For those of you who know me... you know I don't cook. I make things that go in the microwave or eat cereal like it's going out of style.
However, recently I've found a little fascination with cooking. I think it basically comes from now having super early church (8 AM) so I want to have people over for dinner in the evening. If not, it's just a long day from when I leave church till night-time to not have any social interaction! I do love living by myself, but I also love having people over too! I like the option of choosing when to be social and when to be an introvert and curl up on my couch with a good book and not talk to anyone :)
So, I've had a lot of Sunday dinner parties here and they have been AWESOME! Not only am I getting to know people in my ward, and in the area, better, but it's been a lot of fun and a great way to end the weekend/start off a new week!
Well, recently I've taken a few photos of my cooking works of art. I've
impressed myself! I love going to allrecipes.com and I recently
discovered a site on pintrest where you can find some of these recipes
And, the great thing was that my home teacher happened to be over a few
days before I cooked it and we got to talking about it. He is actually quite the cook himself, although he won't admit it, and he suggested I
actually pull back some of the skin and place whole sticks of rosemary
between the skin and the meat. I thought it would be harder to do and gross... but
it wasn't. And, it definitely helped the flavor! I tried to show it in the picture below.
Then, next on the list was spinach mashed potatoes. UM.... YUM! Sadly, this is the first time EVER that I had made mashed potatoes. It always just seemed like too much work to wash, peel, boil the potatoes and my mom always used the instant kind... but I wanted these to be authentic! And, they were awesome!! I've decided that I like them a little lumpy... and since I am the cook, I got to decide just the right lumpiness!
I also made a simple salad and salad dressing from a recipe that I had gotten from a friend for that same dinner. It has blue cheese and red onion in it. And, the dressing even turned out pretty good! I was so proud of myself! People were laughing at how happy and giddy it made me... but I used to think I just had no talent for cooking... and now look at what I created!
A week or two ago I made Roasted Sweet Potatoes/Potatoes with Rosemary for a dinner. My sister in law made them for Christmas and so I had asked her for the recipe. She said she got it from my mom, but I sure don't remember my mom ever making them. I think Rosemary is my new favorite spice. It makes the food taste good and it makes my apartment smell good!!
What else have I been up to besides work and cooking... Well, this past month I have celebrated quite a few birthdays of friends of mine. One of them was Misty!
I knew her in Boston, but it wasn't until I moved to DC and joined the Potomac ward that we became good friends. And, what's even better is that I helped to convince her to move in to my complex and live the next building over. If there is ever a snow day or sometime where we can't go anywhere, I know I'll have a friend to hang out with!
Miriam organized an AMAZING party with fabulous food, decorations and everything a party could need. It was a ton of fun and I wasn't even the birthday girl! I did get to help by finding her tiara at a local party store :)
I left UT on Sunday and started my drive back to Fort Collins. Amazing the difference the drive is when the sun is out and the roads aren't coated in falling snow! I was able to enjoy the beauty of Wyoming... although if you've seen one sight along I-80, you've seen them all.
But, I knew I loved Wyoming when I came upon the following
$2.59 for unleaded gas!! Yes, please!!!
In D.C. it's about $4 something a gallon
I arrived back in Fort Collins in time to take up another few rounds of Pounce... and to catch some dessert with the boys before bed!
On New Years Eve, I found a local "bounce house" that was having a New Years Eve party for kids from 9:30-12:30 PM - which a "ball drop" and celebration at noon! It was so much fun! I even went down a few of the slides... but mostly chased the boys from one bounce structure to the next in tag.
I think they had fun!
I love that they get along so well!
At 11:45 they gave out noise-makers and other such party things to all the kids. It was SO loud in there as the kids couldn't get enough of their new found toys!
At noon... the ball dropped, disco lights turned out, and the dance party began. This picture is hard to see, but it's me and the boys!
Afterwards, the place cleared out pretty fast but we stayed to the very end and the boys had all the structures to themselves for about 20 minutes! They loved it! Then, I took them to their favorite fast food restaurant - SMASH BURGER! My first time there but I was very impressed by their menu selection. Sweet potato fries (amongst other things...) - YUM!!
It was such a fun morning! And, I didn't really feel the need to stay up till midnight anymore. I had done my celebrating! But, I truly enjoyed the rest of my time in Fort Collins with them. More Pounce in the evening... and just fun time being together as family. Can't get enough of it!! Fortunately I'll be back in Ft Collins to watch the boys for a week in February. Can't wait!!
