Sunday, December 14, 2008

two hot chocolates and a baby please--make it virgin

This week Nicole and I entered a new social realm...that's right, celebrity status.  Saturday was the annual Hampton City Holly-daze parade.  The Hampton city ward's entry was a float depicting the Nativity scene.  We were asked last week to play the parts of Mary and Joseph on the float.  I was of course chosen for my superb ability to grow facial hair.  Since the early age of 17, I have progressed from shaving every other week to every other day.  However, in about a week, with some extra effort and concentration and a slight diet change, I was able to produce this beauty.

Nicole, on my left, made an excellent Mary.  The parade was on Sat evening.  It was actually fairly cold.  We were able to hide our excess layers under our ultra-frumpy robes that we wore.    We were joined on the float by the three wise men, two shephards, and a little angel.  Thankfully with the added help of some hand warmers and some hot chocolate from our thermos we were able to keep warm.

During the parade things went well; Nicole knelt on the float and I knelt behind her.  I spent most of the time trying to look pious and waving and pointing at the crowd while shouting things like "Merry Christmas,"  "Great to see you," and "How you doin'?"  I must say, that being famous is a lot of fun, but it's a lot of hard work.

Also this weekend, we went up with the youth from our ward to DC again to see the lights at the DC temple.  It's no Temple Square, but 450,000 lights is still extremely impressive.  On an environmental note, all of the lights on display this year were LED instead of incandescent.  I am behind this move 100%.  Although these bulbs consume less power than traditional ones, they put out a great deal of light.  So much in fact, that when you're close up and your pupils are already dilated because it's dark outside, you can smell your retina's burning.  It's kind of like looking at thousands of little laser pointers all at once.  

We were also fortunate because Nicole was able to come along as well, which was great.  On the way up, everyone stopped at a place called 5 Guys.  5 Guys is a my favorite place to get a burger.  It's like the In and Out of the East Coast, but much tastier.  We then stayed the night again at my brother's.  On Saturday morning we went out to eat and had some great French toast with cinnamon sugar and almonds.  It was so good.  Anyway, here are some pictures of our trip.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A peek inside my soul

As many of you may recall, a while back on this blog, I mentioned a certain Porsche video that I saw as a youth that permanently altered my way of thinking. Laugh if you want, but this video has a very special place in my heart. Anyway, after literally years of searching, I have finally found it online. I should note a small correction that the commercial is actually for the 1995 911 993.

Without further ado, here it is for your viewing pleasure. I would recommend that you have a box of tissues nearby as you watch it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

We drove 32 hours to Black Friday, and all I got was this lousy ice scraper

Well it's been about two weeks since I posted last, and I know that there's at least a solid 1-2 people who might or might not be wondering what has been going on with us. I will attempt to fill you in.

First and foremost, I should mention that we had an excellent Black Friday. This year we decided to go the Champaign, IL Walmart for to do our Black Friday shopping. Conveniently, Nicole's brother and sister live in Champaign, so we decided to stay with them where we were also joined by my family. The drive out was good. I picked Nicole up right at work and we immediately set off. 12 hours later, we arrived at our destination. I would like to mention that I am grateful for energy drinks--I was wide awake all the way there.

To kill time while we waited for Walmart to open, we celebrated Thanksgiving. As per tradition, on Thursday morning, I went with Nicole's brother-in-law to play football. I scored four touchdowns and had a handful of interceptions (I also threw about six interceptions). Anyway, needless to say, all that awesomeness isn't cheap. As any of my professional athlete colleagues will attest, dedicating your life, or at least one day a year of it, to excellence in a demanding sport such as 4 on 4 two hand touch football extracts a heavy physical toll. My body was stiff for the next four days and my stride was reduced from 'confident twenty-something' to 'nursing home patient shuffle'. Thankfully, over the holiday, I was able to focus on my recovery by eating and sleeping and eating a lot.

The food at Thanksgiving is always some of my favorite and, as always, was very good and very plentiful. Nicole and helped prepare the turkey.

On Black Friday, we got together with the rest of America, loaded up in a minivan, and went to Walmart. We arrived at 9 am or so and found lots of people. We spent a little time walking around and marvelled at Walmart's generosity for putting things on sale for so cheap. As we got to the checkout I was definitely in the Christmas spirit. In the checkout line, we waited and watched our cashier scan items one at a time as slowly as possible for the three customers ahead of us. However, I almost didn't notice the half hour go by because I was so full of Christmas cheer. It wasn't until he finsihed with the lady in front of us, turned off his light, and said "Sorry, I'm closed," that the little light of 'Christmas joy' and 'peace on earth' went out. Anyway, another register line and a few choice words later, Nicole walked and I shuffled out of Walmart. We also made stops at Circuit City and the mall. All in all, we made some very good purchases; unfortunately, due to the sensitive nature of the season and our readership, the only deal I can tell you about was the really great ice scraper we bought at Walmart.

