Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy 32nd!


Today is Matt's 32nd Birthday!  Boy is he getting up there!  I got up just before 7 am to go to the store for breakfast food.  I was hoping Matt would still be asleep when I got back so I could surprise him.  He was already up and in the shower.  He thought I had gone to work out (I'm sure he was hoping I had gone to work out), so I guess it was still a bit of a surprise.  I cooked bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, eggs, and biscuits.  We went to dinner tonight with Matt and Becky, and Jon and Jess.  We went to DoDo in downtown SLC and then to Cafe Trio for dessert.  We had a great time without all the distractions of the kids!  Not that we don't love our nieces and nephews, but sometimes it is nice to have some adult time.  

Happy Birthday Matt!  I love you!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Eve and Day

I had Christmas Eve off this year.  I think that is a first in five years!  It was nice to be able to relax and enjoy the holiday a bit more than normal.  Working retail, holidays just aren't quite the same.  I can't ever go anywhere (at least very far) because I either have to work the day before, the day of, or the day after.  Last year, I got the flu on Christmas Eve.  I went into work at 7 am to set the new floor set and by 2 pm I was really not doing well.  I puked twice at work.  The second time I didn't quite make it to the toilet and it got all over my nice skirt, tights, and 4" high-heels. I stayed in bed Christmas Eve and most of Christmas Day - that was Matt's and my first Christmas. I couldn't go over to Heather and Steve's as planned because I couldn't get anyone sick - Heather was actually just about ready to have Brooklyn and really I couldn't eat anything anyway.  My parents were staying with us and so I tried to stay in the bedroom - quarantined for Christmas!  So, I was really grateful to be well this year and to be able to really enjoy all the food, the company, and thoughts of our Savior.

Christmas Eve we went back to Jon and Jess's and had breakfast for lunch with the same crew.
 




























Only problem was that they were doing some kind of construction on I-15 northbound and it took me over an hour to get to Jon's house.  I was on the verge of road rage when I saw that I couldn't even get on the highway from University Parkway and it took me over a half hour just to get over the overpass and onto Geneva Road.  By that time, Heather caught up to me.  She was on the highway just before University Avenue when I called her and told her to get off.
Thanks to Heather's handy map in the car and her excellent navigating, we made it onto some back roads and back to I-15 in American Fork.  We had a good time again and the food was excellent - homemade waffles with fruit and whipped cream and quiche.  

I found Ira enjoying a chocolate ball.  First of all, I have no idea how he got into it because I unwrapped another one for Beckham who couldn't open his own.  The adults were in the
 other room enjoying conversation and I happened to find Ira quietly enjoying his chocolate in this chair.  I hurried and grabbed the camera and told everyone to come look.  Of course when everyone came over he started hiding his face and proceeded to rub the chocolate ball all over his face - this is the result!  Jess had just put him in this nice sweater to go up and visit her family for the holiday.

Matt and I took it easy Christmas Eve.  We watched a bit of It's a Wonderful Life and The Christmas Story and enjoyed the fire.  We opened one present - my dad's tradition - pajamas.  


















Christmas Day we woke up at 8 am to open the rest of the loot, went over to Heather's for the day.  We had a great time with the girls.  Katie and I played Biggest Littlest Pet Shop.  We were able to talk to my parents via Skype.  They had a nice Christmas in Ghana with the other missionary couples.  

We had Matt's sister, Jackie and her family over for dinner.  We had a second Christmas dinner at Heather's house the next night.  

Jadon had a good time building with the blocks - the one toy we have in our house.  He also was way into Joshie's headlamp and cantine.  
When I found our headlamp for Jordan to use - he was feeling sad he didn't have one to play with - Jadon immediately offered the his headlamp to Jordan for the sleek one on Jordan's head.
Joshie and I had a good time chasing after each other.  He gave me a good workout as he tried to catch me.  We ran in circles all around the couches for about 20 minutes until I gave in.  I need to have him over every day so I can get my exercise in!
Little Jacob with Jackie - he was confined to the pack and play for a good part of the night - our house isn't quite child proof.  He is making all sorts of noises and is starting to talk. 


A Night out with the Shipley Bunch


Matt playing with Ben who loves balls!

