Quiz Results and Christmas Cheer

Obviously Oliver won. Oliver, If I had a virtual blue ribbon I would give it to you. Honorable mention also goes to Liz for being honest about the vegetable conflict. The rest of you must be death eaters. It's the only logical reason you'd be promoting the Voldemort/vegetable industry. Just kidding... sort of.

In other news, I am at work right now. Some people have really important jobs (like firemen, doctors, and of course admin assistants) and still have to work on holidays like Christmas Eve Eve. The good news is that I turned off my alarm this morning, and I have no intention of turning it back on until next year. Take THAT, world!! Tomorrow we will be flying to sunny CA to enjoy some warm weather and Christmas cheer with a certain Moorhead bunch. I just hope this doesn't impede our travels:

Freezing Rain / Wind

High 33°F
Feels like: 18°F
Wind: 26 mph
Precip 100%

Eek. Thank goodness for heaters that work and husbands who drive when you don't want to deal with icy roads. Our flight better not get cancelled because I can't wait one more day to hug these cute kids:

(Linz looks more like a foxy lady than a cute kid here... probably because she is a foxy lady...)

Merry Christmas!!



If you are reading this, then you must take the quiz.

No exceptions.

This means you.

1. Vegetables are:
A) Delightful
B) Healthy
C) Consumed only if Organic
D) Necessary
E) Good raw, but not cooked
F) Good cooked, but not raw
G) For Gardeners
H) Too Expensive
I) Avoidable
J) Only in grocery stores so vegans don't die
K) Annoying
L) What Food eats
M) Recurring in my nightmares
N) Pure Evil
O) Voldemort resurrected into 9 trillion horcruxes. (Yes, there is a level worse than "Pure Evil.")


Pittsburgh is STILL Da Bomb.

Mike and I headed back out east again to celebrate Pie Day (The holiday formerly known as "Thanksgiving") with family. This time Mike's sister and fam came up from Virginia and Mike's parents and Aunt flew out from Salt Lake, and we all crashed at Mike's brother and fam's sweet pad for the weekend. It was basically a mini Wilde reunion with the younger half of Mike's siblings. In other words, it was pretty awesome.

What is not awesome is the fact that we have fallen back to our gloomy photo-less days and did not take a single picture the whole time we were there. Lame. We'll have to get back on track with that one. Alas, this trip was sadly undocumented on our end. (Maybe I'll steal some pics of the weekend off other blogs and claim them as my own... mwahahaha!) Anyway, here are the highlights of our gnarly (albeit photo-less) Pie Day:

-Pie. I LOVE pie. I cannot express this strongly enough. Despite my love, I had never attempted to make one before. It was just too intimidating to me. BUT, I decided to try my hand at it this year, and I made my first two pumpkin pies BY MYSELF. I felt very proud of how yummy they turned out. (Though leaving them uneaten while we drove 7 hours with nothing but Wendy's in our stomachs was a nearly impossible test of self discipline. I'm surprised we showed up with any pie at all.)
-Mike. Mike is a great person to take road trips with. The time passes much faster when you're sitting next to someone with such a foxy rump.
-Food. I love food, therefore I love Pie Day. This year did not disappoint. Lots of yummy food and leftovers made every meal a delight.
-Meeting Lucy. We met our new little niece, who I was delighted to see is a brunette. I'm rooting for more brunettes on the Wilde side, so good work Lucy.
-BANG! Mike introduced to me the game Bang when we were engaged. It took me a few rounds to understand how it worked, but now that I'm catching on more I'm starting to really like it.
-James and Bethany did a spectacular job of juggling everything you have to take care of when you're hosting, and they did it all with a newborn, a sick toddler, even being sick themselves (in James' case.) I was greatly impressed.
-Black Friday. I'm not usually a big shopper, but we scored big time on this year's day-after-Pie-day sales. We even got a pre-lit Christmas tree on sale for 75% off. We weren't going to have a Christmas tree since they are usually so expensive, but we ended up getting one due to the awesome price. I now feel very festive.
-Downtown. I love being downtown in cities during Christmas season. Pittsburgh had this huge Christmas tree and a skating rink, plus an impressive display of gingerbread houses. My favorite was either Noah's Ark, Cookie Monster, or Hogwarts. There was also this Santas from around the World thing that showed how the Santa character is depicted in other countries. Did you know that Santa is completely bald in China? And Santa is a woman in Italy? (La Befana per voi che conoscete la cultura Italiana.) Oh, and Santa is blue in Russia.
-Amish people. We drove through a fairly large community of Amish in Ohio on the way back to South Bend and we saw lots of Amish people. We thought it was cool.

