Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Home is calling

This time of year, with snow and the anticipation of Christmas, always gets me excited to visit home and family. This morning, mum sent me this picture.

You have to understand, though my family has moved three times since I've been at school, they all have the same lovely characteristic: woody, snow covered meadows and forests. Utah doesn't have these, it's all mountains here. Don't get me wrong, they are beautiful and I love them. But this sight warms my heart because I have SOOOOOO many memories of taking walks in places just like this.


Monday, December 2, 2013

The Girl's Still Got IT!


Let's not forget that normally they are in the wonderful place called Washington DC. We were lucky enough that this weekend, amidst all their family time, they squeezed us in. It was seriously so good to see them.

And they convinced both Jared and I that Dominion is the game for us. (At least for me)

Then I made homemade bread for dinner. Yes, that was pretty much it...we did have some vegetables. Cause it's not dinner without some veggies!

Now I'd like to tell a story.

Once upon a time, almost 3 years ago now, a young girl went on a hike in Wales. The walk went over mountains, through clouds and sheep pastures, past old brick houses and along merry lanes of grass. The girl grew tired and somewhat lost. She and her friends decided to stop and ask for directions to a magical place called Big Pit. They only assumed it was magical, not having been there before. 

Then, this girl, adventurous to the extreme, decided to leap a low lying wall instead of walking around it. She took a few steps back, started running and LEAP! her left leg made it over the wall, but her right shin crashed right into the brick edge. Gouged and bleeding the girl hobbled into the gas station and begged for bandages. Once cleaned up, she and her friends continued walking to the place of Big Pit. A magical experience indeed. 

Now for another story. 

Three years later, this same girl, although a bit older, has no less a sense of adventure. Maybe we should call it a feeling of indestructibility. She feels that she can do ANYTHING! So one night, alone in her apartment, waiting for her cute husband to come home (the one that made the adventure to Big Pit so worthwhile), she decided to do some yoga to work off her Thanksgiving turkey belly. Having stretched and limbered up quite well. She proceeded to practice her handstands against a wall. All went well. She moved to another room, to give herself more space and so she could practice without a wall in front of her. So close to getting up on her own, she decided that she really needed more space in front of her, that way, if she toppled over forward, she could somersault and avoid injury. 

Up she kicked her legs, her hands pressed to the floor. Almost fully extended, she lost her balance and fell. Sideways. Into a doorway. As she lay curled up on the floor moaning, her husband walked in. "Are you napping?" No. Look at my shin. There's a piece of it on the wall. 

My leg. On the wall. It's a very sharp corner.

Another one. Added to the broken toe, you'd think I'd learn to settle down eh?

If you look closely at my right leg, you can see the indentation from my run- in with the Welsh Wall. I lost a good chunk of flesh that day. 

I just started a new book. It's called Little Bee. In it, the main character (Little Bee) says, "We must all see scars as beauty...A scar means I survived."

Granted in this case, I was just being stupid. Clearly our apartment is NOT big enough for handstands. But I thought that quote has a powerful message. And I've always been proud of my scars--they provide me with stories to tell. My scars prove to me that I have lived, and I have had some pretty amazing experiences. Sorry about the graphic images. 

Do you have any favorite scars?


Saturday, November 30, 2013

You will NOT Defeat ME!!!

So one day a few weeks ago, I rode my bike to work.
The wind was killer. And I actually yelled at loud at the wind, "You will not defeat me!" I made it to work on time that day.

On Tuesday this week, Jared and I took a hike. We went up Slate Canyon--one of my new favorite hikes because of all the beautiful rocks. We hiked in for about 2 hours. See below how preeetty and coooold it was that day. Also, our aim was to be like Katniss and Peeta, exploring the wilderness.

Look, wolf tracks! 

Hunter or hunted?

Jared quoted me during our hike--it was one of the steepest hiking trails we have been on. But what a great day it was. However, hiking down was a nightmare. My broken toe and the blisters on the bottom of my other toes forced me to walk backward down the entire mountain. And because walking backward is a dangerous affair, my darling, wonderful, sweet husband walked right in front of me, holding my hands and guiding me down--telling me where to step and keeping my hands warm. How did I get so lucky to get a man like him?

The slate formations in this canyon, and the colors of the slate, are like nothing I've ever seen. And seriously, every time we hike up there, I geek out a little bit. 

