Wednesday, March 31, 2010

goal tender

i am officially half-way through the year in which i will be 28. which is, technically speaking, my 29th year. which i have always found hopelessly confusing.

so, with half down and half to go, i thought i'd give a little status update on my 28 birthday goals. because i know you guys are really concerned about how things are going. well, comrades, rest easy! i would say things are going pretty well.

to wit.

1. pay off my student loan.
status: done, done and done.

2. read the book of mormon every day
status: trying hard. daily scripture study has always been a major stumbling block of mine and i am far from a perfect record this birthday year. but i find myself wanting to read the book of mormon more, which i figure is a good place to start. tips on developing better scripture reading habits are welcome.

3. do another 100-mile bike ride
status: committed. sallee and i are registered for the little red, though i am just going to come clean right now and tell you we probably won't make it the full 100 miles. well, sallee won't for sure since she will be delivering a baby at any moment (!!) and the ride is only two months away. and i seriously doubt i can pull off a century by myself. but, we are going back to the little red nonetheless. which has to count for something.

4. learn to surf.
status: done, done and done.

5. take a japanese class.
status: needs some work. i did pull out my old japanese grammar books, though. and have been gazing at them for a couple weeks now. serious study has yet to begin. but it will. so watch out, japanese. it's on.

6. take an art class.
status: searching.

7. send a letter once a week.
status: going strong. i would say this is one of my more successful goals, and has been one of the most fun. if you want a letter, drop your address in the comments section, or even better, send me a letter and i'll hit you back. because mail makes everyone smile.

8. visit every smithsonian museum (including the zoo)
status: on track. and this week has brought with it perfect zoo weather. three cheers for that.

9. grow something.
status: pending. there isn't really a spot at the bennett house, indoor or out, that gets enough light to make something grow, but it occurred to me the other day that jaron's back porch might be a perfect spot for a little herb garden. the ensuing conversation went like this:
me: can we grow some herbs on your back porch?
him: well, if you're thinking what i'm thinking, we can just get some heat lamps and grow them inside.
i talked him into basil and lavender instead.

10. start a new hobby/develop a new skill.
status: i killed it. i am on my second baby quilt (though sallee's baby frances will certainly join us before her finished blanket does) and i have a skirt in my sights for the next project. i wouldn't say that sewing counts as a skill yet, but i am definitely liking it more and more. my sewing machine just needs a name and the bonding will be complete.

11. fall in love.
status: mind your business. just kidding. i have fallen in love with all kinds of things so far, including cupcakes from baked and wired, the tv show "glee," my new job, and cherry blossom season in d.c. so there.

12. attend the temple once a month.
status: doing it! and loving it.

13. make a home cooked meal once a week.
status: not great. i'll leave it at that. and try to do better. (does eating oreos at home, at dinnertime count?)

14. celebrate new year's eve in times square.
status: stricken from the record. the more i thought about it, the more i really wanted to spend as much time at home this christmas season as i could. so, i spent new year's eve in downtown denver. which was wonderful and just what i wanted. this goal needs to be replaced though, or else i am a total fraud. suggestions welcome.

15. make a micro-loan.
status: why have i not done this yet? i am going to do it as soon as i finish typing this post. i guess i could do it now, but multi-tasking is not my thing.

16. find a family history name for temple work.
status: haven't started yet, but i have six more months!

17. finish my mission scrapbook.
status: not even close. i don't want to talk about it, actually.

18. buy a nice pair of jeans that fits perfectly.
status: i am emotionally preparing myself for this one. i think i'll be ready soon.

19. take a trip outside the country.
status: remember that time i went to australia?

20. visit somewhere in the country i have never been.
status: covered, thanks to lancaster county, PA and colonial williamsburg. i am also hoping to make it to philly and austin before september, and i am scheduled to visit kate and baby harry in kalamazoo next month, so i would say i have this one pretty well taken care of.

21. learn to cook something from a julia child cookbook.
status: i'll get to it.

22. learn how to drive to at least one place in d.c. without my gps.
status: depends on what you count as "d.c." i can find my way around arlington pretty well, but driving in the city still gives me a headache. though riding the metro during tourist season also gives me a headache, so we'll see what headache wins out.

23. make an unexpected friend.
status: done, done and done.