That's about it. Thanks guys for such a great weekend! Next time we'll get the camera out of the bag AND use it.


Sudoku Rock Stars

Mike and I have been on a sudoku kick lately. We have this system where we pair up and both attack the same puzzle at once and try to solve it as fast as possible. As you can see, the average score for an easy puzzle is 5 minutes, 6 seconds. Today we smashed all records with a smoking 1 minute, 41 seconds!!! We are officially in the top 1% of all easy level sudoku players.

Proof of our awesomeness/nerdiness:

WE BEAT SUDOKU. How many people do you know can say that? (Hopefully not many...)


Sneak Peek

Remember my determination to make our apartment cute? Well, I'm only halfway done with the apartment makeover, but my mom wanted to see pictures of our new pelmet boxes that I MADE ALL BY MYSELF (this is your cue to congratulate me on my efforts) so here they are. They didn't turn out anywhere near as awesome as they were supposed to, but alas. It was my first go. Cut me some slack.


Living room:
I really like my fabric (which I found on clearance and snagged the last yard-and-a-half. Go me.)

Inspiration from Pearl Street Interiors.

And now, to the spray paint!


Book Reviews

It's been a while since I've done book reviews. Here are a few of the recent books I've read and my thoughts on them. Feel free to critique along with me (or against me as the case may be- I love a good debate!)

"Age of Innocence" by Edith Wharton: I admit, I have a crush on Edith Wharton. She has such a tremendous ability to paint a society with alarming accuracy, shining light on the everyday nuances, aspects, and elements of a culture that make a society what it is, and yet are so intricately a part of that society that they often go unnoticed. One wonders what she would write about if she could see our society today.

This particular novel takes place in New York City during late 19th century, a time when the old New York City upper class is beginning to fade away, along with their fanatical attention to form, propriety, and family history (read: scandal.) This is a world where life is governed by intricate rituals; a world "balanced so precariously that its harmony [can] be shattered by a whisper"; a world where everything is labeled; where in order not to disturb society's smooth surface nothing is ever expressed or even thought of directly; where a dinner table's immaculate symmetry is considered reflective of one's outwardly perfect facade; and where communication occurs almost exclusively by way of symbols, which are unknown to the outsider and, like any secret code, by their very encryption guarantee his or her permanent exclusion.

This is the society in which Newland Archer lives. Newland is engaged to the appropriately conventional, lovely, docile, submissive, and transparent May Welland- the perfect reflection of what a young woman of her rank and age should be. However, Newland soon falls in love with May's cousin, the liberal Countess Ellen Olenska freshly returned from Europe where she left a disastrous marriage. The manner of her return, scandalous enough as it is, is nothing compared to the "unpleasantness" of her European mannerisms, and all of New York society, forever unforgiving and critical, deems her unwelcome. Torn between duty and desire, the life he has and the life he wants, Newland is forced to make a decision that will either define his life, or tear it apart... only which is which?

This novel would be worth reading just for it's historical value. Old New York's Golden Age is superbly captured. The struggles of the characters (Ellen's weariness and loneliness, Archer's frustration and silent self battle, May's quiet determination and ultimate strength) are all revealed to the fullest. The various sides of human nature in all their manipulation, beauty, and horror are all unfolded until we finally realize that in the end all we really have is our own ability to choose. What each of these characters choose is alternately heart wrenching and fulfilling, and ultimately reminds the reader that no matter what we choose, life goes on. This novel is every bit deserving of the Pulitzer it won. A

"The Thirteenth Tale" by Diane Setterfield: This novel tells two stories: The dark and tragic story of wildly famous and notoriously reclusive author Vida Winter, and the story of a quiet girl named Margaret, who becomes Winter's sole confidant as Winter finally faces the secrets of her troubled and mysterious past. Winter's story is darkly intriguing, even if uninspiring. Margaret's story, however, is implausible and unsatisfying.