Friday, we played games with the family. I won at Settler's of Katan; which I have never done before. Settler's is fun game that is a sort of a cross between Monopoly and Risk, but in the same spirit allows you to win through ruthelessness and being oportunistic. For example, as I was wondering what resources were in the game, the following took place:

Matthew's Sister: I'll trade you three grain.
Matthew: You have three grain?
Matthew's Sister: Yes
Matthew: Good. I'll play my monopoly card. I'd like all the grain please. (evil laugh)

While playing together, we enjoyed a lot of good snacks. My favorite was the Parmesan and Roasted Red Pepper cracker spread. Some may ask, "isn't it wrong for one person to eat half a pound of cream cheese spread and a box of Wheat Thins in an hour?" Maybe.

Anyway, to cap off an already excellent weekend of excess and indulgences, Sat. we went to Springfield to see some old friends and have a fat night. Fat night is a Cragun family tradition that now involves multiple deep fat fryers, two gallons of cooking oil, and anything you have ever thought of that has been fried. This time we did mostly classiscs such as shrimp and onion rings, as well as some new fare such as green beans.

When Sunday came, it was time for us to head back. In order to give ourselves plenty of time, we left at six o' clock. As punishment for driving on Sunday instead of going to church we were given 20 hours of misery to feel guilty and repent. When we went out to the car on Sun. morning, we found that two-three inches of snow had fallen on the ground. It made for very sloppy conditions. At Indianapolis, the snow changed to rain and continued to rain to Columbus. Columbus to West VA was decent, however, once in West VA, the rain started to stick and freeze again. Then traffic started backing up outside of DC. We spent about an hour sitting outside of DC. We dropped Eric off in DC and got to take a break at his house for about half an hour. That left us with the remaining trip from DC to Hampton. Things actually went fairly smoothly until we go to Fredricksburg. Unfortunately, there was an accident in Richmond and I-95 was backed up 30 miles to Fredricksburg. After two and a half hours of stop and go traffic, we finally made it to Richmond. From there the traffic cleared up and we made it home at 1:00 am. Fortunately Nicole could sleep most of the way because she had to work early the next morning. All said and done, having the opportunity to be with family for a few great days made it worth it.

Since then, school has been winding down for me. I had one final and have one more this coming week; then I'll be all done until next semester. Work has had it's ups and downs for Nicole, but the week finished on a great upswing which was nice.

On Monday, for family home evening, we got our Christmas tree. Because we were pressed for time, we went to Walmart. To display there selection of trees, they tie a rope to them and hang them from the ceiling like dear carcasses after a hunt that are about to be gutted. We walked around and found a really nice one. It's actually flat on the back, but that worked out great because it means it sits closer to our wall.

On Friday, we went to downtown Newport News where we saw the Holly-daze fireworks show. It was actually very good. The setting was nice because the display was low to the ground at a small pond in the middle of the downtown. On top of that, it was surrounded by buildings so the results were a great display that echoed enough to knock your fillings loose. I must say that NN put on a great show, and if I wasn't worried about being stabbed or shot, I might consider living there.

Anyway, Christmas season is in full swing in the Cragun household, and it's shaping up to be very merry with lots of Yule Tide cheer.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Making Room for One More!!!!!! (Goodbye Den)

So, I know that there are many out there that are as excited about the news as we are. I know some of you already know, but I thought it would be best to make some sort of formal announcement to let people know that it's ok to talk about it and such. Our family has been blessed by the addition of a Felt bicycle. The delivery came at 11:36 am on Tuesday and weighs 24 lbs 12 oz. It hasn't even been a week, and I've already come to love it so much. I will admit though, it has been a challenge to make room for the addition in our house. Thankfully we were able to slide the kitchen table over far enough in it's nook to make enough room for it to fit nicely.

This bike is very different from my last bike. My last bike was a normal full-suspension mountain bike and was quite burly. This bike is a hardtail single-speed 29er. The key differences are:
  1. It's a hardtail--which means it doesn't have a shock in the back. This makes my behind much more sore after the rides, but the bike is much more responsive out of the saddle. It also makes it lighter.
  2. It's a 29er--this means it has larger diameter tires which mean decreased rolling resistance to everything including roots.
  3. It's a single speed--this means just one gear. The bike is very simple and also lighter because of the absence of all the drive train components.

