Monday, September 29, 2008

More About Chicago

Although we were only in Chicago for one day, it will probably take a few blog entries to give you the highlights. We got off the bus about 7:30 AM, found the bathrooms in Union Station (which was harder than it sounds,) and were on the prowl for something for breakfast. We bought a map at CVS and headed toward Michigan Ave. We were looking for some authentic Chicago breakfast, but we were in the business district on a Saturday and nothing was open. After reaching our third McDonald's we settled in for a quick bite. The only uniquely Chicago aspect of it was Nick getting panhandled while actively using the urinal.

We got to Michigan Ave and Millennial Park, visited the Bean, officially called Cloud Gate and headed towards the Magnificent Mile. On Wednesday and Saturday, Chicago has scheduled bridge risings where the bridges open up like french doors turned on their side. We think something was wrong with the Michigan Ave bridge because it took about a half-hour to close again.
We took a guided river tour, sitting on the top deck of course. The ninety minute tour takes you up and down the river and onto Lake Michigan. We learned quite a lot about the architecture and history of the city. It's amazing how much construction is underway and how much more is planned. You can own a studio apartment in the new Trump Tower for a mere $900,000.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Crazy Trip to Chicago

Nick and I had wanted to get out of town for the weekend, but we're not good at planning trips. Usually all my vacationing is done by showing up where and when Kate tells me. So, we had thought we would leave after Nick took his test on Friday, but we still didn't have anything planned. Friday afternoon we went online and bought bus tickets to Chicago. On the next whim, we called Chad and Angelina, med school/ward friends, and amazingly they were also game for our crazy plans. Riding the bus to Chicago is not necessarily crazy. But leaving St. Louis, spending the day in Chicago, and returning to your home 29 hours after you left is a little bit nuts.

We caught the bus Saturday morning at 1:15 AM, so essentially late Friday night. We rode on the upper deck of the bus and each had a row of two seats to ourselves. We tried to sleep with some success. The bus makes a scheduled 20 minute stop halfway. This trip the bus also made an unscheduled stop when it got pulled over. We never figured out why we were pulled over, but it seemed to take a really long time. I was getting worried that we were being put out of service. But eventually we were on our way again and arrived in Chicago at 7:30 AM.

We hit the ground running, found something to eat, and made our way to Michigan Ave. Just over 16 hours later, we were boarding the bus again for home at midnight. We got back to St. Louis at 5:30 AM and were in bed asleep 20 minutes later. We were exhausted by the time we got back on the bus but we'd had a lot of fun. I'm sure we'll always bring this trip up as something we did when we were young and spontaneous, back in the day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Recipe Club: Cream Cheese

I just returned from our ward recipe club, headed up by Aunt Patti. The theme ingredient this month was cream cheese. I looked through a ton of recipes, but nothing seemed to spark my interest until I read a curried pumpkin soup recipe that gets its creaminess from cream cheese. I made the soup with my friend Christie from the ward. We both thought it sounded great. We both later thought we were wrong.

For me the soup lost its initial appeal when it became brown. Between curry powder and brown sugar, the orange color of pumpkin didn't have a chance of surviving. I didn't care for the aroma either. It was just not tasty to me (or to Christie).

Recipe club is about sharing failures as well as success, so off we went with our soup. The ladies of recipe club seemed to be equally mixed as to whether they loved or hated it. I'm sure for those who love pumpkin and love curry, it's a match made in heaven.
Recipe club did have some other delicious offerings including a creamy Italian chicken and Smores cheesecake.

P.S. Clay Aiken came out of the closet! You can't believe how shocked I wasn't. Also, I can't believe how many posts in a row I've made with no pictures. I'll get on that right away.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nick's Birthday Celebration

Nick's birthday is today. It's hard to believe that twenty-nine years have passed since a 6 lb. 14 oz. baby came into the Johnson's life. What's even harder to believe (at least for me) it this is the fifth birthday for Nick we've celebrated together. So tonight we're wildly celebrating, and by that I mean we're out our apartment, doing some homework.

To celebrate, we had his traditional German Chocolate Cake. Only this year I made them as cupcakes so I can send all the leftovers to the hospital with Nick tomorrow. We reminisced about his long and wonderful life so far by thumbing through his book of memories. It was fun to look at pictures of Nick as a little kid. There was a truly unfortunate hairstyle Nick chose to wear for his sophomore year. I couldn't possibly show it to anyone- he just couldn't get over that kind of humiliation.

Also, we watched Heroes. We've been waiting for this season to start since the first season ended. We all pretend like season two never happened. It's better that way.

One Last Thing About the Fly Sunday

As an equal embarrassment opportunity couple, I have to tell you what I did at church on Sunday. I taught the Relief Society lesson about life after death. Afterwards, I met Nick in the hallway. "How did your lesson go? And you have lipstick all over your teeth."
That meant I had just spoken for a half-hour in front of a small crowd with toffee colored smears all over my teeth. Nice.

