Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wedding Anniversary

Big 21!  Last year we were drinking Spanish cava with no thought of coming back to the U.S. and this year we’re snowed in in Utah.  You never know what the new year will bring.  Through all of it I’m glad to have my partner by my side.

A Few Movie Suggestions

Driving to Idaho the other day reminded me a ton of the desolate scenery in the movie Winter’s Bone. I didn’t know after I watched it what I thought of it but I’ve thought about it quite a few times since then so it certainly made an impact. Besides catching up on old seasons of The Office and 30 Rock, I’ve watched a few good documentaries.

Here are some recommendations…

Banksy’s documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop

Chris Rock’s Good Hair

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

I also watched the controversial Joaquin Phoenix documentary I’m Still Here but I wouldn’t say I recommend it. It’s got some brilliant moments but most of it is hard to sit through.  His hair alone kept me interested.  It always makes me laugh when someone faces the world with bed head.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Favorite Beverage

They Have a Certain Style

I did some research to see if these murals in Union Station were part of a public works program but they were not.  However, the artist is famous for some of his public works murals.  If this was a conservative community I'd almost wonder if the artist wasn't having a laugh on them.

Union Station - Ogden


When adding up the number of states she’s visited, my friend L stipulates that you must sleep in a state for it to count. I think just having a meal in a state should suffice, and if you count A and I eating a bag of Smartfood popcorn in a gas station as H buys a lottery ticket, then we’ve been to Idaho! There seems to be nothing to do in Idaho besides the lottery. When we walked in there a guy was in line buying 100 scratch tickets and the line was pretty long. It was a spur of the moment drive up and if we were ever to go to Idaho again, it’s pretty obvious you’ve got to get kind of deep into the state to find life.

It was pretty cold today. As we drove up we passed a Nissan pickup truck that had two dogs in the back and I was feeling pretty bad for them. When we passed the truck, I said to H that the driver looked like the guy on Mythbusters. He was wearing a beret and had one of those walrus mustaches and smiled when I passed. H’s response was, “Maybe he was trying to bust the myth that dogs won’t freeze solid in the back of a pickup truck in winter”.

Here’s a picture of Idaho. Funny we left beautiful sunny blue skies in Utah and got up north and it was white all around.

Should've Known

Today was H’s only day off while A& I are also off so I suggested with the weather nice we take a drive north to Ogden.  I was reading in a guidebook that it had a refurbished Union Station and a nice little historic district.  I’m glad it was only an hour drive because there was not much to see.  When we walked in the Visitor’s Center, this was one of the displays.  When Lassie’s visit is a highlight, there ain’t much going on.  When I read about Union Station, I was picturing something like the St. Louis Union Station.  I need to re-think my perception of things out here in the wild wild west.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Perfect Gift

We make a quick dash into one of those stores that advertise 60% off department store prices to see if they have some oversized coffee mugs.  Walk in the door and it looks like a bomb went off inside.  You have to look through a lot of crap to find the hidden jewels in that store and it looked like all the jewels were gone and no one had been kind in tossing the crap aside to find them.  All that seemed to be left was expired tins of European biscuits and opened bottles of scented lotions.  Eureka!  We found an acceptable mug and headed to the returns counter which looked to be checking people out and had the shortest line.  As we stood there buying the mug one of the employees got on the mic and announced something to this effect, “Please stop by any of our registers to pick up a gift card for that special person on your list.  If you’re still looking for that perfect gift, you’ve run out of time”. 

Christmas Dessert

Recipe compliments of the Barefoot Contessa -- Delicious!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

This week I heard lots of stories at work of mammoth Christmas gatherings. It all made my head hurt. When I described our tiny celebration, just the three of us, I inevitably got that sympathetic look. Oh that’s so sad, they aren’t having a big celebration. H has to work every day until around 2pm so for A and me this holiday is all about not getting out of pajamas unless we have to.

Sorry, this is headed into a rant so if you love Christmas and all the presents, you might want to flip to a different channel right now. Last night A and I headed over to Target. We’re keeping the presents very simple this year. I was looking for something specific for H and we walked through the cooking section just to see if there any small items like a really cool peeler, that he might like. Of course A was drawn to the appliance that looked like a giant cupcake. As she opened it up we realized it was an actual electric cupcake maker (shaped like a cupcake) designed to make 6 cupcakes in no time. While she thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, it made me mad. It exemplifies to me the waste. Who would buy this? It’s one of those stupid gifts that might be purchased for the person who has everything. If someone has everything, why try and buy them something? I looked around in Target at all the people buzzing through for presents and wondered, how many have people on their list out of obligation that they have no idea what to buy for and when they give that gift on Christmas day, the receiver gives a shrug, throws the present in a cabinet when they get home and it will never again see the light of day? In this economy, that all should stop happening but I’m afraid it isn’t. I personally don’t think Americans have been thinking hard enough about their lifestyle and making changes to preserve what’s important in these tough times. We seriously don’t need so much crap.