Here's why. The two characters come together due to Margaret's remarkable understanding of sibling relationships. Siblings are, in fact, one of the key themes explored in this novel. The problem is that Margaret doesn't have any siblings. How is she supposed to have any sort of understanding of sibling relationships? Okay, she had a twin who died at birth, so she technically does have one sister- BUT her parents successfully hid this knowledge from her for several years. So Margaret's supposedly big, black, empty hole inside of her comes from a girl she has no experience with, nor a single memory of. Heck, she didn't even know her twin existed for several years. It just doesn't connect. Therefore, the self pity and angst of "incompleteness" that Margaret suffers from becomes completely unbelievable. The whole time I just wanted to shake the girl and tell her to get a life. And a therapist. Thus, one of this novel's key points to both the theme, plot, and the character development is entirely without credibility, thus rendering the entire novel virtually without substance.

There are commendable bits to the book: The obvious parallels to Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and Wuthering Heights are praiseworthy. I appreciated the ongoing dialogue on the use and value of stories- which I thought redeeming enough to finish the novel. Even though her Gothic twists and turns failed to sweep me up in passion and scandal, Setterfield still manages to write with a clear, Victorian style which makes her enjoyable enough to read. If she is able to fill her gaping plot holes and work on her characterization, I think she has the potential to produce some truly riveting ghost stories. The Thirteenth Tale, however, fell flat. D+

"Loving Frank" by Nancy Horan: This was a recent book club pick here in South Bend. Here's the main plot: Mamah Cheney leaves her husband and two small children for the furious passions of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. And it's based on a true story. Awesome. In one way, this story was exactly what I thought it would be: Infuriating. Infuriating because Mamah spends almost the entire novel justifying her unjustifiable affair; Infuriating because of her selfish views on love and marriage; Infuriating because her ideas of identity and reaching your potential are both understandable and yet horribly twisted; Infuriating because her take on the honor/commitment vs. progression/self-fulfillment argument portrays the two sides as if they were mutually exclusive; etc. My blood is boiling just thinking about it.

I could go on and on. But when I narrowed this entire novel down to one paragraph's review, I couldn't help but admit that it was also extremely well written. It put a new and interesting face on the fight for gender equality, and painted the cause of feminists in entirely new colors for me. Even though I think the new colors clash terribly against my personal feminist goals, they make me think about my pre-held ideas and convictions and really solidify what I believe is worth fighting and sacrificing for. And any novel that accomplishes that feat is worthy of recommendation. Just be prepared to scream out of sheer aggravation every fifteen pages. (Though I want to give it an F, I'll go with a... ) B-

I was going to review a few others, but I'm too tired. =D Here are just the final grades sans review:

"The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd: A
"The Color of Water" by James McBride: C-
"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini: A-
"Life of Pi" by Yann Mantel: A

Next on my list:
-"The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown
-"Stalin's Children" by Owen Matthews
-"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak


Jumping on the DIY Bandwagon

I've had it. I'm done. I can no longer live in a bland, color-less, personality-less, boring bachelor pad. The time has come for a serious apartment revamp. You may ask, "How in the world are you going to redecorate with a job that soaks up all your time and energy, and a salary that goes almost exclusively to savings?" Excellent question. But FEAR NOT virtual world! I am determined to bring some color to our apartment! It might take all my yard sale bartering skills, it might take patience to find the perfect material (magically 90% off), it might take all the creativity I can muster, it might take hours of convincing a certain spouse that a certain clock would really look better with a little paint, it might even require that I delve into the s-word realm (shopping- gross), but I WILL find ways to bring our apartment to life!!!


We're Supposed to be Jellyfish

Happy Halloween!


Pittsburgh Is Da Bomb.

Three good things happened last week:
1- We had Fall Break. Coming from BYU- land of holiday-less, grinch-like scheduling- made this even more spectacular.
2- We went to Pittsburgh to celebrate our freedom from school/work.
3- We decided to use our camera for the first time in our marriage. (I am horrible at taking pictures. Fact: Every single picture on this blog was taken by someone else. In fact, I still have pictures from my mission on my camera. Not out of sentimentalism, but because I haven't taken hardly any pictures since then. I got home TWO YEARS AGO. Pathetic. So we decided to end this photo-less streak by taking lots of pictures of our cute niece and nephew.)

