Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Meet the Mormons!

So, you may have heard of the new film Meet the Mormons. I wasn't sure how I was going to enjoy it, but I got to go see it last night in a screening with the director and the editor. It was pretty amazing, and I'm not going to give an in-depth, unbiased review, because I liked the movie. By definition, that means that I'm biased. And it's not because the people in the movie happen to share my faith, but because I *really* liked the film. It's kind of like my love for any of my other favorite films. I'm a geek and a nerd, or whatever you want to call me, and that means I don't hide how excited I am about the things I love. Whether it be Dr. Who or The Avengers or Arrow or Phineas and Ferb or Star Wars or a Terry Pratchet book, I get really excited. And I'm really excited about this film. I'm a fan.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Adventures in Brighton: Seagull!

Normally, I think of seagulls in a positive light. They are rather nice, from a distance, and they are funny creatures, at least in Finding Nemo. However, I am now personally acquainted with a seagull that, just like the ones in Finding Nemo, believes everything it sees and wants belongs to it. 
The seagull is watching you.
All your snacks are belong to seagull.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Adventures in London: WICKED!

Tonight I finally got to see a musical I've wanted to see since my freshman year of college. Which is seven whole years ago, surprisingly. And you can probably guess which one I saw by the title of this post: Wicked! I saw it at the Apollo Theatre right outside Victoria Station, and it was FANTASTIC.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Travel and putting down roots: aka living out of a suitcase

Be forewarned: This post is going to ramble around the topic rather a lot. Watch for parentheses! Having been warned, you may now proceed at your own risk.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to live a minimalist life, to be able to travel at the drop of a hat, to not be weighed down by a lot of things. The idea is extremely attractive. I don't want a lot of material possessions that I have to pack around. (That being said, I keep picking up souvenirs.... Everything still fits into the one suitcase, though, plus my backpack and purse.) And every place I go, I find people and places that I want to go back to. So there's got to be a balance somewhere. The book Into the Wild is a good example of how minimalism could be taken to an unhealthy extreme, and it shows the tension between putting down roots and living free of ties to others. Because travelling and never putting down any roots would be incredibly lonely. No matter how may books get written about the self-finding and empowering nature of standing alone in the middle of a foreign city. Or on top of a mountain, or whatever. Human beings weren't designed to live life in a solitary bubble. My point here is not to complain about loneliness. Quite the opposite, really.

More food!

This is another variety of queijada. It is thick and orange-y and sweet! Like a sort of syrupy muffin, maybe.

This is a palmeira, with frosting. Tasty.

And this is a queque. Yes. That is cake spelled in Portuguese. It's basically a muffin.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Adventures in Portugal: Food, Glorious Food! (part 2)

For my class, I have to do a cultural presentation. I chose to talk about food, specifically the sweet kind (lots of desserts!). Conveniently, I've been collecting more pictures of the pastries and sweets I've eaten, so I'll be able to use them. Here are some of them. 
This is doce de lima. Very tasty lime pudding thing. Creamy with cookies underneath. Kind of like a cheesecake in a bowl. I ate this after eating lots of fish in Setubal.
Tortas de... I can't quite remember what these were called. But they had a creamy cinnamon filling. I got these in Setubal and took them home with me.
 Alheira com ovo e batatas fritas. It's a heavier meal, with a fried sausage, a fried egg and fried potatoes. And rice. Tasty. Kind of tastes like a really good corndog.
 Sumo de laranja natural. SO good. Fresh squeezed orange juice, which they make as soon as you order it.
 Palmeira simples. They also come with a tasty looking frosting, but I haven't tried that yet.
 Croissant. Turns out they're a lot easier to eat with a fork and knife. Otherwise, it is pretty much impossible to eat without making a mess.
 Merenga. savory with ham and cheese and a croissant-like crust.
 Delicia and a fish sandwich.
 Torta de canela
 Pao de Mafra with cheese.
 Pao de queijo, pastel de frango and juiced sugar cane. The drink is better with a straw, because then you avoid the sugar cane fibers that naturally occur when they juice it right there.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Adventures in Portugal: Food, glorious food! (part 1)

Who can name the musical where I got the title for this post? I'll be impressed :D

This is a kebab with french fries. I got it from the kebab restaurant around the block, and it was very tasty. It has mayo, ketchup and spicy sauce, and it is a mix of chicken and beef. It makes an excellent comfort food. Kebabs also come in pita wraps, which include lettuce and such, thus making it into a more well-rounded meal. They're easy to get to-go and they just taste SO good. Not Portuguese food, by the way. According to Wikipedia, they originated in the Middle East. I've also had them in Spain. I really missed them, actually, so when I found the "Ali Baba"restaurant, I was thrilled!

