Friday, August 31, 2012

I am the Messenger

I think I've found a new author that I love.  Markus Zusak's I am the Messenger is even better than The Book Thief (which is the first of his books that I read).  After stopping a bank robbery, Ed Kennedy receives a playing card in the mail with three addresses and he has to figure out what to do with it.  The story follows him as he deals with his friends and trying to figure out what he has to do.

The book is brilliantly written.  I love Zusak's way of telling a story.  It is wonderful and he has a different way of explaining and describing than you usually see.  One little piece of the story is fairly predictable, but there are so many surprises that it's barely noticeable and doesn't take anything away from the story.  His characters are very well-developed and all have their own personalities.  Ed, our narrator, is flawed but he tries so hard to do what's right, which makes him a great character.

I can say with certainty that I'll be picking up more books by Zusak in the future. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why my Husband is Awesome

When my birthday was coming up back in June, the hubs asked me what I wanted.  The only thing I could think of was the bracelet that I really wanted, which he did get for me, but he felt like it wasn't enough.  He said he wanted to make me something, which meant he would finally get to use the compound miter saw I got him for Christmas.  Really, I think that made it a present for both of us.

I threw out a handful of ideas like a hutch for the kitchen (he thought that was too complicated for his first project) and a new bookshelf since mine has no room and there are books stacked on my desk instead.  He didn't like that idea either.  Then I remembered that when we were still renting and had no backyard whatsoever, he promised me that he'd make me a picnic table someday when we had the space.  So I asked for it, and that's what I got.  He started out with some blueprints he found online (sorry, I have no idea where) and then adapted it so it would be much larger because we have a big family.  It now seats 8 people (4 on each side) and we have enough room to add a chair to either of the ends.  So it will last us a little while before we start needing to add an extra table.

Wanna see it?


He stained it with a redwood stain, but it's made from pine.  He also drilled a hole in the center so that the umbrella my in-laws bought us over a year ago would finally have a home.  


I realize you can't really see the umbrella in this pic because it blends in with the clouds, but it's there.

I love sitting in the shade at this table and watching the amazing view we have from our backyard.  I can't wait until the next big get-together we have where we can actually sit outside and eat and have room for everyone. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Getty

On our last day in L.A. we visited some old friends of my husband's who I hadn't had a chance to meet.  He worked for them not long after he graduated high school and they had a huge effect on the person he became so I was really excited to finally meet them.  We had a wonderful time and they took us to the Getty, which is a giant museum built into the top of a mountain.  It is a massive structure and it's gorgeous.


The view from up there is pretty awesome too.  


There's also a huge garden with a little manmade creek running through it.  If it hadn't been so unbelievably hot and we weren't completely exhausted from two days at Disney, we would have spent more time there.  Instead, we walked through the shaded parts and took a few pictures from up above.



We also got to see paintings by some really well-known artists.  The first is Irises by Van Gogh and the second is by Monet (but I can't remember the name of it).  Getting to see these was really amazing to me.  My elementary school was big into art and we studied a different artist each year.  These guys were second and first grade, respectively, for me.  I studied them again when I took an art history class in college.  I saw prints of these paintings so many times and I never really thought I'd see the originals. 



I really wish we'd been able to spend more time there as the buildings themselves are incredible and they're all full of art.  I know we passed by so much and I would love to return and see what other little things they have to offer.  Oh, and if you go, don't forget to grab a bite to eat at the cafe.  The food there is surprisingly good, especially considering that you don't really think of going to a museum for good food. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Legos are Awesome

We visited Downtown Disney after our first day at Disney.  After stuffing ourselves at the Rainforest Cafe, we wandered over to the Lego store because my husband loves Legos.  The outside has amazing giant Lego statues like these:

Lego Beauty and the Beast (I loved this movie when I was little).


Buzz and Woody!



This dragon is on their roof and is fighting the guy in the picture above.  The pictures don't do it justice because he is huge and he catches the light just right to make him look silver in the late evening.  


Inside the store they have even more awesome Lego creations, but on a much smaller scale.  These ones are all sets that you can buy and build at home yourself.  A lot of them are super expensive and I'm not really sure what I'd do with my very own Lego R2D2 (although I'm sure I'd find a place for him).  



It was hard to get a good shot of R2 here because he's trapped inside a plastic bubble that was super reflective and was determined to keep me from getting a good photo.  I'm really surprised my husband didn't try to convince me that we needed to have one of our own (although he did try to talk me into other Lego sets).  I think I might have caved for this guy though. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Soulkeepers

The Soulkeepers by G. P. Ching is the story of a young boy named Jacob whose mother disappears.  He's in a terrible accident the day that she goes missing and he has no idea if the memories he has of that day are real or not.  He's forced from his home in Hawaii and goes to live with family that he didn't even know existed.  While there he meets a mysterious neighbor and strange things start to happen to him.

I picked this book out because it was in the top free sci-fi books available for the Kindle and sounded somewhat interesting.  I'm not really a big fan of fantasy (which is what this really is, but Amazon is terrible at telling the two apart), so this book did take me a little while to get into.  The writing, however, is pretty good (though there were a few typos).  The story deals a lot with Christianity and Jacob's lack of belief.  I found the author's handling of such a usually touchy subject was very good.  It managed to avoid pushing any one viewpoint on the reader.

