Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Visiting

This is Day 3 of my visit with Kelly, John, and Anna. I made great time on Monday and arrived about 1:30. My first day I received the condo tour (such a cute place) and the driving tour and got a feel for where my friends have been living. It's a really great area--amazing weather and anything you could want within minutes. Seriously, anything! I found it quite amusing when Kelly would point things out: "Just over there is Sea World." "If you follow this road, you'll end up at the SD Zoo." "Only a few minutes from this is the beach." "This takes you straight to Downtown in about two minutes." She had a couple big ticket items to show off, one of which is the HUGE Qualcomm Center, which seems to rise up out of nowhere. Monday evening included a yummy dinner Kelly made (home-made mac and cheese) and the first installment of the Twilight saga, which will (of course) culminate with Eclipse on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, after a nice sleep for me (Anna was a restless, so J and K didn't sleep quite as well), we went to Downtown San Diego to visit a World Market there so Kelly could pick up a few decorating items. Our evening included a lovely walk at Mission Bay (another one of those things a minute away) and home-made calzones. They were tasty, but it definitely was a learning experience. The next time we make these, we'll have a better idea of what to do. Our night finished up with fabulous margaritas (Kelly's discovery from Alton Brown) and New Moon.

And here we are on Wednesday. The big news of the day is that Eclipse comes out, and we will be watching it at 7:00 tonight!!! Another notable of the week is that Anna likes me, which is fun, but she definitely wants me to keep my "role." I am good-time Candace, her party-friend, not someone who tells her no or feeds her or even puts her in her car seat. If I step outside of party-friend role, she stares at me with wide-eyes, no doubt saying, "And just what do you think you're doing?"

We're having a great time, and it can only get better from here!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Operation Hummingbird

Sunday morning, we received a nice surprise. As I was heading into the kitchen, I saw Calla had a little critter in her paws. At first I thought it was a mouse, so I screamed (of course). And then I screamed more when the "mouse" flew up into the ceiling. It was no mouse at all; it was a hummingbird.

Luckily, the little thing was just fine, although scared to death. We had a problem on our hands, however. Hummingbirds are not easily persuaded to leave houses. Instead of it flying out the open doors, it flew right up to our little set of dogwood branches on top of our cabinets! We couldn't help ourselves and had to snatch a photo of the little bird in our house.

Robby finally became the bird whisperer and coaxed it out using the very branches the bird clung to for safety. Calla, I believe, will be wearing a bell soon, and in the meantime has been forced to stay inside more.

Monday, June 28, 2010

DIYs: Housewarming

Today, I am headed off to San Diego to visit John, Kelly, and Anna in their new condo. I am so excited to see them (and see Eclipse with Kelly on Wednesday), and I'm also excited to give Kelly some home-made house-warming gifts.

After the success with my felt flower pillow embellishments, I couldn't wait for another time to give them a try. Since Kelly had said her daughter's room was in want of a pink pillow, this was my opportunity. I sewed a simple pink pillow (seriously, a square sewn together...thanks for fixing the sewing machine, Debbie!) and made white felt flowers with button centers. So cute!


The next project was hardly DIY at all since all I did was make cards with the names of herbs I planted in pots. Still, it turned out cute. I figure if anyone can grow herbs from seed, it has to be Kelly in her beautiful San Diego weather. (When I attempted, any growth I had was killed in the frost or destroyed in the heat.) By the way, Visalia weather today: 104. San Diego: 69.

Hope she likes her gifties! (I'm making sure this posts after I know I'll be in SD.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Flowers and Vines

It seems my husband never rests from working on the yard. I think it has become a growing art and science for him, and he keeps impressing me with what he does. One of his latest was attaching two trellises to the eave of our house and pruning/winding our (out-of-control) rose vine through them. It turned out beautifully, especially when the vines were full of white roses. Other favorite things in the yard right now are dahlias and hydrangeas. This red dahlia was a gift from Debbie, and I can't believe how fast it's grown. The biggest one is about 3 feet tall. They have just started blooming over the past week, and their deep crimson flowers are gorgeous.
I purchased this pink dahlia from Lowe's, and it's a newbie to our yard, so I hope it makes it. I love the color!
We received this hydrangea from a church friend over a year ago. When it came to us, the flowers were blue. Once we planted it, they faded, and this blooming season they are a pretty bubblegum pink. I hear that our hydrangeas are usually pink in the valley because of our soil. We're trying to keep all of our plants, flowers, and trees happy as the summer season really begins. I hope they all make it through the heat!

