the left-hand side and the two generations directly preceding me, I noticed a fascinating button right under my name. There, under the link of "Janine Louise Redd" was a handy button called "Add/Find Husband". 

Apparently it's that easy!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hats off to Anne

On my little sister's blog, there has been a poll for the past several weeks: "Who is your favourite 18th century novel heroine? Yes, you must pick just one." Ever since it's been posted, I have scanned the list of various Jane Austen, Brontë Sisters, and Elizabeth Gaskell characters, thinking, "How can anyone expect you to pick just one?" and yet, at the same time, thinking, "They're all pretty good, but none of them is really that good that I would single them out as my favourite." Until this week, that is.

Since I started school again, I've had a renewed interest in audiobooks. When I ride my bike to school and back at least once a week, I like to have something to listen to (it's a long ride). I tried music, and it was kind of boring after a while. There's too much room for your mind to wander, which is not really what I need right now. Audiobooks, on the other hand, keep you completely engrossed, but just alert enough to be aware of the cars passing you as you ride down Silver Springs Boulevard. I got a bunch of cds from the library: short stories by Agatha Christie, some works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about Sherlock Holmes, and a Jane Austen classic, Persuasion

Now, I had always known that this story was my favourite Jane Austen novel- we own two movie versions, I've read it, and I love it more every time. But I didn't know that Anne Elliot was my favourite 18th century novel heroine. Well, she is. As I've listened to the audiobook on my bicycle this week, I've fallen in love with her- the real character, not the modernized girl-power one they show in the most recent movie. The book is kind of tragic at the beginning, everything is hopeless, Anne is twenty-seven and quite sure of her remaining single for the rest of her life. We follow her through a story of doing everything that He's Just Not That Into You warns us against: reading something into every single little action of Captain Wentworth and throwing over Mister Elliot (who is really into her) because of the tiny hope that the Captain might one day change his mind (but it's okay, Mr. Elliot turns out to be a jerk anyways). 

But in doing all this, Anne finds that like Gigi in the movie version of He's Just Not That Into You, she too is the exception to the rule. Love can find you after an eight-year hiatus, men can forgive you for breaking their hearts, and they'll even sometimes prefer a twenty-seven year-old with good sense and a kind heart to an eighteen year-old with spunk and good looks.

Anne Elliot is an inspiration to us all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dorky Me... Part II

I had a great day today. Kind of busy and stressful, but I really enjoyed it. Why, you may ask? What happened that was so much fun? Did you get free balloons or candy? Was there a circus on campus today?

No.

However, something did happen that gives me the same kind of elation and delight as the aforementioned pleasures... that is, if I've studied enough. I had two exams today.

The first, a final exam for Art History, was multiple choice- not my favourite kind of exam, but I'll take what I can get. Tackling each question, with it's four possible answers, gives me a kind of thrill as I eliminate wrong ones and try to decipher all the little tricks that the professor has slipped in. True, the figure of Christ does refer to the painting on the opposite wall in Da Vinci's "The Last Supper", but the statement for option D is quite obviously true as well. Ahah! They've cleverly tried to tell us that the painting on the opposite wall is a Last Judgement, when it is, in fact, a crucifixion! Foiled!

The second, a midterm for Religious Studies, was much preferred. The entire exam was short, essay-style questions in various sections: choose 10 from Part A, 3 from Part 2, 1 short essay from Part 5, and so on. It's much easier to display one's own perceived intelligence on such a test. One can pick and choose- perhaps, for example, I've spent my study time on the Hellenistic period of Judaism and not on memorizing the various Yiddish words for synagogue. I can choose to answer the question I please! It was quite fun. I found myself running out of time because I was enjoying giving my answers too much. 

You see, for someone as much of a competitive show-off as I am, tests are great. I can prepare and study and, if I've done so well, I can show off to the whole world (or at least my professor) how much I know. Then, when I get my mark back, there it is in black and white: how smart I am. For a mind that attaches numbers to everything, grades are essential. How else can I measure my intelligence (or lack thereof)?