I went for my first ride on Thursday afternoon. I took it out to Hardwood Mills park. It was a great feeling to ride again. The bike is very well suited to the terrain here; my last bike would have been overkill. The bike handles very well and it always feels like it is in the right gear. Also, I must say the 29" wheels are a pleasure. It's a lot of fun to just roll over the top of everything monster-truck style. I love it.

In other great news, Nicole and I spoke in church today on gratitude. Nicole did an excellent job. I kept thinking about how articulate and educated she sounded as she spoke. I keep realizing more and more what a deal I got as our marriage progresses. Yesterday afternoon I sat down to write my talk and told Nicole I would have it knocked out in 30 min. Four hours later I finished. It was just one of those things that the more and more I read, the more and more I wanted to know.

I did get a break in the middle of my talk writing though when we went to the ward activity. It was a great activity that ended up very well. However, at the outset we weren't sure when to show up. We were told by three different sources that the activity started at 5:00, 6:00, and 6:30. We guessed 5:00 and so did 75% of the ward. The rest came trickling in throughout the evening. The activity was a pot luck. Everyone was supposed to make something with their food storage and bring the item and their recipe.
About 4:00, Nicole and I decided we should start cooking something for the activity. Much to our surprise, we found that the only thing beside Cup o' Noodles that was in our food storage that we could turn into a decent side dish was Stove Top Suffing. So that's what we made. And, as instructed, we displayed the recipe for everyone to see (I followed all three steps meticulously). Now some may laugh and point the finger of scorn at our simply prepared dish, but, as I predicted it was one of the first items gone at the pot luck--I didn't even get any. There's no way anyone can turn down Stove Top. Also, I would like to note that at the activity, we took receipt of more items for our food storage that we had on order. We now have 6 gallons of water and 25 lbs of canned flour. I know it's not much yet, but don't you worry, we'll have our proverbial bomb shelter stocked in no time. Now, if only we could find a place to put it all.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

That Rascally Voldemort (AKA Tom Riddle)

So I know all of you are dying to know the end to Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secret's (I realize that this only applies to about 10 people in the world besides those who are illiterate, and those who are both illiterate and blind and can't watch the movies.) So although I now know who opened the Chamber of Secrets to kill all the mudbloods, I'm not going to spoil the surprise for you nine--you are just going to have to read it for yourselves. Nicole and I just finished book two of the Harry Potter saga. When we were first married, Nicole couldn't believe that I had never read any of the Harry Potter books. So in order to culture me, we have taken to reading the books out loud as we drive. We tend to spend quite a bit of time in the car together dropping each other off and picking each other up. I will concede that the books are well written and interesting, and I actually have caught myself thinking about them besides when we are reading them. In fact I look forward to the time we spend together reading and it makes the time in the car go by much faster. My only regret is that I didn't get on the whole Harry Potter bandwagon earlier. I never got to enjoy going to Barnes and Noble at 8am dressed up in a Dumbledore costume I sewed myself making jokes about 'how dumb muggles can be' and waiting in line until midnight to get my book three, book four, book five, book six, or book seven.

Beyond Harry Potter, this has really been a great week. Thursday we got to go rock climbing at a gym in Virginia beach with two of our friends Chuck and Quincy. It was a great time. Climbing is great because it helps you find muscles to strengthen that you don't normally use--then it reminds you the rest of the week about how weak you really are and how you should really consider using those muscles more often--dually noted.

On Saturday, we got to go to the Washington, DC temple to see two of our friends be sealed for eternity. It was a great experience. It reminded me of how lucky I am to be married to such an incredible woman and how grateful I am that we can be together forever. On the way home from DC, we went to Golden Corral to celebrate. It has been a long while since I have been to an all you can eat buffet. I used to be quite good at eating; however, much to my surprise, I had two plates, and a little dessert, and I was done. I filled up fast--I'm no longer the 'Great White Kobayashi of the North' that I used to be. However, I still did manage to get in steak, fried chicken, prime rib, shrimp and a taco.

Today on the way to church we had a rough bout with nature. When we were almost at the church, we were driving about 40 down Mercury boulevard when I heard what sounded like rocks hitting the windsheild. It wasn't rocks, it was droppings from some unknown bird between the size of a California Condor and WWII fighter plane. Needless to say the windshield was covered in feces. We turned on the windshield wipers which only made matters worse until after we used up almost all of our windshield washer fluid. Regardless, I have to say we deserved it.

