Friday, December 12, 2008

My favorite books of 2008

The Twilight saga by Stephenie Meyer
~ Great series of 4 books which many of my friends also devoured and they are definitely on my re-read list.

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
~ I found this book amazing and absolutely needed to share it with someone so I asked my friend Amanda to read it and we still need to talk about it.

Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of its Own by Doreen Orion
~ Great book, great stories, great recipes...but even greater is how amazing the queenly author is. She really connects with her fans and I've enjoyed that quite a lot.

The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison
~ Though this series of nine books is for young adults I hysterically laughed out loud multiple times (ask Josh :)) while reading each book and would love to own them so I can re-read them again and again. The titles alone made me laugh outloud and inspired me to read them.

Peculiar Treasures and On a Whim by Robin Jones Gunn
~ As always, I love anything and everything written by this author and I particularly love that she has continued on my favorite characters through this Katie Weldon series. Looking forward to more over the next few years.

My Life in France by Julia Child
~ This was an amazing book which told me so much more about Julia Child's life than I had ever realized. She had a very full life with so many adventures and neat experiences. I loved it and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes autobiographies or books about food culture.

All the President's Pastries by Roland Mesnier
~ This was a really fascinating book about the former pastry chef at the White House for over 20 years. Great pictures, neat stories and several recipes are included.

The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones
~ Though this was fiction, it really read like a non-fiction story. I found it fascinating and very enjoyable to read. Beautiful descriptions and a neat love story too.

Around the World in 80 Dinners by Bill Jamison
~ Intriguing idea for an anniversary trip by the author and his wife. Though sometimes slow, I liked how descriptive they were about the foods and travel and quite enjoyed the book.

Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account by Miklos Nyiszli
~ Not a fun book to read, but important and a different perspective from many books written about the Holocaust as the author was a prisoner whose medical skills saved him from death, though at what cost?

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
~ This was a very large book, but it never felt tiresome to read. Intriguing story and interesting characters made for a great novel which I enjoyed reading and discussing with Aunt Annette.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
~ Interesting non-fiction about a family's decision to eat locally and organically for one year growing most of the food themselves or obtaining it from a short distance from their farm. It really made the idea of growing vegetables sound good and I specifically enjoyed the short essays written by their teenage daughter which included recipes.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thankful & Grateful

When I think of all the things that I have been blessed with in my life, it makes it hard to imagine how I could ever feel like I need or want more. But I always do...I suppose it is human nature to always feel a need for more, and whether right or wrong it is there, always lurking beneath the surface of our thoughts or sometimes right out in the open. But at this time of year, there is hopefully more opportunity to think over our lives and be thankful and grateful for the many blessings we all can count. No matter how much or how little we have, there is always something to be thankful for, and these are some of mine.

10 - Facebook and MySpace: now you might think this a silly one or something unnecessary to life...and perhaps it is unnecessary. But, through these two websites I have been able to reconnect with, keep in touch with, and have fun with a variety of friends and family. Yes, some of it is silly - like Kidnap, Food Fling, Mafia Wars, or bulletin surveys. But the ability to support, encourage, and pray for these people is available at a moment's notice and for that I am thankful.

9 - Blogs: I love blogs...I love writing a blog...I love reading blogs...I love that blogs exist and are so prevalent. Though in some ways reading someone's blog can seem a bit like stalking them - reading about their personal life and they may never know you were there. But it is also a wonderful opportunity to know how to pray for others. It is a wonderful way to share memories, commemorate vacations, see pictures, share recipes, and even host book clubs. I love spending time each week visiting the long list of blogs I check on to see who has written or posted something new. The ability to leave a comment for them, or to read a comment they've left for me makes me smile and feel more connected to all of them.

8 - Vacations & Fun events: In the past year I have been blessed to be able to see Bon Jovi in concert, visit my godson & his family in Texas, go to Las Vegas for my birthday with Josh, Kelly & David, see WICKED in Los Angeles, spend time in a timeshare in Palm Springs, visit Las Vegas again this time with my best friend to see Bette Midler in concert, and see "The Glory of Christmas" at the Crystal Cathedral. I have also been able to visit Disneyland many times thanks to the blessing of having an annual pass, gone to San Diego to cheer for Angela in the Breast Cancer 3-Day, help plan and host a Bunco for the Cure fundraiser, along with many other fun and exciting events and daytrips.

7 - Books: If you know anything about me, then you should know that I LOVE books. I am constantly reading something and while I do have favorite genres and authors, I like to read a wide variety of books. Through my job at the library I am able to request even more books through interlibrary loan, in addition to purchasing books and borrowing books from others. I love talking about books and enjoy the opportunity to share my book love with friends like Melissa & Amanda. I love the website which allows me to list the books I've read, I am reading and that I want to read. I love being in an online bookclub with my sister and Aunt Annette. I love to always have a book available to read...and I am grateful that long ago when I was in kindergarten my teacher Mrs. Overholt took the time to teach me to read. Without her patience and encouragement I would not know how to read...without my parents love of reading to us and around us I would not have discovered my own desire to read...without my dad taking my sister & I to the public library every two weeks to check out our limit of 20 new books I would not have discovered my voracious appetite for reading...without my job at the library I would not have found a way to live as much as possible around books...and without my husband's love of books I would not have found someone who is just as happy as I am to sit in silence with our own books.

6 - Working at the Library: I never knew that I would work in a library. As a child I never dreamed of this job...I thought I'd be an artist, or a set decorator, or an oceanographer. Throughout college I thought I would be an artist, an English major or a teacher...but then I discovered that I did not want to teach and I got a job as a student worker in the library. I fell in love with it - who knew you could work with one of your favorite things all day long, in a quiet environment, with usually low levels of stress, and with such wonderful people. I was happy to be there...but then I graduated and was lost. But thankfully three short months later, the library assistant position became available and my old boss told me the job was essentially mine for the taking and so it began on August 16, 2001. Working here has been the best possible job for me. I am so grateful for the kind coworkers who genuinely care for one another, for the faculty and students that I am able to develop friendships with, for the work that I do that is not only interesting but also fulfilling. I know that this is where God wants me to be, and I can daily see how He is able to use me in this job. I love working with the student workers and talking to them, critiquing papers for them, inviting them into my home for homecooked meals, and just watching them grow. I am always sad to see them graduate, but that is part of life in a college...and there are always new ones to take their places. I love the quiet, I love the books, and I love the ability to work in a quiet, Christian environment.

