To make a long story short, Elissa told me (Tom) she would post a story of hers on the blog if I gave her some adequate incentive. I’ve supported her making more of her writing more available for a long time, so this was a big deal, but my first thoughts—nice dinner date or the like—weren’t cutting it. The offer of a 1000-word Twilight fanfiction piece, though, was instantly accepted. So here it is. Sorry, world.
A Twilight Deleted (?) Scene
(Not clear from which book.)
Bella sat staring at the wall of her bedroom, waiting for Edward to arrive. After four whole hours without his cool touch on her skin, without his beautiful marble figure, without his deific perfection, without his adorable crooked smile…well, it had been agony, but soon Charlie would go to bed and that brief terrible period between the end of school and seeing Edward again would end.
“Maybe it would help if I did anything except basic domestic tasks, school, and reading barely enough classic romance for Mrs. Meyer to be able to allude to it,” thought Bella.
Suddenly, she heard a click outside her window. “Edward! Edward! Edward! Edward! But Jacob, but never mind, so Edward! Edward, Edward!? Edward!” she thought.
He crept into her room as majestically as a lion from the royal zoo.
“Hi,” he said with a crooked smile on his stony, adorable features. His color-changing eyes, which somehow no one else notices despite the undeniable fact that his golden eyes were oh-so-much too delicious to be human, stared at her.
“Hi,” she said back.
“I almost thought I heard your thoughts for once as I was walking up,” said Edward. “Something about needing hobbies, goals, or aspirations?”
“Durrrrrr,” murmured Bella, enraptured.
“Oh well,” said Edward. “Didn’t really think so. Guess your gift of non-discernible thought is still active. Have I mentioned lately how much I want to kill you and suck out every last drop of your blood? It’s so appetizing, like a brownie muffin entirely permeated with the hardest crack cocaine. Did you know that some vampires prefer to kill alcoholic drug addicts for the extra buzz?”
“If I was a vampire, I would just eat endangered species with you and love you forever and ever,” said Bella. “Don’t you want to bite me so we can be together forever?”
“Bella, how many times have we had this conversation?” asked Edward, as he kissed her all up and down her jaw with his perfectly perfect lips. She felt a rush of teenage hormones accompanied by an ineffable feeling that he was The One, although man, those werewolf biceps though…
“Not for a few pages days,” said Bella. “I don’t care about my soul—I’m not using it! Especially here in Forks. Bite me.”
“No,” said Edward. “I’m still thinking I might rather watch you die slowly of old age and then commit suicide in some place that will look really cool when they make a movie out of it…think Italy or somewhere.”
“But then we would only get to experience high school once! I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than sit in classes with you on endless loop, with perfect recall of having done it all before, especially given that as members of your family we will have effectively unlimited funds to do anything else we want. Your family’s life just seems so awesome, you know?” said Bella. “Although I would also like to do some motorcycle cliff-jumping with creepy men outside of bars, just on the side.”
“Bella, don’t do anything dangerous. As you know I control your life, except for I claim to let you do anything you want, but still try to manipulate the heck out of you because this is a textbook abusive relationship, and I couldn’t stand it.” He slowly stroked her left earlobe with his cool finger while she stared at his beautiful marble figure, crooked smile, and Greek god-like features. “Something something I would commit suicide.”
“Durrr,” Bella murmured again. “You’re so old-fashioned,” she said, and ridiculously attractive she mentally added.
“Oh, by the way, some vampire or other is probably going to try to kill you soon,” said Edward. “It’s a tried and true plot device, all part of my conspiracy to make you fall in love with me while popping lots of heads off.”
“Isn’t that a pretty good reason to make me a vampire, Romeo Edward?” said Bella.
“But it would be so hard on your relationship with Charlie. A few more months of non-monster-hood will definitely make it much better when you then ultimately become a supernatural freak and disappear from his life,” said Edward. He kissed her, with all the fiery passion of a thousand dying suns, sending tingles down her spine, but also like a perfect gentleman and with admirable restraint.
She kissed back urgently, trying to seduce him, but Edward pulled away. “Can’t have this until you put a ring on it, my dearest darling Danish,” he said.
“But I just want you to love me forever, and I have hippy-dippy Millennial ideas about how marriage screws up relationships,” she said, admiring his body straight from a Michelangelo sculpture.
“But since I’m almost a hundred years older than you, which isn’t creepy at all, and have fallen inextricably in love you with you primarily because of how good your blood smells, it all makes sense,” said Edward in his silky-smooth voice that was like the sound of baby angels frolicking on a sunny hillside. Bella thought of how sparkly his rock-hard chest was in the sunlight. Sparkle sparkle sparkle mmmmmmm. It was a mystery to her how she enjoyed cuddling a cold, hard object so frequently compared to a stone, but she sure did.
“Durrrr,” she said. “I guess I’m still a bit worried about those vampires coming to kill me, mostly because I can’t stand the thought of them possibly hurting you, but I guess at least I will be the center of attention.” Maybe me and you and Jacob can even be thrown into some really tense relationship situations, she thought.
“Well, how about you go to sleep while I hold you, because that’s not creepy at all, and we can definitely do it consistently for a year in a two-bedroom house without your father ever noticing,” said Edward. He took her hand and the last car in her toy-sized train of thought slowly rolled off the track.
“Durrr,” Bella murmured as she drifted off to sleep, dreaming of creepy foreshadowing.
Note from Elissa: Isn’t this fantastic? Tom is the greatest. Tune in next week as I fulfill my end of the deal.
Hi, friends! It’s been awhile. I hope you had a merry Christmas and a happy new year!
Most of these “year in review” posts came out days ago, but I’ve been busy partying with the Tom and Dapper Dan. Even so, I want to talk about all the crazy things that have happened this year.
The most important event of 2015 in our family was, of course, Daniel’s birth!