I'm getting better at this, though. I no longer sneakily peek at everyone else's grade to see how I did in comparison. I just like looking at my own number in satisfaction. Or horror at my apparent stupidity for forgetting that in the compass rose, up is always north. Yes, it's happened.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

10 Reasons I LOVE Being Back In School

1. Call me a dork, but I love learning new things.
2. I like to pretend I'm cultured and knowledgeable about high-class things like art and politics. My current classes (Art History and Religious Studies) assist me in this. Now, thanks to my Art History prof, I can answer that quintessential party question, "Who was the patron saint of gravediggers?" and everyone will think I'm soooo cultured.
3. Campus just feels good.
4. I recently discovered that I can ride my all the way from my home in Tuscany to campus and it's a delightful ride through old treed communities the whole way. Plus, I feel hardcore when I pull up to campus in my bike shorts.
5. I need the structure in my day. The relaxed break from regimented missionary schedule was nice for a while, but it was starting to drive me bonkers.
6. I've missed the quest for cheap used textbooks. Anyone who's scoured the bookstores and finally found the one awesome copy that's highlighted and falling apart (but only $20!!!) can identify.
7. It's fun to meet new people.
8. Now, when people ask me what I'm up to in post-mission life, I finally have a decent answer.
9. I get to write a RESEARCH PAPER!!!
10. It finally feels like I'm out of the weird post-mission bubble and real life has started again. Although I'm not sure that's necessarily a happy thing.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson is DEAD?!?


This evening I was checking my facebook (I've spent the whole day in bed with the 'flu and I'm going out of my mind) and saw an invitation to a Michael Jackson memorial party. I was a little confused. Was there some kind of anniversary- 20 years ago this week that the video for "Thriller" was released? Maybe the exuberant YSA of Calgary just felt the need to throw a party and this was the best theme they could come up with? After a few more subtle hints (including an ad for the Michael Jackson Estate Sale), I figured that a google search was in order. First I tastefully typed in plain old "Michael Jackson" and came up with a few more tantalizing hints. Then I threw tact to the wind and did a search for "Michael Jackson Death" and came up with much more promising results. The beauty of the story? He's been dead for 5 days and I didn't even know. Ahh, the beauty of disconnectedness.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shuffled Around

Today my Sunday School Class was a bit of an adventure. It started when I walked out of Relief Society (we have our meeting block backwards) and ran into an acquaintance who served a mission in the Ukraine. After the standard, "We miss our missions! How are you adjusting?" talk, I told her that I needed to go get ready for my class. Upon hearing that I taught mission prep, she immediately said, "I'm coming! Can I tell you that you have my Dream Calling?" and so we headed off together to the room where mission prep has taken place the majority of the time that I've been the teacher. I say the majority of the time because we get shuffled around a lot. During 6 weeks in this calling, the class has taken place in no less than 3 separate rooms around the institute building. After arriving in aforementioned room, someone arrives and tells me that I don't get that room today. So I walk through the halls, eventually locating our Sunday School President. He doesn't know where I'm supposed to be, either, but suggests the gym and tells me that the first counsellor in the bishopric knows for sure. Unfortunately, he's not in town today. 
I start setting up in the gym when I turn around and realize that the crowd in front of me is all unfamiliar and looks suspiciously large for mission prep. They inform me that they are here for Gospel Doctrine. Hmmmm. Now I've got a problem. I have no classroom and the lesson should be starting... well, a minute or two ago. I lifted my eyes to the sky and wished that my co-teacher, Scott, were here. He knows where the class is supposed to be held!
Finally, I go back to the original classroom and discover that it is completely empty and I can use it after all. I start setting up, but by this time, my usual class has all apparently given up in frustration and gone to Gospel Doctrine. I'm left teaching a class of two returned missionaries and a curious onlooker, who wandered in from the hall.
Once we got past all the rigmarole, however, it was really a wonderful lesson. The comments were insightful and I found myself wishing that we had a few more post-mission students in the class regularly. I may just get my wish, though- the Sister who served in Ukraine made the observation that although she can't teach her dream class, she can still attend it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Daddy Dilemma