5 - Grocery Stores: As I get older I find that I am more willing to try new things to eat and to discover that some things that I never used to like are now some of my favorite foods. I love walking into grocery stores and seeing all the possibilites. I love the stacks of fresh vegetables and fruits - deciding to try new things has revealed a few new favorites like parsnips, fennel, red peppers, and leeks. I love the dairy products - trying new cheeses like Camembert, or richer butters from Ireland or France, and of course focusing on old favorites like cheddar and 1%milk. I love the baking goods, the cereals, the meat department and bakery. I love trying new recipes and and just being able to go into a grocery store and stock up on yummy foods to eat and enjoy. I also am grateful for the opportunity to be able to share some of the food in a variety of ways - by donating to the food pantry at church, by inviting friends and family over for meals, and baking Christmas goodies to share with co-workers and students.

4 - Financial Security: We are not rich by most definitions, but we are also not poor either. I am thankful that we have the security to know our bills will be paid each month, that we can eat well, that we can do fun things and that we can give gifts to those celebrating birthdays, milestones, or holidays. Though sometimes money is tight, we are never unable to live and really, to live well. I am thankful that God provides for us enough that we can talk about vacations to Walt Disney World, or the possibility of buying a house, or of having a baby. I am grateful that we have enough so that we can donate to charity or help support people in missions or just lend some money when needed. Though we might complain sometimes, I know that we have much to be thankful for financially and I am grateful that God provides for us.

3 - Friendship: I am so overabundantly blessed with friendships. Some specific friendships I've loved this year include - taco Tuesdays with Robin, Melissa & Yolanda; once-a-month dinners with Amanda; monthly movie nights with Angela, Kelly & Mandy; vacation to Texas to see John & Melissa and the boys in April; lunches with Angela & Michael at the cafeteria; dinner & movie nights with Amber; anniversary dinners with Joseph & Sunset; dinners with Melissa, Alicia & Jessie; dinners with Yukai, Rob & Marisa, The Alexanders, the Zupkofka's; Disneyland with Kevin; Las Vegas & Bette Midler with Angela; looking forward to dinners with Anna & Jason; and so many others.

2 - Family: I am so grateful for the blessing of my family. My husband Josh is such a perfect fit for me. Though we can be very different and look at things in very different ways, we support and love each other. He takes such good care of me and gives me more compliments and assurances of his love than I could ever need or ask for. He is a daily blessing and I am grateful to have married him. My parents have been such an encouragement all my life - they are so kind, loving, Christ-like, friendly and supportive. My sister who is also one of my best friends - "a sister who was a friend and with whom I could compare myself, the better to understand both my singularity and our commonality." (Ahab's Wife). David who is the best brother-in-law anyone could ask for and always fun at family gatherings. My niece and nephew Katelyn & Jonathan who are the lights of my life - every opportunity to spend time with them is cherished and I am daily amazed to see them growing and learning new things. My Aunty Diana who is not only my aunt but also like a mother & friend to me. She is so supportive, encouraging and loving and I am grateful every day that we are as close as we have become...though I miss her and wish that we could spend more time together I know that we are in each other's hearts and thoughts daily. My other aunts and uncles who are each special in their own way - I love the many ways that we can stay in touch and share our love with each other. My grandparents who I always love to see and are such a blessing. All my cousins - related by blood or by love...they are each so special to me. God has blessed me tremedously with a huge loving family and I am so thankful for their presence in my life.

1 - God: Simply put I am grateful that God sent his only son to die on a cross for me, and for everyone else who will believe this to be true and accept him into their hearts and lives. I am grateful that God made such variety in his world - all the colors of the flowers, the types of trees, the amazing animals and so much more. I am thankful for his many blessing in my life and for always letting me know that he is there - protecting, guiding and blessing my life. Thank you God!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Who doesn't want a house? If one had a choice, and money was no object, wouldn't everyone choose to own a house rather than rent an apartment? But since we all know that for the majority of people, money is a huge concern how do you decide when the time is right to buy a house? And if you decide that you do want to buy a house, how does one decide how much one is willing to do without and how much one is willing to cut back in order to have said house? These are some of the decisions that Josh & I have been wrestling with over the past few weeks.

Josh wants a house...pure and simple. He wants it and according to him there is nothing that he would mind giving up or cutting back on to have a house. To him, now is the time to buy and if we wait we will never own a house. I would love a some point. There are many things that I would mind giving up and cutting back on if that is the only way we can afford a house. I believe that if we are meant to have a house, we will...but that doesn't mean now. I am content in my circumstances, even if that means continuing to rent an apartment. So how we reconcile these two VERY different positions? We are married and thus we must come to some sort of compromise since neither of us is willing to settle.

We qualify for a good-sized loan and at this point in time there are a variety of homes available for that amount or less in the areas we are contemplating moving to. A few of the homes we saw looked a little familiar - one was my sister's house, just flipped; another two looked like my parent's house, one exact and the other flipped. So yesterday I asked my sister and my mom what they pay for utilities each month. We needed to come up with an estimate for what our costs would be if we bought a house and this was a pretty decent way to guess at utility prices. In our apartment we only pay for electricity, phone, internet and DVR - water, trash, gas, and cable are covered by our rent. However, in a house we would have to cover all of those bills in addition to the mortgage, insurance and taxes. The difference in utilities was about $300.

So, last night Josh & I sat down and crunched some numbers. Based on an estimate for mortgage, taxes and home insurance our realtor had given us, the utility costs for my parents home, our other bills, and other budget lines (food, fun, etc) we determined that in order to have a house we would need to trim at least $1,000 from our monthly budget. This is a large number and it would involve very difficult cut-backs that Josh was completely willing to make, but I was not quite as certain. Part of my uncertainty stems from the fact that at the moment we are completely comfortable. We make enough to provide a comfortable life that allows us to go out to eat when we'd like, buy things when we want or need to, take vacations that can be costly sometimes, and not stress too much about finances. Buying a house would mean constantly cutting back every month for at least one year, and possibly several years. Yes, we would have a house, but for me I'm not certain if that is comfort enough.