Friday, June 25, 2010

FFF: Make-up

Earlier in the month, Kelly wrote a post about her make-up upgrade, and this has inspired today's Friday Fave Five. What are my five favorite make-up products?

1. Mac Cremesheen Lipstick in Creme Cup - There was a time when I did not want to embrace my fair skin and would therefore wear lipstick that was way too red or brown. I've since discovered that pink is often the way to go, and after hours of trying lipsticks on, I found this at Mac. This is the perfect light pink lipstick, and its creamy consistency is easy to apply and feels so nice.

2. NARS Bronzing Powder - This looks dark, but a light application really makes it work with any skin tone, and it stays on all day. And lasts forever! My sisters bought this as a Christmas gift for me in 2008, and it's still going strong.

3. Maybelline Define-a-Lash Mascara - This is one of those convenience store make-up items that stands a chance against more expensive mascaras. It does a great job lengthening my lashes and stays on all day. Plus, mascara is supposed to be tossed every couple of months, so it's one I don't like spending too much money on. (This is only about $7.)

4. Urban Decay eyeshadow in Twice Baked - If there is any make-up item that I most struggle with, it's eye shadow. I love eye shadow, and yet it (at least all that I've tried) does not love me. It just won't stay on! I've tried primers and different types of shadows, and it's always the same problem. Urban Decay has been pretty good to me, and I like this deep shimmery brown.

5. Stila Convertible Color in Petunia - Actually, I don't have this, but all of my sisters do, and I borrow it from them whenever they're around, so it's making the post. (I think I need to break down and buy my own!) This compact has a creamy color that can be used on lips or cheeks, and it creates an instant "I'm awake now" glow.

Any make-up items that have been especially good to you? Let me know!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Pizza

I have never tried to make pizza dough from scratch because I always assumed it would be too hard. (Plus my mother-in-law makes delicious home-made pizza, so there was no need.) This year, however, I decided I wanted to do this, and after our yummy pizza in New York, I thought I needed to continue my pizza attempts.

I tried two new dough recipes this week, one normal and one thin. Both were from Williams-Sonoma (my new favorite recipe site), and both were relatively simple, especially if you have a food processor or stand mixer. (I have neither, but my mom and I used her mixer for the thin crust.) The biggest difficulty with pizza dough is how sticky it is! Once you get over that part, it's not too bad.

The first pizza I made was a basic pepperoni pizza. The New York pizza always had fresh basil leaves and a handful of mozerella sprinkled on top of the cooked pizza, so I tried that. Besides that, it was simple, and it tasted good.

The second one I made (with my mom) was the thin-crust pizza. This was really yummy! We opted to go without a tomato sauce and instead covered the pizza in olive oil and garlic. We put a medium amount of mozerella, feta, and parmesan cheese, then covered the whole pizza with fresh sliced tomatos and onion, and a bit of salt and pepper. Into the oven it went at 500 degrees for about 15 minutes. As soon as it came out, we topped it with a handful of mozerella, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil. It was great! Try it out!

And if you're in Visalia, this beautiful basil plant came from our farmer's market for only $2.00. Quite a deal :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Perelandra

Thanks to a long flight, I finally finished reading Perelandra, the second book in C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy. It was phenomenal, and I have to agree with Deb that it is better than the first, although I love the first for entirely different reasons.

Perelandra is beautiful. Kelly said that the imagery is what she remembers most from the book, and I can understand that. The description of the planet (which, by the way, is Venus) is incredible. Unlike Malecandra, Perelandra is more muted in its colors, but in no way less rich. Ransom explores more of this planet and sees a wider variety of creatures and places.

The central conflict is perhaps less suspenseful than the first, but it is more crucial than the first. Ransom is sent to Perelandra by Maleldil (God), but he does not know why. He meets a woman (who happens to be green), who is one of the two "humans" there. They are the king and queen, and function as the Adam and Eve of Perelandra.

The conflict begins once Weston (one of the men from the previous book) arrives on the planet. Ransom soon recognizes that Weston is not himself; he appears to look the same, but it is someone controlling Weston, the very being that ruined Earth, the Un-man (as Ransom calls him). The Un-man's purpose of being there is to ruin the queen who has been separated from her king and lead her to question and doubt Maleldil and her king.