This is a Torrada (buttered toast... oh so delicious. Also two pasteis de Belem. You can find other similar pastries elsewhere but these are the best. The other ones are good, too, but they're just not the same. Also a cup of delicous hot chocolate. Good for dipping the toast into.

This is my own experiment. I didn't have any flour and I was tired of eating noodles without any real sauce so I used oatmeal, soy milk and chicken bouillon to improvise a white sauce. It turned out fairly well. In further experiments, I added more spices and that made it even better.

These are typical pastries from Sintra. The one on the far left is a queijado, which is a semi sweet cheesecake sort of custard. It involves egg, cinnamon, and sugar, like many pastries do. The two in the middle are travesseiros, pillowy pastries wrapped around themselves and filled with a sort of egg, cinnamon, and sugar sauce and dusted with sugar. On the right is another torrada. Delicous. And the fresh-squeezed orange juice is amazing. 

Adventures in Portugal: Sintra!

Sintra is a beautiful city a train ride away from Lisbon. It's up in a more moutainy part of Portugal and it's very nice. Lots of flowers and trees and such. And castles! I went to two of them with my tutor on Friday. It was fun. It involved a lot of walking, which was great. We climbed castle walls and looked out over the impressive views. Sintra is on the Atlantic ocean. We didn't go down to the beach, but we could see all the way there from the top of the castle tower.

On the way up to Castelo dos Mouros (Moor's Castle), we found lots of good photo ops.

Adventures in Portugal: Museums!

So I've been to a couple of museums so far. The Museu dos Coches in Belem and the Museu do Brinquedo in Sintra. Which means I got to see some cool old carriages and an awesome collection of antique toys from around the world. The carriage museum talked about the different kinds of carriages and the history thereof. 

 The carriages were all used by the Portuguese royal family and generally covered with elaborate carving and painting. Lots of it was in gold. I wish I had a good picture of the ceremonial carriages they made for the Pope... they were COVERED in gold carvings, huge ones that you'd expect to find in a palace. But they were on the coach. I guess with all the gold it just didn't photograph well. Too shiny. I think it was gold paint or gold leaf, really. One of them depicted Apollo with the 4 seasons, allegorically represented as women. Cool stuff.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Adventures in Portugal: Travel tips and Exploration

Well, I've been here for over a week now and I'm still enjoying myself. Today I went to Belem again, by myself this time. I planned to see the Monastery more thoroughly. Tip number one: if in a country that doesn't have a siesta (things close down during the hot afternoon), but still gets really warm, plan to spend that part of the day somewhere cool, like a church or a monastery. They're made of stone and therefore quite comfortable. That was the plan for today.
Travel tip number two: Make sure to check the hours of the church and/or monastery before you go, if you are on a tight schedule. Thankfully, my schedule this week is quite flexible, so I was not inconvenienced terribly when I discovered that the Monastery is in fact closed on Mondays. It really wasn't a problem, though, because it turned out to be a lovely day and with the breeze, it was not uncomfortable to be outside, even at 2 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Adventures in Portugal: lots of walking

I got to see some cool things so far this week. On Sunday, I went down by the river and saw some of the plazas and the river itself. I don't have pictures of that, but yesterday was a holiday and I took my camera when I went to visit some more places then. So here we go.
 This is a picture from the Miradouros (look-out point) Santa Luzia. It's by a church, also called Santa Luzia. From here you can see the river Tejo and a couple other churches. It's a nice view.
 They're doing some kind of construction right below the lookout point and the framework kind of looks like 3 crosses. So I took a picture of it.

