Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Year of Monica

So I know this girl named Francis. She was recently reflecting on 2007 and said that it was the best year of her life. "Really," I said, "Why's that?" Francis told me that she had accomplished more in 2007 than any other year in her life 'cause she committed last January to making the new year "The Year of Francis." I was intrigued and asked her to tell me more about this commitment she made. Francis always uses big words and wears really smart looking glasses, so I figure she knows what she's talking about whenever she says anything. Anyway, Francis said that she had decided to focus mainly on doing things that she had always wanted to do but just never got around to doing for one reason or another. She committed to improving herself and trying new things. So Francis has inspired me, and I've decided to make 2008 "The Year of Monica." Sounds a bit selfish? Maybe. But don't get me wrong, I'm not planning on becoming completely self-indulgent in 2008; I'm planning on learning as many new things as possible, doing things that I've always wanted to do but never have, and just trying to become a better person in general...a better daughter, a better sister, a better aunt. Yes, this new year will be "The Year of Monica." I know you guys are so excited, you can't even stand it.

Oh yeah, Hughler wants to say Happy New Year and sends his best wishes for your 2008!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Mallows

It's too late to order for Christmas, but Pete's Gourmet is a great place to go if you're a fan of mallows, like myself. They always have great holiday packages that you can order and have sent to whomever you'd like. Valentine's is coming up, so Pete should have some really fun mallow creations for that day.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Good Reads

I heard someone say one time that life is too short to read a bad book. Boy were they right about that. I recently started going to a book club. The last book we read for the club was Christmas Jars by Jason Wright...Two thumbs down, people, two thumbs down. The only good thing about the book is that it did help me get into the Christmas spirit a little bit. I've been having trouble getting into the spirit of things this Christmas season, not sure why. But luckily, this weekend I was able to get a little excited about the holidays, thanks in part to my mom's fantastic Christmas decorations. She always does a great job filling the house with lots of cozy Christmas decor. Okay, lemme see, I'm digressing away from the purpose of this post. Well, since I had the unfortunate experience of reading a bad book this past month, I thought I'd re-read some of my favorites to get the bad taste out of my mouth, so to speak. So here are some of my all-time favorites and why. If you've never read these, I urge you to try 'em out, 'cause they're great and won't be a waste of time, promise.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This book is cool 'cause it has a really captivating story, and it's about time travel, awesome. Henry travels through time involuntarily and meets up with Clare, who doesn't travel through time. The problem is that Henry really digs Clare but can't keep from traveling through time at really inconvenient junctures in their relationship. And no, this story isn't like Quantum Leap, in case anyone is thinking that. Anyway, this isn't just another sappy love story. The character development is great, and the author manages to seamlessly transition from one time period to the next.



Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

This book is about a boy who is charged with murder and how he and his family deal with that whole thing. It's written beautifully and shows how families need to stick together to get through hard times. It's also about the bond between brothers, faith, and the strength you can gain from the love your family has for you. Read it!



Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

This book's hilarious. It's a collection of short stories, and each one is so much fun to read. All the stories are taken from true events in Sedaris' life. The writing is really witty and very, very funny. I'll definitely be re-reading this one, for like, the 20th time.



Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Here's Lukey reading Chronicle. Sorry you can't see the cover art. Luke's super advanced for his age and let me know that next up on his reading list is Love in the Time of Cholera, another one of Marquez's books. And there's Maya catching up on some reading of her own. Right now she's reading a couple books from the Barney series, even though I told her that Barney is sooo ten years ago. She didn't seem to care though. Okay, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a trip. The story is about murder, weddings, lies, revenge, love, hate, crazy people running through town squares, etc. And for those of you who don't like long books, this is a must read, 'cause it's only about 140 pages long.



The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

I'm sure you've probably read this one before. But if you're having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit, like me, you should think about re-reading this. I think this is my favorite book about Santa Claus and the spirit of Christmas. The animated adaptation of the story they made a couple years back with Tom Hanks creeped me out a little, but I'm still a huge fan of the book. And the illustrations are so cool.

Happy Reading and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Lloyd Dobler Speech

I've decided that I'm going to memorize Lloyd Dobler's speech from Say Anything so that I'll be equipped with an answer the next time someone feels the need to ask me why in the world I'm going into education as a career.

Here's Lloyd's speech -

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

Thirsty?

So Maria, Jon, and I went to Spaghetti Mama's this weekend. And the number one super fun waiter in all of Utah, possibly in all of the Western U.S., Joe, hooked us up with some free drinks. I guess we went a little crazy. It turned out to be the perfect night for some free drinks though, 'cause Jon was a bit thirsty...Keep in mind that there were only three of us at the table. Oh, and if you're ever at Spaghetti Mama's, be sure to try out the Lime Italian Soda, very tasty. Thanks Joe!