Kids should be learning a lesson right now about cutting back in hard times, but I’m afraid that parents instead are trying to shield them from reality. My grandfather lived with us growing up and I spent a lot of time with him. He lived through the depression. I don’t realize the impact he had on me until my husband or a friend laugh at one of the phrases I occasionally use. I once when I was very mad at A told her off and finished it with “You can stick that in your pipe and smoke it” which caused H and A to burst out laughing, completely ruining the point I was trying to make. Besides the funny phrases, he did tell me a lot about living with nothing and how spoiled people were these days (the heady 1970s). Looking back I’m so glad to have had that experience. I think Americans may be facing an economic challenge similar to the depression but we are handling it differently, our sense of entitlement getting in the way.

As Dennis Miller likes to say after his rants, “That’s my opinion, I could be wrong”. I’ll finish by saying it is a time to reflect and appreciate what is important and what we are grateful for. I do wish you all a very happy holiday.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Breakfast Recipe

Pumpkin – I’ve been obsessed since I returned to America and always have a can of pumpkin on hand. This recipe originates from Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious cookbook but I’ve modified it. Yes, Jerry Seinfeld’s wife wrote a cookbook and if you have picky eaters who won’t eat vegetables, this book is brilliant.

Pumpkin Oatmeal

1 c. skim milk

1/8 c. packed brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

½ c. solid pack pumpkin

Healthy pinch of sea salt

1 c. old fashioned Quaker Oats (not the quick oats)

Mix everything but the oatmeal on a saucepan on medium heat. When it starts to slowly boil, add the oatmeal and cook for two minutes.

If I have time, like on weekends, I will toast some nuts in a pan to put on top, whatever we have in the house. I’ve tried it with pecans, walnuts, and almonds and they’re all good.

This recipe makes two servings.

Be warned, it doesn't look too pretty.  I've had both members of my family walk into the kitchen, look in the saucepan and say, "What is that?!"  I think it's delicious, filling, and has the power of oatmeal and pumpkin in one bowl!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

First Training Down

Completed my first Sundance Film Festival volunteer training this week!

The Billboard

I pass this billboard every morning. It’s a billboard that marks the dividing line between Salt Lake County and Utah County and it references Utah County. It's an advertisement for a clothing company called Mod Bod and it reads "Now Entering ModBod Country".  It bothers me for a few reasons.

1. It’s self-righteous isn’t it? Is it implying that no one in Salt Lake County dresses modestly? And is dressing modestly an indicator of someone’s good morals?

2. What I’d love to do is take some of these clothes that these stores sell and tart them up. Something tells me if you buy something in a small enough size it’s no longer modest.

3. My friend M and I were discussing these women you see that go to church and wear piles o' makeup and trampy clothes. She jokingly calls them church whores. I guess they’re keeping Mary Magdalene’s spirit alive.

4. Ingenious as well though and an example of another cottage industry based around religious beliefs. Does that kind of sully the profits?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Sun is Out, The Skis are On

But not on me.  It's a gorgeous day here so I thought I would take a drive through Big Cottonwood Canyon.  I sat outside watching the skiers and snowboarders and breathed in the smell of pine.


Someone who doesn't mind that their bedroom looks like a tornado hit it needs to find order in the organization of the leftover Halloween candy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Now that Time has Passed

I try not to talk about work here, but as time has passed there’s an experience I wanted to share because it was one of the biggest examples of cultural differences I went through in England. In the U.S. we call it being laid off. In the UK it’s called being made redundant and it’s a very different process. In the U.S. you can be told ahead of time but many times, you get called into the HR office one day and you’re told your job is over and within an hour the life you once knew has dramatically changed. You don’t even get to walk back to your desk and collect your things. The George Clooney movie Up In the Air had some desperately real moments in it.

Due to UK employment law the experience is different. From what I understand, the employer first has to present a business case that proves the company must restructure. This may lead to some people losing their jobs but first for 30 days there is a consultation period with all employees that are affected can first present cases for restructuring that might save theirs or others’ jobs. So let’s say the employer says we just don’t have the business we used to which means we don’t need the same amount of staff. Then what I consider excellent material for a reality show begins.

