Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter Saturday and the advent of volunteerism-

Saturday was a good day for volunteering. Charles and I had the opportunity, not to hide eggs by Pismo Beach, but to assist in the gaming aspect. Easter is a special day and I think volunteering was a good way to emulate the life of Jesus Christ.

There were multiple free games, bounce houses, egg hunts, and good times. The most notable game for us, by far, was the frog/toad hammer hitter game. I don't know its official name, but it was quite violent.

It involved me sitting next to two levers. At one end was a hammer hitting spot and at the other end, a  rubber toad was placed. When the spot was hit, usually with great force, the toad would leap backward into a bulls eye pit. Actually, this actually only happened about 40% of the time. Most often, the toads would choose haphazardly when and where they would leap.

I tried to keep my hands back- due to a few enthusiastic children taking too naturally to striking the levers- with or without frogs placed. The greatest part about this game, was since I sat right next to the levers, a lot of rubber toads bounced off of me.

Luckily, I had taken upon my head a black top hat, with featured Easter bunny ears. This hat not only protected me from the toads, but also from the unrelenting sun. Instead of roasting my head/neck, arms, and legs, the sun was only successful in frying my right arm.

Charles, my sweet peach, walked around and gathered rogue frogs from around the target area and deposited them within my easy reach. My mantra was "2 kids, 5 tries". We also got a couple free hot dogs, breakfast burritos, donuts, chips, and drinks. Charles had some cookies and donuts, but I did not- no munchy March. We also got some free shirts. Woot.

We spent a lesser time at the peanut toss- where you toss foam peanuts into an elephant's trunk. Then, I was called away to (wo)man the bean bag toss. I did that for like 20 minutes perhaps. We stayed for about 5 hours and then took naps at home. I think. My mind is a little foggy lately, since I contracted the maniacal mucus magic of legends.

It is the worst. I assume it has come to lay siege to my body due to some societal faux pas incurred in my recent past. Perhaps this will teach me to watch how I interact with others.

I played work team softball yesterday and it was awesome. It turns out I do not like exercise, unless it is disguised as some type of organized sport. This is a turn of events since recess kickball- as I was never any good at kickball myself, and often felt sad about my inability to kick the ball well.

However, with softball, I do not feel completely inferior to everyone, and therefore enjoyed myself immensely.

The highlights

1. When Dugan the dog chewed through his leash and walked onto the field.
2. My hitting the ball a couple times- since strike outs are intensely demoralizing.
3. My sore throwing arm- which shows that I actually did something worthwhile yesterday after work.

In full disclosure of no munchy March, I did eat candied yams on Easter. I didn't want to hurt my feelings- because I know how hard I worked on them. They were delicious. So were the ham, deviled eggs, potatoes, fruit salad, bread, peas, and pop consumed. I never said I was a saint. However, I did pass on the carrot cake- even though it's a vegetable.

Here is a list of the treats I've passed up this month. Go me!
1. Blueberry cheesecake- my own fault. There is still a piece waiting for me in the freezer- thanks Charles!
2. Marshmallo matey crispy treats- from work on St. Patrick's Day
3. Cinnamon rolls, blueberry muffins, candy, and lemon love notes- from work- see what I have to deal with every day!
4. Robins eggs- they're hiding under my phone at work- waiting to hatch
5. Easter Carrot cake
6. Ice cream and oreos after the women's conference

Luckily I didn't have to forego brownies this month. My friends at work don't know about my chocolate brownie and caramel weak spot. I mean, yeah, I could do it, but those are a little harder to resist.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Preparation Days

I got a flu shot today. I don't usually get the flu shot, however my friend Kimberly had a close friend and multiple acquaintances hospitalized and pass away last week due to the H1N1 swine flu in a town roughly 2 hours south of where I live. This saddens me and we are praying for her and those families. We are also getting our flu shots, to cover our bases.

I hope I don't get a bad case of the flu from the vaccine, as we have plans for Easter. However, it is better than the alternative.