Dan started off his life as a skinny, sleepy little bundle of cuteness. Now, at almost 9 months old, he’s a fat, happy, hyper little bundle of cuteness.
Dan sleeps well, crawls like a champ, stands with help, and has been spotted walking with a shopping cart. He makes just about every consonant sound, gives slobbery kisses, and is momentarily deterred by the word “no.” He loves fruit, books, peekaboo, being tossed in the air by Dad, and trying to get to the toilet whenever someone leaves the bathroom door open.
Daniel’s kidneys are slowly-but-surely improving: by September, we found out the kidney swelling had decreased by half. He did have a UTI a few months ago, which could indicate an unresolved issue, so we’re monitoring him carefully. It’s very important that he doesn’t get any more infections, and we’re taking all the precautions we can. Still, if anyone has any extra prayers, we’d appreciate them.
Overall, Daniel is a happy, healthy little boy who brings so much joy to our family. We’re so happy to be his parents!
In the Tom’s own words:
I had a good year, for lots of reasons but especially because Dan was born and has done so well since. Our time together as a family was awesome, especially our trips to Glacier National Park and New Orleans. My work at Valero was interesting, educational, and generally went well, especially [proprietary information removed] and despite [proprietary information removed]. Off the clock, I read something like 15 or 20,000 pages, including Churchill’s four-volume History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Lord of the Rings (in Italian), and lots of other fun stuff. I produced a bunch of free e-books for the Mormon Texts Project and survived running the MTP internship program for another summer, too.
Hey, do you guys want to see my NaNoWriMo progress chart?
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Hahaha. Haha. The best part is that I wasn’t even participating properly—I was transcribing my handwritten novel from last year. November was absolutely insane (I’ll tell you about it sometime), and I just couldn’t handle NaNo in any form.
Honestly, this has been a pretty sorry year for writing generally. Apparently I only wrote five blog posts (although they were totally awesome!), and aside from a few short stories, I haven’t really written any fiction. I’m not going to beat myself up over this; after all, I made an awesome Dan, and somehow managed to keep him alive for almost 9 months. And I’ve got big plans for next year, which I’ll be sharing as they materialize. One of my goals this year is to blog more frequently, so you’ll be hearing from me more often!
This may have been a bad year for writing, but it’s been an excellent year for crafts! Thanks to my parents, I’ve recently acquired a sewing machine, which has opened up a whole new world of crafting. Here’s the list of projects I completed in 2015.
First of all, I finally finished Dan’s crochet baby blanket!
It turned out much larger than I expected. This is good, because it ended up being his Christmas present. It’s big enough that Dan can pretty much use it for the rest of his life.
Next, you may remember Dan’s Halloween costume:
The hat, cloak, and brooch were all homemade. I’m still tickled by how well this turned out.
I also made some baby blankets for various purposes:
Dan refuses to nurse under a blanket, and I can’t say I blame him—it’s got to be pretty hot under there! This allows him to breathe and look at me while he’s eating. It also keeps it dark enough for him to fall asleep during church (assuming this doesn’t happen: “OOOOOPS! I DIDN’T KNOW ANYONE WAS IN HERE! DO YOU WANT THE LIGHT OFF AGAIN?!”)
There’s a lot more I could write here, but I know how long it takes to scroll through all these baby pictures. Overall, 2015 was a pretty good year. It was definitely the hardest year I’ve ever had, but also the most rewarding. Tom, Dan and I are really hitting our stride as a family. It’s looking like 2016 will be even better, and I can’t wait to see what it brings.
I’ve got exciting posts lined up for the next two weeks, so check back soon! And tell me how your year went in the comments!
As a kid, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. It was an excuse to dress up as whatever I wanted and embark on a spooky, jack-o-lantern-lit adventure while replenishing my Milky Way stash for the year. As it turns out, Halloween is even more fun with a baby!
Meet Dan, Guard of the Citadel.
Making Dan’s costume was so much fun. Ever since our friend Roz gave us a White Tree onesie, we knew we had to use it for Halloween, and the “helmet” and cloak turned out surprisingly well. The hobbit getup is based on this picture of Pippin from The Return of the King:
Tom had been throwing around the idea of dressing up as an orc and “taking the hobbit to Isengard”…
…and on Wednesday, the day of our ward Halloween party (note: in this context, ward = congregation unit in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; we do not (currently) live in a mental institution), he decided he needed an orc shirt. I ran down to Michael’s and bought a couple of black T-shirts and some iron-on letters, and we became a couple of orcs. It took people a couple minutes to figure our costumes out, but once they did, they generally thought the whole thing was pretty cool.
Now I have to tell you guys a somewhat-shameful story. You see, just as we were about to leave the party and put our hobbit to bed, this happened:
First of all, I had no idea they were even judging chili. When they sent around the sign-up sheet for the party, I just thought, “Hm. They need chili. I can do chili.” I then proceeded to forget about it until the night before. The day of the party, I grabbed an assortment of chili cans from Kroger, dumped them in the crockpot (because I was way too lazy to wash chili out of a crockpot and a regular pot), and threw in a can of jalapenos and a can of green chilies. We got there late, so I dropped the crockpot on one end of the table and proceeded to do normal ward party things. Tom and I didn’t even taste our chili until we got home that night.
I feel kind of bad. If I’d known there was some manner of contest afoot, I would have approached this differently. Then again, if I’d approached this differently, we wouldn’t have this sweet foam haunted house thing:
I also feel disincentivized to learn how to make real chili. Oh, well.
Anyway, that’s the story of how I accidentally won a chili cook-off using canned chili.
Halloween itself was really rainy—like, flash-flood-warning rainy. It’s a good thing we weren’t planning to take Dan trick-or-treating (two adults showing up with a cute, costumed baby who obviously can’t eat candy is pretty suspect). We did bring Dan to a shindig hosted by Tom’s boss’s boss Nikole, and the hood on his cloak actually kept him dry on the way to and from the car.