I was involved in one of these situations and I was in a management role and had to listen to all of the restructuring ideas and in the end help develop a solution that took into consideration these suggestions and basically interview the staff for the new roles in the structure. From a management perspective, there’s good and bad. The good is you have the opportunity to pick the best people for the needs of the company at that time. The bad is facing those employees for 30 days. Coming from the American perspective where workplace violence occurs, I had to hide a wince every time I had to talk to one of these employees when they were venting about the situation. At the very least would my tires be slashed? That thought ran through my head here and there. Here’s what I witnessed in those 30 days.

1. The pissed off employee – The employee that basically refused to work for the next 30 days because they were mad that they could lose their job in 30 days. This attitude got worse and worse as the 30 days went on.

2. The vacant employee – The employee who took advantage of the laws allowing the employees to job hunt during those 30 days to interview excessively, or at least that’s what they said.

3. The objective employee – The employee who objectively looked at what was good for the business, whether they fit into that equation or not and presented that during consultation. This was the type who you knew would be fine no matter what happened with their current job.

4. The suck-up – The employee who suddenly thought hanging on your every word was going to buy them some kind of loyalty in the whole process.

5. The bundle of nerves – The employee who knows their skills are limited and their time at the company was running out and they would do ANYTHING to protect their jobs including throwing good employees under the bus. One of these folks said to me, “I don’t care what the structure is or who is left as long as I still have a job”. They didn’t make it.

When I was going through it in the UK I thought it was the worst process I could imagine. I have always had a difficult time separating myself from the human side of work. I picture these people going home and having to share with folks that rely on them that they may not have a job. However, hearing a recent story from a friend who worked at a company for 19 years, I started feeling a bit different about it. This person came in to work one day and with no warning they were marched down to HR, told their service was no longer needed and was escorted out of the building, not even able to say goodbye to people they had worked with for so long. At least the 30 days gives people a chance to come to terms with what might be coming and to make their peace.

But could Americans handle such a process?  Thinking about it makes me think of the film Office Space.  If you work in an office, it truly is a must see.


I obviously carried back in my checked luggage from England some realism sprinkled with sarcasm.  Is it a Utah thing, a western thing, I won’t try to decide but there is this positivity that goes on to insincerity here that occasionally drives me crazy.  Here’s an example, I was recently in my office focused on a spreadsheet when someone I rarely work with came into my office asking me for some documentation.  Whenever I talk to this person they’re super friendly but also seem to be on auto-pilot.  I occasionally would like to throw into my answer when he asks me a question, “Yes this weekend I performed a satanic ritual” just to see if he’d notice.  As I was asking him some questions about what he needed and trying to determine if I had it, he was getting antsy that I wasn’t delivery quickly and said something like, “I’ll look elsewhere, thanks you’re awesome”.  I seriously wanted to chase him down and force him to admit that he left my office with no more information than he had when he arrived so clearly I was not awesome.  Instead I let it pass, realized I did have something that would work for him and sent him an email.  I was told once again how awesome I was. 
Seriously, I can give you a list of people who you can contact.  I really am not.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Films in Utah

I was on the fence about going to see 127 Hours. It is set in Canyonlands which we visited on Labor Day weekend and there’s been a lot of press surrounding it because some of it was filmed here. Saturday morning, A wanted to waste her allowance to see Harry Potter once again so I told her I’d go see another movie and in I went. What a tense film! I found myself curled up in a ball looking through my hands during a lot of it. And then at the end I burst into tears and I think it was tears of relief. Danny Boyle did an amazing job bringing the story to screen. It’s really inventive. Since I’m not a nature girl, I did think at the beginning, what was this guy thinking, going off in such a remote place by himself? I don’t understand the mind of the adrenaline junkie at all. Here he went through hell and it all could have been avoided. Nevertheless, the story is really moving.

I’m starting to get back into movies again. I picked up a book from the library called When Hollywood Came to Town: A History of Moviemaking in Utah by James V. D’Arc. I had no idea how many films have been shot here. Southern Utah was the Mecca for westerns in the 40s and 50s. As all three of us sat in the living room and I was reading this book, I read one of my favorite facts aloud. The famous warehouse dance sequences in Footloose were filmed very close to here! I told A that we are definitely going to check that out. You probably heard her groan.

While folks all across this great land are preparing for Christmas, my mind is firmly looking towards January. With Park City just a short drive from here, I signed up to volunteer for the Sundance Film Festival and I absolutely can’t wait. The woman who interviewed me for the gig said that no one on staff is star struck. I need to practice my game face in case I see Mr. Redford himself.