Monday, April 27, 2009

Summer Blockbusters

Well, the time is upon us again. "What time?" you may be asking. Obviously, it's the time for summer blockbusters. That's right, ridiculously over-budgeted movies with even more ridiculous plots. I live for summer movies and the season officially begins (and when I say officially, I mean according to Mandy) this weekend. So what are the top ten movies I'm most excited for?

  1. Terminator Salvation: This movie is going to kick ass!! How could it not with bad-ass robots and an even badder-ass Christian Bale. There's no need to explain my excitement over this movie. Just watch the trailer and you'll be on the same page. If you're not, stop reading my blog - I don't think we should be friends.

  2. Star Trek: So, I'm not a big Star Trek fan, but when I heard J.J. Abrams was directing this movie, I was intrigued. When I saw the trailer, I was sold. I'm also excited to see Zachary Quinto and Eric Bana in their roles. Should be a good one. I'll just need to take my trekky father with me to help translate.

  3. X-Men Origins : Wolverine: Again, there really should be no explanation. X-Men is the best comic book out there and Wolverine has always been one of the best comic book characters. As a bonus, not only do we get the delectable Hugh Jackman, we also get Liev Schreiber. Sweet. I'm also really excited to finally see the character Gambit in an X-Men movie.

  4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Yeah, it's on my list. It's even in the top 5. Although I'm not a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I finally broke down and read the books. This was actually my favorite of all the books so I'm excited to see it.

  5. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: I was thoroughly entertained by the first Transformers movie. It fit the two main criteria for a Summer Blockbuster - Ridiculous Budget, Check. Ridiculous Plot, Check. I expect the same out of the sequel.

  6. Year One: So, I had heard about this movie and didn't think I'd see it. That all changed when I saw the preview. I laughed so hard during the trailer, I was crying. I truly, truly hope they didn't put all the funny moments into that 1 minute trailer, but I'm a little skeptical.

  7. Angels and Demons: It's on my list, although I don't have high expectations for this movie. It's hard to get excited for this one when the DaVinci Code was so disappointing. Still, it has some good things going for it. First, the Angels and Demons plot is better than the DaVinci Code's. Second, from the trailers, it looks like Tom Hanks got rid of his ridiculous hair cut. Finally, Ewan McGregor.

  8. Inglorious Basterds: A Tarantino movie about WWII. Did you see what the guy did with Vampires? I can't wait to see what he does with Nazis.

  9. The Time Traveler's Wife: The only reason this movie's on my list is Eric Bana. Hopefully, this is the summer when he finally becomes a full-fledged movie star. He's off to a good start with Star Trek and Funny People. Eric, I hope it's your year.

  10. Taking Woodstock: Well, it has a good cast. Liev Schreiber, Emile Hirsch, Eugene Levy. But the guy to watch is going to be Demetri Martin. Will Martin be able to play the serious role of the homosexual man who helped save Woodstock? I'm an outward skeptic, but a closeted optimist.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Arizona Pictures

Over Easter I went to Arizona with my family. I didn't take very many pictures, but here are a funny few of Mitch:

Me and sleepy Mitch

Taken at the Phoenix Zoo.

One night Mitch spent a good 45 minutes running around in a circle. Unfortunately, the video isn't good and he stopped running right after I started filming, but you still get the idea. It was super funny.

A couple still shots of the running. I have no idea why he's wearing a beanie.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Busy Week

This week has been incredibly busy. On Monday I had my annual HOA meeting to attend. Not only attend, but plan and head. I've liked being on the HOA board, but I'll be glad when my time is up - only two more years.

Tuesday and Wednesday were dedicated to getting ready for and hosting a Greek feast at my house. I volunteered to have a few young women over for my ward's International Missionary Dinner. All I had to do was cook an international meal and share a little about a foreign place. Easy, I thought. I love Greece - it's my favorite place. I love Greek food - I can follow a recipe. Well, it wasn't easy. As Alina put it, I went all out in true Mandy fashion.

Anyway, on Tuesday I had to go to three different stores to get some shopping done. I went to IKEA to get some new table chairs. I only had 4 chairs and I knew I'd need more. I also had to go to a Greek market for Greek olives, imported feta, and baklava (I decided to buy not make this one). Finally, I went to Smiths for my remaining supplies. That night I also cooked the meat for my meal. I'm glad I did this because if I had done it all on Wednesday, it wouldn't have gotten done.