You see earlier in the same car ride, immediately after leaving our apartment we turned right on Kecoughtan ('kick-a-tan') Road. As we turned right, we saw this:

Memorial to the squirrel we crushed on the way to church

This squirrel was on the side of the road just gathering nuts into a basket to take home to his children. I thought to myself, 'That's cute. Hope he doesn't run out under the car.' Then, of course, against my better judgement he ran right under the car. Rear passenger tire caught him square and that was it. Anyway, I was sad, but aparently not sad enough because we got taken to town by the aforementioned mystery bird.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

4th Grade Political Science

Well, the elections are finally over. And even those who weren't satisfied with the result have to admit, at least all the ads have stopped and we can get on with life. However, because it was such an important week in our nations history, Nicole decided to teach the students about how politics really works. This week, Nicole started a new program with her students. Similar to a politician the students receive rewards (poker chips=$$$) for things that most would consider 'responsible behavior' or 'common-decency.' The chips are handed out for such things as turning in assignments, listening in class, or helping another student. Chips are then redeemed at the end of the week in the class store. Items in the store range anywhere from candy to Hotwheels cars to slightly larger toys. Some call it 'a behavior plan' some call it 'bribery,' but regardless, it works and everyone is happier.

In other news, I got a new wrench set this week. And not just any wrench set, a ratcheting wrench set. Built like regular box end wrenches with a ratcheting end, they are magical little devices that allow you to perform work in very small areas where space is very limited. Lucky for me I had just such a job. Of late, our car developed a small whine, which turned into a squeal, which turned into the blood-curdling death cry of a rabbit as it is skinned alive loud enough to wake up everyone in a three block radius as we leave each morning at 7 am--certainly loud enough that we couldn't carry on a conversation while it was happening. It turns out that the culprit was the serpentine belt on the alternator. On a Japeneese car (we drive a Mazda) changing the belt is a simple process of loosening four bolts that are conveniently located at the bottom of the engine between the firewall and the block and easily loosened by the same types of people who can fold their entire body into a piece of carry-on luggage. Enter the magic wrenches. We were able to complete the whole operation last night in a little over an hour using only two wrenches and less than a dozen cuss words. Using standard wrenches that had to be repositioned every eighth of a turn, we easily would still be there right now. For those reading this that are not interested in tools or auto repair, thank you for allowing me this indulgence as I glory in the best purchase of the week (and I had a lot of good ones this week.) Also, it will make a great gift for your husband or auto mechanic at X-mas.

Also this week, I went on my first scout camping trip as a leader. I will admit that at first I wasn't too excited about going. It has been raining here essentially non-stop for the last two weeks. All I could see was myself being wet and cold for two days. I imagine that these same thoughts often crossed the minds of the leaders I had as a youth which make me even more grateful for their sacrifices. However, I went and it actually turned out well. My scout did great; it was his first camping trip. (As a note 'scout' is intentionally not plural as I only have one.) Being that he had never been before we spent our time going over good Boy Scout classics such as building a fire that will light with only one match, how not to remove your fingers while using a pocket knife and what to do if you do, setting up tents, and knot-tying. We were quite successful. He had a good time, and best of all, the sun was out and Friday night was warm. Additionally I got to spend some time with the one of the other scout masters who is becoming a really good friend of mine.

I know I've said it before, but Virginia is really beautiful. The countriside here is absolutely gorgeous. I got up early before the boys were up on Sat. morning and went for a little walk down a small road near our campsite. Here are a some pictures. Also included are some photos that Nicole and I took this evening when we drove out to walk along one of the piers.

The James River

Nicole and I at the Pier

The James River Bridge

Sunrise at the campout

Fall on the camping trip

Sunday, October 19, 2008


As Matt mentioned, it was a very crazy day last Sunday. Our neighbors are great people. We became friends the first week they moved in. Homer was home most of the time because of his health so we got to know him pretty fast. He would yell hello through the door sometimes when he'd hear Matt come home, or he'd jump outside when he'd hear us come up the steps to say hi, it scared me a couple of times because he was so quick. I was glad we were there to help her call the ambulance when he fell, but it was hard to not be able to comfort her when she was in such a state of anxiety. I wanted so bad to help her but I didn't know how, especially in the middle of it all happening, not knowing if he was going to make it. We were relieved to hear, after they were in the ambulance for a very long time, that they got a pulse. However, the next day she came over in the afternoon to tell us that he had passed away a little earlier. She's such a great lady, but she's had a really hard time this week, which is completely understandable. She's come over a few times to talk and she and I went shoe shopping today for his memorial service. I've been thinking so much this week about the blessings I receive as a member of the church and how much a part of my life it is. It's not just something I believe, or something we do once a week, but it's a part of everything I am, everything I do.