It was pretty late on Dan Standard Time and the music was kind of loud, so we didn’t stay long, but I finally got to meet some of the people Tom works with, which was nice. We even got to drop by the NaNoWriMo kick-off at Sertino’s. That was more Dan’s-scene-esque: a quiet room with a handful of people telling Dan how cute he is. He was all smiles. What a punk.
Yep, this was definitely the best Halloween ever, even without any Milky Ways. How was your Halloween, reader friends? Any fun or spooky stories to share?
People have been asking me to review The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (BotFA) since it came out last December. However, we’d decided not to see it in theaters. Since it came out on DVD at the end of March and Dan was born in early April (we actually tried to use the movie to send me into labor, but it didn’t work), a timely blog post just wasn’t going to happen. This weekend we were bored and Redbox had a copy, so here we are.
We did put our youngest Tolkien fan to bed before we got started, to protect his innocent mind.
I watched BotFA with very, very low expectations, so I have to admit I didn’t work up as much rage this time around. I was able to appreciate the few things Peter Jackson did well and laugh at the absurdity of it all. So, for this blog post, we’re going to look at the good, the bad, and the ridiculous.
Like its prequels, BotFA had some redeeming qualities. It was probably worth $1.50.
As always, Martin Freeman is the best part of the movie. I liked nearly every scene Bilbo was in: his interactions with Thorin were great; the acorn scene was cute; the negotiation scene with Bard and Thranduil was well done. You know what would have been great? Tolkien should have just written a book about Bilbo and cut out all that other nonsense. Oh wait…
Sorry, this is supposed to be the positive section. *ahem*
Next on the “stuff that wasn’t terrible” list: This guy.
I liked Dain a lot. He comes riding in with his dwarf army and his battle pig (more on that later) and makes it clear that he won’t take any crap from Gandalf or Thranduil or anyone else. You know what? Just watch it.
Then he leads his army to face down the orcs while the pansy Elves just stand there and watch. Thranduil probably wouldn’t have done anything if he hadn’t been afraid to look bad in front of a bunch of dwarves. Git ‘er done, Dain!
Also, his favorite method of fighting involves headbutting orcs. That’s pretty hardcore. Ironfoot? More like IronHEAD!
I’ll address all the exotic battle steeds used in this movie in the “Ridiculous” section, but the most heart-wrenching part of this movie is definitely the moment when the battle pig goes down. Rest in peace, noble creature.
Finally, the movie’s ending wasn’t bad. We finally get some closure as to Gandalf’s knowledge of the ring, Bilbo finds all his neighbors bidding on his stuff, and the final scene ties this movie in with The Fellowship of the Ring. It was simple, it was sweet, and it worked. This could have been the ending to the Hobbit movie I always wanted.
Now, I know you’re all here to see me angrily rip this movie apart. Never fear, dear readers. There’s plenty of that coming up.
Oh, there was plenty of bad to go around. I ended up with six pages of notes on what was wrong with this movie. Let’s jump right in!
First, let’s talk about the assault on Dol Guldur.
I really wanted to like this scene. I was looking forward to it long before the first Hobbit movie came out. It wasn’t all bad—Elrond’s outfit was pretty awesome. But beyond that, things were extremely disappointing.
First of all, Gandalf is still in his cage. According to movie canon, there’s no reason why he should be out of the cage, necessarily, but it brought back all these unpleasant memories from The Desolation of Smaug. Sigh. Then Galadriel comes in, and you know things are about to get weird.
By the way—what’s with the implied weird romantic subplot involving Gandalf and Galadriel? Why do they keep touching each other like that? Are we all supposed to just forget that Galadriel is a married woman and has a 2700-year-old granddaughter?
But wait—it gets worse. Not only does Galadriel spend the first half of the battle cradling Gandalf in her arms and ignoring the fighting, but when she does get involved, she transforms into the evil swamp hag.
Peter Jackson, you do realize that the Elven rings aren’t evil, right? Sauron had no contact with them, ever. In fact, I’m pretty sure when Celebrimbor hid them from Sauron, he thought, “I’ve got to keep these safe so their bearers don’t become evil swamp hags when they try to use them.” Elves are pretty clever that way.
And of course, the rabbit sled makes an appearance. I guess it wouldn’t be a Hobbit movie without it, but can’t we let it die already?
Anyway, the whole scene lasts about 8 minutes, and probably makes the top 50 most disappointing 8-minute segments of my life.
Tauriel and Legolas
Tauriel continues to drag these movies further down into the muck. She contributes nothing positive, and because she’s around, Legolas has to be around, too. Any scene with either Legolas or Tauriel was painful to watch. Starting with this one:
Oh, Legolas. First of all, how did you think this was going to end? Tauriel defied an (admittedly boneheaded) order from Thranduil, and you tagged along after her. And she was already in the doghouse—of course she’s going to be banished.
Second, the whole “If there is no place for Tauriel, there is no place for me” thing made me throw up in my mouth a little.
To be fair, Legolas spends very little time mooning over Tauriel for the rest of the movie. But that leaves the two of them without a lot to do, as Tauriel’s improbable dwarven love interest is busy hanging out with his bros in the Lonely Mountain. You can’t leave the fangirls without Orlando Bloom for that long, so Lego and Tauriel take a pointless vacation to Gundabad and discover the orc army there.
Why is it pointless, you ask? Because it has absolutely no effect on the outcome of the final battle. How could it? Legolas’ and Tauriel’s warning about this Gundabad army doesn’t exist in the book, and yet somehow, the good guys still win.