On Wednesday, I finished cooking. I made moussaka - it's a bitch to make. It's only the second time I've made it and I don't think I'll make it again anytime soon. It's a delicious casserole with potatoes, hamburger (cooked with onions, garlic, oregano, nutmeg, and cinnamon - Alina calls it "dessert meat"), fried eggplant, cheese, and topped with a cheesy/nutmeg custard. I also made a Greek salad loaded with feta and olives. Finally, I made tzatziki (cucumber dip) to eat with pita bread. My kitchen looked like a disaster and it took forever, but the food was good and the young women liked it, so I say success. Pictures of my cooking success:

Tzatziki and pita slices

Greek salad


Thursday and Friday were dedicated to home improvements. On Thursday, I put a peep hole in my front door. Changed the lightbulb at the top of my stairs. This was a frightening experience. I almost cried the whole time. The only way to do it is to stand on the top wrung of a ladder and use both hands while trying not to fall to your death. I also repaired the bathtub facet. And when I say I did all of these things, I mean my dad did and I helped.

Friday, I did do all the home improvements. I (it really was me) sprayed the weeds with weed killer and cleaned out my window wells. I wanted to pull the weeds this weekend, but with all the rain, I don't know if I'll get to it.

Anyways, this week was exhausting. I did all of this in addition to working a 40+ hour week. Some of you super moms may be used to all this work, but I'm not. I'm exhausted!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Europe - To go, or not to go?

Europe - So I was planning on going on a big European vacation next summer, but now I'm thinking I should go this year. My reasoning . . . airfare. Airfare prices to Europe have plummeted recently. The vacation I've been planning (for 2010) is to fly into Rome then take a cruise to Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. I check out the cruise package and airfare quite often. The cruise package tends to stay around $1000 and until recently the airfare had been $1800. Well, not anymore, the airfare is now $900!! It makes me think I should go this summer. What do you think?

The problem . . . If I go, I won't meet my financial goal. My current goal is to pay off everything by September so the only bill I have is my mortgage. If I go, that's not going to happen. In fact, I'll be in even more debt because I'll have to charge the vacation. If I end up going next year, I'll be able to use my tax return to pay for the vacation, not charging it. What do you think? Is saving $1000 on airfare worth going this year?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Random Ramblings

I haven't written for awhile so here's a few random ramblings:
  • Easter - I went to Arizona for Easter. It was a good time. My entire family went: parents, siblings, Jackie & Carlos, Amanda, and Jeanine's family. All of us stayed in my parents' house. That was a little crazy. We had loads of fun swimming, watching movies, going to the zoo, and attending a Diamondbacks game. All was great until I got the stomach flu. I was so sick. The upside, I came back to SLC without gaining any weight.
  • School - I only have 6 weeks of school left. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that those 6 weeks are going to go by extremely slowly. Luckily, my students have been really good this year. I'm going to need to write an entire post on the school year when it finishes so stay tuned.
  • Spring Cleaning - I did a little spring cleaning yesterday. I cleaned out my closet and every drawer in my bathroom and bedroom. I washed everything down and ended up with 6 garbage bags worth of stuff to donate to the D.I.
  • The Alchemist - I'm reading a really good adolescent lit book right now. It's The Alchemist by Michael Scott. My students are required to do a book talk (talk about a book in front of the class) every quarter. Anyway, last quarter one of my students did his book talk on this book. It sounded really good so I bought it and started reading it. It's made him really excited to see me take his recommendation. I need to do that more next year.
  • Summer Movies - A whole post will be dedicated to this subject. Plan on one during the 1st of May, but here's a little preview. On Friday I went to see 17 Again (surprisingly, a very funny movie). On my way out of the theater, we saw movie posters for the following movies: Wolverine, Star Trek, Angels & Demons, Terminator!! Seriously, I'm going to be at the movie theatre every weekend in May. Sweet!!
  • LOST - a whole post will have to be made. I love it. LOVE IT!!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Counting on your Head?

So most of us have heard of counting on your fingers. I'll admit it, I do it myself. Well, have you heard of counting on your head? It's a new math strategy Zack uses when he's adding. It's hilarious!!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Picture Project - My sweet family

I've been working on a photo project for my house. When it's finished, I'm going to have a wall of framed photos. I've been trying to find really old pictures of my family. Here are some of the pictures I've collected for the project:

My parents.
This was taken while they were in high school.
My mom made this dress - isn't she talented?

My parents, again.
My mom also made this dress suit.

My parents with baby me.
Don't they look young? They were.

Me and my brother, Kyle.

Me and my dad.

Me and Kyle.

Our little family.
My mom made all of these clothes.

Our growing family.
My parents, me, Kyle, and Adam.

Me and my Grandpa.

Me and Kyle. I love this picture.
I had never seen it until recently.
My mom said it was her only copy.
She went and had our pictures taken,
but couldn't afford more than the one copy.

The three of us on an old tortoise.

I'm hugging a horse!!

Look at how much I love my brother, Adam.
Plus, you can't tell, but I love the clothes my brothers are wearing.
They are belly shirts. They are so funny!!