Even though church this morning began earlier than I have EVER gone to church in my 32 years of life :) It was still an amazing and spiritually rewarding experience.
Although there is usually no specific theme for our three-hour block of meetings, I felt there was definitely a focus on family - more specifically eternal families.
I go to a Mid-singles ward. That means there are about 300 of us, who are single because we've either never been married, are divorced, or widowed.... and most just have never been married. But, I would place a bet on the fact that the majority of us are there because we want to get married and are just a little frustrated that it has not happened yet.
So, the topic of family - and eternal families - could be a little bit touchy/problematic.
But yet, it wasn't.
In sacrament meeting, testimonies were shared about the importance of families and lessons learned from family relationships. In Sunday School, the topic of relationships was continued... whether it be family, friend or co-worker relationships. We are not here to be/live/work alone. We need each other.
Then, in RS, we discussed "The Family, A Proclamation to the World" issued by the Prophet of the Church, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles in 1995. I still remember when it was first read in church and how profound I thought it was. There was no scooting around the issue. They laid it right out there - our beliefs on the role of men and women, God's plan and purpose for families and the role it plays in mortality as well as in the eternities.
I love how it states in one of the opening paragraphs is that the plan Heavenly Father has laid out is a PLAN OF HAPPINESS. Happiness being the key word. Many things will try and take away that happiness, or test our faith, but in the end, it is a plan meant for our eternal happiness.
I was asked to share my thoughts/bare my testimony on this paragraph and I was honored to do so.... but it was hard to get through!
"The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be
perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available
in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the
presence of God and for families to be united eternally."
Of course my thoughts immediately turned to my mom who passed away in March. I miss her terribly, but I choose to have faith and hope in HF's plan. I have a strong testimony of the sacred ordinances and covenants made in the temple and I know that my mom did as well. I know that if we choose to live according to the laws the Lord has explained to us and the promises we have made, we can return to live with our loved ones again... and be united eternally. I know that's where my mom is right now and I am going to do my best to get back and join her.
In between Christmas and New Years, I took a little excursion to UTAH!. I miss it there. I miss the mountains, the easy to navigate streets, most parts of the culture, and my many friends that live there!
The weather did not disappoint... snowy and cold as I would expect. The drive from Ft. Collins to UT was a bit harried as the weather in Wyoming was worse than the forecasters predicted, but I felt blessed to have been given a free upgrade to a small SUV when I went to pick up my rental. I felt much safer in it!
I had SO MUCH FUN!
I spent time with a mixture of BYU, Boston and DC friends. I also got to explore some of the new things that have been built since I graduated from BYU... as well as enjoy some of the things that have stayed the same but are always enjoyable to see...
like the Temple Square Lights in SLC!
Aren't they just magical!!
Such a pretty walk. They do an amazing job with them.
It was a very chilly and windy night we were there... so we took every opportunity to scoot inside a building to warm up! (Personally, I think I have become more susceptible to the cold as I've grown older. Brrrr! ) The group I was with wanted to go to the top of the Joseph Smith Building and this was our view! Again - Magical!!
I absolutely LOVE this photo. The temple in the background with the opportunities inside to be able to be with our families for eternity... and then a manger scene on the water outside the temple reminding us that because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we can return to live with Heavenly Father once again. Such a blessing that knowledge is. It fills me with peace and comfort. I could have starred at this for hours... if it wasn't so darn chilly!
Before we toured the lights, we went to the most amazing restaurant for Mexican Food in all of UT - I would say. It was SOOOO yummy! And, the fact that we had to wait about 40 minutes for a seat confirmed its popularity with us! Red Iguana... Yes PLEASE!!
Such a fun group of people!
Jill and I stopped by to visit a friend and meet his new dog. I just had to post a picture because this thing was INCREDIBLE in size. Almost like a little bear! Probably 5 feet tall or more when standing on its hind legs. But, it was the sweetest, most gentle dog I had met in a long time! It is very playful... but it's HUGE! Name is Sampson... definitely fitting.
One morning, Rebecca, Jill and I had the opportunity to drive out to The Homestead (a resort) in Midway, UT, to go for an hour swim in "The Crater." I had never done this before, or heard about it. I had been to "Hot Spots" while I was a student at BYU, but this was MUCH cooler!