Furthermore, with his characteristic laziness, Peter Jackson doesn’t even attempt to make it look like Tauriel and Legolas contributed anything important with this discovery. They warn Bilbo, Bilbo warns Thorin on Ravenhill, Thorin tells Dwalin to call Fili and Kili, and before Dwalin can do anything, the orcs show up and off Fili. As far as I can tell from this jumbled-up, illogical sequence of orc-stabbing scenes, they didn’t provide their information early enough to prevent anything or change the course of the battle at all.
While we’re talking about nonsensical action sequences, Tom wishes me to mention that no piece of masonry would ever act like this:
(Okay, I guess Legolas and Tauriel do kill some important things in that part. They’re still completely unnecessary.)
Let’s move on. Tauriel’s greatest offense continues to be her awkward, improbable romance with Kili. Worse than their awkward flirtations are her whiny, pubescent conversations with Thranduil on the subject. I swear these scenes could have been pulled out of a Twilight movie.
Tauriel: “THERE IS NO LOVE IN YOU!”
Thranduil: “YOUR VAMPIRE LOVE AIN’T REAL!”
Lego: “DAD STAAAAAAHP” (*flashes werewolf abs*)
And then there’s this one:
Cringe-inducing. I almost expected to see Tauriel moping in a chair in front of a window while the camera pans around and the months pass by. There’s a possibilityyyyyyyyyyyy…
The phrase “Still a better love story than Twilight” doesn’t apply here.
And then Legolas throws a hissy fit and refuses to go home for unexplained reasons.
Seriously, someone this delicate has no business in the Fellowship of the Ring.
GANDALF: (reading) “…Speak, friend, and enter. And underneath small and faint is written: TRIGGER WARNING: Orcs in here, bro.”
LEGO: “Whoa whoa whoa! Sorry, dudes. I don’t do orcs. Come on, Bill.”
BILL: (whinnies) Exeunt LEGO and BILL.
The worst part is that Tauriel doesn’t even die at the end. I wanted her to die so badly, maybe even hand in hand with Kili. It would have been so, so satisfying. Instead we’re left to wonder what happens to her, since she’s apparently still exiled from Mirkwood. Oh well. Maybe she died of a broken heart off camera—a girl can hope.
Thorin’s Insanity and “Dragon Sickness”
I want to briefly touch on the fact that Thorin’s greed and corruption were blown up to unreasonable, bizarre proportions, and we’re supposed to believe that it’s all because a giant lizard sat on his money for awhile.
I’m sorry, but this whole “dragon sickness” thing is way overblown. You can be corrupted by greed without any sort of supernatural curse making you go absolutely bat-guano crazy. This is, in fact, the case for most people who are corrupted by greed. Last I checked there weren’t many dragons in Washington, DC, for example.
Seriously, if this treasure is so dangerous, how are the Lake-men supposed to use it to rebuild their town? How is Bilbo able to take some home and become fabulously wealthy? Wouldn’t it make the Lonely Mountain uninhabitable forever? News flash: after the battle, Dain moves right in. But maybe Dain is incorruptible because of his indestructible head and his fondness for porcine steeds.
Even Gandalf is taken in by the supposed “dragon sickness” nonsense. And he’s supposed to be the smartest guy here. And don’t get me started on that “Don’t underestimate the evil of gold” nonsense.
Thorin’s madness culminates in this acid-trip-esque hallucination involving that lake o’ gold I love so much.
I know when I’ve been a moron about something, it takes a weird hallucination to make me see reason. Personally, I prefer to be swallowed up in a lake of hummus. Or maybe pho.
Look, there are a lot of perfectly mundane reasons for Thorin to become corrupted by greed. He’s just regained control of an amazing treasure stolen from his family. The moment he gets it, everyone comes knocking at the door trying to grab it back from him, Rainbow-Fish-style. Normally he’d probably be okay with that, but these people are armed; among them is Thranduil, the jerk who threw him in prison. Human nature is inclined to be stingy under those circumstances; dwarf nature even more so. Thorin simply chooses to indulge these feelings instead of deciding to be the bigger man (uh, dwarf), and so he becomes corrupted. It doesn’t have to be weird, and it doesn’t have to involve “dragon sickness.”
In short, Peter Jackson took a potentially relatable character arc and turned it into a freak show. In other words, it’s business as usual in Hobbit Movie Land. Sigh.
I’m only scratching the surface on what was wrong with this movie. Here are some other things I noticed that didn’t quite generate paragraphs worth of rage:
Gandalf is a total pushover in this movie. He spends the whole time whining when Thranduil won’t do what he wants, and Bilbo is continually getting the better of him. What happened to this guy?
This Asian. I’m all for cultural diversity, but a place as tiny and isolated as Lake-town is just not likely to be that diverse.
Another Billy Boyd song? He’s not even a very good singer.
I hate to say this, but Howard Shore continues to disappoint.
Every time I watch BotFA, there’s a distinct moment in which I can actually feel part of my brain shutting down—the part connecting the movie with the book. See if you can figure out which moment I’m talking about:
If you guessed the were-worms popping out of the hills, you get a gold star! (Ding!)
From that point, I stop registering deviations from the events of the book. I still notice things that are lame or nonsensical, but I can sit back, relax, and revel in the ridiculousness of it all. I almost wish my brain had been overloaded like this earlier in the series, but then I realize that my conscious revulsion has saved me money that might have been spent purchasing DVDs or seeing this abomination in theaters.
As for the were-worms, I don’t think much commentary is needed. I’ll just add that the only basis for the presence of were-worms in Middle-earth is this throwaway comment by Bilbo at the beginning of the book:
“Tell me what you want done, and I will try it, if I have to walk from here to the East of East and fight the wild Were-worms in the Last Desert.”
This blog post is already way too long, so let’s move on.
What’s with all the animals?