Pittsburgh is awesome. We started off our gnarly week with a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese where Mike dominated Deal or No Deal. Seriously. He got the best case. I'm so proud, babe. Bethany and Claire driving
James and Claire in the kids obstacle course thingee
Then we went out to the best Chinese food restaurant I've ever been to. (Judging from the look on Claire's face, I'm not sure she was as big a fan as I was though...)
We also went through "The Tunnel" (if you've been to Pittsburgh you know what I'm talking about) and went up the Incline. Mike and I took Claire and met Bethany, JS, and JJ at the top. The Incline is this wicked cool tram-like doohicky that takes you up this huge hill and offers a really amazing view of the city. I'm not sure if Claire or Mike and I liked it more.
See, told you the view was amazing.

We also went to the Allegheny Cemetery. Mike and I love cemeteries. I know it's kind of morbid, but cemeteries are some of the most peaceful places I've ever been. We walked and drove around and looked for the oldest person buried. That award went to Commodore Joshua Barney- born in 1759. WOW.
A constant source of delight was how stinkin pretty Pittsburgh is. Really- it's gorgeous.
Also, it's actually Fall there. Pittsburgh didn't skip autumn and go straight to winter in South Bend fashion. Notice the blue skies and be jealous. I am.
AND we went to COSTCO!!!!!!!!!! We have no Costco out here, so I was ecstatic to go. We even got dinner there- which may or may not have been equally exciting for me. Gotta love those Costco hot dogs and huge pizza slices.
Another night of fun was dedicated to pumpkin carving!
Mike kept calling it our "Love Pumpkin" since this is our first Halloween together.

Mike's self-appointed job was to separate the pumpkin guts from the seeds, which he then baked and ate. I was told several times that the point of pumpkin carving is to get to the seeds. This meant the "carving" part of pumpkin carving fell to me. I did the best I could.Cute little JJ
Not bad, eh?We put candles in our pumpkins and put them out on the porch, but apparently some of James and Bethany's shady neighbors aren't Irish fans because a couple of mornings later we woke up to find that someone had taken our pumpkin and smashed it on the sidewalk. Rude. (Bethany, it was probably the same people that were shooting guns when we were at the park feeding the ducks. That's my new hypothesis anyway. That or the drunk dude Mike caught stealing from the Chuck-E-Cheese counter. Or the woman who hit a kid with her car, as Mike witnessed outside the library.) So much for our love pumpkin.
We also spent a good amount of time trying to convince these brothers that they really do look alike. I can't believe that they don't believe us. Come on. Just look at them. (We had them cover their hair since one has short straight hair and the other has long curly hair. I think it adds pizazz to the photo, no? =D)
Claire looking so proud to be holding her little brother
They also took us to a famous Pittsburgh restaurant, Primanti Brothers, known for their HUMONGOUS sandwiches topped with coleslaw and french fries. I got the pastrami and mike got the turkey. I ate the whole thing- which, if you really know me, know that is a big deal.
THEN Bethany made the most fantastical caramel apples I've ever had. I got the camera about 3 seconds after Bethany brought the plate out to record this awesomeness, and this is all that was left. Tells you a little about how freaking awesome they were. (Please excuse the UofU plate. Go Cougars.)
We went to the zoo too. Usually when you go to the zoo the animals just lay on the ground and sleep while you meanwhile try to get a glimpse of their tail. Not so this time. It was sweet, man. I like zoos anyway, but I've never seen the animals so alive like they were this day. Next time you go to the zoo go in the late afternoon. The animals are so much more active.

The aquarium was totally gnarly too. We got to touch a sting ray with cheetah spots. And check out the other cool creatures we saw (Yes, I am THAT girl- the one that posts pictures of animals on her blog):
This is an animal, not a plant. You gotta admit, that's pretty gnarly.
(I am going to be a jellyfish for Halloween so I HAD to include this one:)
This lemur jumped onto the viewing glass. Sweet.

In the Zoo's pumpkin patch

One of our last fun outings consisted of taking a train ride! I think I look like I just ran into a door in this picture, but it was one of the only pictures we have of Mike and I with JJ (We would like to point out here that we are the first aunt and uncle he has met, which automatically makes us his favorite. Boo-yeah.)
The Wildes.
More Wildes.
On the train over the river
We found this old bridge and decided to walk over it.

As you can see, we definitely made up for not taking any pictures before. Go us.

Thanks guys for such a fun week! We'll be back next time we need a fix of this: