Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.*

So where do two bookish girls go on their first full day in London? The British Library, of course! Well, and it helps that it was just around the corner from our hotel. No, we didn’t stay here…

but only because I didn’t realize how amazing the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel is. And, also, it’s maybe a bit out of our price range. But we weren’t far from there so we started hunting around for the library. It took us a while to find it and we first walked into a local branch before coming across the real thing. The problem is that it didn’t look on the outside like what I expected. I was expecting the Library of Congress. What we found was quite different.

I almost wanted to skip it (because I’m shallow like that) and move on to the next thing on our list (the Highgate Cemetery, which I was super excited to visit), but we figured we might as well take a peek inside. I’m so glad we did! Inside was suitably impressive.

In fact, I liked it better than some musty old place. In the very center is the King’s Library.

And off the side is a room that displays some treasures of the library. Nothing much – just an original Gutenberg Bible, some handwritten pages by William Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Jane Austen, and several amazing illuminated manuscripts. No big deal. Except that it totally was. It sounds silly, I know, but I felt so emotional viewing these treasures. I have always loved the written word, of course, but I also realized the importance of the illustrations in the illuminated manuscripts and how they passed on our most sacred stories through centuries.

We couldn’t take photos inside (a very disheartening trend throughout all of London, as you’ll see), but while I was refreshing my memory for this entry, I found out there is a Treasures of the British Library app, so you can carry all of that in your pocket.

As for the guessing game…

There were some good guesses, but I think my sister must know me too well. She guessed 4770 photos. The actual number (altogether) was 4601. (Phew… that’s a lot of photos.) So congrats, Mamers! You finally won something on my blog. I can’t wait to give it to you this weekend.

*quote in the title is from Lemony Snicket. And it’s true, you know.
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Media Consumption

Every once in a while I like to share all of the wonderful things I’ve been watching, reading, or listening to. Just for fun. So here’s the latest in my media consumption.

Television

I LOVE Dance Academy!! This show consumed a good two weeks of my life. I went to bed late numerous times and almost missed church once because I just wanted to watch one more episode. It’s about a group of teens in Sydney who get accepted to the prestigious National Ballet Academy. It’s full of teen drama (seriously, sometimes I just wanted to give those kids a good talking to!) but also lots and lots of great dancing. Also, I fell in love with the characters. I don’t want to spoil anything, but something happens at the end of season 2 that … well, I don’t want to spoil anything. But it’s available on Netflix and it’s also on youtube. I totally recommend it.

After getting so wrapped up in Dance Academy, I knew I needed something familiar that I could just play in the background while I work on other things. Cheers showed up on the front page of Netflix, and I thought, Why not? I have lots of fond memories of watching Cheers reruns every night, but I had never seen them in order. It’s been really fun to watch, and it’s still laugh-out-loud funny. It’s funny how many of the episodes I remember really well and then there are a lot that I had forgotten. But it’s also interesting to watch them as an adult. And I have to say, without getting all academic or anything, it would be an interesting show to analyze for gender roles. When Mad Men came out, we were all appalled at how women were treated in the work place, but honestly, Cheers is constantly disparaging women – from Norm’s cracks about his wife Vera to how Sam treats Diane, other men treat Carla, not to mention the constant objectifying of women’s bodies. Plus, let’s face it, Sam’s and Diane’s relationship is messed up. It is so unhealthy. I guess that’s what makes it interesting tv, but another disconcerting element of Cheers is that it actually has a really subtle “violence against women is ok” message. There are many episodes where Sam threatens Diane with physical violence and one in particular where they are both slapping each other. Anyway, I don’t want to take it all too seriously because I know it’s a light-hearted comedy, but these are just a few things I’ve noticed as an adult that surprised me. But the 80s fashion is awesome. And the show is seriously witty. They have lots of great come-backs. Also, the writers love a good pun.

What’s not to love about White Collar. It has art forgeries and heists and Matt Bomer, who lives in the most amazing fake New York City apartment. If you haven’t heard of White Collar, it’s basically about a con man who ends up helping the FBI solve crimes. It’s not an amazing show, but it’s definitely entertaining.