Preparation is often harder than I would guess. Perhaps I encourage flakes of pride to mar my patient exterior. I do not always see a need for such strangely timely preparation. Often, this preparation is pushed upon me. Eventually, I do see the need for these experience- usually long afterward. Figures.

1. Mission- There were a couple of months before I received my mission call, that I was chomping at the bit. Before that period of restlessness, I was secure in my decision. However, when I got to the point of actually leaving for my mission, I felt like I'd taken a running start. That momentum of emotion propelled me through the hardest times of my mission and helped the time go faster in the interminable early months.

2. Marriage- I was really on the fence about Charles for a couple of months in our dating period. Once I made the decision to marry him, I didn't feel nearly as panicked about the outcome. The calming effect of making a choice and the resulting faith in that choice was a salve to my youthful distrust of my own long-term decision-making skills. I felt prepared for the fallout. Charles still called me the morning of our wedding to make sure I was going to show up.

3. IVF- One of the most difficult parts of not having a child, is wondering if it will every happen for you. Sleeping Beauty is my favorite fairy tale. Fairy tale stories about wanting a child and trading any manner of valuable things for one didn't hit my truth center until our first unsuccessful attempt. I love money, and if I'm willing to trade it for a baby, you know babies must be important.

4. Running- When I lived in Germany with my cousin Danielle, she invited me to run with her running group. They had just begun training for a half marathon when I arrived. However, I left Germany about a week before the race. Since I had trained for running long distances, I was then able to participate in two half marathons that summer in Juneau and Skagway Alaska.

When I worked in Emeryville, CA my company also participated in two  relay races that we prepared for as a team. We would run in the afternoons and increase our distances until the races happened. It was a great team building activity in both cases and was lots of fun.

However, I noticed the more preparation I put into running long distances, the better off my knees were at the end of each race. My knees hurt to varying degrees when I finished, but I know the worst cases of stiffness were when I wasn't running long enough distances during my training. The last relay race I did, I could barely walk myself to the finish line.

5. Food- There was a time when I would come home from school and eat ramen or a burrito every day around 3 PM. It seems I have grown past ramen and burritos and have moved on to vegetables and other grown up foods. The longer preparation times yields great results and I usually have plenty of time to prepare these things into food more satisfying than ramen. I still love burritos, but they are not so plentiful in my life these days.

6. Art- I have an affinity for tiny things. I love shadow boxes and the intricate miniatures they house. I have realized, as I go in and out of artistic phases, that the longer a person takes on a certain piece of artwork, the more valuable it becomes. In high school, I worked on a drawing of different body parts, which also displayed the different types of shading.

A girl saw it in the art room and asked the art teacher if I'd sell it. He directed her to my next class. When the girl asked me how much I'd like for it, I said, "I don't know...$20?" She was pleased as punch at my asking price. Later, when I told my teacher how much I'd sold it for, he said I could have asked for more since I'd spent so much time on it. Since I had no illusions of grandeur about my artistic talent, I hadn't expected anyone to pay more than $20 for my work.

Artistic development gives you the benefit of spending time expressing what you see in a particular medium. If you do not prepare this medium with adequate work, your finished product will be basic, uninteresting, and harder for yourself and others to appreciate. The most rewarding artistic creations I've worked on have taken serious time investments and have improved with the time invested in them. That said, there is also a point where you need to stop working on a project, so you don't get bogged down in an impossible quest for perfection with that piece.

7. Tests and other hard things- I've never been very good at taking tests. I feel panic-stricken and second guess every answer I write down. I do not have great confidence in the answers I will chose, and I shoot myself in the foot as I go along by checking and rechecking my test when I have finished.

The more preparation and studying involved, the more confident I feel. It's the same with injecting myself with needles and moving houses. These things are hard, but if you think about the end result of taking tests or finishing difficult projects, your perspective changes. This change of perspective can also enlarge your hope and faith in good things to follow.