Christmas this year was a bit different as my parents are in Ghana serving a mission. We still managed to get together with family several times. The Saturday before Christmas, we got together with Heather, Matt, and Jon and their families. We went to Jumping Jacks in Lindon and the kids enjoyed jumping to their hearts' content. Presley and Beckham sure have a good time together.  Ben will hang out with those two as well, but he really enjoys playing on his own.  He was a bit more afraid to jump on the trampolines.  Katie was wishing her cousins from Idaho were around - she is the oldest of this group and was heard once to say, "I'm bored." Poor girl needs some kids her age to play with!
  I helped entertain the littlest ones - Ira, Maggie, and Brooklyn. They are adorable. Ira has decided to become the shy baby and he will either cover his face with his hands or put his head down like a little turtle. Brooklyn has decided not to be completely terrified of people and actually let me hold her the entire night! That is a huge step for her. Maybe one day I will be able to babysit without her crying the whole time. Maggie is happy as ever and drooling lots as her teeth are coming in. 

After we were done with our hour of jumping - the girls sent the kids back to Jon and Jess's to play and watch the BYU game and the girls went out to dinner. 
You would think by looking at this picture of Matt that BYU did well - quite the opposite!

I had heard of a new place to eat in Orem that was supposed to be really good - Pizzeria Seven Twelve. http://www.pizzeria712.com/ We all decided to order a different pizza and share. Jess went with the simplest pizza - tomato sauce, hand pulled mozzarella, and basil. Becky ordered speck, soppresatta, garlic, and mozzarella pizza. Heather ordered caramelized onions, potato, rosemary, and fontina pizza and I ordered roasted fennel, house made sausage, and mozzarella. They actually had a dictionary at the bottom of the menu to help us decipher what exactly we were ordering.  They were all so good. We voted mine #1 in case any of you go. I would order any of them again. They had three desserts on the menu which we all shared too. It was great to go out with just the girls and for the others, have a break from the kids.
Matt holding Maggie, Becky and Jon



Saturday, December 13, 2008

Texas (again)



My travels last week took me back to Texas. My first stop was lovely Amarillo. The most notable part of the visit there was the location of my hearing. I pulled up to the address as directed by my GPS device but decided I had to be in the wrong place. It was a senior center. Now, anyone who has done Social Security hearings will tell you that they are held in all kinds of places. They're never held in actual court rooms. The most formal setting is little more than a conference room. I've also been in hotel conference rooms, and a colleague of mine has even held one in a hotel room. Never, however, have I been in a senior center. Right beside the small room where the hearing was held was a large room where scores of old people were line dancing. On the other side were elderly folks anxiously engaged in playing pool.

This coming week is my busiest travel week ever: South Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, and Colorado in successive days.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dallas

As most of our readers know, my work takes me all over the country. Last week it took me to Texas, where high school football is king, and the size of people's egos is exceeded only by the size of the steaks (see below). I struggled to find things to do in Dallas, but one site I wanted to visit was the book depository, where President Kennedy was shot. Even now, 45 years after his death, rumors swirl around the assasination of one of our country's most overrated Presidents. Was it the work of a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald? Or was it the product of a sinister cabal consisting of communists, mobsters, members of the Castro resistance (who felt betrayed after the Bay of Pigs fiasco), jealous suitors of President Kennedy's famous paramour, Marilyn Monroe, aliens, the CIA, and the John Birch Society? We may never know. Below are some pictures of the scene. Perhaps they can help you come to your own conclusion.

The book depository. From the 6th floor of this building, someone killed the President.



The view from the grassy knoll. Sure makes a fine vantage point for a second gunman!


Looking up from the street to the grassy knoll. Is that the faint image of a man's head and a puff of gunsmoke?


After working up an appetite piecing together decades-old mysteries, it was time to eat. I wanted to eat steak while in Texas, figuring that it, like everything else, would be bigger. The Traildust steakhouse didn't disappoint. I ordered a 30-oz porterhouse with all the fixins (the largest you can order is a 50-oz).

It also came with an angioplasty.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Deep Breath . . .


By now you probably think you know all there is to know about breathing. You have no idea how wrong you are. I watched first hand as Robyn and her friend Andrea transcended the bounds of normal inhaling and exhaling and entered a new zen-like realm of respiration. One of Robyn's friends from high school works as some hippie guru who teaches people how to breathe deeply and "reconnect to life, love, lightness, and laughter." Since Robyn's breathing guru lives in California, the whole session was conducted via skype. So with Robyn's laptop on the floor, Robyn and Andrea lied down and embarked on a magical mystery tour. I only heard bits and pieces of the session, but Justin urged them on as negative energy left their bodies and positive energy rushed in. As I later told them, the only thing missing were incense, a lava lamp, and a big old bong full of reefer. Be sure to ask Robyn to share what she's learned with you!