This is me, by the church sign. I got new sunglasses because otherwise it's really not as pleasant to walk around.

 This is the Saint George Castle as seen from the next look-out point, O Miradouros da Graça. It's a cool castle. I haven't been there yet this trip, but I was there five years ago, and I plan to go soon.
Here's a view out over the city. Most of the buildings have red tile roofs. Very pretty.

 This is from today's trip to Belem. I went with my tutor to this part of Lisbon to see the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Monastery of the Jerónimos) and a few other things. First we stopped at a very famous old bakery (it's been there since 1837, I believe). They have very tasty things to eat. The Pasteis de Belem (Belem tarts) are very good, and they have a secret recipe that doesn't exist anywhere else. We ate those and enjoyed them greatly before going on to the Monastery.

This is the tomb of Luis Vaz de Camoes, a famous Portuguese author. The holiday yesterday was actually to celebrate him, so there are still lots of flowers here. Vasco de Gama is buried on the other side of this church.

 This is the cross that represents the religious order that financed a lot of the Portuguese voyages of discovery. It was often used on the sails of the ships.

 And here I am on the other side of the street from the monastery. There's a pretty nice park that is good for walking around in.

 And the park has a fountain! The water comes on and off and makes pretty patterns.

 This is the Torre de Belem. There used to be two, but there was an earthquake that destroyed the other one, and many other things in Lisbon. But this tower survived. I didn't go inside today, but I plan to go back another time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Adventures in Portugal: The First Rule of Time Travel

The first rule of time travel is always determine your space/time location immediately upon arrival at a new location. At least according to To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. It's pretty good advice.
I did try to follow that rule. I looked at my phone and trusted the time it said. Turns out, it's an hour ahead of what the ACTUAL time is. Which is why I got to the University of Lisbon an hour sooner than I should have, and after waiting half an hour....

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I'M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you pictured Bilbo running down the road waving his contract in the air as you read the title to this blog post, you're awesome.

And yes, I'm going on an adventure, too! I've mentioned before, I think, that I'm going to Portugal for June and July to study Portuguese with a scholarship. It's a FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) Scholarship and I'm very grateful to the professors and fellow grad students who encouraged me to apply for it. Basically, the scholarship allows me to go to Portugal and learn the language and the culture and the history. And I have to learn a third language for my masters program, so that is it. I'll be working with a tutor for a few weeks, then taking classes at the university for the rest of the time. And on weekends I shall explore! And go to church. Apparently there is a young single adult ward there and I'll try to go to that.
When I finish my program at the end of July, I'm going to Barcelona, Spain. There is an author there who visited BYU last year. Thanks to one of my professors, I'll be staying with him and his family for a couple of days. I want to use his novel in my thesis, so it will be wonderful to talk with him. Then I will visit a few museums in Madrid and try to talk to the author of the other novel I'm using in my thesis. Then I am going to London for WorldCon. It's going to be AWESOME.I'll spend a few days exploring London before WorldCon starts, because I've never been there and I want to get to know the city. Because many of my favorite stories are set in London. (Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, Agatha Christie's novels, etc.)
I have no idea when I'll get to go back to Europe, so I want to do as much as I can while I'm there this time. It'll be a grand adventure. I'll be writing about it here, and I shall post photos as well. In the meantime, I'm trying to write and read and finish some projects before I leave. Life is good.

Overcoming Adversity: Amulek

This is a note I wrote in March 2011, when I was preparing for my mission. At the invitation of my bishop, I started going through the Book of Mormon looking for scriptures that I could turn to when life got tough on the mission. It's been a long time since I looked back at it, but now I thought I'd share it here.

Amulek is one of my favorite people from the Book of Mormon, specifically the Book of Alma. He endures really awful trials and comes out stronger than he was before. He was only able to do that because of his faith in God and his love for the Savior and for others. His example is an inspiration to me.

