Friday, February 26, 2010

Flashback Friday: My first makeup memory

Flashback Friday lives on for another week!

You know my sad, inexperienced history with makeup. Perhaps this story is where it all began.

Sixth grade, 1993ish, Oak Hills Elementary School: my fellow 11- and 12-year-olds and I were weighed down with heavy concerns, such as, which class had ended up with the best outdoor portable? (none of us - the fifth-graders did.) What was the code word we had decided on if one of the girls started her period and needed to discreetly obtain a feminine product? ("envelope.") And what on earth was our class t-shirt slogan going to be, seeing that "class of two thousand" rhymed with approximately nothing? (I never found out the answer to this one. But 1999 ended up with "Last of the century, end of the line, we're the class of '99," which has its own problems.)

Meanwhile, on the home front, my mom had recently cleaned out her makeup collection and passed on the usable dregs to my sister and me to use as play makeup. Or something. It mostly just sat in its case in our bathroom cabinet, but one morning before school I got curious and pulled it out. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was applying bright pink eyeshadow to my eyelids. Now, at that age, a lot of girls probably knew how to correctly and effectively apply makeup. As you may have guessed, um, I was not one of those girls.

More bleak midwinter

Check out the forecast for Ithaca. Keep in mind this is in addition to the 6-8 inches of accumulation we've had already today.

The only thing that makes this snowstorm not 100% fun is that it comes on the eve of grocery shopping day. I wonder if a Wegman's run to pick up some milk and produce would qualify as the "extreme emergency" the weather forecasts say is the only circumstance in which we should venture out in our cars...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I guess I like ice dancing after all

I know this may be hard to believe, based on my recent posts about the Olympics, but I've never been a fan of ice dancing. It seemed so redundant and scratchy and non-jumpy/throwy, and frankly, boring. It was like Pairs Lite.

That was before. Now, I'm hooked. Or I was hooked, during the ice dancing competition. I'm sad it's over. Why the change? Maybe it's because now that I'm older, I can see more of the intricacies and artistry at work in ice dancing that distinguish it from pairs. Maybe it's because this year's ice dancers were more talented than in previous years. Yes, I think that's it. Most of the ice dancers still bored me, just like old times, including the much-ballyhooed Belbin/Agosto and Dominina/Chabalin. But there were two couples who I could not stop watching: Canada's Virtue/Moir and America's Davis/White.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Video dump

Here's a bunch of videos I've been laughing at lately, presented in an video dump. No rhyme or reason. Just videos I like.

1. Filling In, Due to MURDER. It might take a few viewings of this video to realize that the anchor must be reading from a poorly punctuated prompter. I originally saw this on the WWDTM blog.

2. Freaky Sheep People. Watch a little bit of the beginning to get a feel for this piece of political slander, then skip to 2:22 to have the PANTS SCARED OFF OF YOU. Which might be a good thing because you'll be wetting them due to laughter after the shock wears off. This is another WWDTM gem.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Olympics memories

You know I love this kind of post. As you may recall, we've been watching a lot of the Olympics at our house, despite's best efforts. It got me thinking about my favorite moments from Winter Olympics past. I accidentally discussed some of them in this post about the Summer Olympics, but here are a few more.

1. Kristi Yamaguchi's 1992 gold medal performances. What can I say? I was 10 years old at the time. I remember collecting newspaper clippings about it and everything. I think I could name every figure skater in the field, men and women, and she was my favorite. I wanted to BE her, at least until Oksana Baiul came along (see below).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Men's figure skating has changed

We've been watching a lot of Olympics at our house lately, and I have a question: at what point did male figure skaters stop pretending not to be gay? Or at least effeminate? Back in the day, the men's programs were pretty butch, with a lot of butch skating around the ice, some butch jumps, and butch costumes consisting of, you know, a shirt and pants. Yes, it was still men skating around the ice, but they made it as masculine as possible. Now it's all jazz hands, soulful facial expressions, and unitard costumes with puff sleeves/see-through midriff area/pink lace-up corseting detail.

