Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Christmas Eve. It was cold and snowy outside, and we spent the evening in Kaysville, UT. Marcos' brother Danny is married to a high quality lady named Marie, and her family invited us to celebrate Christmas Eve with them, complete with family time in the living room reading Christmas stories and sharing memories, singing Christmas songs and of course, a dinner spread fit for royalty. The main course? Ham and dinner rolls, just like my Tutu and Grandpa used to serve at our festive Christmas Eve parties in our Kailua home when I was growing up. I stopped to enjoy the memory.

Using a flannel board, Danny and Marie told the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Pai and Mae, with Marie's parents (in the middle).

Our niece Kaitlyn received a toy car on Christmas Eve. She is usually good at sharing, but not even her dad got riding privileges during her honeymoon phase with the car.

The long winter's nap. Mae, Pai, Marcos, Elizabeth and I all slept over at Danny and Marie's on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Day: We took it slowly. We woke up late, had breakfast, and read Christmas stories all before opening presents. The gifts were great, but were largely bonus. The fact that we were able to be together as a family was the main gift this year.

In the evening I took a walk alone out into the cold, clean night along the road where Danny and Marie live, past the skeletal fruit trees frosted with fresh snow, past the silent church and the houses for sale. The snow was falling, and there were very few cars on the roads. It was so peaceful, and so silent, and so still. My life is rarely silent and still, so I stayed out as long as I could still feel my face, before I turned back around for home. I love the way Robert Frost describes the setting in "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"...

Marcos and I in our new matching pajama pants...

Pai and Elizabeth with the remains of the gifting. Pai is like me, and saves all of the salvageable scraps from the piles of paper. This year all of my wrapping was done with recycled paper, ribbons, and old calendars.

Danny and Marcos demonstrating brotherly love. This is just posing, as their last true argument was in the summer of 2001.

Friday, December 26, 2008

"Yeah, thanks for that Christmas recipe... that came a few weeks too late"

Whenever my inner domestic Goddess needs to give a roar and express herself, I generally have an undeniable urge to take photos of whatever I'm doing. When I was young I was rather tom-boyish, and rejected most typically feminine things, and so I'm still working out my identity as a wife and figuring out how much of that role needs to be feminine, if any. Part of that "figuring out" has become my love of photographing typically feminine things that I do, just to remind myself that I was there.

In Provo a few days ago Lindsay and I put on some old school Christmas music and made Cranberry Wassail concentrate, and jarred the liquid as gifts for her neighbors. Yes jars, like in the olden days. We didn't hermetically seal them or anything, but there was a certain thrill that came from spinning on the lids of those Ball jars, and feeling very in-touch with past generations of canning-women (I made that part up... my paternal grandmother was actually a Women Airforce Service Pilot of WWII, so my connection to Rosie the Riveter is actually a deep genetic thing).

But enough of my genealogy. Here is the recipe for Christmas Cranberry Wassail, which was handed down to Lindsay by her friend Tia. Hooray for tried-and-true recipes! This one is a winner.

Step One:

BLEND TOGETHER 1 can orange juice concentrate, 1 can lemon concentrate, 1 can apple juice concentrate, 1 can cranberry sauce (jelly type), 2 cups sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. cloves and 1 cup of water. The mixture will be at maximum capacity for a fairly large blender.

Step Two:

POUR INTO CANNING JARS. Each blender full of the concentrate perfectly fills four pint-sized jars, which usually come in packs of ten or twelve jars.

Step Three:

ENJOY! It's a simple recipe and such a nice addition to a cold winter. Lindsay gave out the jars with the recipe for the concentrate as well as the directions for how to use it. "To serve: fill a mug with a quarter cup concentrate of wassail mixture and fill the remainder of the mug with hot water". From the jar that she gifted our family, we were able to drink about five or six mugs-full of the delicious goodness...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

This year, between the end of finals and the preparation for our departure to Utah, we decided that we would keep Christmas very simple! We didn't achieve much as far as sending out greeting cards or letters (and the even bigger achievement? ...that I was able to avoid feeling bad about it after shaking off my initial five minutes of being sad). However, we love you and are sending you a big...


Here's wishing you a lovely day with your family and loved ones, with peace in your relationships, prosperity for the coming year, joy in the season of giving, and the love of Jesus Christ on the celebration of his birthday!

Pictures I took at Temple Square, Salt Lake City...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

For the love of Sledding

I have a friend named Lindsay, and we are basically sisters from separate mothers. I grew up with her and her family, and so visiting them in Provo is like joining back up at a family reunion. She is married and has three kiddos and one in the oven, and because they are good people they have good friends, so there is always fun happening in their lives.

One of the things I wanted to do this Christmas trip was go sledding in Utah, to take full advantage of the snow. When it spontaneously came up the other day on our agenda, I was fairly ecstatic. We went with Lindsay and her family to a friend's house for a meal of hot soups, rice and bread, joined up with a few other families and then headed to Rock Canyon Park for sledding. We took hot cocoa and cookies, and it was a lovely night. It was cold, but the sky was clear. Fresh snow from the day was on the ground, soft and clean, and conditions were absolutely perfect for sledding. Light reflected off of the snow, so even though it was long after sundown, there was an aura around the park.