I titled this post “Battle of the Farm Animals” because of the astounding variety of war-steeds used in BotFA. We were introduced to Thranduil’s majestic elk in An Unexpected Journey, but the animal doesn’t really come into his own until this scene:
And then the elk dies, just as I’m starting to like it. Oh well. It still wasn’t as sad as the pig’s death.
The elk and the pig are enough to make one wonder why no one rides horses anymore (okay, so dwarves really can’t, but Thranduil has no excuse). Not to mention the rabbit sled. But wait! There’s more!
(Sorry…you’ll have to skip to about 1:40 in the video)
Where on earth did Thorin and Co. find fully domesticated battle goats, particularly in an area patrolled (until recently) by a giant carnivorous lizard?! Is there some sort of traveling battle farm where people can just buy domesticated animals on which to charge down orcs? How can I get in on this business?
On a more serious note, I’ve just learned that 27 animals died, sometimes in horrific ways, during the production of the Hobbit movies. I’m no animal rights activist, but that’s pretty darn bad. Chalk that up as another of Peter Jackson’s offenses.
Next on our list of ridiculous BotFA elements…
Can we just pause for a moment and consider the fact that this man is named “Alfrid Lickspittle”? That is the actual name of an actual character in this movie.
This man serves no narrative purpose. He just hangs around Bard and annoys everyone around him by saying things like, “Out of my way! Abandon the cripples!” and “Not every man is brave enough to wear a corset.” He’s a completely static character. Why is he in this movie?
As Tom puts it, “Realistically, somebody ought to shank him.”
In conclusion, I liked BotFA much more than Desolation of Smaug, though only because my expectations were outrageously low. It may have had its moments, but for every battle pig there were three were-worms, so the whole business is doomed.
At least the series is over, and Peter Jackson’s reign of terror comes to an end at last. (It does come to an end, right? He can’t possibly be thinking about The Silmarillion, can he? CAN HE?!?!?!?). Also on the plus side, the How it Should Have Ended guys are on point.
To end on a positive note, here’s a goofy picture of Dan that always makes me smile.
Inspired by my friend Emily’s awesome Chinese New Year blog post, I’ve decided to introduce a new feature on this blog. In each “Elissa Cooks Stuff” post, I’ll attempt some recipe and review the results. Hopefully there will be some lulz along the way.
When my mom was here after Dan was born, I had a doctor’s appointment in Houston. I couldn’t bring my mom to Houston without going to Chinatown, and we brought home some pre-made chicken for dinner. Guys, that chicken was so good it messed with my mind. Since then, I’ve had all these dreams about going to Chinatown and buying that chicken, and each time I wake up unreasonably depressed because I don’t really have any. This week, after moping yet again about my lack of chicken and wondering if I dared brave a trip to Chinatown alone with Dan, I realized there was an easier option: I could make the chicken myself! To the Google!
I used this recipe, with a couple alterations. For one thing, I couldn’t find smaller organic chickens. I had to go to two stores to find a whole chicken at all—that’s what happens when you shop at 8:30 PM.
I also noticed the recipe doesn’t call for garlic. I felt like it should have garlic (every recipe should have garlic), so I looked up a couple more recipes and decided to add some to the pot.
Chef Daniel woke up just as I was about to start cleaning the chicken, and promptly took on a supervisory role.
I don’t have any pictures of the cleaning process because I didn’t want to touch my camera with raw chicken all over my hands—we’re all about food safety around here—so you’ll have to just imagine me cluelessly fumbling around with the chicken carcass while my phone is ringing and Dan is mocking me from his bouncer.
I finally managed to get everything into the pot without any major casualties.
However, the chicken fell apart when I took it out.
It was then that I discovered I have no idea how to cut up a chicken.
Now for the reviews:
Taste: Awesome. I’ve found a cure for my chicken-longing. It was obviously overcooked, but that was my fault. Because I had a larger bird than the recipe called for and I had a hard time keeping it underwater, I decided to cook it longer than the recipe suggested, and I overdid it by about 15 minutes.
Ease of preparation: Reasonable. The recipe itself is pretty straightforward, but this was only my second time working with a whole chicken (the first time was heavily supervised, and I still managed to get blood everywhere (so much blood!)), so it’ll be better next time.
Ease of cleanup: Cleanup was a bit of a hassle. There were a lot of dishes, and I had to aggressively 409 everything in the kitchen several times.
Will Tom eat it?: Yes! (Or at least, he hasn’t told me otherwise yet.)
Will Dan eat it?: N/A.
Overall evaluation: I’ll definitely make this again—maybe not every week, because it is a bit time- and labor-intensive, but it’s definitely going into the rotation. Yay chicken!
Sorry, not a lot of baby pictures here. I’ll make it up to you next time, I promise!
Hello friends! I know it’s been awhile, but as you can see, I’ve had more important things to worry about lately! As you can see, Baby Daniel, our New Friend, was born on April 8. It’s been a crazy ride, but Tom and I are loving this parenting business.
For those of you who don’t know, after my 20-week ultrasound Daniel was diagnosed with hydronephrosis. This means that because of a blockage in his urinary system, his kidneys couldn’t drain properly. It’s a relatively common condition in baby boys, and for most babies the problem resolves itself before birth. Unfortunately, Daniel’s didn’t. Our perinatologist decided that I needed to deliver at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston so Daniel could have prompt surgical intervention. Daniel was checked into the NICU on April 10, and spent the next week in a confined space, hooked up to a bunch of wires and a catheter.
Daniel had surgery on April 16. The procedure was done via catheter, so it was minimally invasive. The first thing the nurse told us when we got there that morning was, “They’re getting the robot ready.” You kids and your crazy, newfangled technologies. In all seriousness, though, it’s incredible that this type of procedure exists and that we had access to it. The surgery only took about 45 minutes.