We went to his memorial service tonight and it was really nice. The pastor could have been a John Bytheway. It was different from anything I've been to before, but it was nice and the family was so good to us. We went to a dinner with them after the service and ate way too much meat and talked with our neighbor some more. Matt and I have had some really great experiences already. We've met so many good people and have learned a lot about a culture that is very different from ours.

I wanted to add a little about our trip to Yorktown! There's so much history to see out here. Matt's brother Eric and his friend took us out to take a tour of the area and learn about how different things could have turned out if everything hadn't happened like it did in Yorktown.

Matt breaking through the British defenses

I think I may be a little more British than Matt by reason of number of Hugh Grant movies watched.

I didn't get to go hunting this year, but I did get to shoot like a rebel.

Last week we forgot to mention our trip to the National Cathedral. It was so incredible. I'm somewhat ignorant on all matters political, national, etc. and I didn't know it existed, but it's definitely worth seeing. It's enormous and it has hundreds of stained glass windows, they're all different, and they were all symbolic of the life of Christ.

I keep hearing about foreign things back in Utah like cold, and snow, and winter. But we live in a magical land where it never snows. It was 75 degrees today, supposedly, even with some rain. It has gotten cooler though, so, here I sit with my blow dryer and blanket.

Oh, and I go back to work on Monday after my awesome three week break! I don't know how I'm going to handle not being able to talk people in the day anymore. I'll give another update to tell you if it goes smoother teaching after I've had a while to catch up and figure things out a little more:)

Our favorite thing to cook!

Passing on what I learned from Special K

This has been an interesting week; I've been doing some good solid thinking beyond my normal fare of bike and cars. Today for example, I was made the 2nd counselor in the young men's presidency. In the LDS church, there is no paid clergy so everyone helps out. I'm now in charge of leading the young men in our ward from 12-13; we only have one right now, so I'll get to spend all of my time molding him just how I want him. We're going to have some good lessons about the gospel and cars. I'll get to help out with all of the young men though. I'm actually really excited about this opportunity.

I remember back to when I was a kid and my best friend Arthur and I used to go to young men's together. I know my leaders had a very big impact on me. One in particular (we used to refer to him as 'Special K') really made me think for the first time about why I was coming to church every Sunday and what I really believed. Beyond that, he really gave me a role model that I could see myself becoming in the near future because he was close to our age. In fact, I still, to this day remember the one of the first lessons he gave us when we were 14. It was a commercial for the 1997 911 Carrera. It was narrated by Patrick Stewart and was about 8 minutes of Porsche propaganda. He skillfully tied it into the Gospel of Jesus Christ and from that point forward, he owned us. Because we respected him so much, it was easy to take advice from him that we probably would have resented had it come from our parents. Don't get me wrong, I love my dad, but when your thought processes are irrational, your hormones are unbalanced, and your feet are too big for your body, sometimes, your dad isn't the person you want to hear it from.
1997 Porsche 911 996

Today, unfortunately, was more exciting than I would care for though. Nicole and I were sitting in the front room talking when about 4:00 there was a loud knock at our door. It was our neighbor to tell us her husband who's an older man had fallen. When we went in to check, he was on the floor and wasn't breathing. I called the paramedics and the ambulance came. Then two fire trucks arrived. As time went on our neighbor became more and more distraught at the situation. There were 6 men in the room all fighting to save one man's life. I felt pretty much helpless as I just sat there and watched and prayed he would be ok. The good news is that by the time the ambulance left for the hospital, they had a pulse. We're waiting to hear news and praying that everything goes well for him. He's such a kind, caring man. It made me think though about how fast life can change. It was certainly not something we expected. It also made me think about how much we value life. It was the first time in my life that I have been that close to tragedy and it was interesting how small I felt. There was really not much I could do change the course of what was happening. Even though we like to think we are in control of our lives and making our own decisions, we really have so little control over so many things in our lives. I'm optimistic he will be alright, but this is where the blessings of faith come in--I have faith in God who does have complete control over what happens.

On a much lighter note; on Wednesday, also while seated and talking in our front room, we had the biggest daddy long legs I have ever seen in my life on our wall. As a man and defender of our domain, it is my responsibility to kill anything that is unwanted that enters our home--I'm still hoping that a grizzly bear with a crow bar breaks open our door and moseys through one day. But as for this daddy long legs, I smashed him with a steel ruler. He completely exploded. We found various legs all over the place. One of them was still moving around.
Daddy Long Legs (shown with murder weapon for reference)

Other than that, that has been most of our news. Some of you who know me well may be getting phone calls and/or letters from the U.S. government this week asking personal questions about me. Don't worry, I haven't been arrested yet. This is just standard procedure for getting access to military bases. I just thought I'd give you all the heads up.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Virginia is for Lubbers.