Books

I couldn’t decide which cover I liked best.

I listened to this as an audiobooks (the narrator, by the way, was wonderful). When I thought about what to say about this book, I realized that I’m still kind of mad at it. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I can’t explain why, but if you’ve read this book, I would love to talk to you about it. The Lonely Polygamist is about the father of a polygamist family in Southern Utah in the 1970s who is questioning his role. It follows the viewpoints of Golden (the father), Trish (his fourth and newest wife), and Rusty (one of the 28 children) to show different perspectives of the family. One of themes that runs throughout the novel is the question of what is the greater responsibility — to your family or to the individual? There are some really lovely moments in this novel. Obviously, as an active Mormon, I was a little skeptical at first of the way that my church’s history would be portrayed, but I felt like there was a clear difference for me between the small fundamentalist sect that broke away from the church and the mainstream church to which I belong. However, there was a shared experience in some ways that helped me connect to the characters even more. And it is very strange to hear some our specific hymns sung in the middle of an audiobook. Here’s a good review of the novel from the New York Times.

In A Jane Austen Education, William Deresiewicz explains lessons that he learned from each of Jane Austen’s six novels. This isn’t the type of book I would normally read, but I am an Austen fan (although whenever I do a Jane Austen search on the Internet, I always discover that I’m not a crazed Austen fan… there are a lot out there), so I thought I’d give it a try. I actually listened to the audiobook version, and I wish that I had read the physical book so that I could have underlined that thing to death. There were so many great quotes in it. It’s been a few months since I listened to it, and now I can’t remember any of the great quotes that I thought for sure I would. This is the problem with audiobooks. Even though I’ve read all of Austen’s novels several times (and as a student of literature, I feel like I read them with a refined eye), I still gained a lot of wonderful insight into the novels. But more importantly, I gained some insight into how to be a better person. Here’s an article in the Huffington Post that summarizes some of the lessons learned, but I definitely recommend picking up a copy. I think I’ll order a paperback version for myself and keep a pen handy the next time I read it.

Victoria and the Rogue is exactly the kind of book that I want to write. It’s light-hearted and fun. It has no pretentions to being more than it is. You know exactly what will happen from page 1, but the joy is in seeing how it happens and the little swoons and sighs along the way. I checked it out from the library on my kindle and read it when I went to Wisconsin last May. I couldn’t put it down and stayed up till much too late to finish it. She has a few more Regency romance novels that I’ve tried to check out, too, but they haven’t been available.

Truth be told, I just finished Sweethearts by Sara Zarr this evening. I bought it last night as one of the books to read on my flight to London, but I needed something to read today at lunch and decided to start it. I got hooked right away and ended up being a little late back to work. Then I rushed home as soon as work was over to finish it. It’s the story of Jennifer (Jenna) and Cameron Quick, two childhood sweethearts. They are both the odd ones out during elementary school and only have each other for a friend. Cameron moves away suddenly without saying good-bye. Jenna reinvents herself. Now it’s her senior year. She’s popular and pretty and has a group of friends, including her boyfriend, and everything seems fine. Until Cameron Quick mysteriously shows up again. I loved this book. I didn’t have a lot of friends in elementary school. We moved a lot, so I went to four different elementary schools, and I was always a shy kid. There’s a scene in Sweethearts where Jenna describes walking in close proximity to other kids just hoping that they would notice her and invite her to join in, but also trying to look busy and perfectly happy being by herself. I remember doing the exact same thing. Then Jennifer reinvents herself as Jenna, but she finds that Jennifer is still a part of her. One of the questions in the book becomes who is the authentic self — the self from childhood or the one you create for yourself? Something else fun about Sweethearts is that it’s set right here in Salt Lake City. There’s always something a little thrilling about knowing all of the locations – the Smith’s in the Avenues, Liberty Park, North Temple, State Street. Salt Lake isn’t the setting for a lot of things, so I don’t get this thrill very often.