I know as we prepare for different challenges, we can feel the boon of hope provided to us by our Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ. If we pray, read our scriptures, and climb from our shells...or apartments every so often, we will have enriched lives despite ourselves.

As we serve others and stock up on food storage, we are preparing for future challenges. This preparation also makes us aware of the past and present blessings we receive and so often gloss over.

I am currently preparing to work some clay. It's been a while. I'm currently preparing to invite people over. It's been a while. I'm currently driving our stick shift car, Professor Plum. It's been a while. I am currently preparing to run and clear away some of my body rust, as I have been starting to crust over.

These changes can be spur of the moment and often turn into good habits. I see now that I should prepare to change.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Easter, the real Christmas

As Easter sneaks upon us once again, I realize another year has passed and my life is the same and yet has changed quite radically for the better.

1. Boy Crazy- When I was a little girl, I was boy crazy. As I got older , this malady got worse and worse. I dated a lot, continuing on this path of reckless abandon of feelings until I got hitched. Yesterday, Charles told me twice that I was acting creepy- once while I stood watching him eat peanut butter fudge cups and the other time, as I stood outside the shower curtain. I suppose he has a point there. 

If he was staring at me for 5 minutes with unblinking eyes while I ate Mounds candy bars, I would also be creeped out. However, it would probably be more confusion than the willies, as he doesn't like Mounds candy bars due to their coconut content.

It's nice to know he still likes me even when I get weird. That's not the weirdest I get, but we'll leave that for later lists. I will add that singing the MILK song before cub scouts has helped me demonstrate the coolness of being weird. My favorite part about camp was always the singing portion- it nurtures such camaraderie.

Therefore, I am still boy crazy- but I focus this craziness onto one lucky man. You're welcome Charles. I'm only getting weirder.

2. Baking- My mother's suggestions for school lunches were the greatest. They usually included the following list of items: apples, carrots, dried fruit, sandwiches, and bananas. These items, although interesting choices, did not conglomerate to make a child's ideal lunch.

After eating a selection of the above items at school for my lunch, I would then come home and make something worthwhile. The go to group included homemade pizza, ramen, brownies, or baked goodies. 

Now, I have realized the importance of variety in my diet. I get bored with foods more easily these days, and enjoy trying new recipes. The easiest way is googling recipes that include key ingredients from my fridge or pantry. Charles and I then live off the leftovers for three days and then the cycle starts again.

Luckily, I married someone who also enjoys cooking. The best food days are those when he doesn't have school, so he makes something delicious to surprise me. Mmmmanicotti. So now you know, I still eat. Thankfully, the internet has widened my nutrition net as well as a recent discovery of the deliciousness of tiny asparagus, green beans, and squash.

3. Gratitude- Remember that time my mom got me a yellow nightgown and Sarah and Bonnie got pink gowns? I pouted all day. Or that one time Canute got me a harmonica on a necklace and Sarah had to tell me not to be ungrateful for his heartfelt gift? Yeah, I've tried being a little more gracious about gifts than I used to be. 

Expressions of gratitude toward my family, friends, Jesus Christ, and our Heavenly Father have come more easily to me lately. I know this is partly due to certain trials that have come my way in recent years.

College was an amazing time for me. I got to refine myself and took classes I hadn't ever thought about taking before. Aman, Ancient and Medieval Manuscripts was way harder than my sister let on, as you well know. I met some amazing friends, that I don't ever see, but still adore. I stalk all of you regularly on Facebook and I just love you.

In Russia, I was grateful for the jar of peanut butter we brought with us- thanks Tryna- and the opportunity to learn firsthand about a vastly different culture than my own. I also enjoyed making paper dolls for my friend Jonah, Ali's friend, who was serving a mission in Russia at the same time. When I saw him at BYU, we recognized each other from across the CougarEat, even though we'd never met in real life.

Living in Alaska for multiple summers made me realize how grateful I am for sunshine. It also clarified how much I enjoy attending church every Sunday. During those summers, I was not so lucky and I could see the difference it made in my life. SD and Jen, I miss you.