As is indicated in the previous post, yes, I still call my Father "Daddy". This has made me occasionally the brunt of jokes since Junior High, when the cool thing to call your dad was more along the lines of "that dude who cramps my style" or "(insert first name here) who doesn't understand me". 
On my mission, I recall riding in the mission van with the assistants and office elders on Mother's Day at the appointed time for the call form my parents. Right on schedule, our cell phone rang and the screen lit up with "unidentified caller". I quickly pressed the answer button and shrieked, "DADDY?!?" After asking him to call back in a few minutes when we were at the mission home, I hung up to a silent van. After five seconds Elder Deru asked semi-incredulously, "Daddy? Really, Sister Redd? How old are you?"
In my defense, the family tradition of us daughters using the term Daddy has a long and storied tradition going back to the early childhood days of Standin' Tall story tapes (a staple of every 80s Mormon childhood) and an unhappy princess who wandered the halls of her palace calling, "Daa-ddy! King Daa-ddy! Where aaare you?" We thought it was hilarious and often referred to our Daddy as "King Daa-ddy".
So what if I am, as the Elders teased, a "Daddy's girl"? I like it , and I love my Daddy. Yes, maybe sometimes when he's absorbed in a book I may have to call him Jim to get his attention, but he'll always be my Daddy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Well, Father's Day posts seem to be the norm right now, so I thought I'd join the gang. I recently had great experiences with all my paternal figures that deserve a tribute. 
First of all, my Daddy. From geocaching to long bicycle rides to shopping trips (anywhere from the Chinese market to the purse extravaganza that is Marimekko) my Daddy is alwasy there for me and I love the time we spend together. I loved it when he came to pick me up in Finland- I remember seeing him and Mummy coming out of the hotel where the Assistants were dropping me off and as I ran to give mum a hug, the first thing my Daddy did was take a lovely snapshot to preserve the memory forever. It's probably the least flattering photo ever taken of me, but it's the thought that counts, right?
My Grandpas also have a special place in my heart. Today I got to go on a walk with Grandpa Young around Bowness Park and it reminded me of all the times as a kid when he would drive us to school and back- sometimes we'd stop at the park on our way home or he might even take us to Lic's if we were really good. I also loved camping trips with Grandpa and Grannie out to Banff. My Grandpa Redd is the master of networking. He knows everyone and loves them all, too. Case in point: when we visited him at the hospital on Saturday, our ride back to Calgary came in to pick us up. Upon learning the boy's name, Grandpa immediately asked about his parents and passed on his love and greeting to them. I'm always amazed by how many people that  meet love and respect my Grandpa.
Here's to my Daddy and my Grandpas. You've raised the bar for all prospective suitors.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Locked Out

As I'm going through pictures and movies from my mission in preparation for the slide show that I've been promising Daddy for two months, I've had a riot seeing them and remembering those amazing 18 months. One of them, I think, deserves a blog. Deserves to be seen. 
Those of you who attended either of my homecoming talks heard the story of being locked out of our apartment. Well, to be honest, that happened several times. In fact, I think that the best ones should receive some exposure before I share the one that has a matching video. Please keep in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the times that I was locked out of places on my mission... only the highlights.

Episode 1: A Dark and Stormy Night
My trainer and I were out contacting one Saturday afternoon. We were headed home for dinner and on the way, we stopped to buy some ice cream that we were bringing as dessert to dinner with one of our investigators the following day. As we walked up to our apartment building, both of us realized that neither one of us had grabbed the keys from the hook beside the door and we were locked out. Fortunately, the assistants had a spare key. Unfortunately, they wouldn't be able to make it for another hour. Despite the wintry weather (it was only March) the ice cream was starting to melt and we were stranded on the steps outside. After we finally got in and had dinner, the day continued to be... shall we say, interesting? We talked to a young man named Stefan on the train and followed him all the way out to Luoma (Boback), a stop literally in the middle of nowhere, to get his number so that we could meet with him again. As we got out in Luoma at 9:10, we realized that the next train would not come until 10:15, forcing us to miss our 9:30 curfew. A quick call to our Zone Leaders got us a ride home, but not before we got some fun pictures.

