Monday, April 28, 2008

In which I learn many nifty facts about Iraq

Jessica and Mitch came to visit. They came for Mitch's graduation, but Jessica's birthday was during their trip. We had a little birthday party for Jess at my apartment, and it was nice. Jess and I actually spent all Saturday being friends, though.

I had several things that I had accumulated to give Jess: a (thoughtful!) souvenir from the DC part of my trip. Shade shirts from Shade's Provo thing. Her toaster (since she hadn't ended up getting one for her wedding). Several CDs, which together made up a Classical Music Top 100 collection, which I think is fantastic. My ipod that I never use anymore, for Mitch to use on his commutes.

For a nice break on Thursday, when I was cleaning for my cleaning check, I wrapped everything in birthday paper. Even though it technically wasn't all for her birthday. Because who doesn't like unwrapping stuff? And for extra fun, she'd forgotten about a bunch of the stuff, so she was surprised by it.

(Wrapping random things actually reminded me of something my mom used to tell us about sometimes when we were growing up. When my mom was little, she and her older brother got such a kick out of Easter egg hunts that they would have their own. They would collect rocks, wrap them in foil, and hide them for each other to find. )

Jess brought some things from California for me.

She brought a couple butter cookies from her local grocery store (the store near our house used to give free samples to kids when we were younger, so we both remember them fondly although they're hard to find these days).

She brought some specific dark chocolate bars that I had requested (from her Trader Joe's). I wanted them because they were super healthy and tasted delicious. How often do you see chocolate bars (even dark ones) with only 50 calories and 3 grams of fat?! Amazing! I needed more. [Note: When I was going to show Jess how healthy they are, I noticed that there are 8 servings per bar. Sigh. So much for that.]

AND! Best of all, she brought me an Iraq Culture Smart Card, which is what military people are given before they go off to Iraq. She had gotten it when she went to an open house at her local base, and thought I would like it. I DO.

First, I learned about Iraqi Clothes/Gestures. You can tell a lot about a man by the kind of cloth he wears on his head. A guy wearing a white head covering "Has not made the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca." (Who knew?!) If instead, he's wearing a black and white head covering, he is "From a country with Presidential rule (ie Libya or Egypt) and has made the hajj. " If he's wearing a red checkered head covering, he is "From a country with a monarch (ie Saudi Arabia or Jordan) and has made the hajj." Fascinating. My favorite gesture is: "Quick upward head snap with tongue click means no."

Then I opened the guide to learn some phrases. I started reading some from the first section to Jess and Mitch.
stop / awgaf drop your weapons / Dhib is-la-Hak do not resist / la it-qa-wem stay where you are / ib-qa makanak

They seemed to have a particular theme, which we thought was kind of amusing since it's so basic, and usually language guides start with things like "hello" and "my name is". That first section was "Commands". There were also "Numbers", "Questions" (Who is in charge? / minu almas-'uul?), and "Helpful Words/Phrases" (hello / marrhaba; thank you / shukran; mines / algham).

There is also a "Do This" section, with suggestions like:
Respond to a woman's greeting only when she initiates the contact. Allow her to shake hands using only her fingertips. Try all food offered to you, even if in small portions. Feel free to ask about the cuisine or its preparation.

And a "Don't Do This" section, with suggestions like:
Don't point with a finger; it is a sign of contempt. Instead, point with your entire hand. Don't make the "OK" or "thumbs up" signs; they are considered obscene. Don't praise an Iraqi's possessions too much. He may give them to you and expect something of equal value in return. (AWESOME!)

The guide also has a section on religion that has information about Muslims, including a religious calendar, with color coded holidays. (If the name of the holiday is in blue, expect fasting and prayer. If it's green, expect celebration. If it's red, expect procession.) And a section on cultural customs, like "Admitting "I don't know" is shameful for an Iraqi." or "Family is the center of honor, loyalty, and reputation."
And it has a map.

Mine is on waterproof, tear-resistant synthetic paper, but you can (read the rest or) print your own HERE.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I just planted my garden!