A second concern is the possibility of becoming pregnant. If we bought a house and tightened up our budget and then we became could we afford it? We know that neither of us can stay home, so daycare is a must. More money would be taken from my paychecks to cover the additional health insurance. Furniture, clothing, diapers, etc would need to be purchased as well. I know we could handle either buying a house or having a baby...but I don't know how we could handle both at the same time. One way to tackle this problem is to discover whether or not we are even capable of having children. There is a concern that we cannot, and so we are going to take steps to discover if this is true or not. Once we have that information we can determine if this is even a concern, and then move on from that point.

After much discussion, much arguing and yes, some yelling and crying...we came to a conclusion that we are both willing to stick to for now. We will table the decision of buying a house until March. First, because the holiday season is upon us and the only way we could seriously cut back would be to cut out all Christmas money we are both unwilling to do this. Second, we need to finish paying off Josh's dental bill before mid-March in order to pay no interest. Third, we want to see if home prices will continue to drop. And finally, we will discover whether or not we can get pregnant. However, starting in January when we create our new yearly budget, we will start gradually cutting back in as many areas as possible and putting that money away in savings. This will help us to have something set aside for a down payment and also prepare us for the cut-backs that will come with either owning a home or having a child.

We do not know what the future holds for us - perhaps we will buy a house next year, or maybe we will have a child. No matter what happens, we are prepared to deal with it together in prayer and thanksgiving. We know how blessed we are, and I am grateful every day for the amazing ways that the Lord takes care of us.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

11 years since graduation...

This past Saturday night I attended the 50th anniversary of my high school which included an all-class reunion. The weekend began with an alumni flag football game on Friday, which I was not able to attend. However, it was apparently very well attended and a great game that I'm sad to have missed out on. Because that event was free, and because many of my fellow classmates were too "cool" to attend the dinner...not nearly as many alumni came to the reunion dinner. But that is Mr. Vance Nichols mentioned "The ones God wanted to attend were there, and hey....more prizes for all!"

About 40 people attended the dinner event which worked out to almost a prize per person which was pretty good odds. :) Of my former teachers, there were three in attendance - Mrs. Van Dyke, who taught English and now is middle school principal; Miss Brown, who taught Science and now is guidance counselor and oversees curriculum; and Mr. Nichols, who taught TV/Film and now works with the administration. The head of the school Mr. Lewis was also there along with a board member and the elementary school principal. Of the alumni we had a variety of years, including some from 1964, 1977, 1987 and most from the 90's and a couple recent graduates.

Me, Jodi, Rhyen and Angela. I went to school with all three of them - Jodi was a year ahead and Rhyen & Angela were in my class. Rhyen now teaches English, Yearbook and coaches Basketball at RCHS.

The evening began with a meet and greet time and some snacks. They had all the yearbooks out and available to browse through and we all enjoyed (well, maybe enjoyed isn't the word ;) looking at our younger selves. We had time to pray together and opportunities for professional pictures. Mrs. Van Dyke and Miss Brown took the opportunity to have a picture with all their former students in attendance. We then ate some delicious tacos catered by Izzy's Baja Grill located in the Adams Plaza. Dinner was followed by raffle drawing #1 including prizes of 50th anniversary RCS shirts, In & Out, Starbucks and Cheesecake Factory gift cards. I ended up winning a shirt, as did Jodi and Angela won a Starbucks gift card.

Jodi, Keri, Mrs. Van Dyke and Angela. We reminisced with our former English teacher about her trademarked teaching tool - Diagramland with residents like Suzy Subject, Vic Verb, David Direct Object, and others.

After the raffle, we had some fun with a couple games. First was a word scramble which proved to be more challenging than we thought. Then an RCS trivia game which our table scored very poorly on - but could we really be expected to know so many specific sports trivia? :) Even Mr. Lewis managed to miss 3 questions on that quiz...but someone did win a prize. Finally, there was a really fun music game created by one of the current teachers who is also an alumni. 23 snippets of popular music over the past 50 years were played and we called out the answers - much more quickly than Mr. Nichols expected which often made him laugh. Raffle #2 came next and many others became winners at our table - Danny & Jerry each won something along with several other alumni from other tables.

Friends - Jodi, Keri & Angela. We had a much larger group of friends in high school, but many of them were unable to attend due to sickness, distance, or vacations.

We then had the opportunity to choose what kind of cake we wanted from the 6 varieties available - I went for a small slice of both yellow cake/lemon filling and marble cake/chocolate cream filling. Both were delicious. :) We next had an award giveaway. Farthest distance went to Philip who came from New York, Chris who came from Texas and someone else who came from Mission Viejo. There were awards for oldest alumni, most kids, most grandkids, most siblings who attended RCS and a couple others that are included in picture form below.

Jodi won for most school spirit - not only because she was wearing blue, white and gold (our school colors) but also because she cheered so hard at the alumni game, and throughout the reunion dinner event. If anyone knows Jodi then you know she deserves this award! :)

Most classmates in attendance was 1997 - my senior year and equal to 10% of our graduating class! We had 4 alumni - Rhyen, me, Angela and Chris. We all won In & Out gift cards and I got to take home the trophy. :)

The event ended with raffle drawing #3, with many more prizes going out to the remaining alumni. We had closing prayer and more opportunity to chat and say goodbye to our fellow classmates. Though the attendance was small, I am so glad that I took the time and spent the money to attend. It was nice to see the former classmates and teachers that I saw and to hear what they knew about those not able to attend. I look forward to the next opportunity we have to come together to look back at our time at Riverside Christian and remember the fun, the lessons, and the friendships that we may have forgotten.

Best friends then and now - Keri & Angela. :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Knowing God is there

I felt the need today to look through my Bible. Since I am at work, I have my small pocket Bible and as I browsed through it I found many underlined verses and several of them seemed to speak to me today. I wanted to share them here...for my own benefit and also so that God's word may inspire someone else reading it.