You know what, though? Even though I'm not sure what exactly is going on with this change, I enjoy men's figure skating more now. It's as if some barrier has been breached, and the men are finally able to really express themselves on the ice in a way that was not allowed before. A perfect example of the kind of change that is at work here is Yevgeniy Plushenko's short skate program. I loved it. I almost couldn't stop watching it. It was so heartfelt and so expressive, almost more so than a woman's program might have been because the men are more powerful skaters.

I would give you links to some of the pertinent videos, but I can't figure out how, which brings me to my next Olympic-related observation. is designed in such a way that makes me think they want to prevent me from viewing competition videos at all costs. I understand that it's free, and offered as a convenience, but come on. If you're going to offer video, offer it in a straightforward manner. As it is, it's like one giant video dump where nothing is titled relevantly and you have to sift through several slow-loading, cluttered pages to get at what you want. And once you do find it, sometimes it's "premium" video that requires a paid TV cable subscription, which, I don't know why those people are watching it online in the first place, and in the second place, you don't even need a paid TV cable subscription to get NBC.

Also, as long as I'm making demands of a convenient service provided to me at no charge, I wish NBC could put up some kind of a spoiler-free page. I didn't get around to watching the men's free skate program until the day after it was finished, which meant that the results were splashed all over the site's home page. No matter; I just squinted my eyes so as not to see the headlines and navigated over to the athletes' pages to get at the videos of their performances. I was doing fine until I tried to find Evan Lysacek's video and no amount of eye-squinting could obscure the fact that it was titled, "Evan Lysacek Wins Gold." Doh!

Are you watching the Olympics? Also, as my gift to you, please enjoy this blog post on a similar subject from Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Flashback Friday: Life in Syria, as told by a Kazim al-Saher concert

Let me tell you about the time Jeremy and I went to a concert in Syria. On the face of it, it promised to be an amazing experience. The venue: a beach on the Mediterranean Sea. The cost of the ticket: a mere $20. Best of all, the performer: Kazim al-Saher, the Bono/Sting/Chris Martin of the Middle East. What could go wrong? I'm sure you can see where this is going.

Jeremy and I got to the concert venue - the fenced-off portion of beach belonging to Le Meridien Lattakia - plenty early, along with a few hundred other concert-goers. And we waited outside the gates there for quite a while, well beyond the concert's scheduled starting time. It was pitch black, because the generators that were supposed to be powering outdoor lights weren't working. We enjoyed the convivial atmosphere at first but as the time grew later and later, the large crowd was getting antsy and the complete darkness wasn't exactly promoting order and stability.

It was still dark, and later still, when someone official opened the gate to let another official slip in. That was a mistake. The crowd immediately pushed through to keep the gate open and stampeded past (or maybe over?) the officials. The situation suddenly became quite dangerous as I learned very quickly how it is that people get trampled to death in crowds. Jeremy and I did our best to keep up with the surging mass of people around us. It was literally run, or be run over.

We made it to the seating area and snagged some seats in the second row, near the aisle. I was pretty pleased about that, until I realized two things: first, that our seats were unsecured plastic while lawn chairs set in the sand, and second, that our resourceful Syrian friends were moving chairs from the back rows and setting them up in front of the front rows. I watched in a kind of horrified amusement as our awesome second-row seats became 10th- or 11th-row seats in the middle of an aisleless mass of chairs.

Did I mention that the lights still weren't working? The seating area was lit somehow, but the stage and the orchestra were in complete darkness. That might be why Kazim al-Saher didn't show up for a long time. But when he did, oh man. It was an awesome performance and an awesome concert, even when I went to go to the bathroom and they told me there weren't any, or when the ladies in the row behind me took drinks out of my water bottle without exactly asking permission.

When I think back to that concert, it reminds me of living in Syria in general. When you focus too closely on the details of daily life, you end up with irritations like the lights not working, or almost being trampled to death, or your seat not being where you thought it would be, or people stealing your water bottle. But on the face of it, you can't deny the fact that dude, you're sitting on a beach by the Mediterranean Sea, listening to Kazim al-Saher perform live, and you're doing so with hundreds of other people who are enjoying it as much as you are.

You're living in Syria.

And no amount of insignificant bumps along the way can take that away from you.

Now please enjoy this video we took of the concert. This is one of my favorite Kazim songs.