24. revive frances cake.
status: resucitation under way. adangerm and i had a good frances cake meeting a while back, but i have yet to reintroduce it with any consistency. i have been thinking, though, that this might not be the time and season for frances cake. its purpose might have been served. i am going to think more on this.

25. revive documentary movie night.
status: LK and i are working on this. working hard.

26. when an idea pops into my head, like to call someone just to see how they are doing, do it right then that second instead of feeling sorry later that i didn't follow through.
status: slightly above average. i have really been trying on this one, and it has been really cool when i've actually followed through, but i think i could still be a lot more aware.

27. sing more.
status: does the shower count?

28. find somewhere to volunteer.
status: on board. literally. i am on the board of the press institute. you should make a goal to check it out. because it's pretty rad.


(why did i make all those goals?)

there are some obvious shortcomings (most of them involving the kitchen, for reasons i don't think are coincidental), but i would say things in the 28 goals department are going pretty well.

you can breathe a sigh of relief, now. and so can i.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

baby, it's hotter under the water

our trip to the great barrier reef got off to what can only be termed an inauspicious start. the day unfolded like this.

7:15 a.m.: mom wakes me up to tell me she feels dizzy, like the bed is spinning. we decide she might be dehydrated. i go to the store to get powerade (for her) and fresh baked bread (for me. but i shared).

7:45 a.m.: the reef tour bus isn't scheduled to pick us up until 8:40 a.m. we decide to take it easy for a little while longer and see if mom feels better.

8:15 a.m.: the owner of the charming condo where we were staying, toni, calls to tell us the reef tour bus has come and gone but not to worry because she'll call the marina and tell them to hold the boat and her goateed husband, bruno, will drive us down.

panic and maybe some cursing (from me) ensue.

8:30 a.m.: the reef tour bus returns. we go racing out the door. except for mom who can only sort of stumble. i ask the bus driver what the beep is going on, since we were told we were going to be picked up at 8:40 a.m. he says he doesn't know, but the boat was scheduled to leave at 8:30 a.m., so someone had something wrong. he doesn't say it out loud, but it's clear he thinks that someone is me.

8:40 a.m.: we arrive at the marina. not only did our boat have to wait for us, but every other boat scheduled to leave after our boat had to wait for us. we were famous by the time we got to the marina, and everyone greeted us with, "oh, you must be the johnsons." awesome.

9:00 a.m. (or thereabouts): safely aboard the boat we launch into the ocean. it was a gray, windy, rainy day and the water was choppy. everyone proceeds to get seasick. including mom. she was white as a ghost. i think it was less the rocking boat that made me feel nauseated, and more the beginning of my introductory scuba lesson, during which i learned such charming facts as that my lung might explode. awesome.

by the time we got out to the reef the sun was shining, the water was calmer, and everyone was feeling a lot better. one of the boat crew very wisely told mom that she was seasick because she was on a boat and if she just got off she would feel better. so she did, and she did. aunt april headed out to snorkel the reef as well.

my scuba career was almost over before it began as i nearly failed my introductory skills test. apparently rushing frantically to the surface because you feel like you are going to suffocate is not looked kindly upon in the deep sea diving community. but, i managed to pull it together and down i went.

as i am sure you could have guessed, all the drama was worth it, and everyone was healthy as a horse and happy as a clam for the rest of the day. we saw clown fish and lion fish and reef sharks and groupers and a million other things i can't even name. the coral was bright and intricate and the most stunning thing and just went on forever. we swam with a sea turtle.

it was bliss.

back on the boat on the way home april started to cry with the sheer joy of it. and i couldn't blame her. i got a little teary-eyed myself. the great barrier reef is great indeed.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

fear factor

it is that time again, when i head over to segullah to spill forth wit and wisdom. today we are talking about conquering fears and why i look awesome in a wet suit.

don't be scared and join us!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

a bummer, a birthday and some botany

i started a new position at work upon my return from australia, which is good news for a variety of reasons, chief among them that something happens every day that makes me laugh so hard i cry. today it was a text message that my co-worker, smack, got from her brother. it said, "accident at grandma's" and was accompanied by a picture of a riding lawn mower almost entirely submerged in a large body of water, which turned out to be the chesapeake bay.

apparently, smack's mom headed over to grandma's to help with some yard work, but the riding lawn mower had a brake malfunction and driving it through a stone barrier and into the bay was the only way to go.