Trying to gather everyone together to get a group shot on a perfect sledding night was tricky. There were much more exciting things for the kids to be doing than to be standing still...

Lindsay's monkeys: Maika, Noa, and husband Keli'i.

Having these pictures makes me so impressed by our camera, which when held perfectly still, can capture sledding in the middle of a dark night, without a flash. In order to hold the camera perfectly still, Marcos leans over to give me a bit of flat surface area, and I plant my elbows on his back and make my own little bi-pod. Cheap AND portable!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The secret is OUT

It's been over a week since I've written, and that seems like an awfully long time for me to go without an entry. I have been MIA this past week because Marcos and I hopped on a plane to Utah, and we had to keep the adventure hush-hush because we were planning to surprise people.

So far, our trip has been really, really fun. We have spent quality time with Marcos' family, driven through a blizzard to attend our niece's second birthday party, showed up caroling on the front door step of our close family friends in Provo (that was the surprise), groaned during the BYU/Arizona game at a Vegas Bowl party, made buckets and buckets of wassail, and we have gone sledding, as well as a lot of other little activities that have filled the in-between time. Last night we went to Temple Square to see the lights, and it was the perfect way to kick off the few days prior to Christmas by getting away from the buying and traffic and stress in order to enjoy the beauty of holy places.

It is sooo beautiful here. Standing outside in the cold gets old after a few minutes, but there is just something great about a white Christmas... This is the home of my very close family friends, the Fetzers.

Enough snow. The rest of the photos were taken at our niece Kaitlyn's second birthday party! I made a Dora cake for the occasion, and that was eventful! Kaitlyn has some dietary restrictions (she has PKU, to whomever that has meaning for) and can't eat eggs, so I tried the non-egg suggestion from Marie and Danny, and added a can of sprite instead. Well, let's just say that eggs serve the very important role of holding together a cake, and so decorating it was a bit like trying to frost a pile of flour. Here are Marie, Kaitlyn and Danny with the Dora fiasco.

Belle, Marcos' gorgeous sister, at the drawing board during party games!

Marcos' brother Danny, his wife Marie, dad Pai, and sister Belle.

Marie's mom and Kaitlyn (granddaughter and maternal grandma).

Marcos' parents are here from Sao Paulo, and it is wonderful to have the whole family here to celebrate the holidays.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Tim Tam Slam

Australians do a few things extremely well:
  1. opera houses
  2. British exile
  3. marsupials
  4. red licorice
A recent adventure convinced us to add one more to the list: tim tams.

Drew and Alicia hosted Family Home Evening last night, and the tim tam slam was an essential part of the night's activities. At Target, for a limited time, they are selling the Australian super-cookie (referred to as a "biscuit" by our friends down under...) called a "tim tam", which is basically a chocolate-covered, elongated cookie-ish type of thing. The "slam" refers to the act of biting off either both ends of the tim tam or diagonal corners, and drinking a beverage by sucking it through the cookie (click here for more information). It may sound unusual, but it is truly a joyous chocolate experience. We performed the "slam" with milk last night, but Marcos reports that hot chocolate is also a winner. Once the cookie is saturated with the milk or hot cocoa, eating the tim tam is truly an amazing experience, and is highly recommended as a part of your holiday celebrations.

Marcos demonstrating excellent form in his tim tam slam.

Metta and baby Korven (Drew and Alicia's son) sharing smiles after completing the tim tam slam.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday simplicity, attempted...

My mom cracks me up. On the phone the other day she said, "Metta, our family is keeping the holidays simple this year..." (which we say every year, by the way... we could probably consider it one of our holiday traditions), and then in the same breath she added, "So I've sent you a few boxes, and they are full of gifts for you to open, one each day for the Twelve Days of Christmas.".

Not only did the numbered gifts arrive, but embedded in the boxes were a few sheets of paper stapled together, with the illustrated story of Jesus' birth separated into messages for each of the twelve days prior to Christmas. Each day we come a little closer to the birth of the baby Jesus in the readings, and each day's reading ends with a suggested activity or service. It has made each night a lot of fun, to have a new present and a message to look forward to! Thanks Mom!

Thinking Green

I have been thinking lately about posting a blog on "going green", but I know the topic can be overwhelming and intimidating, so I am taking a step back and calling it, "thinking green".

It's a bit beyond speculation now, that earth could use a little TLC. With so much recent attention to sustainability, and talk of boosting the economy by creating jobs aimed at putting together an infrastructure for an eco-friendly energy system, here in our home we have been thinking about the little part we play in the whole scheme of loving the earth.