Note: I am thiiiis close to discontinuing Flashback Friday. I know I have more stories to tell but they are getting harder and harder to remember. I've been doing FF every week now for a year and a half so it makes sense that I'm running out of material, but it still makes me sad.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

It's De-Lurk Day! Again!

You know what I could really go for about now? A De-Lurk Day. In mid-February last year I had my inaugural De-Lurk Day. It's mid-February again, so I thought it would be nice to find out more about my readers: the ones I know, the ones I don't, the ones I've met, the ones I haven't, the ones from my hometown, the ones who are my next-door roommate's husband's cousin (or whatever). The ones from America. The ones from Finland. The ones from Jamaica. You know who you are.

To steal my own words from last year: Do you read this blog on a regular basis, or is today your first visit? How did you find this blog? Did you search for "politically correct term for eye boogers" and end up here? Did you click through from a friend of a friend of a friend's blog? Did I sit next to you in fifth grade, or live next door to you in college, or go to church with you in Syria? Or do I see you every day and not even know that you are reading this? Now is your chance to come clean and tell me that you're reading this blog.

I would love it if you took a moment to de-lurk yourself in the comments, whether you are a regular commenter or a true lurker. This is a judgment-free zone. At least for today.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Bleak midwinter report

We're halfway through our first Ithaca winter. Do people count their time here in winters, like they did in Moscow? Actually, we're probably more than halfway through the winter, at least if it thaws out in April like everyone says it will.

On the whole, this winter hasn't been too bad. I was expecting it to be a) brutal, b) messy, and c) gray. Instead, it has been a) quite reasonable, actually, b) cold enough not to be melty-messy, and c) yes, gray, but BRIGHT gray since when the sun comes out it shines and reflects off of all the snow on the ground. I always loved that feeling as a child when I woke up early in the morning and just knew it had snowed because the light shining in through my window was extra bright. I get that every morning now. And the magic still hasn't worn off.

What the magic has worn off of is clearing a foot of snow from my car every couple of days. I've got the process down: load the girls, start the car, turn on the heat and defroster, put on my snow gloves, and then attack the snow buildup. I learned early on that it was a mistake to flip the windshield wipers on while leaning halfway into the driver's seat. All that did was deposit a pile of snow onto myself. So I guess I'm still learning after all.

It's not DC or anything, but in general, it snows here for a few days on end and then takes a break, at which time everybody goes and gets their cars washed so the iced-on road salt doesn't eat away the exterior. I was a little worried at having to drive in the snow since I haven't had a lot of experience doing so, but it turns out Ithaca has the snow plow system down to an art. That's why I've decided that snow-driving skills are overrated. It's all well and good to look down on those other people in those other cities that completely shut down or go crazy when it snows, but really, that's only because they don't have the infrastructure in place to send out fleets of snow plows. It may snow a lot here but it's not like I'm out there in my Corolla busting my way down the road through 4-foot drifts.

My favorite thing about our Ithaca winter is that for the first time in five years, I feel cozy. It was impossible to feel cozy in Tucson because it never got cold enough, at least in my opinion. To feel cozy, you need to get cold down to your bones, hopefully a good, thorough, wet cold, maybe with a few numb limbs and your cheeks red and chapped and everything. Then you come inside and have some hot chocolate and curl up with a blanket on the couch and just savor the process of getting warm. Mmmmmmm. Here, I get to do that every day - multiple times a day, even, since we keep our thermostat so low (61 degrees, and a post about that is coming).

How is your winter going?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Flashback Friday: Petra girl redux

Remember when they found the Afghani girl from that famous cover of National Geographic 17 years after the original photo was taken?

Here is the original magazine cover, from 1985:

And here is the same girl, 17 years later:

It may not be quite as dramatic, but Jeremy had his own National Geographic moment when we were in Jordan in 2007.

Actually, the story starts back in 2004 when we were living in Syria. In September, we took a trip down to Jordan to see Petra. While there, we took this picture of a precious little Bedouin girl sitting on the steps leading down from the Monastery:

The moment was especially memorable because we had to ask her to scoot over so that her body would block an unsightly clump of donkey poo on the step behind her.

Three years later, Jeremy was in Petra again. And he found our little Bedouin girl and took her picture:

Over the years, we've taken lots of pictures of random strangers and it was nice to see one of them again for once. This will probably never happen again, but I still consider it our little National Geographic-ish moment.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On loving Robin Hood against my better judgment

Let's just make this TV week, shall we? First LOST, then Emma, now Robin Hood.