Toward the end of my pregnancy, I was very stressed-out and discouraged. I was making weekly, sometimes semiweekly trips from Beaumont to Houston, and the only answer the doctors would give us was, “We’ll just have to wait and see what needs to be done after delivery.” I didn’t know what was going to happen to Daniel, or how long I would be away from home. There were times when I lost my perspective and wondered why we had to go through this.
The General Women’s Session of General Conference was two weeks before Daniel’s induction date. The whole session brought me a lot of comfort (and I loved the reference to Marie Madeleine Cardon—I grew up hearing stories about her from my grandparents), but I was most affected when President Henry B. Eyring shared the Lord’s words to Alma in Mosiah 24:14:
And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
Our burdens were eased throughout this whole process. Our family has been incredibly blessed, sometimes way beyond what I’ve felt we deserved, and now I’m starting to understand why. Tom has a great job and great health insurance, which are helping immensely with Daniel’s and my medical bills. We live close enough to Houston to have access to some of the best doctors and facilities in the world. Our family and friends have been so supportive and helpful. I learned that so many people have been praying for us, and I felt their love. If you have prayed for Daniel at any time, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
When I heard President Eyring’s words, I stopped wondering why the Lord didn’t give Daniel a miraculous in utero recovery. It really has been reaffirmed to me that the Lord does visit His people in their afflictions. He loves us, and He answers our prayers. That knowledge helped me through that painful week in the NICU and continues to comfort me through tough times.
We’re still waiting for Daniel’s kidneys to decompress, but he’s doing very well. He’s happy, healthy, and incredibly chubby. And tomorrow he’ll be two months old.
Well, look at that: it’s been over two months since my last post, which was honestly a bit of a cop-out. I’ve been feeling guilty about this for awhile, but Tom managed to cheer me up: “There’s no way you can be worse at your blog,” he said, “than you are at Instrumental Analysis.”
Oh, that Tom. He always knows what to say.
(Instrumental Analysis is a 500-level chemistry class, and the first class in which I managed to score a 52% on a midterm. Thank goodness for the curve.)
To be honest, I’ve been having a lot of trouble blogging lately. I have four or five drafts that I’ve started and abandoned for various reasons:
“This post is so angry. Maybe you shouldn’t blog while you’re so angry.”
“This post is booooooring. Why can’t you write anything interesting?”
“This one is better, but still pretty lame. No one wants to read about that.”
“I don’t want to blog. I want to sit on the couch, eat chocolate, and watch Duck Dynasty. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
If this silliness was localized to blogging, I wouldn’t be concerned. The problem is, it’s spilled over into my regular writing. I’ve spent the past month trying to brainstorm and plot my next project, and I’ve gotten nowhere beyond a few pages of summarized Wikipedia articles. If I can force myself to work through the fog, I feel like I’m getting somewhere, but as soon as I take a break, I immediately lose interest in the idea and wonder why I thought anyone else would be interested.
It’s been so frustrating that the other night I told Tom that maybe I should quit writing and do something else with my life. He told me that maybe now isn’t the time to be making sweeping statements about my career, given that I’m 7.something months pregnant and haven’t been feeling 100% lately.
That, along with spending some time with another pregnant woman who was obviously having trouble remembering things, got me thinking: could “pregnancy brain” be the cause of my writing problems? Instead of making me lose my keys or leave the house without pants, could New Friend be simply claiming all my creative energy? I can’t think of a worthier use for it (New Friend is certainly more important than my mediocre-at-best novels, after all), and Googling “pregnancy brain writing” indicates that lot of pregnant women have similar complaints. I even found some evidence that women’s brains physically shrink toward the end of pregnancy, which would explain a lot. I hate it when writers talk about “losing their muse” (it’s a pretentious excuse if I ever heard one), but I just had this mental image of New Friend sneaking up on an ancient Greek woman with a harp and hitting her in the head with a meat mallet.
Of course, I immediately found tons of conflicting information. This article claims that pregnancy actually improves women’s cognitive abilities, while this one extols the positive effects of pregnancy on a woman’s creativity. “You can claim brain shrinkage if you want,” these sites seem to tell me, “but science isn’t backing you up. Maybe you’re just lazy.” Thanks, internet.
The one common thread in these articles is that sleep deprivation and stress commonly contribute to the “brain fog,” which makes a little more sense. What, you mean my brain doesn’t like waking up every hour from 11 pm to 4 am so I can either go to the bathroom or break up the all-night dance party in my abdomen? You’re trying to tell me that juggling prenatal classes, two sets of doctor’s appointments, amped-up dietary requirements, medical insurance paperwork, and buying all the baby things on top of my normal responsibilities might be more than my brain is used to?
In some ways, I haven’t had this much stress in my life since I graduated from college. It doesn’t feel as stressful most of the time because instead of dealing with grouchy professors and TAs, I’m dealing with smiling doctors and nurses; instead of receiving disappointing midterm grades for my efforts, I’m being handed adorable sonogram printouts. I’d take pregnancy over P-chem any day, but still—there’s a lot going on.
Whether due to brain shrinkage or plain old sleep deprivation, something is definitely happening upstairs, and I’m not convinced it’s anything to worry about. Perhaps the most interesting article I found claims that the changes in pregnant women’s brains serve to make them better mothers, and that’s definitely something to embrace. Maybe I should take a nap and realize that while the next 6.3 weeks may not be the most productive writing weeks I’ve ever had, it’s all for a good cause. Plenty of women manage to write books after having multiple kids, and whether that’s my lot in life or not, raising New Friend and Future Friends is the most important thing I’ll ever do.
And because this post has been sort of a downer, here are some cute pictures to make up for it!
Anyone have crazy stories/advice about dealing with “pregnancy brain”? Drop me a line! I love comments!
It has come to my attention that part three of a certain bloated waste of special effects and Martin Freeman’s acting talent is coming out this week. Tom and I will be skipping the theater experience on principle, though we’ll probably waste a dollar or so when it’s available at Redbox.