I've heard it's supposed to snow next week, and hopefully, hopefully it doesn't. My plants were getting too big, and today I transplanted them into my square foot garden!

I used 2 bags of vermiculite, and 5 bags of Miracle Gro Organic Vegetable Soil. I wanted to use peat moss also, but they only had one kind at Lowe's, and I didn't like how it looked. Anyway, I layered them into my garden, and mixed them. The layers made me feel like I was making a giant, inedible cake.

And then, after I had all the soil where it belonged, and it was good and moist, I needed to actually plant stuff. Fun!

So I planted everything. I decided how many to plant in each square based on how big I thought they would get, and also based on how many had actually sprouted indoors. I used the peat-moss-like stuff from the ones that didn't grow to cushion the planting area so that my little sprouts could grow from super-soft baby-plant dirt into pretty-soft normal-plant dirt with a little bit of a transition.

For the beans and melons, where a couple grew in the same little spot, I picked the stronger sprout and pulled out the smaller one. And I was sorry to do it, but I knew that I had to.

The only problem I ran into was, my seeds did better than I expected them to. The carrot seeds were tiny, so I poured a little pile of seeds into each of the indoor grower things, and actually I didn't need to. They grew like grass! So I opened the little grower things, and pulled out ones that looked like they had long roots and were growing well. And I set the other ones aside. I felt kind of bad.

They did what they were supposed to (grow!), and that just wasn't enough for me. So even though they were alive, I had to just throw them away. But they looked kind of grassy since there were so many, so I felt bad, but not awful.

And then I got to the tomatoes. I decided to plant four tomato sprouts in the tomato square, and that was fine, except that when I was down to one little tomato hole I had two little sprouts to choose from. And there wasn't one that had grown a whole lot and one that was little. And there wasn't one that had longer roots. They were the same. And I had to sit there and decide which little guy would live and which one would die. It was terrible! I've been so excited about my little garden. I've watched everything sprout, and felt encouraging thoughts for the ones that had almost pushed through the soil. I just got kind of attached to my garden. And it sounds kind of silly but actually isn't, because they're all alive. It's hard to abandon something that's alive, because I grew it from a teeny tiny seed. I got kind of emotional about it. (My roommate and I decided which one to save, and when I was on the verge of tears we decided that I would suck at having an abortion, if I feel so compassionate about tiny sprouts.)

So I won't say that I planted a tiny tomato plant in front of my apartment complex, but I won't say that I didn't, either. If it grows, that will be cool, because tomatoes! in front of our apartment! and if it dies, then at least I wasn't the one to kill it.

Anyway, that's the story of me planting my garden. Here's something I'm really starting to wonder: How in the world am I supposed to keep everything in its own squares?

Friday, April 18, 2008


I typed this up awhile ago because I wanted to post it on my blog. On my mission it was one of the spiritual thoughts we would leave for people who weren't home. I saved a copy because I like it.


In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, “I’ve no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt Him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!”

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he will also be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of colored paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

Theology is like a map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experiences of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God--experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion --all about feeling God in nature, and so on--is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.

In other words, Theology is practical: especially now. In the old days, when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God. But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed. Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones--bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. To believe in the popular religion of modern England is retrogression--like believing the earth is flat.

-- C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, Book IV Chapter I)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I LOVE Neil Patrick Harris, and other stories from today

I've had a super busy day today. The two main themes from today were doctors and potatoes.

This morning I went for an annual doctor's checkup. I'm not sick or anything, but my health insurance company really encourages us to do our yearly preventative stuff, so I decided to go ahead and go. It was fine. My doctor is leaving Friday for a month in Italy, so we had a lot to talk about.

Also, I learned something interesting that is worth sharing. I always thought that the recommended amount of exercise was 30 minutes of exercise, 3-5 days per week. It probably was that before. The American Heart Association currently recommends exercising most days of the week ("5-6 days a week") for an hour each time. Whoa. That's a lot. And it's more than what is recommended for guys, my doctor said. Apparently they've decided that women benefit more from more exercise. "It's something to work up to, of course," she said.