Stream of Whatever


Here's a random photo booth picture of me along with a dose of T.S. Eliot. I figured a random photo of myself and some deep thoughts from Eliot would be the perfect remedy for those Sunday night blues that you may or may not be having. Either way, I do what I can to share the wealth.

This is the last part of T.S. Eliot's Little Gidding. The first four lines of this excerpt have always been really meaningful for me. These lines also appear at the very beginning of one of my favorite movies, Run Lola Run. Hmmm, T.S. Eliot and an indie German flick, the perfect combo. Enjoy...

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Webes


This past week I found out that I got accepted into Weber State's Master of Education program. I'm really excited about starting school at Weber State, or Webes as I affectionately call it. I haven't been in school for so long that I'm not quite sure how I'm gonna handle it. I mean, I found out I got in and was really happy about it right after I heard, but then a couple minutes later I started feeling a little bit terrified about the whole thing. I had this "Oh man, what have I gotten myself into" type of feeling. There are so many things I need to do before school starts, and I have about a month to do it. So tomorrow morning I'm planning on going up to campus to figure a few things out. I haven't even had time to buy the proper school supplies. My old Trapper Keeper is completely wrecked...Its velcro is totally not sticking the way it should, so I'll probably head on over to the store to pick up a couple new ones tomorrow. Oh, I need a new pencil box and some more highlighters, 'cause I love highlighting things. You know, the simple act of starting a list of necessary school supplies is making me feel a lot better already...This master's program is gonna be a piece of cake. Speaking of cake, I figure that if I end up hating the program at Webes, I can always sign up for some culinary arts classes at the Art Institute down in Draper. Maria recently reminded me of my long-time dream of becoming a famous chef, so I'm leaning on culinary arts as my Plan B. It's always a good idea to have a Plan B, right?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Movin' On Up

Well I'm not "movin' on up" in The Jeffersons sense of the phrase, but I'm moving up north a little ways. I'm real sad about having to leave downtown SLC. I love living downtown. Here's the view from outside my apartment.


If you know anything about SLC, you can tell that all I have to do is walk down the street to be right in the heart of the city. Being able to walk to any destination within the city is really great. And there's a Trax station right next door to the Temple if I don't feel like walking. There are so many good things about living downtown, but living up north won't be bad. I mean, the air quality up there is a lot better, and I'm excited for a bit of a change. My dad certainly is happy that I'll be leaving my apartment as he's always hated it. He has always thought the apartment to be a little too rundown and unsafe..."Ahhh, Dad, so my windows that haven't been replaced since 1929 have no screens in them, and the only thing separating me from that homeless dude peeking through my blinds are the awesome curtains I ordered from Urban Outfitters, big deal."

Oh SLC, how I'll miss you so...Don't worry, I'll be back to visit often.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What a Difference an Inch Makes

BEFORE



AFTER


Gracias Mucho Mike!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Melanie + Luke

I found out today that my little sister is engaged to be married! How did this happen? I thought Melanie was still in junior high? I'm not sure how it happened, but I'm so excited!


Melanie and Luke, please make sure you have dancing at your reception. And Melanie, I know you're gonna be a wife and all but please, please continue to wear your Converse and listen to Weezer...Please, I beg you.

Congratulations! I love you two!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

5K...Gobbler Gallop Style

Last November Matt and I ran a 5K in Bountiful called The Gobbler Gallop...Yeah you heard me, The Gobbler Gallop. Since last year's race was pretty fun, we decided to sign up this year as well. The only bad thing about last year's race is that Matt and I allowed these two old geezers to beat us to the finish line! Can you believe that?! So this morning, we met up in Bountiful for the race. We were back...with a vengeance. Matt came prepared for victory. Check out these cool sneaks he ran in...


There's a sensor in these shoes that syncs up to his iPod while he runs. So while he's running, he can get updates through his iPod on how far he's run and at what pace. Pretty cool. You can read more about the shoe here.

By the way, while Matt isn't running, he likes to sport these -
Rating: Pretty Awesome.


Dad's choice of kicks while hanging out -

Rating: More Awesome.


Mom's preference -

Rating: Most Awesome.

Let's see, where was I? Oh yeah, The Gobbler Gallop! Okay, so we ran the race, and man was it treacherous. But we finished. And not only did we finish, but we beat those two old guys from last year! Success!


And Matt was racing on only a few hours of sleep since he didn't go to bed until like 3 in the morning due to work. Way to be Big Brother! Good race.

Guess Who Turned 1 Today!

We celebrated Maya's birthday today. Good times were had by all. Here are a few highlights from the party...

Maya with her Aunt Melanie


Mmmmm, cupcakes.


So many presents, so little time.


Me with The Birthday Girl


Maya right before bedtime with her PJs on..still scouring for presents!

Happy Birthday Baby Girl!