I’ve read lots of other books but none that I feel are really worth mentioning. Do you have any tv shows or books you’d like to share with me? I’m always looking for something good.

Other posts about television and books and stuff:
What I’ve Been Watching
a roundup, of sorts
what I’ve been listening to (part 1) (oops, I never got around to writing part 2.)

Mobile Monday 39

Forever ago, I bought a Groupon for use at the Leonardo, Salt Lake’s newest museum. I kept meaning to take Claire on one of our Saturday excursions, but it just never happened. The Groupon expired near the end of February, so Kylie and I went one evening. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Leonardo, although I have some friends who work/worked there and were always sharing interesting things about it. The Leonardo is an art, technology, and science museum. It had lots of great hands-on exhibits. Unfortunately, we didn’t want to wait around for our turn, so we didn’t get to make our own stop-action video or draw a self-portrait or any number of the other activities there. But we still enjoyed it.

(The Leonardo is located right by the Salt Lake City Library, pictured above. It’s housed in the old library.)

I loved this painting by Steven Larson called Transnational Legend.

Today I drove up to Bountiful to meet my friend, Kellie, for dinner. I got up there a little early and decided to drive around. I went up to the foothills near the Bountiful Temple. It has the best view from there.

I also looked for the house of my Grandma Elaine. She wasn’t my biological grandmother, but a very dear and wonderful woman after whom I was named (Katie Elaine). I loved visiting her house when I was younger. It was full of fascinating things, a grand piano, a drum set, and books. But best of all, they had a great deck overhanging a little stream and it had a tire swing. The weird thing about being an adult is that there are all these places I had a strong connection to, but I had no idea where they were. I had to go by association and memory, but I found it (I think). It’s a little house off the main road. The first picture below is the side view. Because of the way it’s situated, I couldn’t see it from the front. I miss my Grandma Elaine, and I also miss her house.

The photo above on the right is from dinner. Kellie and I went to a place called Thyme & Seasons. I wrote about it (and shared a picture of my dinner) over at My Sloppy Heart. It was definitely one of my more interesting (and delicious) dining experiences in the Salt Lake area.

While I was killing time in Bountiful, I stopped by Barnes & Noble to browse around. Lately, I’ve loved checking out the children’s section. I always look to see if they have copies of my brother’s book. (I didn’t see any, so they must be sold out.) I stumbled upon this edition of Anne of Green Gables.

I kind of love this cover. It’s striking and different from the typical Anne books. I like the mischievous face of Anne. I tried to figure out who illustrated it, but I couldn’t find the credit on the cover. My Internet research didn’t help, either. I think it looks quite a bit like Charlie and Lola, so I looked up that illustrator, Lauren Child. (By the way, I really love the design of her website, despite the music that you can’t turn off). But Anne isn’t included in her list of books. Anyway, I’m a sucker for a good book cover. It really does make a difference.

This Past Week

Oh hey, it’s been a whole week since I last blogged. Sorry about that. I know that so many of you are just despondent when you check my blog several times throughout the day only to discover there is no new material.

I’ve actually been meaning to blog all week, but I got caught up in a new book series and ended up spending all my spare time (sometimes into the wee hours of the morning despite my better judgment and the fact that I had to go to work/church the next morning). And the fact that I could immediately download the next book on my kindle only fed my obsession. So what is this new series? Well, I’m not sure I want to recommend it to everyone because I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you are interested in books about a pair of ghost hunters with an intense (not always healthy) relationship and with lots of swears, I have the series for you. But now I’ve finished the series (until the next book comes out), so I have more free time on my hands.

Free time to make some rainbow cupcakes! At work, we have sprint meetings every three weeks where we plan for upcoming projects. I decided a few months ago to bring treats to every meeting. It gives me a chance to try out all the recipes that I pin on Pinterest.

I mixed up a little white cake mix, separated it into six bowls, and dropped in the food coloring.

Then I took a teaspoon of each color and dropped them into the cupcake liners. So pretty!

I baked them for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile I whipped up some buttercream frosting. And the final product was just lovely.

