Monday, June 28, 2010

A Whirlwind of a Wedding

So the weekend finally came for my sister's wedding and to see my Matthew after not seeing him for seven weeks. I was very excited! I headed for the airport straight from my internship and luckily I made it, I was kind of worried that I wouldn't when I met the traffic through Pittsburgh. Have I said that the traffic here is the only thing I don't like about Pittsburgh?

I was greeted at the airport in Las Vegas by my brother Gary, my sister Elisa, my cousin Simon and my Matthew. Gary dropped Simon off at Grandma Kofford's house and met up with the rest of us at my parent's house. We hung around for a little while talking and then Matthew, Gary and I headed to Gary and Haley's house to get some shut eye.

The next morning we got up and went to the temple to be there with Elisa and Jordan as they received their temple endowments. It was a wonderful experience to have so much of the family together in the temple. Now the only one in my immediate family that has to go through is Kaleb. It is a wonderful feeling to be in such a peaceful, heavenly place with the ones you love.

After the temple we went to Macayo's for lunch in celebration of Elisa and Alex's wedding the next day. We were introduced to Alex's family and all in all it was a joyous occasion. After lunch Matthew and I went back to Gary and Haley's house to get our stuff so we could bring it to the hotel room. Unfortunately Matthew got a headache, but with some rest and liquids he was ready to get out there and go party it up with Alex and my brothers for Alex's bachelor party. Shaley (one of Elisa's best friends and bridesmaids) and I were planning to start Elisa's bachelorette party at Chilis for dinner but we were sad to find that it had been closed. Elisa really wanted a hamburger so we settled for Denny's, which was really yummy too. After Denny's we went over to Gary and Haley's place to play some games. We ended up playing Apples to Apples, which is always fun with a big group.

The next day was the BIG day...the day my little sister got married. She looked so happy and so beautiful. I couldn't help but be so excited for her and Alex and the great adventure they were starting together. I am so proud of the decisions she has made in her life. All in all it was a wonderful, very happy time with my family.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The New York Post

Last weekend Justin and I went to New York and I have to say it did not start off in a good way. I worked half the day at my internship and the plan was for me to pick up Justin afterward. Well, of course out of all of my half days, this was the first that I had to stay late to finish some paperwork and besides that, it was frustrating because of some issues with one of the employees there. So, I got off to a late start and I hadn't finished packing, so I rushed back to my aunt and uncle's house to get the rest of my stuff and then to pick up Justin and of course on my way to get Justin I had to hit the most terrible traffic I have encountered since being here. I became so agitated in trying to drive that I started talking to myself, actually it was more like yelling. I became so agitated that I became very annoyed with the bus in front of me who left their blinker on for like three miles... it was driving me insane, a blinker! I am usually a pretty calm driver, but as I said before, the morning already started off bad, and now I was running late.

I finally got to Justin's house and we started off. Justin soon realized that it probably would have been better for him to have met me at his parent's house because now we had to back track and of course traffic would be bad. Luckily it wasn't as bad as it was on the way to get him, but I told him I blamed him for my bad mood...he should know better, he lives here! As we left the city and all it's chaos and started off into the serene scene of Pennsylvania's wilderness and all it's beauty, my mood became more calmed. It also helped that I got some food in me. A hungry Kara is NOT a happy Kara...I think Matthew can attest to that!

I had printed out some directions from "Google Maps" and briefly glanced over them before leaving and noticed that we would be going over the Washington Bridge, but once I met up with Justin he informed me that he had a GPS that would show us the way. Well, the GPS sent us through the Lincoln Tunnel instead of over the bridge and for anyone who doesn't know (like me) The Lincoln Tunnel puts you right into New York City...precisely where everyone told me not to drive through!! Actually the worst part about the traffic was before we got through the tunnel, not when we were in the city and I have to say that I was glad that we had that experience. It was a fun introduction to the pushed our travel back by at least an hour, but created an adventure! We were able to see and experience some of the novelties of this unique city, such as:

1) A man wearing headphones, dancing in between the two lanes of cars, tapping on windows for money for his "entertainment."