We love the earth, it's true. Many people we know are giving the earth a lot of TLC, and we feel like we are still giving just a little. However, we're getting better. We are still at the basics, but if you have been thinking about going green, this might give you a few ideas of where to start.
  • USING REUSABLE GROCERY BAGS has helped us use less paper/plastic at the grocery store, and we use them for everything now. I actually have started eying them as purses... and how could you not when they make them this pretty!
Envirosax are very cool (this is the one I have!)
  • RECYCLING is about the most basic form of earth TLC, and we are investigating what it would take in our area to go beyond the usual routine of cans, glass and paper. In Japan we recycled just about everything, and sometimes I wish that America was just a skinny little island so that we too, out of default, would have to think about what we are throwing out.
  • USING GREEN HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS is something that we just started doing recently as we began running out of our more mainstream brand-name cleaners. Seventh Generation products are all very eco-friendly, and luckily for us, they go on sale too!
  • EXCHANGING OLD BULBS FOR ENERGY-SAVER BULBS was an easy option; initially they are a bit more costly, but SO much more energy efficient and affordable in the long run. Tip: make sure you find bulbs with a color of light that you like. Some of the energy saver bulbs have an unpleasant blue-ish tinge.
So, that's where we've decided to start. If you have anymore "thinking green" ideas to add to the list, please share!

Next on our list: "a hybrid car..."

Monday, December 8, 2008

A bite out of the Big Apple!

Having a delightful camera is a mixed blessing. Last year, as part of our Thanksgiving road trip up to dad's house, we spent the Saturday after Thanksgiving in New York City. Because our camera was only mediocre, we took a few awesome shots of the city, a whole slew of rather unimpressive ones, and then moved on with life.

However, this year we were a little more tech savvy. For Marcos' brother's wedding in July we researched and bought a camera that we love (Canon PowerShot A720 IS) , and so this year's trip to New York City yielded some rather cool pictures. Not so cool that this blog actually merits 24 photos, but I really couldn't whittle it down any further... so here you go.

Please, get comfortable. You may need a mug of hot apple cider or some cookies to get you through this one!

M&M smooching at Time's Square. The two lines on ground level were people waiting for a Broadway box office to open! The theater district is only one block over...

Last year Central Park with all of its autumnal glory was distinctly more bright and beautiful than this year (an early cold spell caused all of the leaves to drop prematurely), but that didn't put too much of a damper on our stroll through the park.

Yes! The carousel in Central Park! We were planning to go ice-skating, but after looking at the price of nearly $60 for both of us, suddenly the $2 carousel looked really fun.... (stay tuned for a video we made on the carousel... future blog entry).

When we arrived in the city on that Saturday, the weather was rather drab, but by mid-day the sun came out and I fell in love with that grass and the carriages in the background.

One of the by-far most marvelous things about Central Park is that it feels like a little haven of slow-movers, families, and happy people strolling, yet looming over the park is the New York City skyline with it's massive greyness and importance and fast pace. I rather love the juxtaposition!

Our favorite together-picture of the day. Notice the miniature ice-skaters in the background...

So, we've moved on past the park now. This picture makes me happy, because I love all of the patterns and textures of the buildings all piled on top of each other. Want to play I Spy? Click on the image to enlarge the picture, and see if you can find a wreath in one of the windows!

Late lunch at YOSHINOYA!!! Marcos and I thought that we had died and passed into a place much better than earth... We ate at this restaurant often when we were serving a mission in Japan, and although apparently there are also restaurants in California, we had no idea that Yoshinoya had migrated to the US. Here I am displaying my lunch of teriyaki chicken, Japanese white rice, and "beni-shouga" (red pickled ginger). When we sat down to eat, we were slightly exhausted, and there could not have been a happier sight than those rice bowls...

After lunch we hopped on the subway to Downtown, and visited Ground Zero. People from all countries were there to pay tribute to those who died on 9/11, and it was an impressive crowd considering the fact that there is little to see besides a large construction site. Here's Marcos. (I could tell he was having a hard time deciding whether or not it was appropriate to smile at such a place...).

Kimmy Allred, who was one of my mission companions in Tokyo! She's currently at NYU pursuing her Masters in Social Work, and she met us downtown for a very nice tour of the South end of the island. She took us to Wall Street...

...the New York Stock Exchange building...

...and the Staten Island Ferry. What a thrill to see the NYC skyline at dusk from the ferry! We were amazed that any of these pictures came out clear enough to enjoy, because of the movement of the boat.

Interestingly, in Tokyo, on two separate occassions in two completely separate towns, I was told by Japanese adults that I look like the Statue of Liberty. I am still not sure if that is a compliment or not, considering that I have no idea what she looks like. I assume that if I were walking down the street and passed her, the green tinge, robe and torch would be a dead give-away, but our education sadly lacks images of the face of the symbol of freedom.

Kimmy lives in Little Italy on the main drag above Bella Ristorante. Just to demonstrate how far $900 rent goes in NYC, she had us come up to her apartment and check out its size. She pays a fairly good price by New York City standards, to share a miniature apartment with a somewhat slanting floor and her own teeny room, and no living room or hang-out space besides the kitchen. It definitely passes the definition of "cute", but she says it gets old having so little space to move and breathe. Hmmm... I wonder how long we would last in a place like New York City.

There, you've made it to the end of the entry! As a celebration, I've included this picture of the Hello Kitty toaster in Kimmy's apartment (yes Belle, we took this picture for you!). Not only does it toast bread, but it also stamps Hello Kitty into the side of your slice. What more could one want out of a kitchen appliance?