Sadly, the all male team of developers I work with weren’t too impressed. They were happy to have cupcakes, but none of them mentioned how colorful and cute they are!

I love that Leap Day comes just once every four years. I really wanted to take the day off work and spend my time doing whatever I felt like (read: going to the movies), but I am saving up all my time off for a big trip in the fall. (It’s really hard for me to plan so far in the future.) So I went to work, but I did participate in two great things today.

First, I linked my photo of the sunset over at the Busy Nothings Photography Club. My friend, Kristy, created this monthly linky party, and I love seeing all the photos that people submit. And look at this cute little button she created for the photography club.

Second, I decided to participate, in a small way, in the Ethnic Studies Read-in happening in Arizona. Maybe you haven’t heard about this, but recently the Tucson Unified School District has eliminated its Mexican Studies Program and banned many books used in its curriculum. Here are some sources where you can read about it:

And here’s an excellent editorial about it in USA Today.

I am completely appalled at this move by the Tucson Unified School District. To purposefully remove the literature of an entire population is the 2012 equivalent of giving them small pox infested blankets. (If I weren’t so out of practice with academic language, I could probably say a lot more about this.) To show my support, I spent some time tonight reading one of my favorite books — one that was on the list of books “removed” from the schools in Tucson — called The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

Have you read this book? If not, I highly, highly recommend it. And I recommend it to everyone without any qualms. It is absolutely beautiful and poignant. Remember when I taught high school in New Orleans? (if not, that’s ok. I barely remember it too.) Well, I brought this book in one day and read one of the short stories to my class. This is a class where they wouldn’t listen to anything I said and thought every activity I had planned was the dumbest activity in the world and it was way more important to text their friends rather than listen to me. But when I read from this book, they listened. And we actually had an amazing discussion about it.

When I was in AP English, one of the practice tests we took had a short passage by Sandra Cisneros. It was the first time I had read any of her work. We had to write a timed essay about the passage. Usually the passages are so forgettable. In fact, we did tons of those practice tests and I can’t remember any of the other passages. But I remembered that one because it so clearly captured something about human nature that resonated with me, despite any difference in our ethnic/social/economical/whatever backgrounds. And this is an author whose books are now banned? In 2012.

Another amazing author whose books are banned is Sherman Alexie. How could you ban this guy?

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sherman Alexie
www.colbertnation.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:189691
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

(The video isn’t embedding very well. Just click a link above or click here to see it. You will be happy you did.)

He is hilarious and smart. I’ve seen him read from his books twice, and I’ve read several of his books and loved them. I even took The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven with me to New Orleans as I thought about books that I could share with my students. But if I lived in Tucson that book would have been banned.

Usually I don’t discuss stuff like this on my blog, but this is something I feel passionate about. I don’t expect that just writing about it here will do any good, but maybe. At least it gets the word out just a little bit.

oh fiddle-dee-dee

This weekend, Claire and I watched Gone with the Wind. I didn’t know if she’d like it, but I remembered watching the movie when I was about her age and falling in love with it. I mean, all those beautiful dresses! She told me that her best friend had watched it and said that it just had a lot of kissing in it. I told her that we could turn it off or fast forward it if she got bored. But she never got bored. In fact, at the intermission (around 11 pm), she wanted to keep watching, but we waited until the next morning. Afterward, she drew sketches of a woman in a big hoop skirt. I was just excited to introduce her to one of my all time favorite women in literature. No, not Scarlett, although she’s definitely an interesting one.

No, one of my favorite women in literature is Melanie Hamilton Wilkes – a truly great woman. Read this:

She saw in a flash of clarity untouched by any petty emotion that beneath the gentle voice and the dove-like eyes of Melanie there was a thin flashing blade of unbreakable steel. Felt, too, that there were banners and bugles of courage in Melanie’s quiet blood.

Don’t you love that? “…banners and bugles of courage in Melanie’s quiet blood.” It’s just so beautiful, and it’s the kind of person that I want to be.