I also realize that I have yet to post my third critical review of the last installment. Some people *cough Tom cough* have pestered me to get my post up before The Battle of Five Armies hits theaters. However, I’m extremely reluctant to do it.
It’s not like I don’t have anything written; I wrote most of it in September. The problem is, it’s not very good, definitely not up to the standard set by the first two. Part of the issue is that I didn’t have a good focus for the post, but the main problem stems from the fact that at the time of writing, I hadn’t seen the movie in almost five months. It wasn’t at Redbox, and it wasn’t available to rent on Amazon. If I wanted to refresh my memory, I was going to have to buy the thing, and that definitely wasn’t happening (or, you know, I could have borrowed it from someone, but that would have involved talking to people). I’m not willing to spend more than $3 on another Peter Jackson movie, and even that’s pushing it. In order to make my points, I was relying on sketchy, disjointed clips on YouTube.
Anyway, this is super lame, and I apologize for not keeping a commitment. When it comes down to it, I’m too prideful to post something I feel is less than my best work, so I procrastinated. However, I owe you guys something, and I do have a draft sitting around. So, here’s the plan: I’m going to hide my third Hobbit post, in all its rambly, unpolished glory, somewhere on my website. Those of you who are interested enough can poke around and try to find it. The first two people to leave a comment on the post will win the Grand Prize.
What is this Grand Prize, you ask?
Why, it’s an autographed copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game!
(I submitted the story of how Tom and I met for this book. They published it, so they sent me $200 and ten copies of the book. I still have several copies I can’t get rid of, and I’m not allowed to sell them online.)
All right, I know: it’s a lame prize. I’ll throw in some candy or something. The good stuff, like Twix bars.
(Those of you who already have a copy can still leave a comment, and maybe we’ll arrange for an alternate prize.)
Yes, this silly blog still exists, though it has been growing cobwebs lately. What can I say? November was a crazy time.
The main thing that made it so crazy is that I officially participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. The basic idea is that, during the month of November, you write 50,000 words worth of novel. I would have done it before now, but this is the first November in five years where I haven’t had three chemistry midterms per week all month. So, that was nice.
The draft isn’t finished yet, but I did make it to 50,000 words. It’ll be finished within a few days, but for now I’m taking a break to catch up on housework and do some Christmas shopping/crafting. Maybe I’ll even read a book.
All in all, NaNoWriMo was an awesome experience. Here are some of the things I learned:
I did write by hand this time. No, I’m not a masochist. In high school, I did the majority of my “fun writing” by hand, so it’s the system I’ve always been used to (I had this awesome desk with a roll-out keyboard tray, where I kept whatever story I was working on. I’d have a textbook and a notebook on top of the desk, and when anyone came into my room while I was writing, I’d casually slide the keyboard tray back into the desk and pretend I’d been studying the whole time. It was awesome). Writing by hand also broke me of the bad habit of going back to existing scenes and making them twice as wordy to reach word count goals. It was harder and slower than typing would have been, and I don’t anticipate doing it all the time, but it was instructive.
This is easily some of the worst writing I’ve ever done, and that was depressing at times, but it was useful to force myself to push through the awful parts and keep writing when all I wanted to do was shove my notebook through the nearest paper shredder. The prose quality actually improved throughout the month, too.
I’m definitely an outliner. This is the first time I’ve forced myself to come up with a rigid, detailed, beginning-to-end outline, and it saved my bacon on more than one occasion. It’s the reason I’m actually going to finish this book, and be reasonably satisfied with the ending. Yay!
I can be surprisingly productive when forced. Because I was having so much fun with my family in Utah during Thanksgiving week, I didn’t write a thing for three days. When we got home that Friday, Tom sat me down on the couch and basically wouldn’t let me get up until I was caught up (I love him). I was officially caught up by Saturday night (I’d written over 6,000 words that day and had major hand cramps), and finished up early Sunday afternoon. Total word count for that weekend was 10,518. Not too shabby.
There are other novel writers in Beaumont! On a whim, I decided to quit being antisocial and go to a couple write-ins, and ended up meeting some really nice people. There wasn’t a lot of actual writing going on at these events, but I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in awhile.
Most of the people reading this are probably more interested in pregnancy/baby news than in weird self-inflicted writing torture challenges. So, let’s get to the good stuff, shall we?
First of all, we’re having a boy!
We are so excited! If nothing else, it’s nice not to have to refer to New Friend as “it” anymore. Tom actually got to come to the ultrasound with me, making the experience extra special.
The other fun news is that I started feeling New Friend moving a few weeks ago. The movements started off really tiny, and could have been mistaken for muscle spasms. But he’s getting stronger every day, and Tom can actually feel the kicks now. On Saturday, I took a suggestion from a baby book and shined a flashlight on my stomach to see if New Friend would respond. I didn’t feel anything at first, but he must have turned around; a few minutes later, he was definitely kicking my bladder instead. It took a few hours of sitting in weird positions (“sitting” on the couch upside down with my feet in the air at one point) to get him to stop.
Other pregnancy tidbits:
I now own two pairs of maternity jeans. They are definitely necessary.
However, everyone’s been telling me there’s no way I’m 4.5 months pregnant, and that I don’t look pregnant at all. I guess I should take it as a compliment, but it mostly just freaks me out. New Friend, are you okay in there? Why aren’t you taking up more space? Are you getting enough food and stuff?
Speaking of food, I’m actually eating these days, just like a good pregnant lady should. Also, I’m craving eggs all the time. Eggs are the best.
My mom and sister and I had to decorate onesies. New Friend is going to be one spoiled kid.