Look, we're all grown up.

Me with my brother Kyle.
This was taken before he left for Mexico on his LDS mission.

Me and my brother, Louis.
This was taken the day I graduated from BYU.

Me and my dad.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Road to Damietta

I just finished the adolescent book, The Road to Damietta. First of all, I don't think this is a good example of adolescent lit. I think most teenagers lack the background knowledge (13th Century, city-states of Italy, Catholicism, the Crusades, etc). and interest for this book. Honestly, I had a hard time getting through the first 200 pages (although the last 100 pages were very good - I read them in one sitting).

I originally bought the book because I saw it was a historical fiction novel about St. Francis of Assisi. I love St. Francis - he's one of my favorite saints. Unfortunately, his character is not as prominent as the narrator, a selfish young noblewoman named Ricca. I did not like or connect with her character, at all. Throughout the book, Ricca believes she is in love with St. Francis. She follows his life as he changes from a fun-loving, merchant's son into a devoutly religious man.

Although she has few actual interactions with him, her family disapproves of her obsession. As punishment, her father requires her to work as a copyist in the family's library/archive. Much of the first 200 pages describes her work making copies and illuminating those copies. After realizing that the work has done little to diminish Ricca's "love" for St. Francis, her father sends her to a nunnery in Venice.

After spending quite some time in Venice (the book doesn't give a definite time, but I assumed it was 1-2 years), Ricca learns that St. Francis is set to sail to Egypt with the Crusaders. She decides to follow him there, offering to translate for him. This was the best section of the book (the final 100 pages). It gave an excellent description of the Crusade, the city of Damietta, and the sultan, Malik-al-Kamil. I've been looking for a good book on the Crusades for the past 2 years, and had yet to find one. Although I choose to read this book to learn more about the life of St. Francis, I enjoyed it because of the portrayal of the 5th Crusade.

Despite not being a huge fan of this book, I still very much enjoyed the lessons learned from the life of St. Francis, including his prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sorrow, joy.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Cookie Friday

Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but 4th quarter is always hard for me. I think it's a combination of things. Here are just a few, in no particular order:
  • The weather - The weather gets warmer. In the beginning it's a nice 70 degrees outside. So naturally, I want to be outside, not stuck in a stuffy room with unhygienic teenagers all day. As the quarter progresses, it warms to 80-90 degrees outside. This means in a 50+ year-old building without air conditioning, it's a sweltering 90-100 degrees inside. I definitely don't want to be stuck in a stuffy room with unhygienic teenagers all day.
  • Pencils - If I hear, "Ms. George, I didn't bring a pencil" or "Ms. George, can I borrow a pencil?" one more time, I may stab a student in the eye with a pencil. Seriously, they're 7th graders and have been attending school for the past 7-8 years. You'd think they'd know they need a pencil for school. If I wanted to hand out pencils all day, I'd work at Office Depot!!
  • Assemblies - For some reason 4th quarter is always full of dumb-ass (is that hyphenated?) assemblies. I hate assemblies. I am very much a believer that school should be a place for educating, not entertaining. But during 4th quarter we have to take out 90 minutes of education each week to entertain our little darlings with an assembly/activity. The following are just a few that are scheduled: student/teacher basketball game, student/teacher dodge ball game, teacher talent assembly, award assembly, end of the year dance, yearbook signing, mini-Olympics, etc, etc, etc.
  • "What? We have an assignment?" - For some reason (maybe it's all the assemblies), my students are shocked that I still give them assignments throughout 4th quarter. This gets worse and worse as we near the end of the year. "Why do we have to do this? In (insert any teacher's name) class, we're just watching a movie." My response, "Well, I'm sorry. (Insert teacher's name) is a shitty teacher."

So, what gets me through this hell, known as 4th quarter? Cookie Friday. Cookie Friday is a well-loved tradition between me and nine other teachers at my school. Because 4th quarter has 10 weeks, each of us is assigned a week to bring cookies for the group. On our assigned week, we bring cookies in on Friday and have them delivered to the other members. It's something so simple, but it really does work. It makes me less ornery and more willing to put up with the ridiculousness that goes on during the quarter.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Final Weigh In (maybe)

So I leave for Arizona in 5 days. I haven't reached my goal of losing 16 pounds, but I feel pretty good at where I am. It's been slow going, but it's to be expected since I refuse to give up cookies and french fries. Anyways, here the latest:

Last Two Week's Weight Loss: 2 pounds
Total Weight Loss: 9 pounds
Days to Go: 5 days
Still Need to Lose: 7 pounds

I probably won't give a weight update before I leave because I don't think I'll lose anymore in the next five days, but if I do, you'll be the first to know.