2) Loads of people at a cross walk, herding their way across the streets (for those of you in Salt's like downtown SLC during General Conference weekend...but in my limited experience, New York is always like least in the downtown area)

3) I cut off a cab! (I didn't do it completely on purpose, but I learned quickly that it you want to get anywhere, you have to step on your gas and just do it...which for me is scary in narrow streets and in the dark, but I made Justin proud...and he says that I'm not aggressive enough)

We finally got to my friend Daniela's place around midnight and crashed pretty fast. We planned to make it to the train by no later than 11:30 am the next morning, but some confusion with the departure time of the train led us to miss it and we had to wait for the 12:30 train. I was kind of bummed about loosing time I could have spent in the city, but I was comforted with a great big piece of pizza! It was from Daniela's favorite pizza place in Long Island called "Mama's" and it was delicious!
We took the train to Penn Station and when we rose from the station beneath the city we were greeted by the hustle and bustle of New York. Our first mission was to find Justin a belt. First we stopped into one of the many small clothing stores that are jammed together, and I was surprised at how decent the prices were, but the same decency of price was not shown in the belt off to the 3 story Kmart we went. I haven't been inside a Kmart for years. After Justin was secured by his belt, we made our way to the Empire State Building.

We went up to the 86th floor observatory. If it didn't cost so much it would have been nice to go to the 102nd floor, but it was still a beautiful site. It is a different beauty than other things I have experienced and the photos I have taken do not give it justice. It was also a hazy day, so that nice crystal clear shot didn't happen, especially since I don't have one of those fancy cameras and I am not great with lighting and such. That is one thing that I would like to learn more about. I love photos and would love to gain a talent in taking beautiful pictures. My sister-in-law Heather has been taking amazing pictures. She has taken on a photo a day challenge for the year and each picture amazes me more than the last.

Anyway, back to my description of New York. As I was saying, it is a very unique beauty. It is amazing to me to see so many buildings, so close together. It really was extraordinary. I also bought my New York magnet at the gift store. Matthew and I collect magnets from each place we have visited. We don't have many yet, but after our trip this summer we will have at least twice as many as we have now. It is a good magnet too and surprisingly the price was not any more than what I have paid for our other magnets. My cousin, Justin also picked up a gift for his girlfriend, Erin..."Gorilla Poop." I wish I would have taken a picture of it; really it is just sunflower seeds dipped in chocolate. This container of chocolate covered sunflower seeds just happened to be pink, purple and black. If you knew Justin and Erin, you would know that it was the perfect gift; fun loving and well, just plain funny!

After the Empire State Building, Justin and I took my first adventure on the subway system in New York City! At first it was confusing, but with help of the kind people of New York City and a few subway maps, we were able to find our way to Central Park. We were planning to meet Daniela at the park because she had other plans earlier in the day and luckily when we called her she wasn't too far behind us, so Justin and I took the opportunity to take a short nap on a blanket in the grass. So I can now say I have taken a nap in Central Park. When Daniela met up with us, we wandered around the park and did one of my favorite things to do...people watch! And what better place to people watch than Central Park?! We ran into a big group of people dancing, on roller blades to hip moving music. At first I couldn't believe it. This group of people actually sectioned off a part of the walkway in Central Park to "roller-dance." It was awesome. We also walked by three or four musicians that were singing and/or playing the guitar. One musician was even playing an accordion.

Upon further exploration we ran into a break dancing group that a group of people were watching. We got there just in time to see one of the performers do an aerial stunt over 5 people and lucky me I got it on video! We continued walking and came upon one of the spots were they filmed the movie "Enchanted." I love that movie. If you ask Matthew and his parents, they will tell you that I have a dress that helps me feel in character and break out in song! After wandering around for a bit, Justin and I started to feel the pains of hunger. Justin really wanted a shish-ka-bob, but none of the stands in the park had any, so after much exploration we found a little food stand by a pond and had perogies (a Polish type ravioli of sorts...usually filled with potato) and chicken strips. I was skeptical about the quality of food for the price we paid, but figured it would be that way no matter where we ate at a food stand in New York...and then we got our was actually high quality for a food stand. Needless to say I was impressed and filled!

After Central Park we got back onto the subway to head over to Time Square. When we arrived I began to realize why people came. If there were just the buildings with the huge advertisements I would have been impressed for like 3 seconds and said, what's the big deal, you can do this anywhere, but then I realized that the amazing thing about Time Square is the people. I don't think that there is any other place on earth with as many interesting people in that amount of space. It creates this indescribable atmosphere that is somewhat intoxicating. Everywhere you turn there is something else to look at. Women with gorilla puppets, men dressed up like the joker, people selling food, others playing music, swarms of people rushing to shop, or to a show or to eat or to dance, people hailing taxis, others trying to get you to donate to the homeless or buy a purse or a scarf or a hat, cars crammed together with pedestrians playing a live game of frogger, a man with a snake wrapped around him asking if you want to pay for a picture of you with it around your neck, lights flashing and advertising this Broadway show or that, the smell of roasted peanuts and pretzels and popcorn and meat. The only other thing that I have to compare to it is a State Fair.

While in Time Square we went to the Toys R Us store and rode the ferris wheel inside, then we saw some children with Hershey Factory worker hats on their heads and decided that we wanted to become workers too. We went to M&M World, where I spent way too much money on a bag of M&M's, but on the upside I got to try the new pretzel M&M's...pretty good. After M&M World we went to the Hershey Store and became workers, then we decided food would be a great idea, but upon walking a little further Justin and I realized that our feet wouldn't last. So, Daniela and I got some Honey Roasted Peanuts and Justin got his shish-ka-bob and we started walking back to Penn Station. By the time we got there I truly thought my feet would fall off. We found out that we had about a 30 minute wait until our train came, so Daniela dragged us across the station to an area where we could sit and rest our weary feet. And oh what a blessed rest it was! On the train ride home Justin slumped down in exhaustion and Daniela and I talked. When we got back to Long Island we stopped off for some ice cream. We were going to go somewhere for dinner because Daniela was starving, but because we got back late, nothing was really open, as it was, we got to the ice cream store 5 minutes before they closed and we got crusty looks, so we decided not to take our chances anywhere else and just went back to Daniela's place. She ate some spaghetti and we swapped some photos with one another. Then Justin and I fell asleep while watching an old episode of House.

The next morning we slept in and then said goodbye to Daniela. We took a different route home than we did coming into New York. This time we did cross the Washington Bridge and it was a beautiful drive. All in all it was a good trip, a little to fast for me, but it was nice to get a little glimpse a such a diverse place.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


So the past 2 weeks I have been exploring the city of Pittsburgh and I have to say that it is a beautiful place!

Last weekend I decided that I would take a tour with a company called Just Ducky Tours. It is the only land and water tour in Pittsburgh. They use old military vehicles that were made to drive on the land and in the water. It was pretty cool and really interesting, plus I was given the opportunity to "drive", really it was more like steer, the boat while on the Ohio River! I soon discovered that even if I just spent my 10 weekends in Pittsburgh, I probably still wouldn't be able to see and do all that there is possible to see and do here, but I suppose you could say that about many big cities. It has helped me to appreciate Salt Lake and one of my goals when I get back is to do more to take advantage of all it has to offer.

After my explorations of the city were complete, I returned to my aunt and uncle's house and my aunt Kristi said that there was a sale at the mall that we had to get to. She said that she wanted to get me some clothes for my upcoming birthday, so off to Macy's we went. We picked out some cute clothes to try on and were off to the dressing rooms. Surprisingly a few pair of the pants that I first picked out fit me very well, which doesn't happen often. I was trying to determine which pair to get, when my aunt said that we were getting all of it. I wasn't sure about it because it was a lot of clothes, and Macy's isn't the cheapest of places, but my aunt insisted saying it was on sale. I was afraid to see the total, but was very surprised to see that it was under $50, later I found out that it was indeed a REALLY good sale. A flood of gratitude swept over me on the drive home. I think it was partially because I have been pretty bummed out about Matthew not getting a Seminary job and worrying about our future and, as always, having the money needed for all that we want to accomplish, but in my heart I knew in that moment that this was a blessing from the Lord.