We first meet Amulek in Alma 8:19-32. We learn that he is a Nephite, who has enough faith to trust the angel who told him to invite Alma home for dinner. He lets Alma, a prophet of God, stay long enough to rest and recover from a very difficult journey. In verse 22, we read that Alma “blessed Amulek and his house,” which implies that Amulek had a family, but there are no further details about his wife or about how many children they might have had. (Later, in Alma 10:11, Amulek says that his household includes women and children.) At any rate, Alma stays for “many days with Amulek before he began to preach unto the people” (Alma 8:27). In that time, I imagine that Amulek had the opportunity to learn a great deal about the gospel and to gain a firm testimony, because in verse 29, we read that the Lord commanded Alma to take Amulek along as his companion when he left to teach the people of Ammonihah. This was not an easy task they were undertaking. Alma had already been kicked out of the city once. Nonetheless, both of these men went forth and “were filled with the Holy Ghost” (Alma 8:30).

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Priesthood and Gender Relations: part 2

This is a follow up to a post I wrote last October, right around General Conference. Conference is this Sunday, and once again I've been seeing lots of posts about the priesthood and men vs. women. Since it's a topic I do feel strongly about, I thought I'd post some more thoughts on the subject.
As I've stated before, all faithful men AND all faithful women get to participate in priesthood ordinances. If we as women see the issue as "They have the priesthood, so we should, too" it's like we're forgetting that we already have access to the blessings of the priesthood in our lives. It's not a toy that only one person gets to play with at a time. It's a gift from Heavenly Father given in order to bless ALL of His children. We all have opportunities to serve in the Church, which is organized by the power of the priesthood.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Advice on Writing and Publishing

So in case anyone's interested in writing and publishing, here are a few things that I've learned by going to writing conferences and talking to people. I recommend doing some internet searches and reading up on the subject. My advice is somewhat general and obviously I don't have a ton of experience in the publishing world. But I have been writing for years, and this is at least a place to start if you're interested in writing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


No, I didn't eat it all by myself.
I split it with a friend.
Until last Saturday, I don't think I'd ever ridden anything that really qualifies as a rollercoaster. I've been to several water parks and ridden those kinds of rides, but my family never really bothered with amusement parks. We just did other things on our vacations.
Last week, I went to Orlando for International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. First, I've decided that I will NEVER take a redeye flight again. We flew out at 1 am from SLC. I crashed once I got to the hotel. Between the flight and the time zone change (hey, time travel!) my sleep schedule got thrown off. Still, it was a great trip and I enjoyed the conference. I got to meet a lot of awesome people and my reading of my paper went smoothly. The days leading up to the trip had been exceedingly stressful, for various reasons, including the paper I was gonna have to read in front of people who would then ask me questions and expect me to know what I was talking about! But it went well. I was so grateful when I'd finished reading my paper and I had a chance to enjoy other people's presentations instead. Then on Saturday we went to Disney Hollywood.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Carry on

Sometimes I just want to stop. I'm tired. I don't like school today. It's been a rough week. Not as bad in some ways as last semester. I feel like I've mostly got the hang of it. But I don't know if I like it anymore. I'm just tired and I don't want to keep going. I keep asking myself why on earth I thought this was a good idea. If you wonder why I don't post very often, this post will explain.
It's hard to get up and go teach a class at 8am every single day of the week. I've been doing it since the end of last August. I like my students. I really do. But that doesn't make it easy to be there and have something useful to say.
It's hard to take three classes at once. I don't know how I did it as an undergrad. I really don't remember being this exhausted back then or getting this overwhelmed by the sheer amount of writing I had to do. I know it wasn't easy, but it sure seems that way compared to this.
I have to go present at a conference next week. That means I've had to find a substitute for my class, write the paper (still working on polishing it) and I'm going to miss classes and not really have time for the reading I should be doing while I'm gone.
Remember that novel I wrote? Well, I want to finish the sequel, but I still haven't figured out when I'm supposed to work on it. My brain is so fried some days (like today) that even if I didn't have to go to bed soon, I couldn't work on it. (Yes, I know, I'm writing a blog post, but that's helping me sort out my own thoughts.)
I get overwhelmed when I think of doing another three years of this in a PhD program somewhere. So I am not planning on that. I'm also not planning on NOT doing it, because it's still an option. I'd like to be a professor. Seriously, it's the only job I can picture myself doing, besides being a writer. The problem is that those two things both require a full-time commitment and I don't feel like I can do both as well as I want to.