Episode 2: Abandoned... and Tracting
Fast-forward to the end of April, when, due to emergency circumstances, I am in a foursome. Sisters Nelson and Neilsen have taken the two train passes that we have to the mission office, where they are going to be all evening, working on some projects for our mission president. That leaves Sister Murphy and I, the two greenies, with the opportunity to do some tracting within walking distance of the apartment. After about 6 straight hours of mental strain to understand what people are saying to us, we head back to the apartment, hoping that the other sisters are already there, as they have our one and only key. Well, they're still at the office. And probably for a long time- their project needs to be done now, if not yesterday, and they've got permission to stay out late. The Assistants will drive them home. Which leaves us... well, out on the steps, unless we can get in through the porch. Good thing we live only on the first floor above the ground. And lucky that a) I'm six feet tall b) Sister Murphy is small, light, and agile and c) I've been working out.

Episode 2b: A Climbing Challenge
A short time after the aforementioned incident, our now threesome finds ourselves locked out again and forced to go in through the porch. This time, though, we took pictures. And decided that we don't want the assistants to know every time we lock ourselves out, so we ask for our spare key. Now we each have a key, and we surely won't both forget it- right?

Episode 3: A Series of Unfortunate Events... or Encounters
With my new companion, Sister Johnson, I believe that we went a whole three weeks without getting locked out. This lucky streak ended with our first official encounter with "The Tea Man". Just as we leave our apartment, we realize that we have no key. As we try to figure out the possibilities (our porch door is locked this time, but Sister Johnson is taller than Sister Murphy and may be able to reach the open bedroom window if she stands on my shoulders), an upstairs neighbour wanders down- we've seen him before, but never had an opportunity to talk. He's an older man with a long, graying, red beard. And he dresses head to toe in baggy khaki clothes. After giving us some advice, he asks us a strange question, "Are you friends to tea?" (it makes more sense in Finnish, I promise!) He then proceeds to tell us that he he collects herbs out in the woods and makes his own "special tea" and sells it for €6 a bag. Um, thanks, but no thanks. From now on, every time we meet the tea man, it's a sure sign to us that we're locked out of our apartment. He knows, uncannily, when to show up and try to sell us tea when we're breaking into our apartment. It was during these episodes that we gave a spare key back to the Elders, this time, the ones that live two blocks away.

Episode 4: The Mother of Them All
This brings us to the original event that gave cause for a blog: the lock-out that occurred right before Christmas. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I figure that the movie does this account greater justice than I could.

The dang movie is not working. I've tried a million times. Any tips?

Just in case you were nervous, we survived, no creepy serial killers tried to break into the apartment in the middle of the night (although we did have the Elders convinced for a few minutes that they were supposed to come sit outside our apartment door all night, just in case). Through a miracle, we found the key the next day, took our address of the keychain, and all was well. Once we paid the €40 fee for building maintenance to let us in. 

I'd like to say that I've learned my lesson about carrying keys, but I know that it's just a matter of time until I get locked out of something in Canada. So here's hoping it'll be on the bottom floor!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

UTAH: A Nice Place to Visit, But...


I wouldn't want to live there. 
Now, before all you citizens of Utah get in a snit, let me explain. I love Utah. I was down there visiting two weeks ago and really enjoyed it. BYU is a fun campus, each city block is its own ward, and you have better Mexican food than anywhere in Canada. 
It's just not a place I see myself living. There are too many Mormons on Utah.
Case 1: I'm walking throught he BYU campus with an old mission companion. We walk past a guy on his cell phone, talking to someone about booking tickets "for the honeymoon". The next 6 people we pass are couples holding hands. Then comes a girl talking on her cell phone, discussing colours for bridesmaids' dresses. Surreal? Perhaps.
Case 2: Remember all the John Bytheway stories and youth conference dating workshops where they talk about frisbee golf as a fun date idea? Yeah, people actually do that in Utah (it's actually amazingly fun, I'm thinking of importing that idea to Calgary).
Case 3: At the BYU bookstore (as in the university bookstore, where you buy all your textbooks) you can check your course list for supplies,  go buy your temple clothes and then pick up The Work and the Glory in a boxed set on your way out. Talk about one-stop shopping!
Case 4: My old companion's apartment complex. The first floor is one ward, the second floor is another, and the third floor yet another. They practically have a stake in their apartment complex.
And I know that I don't even live in a place where the church is small. Calgary and southern Alberta is the Canadian equivalent of Utah. But I was still one of only 5 members of the church in my graduating class. 
And yet, there's something irresistible about it all- the school where a Book of Mormon class is required to graduate, having your entire Relief Society Presidency right around the corner, and being able to count 17 different LDS meetinghouses on your flight descent into Salt Lake City International Airport. Like I said, a great place to visit- just not the place for me.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Grande Tour of Janine

Yesterday was one of the busiest Sundays of my life, and definitely the most high-profile.
It all started out three weeks ago when I reported on my mission to the High Council. One of the members asked me to visit the Bow Valley Ward to speak there with him on May 24th. Ok, I thought, that sounds fun! A few days later, I finally got in touch with the Young Womens leader in Tuscany Ward who had been calling me for a while. 
"We were wondering if you would speak at a fireside for the youth in Tuscany Ward." she asks me.
"Sure, I'd love to" "Does May 24th work for you?"
Well, I thought, I'll be speaking in the Bow Valley Ward that morning, but that's not a big deal. It's not like they're at the same time or anything. So I committed to that as well.
Two weeks ago, I got a call from a member of the bishopric in my own YSA ward. "We've been wanting to ask you to report on your mission in the singles ward." he says. Of course, I'd love to do that as well. Then he mentions which date would work best for the Foothills ward. Care to guess, anyone?
Indeed, May 24th. But if that's the date that'll work best for them, I'm sure I can make it work for me. It's not a big deal. Then, last week, I finally got a calling in the ward. I now co-teach the missionary preparation class in Foothills ward. And I'm so excited about it that I volunteer to help with the lesson right away... as in May 24th. It's right after that when I realize everything that I've committed to on May 24th. Two sacrament meeting talks, one Sunday School lesson, and a fireside. Well, I can make it work.
Then, at institute class, it's announced that there will be an regional fireside this Sunday, May 24th. At 7 pm. It's our institute director's last fireside and I really want to go. A few phone calls later and I've moved up my own fireside to accommodate a quick drive to the Bow Valley Chapel to catch the last part of Brother Zemp's fireside.
Well, everything went well. Except that by the end of the day, I was completely tuckered out. I went to bed at 10 pm, right after I got home, and slept for 11 hours. Who knew that the church speaking circuit was so exhausting?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Trip to the 50s

Tonight I was in the enviable position of serving as chauffeur to my little brother and his friend in picking them up from a late-night party way in the south side of the city. I was already out, so it made sense. As we drove back from Sundance, I searched for some hood music on the radio when suddenly it came to mind... at this time of night, the only station to listen to was QR77 and their "Olde Tyme Radio Shows". 
As we listened to the adventures of Sunny, Jack, Hermy, Doc, and Rich as they crashed their plane in Nicaragua and came across the TEMPLE OF VAMPIRES, I remembered Daddy always tuning into QR77 when he picked us up from the Saturday night dances. Our run to Peter's Drive-In was always spiced up by tales of betrayal, mystery, dark sinister figures, and maidens in distress. And don't forget the theme music- "He threw off his hood to reveal... the face of the murderer!" DAAA-DUUUM!!! Classic. I love those shows. Is there anywhere I can listen to them at a more civilized hour?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Foray to the Movie Theatre