Matthew 6:5-8
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

Matthew 6:31-34
"So do not worry saying, 'What shall we eat?' or "What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Matthew 22:37-40
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heartand with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Romans 13:1-5
"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience."

Ephesians 2:8-10
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Ephesians 5:15-17
"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is."

Philippians 4:4-7
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanskgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Colossians 2:6-10
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority."

Titus 3:1-8
"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous thingswe had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone."

Hebrews 13:5b-6
"...and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'"

1 Peter 5:7
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

Psalm 121
"I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip - he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you - the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."

Thank you Lord for your words and the peace and comfort you can bring. Thank you for all the blessings in my life - a comfortable place to live, good food to eat, a multitude of family who love me, good friends to support and encourage me, a job were I can be a blessing and in turn bless others, the security of knowing that I am yours and will be with you forever in eternity. I love you.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Girl's Weekend in Vegas

About a year ago when I heard that Bette Midler would be performing in Las Vegas at the Caesar's Palace Colosseum, I asked my best friend Angela if she would be willing to go together some weekend. We both have always loved Bette, and feel a strong connection to the movie Beaches. Finally we were able to look at ticket prices and available weekends and settled on seeing Bette on Saturday October 18 at 7:30pm. We decided to make a weekend of it, and booked a room at the Southpoint Hotel & Casino. It seemed like it took forever to get here, but we finally got to go!

The show was amazing. We had fantastic seats directly in the center on the second mezzanine level. Bette performed a variety of her famous songs including The Rose, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Wind Beneath My Wings, and many others. She made us laugh, she made us cry - she truly was the divine Miss M. :)

Best friends Angela and Keri - over 15 years have passed since we met and this weekend provided our very first opportunity to spend so much quality time together. We talked a lot, we laughed even more, and we really strengthened our already strong friendship. Though we don't always agree on every issue, we gain perspective from each other, we support each other, we encourage each other and most of all, we love each other in spite of and sometimes because of our differences. This weekend would not have been the same with any other person and I'm grateful we had the opportunity to go.

Being silly with feather boas at the Barry Manilow store at the Las Vegas Hilton. We had wanted to eat dinner at Quarks (craving the Holy Rings of Betazed - onion rings), but were saddened to discover it no longer exists.

So, we ate at the Paradise Cafe instead and contented ourselves with some shopping for cute trinkets, like a small button I got that says "I love not camping", and being silly with boas and other assorted Manilow merchandise.

Saturday was spent checking out the M&M super 5-floor souviner shop which included a huge wall of over 25 colors of M&M's in assorted flavors too.

Angela finally got to try out an oxygen bar. The salesman flirted with us as he showed off all the massage tools they also sold and convinced us enough to buy several of them. Nukkles was a great investment for me, and a scalp massager was a hit for Angela.

Next we headed to the Coca Cola store where we had the opportunity to purchase Tastes of the World. Soda flavors from 16 countries available in small taste servings for only $7 (and free for us because their computer system went down and the line got long).

We tried all the flavors by themselves first and then got silly making our own mixed flavors. Some looked bad but tasted good, some looked good but tasted bad...and a few were even better mixed together than on their own. :)

The Italy flavor was called "Beverly" and this was the face we made when tasting it. It has a terrible mediciny/tart grapefruit taste. We tried mixing it with "Fanta Kolita" from Costa Rica (tasted like deoderant smells)...but it was actually worse, but made for lots of laughter. :)

Beautiful Angela ready for our night out to see Bette Midler. We had dinner at Planet Hollywood in the Forum Shops of Caesar's Palace. It was quite yummy and fun to look at all the movie props and watch old music videos.

Me in my cute new top and jeans. Thanks Kelly for helping me pick out the shirt. We had great seats at the Colosseum and the ladies sitting next to us were also huge Bette Midler fans and provided some interesting pre-show conversation.

Before the show, we had the opportunity to get our pictures taken - it was a little embarassing, but lots of fun and yes, we did purchase the pictures after the show. :)
All in all, it was an amazing weekend. Seeing Bette Midler was such a wonderful opportunity and I would love to see her perform again. This was only my second concert and the setting was much more intimate and thus more exciting. Being able to share this weekend with Angela was great and I really enjoyed all the opportunities for conversation that it provided. I'm grateful for her friendship and support in my life and glad that we were able to have this girl's weekend. Maybe there will be more in our future! :)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Don't let it steal your joy!

Something my mom often says to us when it seems like attacks are coming on every side of us..." don't let Satan steal your joy!" Though it can be all too easy to give in and let all the negativity, all the problems and concerns steal our joy, we must not give up and try to find and keep all the joy that God brings to our lives.

This weekend we joined my sister & family for their yearly timeshare vacation. This time it was in Palm Springs at the gorgeous Marriott Shadow Ridge Resort. My sister and her family planned to be there Friday to Friday, Josh & I could come Friday through Monday afternoon and our parents could be there through Thursday afternoon. We didn't have a lot of fancy plans...just to relax, play games, spend time together, read, the boys could play a little golf and maybe spend a day or two at the nearby Children's Museum.

Starting last week, I got my first case of laryngitis which seems to have been brought on by an allergic reaction to the constant daily use of fertilizer on the courtyard outside the library which lasted Monday through Friday. I had a slightly hoarse voice late Monday evening which turned into full blown laryngitis on Tuesday - with almost no voice all day and a very sore throat. Wednesday and Thursday were a bit better - more able to talk, but still sore. Thursday night it started to get worse and Friday was almost as bad as Tuesday had been. The smell of fertilizer alone was almost unbearable, but the reaction to my voice was much worse. Though I tried gargling with salt water (first time made me gag, subsequent times were almost as bad...but I've continued), lots and lots of water and hot tea, and as much rest as possible for my seems like it does take at least a full two weeks to heal as told (we'll see if this is true after this week).

So we started out the weekend with a my humorous (at least to my sister :) hoarse voice, my dad not feeling well and Katelyn having a fever, but not seeming too sick yet. I drove out to Palm Springs with Kelly, Katelyn & Jonathan. Along the way, Katelyn was enthralled with the windmills and kept pointing them out as we passed them. She counted them (1-25, then 26, 27, 28, 29, 26, 27, 28, 29, 26, 27, 28,29, 40!) and several times told us we needed to drive up those hills to them and hit them! As my sister said, she was a little Don Quixote, chasing windmills! :) The resort was beautiful and our rooms were spacious, lovely and conveniently located. Josh & David arrived soon after...and an hour later Mom & Dad got there too. We settled into our rooms - a one bedroom unit which included a full kitchen, dining room, living room, separate bedroom and a huge bathroom with walk-in glass shower and ginormous tub, and a patio overlooking the golf course; attached was a studio unit which included a tiny kitchen area, large bathroom and bedroom/living room combo along with a small patio with the same view. About 5 doors down was another studio unit which was the mirror image. Mom & Dad were in the bedroom, Kelly & David and kids were in the attached studio, and Josh & I had to separate studio.

Though Dad wasn't feeling well and didn't eat much until Saturday evening, the weekend started out pretty well. Katelyn continued to have a fever, but seemed perky and mostly happy. We had dinner and played games on Friday night. Saturday we relaxed around the resort and rooms, played some more games and had lunch. Kelly & I went shopping at Kohl's where we were happy to discover major sales, with additional savings at the register. I had needed a new shirt & shoes to wear this coming weekend when I go to Las Vegas with my best friend Angela to see Bette Midler in concert! With Kelly's help and advice I ended up with a really awesome shirt that I never would have picked on my own. We found some great earrings to match and adorable shoes too. Everything I ended up getting was at least 30% off, and some was up to 75% off - it was fantastic! :)

Things started to go downhill on Sunday morning. We had all gotten up to make birthday breakfast pancakes for my mom and Kelly was feeling sick. As the morning progressed she felt worse and had major chills and nausea. Katelyn was feeling worse as well and continued to have a fever, and it looked as though David had developed pinkeye. So they made the decision to drive back home to go to Urgent Care. So while the three of them headed out, the rest of us stayed home with Jonathan. Thankfully Dad was feeling much better, and though my throat was still sore by the end of each day it was no longer very hoarse. They arrived home with the diagnoses - Katelyn had an ear infection, David did have pinkeye, and Kelly had antibiotics for whatever was ailing her (strep throat or bronchitis they thought). Half of us were miserable...we had to cancel our plans to go out to dinner for Mom's birthday and decided to get Pizza hut instead. Thankfully it turned out to be the best pizza Mom felt she had had in over a year.

This morning we discovered that it appeared David had gotten whatever it was Kelly had as he had a fever and chills as well and felt unwell. Josh & I had to head home so that I could go to work. At this point it does not seem like we caught the bug they have...and we're praying that it stays that way. Be praying for my family as they struggle to feel better and try to enjoy the rest of their vacation. The hope and prayer is that the medicine will help and they will feel better soon. Already Katelyn seems much improved and doesn't have a fever that I know of.

Though it is tempting to give up and feel like all is lost...God is still in control and He knew this would happen. Though you never want to be sick on your least it was time David already had off from work. At least they are somewhere they can relax and not worry about the normal daily life stresses and struggles. I know they can still find joy in spite of the trying circumstances. We were able to be together...we were able to laugh...we were able to have some fun...and those are all wonderful things. We will do our best to not lose our joy!

Monday, September 29, 2008

New car

We got a new car on Friday afternoon! :) It is a 2006 Ford Focus ZX4 SE sedan. It has 42000 miles on it and was only $9988. It had pretty much all the options we were looking for, but most importantly it was the right price and right time. Even without putting any money down (and adding some extra coverage and a security system) the monthly payments work out to be $10 cheaper per month than the Cavalier which we just paid off. What a blessing!

We picked up the car on Friday afternoon at our credit union. Jason, the Auto Expert, was waiting with the new car which we were able to look over and inside of to check out all the features. Then we went inside to sign all the paperwork and get the keys. It is neat and also a little overwhelming to realize that this time the car is all in my name...what a blessing that I've been able to accrue such good credit over the past 6 years that there were no problems or issues.

After leaving, we were headed to the DMV to change the title on the Cavalier to remove the lienholder as it is now paid off, and to change it to mine & Josh's names. I got lost on the way as I wasn't aware that the Moreno Valley DMV had moved, but after a bit of crying and extra driving I arrived and it really didn't take too long. $15 later it was in our names only and we had a new plan for Josh's old car, the 1993 Toyota Corolla.

As it had been a gift to us several years ago when we really needed a second car, and because we were blessed with a significant insurance settlement from the car accident, and because the new Focus didn't end up being as expensive as we had feared - we decided we wanted to use Josh's car as a blessing to someone else. A family in our church has a daughter who recently graduated and was in need of a car. Though the Toyota isn't brand new, and is a little rusty, it is still in really good condition and we were able to let them know at church yesterday that we wanted to give it to their daughter. They were blessed...and we were blessed...and we are grateful that we had the opportunity to be used by God in this way...and that He provided so perfectly for us.

Though just a week ago I was feeling frustrated and unable to see when and if things would work out, I am so full of joy to see how God has provided for us once again and in so many more ways than I even imagined. What a great God we serve! And by the way...I love my new car. It is so cute, especially with my new seat covers, steering wheel cover and soon to be administered decal stickers. And one super cool thing I love is that the stereo gets louder as you accelerate...and lowers as you slow down. So cool! Thanks God!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

To buy a car, or not to buy a car...that is the question

So, a few weeks ago Josh was in a car accident. Thankfully he was not injured, and though his car was he is still able to drive it. He was not at fault, the woman in front of him decided to back up and didn't think to look in her rearview mirror first and crashed into him. The car was declared a total loss as the cost to repair it was much higher than the worth of the car. So we received a nice settlement check last week. Thank you God!

We recently finished paying off the 5 year loan on my car and were for the first time without a car payment just days after this accident. So, knowing that God is in control and has great timing, we decided to look for a new car. Instead of going to a dealership and being pressured, we decided to use a service that our credit union offers called Auto Expert. Basically, you call them and tell them exactly what you want, what price range, what bells and whistles, etc. and they do all the hard work of searching, haggling and finding you what you want. It is a free service and something my parents and sister had used successfully in the past.

I called the Auto Expert (Jason) and explained that I wanted a Pontiac G6 sedan - automatic, a/c, CD player, silver color, power locks and windows, cruise control, no older than 2005, less than 50,000 miles and around $10,000 in price. He began to look and I had nothing more to do other than answer his phone calls. He found one fairly quickly, but it was too much out of my price range. Then on a Thursday he found what seemed to be perfect...exactly what I wanted, plus a few cushy extras, only 18,800 miles, 2007 and $12,998. Within my monthly price range if we put about $2000 down (which is an option based on the insurance payment we got for Josh's accident), so I said yes. He said I could pick it up the next day...we had pictures and we were so excited.

Then Friday rolled around and Jason called me back. The dealer wanted to back out of the deal as he decided the price was too low and he wanted more money. This was unexpected and upsetting and though Jason did his best the dealer would not back down. Though disappointed I decided to focus on the fact that God is still in control and He knew this would happen. Something better must be out there and we can be patient.

All this past week I hadn't heard anything from Jason, so I decided to give him a call yesterday. He apologized for not keeping in touch, but he had continued to search for me but with unfortunately no luck so far. After talking to my dad and searching for comparable cars online I decided to call him back to add two other car options to the mix. I found that I really liked the look of the Ford Focus ZX4 sedan as well as the Kia Spectra sedan. I let him know to be on the lookout for these as well as the Pontiac G6 with the same details. Hopefully next week he'll be able to let me know some possibilities and we may just find the car for us soon.

It's a learning experience trying to buy a car and assume that financial responsibility again. But God provided...we didn't need a new car until the old one was paid off....Josh's car still runs, so we most likely will not be without two cars during this time...the insurance provided a sizable chunk which allows us to have a little more wiggle room on the new car price. What a blessing and I know God is in control and He will provide exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. Thank you God!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dining in Vegas

We went to Las Vegas this past weekend with Kelly & David to celebrate my birthday with some yummy food, relaxation, and fun playing board games. We initially had reservations to stay at the Sahara hotel, but upon checking in we discovered our rooms to be quite shabby, fairly stained and not clean. While it may have been that we were just in the non-refurbished tower we decided to see if anything else on the Strip was available. After calling around we were able to book two rooms at the Excalibur hotel for not too much more than the Sahara was costing. The rooms at the Excalibur were much nicer, cleaner and ultimately we just felt better about the experience staying there. We decided to try using the Las Vegas monorail to get to our dinner at Margaritaville at the Flamingo Hilton hotel. $20 later and with very sore feet after walking through the MGM Grand, New York and Flamingo hotels - we arrived and checked in for dinner.

Dinner at Margaritaville is much more about the experience and atmosphere, though the food is decent but not fabulous. David had the shrimp pasta, Kelly & I had fajitas and Josh had the BBQ ribs. All were tasty but not the best we'd ever had of each meal. Josh enjoyed getting a bumper sticker at the gift shop which reads "The weather is here - wish you were beautiful".

That night after almost deciding to visit the Shark Reef experience at the Mandalay Bay hotel, we decided to instead go back to the rooms and play the game Hollywood Blockbuster before bed. The next morning we had a light breakfast and dressed up for our first fine dining meal of the weekend. This time we drove the car and headed out to the Venetian hotel for our 11:30 reservations at Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse. We had the first reservation of the day and were able to have the restuarant to ourselves for the first half hour or so of our meal.

We decided to share appetizers so Kelly & I split the heirloom tomato, red onion and buffalo mozzarella salad which was served with watercress and a balsamic vinegar dressing. David & Josh split the lobster bisque which was served with a toast covered in lobster mousse. Both were delicious and enjoyed immensely. For our main courses we all went with steak - Kelly & I had the ribeye, Josh had the rib steak bone in, and David had the bone in NY strip. All were served with herb butter and house-made worchestershire sauce, steak sauce and bernaise sauce. We also got one twice baked potato which included cheddar and bacon for the table. We all agreed that these were the very best steaks we had ever eaten. A birthday serving of chocolate sorbet was brought out for me while we waited for our desserts. It was delicious sorbet, but even better things were coming. David enjoyed Emeril's banana cream pie, Josh had the chocolate peanut butter torte with warm blackberry caramel, and I adored my individual pecan pie with oatmeal shortbread crust, caramel and homemade vanilla bean ice cream. Kelly decided to try something savory instead and chose the cheese assortment. It included 5 different cheeses, with accompanying items as well as some sliced baguette. First was a goat cheese served with champagne grapes, then a camembert served with cherry preserves (her favorite), cheddar served with blanched and glazed almonds, next was a brie served with honeycomb and finally a blue cheese served with green apple. She kept referring to her cheese plate as "heaven in my mouth". All in all it was a very expensive, very delicious, and very delightful experience and I would highly recommend it.

That afternoon we decided to spend more time relaxing in our rooms and trying out a new game - Bohnanza. We knew we needed at least an hour's time to get from our hotel to Caesar's Palace where we had dinner reservations at Rao's. After changing into our fancy clothes, we headed out and this time were able to valet park at the hotel.

Dinner at Rao's began well. The restaurant is dark and cozy and our waiter Shaun was very good even though he was quite busy with many other tables. We began our meal by splitting two appetizers - Bruschetta al Pomodoro e Carciofo (Bruschetta with tomatoes and artichokes) and Mozzarella in Carrozza (breaded and fried mozzarella served with sauce). Both were very delicious and in my opinion the best part of the meal. For our meals, David had the Gnocchi alla Bolognese, Kelly had Risotto ai Gamberi (risotto with shrimp), Josh had Scaloppine alla Romana (veal with artichoke, proscuitto and sage) and I had Uncle Vincent's Famous Lemon Chicken. For my taste I did not love any of them though they were all good. The lemon sauce was a little tangy for me, but Kelly and Josh both loved it and finished off the chicken I couldn't eat. Josh ended up liking Kelly's risotto better, so they switched meals midway through. David enjoyed his gnocchi but was unable to finish as they were so filling. For dessert Josh, David and I shared the profiteroles as there were three in the serving, and Kelly had the cannoli which was quite delicious. All in all it was not my favorite meal, though Italian food is also not my favorite. Kelly seemed to enjoy our dinner the most as she loved everything we ordered, but of course Italian food is her favorite. It was nice to try something new.

That evening we enjoyed finishing our game of Bohnanza and then Josh & I went back to our room and watched the movie Baby Mama which surprisingly more clean, touching and sweet than I had orgininally expected and we both enjoyed it. The next morning we got up earlier, packed and checked out of our room by 9:30am and headed back to the Venetian hotel to have brunch at Bouchon. They do not take reservations for brunch, but thankfully we only had a 20 minute wait for a table. We had two great waiters helping us and the restaurant and atmosphere were really nice. A bit fancy, but not too fancy that we ever felt uncomfortable.

The restaurant is located in the Venezia tower on the 15th floor, so you have to take an elevator near the check-in desk in the lobby to get there.

It was quite beautiful inside and they also had outdoor seating available as well.

The daily specials were listed on the chalkboard, but our server also went over them for us. He really seemed to want us to order the Crispy Pork Belly appetizer which was served with roasted beet salad, but we really did not feel like having that for breakfast...or ever. :)

They quickly brought out some yummy butter and homemade respberry preserves and eventually some delicious warm bread came out as well.

I decided to go with an all pastry breakfast so I ordered freshly made spiced beignets covered in cinnamon sugar and served with preserves and Nutella. They were delicious by themselves, but truly outstanding with the Nutella. Yum!

I also ordered the pastry assortment basket which came with a warm fresh blueberry muffin, banana muffin, pecan sticky bun and fresh croissant. I let David and Kelly split the blueberry muffin as I don't really like them, but they said it was delicious. The banana muffin had a crumb topping and was quite tasty and moist. The pecan sticky bun was absolutely yummy with a sugary glaze and cream center. The croissant was the very best one I've ever had - amazingly flaky on the outside and warm and buttery soft on the inside and was so delicious with butter and raspberry preserves. I also had a mocha to go along with my meal...but eventually all the sweetness got to me so I had to take some of it home. :)

Josh got one of the daily specials - Steak & Eggs. While he was not as impressed with the steak the meal was filling and the potatoes served with it were divine! :)

Kelly got another special - Quiche Lorraine which was served with a mixed green salad with vinaigrette dressing which she said was delicious and just right to cut the creaminess of the quiche.

David tried the Croque Madame served with pomme frites. I had wanted to try this, but was unsure about how a fried egg would taste on the top of the sandwich. It was delicious though...and the pomme frites were all deliciously crispy and yummy.

For dessert, Kelly & I decided to share the cheese plate. We chose a Camembert, cheddar, and a semi-hard sheep's milk cheese. They came served with apple, honeycomb and toasted bread. All three cheeses were delicious - the camembert was especially good on the bread with some of the raspberry preserves and the sheep's milk cheese was delicious with the apple.

All in all I would highly recommend Bouchon and would love to eat there again for brunch, and perhaps someday for dinner as well. Our weekend in Vegas was full of delicious food and many new experiences. I'm glad we all had the opportunity to go and that we had quick drives there and well as fairly good weather considering it was August in the desert. I would love to go again...specifically to Delmonico and Bouchon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tag - ...again :)

Find pictures to fit the categories in Bold - enjoy!

Hobby: Reading, reading and more reading :)

Dream career: owning/working in a cozy little bookstore maybe with a cafe attached

Favorite flowers: roses and hydrangeas

Favorite vacation: either Walt Disney World or Hawaii

Dream vacation spot: Kerikeri, New Zealand

Favorite place to shop: I love to shop at the grocery store - it makes me so happy to find yummy things to eat. But I also enjoy shopping at many other places too.

Favorite color: Pink

Favorite restaurant: BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse is one of my fav's

Favorite movie: too many to count, but currently Mamma Mia! :)

Guilty pleasure: reality TV especially The Hills and Denise Richards:It's Complicated

Born: Desert Hospital in Palm Springs, CA

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tag - You're it!

Directions: Once you've been tagged, you have to write a blog with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 10 people to be tagged, listing their names and why you choose them. Don't forget to leave them a comment ("You're it") and to read your blog. You can't tag the person who tagged you. Since you can't tag me, let me know when you've posted your blog, so I can see your weirdness~

1. I tend to sneeze a lot, especially at my job in the library. Most often I sneeze in pairs, sometimes more. And I am a very loud sneezer so typically several people bless me, including more than once people from way across the library.

2. I dislike driving most of the time because I hate how crazy other drivers can be and the fact that they rarely follow the traffic laws, especially speed limits. Driving on the freeway scares me and so I never drive on the freeway.

3. However, I do love to drive sometimes because it gives me the opportunity to listen to my music. I like to listen to the same song over and over again...sometimes as many as 10 or more times in a row. But I will never subject others to this as I know it could be annoying. I love to sing along and even sometimes try to dance too...but it tends to look stupid and make me take my mind off driving, so I don't do it often.

4. I like to color coordinate the hangers in my closet with the clothes hanging on them. This means that I try to have a yellow shirt on a yellow hanger, blue on blue, pink on pink...etc. But if I can't match then I try to find a complementary color to hang it on.

5. Some of my favorite foods include chicken tacos, flying saucers, salmon - especially teriyaki or bbq flavors, creme brulee, lemons, roast beef, roasted vegetables, chocolate and spicy sweet Doritos.

6. I try to drink water every day and usually add lemon slices to it to make it tastier. In a 32 oz. cup this usually means anywhere from 4-6 lemon slices. In my iced tea I like even more lemons, probably 8-10 in a similar size cup.

7. As I child, I liked to pretend that Noah (yes, the biblical figure) was made miniature and lived in a water pipe outside of the credit union where my parents went. My sister and I would say hello to him each time we'd visit.

8. I love roses and they are my absolute favorite flower to receive. My favorite color rose would be light peach or pink...but I also adore yellow, cream, orange, bright pink, lavendar, red, and multi-colored ones.

9. I love to read books and try to always be in the middle of reading something. I try to read from multiple genres, but several keep my interest the most. I love books about travel and food, any books about someone's year of doing something, juvenile literature can be interesting, romantic novels, mysteries, basically much fiction and non-fiction. Check out my goodreads profile to see the many books I can at least remember reading and plan to read and am currently reading.

10. I am so excited about going to Vegas in October with my best friend Angela to see Bette Midler in concert. We love her and have talked about going to see her for a long time. We're going to have such fun! :)

11. I love the color pink and I'm currently in the process of redecorating my bathroom to be pink and black with a kind of Parisian, Ooohh la la, dresses/heels/bags/makeup look. It's going to be so lovely...and expensive...but beautiful!

12. I love high heels and would love to own some gorgeous Louboutin heels someday. But, I hardly ever wear them since my feet/legs are not used to them and they kill me. But they are sooooo pretty!

13. I much prefer to be barefoot if I can and if I can't I'd rather wear flipflops then any other type of shoe. I own somewhere around 20 or 30 pairs of flipflops, but typically wear only 4 or 5 pairs over and over.

14. I would love to travel around the world someday and my top priorites (that I haven't already been to) would be - Bali, Australia and Kerikeri New Zealand, Hong Kong, Tokyo, France, England, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Brazil, Grand Cayman Island, Virgin Islands, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, and Alaska.

15. I once visited Prairie Dog Town, the Corn Palace, the Tulalip Indian Reservation, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Cayucos CA and many other locations while traveling around the US with the Royal Servants 10:10 Team over the summers of 1996 and 1998.

16. I've been dying my hair since I was about 16 years old. I have been dark brown, red, blonde and black haired over the years along with highlighted a few times as well. I do this because I enjoy the change....but probably my favorite color on me is red. Most likely people who know me have no idea what my natural hair color is...and pretty much I don't even know what it is and that's ok by me. :)

I tag only those who wish to do so...but let me know if you do so I can read about you! :)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Best Friends & Nights Out

Originally planned as a last night out before surgery (but thankfully Kelly's surgery is cancelled for now), our dinner last night at the Elephant Bar with our best friends was a great success. Kelly & I wore two of the new dresses we bought a few weeks ago at Dress Barn - mine is one of the infamous travelling dresses (let me know what you think?), and Kelly's looks just super-flattering on her. We each had our best friends in attendance - each other first of all and then Kelly's best friend Amanda and my best friend Angela. We enjoyed a delicious dinner, yummy desserts and wonderful conversations. We took a ton of pictures of each other in various groupings...some are here, others are on my MySpace account and many more are on my computer at home. :) Kelly & I left saying that we needed to do this kind of evening again with this same group. Thank goodness for best friends and fun times together.

We were laughing about something...not quite sure we even knew then exactly what was so hilarious. These are our new dresses - hopefully they look as nice as we think they do. :)

Best friends since high school - Keri and Angela. We took several great pictures last night, but this is one of my favorites and is Angela's favorite. I'm so greatful for the blessing of her friendship.

Best friends since college - Amanda and Kelly. We also took several good pictures of them, but many were on Amanda's camera instead of mine. This is one of the best though.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mamma Mia!

This movie is amazing...fabulous...just great! I had seen the stage production a few years ago with my parents and though I'd never really heard or cared for ABBA before, I loved the music, loved the story and just loved it. I bought the CD that night and listened to it so often that I actually wore out the CD and Josh lovingly bought me a replacement copy. When I heard that they were making it into a movie I was intrigued and knew that I had to see it. I could only imagine that the movie would be beautiful - with a location like Greece how could it not? but I wondered how they would incorporate the music...the whole plot and much of the dialogue stems from the ABBA would this be a musical? How would they do it? I couldn't wait for it to come out...and finally this past weekend it was here. We saw it on Saturday afternoon along with my parents, Kelly & David and a huge crowd of all ages, though mostly women. The movie began with the waters around Greece...bright gorgeous blue with light sparkling like Sophie walks to the mailbox singing "I Have a Dream" as she mails the invitations to Sam Carmicheal, Bill Anderson and Harry Bright. From that moment on I was hooked...happy...and dying to sing along!

Though I loved the stage version, the movie was so much better in a variety of ways for me. Many of the songs I had never really warmed up to, but watching it larger than life on the big screen I was amazed to discover how much more interesting and understandable the story became. When you realize that basically this story stems from visually expressing the lyrics of all these ABBA songs and tying them together into a story that not only makes sense but also is just blows me away to think about it. Songs that before were just okay are now favorites since I've seen the emotion and story connected to them - SOS, The Winner Takes It All, Slipping Through My Fingers...these three specifically really touched me.

Meryl Streep is phenomenal...she has such joy, such visible emotion in this role and not too bad of a singer. When she sings Mamma Mia I loved how much she got into the emotion and feelings of the song and literally rolled was great. And her song The Winner Takes It All was full of passion, emotion and just blew me away. All of the casting was great. I loved the men - Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgard. They were perfect and though at times it was a little silly to see them singing...I love that they took this chance with their reputations and had fun with it.

Fun is the best way to describe this movie. It is all about fun, joy, happiness, silliness, and just being all out what you feel. These actors are not professional singers and because of this they don't sound perfect. But they sound full of joy and just happiness at being able to be in this movie. The fact that they aren't perfect just makes it that much more realistic and that much more fun. I had to go out an buy the movie soundtrack as soon as we finished watching the movie - and thankfully it was already out and able to be purchased. I like what what written in the insert -

"Although none of the actors had much experience in the recording studio, they were undaunted and completely at ease singing the classic ABBA songs. The sessions were a joyous process which you can hear on this recording, that not only brings back that fantastic experience of watching the film, but also perfectly captures the heartwarming, feel-good spirit that is MAMMA MIA!"

It is soooooo true...this is a heartwarming, feel-good movie and you must see it! Enjoy the fun that it is not supposed to be too deep, it is not supposed to make you think too is all about joy and love and fun. Keep those thoughts in your mind and let yourself enjoy the joy that it this fabulous movie. Also, make sure you stay for the credits, they sing two more songs and their outfits alone are worth the price of admission, at least that's what my sister said. :)

And if you hate it, don't tell mind it made up and I LOVE it! :)