Robyn and Andrea, feeling a new bond after learning how to breathe more fully and love more deeply, share a hug.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

Mandy and I are enjoying Las Vegas. We left on Wednesday morning as it was snowing in Utah and came to 70 degree weather in Vegas. It has been a nice and relaxing time.



This is a park that we hung out at before going to see The Secret Life of Bees. We thought the palm trees are a bit deceiving and make it look like we are at a lush tropical location and not in the barren dessert.



We were able to get tickets to Love at The Mirage for an unbelievable price. Let's jut say we worked out a deal with a "friend." Thanks to Melanie, an old roommate, who lives here locally, we were able to get 5th row seats at a fraction of the cost!



Mandy and I just before the show.



Melanie and I posing with the ticket taker.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dawn of a New Era

Well, 55 million people woke up this morning a little disappointed to find that Barack HUSSEIN (their emphasis, not mine) Obama was elected president. Some people believe that Obama's election will spell the hastening of the Apocalypse or the morphing of our democratic republic into a grey, drab, socialist nightmare. I think it will probably mean lots of spending, higher taxes, and bitter, long winded diatribes on conservative talk radio and not much more. I wasn't an Obama supporter, but I do think that it's a big deal that an African American was elected to the nation's highest office.

Meanwhile, in California, Proposition 8 passed by a sizeable margin. A small minority of people will claim this is legalized bigotry. I disagree. 99% of the supporters of Proposition 8 didn't want gay marriage banned out of a hate for homosexuals, but out of a strong belief in the sanctity of marriage and its importance in building a strong society. And at the risk of offending people, I think this issue also showed the true colors of a lot of members of the Church. It's beyond me how one could sustain the Church yet think it's wrong on an issue on which there is absolutely no wiggle room. Personal associations have nothing to do with it. Having a child or sibling who lives that lifestyle doesn't justify defying not only your leaders, but what you know is right.

But enough of politics! Many of our readers prefer not to read about stuff that isn't trite and cutesy. I'm in New Orleans today for a hearing. I took some time to go to the French Quarter to see the sights. I happened upon a movie crew filming an upcoming movie called "Welcome to Riley's," starring James Gandolfini. I was within spitting distance of the star. The scene I witnessed saw Gandolfini running down a city block as if he were chasing someone. They did several takes. He looked winded. Robyn is in Las Vegas enjoying a week off with Mandy. Hopefully she'll give a full report when she returns this weekend.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Going Goth





Matt and I decided to dress up for Halloween this year and head to Jon and Jess's party in West Valley City.  Jess has been asking me to go to this party for the last three years, and I have been working every year.  Matt came up with two costume ideas - gothic or dressing as McCain and Palin.  We decided to go goth!  It was hilarious to watch Matt paint his own fingernails black and apply makeup.  He started to look a bit feminine all of a sudden.  We had a great time except that our poor little nephews didn't even recognize us.  

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lane Courtesy: Pass it On!

I have to preface this post by saying that I love Utah. I really do. I consider Utah home now and enjoy just about everything about it: the hot, dry summers, the beautiful landscapes, the good people. But as Robyn can attest, there is one thing that instantly brings my blood to a boil: drivers that do not respect the sanctity of the fast lane. The National Motorist Association calls it lane courtesy. Nearly all states have so-called "keep right" laws. You can access a brief, summarized list of all the states that have such laws here. You may be surprised that Utah has such a law on the books.

Those of you from Utah are undoubtedly furrowing your brow with your head cocked to the side, no idea what I'm talking about. I've posted a brief video clip from our visit to Pennsylvania to show you how to properly conduct yourself while in the fast lane. I hope you find it instructive. Also, please ignore the tailgating, as I had to delicately bait my subject into doing what I wanted him to do.


video

I hope that this video has been enlightening. I further hope that I haven't offended anyone with my matter-of-fact presentation of this state-wide epidemic. Lastly, I sincerely hope you will forward a link of this post to every Utahan you know. Together we can end lane discourtesy! This concludes the Keystone State Edition of the Steeners' blog. We hope you've enjoyed it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Now for a less complimentary review of New York . . .


