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one year later

This is the photo on my lock screen right on, and it makes me so incredibly happy to see L. smiling at me when I wake up in the morning.

This is the photo on my lock screen right on, and it makes me so incredibly happy to see L. smiling at me when I wake up in the morning.

One year ago today, L. and I went on our first date. I remember getting ready, wanting to wear my blue flats with my dress and tights instead of sensible boots, and regretting my choice within two minutes of leaving the house because it was so bitterly cold. I was running late, hurry-walking, and I remember turning the corner and seeing you standing there. You pretended you didn’t see me and turned the other way, and that made me smile because I do the exact same thing to avoid the awkwardness that is the last hundred yards. I shyly said hello, we walked in and were seated, and thank God there was the menu I could pretend to study for a minute so I could get over my nerves. I remember talking about Harry Potter at dinner (an expected topic of conversation since we were going to see the Utah symphony play the soundtrack after dinner), and laughing at the very bad puns Vlad the conductor made, and me suggesting we go have dessert at the Cheesecake Factory because I really, really didn’t want the date to end. I remember splitting a slice and talking until 11PM, ensconced in a booth and our own little world. Who knew two introverts could talk that much? I fell deeply, madly, head over heels in love and luckily you felt the same way.

And now it’s a year later, as unbelievable as that is. I’ve met your family, you’ve met mine, we went on trips together to Denver and Disneyland, and not to forget the epic LDS immersion tour (otherwise known as my research trip) this summer. We bought extra bookcases so I could fill the house with words, although it took you a while to realize just how many books I have and the prospect of them being shipped to Utah is slightly terrifying to you. I make you breakfast (but never oatmeal) and you make me grilled cheese and we both try to stop Mara the Cat from licking the plates. You listen to me talk about Mormonism and rant about patriarchy, spend nights at the library with me, and tell me of course I will find a job that makes me happy. You share your house with me, made me into a dog person, and let me drive your car even when that means you have to take the bus to work. I love the utter seriousness with which you and your friends play board games, and that you play Mario Kart with me any time I ask. I love how we watch Shield together, and Brooklyn 9-9, and Castle and Modern Family and Bones and a million other shows, and so many YouTube videos it’s hard to keep track. I love you, L., and the life we’ve built together, and how you make my life better, every single day. Eight more days until I fly home to Utah: I can’t wait.

Seriously, have I told you how much I love this dog?

Seriously, do you realize how much I love this dog?

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Janssen  at Everyday Reading had a post up about recognizing your strengths as well as your flaws (in the context of making New Year’s resolutions). And since I spend a lot of time worrying about becoming better, and not enough time at seeing what I’m actually good at, I thought I’d emulate that. So here is my list of things I am good at:

–keeping a curious mind. I will read anything, from scholary tomes and heavy non-fiction books to cozy mysteries and fluffy YA. I have a bunch of documentaries bookmarked on Netflix, and about ten podcasts I listen to regularly. I am always looking for a new story to follow and ponder.

–asking questions. There is a lot I don’t know, especially when it comes to science. I have no problem asking questions when I’m interested in a subject, whether it’s about traffic patterns, finance, or human anatomy.

–having empathy.

–making meal plans. One quick look at Pinterest, a glance in the pantry, and the meal plan for next week is done.

–making lists. I like to plan out every eventuality, just in case. You should see the lists I’m currently writing, on how to find gainful employment after I finish my PhD. I’m not supposed to be writing them, since I have to actually finish the dissertation first, but whatever. I am then also good at ignoring these lists because life never turns out how you imagine it will, anyway.

–teaching. I’m sure there are ways in which I could improve my teaching, but on a basic level, I am good at meeting students where they are and providing a comfortable academic environment.

At the St. Louis Botanical Gardens

2014 in review

Click on the links for 2011, 2012, and 2013‘s answers to these questions.

1. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 27, and spent it with L., who I had just started dating. It was low-key and filled with coffee and books, just the way I like it. (This also answers the “did you fall in love this year” question, because: yes. So much yes.)

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At my local Beans and Brews, the day after my birthday.

2. What are your strongest memories from this year, and why?
The moment I realized I wasn’t lonely anymore, that I had finally built up enough of an existence in Utah.

3. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
Visit the Idaho State Fair–or Idaho itself for that matter. It sounds like a flippant answer, but L. and I come from vastly different families, and going to (and enjoying) the Idaho State Fair is part of that.

4. What did you want and get?
Access to a car. As much as I am a pedestrian at heart, having a car makes everything so much easier.

5. What surprised you the most about yourself this year?
I have become a dog person. (Or at least a Josie person. I’m not convinced my love for Josie has spread to all dogs yet.)

Josie the Dog

Josie the Dog

6. What would you like to have next year that you didn’t have this year?
A Ph.D (or, if I’m being really bold, a job offer). I am ready to start a new phase in my life.

7. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did! I discovered the joys of yoga, bought a road bike, and managed to lose twenty pounds through a combination of more exercise and less food.

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Probably finally losing a significant amount of weight, and doing it in a fairly relaxed manner.

IMG_08079. What was your biggest failure?
I’m lactose intolerant, and yet I can’t seem to just stop eating cheese.

L. is also lactose intolerant, so you'd think between the two of us, there would be no dairy in the house. But you'd be wrong. (Picture taken in Muiden, the Netherlands.)

L. is also lactose intolerant, so you’d think between the two of us, there would be no dairy in the house. But you’d be wrong. (Picture taken in Muiden, the Netherlands.)

10. What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?
A combination of dog walking, venting to others, and mindless Facebook browsing.