but not so much of a bummer that i did not laugh (until i cried) about it for hours.

yesterday was the mama bear's birthday. i spaced on sending a card or a present, because i am awesome like that, but i did remember to call and she said a blog shout-out would earn me my forgiveness. so, i will say (shout out) this. i love my mom. i want to be just like her in pretty much every way. she is free of judgement and guile and full of patience and love and also makes me laugh until i cry. i feel a oneness with her that is rare and precious. i am glad she was born, and i am glad i was born to her. so, happy birthday mom!

the royal botanic gardens in sydney is (are?) one of the most magical places on earth. it is a place where parrots live in trees and trees live in the middle of the city, and flowers bloom like they are in a fairy tale and cacti grow to be enormous. the botanic gardens is (are?) even home to a woollemoo pine, a species of pine tree that was on the earth with the dinosaurs! (i love dinosaurs!) the woollemoo pine was thought to be extinct until one was discovered in the blue mountains outside sydney in 1994 and transplanted to this safe and happy home.

{the dinosaur pine tree}

and yes, we did hug trees, smell roses and walk on the grass. because if a friendly sign tells me to do it, i will.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

park and ride(s)

almost any vantage point of the sydney harbor includes the weird and wonderful cracked smile of the luna park clown. luna park is a north sydney amusement park that is alternately open or shut down, depending on how strictly noise restrictions are being enforced. luckily, it was wide open for business while we were in town, and since i am always a sucker for cotton candy (or fairy floss in australian), dad and i took a little stroll over the harbor bridge to check it out.

i am not much of an amusement park rides person, but there was a sort of slightly creepy, retro-cool vibe to the place and it was definitely worth a look. and if there was ever any doubt about how much i love my dad, i shared my fairy floss with him, so there you have it.

Monday, March 22, 2010


allow me to briefly interrupt the recounting of australia adventures to provide you with a recipe for a near-perfect saturday. it goes something like this.

step 1. prepare your pan with a morning trip to the temple. it is one of my fondest hopes to be a white-haired lady working at the temple on a saturday morning. things were a little hectic when LK and i arrived, and due to some mix-ups about who was supposed to be where when and for how long, i didn't actually accomplish that much temple work, but it was a joy and a pleasure to be there just the same.

step 2. add an impromptu anti-war protest. the original plan was to grab some lunch downtown and hit the environmental film festival, but jaron stumbled on a rally (did you know saturday was the seventh anniversary of the u.s.-led invasion of iraq? neither did we) and we decided marching outside sounded like more fun. jaron even scored a sign, put on his mean anti-war face and off we went. activities included leaving cardboard "coffins" outside the halliburton and washington post offices, as well as plastering the mortgage brokers association building with foreclosure notices. i might also add that it is one of my fondest hopes to be a white-haired lady taking my granddaughters to anti-war protests. sadly, we narrowly missed seeing protest poster child cindy sheehan get arrested, though we were lucky enough to hear her rather un-inspiring pre-march speech.

i will readily confess to a large degree of moral conflict about protesting when i actually like the president in office (i suffered no conflict of any kind protesting against the shrub) and i still believe in my heart that obama is going to do the right thing and get us out of there. but civic action is pretty much always a good thing, i guess, as is spending a gorgeous saturday outside. plus, taking your message right to the steps of the white house? pretty rad.

those of you still not convinved about the merits of protests and the like might be swayed by this message.

a patriotic duty to make out? sold!

step 3. garnish with a trip to baltimore for empanadas and ingrid michaelson with the girls.

(give me more) baltimore is a little more, shall we say, ghetto? than i was expecting, but max's empanadas is delicious, and ingrid never disappoints. seriously, i would give just about any body part to be her best friend. milkshakes and fries on the way home made the evening more perfect than it already was. which was totally perfect.

step 4. bake, cool, enjoy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

the big house

at first, sydney seems like pretty much every other city in a temperate climate: outdoor cafes, professionals bustling around everywhere, ugly office buildings, cars, noise.

but then all of a sudden you come to the harbor and there are the majestic sails of the opera house, and you realize that sydney isn't just like every other city at all.

from what i can gather, the sydney opera house represents a series of miracles culminating in what is probably one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. (the universe? who can say?) the design was rescued from a pile of rejects, and the construction required feats of engineering previously unattempted. originally scheduled to take three years and cost $7 million, the sydney opera house to 10 years to complete with a total bill of $107 million.