When I visited Germany and decided to serve a mission, multiple people told me I would probably serve a foreign mission since I had already lived outside of the United States. I got to travel a lot, met new people, saw lots of cool architecture and artifacts and did some dangerous things- like bungee jumping in Italy. Jas- it was Italy right?

On my mission, I was grateful for so much available fresh fruit since I got tired of eating cereal, beans, and scrambled eggs all the time. I was grateful when people talked courteously to us about the gospel of Jesus Christ even if they weren't interested in our particular message. I looked for and saw a multitude of small blessings over the course of this difficult span of 18 months. I still dream about the people of Guatemala. !Les extra├▒o! That says- I miss you guys! in Spanish.

After my mission, I moved to California instead of Texas. I arrived back the day before one of my greatest childhood friends got married. Thanks for waiting for my Kristi! I also left right before another great childhood friend got married and was able to help Heather fix the mullet madness some lady had done as her reception hairdo. What a blessing to see both of them during that special time!

After fighting the rightness of marrying Charles, I prayed diligently and finally realized how much my agency is worth. It truly was my choice to marry him and I'm grateful that he's just as weird as me. Thanks for being nice Charles! And for not giving up. And for your sweetness.

And now I am grateful to not have children. It is sometimes hard to be thankful for this, but I am trying to be grateful for being where I am instead of where I want to be. Besides, with more mouths, you have to hide the treats. Right now, those treats just chill in the open.

I am also grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who died that we might all live. He is a wonderful brother and one I wish to emulate. Thank you for your example!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ode to Deane-

Deane, you're sweet with your very man's name.
Our house was blessed from the day you came.
The favorite sister to cut my hair.
Neal's favorite sister beyond compare.
You'd listen to Brittney Eleanor Rigby and laugh.
Early morning MTC breakfast staff.
We make up songs (that sometimes rhyme).
You have 6 pairs of thongs (the sandal kind).
3 kids you have, that are super cute.
Nice job dieting with your favorite fruit.
We're bakers and craft makers.
You adore those songs that are booty shakers.
Your husband is a silly mister.
Happy Birthday to a freaking awesome sister!

That poem is dedicated to my sister Sarah. Her birthday is tomorrow. She is great. I love her. Sometimes we talk for a long time. Sometimes it's a long time between our talks. She has good taste in movies, books, clothing, and treats. It is very similar to mine.  As Christian would say, "Sarah, you're a good person".

Happy Birthday to you!!!

PS- I totally used that ready-made Shutterfly book with that free code you sent out! Nicely done!
This is Sarah making sure her children don't eat too much candy at Halloween- especially the kind that is much too good for children.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A sneak peek

Here's what my actual quilt looks like. It's obviously not finished and looks quite drab as pictured. However, my friend Holly donated a red flannel sheet for the back, so it's now a very patriotic quilt. More updates to come for those sitting on the edge of their seats.

I did not plan it as well as you would have, but I tried to give it some sort of design. The design is jean fabric. Glad I could help you out there. 

As a side note, I now have 5 pairs of jean shorts. Sadly, I also went to put on one of my good pairs yesterday, and found a hole in the not knee. I will see if I can patch it at the dividing of the legs. I imagine that is a difficult place to secure a patch and maintain minimal chafing.

 This is an adorable picture of us taken in space. That's me sitting on Chewie's lap, with Yoda in my pocket, and Charles has obviously found the disembodied head of Darth Vader. Good times at the 2015 Blue and Gold Banquet.

This week I was able to help at the annual youth etiquette dinner. The theme was the Hunger Games. The teens rode around in a horse trailer outfitted with couches to simulate riding the train to the Capitol. We had a couple dressed as Effie and Caesar. They MC'd the event. Every table had 2 hosts that decorated the middle of the table as the different districts- we had district 12. Obviously. We populated it with poor people items and some metal items- we have a lot of those at home. 

I am sorry for the shoddy pictures. My friend Holly came as Charles' sub as he had a review session starting at the exact same time. I also braided her hair, but cannot figure out how to access the picture/video that she sent with those pictures attached. We got a lot of compliments on our fancy Capitol hair.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Recommendation City-

These recommendations are due to my sister Bonnie asking what movies I've seen and enjoyed lately. I watch a lot of movies and would rather have skipped those movies that were a total bust. A. Kraft, ignore this list. I cannot fathom how our movie preferences are so distinctly different with no apparent pattern.

Movie Recommendations

1. The New World (2005): A more believable telling of the Pocahontas and John Smith story

2. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010): An epic of Persian proportions with a time twist

3. The Paradise (2012-2013): Or as Charles calls it, the Irish version of Downton Abbey

4. Big Eyes (2014): About a woman artist whose husband pretended to paint her paintings

5. Love and Mercy (2014): About the Beach Boys, specifically Brian Wilson

6. Far From the Madding Crowd (2015): A sort of Pride and Prejudice vibe but also quite strange in other aspects. I think I liked it.

7. Kronk's New Groove (2005): A lovely sequel to a golden first movie. Very good on its own merits and charming in similar ways to the first- also has the same voices.

8. Little Boy (2015): Told from the perspective of a young boy during WWII in America.

 Movie Un-Recommendations

1. Tomorrowland (2015): Futuristic and underwhelming

2. Jurassic World (2015): So dumb

3. Mr Holmes (2015): Uninteresting in the ways you would expect a Sherlock Holmes movie to be

4. The Conversation (1974): Terrible, just terrible.

I have also been participating, with a small group of friends, in No Munchie March. We decided to only exclude sugar treats from our diets for a month. Thus far it hasn't been too bad. Lots of people from my work bring treats in, but they're usually store bought. My main temptation test will be today, since I decided to make a blueberry cheesecake with our extra cream cheese. I had to, the cream cheese was going moldy. Good luck with that Charles.

Since I cannot currently eat treats, I would like to invite you to try these treats when you have some time.

Treat Recommendations

1. Tiny fruit pizzas- sugar cookies, topped with cream cheese/powdered sugar/milk whipped, topped with fruit of various orders(mandarin oranges, pineapple, berries, kiwi, bananas), topped with glaze. Then you can eat one or two and still feel healthy- because fruit.

2. Chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches- Look on your Nestle bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, follow the recipe exactly, and make some cookies. Then put tillimook mudslide ice cream in between two cookies right after they're out of the oven. Mmmm.

3. Peanut Butter balls- Apparently there are many types of peanut butter ball recipes. My mom has one that's equal parts honey, powdered milk powder, and peanut butter. We have lots of powdered milk that just hit its expiration date, so we are using it for these. If it's too runny, add more powdered milk. If you're out of honey, use sweetened and condensed milk. If you feel dippy, dip them in chocolate, cookie crumbs, coconut, sprinkles, or powdered sugar.

These work well for making treats when you have baking ingredients and a random assortment of other items. We make a batch of cookie dough treats and freeze the dough for extras so we don't have to plow through a whole recipe's worth of treats by ourselves. The peanut butter balls thaw quickly and Charles can snack on them when he's doing homework and wants a little snack.

4. Hummus and veggies- We've been a big hummus kick lately because we haven't eaten many vegetables in the past and we wanted to be better. So we've been making hummus or buying it and separating it into tiny Tupperware to easily take to work and school. A giant bag of carrots is $3, so we're going big on carrot sticks.

We like to eat treats and watch movies. You can also exercise while watching movies. I also recommend crafting while watching movies. I had a couple of pairs of old jeans that have since made it to jean short status. Their counterparts have been made into a jean quilt. I'll post pictures when this is completed. So far, it is a mishmash of color and asymmetrical. Good thing I'm just going to show you guys and anyone who sleeps at our house. That shortens the list considerably of people who will see it.

Quilt Recommendations

Plan(read pin) first, sew second

I did not cut my pieces nearly this small. My pieces are nice and huge.