So, my CI has been asking me questions about the church because she is reading a book for her book club about a woman who has left the church. It has been interesting to me while being here to be around so many people who really don't know much, if anything at all about the church. I have tried to approach it based on the basic beliefs and teachings of the church, but that is hard, because of this book she is reading. The book brings up things that I hold as sacred, but in my mind it tries to twist or exaggerate the truth or even, as far as I know, lie about my beliefs and practices. Luckily, my CI approaches it in a healthy way that makes me feel that she really just wants to understand and learn more about the church. I only hope that I can be a good example and follow the Lord's promptings, so that a good impact is left and maybe a tiny seed planted.

Friday I was determined to work hard and get things done so that I could spend my birthday on Saturday doing only things that included having fun and not thinking about school. With this strong determination I was able to accomplish my goal of reading and making tables for all of the articles I have found for my doctoral project. There is still a lot to be done, but I am happy with the progress I am making. After finishing that up, I took a break and watched a movie. After that I pulled out the book I have been typing for a gentleman in my branch and planned on working on it until my cousin Justin came to pick me up for an evening of dancing. When 9:30pm rolled around and Justin had not come over, I went to my phone and discovered that he had left a message saying that he would not be able to come over until 10:30pm, so I went back to the book for a little bit, whereupon I discovered that I was overcome with much sleepiness and so, alas I backed out of what I am sure would have been a spicy night of salsa dancing to sleep. I know it sounds a bit lame, but if only you could understand the many sleepless nights I have had since being here, you would have done the same, and besides, Saturday was to be filled with fun!

And so it was! For my birthday on Saturday, my aunt Kristi and I had a fun day planned. I found out from one of the therapists at my internship that Pittsburgh was going to try and break the world record for the number of canoes and kayaks connected by hands in a free-floating flotilla on a river for 30 seconds on my birthday and I decided that what could be better than trying to break a world record on your birthday! So Kristi, Justin and I set out to the Point, which is the point were the three rivers surrounding Pittsburgh (Allegheny, Ohio and Monongahela) meet. It was a fun adventure and at least in numbers, the people of Pittsburgh definitely broke the record, but the results of whether or not it was truly broken won't be announced by Guinness World Records for a few months. After attempting to break the world record, it began to pour down rain and even with rain coats on we were soaked to the bone. We decided that it would be best to go back to the house and change clothes and then go and get something to eat.

After changing, Kristi, Justin and his girlfriend Erin, and I all went out for some pizza at a pizza place in Oakmont called Veltre's Pizza. It was really good; we ordered a Mediterranean Chicken Pizza and a Fresh tomato, pepperoni and sausage pizza. After linner (yes I called it that) we went back to the house and watched the new "Alice in Wonderland" with Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway. It was a good movie, even though it was not what I was expecting. The only other version of the movie I have seen is the cartoon one. I know it is based off of a book, but I am not sure how closely it follows it. I suppose that is a book that will go on my reading list!

After the movie and cake and ice cream, we (Justin, Erin, Aunt Kristi, Uncle Leeland and I) went to the Three Rivers Art Festival to see/hear the band Guster play. I liked the music, they have a cool sound, although I have to say that I was disappointed that they went half way through the concert without one hint profanity and then, only after I decided that I liked them, did they swear. Needless to say I did not buy their album. I may add a few of their songs to my playlist, but I don't want to buy a CD that I will only listen to half of the songs. While at the concert I did record a portion of their song "Satellite", mostly so Matthew could hear it. During a few of the songs I also realized how much I miss my Matthew. Being apart has helped me to appreciate him more. I am definitely excited to see him in a few weeks!

All in all it was a wonderful birthday! Oh, I have to tell you about what Matthew did for me. Friday was my day off this past week and in the early afternoon as I was working on my project, my aunt and uncle's phone rang. Well, I was the only one around, so I answered and on the other end was a woman from a flower shop. And when she asked for me, I was very surprised, as this was not my house! She was calling because she had some flowers for me, but was uncertain as to how she should get to my location. I gave her some directions and she said she would be here in an hour. After hanging up, I promptly called Matthew to thank him for the flowers. He asked if I liked them and then I told him I wasn't sure yet, which confused him for a moment. I then explained to him what had happened and he was disappointed that his surprise had been ruined, but I told him that it was still a surprise because I didn't know that he had done it! About an hour later the flowers showed up and they were beautiful! (There are a picture of the flowers with the picture of me blowing out the candles on my cake)