11. What are your strongest recommendations for entertainment from this year? (books, television, movies, music, etc)
This was the year of Pentatonix, Jonathon Coulton, and a couple new-to-me tv shows like SHIELD, Brooklyn 9-9, and Eureka (loved that show so much!). Book-wise, this was the year of cozy mysteries, with Rhys Bowen’s Evan Evans and Her Royal Spyness series a clear winner. (I also read a lot of baaad cozy mysteries. I need to learn discernment when it comes to this genre, clearly.) This was also the year of Mario, as I played countless hours of Mario Kart and developed a strong love for Yoshi.

Yoshi riding Yoshi here!

Yoshi riding Yoshi here!

12. What song will remind you of this year?
Ikea, from Jonathon Coulton. L. and I have a thing for Ikea and like to belt out this song in the car.

14.  What was your most enjoyable purchase?
I think my road bike. It was a big purchase, but I love how I feel when I use it.

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Salt Lake City

15. Did you travel? If so, where?
A conference in Texas, a conference in Denver, a couple trips to see my dad in California, a weekend in Disneyland with L.’s family, and an epic LDS immersion tour from New York to Nauvoo, in which I honed both my ideas for my dissertation and my passing-as-a-Mormon skills.

Right after the Giants became the national league champions. Certainly a night to remember.

Right after the Giants became the national league champions. Certainly a night to remember.

At a Cardinal's game in St. Louis.

At a Cardinal’s game in St. Louis–the first non-Mormonism related thing we’d done in a week.

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In Nauvoo, Illinois.

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The Kirtland temple, the highlight of my research trip. Mostly because I was a little done with the missionary narratives being presented at the other historic sites (you know, since I’m not actually a Mormon) and I loved this tour, given by an actual historian, so much.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Blogging, honestly. It’s one of my goals for 2015.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about finding a job when I defend, even though that’s still a while off. (L. has banned me from searching job sites lest my anxiety levels surge to immangeable heights. I am trying not to mind that if I go the non-academic route, my advanced degrees are … not of much use.)

18. Compared to this time last year, how are you different?
Biggest difference? I’m a European living in the US, not an American living in Europe. Either way, I’m still foreign, so there’s that.

19. Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?
I’m still an overachieving, overthinking nerd that regards my library card as my most prized possession. I suspect that won’t ever change.

20. What’s a life lesson you learned this year?
Clearly not how to pose for pictures. I can do one face, and one pose, and anything else turns out like this.

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Muiden, again.

two lists

In random order, I present: things I will miss when I leave Utah

  1. L.
  2. the library
  3. the amazing friends I’ve made here
  4. Mara the cat napping under my desk while I work and Josie the dog begging for a walk
  5. the current weather (I don’t know what’s going on, but a December that’s not actually cold? I’d like some more of that)
  6. the social acceptability of wearing yoga pants almost everywhere
  7. the mountains
  8. Hulu
  9. L. (so much)

but also in random order, things I am looking forward to at home:

  1. seeing my family
  2. not having student emails to answer
  3. basic bike safety (proper bike paths! and lighted streets!)
  4. seeing my amazing friends back home who stuck with me through almost 1,5 years of skyping, emailing, and texting
  5. the boxes and boxes of books I had to leave behind
  6. speaking Dutch and eating Dutch food
  7. not being the crazy radical liberal in the room
  8. Christmas with A., F., and my mom.

curmudgeons unite!

To mark my last weekend in Utah until the end of February (I leave for Europe this Saturday), L. and I planned out a whole day of romance. We started with breakfast at Finn’s, checked out the Festival of Trees in Sandy, before braving terrible, terrible traffic to go look at the lights at Temple Square (so pretty!), and then dinner at Texas de Brazil.

10858440_899906400043928_5706535193963367200_nBig conclusion of the day? Though we like each other very much, we don’t like other people enough to want to shuffle past decorated trees in a crowd. Curmudgeons and wholesome, family-friendly fun apparently do not mix. Which is probably why the only picture we have of all the trees is one featuring the Grinch..

on making tea

L. made tea for me yesterday. Now, let me preface that with saying I only drink tea when I’m sick, homesick, or there’s nothing else on the menu that I want. (And then it has to be some kind of green tea. Black teas? Rooibos? Not my thing.) So it’s a rare occasion, and I suspect that if I went home and asked for tea, my family would stare at me in shock.

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that L. tried to make tea for me yesterday, but he grew up Mormon and doesn’t actually know how to make tea. Case in point, his kitchen is incredibly well-stocked. Need a crockpot? Rice cooker? (Cup)cake pans? Waffle iron? Salad spinner? Cast iron skillets? We’ve got you covered. Kettle? Not so much.

So I grabbed the saucepan to boil water in, and fetched tea bags from the cupboard, and tied one around the handle of the cup, and steeped it for the right amount of time, while L. watched quite attentively. And it just got me thinking: tea was such fixture when I was growing up. The kettle was on multiple times a day, when visitors came you asked whether they’d like coffee or tea, and every day at 8PM, the pot was filled and everyone came down for a cup (or a glass of orange juice for people like me, who don’t actually like the stuff). The cookies that went along with tea time, though, those I liked, and thus I learned to make tea for the others.

This social ritual doesn’t work as well in Utah, for obvious reasons. And sometimes I miss it. I don’t think this post really has a point, except that apparently making tea is a little more existential than it looks. And now L. knows how to do it, too.

Mt. Tamalpais (California recap part two)

Though the Giants game was obviously the highlight of my fall break, this expedition takes a deserved second place: a hike at Mt. Tamalpais State Park, up near Muir Woods and Mill Valley. It was beautiful.

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It was also brutal. The trail wound up and down in the hills, and I could still feel the ache in my legs three days later. Worth it, though, for the views alone.

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