To balance all of that, here's a list of reasons I'm still planning to finish my MA:
I really do like some of the books/plays/poems I've read. I enjoy thinking and learning new things. Most days, at least. Days like today aren't the norm.
Analyzing literature can be fun. I like writing papers. Maybe not three or four at once, but I do like writing papers. I'm even kind of excited to go to the conference next week. Not about the standing up and reading a paper in front of a bunch of strangers, but the conference will be a good opportunity. And not everyone in the audience will be a stranger. One of my fellow grad students is presenting with me and my mentor will be there.
I know this list is shorter. It's definitely not complete. But the reason that I'm mostly thinking of right now is this: I started this and I'm gonna finish it. I hate to give up. I'm stubborn that way.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cooking and cleaning

I just had a lovely evening with two of my friends. They both took the Specialty Exam. It's part of our MA program, so I will get to take it in a year. Basically, it's a really stressful-yet-worthwhile milestone. So we planned to eat dinner together. It gave us all something to look forward together.
On my mission, I was blessed with many wonderful companions. One of them was an excellent cook and she taught me how to cook a few things. I haven't had a chance to cook much due to time constraints, so I'd forgotten a lot of the recipes. However, I had the good fortune to chat with this friend via Facebook earlier this week, and she gave me the recipe for tallarines saltados so I could make it. Basically it's a stir-fry with noodles. So yesterday I made a much-needed shopping trip (you can only eat ramen noodles for so many nights...) and picked up some vegetables and other supplies. Yum.
Tonight, I got home and started to get out the ingredients when my friends came over. They helped me get all the ingredients chopped up. All in all, it probably took half an hour to cook, and we had a lovely meal together. I guess I wanted to write this down because it was just nice to be with friends, to do something I enjoy and haven't done for a while, and to just take a needed break. After we finished, I felt good. And I had enough energy to organize my room, which also needed to be done.
Cooking good food and organizing my space help me feel good. I feel more in charge of my life. It makes me feel like I can be more productive. I think there's something to the saying that cleanliness is next to godliness. (Mom was right!)
Well, the other thing I need to feel good is sleep. So I'm going to finish getting ready for bed now. Good night and good luck.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Teachers have feelings, too!: thoughts on Student Reviews

I just signed in to look at my student reviews. It was a less-than-rewarding experience. Only about half the class responded (I don't know which ones; that's kept confidential), and several rated my performance as a teacher as "poor" or "very poor". Really, the most frustrating thing about this is that I have NO IDEA why. Nothing. No comments. Just apparently angry or frustrated students who I will probably never interact with again. And I thought last semester went quite well. Because no one ever said anything to me about whatever it was they obviously DIDN'T like during the semester.
As a student and as a teacher, I welcome feedback. I like to learn and when I have clear feedback that helps me improve. Even negative feedback can be helpful. It's easier to take if it's delivered in a thoughtful way, of course. But this isn't feedback. It's a vague, negative reaction that gives me no direction at all. Since I don't know what they didn't like, I can't decide whether I should make changes.

Friday, January 24, 2014

To love at all

I'm just going to post a link to an awesomely illustrated C.S. Lewis quote. It's good.

103. C.S. LEWIS: To love at all

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Feminism and Motherhood: not incompatible

One of my Facebook friends just posted an article from Thought Catalog entitled "I look down on young women with husbands and children and I'm not sorry." The gist of the article was that women who choose to marry at a young age are sacrificing their opportunities for adventure, travel, happiness, etc. Oh, and they are choosing to do something just about anyone could do instead of something that really stretches them and helps them grow. I understand that not every woman's goal is marriage, but unlike the author of the article, I think being a feminist really does mean supporting every woman's right to choose what she wants to do with her life, without stating that a particular choice (in this case motherhood) is worthless.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thoughts for the New Year

It's almost the end of January and I haven't written a post since last year. I've had a few ideas, but none of them made it from my brain to the computer screen (unless I count the paper I'm writing for an academic conference in March and other assorted assignments). Perhaps, so as not to overly neglect the aforementioned assignments, I will make a quick list of things I'm thinking about. After all, this blog is supposed to be about thoughts, right?