Monday, November 5, 2007

People Get Ready

Yes, it's true, Urban Outfitters is coming to the Gateway.


Are you excited? Well if you're not, you should be. I don't consider myself a bigtime shopper, but I can't wait for this store to open.


I was at the Gateway with Maria this past weekend and took the two photos of the new storefront you see here. Right after I took this one of the sign in the window, a Gateway security dude came up to me and the following conversation ensued:

GATEWAY SECURITY DUDE: "What are 'ya doin'?"

ME: "Umm, I'm taking pictures."

GATEWAY SECURITY DUDE: "What are 'ya taking pictures of?"

ME: "Urban Outfitters."

GATEWAY SECURITY DUDE: "Do you know that taking pictures of this could be considered copyright infringment?"

ME: "Oh no, you don't understand, I'm only taking pictures of the storefront 'cause I'm a big fan of the store...I'm really excited that it's opening."

(Note: At this point I was thinking about telling him that I was also taking pictures in order to document the progress of the UO on my blog, so all my friends would be notified of the grand opening. But I had a sneaking suspicion that Gateway Security Dude wouldn't be savvy to the ins and outs of the blogosphere, so I decided to just keep that part to myself.)

GATEWAY SECURITY DUDE: "Oh, okay, no problem then."

After hearing my explanation and being satisfied with it, Gateway Security Dude proceeded to shamelessly flirt with Maria. So while Maria did her best to fend off the sad advances of Gateway Security Dude, I had a little more time to admire the new UO storefront. Have you ever been to this store? If not, you have to try it out...It has all sorts of cool stuff, like t-shirts that say things like "Brunettes Have More Fun," funky retro furniture, novelty books, employees with mohawks, vinyl records if you're into that sort of thing...The list goes on and on. And it's coming right in time for Christmas, perfect.

In other news, Maya and I were hanging out one day this past week, and I got some footage of her displaying one of her many talents. I was trying to get her to talk, but she wasn't interested in doing that. Check this out...It cracks me up every time.

video

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Halloween!

So my friend Tess and I work at the same place and have worked together for the past few years now. Normally we're a couple of really classy girls. I mean, we take our jobs seriously, dress appropriately, are very polite, don't chew with our mouths open...I could go on, but let me just show you.

Here we are prepping for an important meeting we recently had with one of our very high-profile clients...
Tess is freaking out over a sloppy report one of our assistants put together. Gosh Tess, take it easy!

Here we are on the phone with the aforementioned high-profile client, conducting some extremely cut-throat negotiations...

And here we are after the meeting, feeling confident and ready to take on the next big client...

But on occasion, when the time calls for it, you just have to leave your classiness behind, forget about being polite, and stop worrying about that respectable job of yours...Sometimes you just have to let your inner white trashiness shine through...



Boy do we know how to do up white trash right or what? Happy Halloween everyone!!

Here are a couple more highlights from our Halloween celebration at work...










Halloween's so much fun, I think it should come along twice a year. Have fun trick or treating you crazy kids!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Feeling Arizona

My Grandma Fidela traveled up from Arizona to visit us this past week. We don't get to see her nearly enough, so it was great having her here for a few days. Being with her reminded me of how proud I am to be a part of such a wonderful family. Both my mom and dad were raised by people who always put family first. My parents always put the needs of my brother, sisters, and I before their own, and I've learned over the years that my grandparents were the same way. So for my first post, I 'd like to share a little bit about my family. 'Cause to know a little about my family is to know a lot about me, and since this is my blog...All right you get the picture. Okay, let's start with Grandma Fidela since she inspired this post.
This is Fidela Sanchez Ochoa when she was 18 years old. I think she had my mom, her first baby, when she was 19. Grandma loves to laugh so there's never a dull moment when she's around. She's sacrificed a lot for her family, and I love her for that. Then there's my Grandpa Refugio Ochoa.
This is Grandpa Fufi with his sergeant in the Army (Refugio's the handsome one on the right). Grandpa passed away in 1987. None of us kids were able to go to his funeral, 'cause we were living in Panama at the time. Fortunately, my mom got to go, and she said that his funeral was standing-room-only since Grandpa had so many friends who loved him.
Here's Grandpa with me and my cousin Johnny. I don't have many photos of me with my Grandpa Fufi, so I'm glad I found this one.

Grandma and Grandpa Ochoa raised six kids in Arizona, and they've all stayed in Arizona except for my mom. Here's a photo that was taken during Grandma's recent trip to visit us.
My mom's two younger sisters came with Grandma to visit...Starting in the back from left is Irene, Grandma, my mom, then there's me on the bottom left with Rosie and Maria. This was taken right after we all got finished watching one of Irene's favorite Mexican novelas! If you've never watched a novela with a bunch of Mexican women before, I'm tellin' ya that it's an experience not to be missed.