Overall, I wasn't terribly impressed with this book, but I know a lot of that is because I don't really like fantasy.  If you like fantasy, I would definitely recommend this book. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

World of Color

On our last night at Disney we watched the new World of Color show at California Adventure.  We were a little late, but we did get to see most of it.  This was the most amazing thing we saw in our entire vacation and, considering that Disney has some great sights, that's saying a lot.  Through most of the show my husband and I were in complete awe.  It's a magical combination of lights, water, and projection that comes together beautifully.  It was absolutely incredible and, if you're going to be at Disney, it's worth going to see, even with the massive crowd that it attracts.

Unfortunately, it's really difficult to get decent pictures of the show because it happens at night.  I got a couple of short videos, but even those are hard to see.   This is at the very end of the show, which, lucky for me, was when my camera decided to crap out so the video is cut short, but it gives you a little bit of an idea of just how awesome the show really is.  It's nothing like being there in person though.  I highly recommend it.  

video

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Disney Pictures

I thought I'd share a few of my favorite things we saw at Disneyland.

Indiana Jones!  One of my favorite rides.  I wish we'd had time to go on this more than once.  Because of the Ancient Egypt theme that the ride has, the hubs and I spent our time in line making Stargate references.  It only made the ride better.


 While waiting for Star Tours there are a bunch of droids that are being unpacked from their crates.  The one on the right was seriously adorable, but we couldn't get a good close up shot of him. 


This guy is near the end of the line for Star Tours.  He scans passengers, which is what the screen next to him is.  Disney does a great job on the details because from the other side of that screen, you peak through and see what he's looking at and they actually look like real, working computers.


While exiting Space Mountain we ran into a little trouble with a storm trooper.  Also, my husband wants this costume. 


Far away shot of the Matterhorn.  It was approximately a million degrees while we were waiting to ride the monorail and we saw three guys climbing to the top of the mountain.


This is a shot in the new Carsland at California Adventure.  They did such an amazing job it really felt like we were out in the desert.  The scorching heat only helped the illusion.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Disneyland

My husband and I just got back from a little vacation to the happiest place on Earth.  I hadn't been to Disneyland in 12 years and it had been 17 years for him so we thought it was time.  We spent the first day at Disneyland and went on a ton of rides.  I have to say that the fast pass is the most awesome thing ever.  We would get our fast passes for one ride, then go on rides with short lines, then jump past a ton of people by using our fast pass.  It felt like we spent most of the day on rides rather than waiting in line. 

The heat was awful, though.  We picked the week that had a massive heat wave covering most of our state (hello, 112* temps) and so it was horribly hot, even in Anaheim.  However, we got an early start, went back to our hotel to cool off when it got hot, then went back to do some of the late night stuff. 

Aside from the heat and the crowds (I don't recommend going in the summer time if you can avoid it), we had a wonderful time.  We got to check out the new Star Tours ride, which is amazing.  Seriously, it was a huge improvement over the way it used to be and it was an awesome ride when I was little.  We got some Star Wars souvenirs at the shop that you walk through after the ride.  Husband got a hat (to replace the one he lost on Splash Mountain) and I got a shirt. 

We got to watch the fireworks while we were on the Matterhorn, which was a great treat.  They started before we got on the ride so we watched from the line, then got to see them as we went around the mountain.  

We spent the second day at California Adventure.  They were still in the process of building it the last time I was there so I was excited to see what it looked like.  I loved the early 1900s feel that it had.  We went on Soarin' and Grizzly River Run.  Soarin' was incredible.  We got front row seats and it really felt like we were flying over California.  There is some crazy technology involved in that ride.  Grizzly River Run was so much fun.  We rode a raft with six other strangers, but it was fun.  Both times we rode we chatted with our fellow passengers and really enjoyed the experience.  Also, we got really wet both times, which made for a nice break from the heat.  I prefer that ride to Splash Mountain.  Splash Mountain has one big drop and two smaller ones.  The big drop scared the heck out of me and we didn't even get that wet.  Grizzly River Run has a bunch of drops, but nothing terrifying, and you actually get wet.  It's probably not as great if you're there in February, but it's wonderful in August. 

We did a few other things on our trip, which I'll share later once I have all the pictures that we took and I stop feeling quite so much like a zombie. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Between the Bridge and the River

Between the Bridge and the River by Craig Ferguson (host of the Late Late Show and known to many as Mr. Wick from the Drew Carey Show) was a pretty good book.  It starts out seeming like it will be a story about the relationship between two young boys, but then they reach high school, stop talking, and grow apart.  It's also about two brothers who try to make their way in Hollywood.  It's about finding God and what makes you happy. 

Overall, it was a decent book, but a little hard for me to get into.  It seemed to jump between these characters who had very little connection to each other and then into chapters of a character telling a story.  There are also scenes and chapters of at least one character having a dream/hallucination.  It is not a lighthearted book.  There are some very R and X-rated scenes, which I can normally handle, but some of the characters are just such disgusting people that it was a bit more revolting than it might normally be. 

The book does have some pretty funny parts, which is not at all surprising considering that the writer is a comedian.  The writing style is good, even if I didn't find the plot particularly grabbing until it got closer to the end.  I did like the message that seems to come from the book.  It doesn't say that one has to find God in order to be happy, but one should at least be a good person.  One of the main characters says that the primary rule in life is to help others. 

I think I would read something else by Craig Ferguson, although I admit I expected this book to be a bit more on the humorous side.  It did show that there is more to him than just the funny guy we see on stage.