but wasn't it worth it?

i, personally, couldn't stop staring at it (or taking pictures of it). every angle, every view, is captivating.

when the sydney opera house first opened in 1973, one of the downstairs auditoriums was used to show surfing movies on a giant projector screen, which makes me really, really happy for some reason. another one of the opening events was a boxing match, though it was apparently rather quickly decided that that was not such a good fit for the venue. i went the more traditional route and caught an opera there on my last night down under. it was puccini's tosca, so it was heavenly, despite a rather strange modern adaptation with some distinctly quentin tarantino-esque undertones.

even if it had just been a quentin tarantino movie, it would have been a dream come true.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

surfer, dude

the trip down under obviously satisfied the annual goal to take a trip out of the country but it also allowed me to knock another goal off my list.

that's right, kids. i learned to surf.

as in, in approximately 20 attempts, i actually stood up on a surf board five times and rode it all the way in.

feel free to be massively impressed. at the very least, you might consider uttering a very aussie-like, "good on ya!"

in the interest of full disclosure, i will confess that i was completely and totally exhausted at the end of a two hour surfing lesson on sydney's manly beach. you might not know this from watching matthew mcconaughey do it (since it is fairly safe to assume that anything he does can't be that hard), but surfing is no joke.

for one thing, my board was enormous. i pointed this out to the instructor, rob, and he responded, "the bigger the better. trust me," which he somehow managed to say in a totally non-creepy way. but seriously. i couldn't even get my arms around the board to carry it into the surf.

and then, of course, there is the issue of pushing the board through all that incoming water to get it to a spot where the waves are good. (the waves are sweet? gnarly? wicked? i don't quite have the lingo down.) you feel like you've been pushing your way out for ages only to turn around and discover you are still standing on the beach. practically.

and then, naturally, you have to get yourself on the board, on your stomach, paddle like mad, basically do a push-up to launch yourself into a squatting position and then attempt the greatest feat of balance ever known to man.

in five seconds.

while looking all hip and relaxed.

but, i did it.

five times.

and drank approximately 137 gallons of sea water during all my other attempts.

as i think should be pretty obvious from my totally awesome stance, though, i am well on my way to the intermediate level at least. maybe more.

surfing, i think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Monday, March 15, 2010

the wonderful land of oz

hi, guys!

(remember me?)

or should i say g'day?

(you can expect the following additions to my vocabulary: "ta" for thanks, "cheers" for just about everything. also "how you're going" instead of how are you doing or how's it going. and "hey?" instead of what? i have not, however, been converted to "mate.")

i am back.

i have a tan.

(a suburn.)

i am exhausted.

(it took three diet cokes and a dr. pepper to get me through today. i will be in bed before 9:30 p.m. awesome.)

i had a practically perfect trip.

(wanna move to australia with me and open a bed and breakfast on the beach?)

i took more than 150 pictures.

and i just sorted through them all so that you will only see the very best.

(because i am the best. you know?)

that will have to wait, though, because right now i am exhausted. did i mention?

(silver lining: daylight savings made no difference to me whatsoever since i am already approximately 97 hours off schedule.)

never fear, though. adventure recounting will begin in earnest tomorrow. things you have to look forward to: koalas, every conceivable view of the sydney opera house, scuba diving and surfing, the rain forest. and more!

(did you miss me?)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

down under

i am leaving for australia in five hours.

did that sort of sneak up on you?

yeah, me too.

the good news is, i had all day yesterday to get ready. and boy, did i need it. i crossed pretty much everything off my list, including but not limited to: buying a new camera (no more flames emitting from the flash!), a pedicure, booking my introductory scuba lessons, picking up a few books, downloading movies (does it take forever for everyone else to download movies?) and generally panicking. oh, and i had a big diet coke.

this morning i just have the little stuff left and then i'm off! i woke up in the middle of the night last night and realized i had forgotten to pack pajamas, so i am keeping my fingers crossed that's all that has slipped my mind.

besides my mind itself. i sort of feel like i lost that.

i'll be off the grid for the next couple weeks, but you can expect a full report when i return. if i return. did you know that 12 of the world's 14 most deadly animals live in australia?

did that sort of sneak up on you?

yeah, me too.