My dad was also born and raised in Arizona. Here's a bit about his parents, Grandma and Grandpa Merrill.

Here's Fern Ashcroft Merrill and Philemon Merrill (Everyone just called him Chick though). Both of these photos were taken in 1944, not too long after Grandma Fern and Grandpa Chick were married. Grandma Fern is incredible. She's super resourceful, loving, and definitely the backbone of her family. Grandpa Chick was always the most popular guy in the crowd. He was a fantastic story teller and so fun to be around. One of the stories he loved telling was about his great-grandfather, Philemon C. Merrill. I found one summary of the story here. Grandma and Grandpa Merrill always taught us to be proud of our heritage and where we came from, and I 'm grateful for that.

Here's my mom and dad, Ruth and Phil (short for Philemon).
Mom and Dad are living proof that opposites attract. Dad's always been super shy, and Mom's basically not shy about anything. From some of Dad's stories, it's a miracle that he even mustered up the nerve to ask Mom out, but I'm sure glad he did. I couldn't have asked for better parents. My dad is the kindest and most humble guy you'll ever meet, and my mom is the strongest person I know. Here's my mom (8 years old) one Sunday after church when she was the only person in her family that was a member of the Church. She's with the Elders who converted her.
Three months after Mom became a member of the Church, she converted her mom. And then a year later, with the help of her mom, she converted her father. Soon after that, the whole Refugio Ochoa family went to the temple and were sealed to each other. This story amazes me every time I think about it...My mom was incredibly strong even back when she was a little 8-year-old girl. Thanks Elder Burton! Thanks Elder Boyce! Thanks Mom!

Okay, now it's time to meet my sisters and brother, starting with Melinda.
Here's my oldest sister Melinda trying to pick me up at my high school graduation. Oh man, Melinda's hilarious. It seems like she's always instinctively known how to do all the cool stuff girls are supposed to know how to do. For example, at a very young age she was appointed to be the Merrill girls' very own in-house hair stylist 'cause she just somehow knew how to do all the cool hairstyles...Do you want curly hair? Straight hair? Side ponytail or french braid perhaps? No problem, Melinda can do it. She's also a terrific cook and so creative. Melinda knows how to have fun. I wish she lived closer so we could hang out more. Speaking of Melinda, here's her husband, Jason.
I've recently realized that I don't have as many photos of Jason as I'd like. This shot is pretty old...Sorry I didn't have a more recent one Jay! Haha! As you can see from this picture, Jason is always ready for a good time. I love him a lot and can't quite remember what the family was like without him in it. Come visit soon Jay so I can take more pictures of you!

Here's Matt, the quintessential big brother. I've always looked up to my big brother and always feel safe when I'm with him. I remember how he always protected me against bullies on the school bus, and he still looks out for me now. He's a good brother.

Matt and I in Tuscon...Matt seems to be missing a few teeth.


Here I am with Matt and his three gorgeous kids.

And here's Matt's wife, Aleesha...
I'm convinced that this girl rolls outta bed every morning looking as beautiful as she does in this picture. I don't recall ever seeing her looking less than picture perfect. How do you do it Leesh? She's an amazing mom and throws the best birthday parties ever!

Next up is my younger sister Maria. Well Maria's technically younger than me, but she's really taken on the role of older sis for me in recent years. She's a lot smarter and wiser than I can ever hope to be, and she's always giving me good advice...I'm supposed to be giving her advice right? Maybe someday I'll be able to help her out with my "older sister wisdom," but until that day comes, I'll be looking to her to shed some light as usual.

Maria and I in Tuscon...This is one of my favorite pictures...Maria's looking at me like I'm crazy, not unlike the look she often gives me nowadays.

Here I am with Maria not too long ago.

And just because I can't get enough of old photos, here's one of the Merrill crew before Melanie decided to come along.

Speaking of, I was saving the best for last...Meet my baby sister, Melanie...
Is this not the cutest little girl you've ever seen!?! Look at those curls!

Melanie and I hanging out a few weeks ago.

Melanie's awesome. She stays super busy 'cause she's actively involved in so many cool things. She works hard, is a phenomenal tennis player, and has a huge heart. Plus she's always willing to roll with all my crazy ideas. Hey Mel, remember that one time when I almost got us stranded out in the middle of nowhere on our way to the Spiral Jetty? Good thing those friendly Swedish dudes came along to give us some hope, haha! Good times.

So there's my family in a nutshell. Hope you liked reading a little about them. I sure did enjoy going through some old photos recently. I'll be updating this blog every week, so be sure to check back. I should have some interesting Halloween photos for next week's installment. Oh and be sure to check out my "music pick of the week." I'll be updating the player at the top right of my page every week with some of my favorite music, so hopefully you'll hear something you like. Have a good week, all you people of the blogosphere!