Tuesday, March 30, 2010

This Was A Triumph. I'm Making a Note Here; Huge Success

I really lucked out when I got married. Not only did I marry a wonderful, perfect man, but I also married into a wonderful family. I love siblings-in0law and I love my parents-in-law. My mother-in-law is the kind of mother-in-law you dream about having. She's very creative and talented. She did the flowers and the cake for my wedding and, in fact, does most every one's flowers and cakes because she is just that good.

So imagine my surprise when she asked if I would be willing to do her birthday cake. Of course I would be willing, but...um...have you seen the cakes I make? They taste yummy...I mean, they taste like cake made from a box, but they look like frosting over a large lump. My last attempt at a birthday cake was for my brother-in-law and I left in the oven for over two hours until more closely resembled charcoal than a chocolate treat. Sure, I managed a bakery for two years but I never did learn how to decorate a cake. My idea of "making" birthday cakes for people is to go to Cold Stone and buy and ice cream cake. Let's face it; who doesn't love ice cream cakes?

But this was my Mother-in-law, whom I have to impress with my domesticity. Her favorite cake is German Chocolate cake, so after browsing through recipe books and finding a delicious looking cake to imitate I set about attempting the imposable; making a birthday cake that 1) Tastes good 2) Looks good and 3) Impresses a cake decorator.

Several hours later I am finished. It is a made from scratch, three layer, German chocolate cake, complete with toasted pecan and coconut frosting and drizzled with German chocolate. It didn't look like those fancy birthday cakes with butter cream frosting and fondant flowers, but it did look delicious. It also tasted delicious. And yes, I resisted the urge to replace sugar with Agave nectar, oil with avocado, and shortening with butter. It was a deliciously unhealthy cake.

I hope she liked it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Quit, Don't Quit. Noodles, Don't Noodles...

I really like living here. I love our little apartment, I love our ward, I love our downstairs neighbors, I love living so close to Anna, I love being able to walk to the Library, to the grocery store, and to church. I love that it is warming up and soon I will see this "summer" that everyone keeps telling me is beautiful here. Also, people are really friendly here. I love it.

Sometimes I get frustrated with the small-ness of the town and the fact that either no one online lives here, or no one here gets online, but I think I just have to adjust. Things are going really well here and I am enjoying myself.

When I attended my first activity here in this ward, I met this wonderful girl in my ward named Iris. She is from Mexico City and thus speaks Spanish and English. She is so nice and I liked her right away. I thought about it all week and the next Sunday I finally worked up the courage to ask her if she would teach me Spanish. She said yes (hooray!) and ever since then she will come over to my house on Monday and Wednesdays and give me Spanish Lessons. She is a great teacher. I already feel like I've learned so much. I already know how to conjugate "er" and "ar" verbs and am learning "ir" verbs. What's that you say? Prove it? "Yo escribo fenomenal!" That's probably bad grammar, but you get the idea. Tu Madre. I really look forward to her lessons, not only because I am loving this whole Spanish thing, but because she is so much fun.

In conclusion, no more worrying about what will happen when. I will enjoy my life now, because my life is enjoyable now. As a wise turtle once said;

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Try It! And You'll Be Saying Hail Marys till St. Patrick's Day

It's been a tradition of mine for several years now to have Lucky Charms for breakfast on St. Patrick's Day. It's not exactly authentically Irish, but it's fun and easy.

This year I was cheap. I bought the Malt-o-Meal version of Lucky Charms. It tastes the same, but is called "Marshmallow Matey's" Which is even less authentically Irish. I think it's actually more Australian. Maybe Pirate-y? Nonetheless, breakfast was delicious.

The big celebration was later that night. Our wonderful downstairs neighbors came over, Anna and her family came over, My Spanish teacher, Iris, and her husband came over, and Toshi came over. We had a wonderful dinner (Vegetarian, alcohol free, Irish Stew and Irish Soda Bread) followed by even yummier dessert;
Toshi brought brownies;
Julie brought homemade chocolate cookies with mint frosting;
and Iris brought green caramel popcorn!
I made apple cake and Anna made the most delicious green drinks; Pistachio pudding drink (which Drek loved) and key lime drink (which I loved)!

All the kids followed the leprechaun's footprints...
through the house, around the house and to a pot of gold!
It was so much fun!

We played a few games, the first one was based on an Irish game, where you have to throw burlap sacks across the field with a pitchfork. We threw little burlap sacks across the room with forks.

The kids played hot potato, and then the adults played a game with green Irish dice (bought for seventy-five cents from D.I. Score!) and candy;

You sit in a circle and one at a time, roll the dice. If you roll doubles, you get to take a treat out of the middle (you have to announce what you are taking). If someone already took the treat you wanted, you say that person's name and the candy. If they have it, they give it to you. If you got the person or the candy wrong, you don't get anything. Play continues until all the treats in the middle are gone.

It was a lot of fun. Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010


Happy Pi Day!

There are a surprising amount of cousins up here in the Frozen Tundra, so we had a cousin party! Which, of course, extended to all family, family of family, and roommates of family.

I made little Pecan Pie Cups, and little Chocolate Pecan Pie Cups. Alas, I don't think I used enough chocolate, because you could barely taste it's presence amongst the pecan. Oh well. I also made Drek's favorite; Cherry Cream Pie.

Everyone brought a pie. We had coconut cream, two apple, peach, Andes Candies pie, two candy bar pies and even a Boston cream pie. Nom!

They were DELICIOUS! I love apple pie, and these were some of the best apple pies I had ever tasted. I also really loved the Andes Candies pie. And, of course, it goes without saying that the Boston Cream pie was amazing.

These professional-looking pies were done by Drek's sister, Anna. She made each and every one for the pie eating contest. They are different kinds of cream pie, each with plenty of whip cream and a graham cracker crust.
After cutting the pies into very small pieces so we could eat one of each, we played a few nerdy games. The first one was who could write down the most digits of pi in one minute. Drek won. My husband is so smart! (I got five. I would have gotten seven but I mixed up the last two digits. Drek got fourteen.)

The next game was even more nerdy; we threw pens and recorded the result to try and calculate pi. After one hundred tosses we came up with 3.42; not bad! All the while there was much discussion of the Monty Hall problem.

And then it was time for not-so-nerdy games! We played one round of Werewolf and then decided we had given our pie enough time to digest. It was time for the pie eating contest!

It got a little messy.

After a few more werewolf games we decided it was time to call it a night. Pie makes a good breakfast, right?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Your Friends Don't Dance and If They Don't Dance

Our local fire department decided that a dance would be a good fundraiser. Thus, the first annual Shamrock Dance was held yesterday (a semi-formal event!).

I was so excited. After convincing Drek to take me, I packed Ash in her Wrap/sling and walked the four blocks to the fire department to buy tickets. They only to cash (of course) so I had to walk four blocks to Walgreens, get cash back, walk the four blocks back to get the tickets and then walk four blocks home. It was worth it!

Saturday we went over to Drek's sister's house to play games. My wonderful sister-in-law let me try on a bunch of dresses until we found the perfect one! After that is was time for jewelry shopping. I didn't find earrings I wanted so I made some out of the beads from a necklace. I tried to make a bracelet too, but it kept breaking.

Mei-mei's roommate was nice enough to do my make-up, and my sister in law did an amazing job with my hair. It was so much fun! I loved getting all dressed up!

The dace itself was a lot of fun, mostly because I loved being with my wonderful husband. We'd never been to a dace together before so it was a new experience. We had a wonderful time dancing and joking and talking. There were a lot of fireman there and some of them were dressed up in kilts. At first I was confused, wondering if they realized kilts were from Scotland, not Ireland, so wearing kilts at a St Patrick's day function made no sense, but then I realized the whole fundraiser was so the fire department could start a bagpipe brigade. I still don't understand why a fire department needs a bagpipe brigade, but whatever.

Halfway throught he dance the fireman came out in their suspenders and boots and attempted to country line dance for us. I say attempted, because they were really, really bad at it. It was so funny. But hey, at least their pants were shiny!
It was a wonderful night. I loved going to a semi-formal dance with my wonderful, handsome husband, who turned out to be a pretty good dancer!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Whoops? What's Whoops?

I went to the grocery store today to get the ingredients for Pi Day (on Sunday we are having a cousin party complete with a pie eating contest!). As I was waiting in the check-out line I was fiddling with my credit card; you know, tapping it on the conveyor belt thing. And then it was gone. It fell down a crack into the inside of the counter. No, I am not kidding. I dropped my credit card inside the conveyor belt counter.

I told the clerk, who told the bagger, who told the person at customer service, but no one thought it could be retrieved. So I left it there. The good news is that if I can't get it out; no one else can either. Ah well, it was time for a new one anyway.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

That Dog Does Look Delicious

It's warming up here enough that the sidewalk are emerging and the footpaths have been uncovered. I have discovered a wonderful path that follows a river. The scenery is gorgeous. So, I have been running there. I am not the only one that is taking advantage of this path. I pass quite a few other joggers and several people out walking their dogs.

My dad taught us how to deal with dogs while jogging; Don't look at them or in their space. You are the Alpha dog, and in dog world if you don't want to stop and talk, pet, play, or be chased, it's polite to ignore the very existence of the dog.

This advice works great. I haven't had any problems with dogs trying to follow me or get in my way or eat me.

As I was going along the footpath near the end of my run, I saw a women walking two dogs. I looked straight ahead and tried not to look in the direction of the dogs. As I approached, out of my peripheral vision, I notices one dog was a golden color with curly hair. I recognized the breed of the dog and suddenly my legs stopped running.

"Oh!" I cooed stopping next to the dog and petting it as he jumped on me and wagged his cute little tail. "Is it a snickerdoodle?" I asked, thinking how adorable these kinds of dogs were. The women paused; "Um, it's a Golden Doodle." She said. I tried to remember what I had said and then laughed.

Of course. A Golden Doodle. Her dog doesn't look anything like a cookie.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I Will Make This Easier to Remember: Keep Your Station Clean... or I WILL KILL YOU!

Mei Mei also lives up here in the frozen tundra. She goes to school up here. One of the benefits of living here is that it we hang out a lot, which is nice. She is living with a bunch of roommates, one of which she hangs out with all the time, and consequently, I hang out with all the time. Her roommate is older than I am, with a lot more experience and tons of advice. She is the motherly-type, who cooks delicious food from scratch, knows how to calm screaming children and always wears an apron. She is the relief society president in her student ward. I value her advice, especially in the food area, as she and I have the same view on food and cooking (that is, the more you can make at home, from scratch, the better. And by scratch, I mean soaking your own beans, chopping your own vegetables and grounding your own wheat into flour).

So when she asked me to be a guest speaker at their relief society meeting I jumped at the chance. Not only because she was going to talk about eating healthy and other guest speakers were going to talk on budgeting and good mother traits, but because I was very excited to be a guest speaker.

The night before, right before I went to bed, I was given my topic and my time limit (seven minutes). I was so excited. It is one of my favorite topics, something I feel changed my life. Alas, I didn't really have time to prepare. The next morning I went on my five mile run (woot!) and thought about it the whole time, but as soon as I got home I had very little time to shower, get dressed, and argue with Drek about who was taking Ash (I ended up taking her). I didn't even have time to finish my breakfast, let alone write and rehearse my speech. Sigh.

The meeting was great. I was the last speaker and the speakers before me were awesome. I learned a lot and was excited to be there.

I failed horribly. Once I got up there, Mei-mei's roommate took Ash. Ash was not happy. She screamed and screamed. She was taken out into the hall but I could still hear her screaming. So I was thinking about that, instead of what I was saying. I ended up bumbling like an idiot, and all today I've been thinking up the things I could have said and done and kicking myself for being so unprepared.

So here, for your pleasure, is what I should have said;

One simple thing in your life can save you time, and money. It will make you happier, healthier, and skinnier. That thing is meal planning. It is easy and it is awesome.

When I was first married (replace with "in college" or "on my own" as your circumstance dictates) I did not plan meals. I went grocery shopping, got whatever was on sale, whatever sounded good, and threw in some carrots just to be healthy. My goal was to stay within a budget, which I usually did.

I would work all day and when I came home my blood sugar would be low, so I was tired and hungry. My husband (replace with "roommates" or "dog" or whatever) wanted dinner and so did I. I would look through the cupboards and the fridge, trying to come up with an idea. But, as I said, my blood sugar was low so I wasn't creative, I wasn't excited about cooking, I wanted something fast, and I was irritated at my husband for not cooking dinner for us. So we would end up having cereal. Not the best, but hey, it was food. The problem with cereal for dinner is
1) cereal is expensive and costs more than a good meal
2) it's not very healthy
3) at nine o'clock I would be hungry again and usually eat ice cream; which is even more unhealthy and eating anything after eight at night makes you fat.
4) a few days later those carrots would spoil, and not only did I never get their nutrients, but I had wasted the money I used to buy them.

So, the solution? Meal planning! It's so easy! Take a piece of paper/calendar/computer program/sticky notes/white board and write down one to two week's worth of meals. I made my own meal planning paper labeled Monday thorough Sunday with space to write the meal title like "Lasagna, corn, and homemade garlic breadsticks" or "Empanadas with pineapple sauce and tres leche cake." You can do whatever works for you. At this point, I would pass out my blank meal plans to everyone, so they could plan out their meals for the following week while I finished talking. On the back of the meal plan would be "Anyone can cook!" at the top followed by the websites and five secrets I mention.

The great thing about this is you can do it however you want, and it makes planning easier. Here are some examples; I know that on Tuesday I have a friend coming over for dinner, so I want to make something fancy that day. I don't get home until six on Thursday so I want something fast. My husband cooks on Saturday so I ask him what he wants to cook that day and write it down. I know I'm starting my period on Saturday so I want to eat a lot of flax the week before (it really helps with cramps). It's my birthday next week so we'll schedule to eat out. St. Patrick's day is on Wednesday so I should make an Irish-themed meal. I have a big test on Monday so Sunday I should eat something with brain food (eggs, oranges, cranberries).

This is how I do it, feel free to do it however you want;

I plan at least one easy meal a week. By easy, I mean ready in ten minutes; Burritos, P B & J sandwiches, whatever you like to eat and can make fast.

I like to have one new recipe a week, something I've never made before but sounds AMAZING! I find new recipes online, in magazines, or in books (but mostly online and for me, mostly on vegetarian, vegan, or RAW blogs.) I do this so I can try something new, expand my horizons both for both my palate and my cooking skills, and because I look forward to cooking this meal. That's right. All day I am excited to go home and cook this new meal. It's wonderful.

I like to perfect recipes, so I'll make the same recipe three or four weeks in a row, just to master it. I'll also keep my old meal plans so when I don't have any ideas I can got back and see what I've made before.

I'll look online, or at newspaper ads, to see what groceries are on sale that week. I'll find the best deals, and then think of meals I can make with those ingredients. If I can't come up with one on my own, I type the ingredients in to Google and add "recipe" and make Google give me ideas. Or, if it's vegetables that are on sale, I use this website.

And thus, my meals are planned. While writing the meal plan, I also write my shopping list, so I can be sure to get all the ingredients.

It doesn't have to take a lot of time. you should be done with a two week plan in less than thirty minutes. I promise you, with a plan, you'll save at least that every day of the week when you don't have to scrounge for what to cook for dinner and discover you don't have ingredients five minutes into cooking.

The next step is shopping. You are saving money because you are buying ingredients rather than cereal or TV dinners. You also know that whatever you buy, you will use, so nothing goes to waste.

Once you are ready to start making dinner, you know exactly what to make, you know you have all the ingredients, and you are excited to make it!

When you eat it, it is more healthy (even if you just made cheese soup with extra butter and cream, homemade is healthier than any pre-packaged meal, or any fast-food meal) and more filling. You won't be tempted to eat after eight, so you'll lose weight, and usually there will be leftovers for lunch tomorrow, giving you another cheap, healthy meal that's all done!

When you have a meal all planned with the ingredients already bought, you're a lot less likely to eat out. Eating out is not healthy and is so expensive! Making your own meals is healthier, cheaper, and makes you a better cook, bring your family/roommates closer together and, like I said before, gives you leftovers to eat later.

So, now that we have our meal plans, I'll let you in on a few secrets.

Secret 1) I'm not strict about my meal plan. That is to say, I rarely make Tuesday's meal on Tuesday. Usually when it's time to make dinner, I think about how much time I have, what I feel like making, and what I feel like eating. I'll match that to a meal on the plan, but not necessarily the meal I scheduled for that day. That's why I have at least one super-easy meal.

Secret 2) I know my plan says Monday through Sunday, but I usually only plan six meals. Why? Because I can count on being invited to a parent's/friend's house for dinner at least once a week. If I've planned seven meals, I either have to refuse the invitation, or let a meal's worth of ingredients go to waste. Or, if I'm not invited anywhere, I'll have leftovers on that night. Leaving one day off gives me more flexibility

Secret 3) Meat has the least nutrients, is more expensive, more difficult, and more likely to give you food poisoning. Keep thing simple; go veg.

Secret 4) Fresh produce tastes better than canned produce. Produce from a farmer's market or your own garden is ten times better than store produce.

Secret 5) Crockpots. Seriously. Five minutes in the morning = amazing and delicious meal at dinner.

And remember; Anyone can cook!

Sigh. I wish I had blogged this Friday night.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I love March. March means St. Patrick's Day and Pi Day and Passover and Easter. March means the first day of spring. March means the sun. March means it will only get warmer.

It rained last night. RAINED. As in, not snow. It is a miracle. When I went running this morning I could breathe in the air just fine. And that is why I love March.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Coffin Was Supposed To Go On the Plane But It Didn't. Apparently He's Somewhere in Transit.

We just got back from a wonderful mini-vacation. Drek's brother is leaving to go on his mission (Hooray! So proud!) and his "farewell centered sacrament meeting" was on Sunday. Drek and I drove down Friday night and spent the night at Krisling's house.

It's odd, but every time I've been away and come back, my first glimpse of those mountains is always like coming home. I never knew I was homesick until I got back. I suppose it's because I was born and raised there, but I really do love those mountains.

The weather was amazing. As we unpacked the car I was outside, at night, barefoot, with no coat or jacket. And I was fine. It was so nice. The next few days were warm and snow-free. The sun was shining, I walked around barefoot, and we even rolled down the windows as we drove. It was about fifty degrees. And then I came home. WAHHHHHHHHHHHH why is it so cold here? I can't believe I'd ever think of my hometown as a warm place to visit in February, but wow, the difference is astounding. How cold is it here? Last week I went running in negative eight degrees. NEGATIVE! It's freaking cold.

Anyway, it was wonderful to see Krisling and Natebot and my little Toby. We had a wonderful feast Friday night and went to bed. Saturday morning we said our goodbyes and I visited with my parents for quite a while. I was supposed to be running errands, but Drek had taken the car to go play Frisbee for three hours. THREE HOURS. I guess he was excited about the weather too. When he got back I went and hung out with my sister and my two adorable nieces. We took a few really cute pictures of Ash with her cousin. Hooray!

And then it was time to run. My sister and I (and my dad, who decided to train and run the half-marathon with us! Sadly, he is in much better than shape than me. I'm not kidding. He has cancer and he can run circles around me. He is amazing) met at the starting point of the half-marathon and ran the first four miles. I LOVED it. Not only was I not slipping on ice or freezing to death, but the altitude was much lower so my lungs were fine. I also decided I love running with my dad and my sister. They are just so much fun! It didn't seem very far at all; we were having such a good time talking and hanging out.

When we finished Drek and I headed to his parent's church to watch his family's ward's (Wow, that's a a lot of 's) musical roadshow. There were a few plays (staring different members of Drek's family) and a lot of songs. It was wonderful! Drek and I both loved it! As an added perk, I got to hold my little baby nephew who was born in December. I fed him from his bottle and he fell asleep on my lap so we got to cuddle for most of the show. He is so darling.

Sunday Drek was, of course, the reason we were there. Drek and his family sang a song for the Prelude, his sister gave a talk, and his brother gave his farewell talk. Everyone did great. Especially the soon-to-be missionary. His talk was excellent.

After a quick lunch and lots of pictures and hugs, Drek and I headed back home. Ash slept the whole ride (she is such a good baby) and when we got home Drek and I decided to (finally) watch the season six premiere of LOST, which was AMAZING!!! I was so right about Hurley. It was wonderful to watch, but I did miss Ismail and Rissy. Maybe we can watch the next few episodes with Ismail when we go back down.

In conclusion, it was a wonderful trip. It was also a very rushed trip, we didn't have time to hang out with friends, but it was wonderful nonetheless.