So this weekend was awfully nice. Nicole has some time off from teaching because she's at a year round school, while I have a couple of days off because of a wonderfully confused man named Columbus. Columbus founded a great city in what is today Central Ohio, started a major university in New York, started a great line of sporting goods and outerwear, and did a number of remarkable things. In gratitude for all his hard work, we take a long weekend.

Nicole and I in the mountains

Anyway, for our family's celebration of Columbus day this year, we went to the Shenandoah Mountains. They have a national park there. It used to be home to many Indians who were on vacation from southeast Asia, but got stranded. Thankfully Columbus was able to discover they were here when he came across.
Sunset in Shenandoah

The mountains were perfect though. The leaves have just begun to change and showed off all sorts of colors while were there. We spent two nights there and got to enjoy some great hiking. There were several nice waterfalls to look at as well as great trees. We had some good food including tin foil salmon dinners.

An amazing waterfall

As far as wildlife, it was also plentiful. The park is long and skinny and has one central highway that runs from one end of the park to the other. Because the park is a wilderness area in the-middle-of-no-where Virginia, and there's not much to do, the animals tend to hang out right on the side of the highway and for excitement pretend to jump in front passing cars. This is good because it gives lots of opportunities for people to see the animals, but bad because lots of older camper-driving park guests also go into cardiac arrest. During our travels, we were fortunate enough to almost hit two black bears and more deer than I can count. I'm not sure I've seen black bears in the wild before, but these were smaller than what I had imagined--I would guess 300 lbs.

On Saturday, we got up early and drove out of the park and over to DC. We spent the day hanging out with Eric. It was quite relaxing. First we went 'apple picking.' Apple picking is a time every year during the fall harvest where for just a little more per pound than what you would pay in the grocery store, you get the pleasure of doing hard labor that would normally already be done for you. We got about 5 lbs of apples and have plans for all of them including pie, cobbler, and good, old-fashioned caramel.

After picking apples, we went to a bbq in Georgetown. It was a lot of fun with a lot of really good food. We ate chicken, pork, and pineapple off the grill as well as fresh salsas and other good things. Eric has a lot of really great friends. In fact, now that I've been around them a couple of times, many are starting to recognize me and call me 'Matt' instead of 'Eric's brother.'

For a great evening, we went to Old Town Alexandria. For those of you who haven't been before, Old Town is a section in an older district of DC that is just lined with lots of little shops and restaraunts. It is lined with lights and lots of people are out walking around to enjoy the evenings with. Nicole and I both agree that it is our favorite atmosphere--it would remind one a lot of Park City at night. For us, the air was cool and perfect. We walked around for a bit and watched the street performers and then had some really great (although a tad bit expensive) ice cream. All in all, it was an amazing evening. Our trip has turned out to be a great vacation. We have both been really relaxed and have enjoyed ourselves thouroughly.

Unfortunately, just as Columbus had to leave his new friends to go home, we to0, must go back to the real world--however, as tradition dictates, our parting gift to my brother and his friends will be small pox.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Awww Autumn

My sister recently blogged about her husband's and my dad's recent hunting trip, (see Carolyn's blog)and with all the changes that have happened with the coming of Autumn, the cooler weather, the leaves beginning to change colors, our visit to the State Fair, I have been thinking a lot about the feeling of Autumn at home.  Even though Christmas and the feeling that comes with it, starting in July, is my favorite half of the year, I love the Fall. Every year my sisters and I would go "hunting" with my dad. I think my dad actually got a deer with my oldest sister and brother when they were young, but that was before my time. I heard it scarred them both and Lynnette refuses to go hunting again. One by one, each of my sisters all dropped out and I was left to be my dad's faithful hunting partner. It was both Monica and I for a long time. We liked to take pictures of us holding our deer weapons and make like we were serious about looking for game. But usually our minds were only on shooting targets and eating apples and talking like the volume of your voice didn't make a difference to whether you were going to see a deer or not.        One time when Monica and I were both younger, as we were driving down the road in our large, and very sporty, red and white striped van, my dad spotted a buck (I actually wrote "boy deer" first and then thought it wise not to sound ignorant since I am a well-trained huntress). He stopped the van suddenly and called for the gun. Monica, getting excited, because that's what we were there for after all, handed him the gun as he dashed outside and into the thick brush after the buck.        
     As we sat there, adrenaline pumping, Monica suddenly flipped around and said, "Do you realize what's happening?" As our young, Bambi-filled minds started to process what "deer hunting" actually was, for it had never played much of a part in past trips, we started to cry. To add guilt to anguish Monica added, "and I handed him the gun!" So we did what any other helpless person might do, we prayed in the back living room-sized portion of our van that my dad wouldn't get the buck. I believe Monica even asked for forgiveness for handing him the gun. As we awaited the daddy deer's fate, we heard a gun shot. That was it, we were sure. We were murderers. (Although I do think Monica would have been a little bit more murderer than me for handing him the gun.) 
       But, needless to say, my dad wandered back, rather disheartened, and climbed into the van to report that he had taken a shot at it, but it had ran around a corner and he lost it. We both made token comments of disappointment and condolence, but secretly (for it was a deep secret we wouldn't share for many years that we had prayed away possibly his only hope of catching a deer) we were relieved that we had saved a buck from it's sure fate (my dad really is a good shot).