My little sister Elena and I have a little tradition between the two of us- we love to go to movies together and then hit up the Denny's right beside the theater for a quick snack. Yeah, I know, the food's not that great, but it's close, convenient, not overpriced, and I kind of like it. Anyhow, that was not the point. The point is that we haven't had one of our beloved "Denny's Dates" for quite some time. 
Traditionally, movie portion  of the Denny's Date has always been either a chick flick or a cute family movie. Previous viewings have been She's the Man, Ella Enchanted, The Nanny Diaries, and Night at the Museum (we're planning a date already for the sequel!) These dates have sometimes become an excuse to see movies that no one else wants to see- unnamed teeny-bopper movies, for example. Because, you see, my sister Elena has remarkably similar movie tastes to me. We watch movies with Hilary Duff and Amanda Bynes for a guilty pleasure, and every once in a while we also watch "serious movies"- but we usually rent those ones. Movie dates are for frivolous girly movies. I watch my artsy movies with Aurora.
Until last night. When we decided that we wanted to have our first reunion Denny's Date, we started scanning the movie listings. Well, once we ruled out the higher rated ones, we were left with Planet Earth (not exactly my first choice, no matter how many rave reviews it gets), Star Trek (which Dad and Peter were already going to- and this wasn't a date with them), Seventeen Again (Elena's already seen it) and State of Play. Well, after viewing the trailer, we figured that State of Play wouldn't be such a bad choice. Not a chick flick, though. But I figured it would be fun.
FUN?!? To say the least! I had forgotten how much of an experience the movie theatre is. Even though the movie was pretty good, the real fun was in the dark theatre, hearing the shocks and gasps from the rest of the audience as plot twist led to plot twist and being on the edge of my seat as Russell Crowe got chased by a freaky guy with a gun through a parkade. 
You see, everything is better on a big screen. I even watched two hours of Al Gore showing graphs and spouting data about climate change when it was in the theatre. There's something about a movie theatre that is totally different from watching a movie on your couch- although both have their advantages. 
So here's to Big Screen, Big Sound, Big Difference. Although with my income, it might have to be at the dollar theatre.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Adventures in Stupidstore

Today I realized that my little brother never got a birthday cake two weeks ago because he was sick on his birthday. I thought to myself, "Hey, I haven't had a fun baking extravaganza for about... 18 months! Why not?" I pulled out my favourite baking book and dug up Peter's favourite cake recipe for Lemon Curd Cake. Since the baking of this cake requires the use of approximately one million eggs... ok, maybe only 20... a trip to the grocery store was required. I figured I'd run over to the store and grab the eggs, as well as the lemons and sour cream and so forth. Of course, then I remembered that we could use some milk. And I'd been meaning to get rubber gloves for cleaning. And we were all out of flax seeds.
By the time my mum and I got down the list of everything we could think of that we needed from the store, this list was not looking like a little neighbourhood grocery store list anymore. No, my friends, it had become a SUPERSTORE LIST.

Anyone who has shopped for a family's worth of groceries in Canada can appreciate why those words are in block capitals. Superstore is a thing that you can't do halfway. You're either in or you're out. Superstore requires you to commit your time, money, and full concentration if your visit there is to be void of frustration and if you are to find the organic bulk flax seeds. The combination of low prices, an abundance of organic items, aisles full of ethnic ingredients, and its very own clothing line, Superstore has lured many innocent shoppers into its grasp, but only the brave escape and only the truly brave (and foolish) go there again. The trip requires preparation- if you forget your loonie for the cart, your green bins, and fabric shopping bags, your trip will be in vain. One can easily spend 40 minutes wandering the aisles looking for a staple such as all-purpose flour and eventually find that they are all out (of flour?!?).
This trip was no different. I had shopped at the abovesaid Superstore before my mission enough that I have a general idea of where everything is located, but it still took some time to locate all the items on my list. I finally got my giant cart to the till, where I was stuck behind a lady who had printed out the entirety of coupons.com and wanted to use them all. After packing everything up in my green bins and fabric bags, I suddenly realized that I had never found the eggs. Great. 
Well, anyone up for a quick run to the neighbourhood grocery store?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Grown-up Tastes

I've noticed a few things about myself over the past few years. Somehow, without noticing, I turned into a grown-up.
It all started with the cheese.
At some point in college, I found myself liking fancy cheese. No, not the special flavours of cheesestrings, but the really smelly, yucky kind with mold all over it that looks like it died. Somehow, it's quite delicious. No one can tell me that a blue cheese grilled sandwich is not a finger-lickin' good treat.
Then came the music. The mission may have helped with this somewhat, but I'd much rather listen to CBC radio 2 or bring along my iPod (which is still loaded with mission-appropriate hymns, ballets and opera) than listen to anything on the top 40 list.
But the real indicator was this morning, when I went down to the storage room to find something for mum. I came across a bottle of sparkling mineral water and pretty much thought that it was the most exciting beverage ever. It's been chilling in the fridge and I can't wait!
Sheesh. Being a grown-up is so weird.