Fly Trouble

Nick spoke in church on Sunday. He was well-prepared and gave a nice talk. However, a fly harassed him the entire time. The fly started by walking across the pulpit. It then proceeded to hover around Nick's head, landing on him occasionally. After several minutes of this, you could see members of the Bishopric trying not to crack up. It was a very determined insect, and its attack lasted for the duration of Nick's talk. I blame Nick's hair product for attracting the fly.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Harder Than It Looks

I'm not a photographer, but I have a camera and frequently press the shutter button. With that distinction in mind, I told my friend Sarah that I would take pictures of her children in their matching Hawaiian outfits their grandparents sent. My mom was in town for the weekend, and she brought her digital SLR for me to use for a while, so I was using a much better camera than usual. The factor that I failed to weigh properly was the tenacity and energy of a two-and-a-half-year-old.

I've taken some good photos before. Some of my favorites are my macro still life pictures. I've taken good pictures of people too, e.g. Dallas and Shannon's wedding announcement, Brent and Jennie's, Ashlee's, and even Brian Tanner's "we've got to mail this tonight" headshot that he continued to use for a few years. But all of these things have a common factor- they're willing to hold still. They smile while you adjust camera settings and continue to look at the camera, or in flowers' cases, continue to show their petals.

Small children have very different ideas of how picture-taking should go. I thought it would be a simple matter of setting the children in a good spot, and pressing a few buttons. Not so much. Mr J absolutely refused to hold still, let alone look at the camera. This photo shows Katie trying to lift him into place as he attempts to keep that from happening.

This photo shows what J really wanted to be doing. Miss G was a pretty good sport. The best pictures came when we strapped J in his stroller and had G stand next to him.

Those guys at Kiddie Candids must be really talented.

And yes Brian, I do go to the Botanical Garden more often than most.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

So Not Worth It

I spent nearly five hours of my Thursday attempting to form these flaky, white crystals. I dissolved some stuff, filtered it, heated it, rinsed it, stirred it, dried it, vacuum filtered it, and there was also a lot of waiting involved. Way too much for something I'm certain you can buy on the Internet. But apparently I'm supposed to be learning. What I learned is I don't like standing for four hours at a fume hood.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's Like a Zoo Here

I went to the Zoo with Sarah and Mr J today. It was perfect weather for a morning in the great outdoors. We spent some time in the Children's Zoo, where J got to pet guinea pigs and Pygmy goats. In the goat pen, he kept running up to the goats, pointing at them, and identifying them as goats. Just in case the goats didn't already know. The goats had a salt lick, and I think it is the first time I've ever seen animals get in a line. One goat licked until he was satisfied, then the goat behind him stepped up to take over in a very orderly fashion. Also, I goat tried to eat my pants.

Later we went to the big cats section where they have a baby leopard and five baby tigers. The tigers were really fun to watch as they wrestled and played. But I still think the coolest animal I saw was a woodchuck, who was too busy grooming himself to be chucking any wood.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Slow Start to September

Nick and I have had a wonderful, but rather uneventful start of September. On Labor Day, we had originally planned to go to Johnson's Shut-In's State Park with our friends Brigham and Janette. However, on the eve of our trip we found out that the park had been shut down early on rather short notice so intense reconstruction could commence. (The park was damaged by a dam collapse a few years ago.) While we were trying to confirm that the park closed, we viewed their out-of-date web page. From that we got their phone number. Their hot line recording referred us the web page. It was quite the useless paradox.

Once we found out for sure it was closed, we made new plans. We went to the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. We didn't actually do any of the Japanese Festival stuff- we just walked around the garden like we usually would, only there were way too many people. We love going to the garden with Janette because of her gardening background. I always learn something new. Not to mention her recently-turned-two daughter is so entertaining. She loved climbing on everything and playing in the fountain with her dad. Later, we had a small but delicious barbecue at the Douglas's house.

The day before we had a larger and even more delicious barbecue with Stanlee and Patti. There we learned why Josh and Jess hadn't made it to church that morning. Their apartment complex was a scene out of "Grand Theft Auto 4." A group of underage thugs had attempted to steal several cars (including Josh's), then succeeded in stealing one car, ramming it into another, and then get into some kind of shootout with police. One suspect was under arrest. Two or three others managed to escape. Way too much excitement for one morning.

We just returned from eating dinner at the Smith's again. Patti made a Peach Crumble from The Pioneer Woman's recipes. Delicious. The occasion for another great meal was the ordination of Alex as an Elder. It's a very happy event to gather people together. Uncle Hyrum and Cousin Ron came to town for the ordination. It was good to see everyone, including Byron, whom I don't often see. And the Peach Crumble- that was really good.

P.S. These are straight out of the camera images. That's the actual color of the water lilly.
Posted by Picasa