A special thanks to Robyn for that uplifting recount of Palmyra, whose quiet, country charm captures the heart of every visitor. Since Robyn blogged on Palmyra, (a place she had never visited), it seems appropriate that I should share the experience of my first visit to New York City, widely known as the Big Apple, The City that Never Sleeps, or as I call it, the Big stopped-up, festering toilet. It wasn't that bad, but New York is an overcrowded, dirty, loud city made up largely of outdated, rundown tenement-style buildings.


We weren't able to see most of the usual New York sights: the Statue of Liberty, a mugging, or unrepentant public urination. Instead, we went for that most sacred of all rites of passage on every male's journey to becoming a man: to see a broadway show. We saw Wicked, which Robyn had already seen. It's one of the few well known shows I hadn't seen yet. It was really good. Musicals generally tend to be a little long for my taste. I've enjoyed every show I've seen so far, but I still think they're a little long. If not for the play, New York would've been very disappointing. I just don't see what people like about the place.

This concludes the Keystone Edition to the Steeners' blog, but for one last post tomorrow. It'll be a very short post, but it could be the most important post the Steeners will ever make. And, if you'll forgive a bit of hyperbole, it could be the most important blog post ever, especially for the good citizens of the state of Utah. Check back tomorrow for a very special public service announcement!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Palmyra

181 years and one day after Joseph Smith received the plates from the angel Moroni, Matt and I visited the Hill Cumorah in Palmyra, New York. We had originally planned to visit on September 22nd (the day before we actually went), but changed plans so we could hang out with Matt's sister, Mary, who had the day off from work. We didn't even realize we were there a day after the anniversary of Joseph receiving the plates until a sister missionary mentioned it to us in the visitor's center. Pretty good timing! The Hill Cumorah was nothing I imagined it to be. We wondered if the church had cleared all of the trees to make the hill more visible to visitors, but later found out that the church actually planted hundreds of trees once it bought the land.
Matt will always take advantage of any opportunity to get a bit of sun! He is more concerned about his tan than I am. I gave up long ago, but he was really disappointed that he wasn't able to spend more time outdoors this summer and at the pool to get his tan on! Welcome to reality, babe!
This is the view from the Smith Home and you can see the Palmyra temple in the background. It has beautiful stained glass windows depicting the trees of the sacred grove.
This is Matt walking into the sacred grove. It is absolutely beautiful the way the light shows through the trees. Having lived in Utah since I was 9 years old, I have grown used to seeing LDS churches every few blocks. As I drove around Pennsylvania for this week and saw only one LDS church building and a million other denominational buildings, I started to feel very alone. The ward building we went to on Sunday was about 20 minutes from Matt's Mom's home in Columbia. I started thinking how visiting teaching could easily become a whole day's project with boundaries like that. In Palymra, there is a corner, often referred to as "confusion corner" because there are four churches, one on each corner, and each belonging to a different christian denomination. It became very apparent to me how confused Joseph Smith must have felt as he considered which church to join and which was true. Joseph expressed these feelings in his own words: “So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was . . . to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. . . . In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” ( Joseph Smith—History 1:8, 10).
After reading James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him,” Joseph decided to go into this grove of trees near his home and ask God which church was true. He described his experience: “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. . . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” ( Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17).
It was so peaceful here. I remember thinking that the peace and spirit I felt here was comparable to that I've felt in the temple. The spirit reaffirmed to me that Joseph Smith did indeed see God the Father and His Son. I am so grateful for the faith Joseph had to ask God for himself which church was true and for his courage in restoring the church.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Good Grub

Most of the things I was looking forward to on our trip back to Lancaster were edible. Sadly, many people have never been to Pennsylvania and have never sampled these culinary delights, and therefore have never experienced a fullness of joy.

Reubens: Though they do not originate in Pennsylvania, they're very popular there. Lancastrians love their sauerkraut, and the Reuben fills that need admirably. Also contributing to this tangy, flavorful creation are corned beef, thousand island dressing, and rye bread.
When in Lancaster, a good place to get a reuben
is Isaac's restaurant, our version of Kneaders. Their red potato, skin-on potato salad alone is worth the trip.



Shoo-fly Pie:
Shoo fly pie is less a pie than a thick, moist, cake-like dessert. It's main ingredients are molasses and egg whites. So tied to Lancaster have these treats become, that the state's official bumper sticker is "I break for shoo-fly pie." Which is ridiculous on a couple of levels, not least of which is that Pennsylvania feels the need to have a state bumper sticker. The best place to buy one is arguably the Bird-in-Hand Bakery.