It seems like all the books I read lately are about people overcoming the odds and facing their fears. Usually by defeating some evil person like he-who-must-not-be-named or an evil government or racism or the Destroyer or the narrow confines of 19th Century social mores. And I sometimes wonder how I can prove to myself that I have that same courage.

Then I read this quote from Helen Keller:

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.

Melanie Hamilton Wilkes never really does anything amazing. Unlike Scarlett, who tramples Atlanta’s notions of a lady under both feet, she lives completely within what is expected of her as a wife, mother, and woman. But she never compromises her standards. She is always exactly who she presents herself to be, and I find that so admirable. She stands up for those she loves, even when her society (whom she also loves) says that they must be shunned. She refuses to shun them.

I doubt that Claire really picked up on how wonderful of a character Melanie was. In talking about the movie afterward, she was sad that Bonnie Blue Butler had died and that it didn’t have a happy ending. She loved the dresses and Scarlett’s gaudy mansion, and she didn’t think there was as much kissing as Lucy said there was. But she never mentioned Melanie, and I’m pretty sure I was the only one with tears in my eyes during those final scenes.

After all, Melanie had dragged herself from bed so soon after having a baby and had come to her aid dragging a weapon too heavy even for her to lift. That had taken courage. The kind of courage Scarlett honestly knew she herself did not possess. The thin steel, spun silk courage which had characterized Melanie on the terrible night Atlanta fell and on the long trip home. It was the same intangible, unspectacular courage that all the Wilkes’ possessed. A quality which Scarlett did not understand but to which she gave grudging tribute.

I hope I’m filled with that same quiet, unspectacular courage.

(And seriously, if you haven’t ever read Gone with the Wind, you are missing out!)

Pssst…

You wanna hear something awesome? My big brother is about to have his very first solo book published! It comes out in one week. Oh sure, he’s already a published illustrator. You may have seen his illustrations in Return to Narnia: The Rescue of Prince Caspian or the Chronicles of Narnia pop-up book by Robert Sabuda or Rhino, Rhino, Sweet Potato or even some of his work in Flight (most recently in volume 8, but he’s been in others, too). BUT this is the first time he’s written and illustrated the book, and it’s awesome! Meet Jane & Mizmow.

You can pre-order a copy of your very own on Amazon. It would make a great gift for any kids in your life. And if you want my brother to autograph it for you, I will ask him. And if you want me to autograph it for you because I’m related to the author/illustrator, I will totally do that, too!

Please forgive the shameless plug, but I’m super proud of my brother. Not only is he extremely talented, but he also works incredibly hard at his art. There are very, very few times I have ever seen him without a sketchbook. And even then, he pretty much is sketching on napkins or pieces of scratch paper. He also knows more about storytelling than anyone I know. Hopefully this is just the first of many books to come!

Miscellaneous Seattle

I have just a few random photos that I wanted to post about Seattle. First of all, I want to rave about my awesome hotel room. I stayed in the Westin, which is the same place they held the conference last year, so I knew to expect a pretty posh room. In fact, it was basically the exact same room I had last year, but with a different room number and a different view. Speaking of the view:

Yep, it was awesome. I even had a sliver of a view of Elliot Bay during the daylight hours. The other great thing about this room, the king-sized heavenly bed. I adore this bed. It’s so comfy.

Right before I left on the trip, I had gotten some books in the mail. They were additions to my lovely little hardcover set I started last year. I was excited to bring Lady Chatterly’s Lover with me. I read it while at Smith (man, Smith seems to come up a lot lately) and I’ve been wanting to read it again.

But remember how I had to buy a book in order to eat by myself? This is what I picked up.

It’s from a young adult series called The Luxe I ran across while trying to find a new audiobook. They advertise it as The Age of Innocence meets Gossip Girl, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I am really into the books (this is the third in the series), but I am totally embarrassed by the covers and the titles. I would much prefer to carry my sophisticated D.H. Lawrence onto the plane, but I would rather read (at this time) the paperback.

One last photo from a final trip to Pike’s Place.

A random, but perhaps fitting, end to all these posts about Seattle.