But definitely one of my favorite days of the year is the deer hunt with my dad. For about 7 years or something it was just my dad and I. My dad is an amazing guy. I don't know if there's anything I appreciate more than those times my dad spent with just me up in the mountains. It was always so beautiful and refreshing and the words of advice, motivation, consolement, and friendship that he gave me really made me know how much he cared about me. My dad is one of those people I can just talk to about anything, and he's always interested, he's always laughing and helping me see that most situations aren't as serious as they seem, and he's always telling me I'm a good person.  I love my dad for taking me up into the mountains every year to talk and hike and shoot targets and eat apples and be with just me.  

So it's the first year I missed out on the hunt.  But because I am so talented at hunting, (I am rather stealth-like if need be), I'm going to go hunting with my dad the next time I'm in Utah in October.   So dad, don't stop hunting, and don't stop not catching a deer, and I'm still your hunting partner.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Smoking Cars, Tiny Horses, and Hairy Men--Nicole and Matt Go to the Fair

As promised, this has been a busy week. The week started off normally as Nicole worked and I went with school. We were met with disappointment however on Wed. We decided to go karting on Wed. night because it was both college night (for me) and ladies night (for Nicole). It would have made it an affordable activity. However, upon calling the track, we found out that ladies' night had been disbanded. So instead of going home happy and smelling like two-stroke, we went home clean and disappointed.

Thursday was a great day however. Nicole finished teaching for the next three weeks. Since Nicole is teaching in a year-round school, they now get a few weeks to recuperate. Nicole is particularly looking forward to this time because she really hasn't had a good chance yet to sit down and plan for her class. On Friday, I spent all day down on campus working with some equipment to take some measurements in a wind-tunnel. I was hoping to get everything done in roughly an hour--instead, it took me four. But I felt particularly smart after I figured it out and got the results I was expecting.

Friday night was the highlight of the week though. Nicole and I drove up to Richmond to the Virginia State Fair. There was a lot going on, but most importantly was the demolition derby. It's always refreshing to see grown men act like boys and smash things together for the pure fun of it. It's also lots of fun to listen to large hairy men in NASCAR shirts, with a beer and John Deere caps, yell a whole bunch of things that no one understands. After the derby finished, we enjoyed ourselves and just walked around the fair and talked about life and how glad we were that we didn't end up as 'carnys'. It was a great night of just enjoying the fair lights and fair aromas of grease and livestock. Of course to finish the evening off proper, we had a funnel cake.Cars smashing each other at the derby.

Some Midget Horses

Saturday was a great day as well. We had conference all day which was very good. We were also able to get some things done around the house before and between sessions. For me, after only three trips to Home Depot, I was able to finally mount our headboard to our bed. Then for an evening activity, we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to pick out our first vacuum as couple. Our two area rugs have been in desperate need of vacuuming. The unit we got is small but has some really intense suctional powers. Shopping for a vacuum was a lot more fulfilling for me than picking out something like matching napkin holders or throw pillows where I am at a disadvantage because I can't match colors. I am lots more excited about the process when I can say things like, "it has a 12 amp motor" and "says here it operates on 745 watts rms power" and such. I can't wait until we can get to pick out our first radial arm saw and our first chipper-shredder.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pardon Us While We Slip into Something More Comfortable...

Well, Nicole and I are here and sort of officially settled...we've started getting bills in the mail addressed to both of us with our new place of residence on them. Adjusting has been easy in some facets of life and difficult in others, but in general we're becoming quite comfortable here.