Yes, friends, life is good. It’s nice to be back in the blogosphere. Feel free to comment with NaNoWriMo stories, what-I-did-over-Thanksgiving-break stories, pregnancy/baby boy advice, suggestions for baby names, demands for my mom to open an Etsy store, or anything else. I’ve missed you guys!
Tom insists that my first trimester was WAY worse than I remember. Right now, I can only think of a few days in which I was grumpy because I knew I had to eat food, but I didn’t want to. According to Tom, the magnitude of my suffering was only rivaled by my “trooper” attitude. I guess this is a good thing; my ability to conveniently forget things that suck will come in handy in April. I can see it now:
During labor: “GAH IT HURTS SO BAD I HATE YOU TOM I’M NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN NO MORE BABIES!”
Two weeks later: “Meh, that wasn’t so bad.”
…yeah, probably not. Anyway, it’s a good thing I started this blog post while in the throes of morning sickness; otherwise, I’d have no idea what the past three months were really like. I still think I was incredibly lucky.
My first trimester could be described succinctly by Strong Bad’s and Strong Sad’s comments from about 1:30 to 1:41 of this video:
This has got to be my only pregnancy complaint so far: eating food was really hard for a few weeks. I didn’t even want it anymore—the idea of food was about as appealing as cleaning a toilet or taking a chemistry exam. I had totally lost the ability to understand why food is a positive thing. I was expecting to have those weird pregnancy cravings you always hear about, the kind that would send Tom on a midnight shopping adventure to get pickles and ice cream, or whatever. Instead, my personal definition of a “craving” was “anything that sounded remotely, hypothetically, temporarily edible.” Tom quickly learned not to trust me with buying the groceries, because I’d only buy things that seemed edible (read: not much).
I particularly had problems with anything sweet (including most fruits) and anything saltier than, say, bread. Soups and hot, heavily-sauced, salty dishes were off the menu. You guys, I have two big tubs of delicious Thai curry that are about to expire because I haven’t been able to eat curry in months.
I actually lost several pounds at one point, prompting Tom to start texting me almost every day, making sure I was actually eating.
For the most part, I tried to exercise self-discipline and eat as healthily as possible (yay hummus and smoothies!). However, there were times when this was much harder than it should have been, like that horrid week when I couldn’t make hummus because I was out of garlic, or when everything I would normally put in a smoothie was suddenly poisonous. Now that my stomach is behaving again, I’m trying hard to make up for lost nutrition (don’t ask me how many YAMS! I’ve eaten in the past week. I don’t even want to know).
Today, I’m going to share some of my more embarrassing “pregnancy recipes” from those early weeks. Hopefully you’ll find these as entertaining as I do.
~6 large peaches
Peel peach. Eat. Repeat every two hours for as long as you are awake.
Minimal-Fruit Green Smoothie
This was the only smoothie I could stomach, and even it met with limited success.
2 cups spinach
Large handful of carrots
1 frozen strawberry
1 cup water
Prepare smoothie according to standard procedure. Realize this would be revolting to many people. Drink 3/4 of the glass, and decide there’s no way you can force down any more. Wonder when your stomach got so small and dainty, and why it couldn’t have been like that when you were actively trying to lose weight. Store remaining smoothie in fridge indefinitely.
Apples With Peanut Butter
Decide you need an apple. Decide an apple is not enough calories to constitute a meal. Slice apple, and cover several slices with peanut butter. Retire to couch for resulting stomachache. Wonder whether the apple or the peanut butter was the culprit; shun both.
2 slices of bread
Make PB&J sandwich according to standard procedure. Start eating. Wonder who in his right mind decided that putting PEANUT BUTTER on BREAD was a good idea. Wonder if bread has gone bad. Decide bread has gone bad (it hasn’t). Discard half eaten sandwich. Eat peaches instead (see above).
It’s like a sandwich, without any sandwich fillings. Sandwich fillings are problematic.
1 ciabatta roll (obtained while wandering around HEB like a pregnant zombie who’s lost her taste for human brains (or anything else, for that matter))
Remove ciabatta roll from package. Eat morosely while contemplating your poor life choices.
Club Crackers and Jam
Decide club crackers are the only thing in the world that sounds good. Eat crackers plain until your mouth gets dry. Decide to risk a little bit of jam. Decide jam is okay. Eat almost an entire sleeve of club crackers in one sitting. Feel gross. Gag when Tom tries to force-feed you club crackers when he comes home.
I had a day when the only thing I wanted was a ton of pasta with alfredo sauce, eating-for-two style. Here’s my alternative.
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Toss some broccoli in pasta water toward the end of cooking to feel better about the fact that you’re about to ingest pure carbs and salt. Drain. Sprinkle with a little bit of garlic salt and cheese. Feel ashamed at how much better your stomach feels after eating this. Contemplate how something so right can feel so wrong (or is it the other way around?).
This one has actually been a more-or-less weekly staple in our household since we’ve been married, but pregnancy’s made it weird.
1 red bell pepper
Feel bad that you haven’t cooked an actual meal in days. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Sauté vegetables in oil. Add pasta and sauce. Simmer shrimp in sauce until fully cooked. Wake up at 3 A.M. with disgusting shrimp aftertaste. Swear off shrimp forever (or at least until you can forget this experience).
And, because David Sorensen insisted, here’s what I’ve eaten nearly every day since I’ve been able to eat again.
Ingredients: 1 YAM!, cut into small pieces
1 broccoli crown, cut into florets
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
~1.5 tbsp olive oil
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine YAM!, broccoli, and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, mixing to combine. Add salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and any other toppings. Mix well, and dump onto foil-lined baking sheet. Try to achieve monolayer coverage (think Langmuir). Bake YAMS! and other things for 45 minutes.
Serves 1. Seriously, eat the whole thing. You really need to.
Man, those were good times.
And now, I’m going to text Tom and see if he can bring home some pickles and ice cream on the way home from work.