The Un-man is not omnipotent and is instead very limited in what he can do. His main offensive attack is through the mind: he attempts to sway the queen through logic and what seems to be a logical questioning of what Maleldil has asked of her. (Sounds familiar, right?) At one point, the Un-man says it was good to break God's commandment because it brought Jesus to us; Ransom can take his lies no longer.

"I will tell you what I say," answered Ransom, jumping to his feet. "Of course good came of it [the fall]. Is Maleldil a beast that we can stop His path, or a leaf that we can twist His shape? Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed Him. That is lost for ever. The first King and first Mother of our world did the forbidden thing; and He brought good of it in the end. But what they did was not good; and what they lost we have not seen. And there were some to whom no good came nor ever will come." He turned to the body of Weston. "You," he said, "Tell her all. What good came to you? Do you rejoice that Maleldil became a man? Tell her of your joys, and of what profit you had when you made Maleldil and death acquainted."

This theme--that Maleldil, in his infinite power, can make good come of anything--and the parallel theme--man's sin is still unacceptable--permeates the story. When Ransom realizes it is he who has to kill the Un-man, he tries to talk himself out of it, knowing that no matter what, Maleldil will make things right. This is the most shocking moments of the story because what Ransom initially thinks makes sense: he can only do his best, and the rest is up to God. However, he realizes this is a lie straight from the Un-man. It is not enough to simply "do his best"; he has to succeed. He has to give all. He has to fight until his death.

He was in God's hands. As long as he did his best--and he had done his best--God would see to the final issue. He had not succeeded. But he had done his best. No one could do more. He must not be worried about the final result. Maleldil would see to that. And Maleldil would bring him safe back to earth after his very real, though unsuccessful, efforts. [. . .] It was in God's hands. One must be content to leave it there. One must have faith...

It snapped like a violin string. Not one rag of all this evasion was left. Relentless, unmistakably, the Darkness [Maleldil's presence in the dark night] pressed down upon him the knowledge that this picture of the situation was utterly false. His journey to Perelandra was not a moral exercise, not a sham fight. If the issue lay in Maleldil's hands, Ransom and the lady were those hands.

Ransom finally recognizes his role and his purpose. Later in the chapter, the Darkness (Maleldil's presence there) says, "It is not for nothing that you are named Ransom." When the weight of this falls upon Ransom, the voice says, "My name is also Ransom." And finally--after all his hesitation and arguments and fear--Ransom willingly walks into the fight.

His fear, his shame, his love, all his arguments, were not altered in the least. The thing was neither more nor less dreadful than it had been before. The only difference was that he knew--almost as a historical proposition--that it was going to be done. [. . .] The thing was going to be done. There was going to arrive, in the course of time, a moment at which he would have done it. The future act stood there, fixed and unaltered as if he had already performed it. It was a mere irrelevant detail that it happened to occupy the position we call future instead of that which we call past.

There is such beauty in Ransom's recognition. This is what I always love in books: the moment when the character recognizes what he must do, and, in spite of his fears (because there always is a fear), he walks in it. There is more to the story than this--much more--but I wanted to write about this because it reminds me of Christ. He says in John 12:27, "Now My soul is troubled. What should I say--Father, save me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!"

Perelandra is just a book, just a fictional account, but it draws me to Christ and leads me to pray that God would strengthen and empower me--and all of us--to walk in what he has set before us. God has given us all we need--His very presence--to do just that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Best in Show

I am back, as you know, and have spent much of my morning doing two things: laundry and posting. For my final New York post, I thought I'd share the winners in the categories. (Oh you didn't know there was a competition going on? Indeed there was!) Judges, if I mis-scored any of these, or if I left out an important category, please let me know via the comments.

Best Food: DiFara's Pizza won this award, by far, with the Meatball Place up for second, and the Thai place a close third. Robby really loved his Venezualan food, but it scored low with Chelsea and me.

Best Performance: The Lion King! (Does it matter we only went to one show?) We were absolutely amazed with the whole production. Outstanding!

Best Walking Event: Brooklyn Bridge, from Brooklyn to Manhattan, took this category, but it was followed closely for me by the High Line

Best Dessert: Carrot Cake, at Tazza's, the Reese's Cupcake from Crumb's, and the chocolate cake in the west-side cafe all scored high on this, although a final decision just couldn't be made without tasting them all again.