A couple of years ago, Jeremy and I watched the first episode of BBC's Robin Hood TV series. It was so terrible I don't think we got more than five minutes into it before we turned it off and sent the disc back to Netflix, post-haste. And that was that.

Or so I thought. The other weekend when I was out of town, all by myself, for four days, I found myself browsing the Watch Instantly section of Netflix for something to put on for background noise. Robin Hood showed up on there somewhere and I ended up watching it (again).

Here's the thing: the first episode was still terrible, but it was a good background activity, so I kept it on. The second episode was marginally better. And so on. And now, here I am a few weeks later almost through the second season, and LOVING it.

The weird thing is that I love it almost against my will. The rational side of me could list half a dozen serious flaws in the series that should, by all accounts, keep me from ever watching another episode. And yet I continue to watch. Last night, as I watched an episode toward the end of Season 2, I realized that despite its weaknesses, the show had somehow become good.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Movie Review: Emma (Masterpiece)

A couple of years ago, the Brits got all ambitious and made new movies of Persuasion, Mansfield Park, Sense & Sensibility, and Northanger Abbey. When the US aired them all on PBS Masterpiece as part of Jane Austen Season, they threw in the old TV version of Emma from 1996 and called it good.

They finally got around to making a new, three-part Emma this year, and I finished watching it last night. It's not as glossy and refined as the Hollywood Emma, and not as simple and strong as the old TV version, but I found myself liking it quite a bit on its own merits. In fact, by the end, it had really grown on me.

I thought Romola Garai as Emma was an interesting choice, considering I'd only ever seen her in weepy roles like Amelia Sedley in Vanity Fair or whatever her name was in Daniel Deronda. Here, in Emma, she is so smiley and sunny I had to look away from time to time just to escape her overbearingly charming demeanor. But I liked how the movie allowed her to be silly and foolish, which is a side (and the truth) of her character that the other versions haven't really allowed. I did think she was too modern sometimes but again, maybe that's because period movies don't often allow their characters to show unguarded happy emotion so much.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Your questions, answered

OK, so these aren't real questions I've been asked. They're just Google search terms that led to this blog within the past month or so, according to Google Analytics.

dead animal in dryer. Yes, there was.
had to dig poop out with fingers. Yes, I did.
i saw dennis quaid. No, I didn't. (I typed in a search for this and scrolled through pages of results and never found my blog. So what's the deal here?)
is acrosst a word? No, it isn't.
martinelli's sparkling cider sherbert 7up punch. Maybe this is how this recipe is perpetuated. Though you have to admit that Martinelli's would probably take it up a notch.
middlebury birthing center. Please give birth there if you have the opportunity.
travel shower head was over the toilet. Yes, it was.
my advenutre sin ithica. So close. So very, very close.

What are people searching for on your blog lately?

And does anybody have some real questions for me?

Friday, February 05, 2010

Flashback Friday: Alone in Japan

As you've probably noticed, I've pretty much run out of cohesive adventure stories to tell for Flashback Friday. So today, you get another set of brief anecdotes that together make up an adventurous whole. At least I hope so.

I spent the summer of 2000 on a BYU Study Abroad program in Kyoto, Japan. It was a wonderful experience and I still look back on that time as being a little slice of heaven.

All was not ease and sunshine, however. At the end of the program, I had plans to go to Tokyo, population 12 million, to hang out with a Japanese exchange student who my family had hosted in Oregon the year before. I was going to stay with her, get taken around the city by her, and basically shown a safe, planned-ahead good time by her.

What ended up happening was that I got off the train in Tokyo and after parting ways with a few fellow BYU students, I was completely by myself, with no idea where I was even going to sleep that night. It was thrilling, exciting, and moderately terrifying.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

LOST thoughts

**LOST season premiere spoilers will appear below**

We watched the premiere of LOST last night. I wasn't disappointed. There were plenty of bloodied people screaming other bloodied people's names. Plenty of incomplete, cryptic dialogue. Plenty of shots where the camera didn't show a key person in the frame so you were left to guess who he/she was. And plenty of Sawyer and Juliet drama, WHICH I DON'T BUY FOR A SECOND, thank you very much.