The other reason my day was doctor-themed was that I received the first disc from Season 1 of Doogie Howser MD in the mail.

I love the show How I Met Your Mother, and while I was in New York a couple weeks ago, I told my friends all about it. And then after we did our Letterman taping, we stepped into the Buy Our Letterman Stuff! store, and HIMYM was on TV. "GUYS! Look! That's it!" I proudly told them. "Oh," one of my friends said, "Neil Patrick Harris is on it?" "What? The kid from Doogie Howser, I asked?" "Yeah, that's him right there." I had no idea! I love Barney. I didn't realize that he was the same guy who played Doogie Howser. (I never really watched Doogie Howser.)

And then my mom and I were talking about it the other day, and I think I told her how surprised I was to realize that he was the same guy. My mom said how fun it was to see him on the show because on recent episodes Barney typed onto a blue blog (which was a reference to Doogie Howser, who keeps a computer journal like that) and he also talked about how cool magic is. "Don't you remember Dad and I talking about seeing him at the Castle?" My parents are members at a private club in Hollywood, and apparently they've seen him there a bunch of times. AWESOME. I didn't realize my parents see Barney regularly (!) and in person (!). (And! Always SUITED UP!) I definitely didn't catch the reference to Doogie Howser with the blue screen, though, and my mom encouraged me to see some of the episodes (since I can easily get stuff like that with Netflix).

Well, that came today, and I watched the first few episodes. I love it! The funny thing about it is, in How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris's character (Barney) is a total stud. He's handsome and charming, and he's AWESOME. And in Doogie Howser, I expected his character to be kind of dry or nerdy, but he isn't. He's a total stud in that, too, except just younger.

So now I'm totally jealous of my parents for getting to see him in person. I think Neil Patrick Harris is legen....dary!

The other part of my day was potato themed.

Basically, what happened was, on Sunday we had "Munch and Mingle" which is where people from church all stay afterwards and eat together. And talk together, so that we can get to know each other and find people to marry. Or something like that. And I'm part of the group that prepares the food. This Sunday we served loaded baked potatoes, with chili, sour cream, salsa, and a bunch of stuff. It was really good.

Afterwards, I went to the kitchen to help clean up, and the guy who is in charge of it all was throwing away baked potatoes. He tossed them into the trash one at a time, but there was a huge pile of baked potatoes in the big garbage can. "WAIT!" I stopped him. "Those are still good." (They weren't even opened. They were wrapped in foil, just out of the oven.) "Can't someone just take them home?" "I asked like 15 people and nobody wanted them." He kept tossing them. "And besides. Potatoes are like $3 for 15 pounds." "BUT!" I protested. "Do you want them?" he offered. "YES." I said.

So my roommate and I filled two big bags with right-out-of-the-oven hot baked potatoes. What are we going to do with all these? We discussed it, and I decided we would throw a potato party and invite everyone from our apartment complex.

So we did.

We made twice-baked potatoes, a real ham (which cooked all day) with ham sauce, broccoli and corn, and cut orange slices.

This afternoon I put fliers on everyone's doors in our whole complex. I had them printed on neon paper, and they said " WE KNOW YOU'RE BUSY BUT COME EAT ANYWAY!"

Quite a few people actually did come. Our kitchen and living room were both full of people. It was a huge success, and I think everyone who came had a great time.

And one final update: my garden is doing really well! I noticed today that a bunch of my plants already have roots that have grown through the little plant-starter things. And some of each type of plant is growing. Also, I ate my first home-grown strawberry yesterday. It was sweet, and full of flavor.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Thoughts on Democracy and Voting

From a very young age, I have sometimes been interested in politics.

My first memory of political awareness and interest was from the second house that I remember living in. Almost everyone in my city had gardeners, and we did too. We had a few sculpted bushes in our front yard. "LOOK!" I'd tell someone, probably my parents (but maybe anyone who would listen). "PRESIDENT BUSH IS IN OUR FRONT YARD!" They would pretend to be interested, and I would lead them outside to one of the tall sculpted bushes. "See," I'd say. "President Bush." I would have been in first or second grade, and I remember thinking it was a clever joke, because Bush was the President's name, and we had one in our yard.