Best View: The View Restaurant, but we can't completely judge this honestly because we never made it to the Empire State building or Top of the Rock (that will have to be for next time).

Best Neighborhood: We were split on this one, but I think the upper East side had the most votes. (Who wouldn't want to live there, afterall?) My favorites were Greenwich and Riverside Park area.

Best Shopping: Soho won this category, as far as the environment and the amount of shopping available; however, we all loved the outdoor Brooklyn Flea, so that needs to get an award of some kind.

Best Park: Central Park, for its sheer size and beauty, takes this award, although Riverside Park deserves an honorable mention.

Best Street (or Subway) Performer: the Japanese opera singer

Best Exercise Event: bike-riding at Central Park, especially the uphill parts

"Bang for Your Buck" Award: Stanton Island Ferry - a free view of the skyline, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge


Although New York won many awards, it is good to be back!

Season Finale

You know how at the end of any series, there is that final picture montage that takes place on each of the characters? Well, that's what this is! A season finale of our week in New York. If only I had a good song to play with the pictures...

Camille
**********
Carly
********
Chelsea
***********
Candace
***********Robby
*********

New York in Pictures

Seven days in New York,
415 pictures to prove it.

Click on the photo to see the album.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

New York, Day 6

This morning Robby and I woke up to music playing outside the apartment. We thought a neighbor was just playing loudly until we walked outside and saw a 10 block street market taking place. What a fun surprise! What was not so fun, however, was the oppressive humidity. Yuck. We opted for fresh crepes at one of the stands instead of our usual Starbuck's and walked to Bryant Park to enjoy it, the shady area making the heat not quite so bad. Strawberries, bananas, and nutella...yum!

After breakfast, we caught the subway and went to yet another flea market in Brooklyn. This one was indoor, located inside a bank in Brooklyn, and it was another neat find. Chelsea, Carly, and Camille met us there, and we had a nice time walking around in the cool and humidity-free two-story market.

After our flea-marketing, we found a great Thai place for lunch. It was fantastic, and it was fun because it was Carly and Camille's introduction to Thai food. They loved it all.

The best thing about the Thai food was we still had a little room in our tummies to grab a dessert. We went to a place called Tazza's, which we had been looking for but stumbled across by accident. We all enjoyed a piece of carrot cake, a vanilla cupcake, and a grasshopper (mint and chocolate bar). The carrot cake definitely won. It was delicious, although Robby enjoyed his grasshopper very much, too.

After filling up on yummy Thai food and desserts, it was time to do our exercise...walk the Brooklyn Bridge! We had been looking forward to this all week, and Chelsea made sure we started on the Brooklyn side, so we could see the Manhattan skyline the whole time. What an amazing walk. The humidity had lifted some, and clouds in the sky blocked out the sun, so the weather was actually quite nice. We had a great time walking, talking, and ooh-ing over the views.

We had a little bit of time to stop by our apartment (and check out the street market once more) before going to church. Robby's friend had once told us about a church called Redeemer Presbyterian, so we were excited to try it. We definitely were not disappointed. The music was jazz style, but was so neat and simple. Tim Keller is the head pastor, and his message was appropriate and convicting. It felt like we were having a conversation with him, his speaking style being so comfortable and calm, as he talked to the congregation about finances in light of the Gospel. You can check out the website and listen to sermons here.

After church, we took our final walk as the five of us in New York City. We first stumbled across a huge three story candy store called Dylan's. Robby and Camille, especially, were thrilled by this, being the true candy-lovers in the family. Camille had been on the hunt for a really good cupcake all week, and this one did not disappoint. We all shared a red velvet and a Reese's cupcake. Amazing! But be warned: one bite of these rich cupcakes is quite enough.

We continued our walk, grabbed a real dinner at a Greek diner (very tasty), strolled down Fifth Avenue, and ended up at Rockefeller Center, where we sat down and had a wonderful time talking and laughing.

No matter how much we wanted it to last, it soon came time to say goodnight, and good-bye. Camille leaves for home early tomorrow morning, and Carly actually will be staying in New York with Chelsea and working with her, an absolutely fantastic opportunity she has taken. Robby and I will have a few hours left tomorrow and then will bid New York adieu as well, taking off around 5:00 tomorrow evening.

This has been an incredible week. Not many people get to spend seven whole days in New York City, and even less get to do so with their husband and siblings. I know this will be something we remember our entire lives.


Thanks for following us this week! See you tomorrow, California!