All in all, it looks like we've got a great setup for the final season, with parallel (?) timelines. I have to admit, I am really intrigued by the timeline where the plane didn't crash. Seeing Charlie and Kate and Sawyer again in all their unredeemed turpitude was moving. So was seeing Jack and Desmond and Sayid wallowing in all their untested potential. It was also nice to get a glimpse of the old Locke, before we knew what a crazy rascal he would turn out to be.

The thing is, though, as much as I like the show - and I like it very much - it will never be as cool as it used to be. That's because no matter what the Big Answers are, no matter what resolution the show comes to that will  resolve all our questions, it can never match up with the expectations we all had. An unseen monster that made clicking noises and knocked down palm trees? A four-toed statue? Polar bears in a tropical jungle? In those early seasons, I was sure there was going to be a cohesive explanation for all of these things, and it was going to be oh so terribly AWESOME.

But now I realize that there's no way the show's resolution can live up to that hype. The mystery will remain more intriguing than the answers could ever be.

So I've accepted that fact and moved on, ready to appreciate whatever the show gives me as best as I can. How about you?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Unsolved Mysteries, and The Job

Here are some mysteries that I'm trying to sort out. The only clues I have are what I discovered upon arriving home after being gone for four days.

Shampoo bottle: totally empty. I'm pretty sure it was full when I left.
Shower body oil bottle: totally empty.
Conditioner bottle: in the closet. (?)
Tub/shower diverter: missing.
Weird black marks on the wall in my bedroom: yes. I'm about to discover if they'll come off with a Mr. Clean Eraser.
Stickers on Miriam's walls: Yes, oh YES. I'm totally ok with it, though.
Computer desktop background changed: to a picture of a thunder and lightning storm.
Sopping wet blankies found in the sink: two. I think Magdalena compensated for my absence by taking her previous comfort objects into the bath.

It's kind of fun to figure this stuff out. I've never been away from my kids long enough before to have to guess at these things.

Also, it's come to my attention that in the previous post, maybe I was less than generous to my awesome sister. I really appreciate her being willing to come take care of my children and she did a great job with what she had (two perhaps slightly unruly children who were separated from their mom for the first time). I wanted to state publicly that I am extremely grateful to her.

About the job, here are a few details. I'm not sure if I want to name my employer yet so for now I'll use very general terms. Basically, for all you people who quivered in fear lest you make a grammatical error when commenting on this blog or speaking with me in person, your worst nightmare has come true: it is now my job  to rate the proficiency of people's speech (in English). Let the reign of terror begin!

Just kidding. Not about the job, but about me using my new special powers on the unsuspecting public. The context of my work will be limited to people who are taking a certain language proficiency test and need to have their English skills rated. I'm sure a few of you fellow language nerds out there can guess the acronym I'm referring to.

So sorry if it's not as cool as maybe you thought it would be, but I couldn't be happier with my new work-from-home job. It is perfect for me and my family. I'm really excited about it. I even dreamed about rating tests last night. Woohoo!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Home again, home again

I arrived home earlier this evening after four days of no kids and all work training. The house and the kids really missed me. I haven't decided yet how this makes me feel. There are a few emotions going on: I feel needed, because obviously the household business doesn't simply continue on cruise control when I'm gone. I feel irritated because I kind of wish it would. But I also feel something that I haven't felt in a long time because I've never had the opportunity to observe total breakdown: apparently, I am good at being a mom. When I'm around, things generally go smoothly. And although it takes a lot of work on my part for that to happen, I am able to pull it off the majority of the time. I'll admit that I haven't felt a lot of pride in motherhood recently and if seeing the contrast of my kids as they are without me is what it took to do so, well, maybe it was worth it.

My sister Teresa is the one who was taking care of my kids most of the time I was gone (in a freak coincidence, Jeremy had a separate work training conference in DC this same weekend), and I'm sure she could tell you better than I can how crazy things were while I was gone. Magdalena got The Snot Nose right after I left and was fussy and Miriam kind of shut down in the helpfulness department. Plus, Teresa had her own baby with her, a baby only 8 months younger than Magdalena. So basically, I inflicted a kid situation on her that nature never would have.


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