Silver Queen Sweet Corn:
It probably looks like any other corn, but Silver Queen is, as her name suggests, the reigning monarch of sweet corn, and all other varieties are weevil-ridden peasants.



Friendly's:

This was very high up on my list of must-visits. Friendly's has the best ice cream I've ever had. Also, they have drinkable milkshakes, as opposed to the soft serve ice cream with a spoon in it that passes for milk shakes in Utah.





Cheesesteaks:

First, a note about this picture. You'll notice that I have a weird look on my face and Robyn is laughing. That's because, as expected, my mom turned something as easy as taking a picture into nuclear physics. She finally managed to snap it, and this unintentionally candid shot is the result. There's a place near my mom's house, ironically enough, manned by some manner of middle eastern or mediterranean men, that makes the best cheesesteaks. The cheese and sauce are all mixed together in a delicious, savory amalgam of artery-clogging goodness. In Provo, I once ordered a cheesesteak. It came with cream cheese on it.




Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Matt Steen Reality Tour!

Though I grew up in several states (Virginia, Georgia, Texas, Iowa), my formative years were spent in Pennsylvania, and it's where I call home even today, despite having spent the better part of 10 years in Utah. While back east, we were able to get a few pictures of some of my old childhood haunts. In no particular order, here are some of the more important sites from Lancaster that I frequented as a misguided youth.
Central Market: downtown Lancaster. The country's oldest Farmer's market, it houses over 60 different vendors that sell everything from fresh produce to candy to souvenirs. It really is a great place to visit. I would've taken pictures from the inside, but it's crawling with Amish and I didn't want to risk getting stuck with a pitchfork. The Central Market sits right in the heart of downtown Lancaster.


The Fulton Opera House. The Fulton Opera House sits just a stone's throw from the Central Market. It is one of only 3 theaters recognized as National Historic Landmarks. It is also the oldest continually operating theater in America. I saw a play there when I was 17. I forget the name of it now.

Trinity Lutheran Church. The oldest church in Lancaster, it was built in 1766. I've never set foot in this church, but it's cool looking.


John Piersol McCaskey High School. Built in 1939 as a WPA project, "JPM" as it's called was the center of a mild controversy due to its $1 million dollar price tag. JPM has always had a really bad reputation among other schools in the school district of Lancaster. It's right in the inner city. Most of the students who go there are pretty poor. There is also a fair amount of violence at the school. I had a fine time there. Of course, it's now been 13 years since my graduation. Graduating from McCaskey is instant street cred in Lancaster.

The Steak Out. Right behind my house on Queen street, for a long time the best cheese steaks to be had could be found here. At some point the place was bought by someone else and the steaks seemed to go down hill from there. I also used to bug my mom for quarters because there was a video game there I really liked.
528 North Duke street. In this humble row home, partially obscured by some wanna-be gang banger's Ford Explorer, My mom, Jackie, and I lived (and sometimes fought like cats and dogs). This little house witnessed epic throw downs between Jackie and me, most of which I won in brutal fashion. I also used to torture cats here, make prank phone calls that are still the stuff of legend, and play hours of video games. Right across the street where Robyn was taking this picture is the sprawling megalopolis that is Lancaster General Hospital where my mom used to work.

The place wasn't occupied when we were there so we stopped inside and took a few pictures, and I marveled at how small it looked now.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Murder (Mystery) Most Foul!

One of the highlights of our trip back to beloved Pennsy was a murder mystery dinner at the historic Accomac Inn in Wrightsville. The Accomac Inn sits on the banks of the Susquehanna river and is a gorgeous monument to old colonial charm. In fact, I just read a feature on MSN.com that said the place is supposedly haunted!

On the night of our visit, however, the only ghouls roaming the old Inn were the hacks passing as actors. Seriously, the acting was horrible: no expression, long pauses, fumbled lines, etc. But it was still fun to be with my sister Mary, her husband Mark, and my mom.
Robyn was even asked to participate in the festivities! She presented the guy to her left with some award for something or other. To be perfectly honest, Robyn's presentation of the "award" was the most natural acting there was all night. But the food was excellent.


A big thanks to Mom, Mary and Mark for a lovely evening!