I remember some major political events, but the only other time I remember being especially interested was for my senior year of high school. I had an extremely liberal civics teacher, and I would correct him when he stated his opinions as facts. Most of my classmates were also very liberal (or didn't know or care, or care to know), so someone had to do it. [Dr. R agreed that he was doing it, anyway, and started drawing attention to the times when he didn't. "That is a fact, Ms. Mylastname," he would announce.] I was in that class for the 2000 election, and it was no secret that Dr. Ramp. did not want Bush to win. I was also 17, and could not vote. (Oh, the misery!) When Bush did win, I brought Republican BUSH cupcakes for my whole class, in celebration. They had red dots inside, and red sprinkles on top and said BUSH on each cupcake. I think I've blogged about that before, actually. But honestly, I don't think I knew too much about what Bush wanted for our country. Not really.

For my first year of college, I did student government, and was one of the senators. It was fun enough. I helped people register to vote, and I was moderately interested in politics for a little while.

And then, I completely lost interest in politics, and the news. On my mission, we were not supposed to discuss politics with people or follow the news, so that made it easier to be disinterested. But when I got back, I really wasn't interested either.

I think the main reasons were:
1. It takes a long time to follow the news and really have a good idea of what is going on. Reading up on issues and candidates is just very time consuming.
2. I got tired of hearing about the same things over and over again. I knew that September 11th had been something important for our country. I knew that people were dying in Iraq, and I knew that we were looking for Bin Laden, and I didn't want to hear the same things every day for months and years on end.
3. So much of the news and politics is negative. I have enough problems in my life without having to feel bad for even more people. It wasn't that I meant to be insensitive, just that watching the news made me sad, and I didn't want to feel sad about stuff that I couldn't really do anything about.
4. It seems like a lot of news and politics are subjective, and it's hard to predict what America really needs, or what will really work. Or how important integrity is among politicians, or how big of a role government ought to have. Everyone has such different feelings about it, and they all feel strongly about it, and I can kind of see where everyone is coming from. Since I can relate to most of the sides, it's hard to make a decision (especially without having taken the time to really understand the issues.)

There were probably other reasons, too. But I became really moderate, and stopped voting in local elections, and didn't read newspapers or watch the news on TV. I became really, really uninformed.

And then, for some reason, I became really interested in this presidential election. And politics in general. And when I visited DC, and took a tour of the Capitol, I became fascinated. It made me want to serve in the House of Representatives. It made me want to know what is going on, and do something. I've been following the news all day, every day since my trip. And I find it really dynamic and interesting.

Plus, I've been reading things that really talk a lot about how inactive my generation is, politically, and I can completely understand that, but I can also understand why we need to participate.

It is not our responsibility to put flag bumper stickers on our minivans, or to buy lots of fireworks for the Fourth of July, or to attend our American History classes just because we have to. But we do need to vote. We do need to learn about issues, and vote based on what we really feel or know to be right. And not for who or what our friends or families vote for, or for who we think would be cool for no reason. And if it's time consuming, or boring, or sad, that doesn't mean that we don't need to be responsible citizens anymore.

Democracy depends on people being informed and voting.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


"Digging" really is the perfect subject for this post, because I have two stories related to digging, and that's about the only thing they have in common.

The first thing is a story from a book that I'm reading.

"One summer, she helped me create a fantasy world in a large cardboard box. We used mirrors for lakes and twigs for trees, and I made up fairy-tale stories for my dolls to act out. Another summer, she encouraged my younger brother Tony to pursue his dream of digging a hole all the way to China. She started reading to him about China and every day he spent time digging his hole right next to our house. Occasionally, he found a chopstick or fortune cookie my mother had hidden there." (pg. 10, Living History, Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2003.)

How awesome is that?! I love that her mom hid fortune cookies and chopsticks for her brother. I bet the kid was totally delighted and felt like he was actually getting closer. I bet he was super excited about it. That's terrific. Every time I share that part with someone, it makes me laugh.

My other story about digging isn't really a story at all. It's just news: MY PLANTS HAVE SPROUTED! I am so happy! Today I noticed a bean sprout, a zucchini sprout, and two carrot sprouts. Also, my strawberry plants grew another berry that looks ready-ish and a few green ones.

The carrots kind of surprise me, because they come from seeds that are so so tiny. How can whole big green sprouts come from something so little? (Someday when I get married and have kids, I'll probably be fascinated with that too. It's just like life comes from nothing.) A carrot sprout is kind of a miracle, and it's amazing that all of the blades of grass, and trees, even just leaves on trees...all of that stuff, it's really incredible. Because scientists can grow seeds, and manipulate stuff sometimes, but I sure doubt they could pick the perfectly right molecules and assemble DNA and pack that stuff all together into a scientifically made seed. Every time they do something, they start with something that God has already made a miracle for.

Anyhow, there are miracles all around us. It's just a matter of watching for them. (This all reminds me of that scripture that says that everything bears witness of God.)

Here are some pictures of my lovely garden.

The End.

Friday, April 11, 2008

OBVIOUSLY, English is Different in the UK

I’ve noticed something funny about British speech that doesn’t really carry over into American English. People in the UK use the word “obviously” different than we do here.

In the United States, we use ‘obviously’ to mean “anyone can immediately tell”. For example, “Her hair is really obviously green.” It doesn’t matter if you know her or not, it’s REALLY green, and anyone can tell. Or, “obviously it’s a bad idea to run a red light.” Running a red light is dangerous, and everyone knows this. “Obviously, she made chicken for dinner.” It’s not beef tonight, it’s chicken, and I can smell it.

In the UK, people very often use ‘obviously’ to mean “It has become clear to me now.” “Obviously, I was at the hospital, and that’s why I forgot to cancel my account.” It becomes clear to me now that I forgot to cancel, because oh, right, of course, I was at the hospital. “Obviously, I entered my card for my mum, and she’s forgotten to cancel it.” “I hadn’t realized my mum forgot to cancel it, and you certainly would have had no way of knowing, but it’s become clear to me now.” “I’ve come to the end of my free time, so obviously I want to cancel.” None of these things are obvious to me at all (as someone who does not know them personally), nor do the people expect me to know. Interesting.

It’s kind of funny, because obviously, I’ve started to use ‘obviously’ when I talk to them. (See, that wouldn’t be obvious to you, the reader, at all.) And nobody ever says “That’s not obvious at all!” It’s just fine because it’s kind of like an interjection.

In the US, ‘obviously’ often confirms a common understanding between people talking, and in the UK, the understanding is not implied or expected, and ‘obviously’ is frequently a simple transition in conversation.

[Also, many, many men call me “my love” the same way many Italians call random people beautiful (“Hello, beautiful!”), and the same way that old American ladies call people “sweetie.” “My love” sounds less diminutive, though.]

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Planting Seeds!

Yesterday I started planting my garden! I had purchased seeds on Friday, and planned to plant them on Monday. Monday came, and I trekked to Smith’s to start buying soil. Unfortunately, I encountered two problems. First, I had to walk through January to get to the store, and second, Smith’s only had one kind of soil, and it said multipurpose, but the picture was only of flowers.

Since I had to walk through a snow storm, I wondered if planting seeds and baby plants outside was such a good idea. I decided that starting the seeds indoors would be an acceptable solution, because the seed packets described the process in the instructions. (Also, I’m already afraid that I’ll kill the plants by giving them too much or not enough water, or too much or not enough sunlight, or too much or not enough fertilizer, or the wrong kind of fertilizer. Or by planting the seeds too deep. Adding snow to the equation didn’t seem like a good idea.)

And then, the soil that Smith’s has doesn’t say “vegetables” on it. And the picture is just of flowers. So I started talking with the florist lady who works there. “Ummmmm, look, I’m starting a garden,” I told her. “Will this stuff work?” I pointed to the soil. “Because it doesn’t say vegetables on it, but it does say multi-purpose. But the pictures are all of flowers. And I don’t want to eat chemicals.”