Nicole and I are both adjusting to our daily routines. Nicole is teaching now every day. She works as a 4th grade special ed teacher. Previous to Nicole taking the position, the children were supervised by various long-term subs which resulted in chaos and anarchy among the children. It was very similar to the society in that apocalyptic masterpiece the Road Warrior. However, day by day, sanity is returning and things are going more smoothly.

My adjustment was just about as difficult. I am currently taking two graduate courses in my program and have just barely begun my work as a research assistant in the wind tunnel on the NASA-Langely campus. It was a difficult adjustment because until this last week I didn't have a valid credential to get onto the base. Because of that, I spent most of my 20 scheduled hours a week hanging out at home trying to buy things on ebay and waiting. I should have anticipated the delay however, because my badge has been a cooperative effort of Old Dominion, NASA, and the Air Force.

Adjustment to the area has been nice though. The landscape is pretty. We have a lot of really nice trees right out our back door. We have actually had some great storms move through. We were participants in the wrath of tropical storm Hanna. With a name like tropical storm, I was expecting a lot more anger and fury, but it was much more reminiscent of an overcast windy day. Even though I was hoping to get out the 72 hour kit and cook our food on a fire built from the hardwood floorboards pulled up in our apartment, I am grateful it was mild. Our apartment is about 2000 feet from the water and only about 5 ft. above sea level. It is also of note that we don't currently own a boat.

We've been able to find quite a few fun things to do. Labor Day weekend we went and saw the National Symphony play and had a barbeque with some tasty bratwurst. Last week we went to an airshow. There were lots of planes and lots of exciting jet noise. This week we plan on going to the demolition derby at the VA state fair up in Richmond. We expect lots of cars and lots of unmuffled engine noise. That leaves me with a busy week; I've got to focus on growing out my mullet and wolverine style side burns before then.

Some loud planes I wish could fly.

Nicole at the airshow

Gorgeous Sunset in VA

A famous Cragun Brother's BBQ featuring Bratwurst

My Favorite Day

August 2nd. It was an amazing day all in all.  The most amazing day of my life, just like I always hoped it would be.  It started around 3:30 am with my incredibly generous and very talented friend Heather doing my hair.  (I have Heather to thank for making me feel beautiful during this whole thing.  Thanks Hes!) We got to the St. George Temple early so I could meet Matt and our photographer to take pictures before the insane heat of the day came. 

Being sealed in the temple for eternity to the person I love more than anything was the greatest feeling I have ever experienced.  To know that it is all real, that I can really be with Matt and my family forever, was worth everything it took to get there.  

Matt wanted to do it right so he carried me out of the temple after we were sealed.  

We tried to take our family pictures as quickly as possible because it was around 103 degrees at 1:00 in the afternoon.  We're actually really lucky because it was overcast so it could have been around 108 or so. 

All my nieces
 looked so miserably hot and my nephew Isaac was stripped because of the insane heat:)

We went and had a really nice luncheon, provided by Matt's parents, (thank you so much!) and then drove back to Cedar for the reception.  My extended family helped so much with the set up and decorations (thank you thank you!) and my awesome neighbors helped so much with the food (thank you all too!).  

The night went really fast and my feet didn't hurt all night! But what they say is true, I didn't have a second to think about eating dinner.  We had a small bite of our cake, which tasted amazing, but then didn't have time to eat any later. 

We had a short dance where I got to dance with my dad and my brother Chad.  I don't know what it is about Chad, but I don't think I've ever ever hugged him without crying.   

When it was finally time to go we got all of our stuff and walked outside to this:
Matt's brothers and friends copied our key, moved our car, and did lots of fun things to it.

I feel so lucky.  I've never seen such an impressive car after a wedding!  They filled our car with confetti in random places, like our sun roof, so it all fell out when we opened it an hour later, and our air vents, so it all blew out when we turned on the air.  Malibu Ken and Barbie were on our dashboard and Marvin Gaye was playing for everyone to hear as we drove off.  

It was a crazy long day, and it all happened so fast, but I'll never forget it.  I have so many people to thank for everything that went so smoothly that day and turned out perfectly.  My siblings all helped out so much and I was so so happy they were all there.  My parents and Matt's parents did so so much and I can't thank you all enough!!  

So, I'm married! And it's already 2 months into it, the best 2 months of my life.  It's funny how I could never picture the other side.  Marriage seemed like this surreal bridge you had to cross to get to a very different and very in the future life.  But I'm here.  It's fun on this side.  I liked crossing the bridge and the other side really isn't that different from the previous side.  Well, I take that back.  It's very different, I love it so so much.  But it's just as real.  

To see the pictures that my brother Chad took (he is an amazing photographer) click here.