See that mound in the distance... that's "The Crater." Learn more about how it formed naturally HERE. Basically a geothermal spring hidden within a 55-foot tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock located on the Homestead property.
It was very foggy inside because the water always fluctuates between 90-95 degrees, but the air outside was maybe in the teens... maybe. This is a picture at the top of the crater which has a screen over it, but air can come in and out. There was also a door on the side to let us in and out.
It was very dark inside but they had lighting along the walls. Again, the air was SOOOO cold! This is a picture of me before I dared to take off my outer layer and jump in with my swimsuit on!
It was awesome! The few moments of standing in a bathing suit in the cold was worth the sauna temps in the water. The Crater was very unique as we examined its walls and just enjoyed the beauty of the "natural wonder!"
On the way home we passed by this snowman. I thought it was creative and hilarious. I feel like this sometimes. :)
My trip would not have been complete without some Nancy time!! We had a great visit and they can never be long enough. I look forward to seeing her again... hopefully sooner rather than later! It was fun to also see her beautiful girls, husband and her parents who I had been able to get to know a little when Nancy and I were roommates at BYU! Such a fun time whenever I am with Nancy!!
I feel so blessed to have such an incredible family... that continues to GROW!
This holiday I was able to spend time with all my immediate family members, and I could not have asked for anything better for Christmas!
I first flew to RI and stayed with my dad and Chris. On the 23rd we got to spend some time with Chris's immediate family and it was nice to meet them. Then, on Christmas Eve, Evan, Madison and Holland came to visit and I just could not get enough of this little one!
She melts my heart!
She's an active, happy and sweet little girl! She's starting to walk and just starting to formulate words. She loves to smile and laugh and to explore the world around her. She also loves to play with anything that has buttons... a remote, a cell phone, a calculator... whatever. She's easy to please!
Here she wants my phone!
She also loves books. For Christmas, one of the things I got her was a book about Little Sisters and how wonderful they are... because Holland is about to be a big sister in a few weeks!
Holland with a phone in one hand and a remote in the other
Heaven for her.
We took some pictures around the tree.
Next year I can be in this picture holding two adorable girls :)
On Christmas day I flew from RI to Denver so I could see Justin, Becca and their boys! They are so cute. I arrived form the airport in time for catch "ELF" (one of my top five fav. movies!) and dinner. It was their first time watching "Elf" and I hope it becomes one of their favorites too! After dinner, we all played "Pounce". I had never played it before but I am now ADDICTED! Such a great game. But, we stopped for some yummy dessert. Jace loved the new hat he got for Christmas!
My brother, Justin, got one too. Way cute. But, he would not be happy with me if I posted the picture I took of him and his hat! Although... it's going in the family calendar for next year :)
Here's another hat Jace got. The thing looks heavier than his head, but he loved wearing it.
I had so much fun spending time with all my family and thinking about the many blessings I have been given. My thoughts also turned to my mom, who wasn't with us. While I miss her terribly, I know that she is happily reunited with her parents and family members who have also passed... and that someday we will all be reunited again. Knowing this brings me so much peace and comfort.
In the meantime, I cherish the time I can spend on this earth with my family members and am so grateful for their love, encouragement and support!
I can't believe 2012 has come to an end, and more importantly that the holidays have come to an end! I LOVE, Love, love the holiday season. And, I felt like this year was extra special because Thanksgiving was a little earlier than usual so we had some extra time to enjoy it! Thanksgiving weekend I continued my tradition of putting up my tree. It's very modest, but it makes me very happy! I love lighting it up when I get home from work and sometimes just sit there and look at it sparkle before turning the other lights on. I like to let my mind wander for just a few moments about what the Savior meant when he said he is the "Light of the world" and how there was a new star in the sky the night the Savior was born. Light.... in many secular ways I take it for granted. I realize how much I depend on it when the lights go out, or when I am trying to find something in my car at night and there's not enough light! I also love to think of knowledge as "light" in a way. Knowledge opens my eyes. Makes me see things in a new way. Helps me understand others better. And overall, helps me in my relationships. This is how I see the Savior. In one way he is the LIGHT because he has shown us how we are to treat others, go about living our lives and has taught us many things about Heavenly Father and life beyond mortality. The holiday season gives us reason to stop, ponder, and wonder. To wonder:
Rothstein of the New York Times offers the following thoughts on it: “Wonder, he explains, is not
puzzlement, bewilderment or confusion. But it is also not satisfaction,
completion or understanding. It is more open-ended, even a little unsettling. There is an element of calm, poised
detachment in wonder but also a restless amazement. In the wake of wonder, we
are literally moved. We cannot remain still. We are spurred to explore.” I love that definition!! I want to wonder about the Savior... the gospel... and many things about life in general all year long! But, for December it was a focus on the Savior... and that made ALL the difference in my holiday season. I had been a bit worried it would be a tough time because it was the first one without my mom... and I have been missing her a lot recently. But, though a series of blessings from Heavenly Father, and a focus on the "wonder" of the season, my holiday was wonderful!! ... more to come... Back to the tree...
It has many ornaments that have special meaning to me on it...
This was an ornament given to my mom the year I was born :)
My tree would not be complete without something from BYU
BYU had a HUGE impact on my life!! HUGE!!
And my Macy's "Believe Meter" ornament from my mom.
I don't care how old I am... I'm always a believer!!
I also have an ornament from Ireland that my mom bought me and White House Christmas Ornaments for each year I have lived in DC... amongst others!
My tree, however, could never compare with the Gregory's! It's 14 feet tall and who knows how wide but I've been told that this picture doesn't quite do it justice... it's even bigger than this picture makes it seem! It took two people standing on top of ladders (me being one of them) to light it. Then, everyone decorated it. And, it will take me probably a whole day to take it all down. Fun, fun times, eh?! It's pretty while it's up. But, man, it's a lot of work!
The winter temps also inspired me to cook more. I try and stay away from treats... or should I say making treats... but people gave me tons so I had more than I needed! But, I got this recipe from the lady I work with (and she's an amazing cook!!) It turned out so yummy! Butternut Squash Soup. Mmm...mmm.mmmm
I had a few people over for dinner and one guy made this bread - Black Pepper Parmesan Bread - and it was SOOOO yummy! So yummy. I asked him so many questions about it and the thing I loved most is that you didn't need to let it rise before baking! That never works for me. So, I asked him for the recipe! He emailed it to me with a little disclosure... he had left out one word in the title. It's really Black Pepper Parmesan BEER Bread! Ha ha ha. And, he wanted to know if I was OK cooking with alcohol. I know that burns off... and so I said if it takes beer to make bread taste that good... I'm all for it! So I asked a few people on good beer recommendations and got one to make the bread...
IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT!!
IT WAS SOOOO YUMMY!!!
I had the chance to attend a number of holiday performances. One highlight was going to a concert at the DC Temple Visitor Center with these awesome ladies! The lights at the VC are amazing and the concert did not disappoint either!
Mer also had the great idea to invite us to get tickets to Handel's Messiah at the National Cathedral. It was amazing. Hmmm... wish I knew how to rotate the picture!
It was my first time in the Cathedral and it was amazing! The stone glass windows, the architecture, the massiveness of it!! Amazing!
I also had the chance to go to my tradition of the Living Christmas Tree Performance at the local Baptist Church. My 3rd or 4th year doing it and I love it! A bit cheesy with the lights and "skit" they do, but well worth going!
Now on to the NOT SO FUN...
In Oct 2012 I switched my car's plates from PA to VA. The DMV told me I just needed to take it to get emissions and then I was all set. So, I did. Easily passed since it's a 2012 car! Long story short... there was a glitch in their system and they never updated my registration when I thought they had. So one snotty police officer pulled me over as he was driving behind me because his computer said my car wasn't registered. He was SO rude and such a dud. I was his golden ticket that day and there was no stopping him giving me tickets. He wouldn't look at any of the documents I had in the car to prove I had registered it. THEN - my fault. I had forgotten to print out my new insurance cards. So even though I could have showed them to him on my smart phone he gave me a $500 ticket for driving an uninsured car, $130 for failure to show insurance and $100 for not registering a car - total $730. YEP! Merry Christmas to me! Well, not totally. I just have to take all documents to the DC Courts and show proof of it all and hope that the judge is nicer than the officer. We'll see how lucky I am. But, I after I let the anger settle, I took it as an accomplishment that I was able to accumulate so much in just one shot! Ha ha...