She looked at the package. “You’re trying to grow them organically? Well, this has Miracle Grow, so it probably has chemicals….but it does say multi-purpose….I think it would be fine. I use it for my herb garden.”

“Hm. Okay,” I said.

“And if you’re transplanting them anyway, you should be fine.”

“About that. Do you just use little plastic cups or Tupperware? Or what do you grow them in if you start them inside?”

“You can. Actually! There are these things that you can get, they’re pellets, and you can grow them indoors and the roots just go through, so then you just take the little things and plant them directly when you’re ready…Do you know where IFA is?”

“No…wait, so what are they…?”

And the lady told me all about these little things for starting seeds indoors. As soon as I heard about them I knew I had to have them. She told me where the store was.

Yesterday I went. I got an indoor greenhouse for starting 50 seeds. AND! I bought strawberry plants. I love strawberries! I really liked the store a lot. I actually just like country stores in general. Every time I visit a country store or ranch store, I wish I had a ranch. I want to take chicks home, and have a big garden, and horses, and wear a cowboy hat and boots.

But anyhow, I got home with my loot and planted the seeds. The way that the pellets worked is, they came in a tray. They started out hard, and looked like chocolate cookies. Then I added warm water, and they became little pots of soil wrapped in…well…something roots can go through.

I poked seeds into them. I planted cantaloupe, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, and carrots. Hm. Fun. The seeds for the carrots and tomatoes were especially tiny, which will make them even more impressive plants.

And now I have to wait for them to grow. The package says they’re guaranteed to grow. I am less confident than that, but I hope it‘s true.

I just know this project is going to teach me loads of patience. My roommates and I went out to dinner last night, and when we came home, I wanted them to have sprouted already. They hadn’t.

Oh, and: here is a link to the blog post on FrugalDad that Erin shared to begin with. I wanted to post it yesterday, but my computer was not cooperating.

And, here is a link to Uffish’s post yesterday about gardening. I’m kind of excited about her and I both doing gardens this year. We can probably like…trade fresh vegetables or something.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

In Which I Start a Garden

I have a new project!
(When don't I have a new project?)

A little before my trip, Erin shared a blog post about square foot gardening on Google Reader. Basically, the idea is: only use the amount of space that it actually takes to garden, use really rich soil, and you can grow a garden! So it's perfect for people who don't have time to weed/ have bad soil/ only have a balcony, etc; people can grow a garden even in 1ft square pieces.

This appealed to me for a few reasons:
1. I've been trying to eat more fresh/healthy food lately.
2. Organic stuff is appealing to me.
3. The price is right. (You start with seeds, which are basically wooden pebbles, and wind up with fresh vegetables!)
4. I had a plant on my mission since I couldn't have a pet. It was kind of cool to see it grow towards light and stuff. And get bigger. So I guess I like watching plants grow.

So I decided that I would build a garden!

On Friday I went to the man mall to get supplies. It was tricky. I learned how to tell the difference between treated and untreated wood. A nice thing about Home Depot is, though, the people who work there are suuuuuper helpful. A guy saw me looking at lumber and asked if I needed help. "YES!" I was like, "Okay...I need to get these things, and I don't know what they are..." He helped me go through my whole list. And he even helped me pick a good drill. (I was like "Look: I'm sure someday I'll get married and he'll have tools, and how often will I even use this anyway, so it doesn't need to be some $500 drill...but I don't want it to break in the middle of the project either." He understood.)

And THEN, another Home Depot guy carried huge heavy long boards for me, and cut them into the sizes I wanted. He even used the huge saw to cut me six little blocks to be feet underneath my garden. Nice.

The only problem was, I was supposed to get side boards that were 6" tall. And I thought, wait a minute, it's square FOOT gardening. So I wanted sides that were twice as tall. And I got them, but they were daaaang heavy. But fine, whatever. So I thought I would carry them and take the bus back home...except that I couldn't walk with the stuff at all. I had way too much heavy wood.

I ended up taking the bus and taking things in trips. It took me three trips to load everything onto and off of the bus. But it worked. And I wanted to build it the same day, because I was excited.

So I got everything ready...and realized that even though the display drill said it came with a 20 piece accessory kit (including drill bits), mine actually wasn't quite the same because it came with nothing of the sort, and didn't even mention an accessory kit on the package. I went and bought drill bits from a nearby store. And I bought vegetable garden seeds.

BUT! Nowhere had the right kind of soil!

And then Saturday, in between Conference sessions I constructed my garden. I was so proud of myself. Aside from having no dirt, it looks fantastic!

It is also very heavy, so I don't know how I'll move it in August. But whatever. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

NEXT POST: Planting seeds!

[NOTE: I'm not sure how I wound up with all of my pictures sideways. They started out right-side-up. I'll try and fix them tomorrow. EDIT: pictures corrected.]

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Impossible Hobbies and Cross-Dressing

This afternoon I went to print something at the library. It's part of my unending quest to prove my residency to the University of Utah. And that's fine.

On the way to the library, I passed The Cotton Shop, which I know carries Amy Butler stuff. Which I like. I decided to go in and see they had any new fabrics from her lines. I stepped in the door and it was insanely busy. A girl handed me a ticket. "You'll want to hold onto this for the raffle," she said. I pretended I knew what she was talking about, and walked in. All over the store there were signs 'EVERYTHING 20% OFF' (unless marked with another sale). I had unwittingly stepped into Moonlight Madness! which is TONIGHT ONLY, from 5-9. Huh. Cool.

So I found a couple Amy Butler patterns that I wanted. I bought sophia carry-all and weekender travel bag. I also got fabric for the sophia carry-all, and interfacing. I still have to buy other stuff for it. I need lining, cording, a zipper, template plastic (whatever that is), etc, etc, etc. The bags are soooo cute though. And Amy Butler is trendy to people (my age anyhow) who sew. It never goes on sale.

I don't have a sewing machine, though. I don't know how to do zippers. Or piping on the edges. So it's a project that will probably have to wait until whenever I visit my mom. Too bad. I love my Amy Butler bag that I made before (the swing bag), and I think as soon as I finish these, I'll want to take them everywhere.

The girl behind me in the superlong line to have things cut recognized my bag. "Is that an Amy Butler bag?" "Mhmm" "It's so cute." "I love it. It was super easy, too." We had a whole conversation about it. She bought Amy Butler patterns and fabric, too. It isn't just me.

[That's the impossible hobby part of this post.]

I went to the library, and printed my thing. And got books! I'm going to read Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Strapped by Tamara Draut.

Then I went to the grocery store because Smith's has strawberries for $1.50/lb. And I picked up a few other things while I was there, but nothing really exciting. I started my walk home.

A couple blocks away from my house, I heard someone behind me as I was about to cross the street. The light changed. We crossed. "Can I help you carry your groceries?" a guy asked me. "Nah," I said without looking up. "They're actually not that heavy. It's just bread and stuff." (True.) "Okay," he said. It was nice of him to offer, anyway. And we took two separate paths, that both went the same way, and were about 5 feet apart.

I noticed that it seemed to be a guy, but he was wearing a light pink shirt. A fitted, woman's light pink shirt that had one of those empire-waist seams. It tied around the neck, with a bow. It was a very womanly shirt. I couldn't understand why a guy would wear something so obviously feminine. He was definitely a guy, though.

Our paths met up, and he kept talking to me. "It's a nice night," he said. "It is," I agreed. "It's nice that it's starting to get warmer." We talked about the weather for a few minutes, and about being from southern California. He was from the city next to mine. But had moved up to Utah quite a long time ago.

And he said it: "I hope I don't make you uncomfortable. Some people wouldn't want to walk with a cross-dresser." Aha. Things made more sense. "Nah. You can wear whatever you want," I told him.

And then we talked about whether or not I was attending BYU, which he doesn't care for.

And I got to my apartment, so I told him to have a great night, and we said goodbye. And that just goes to show that stereotypes are often unfounded. The guy offered to help me carry groceries, without even knowing me, and under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn't have started a friendly conversation with him. There is good in everyone.