Most of our hike was in shadow, we started so early that the sun hadn't peeked into the canyon yet, so the ground was completely frozen, and the farther back in we hiked, the more snow we encountered. It was cold enough that I could walk on top of it like a goat. And I did. 

But finally the sun peeked through. It is amazing what a difference the sun makes in our lives, bringing us light, warmth and hope. The Son does the same. 

I'm grateful for family. 

They are my running buddies. 

They all love brownies for breakfast. 

They are magical creatures. 

And "monopolizers" of my time and energy. 

But my family is the BEST! I am so grateful to have them in my life, and so grateful that we were able to spend this weekend together. I don't know what I would do without these cheesers. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I remembered that I have this blog...

Last weekend was general conference. And of course in all things worthwhile, like telling you all about it/what we did/how much I loved it, I am behind.

Here's some pics. (great grammar right? I love being out of school. not...)

Jared and I went on a hike. I have to say, I am going to miss this being 5 minutes away from our apartment. Granted, we still have no idea where we will be in 6 months from now. Even less really, Jared graduates in April and after that it's really FREEDOM to find what/where we want to want to go/do.

Haley and McKay came down for the weekend and we worked on our Halloween race day costumes. Did I mention that we are all running a half marathon on the 26th October? Did I also mention that I am the only one training? Did I also mention that although I really want to just relax and enjoy the race/run/jog/walk plus donut eating, apple bobbing, cemetary wandering adventure day, I also kind of want to do well--as in finish with a good time. The only problem with that being that I will likely run the whole race myself, which completely ruins the point of my family FINALLY doing a race with me.

I guess I'll just need to calm myself down and enjoy. Maybe I'll take a camera--that way I'll have something to do to prevent me from running ahead of them all.

Work is changing. After almost 2 years of arranging travel and getting visas for Taiwan, Russia, Cambodia, the Baltics and Bulgaria, I am switching missions. I have been anxious for more work to do for awhile now, I was feeling like I had accomplished everything I could and I mentioned to my super that I'd like some extra responsibility. Now, I am doing visas/travel for BRAZIL. You know that country. The infamous Brazil. Infamous for being extremely complicated to get religious visas for missionaries.

My workload has tripled. I guess you get what you ask for (and pray for). But guess what!? I am absolutely loving it. I'm excited for this new challenge for my intellect and my organizational skills. This is certainly a change for the better.

Also I got a haircut the other day. So here's the weird thing about me and my hair. I have always wanted to get some edgy/sassy new do. Jared insists that I keep it long. In all aspects of my life I accept and acknowledge my own decision making skills and prefer to do the choosing.

Except when it comes to my hair. I have to let other people tell me what to do. I don't know why.

Problem? Yes, likely. So I got my hair cut, and it looks exactly the same as before, just a few inches taken off the bottom for health. My stylist, Sydney, recognized me when I went in, "It's been a long time since I've seen you."

"Yes, it's been about 7 months." I said. Haircut ensued. End of visit: "NEVER WAIT 7 MONTHS TO CUT YOUR HAIR AGAIN! You should come in every 12 weeks to keep your hair healthy." "Okay" I said. Then as I left i snickered to myself, "hahah it's actually been 10 months since my last haircut. BOOM!"

As if that really got her. Why is that a win? I really couldn't say. I guess I felt like I was beating the system.

This might be one of my new favorite places. Look at those gorgeous rocks. It was so peaceful here. And Quiet and cool and next to running water. BEAUTIFUL. 
I love slate. The colors are fab. I told Jared about a slate entryway we had in our old house in Naperville.  I really loved the way the stone looked. 

Rose quartz and a yellow leaf. I'm sure J thinks I'm crazy cause I took SO MANY pictures of rocks...even though we went hiking to look at the fall leaves. 

Fall colors. The reason for our hike. 

Getting ready for conference and crafting!

Haley is the Art Boss. 

Two of the finished products. Come back later for race day pics. 

Painting and conference. What could be better? Look at those works of ART!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

What's in a Name?

I remember in 4th grade, I think it was for Medieval week, we had to do some family history research, and also do research on our names. It was a project meant to inspire us to learn about ourselves and our heritage.

At work now, I often see interesting names (John Nathan anyone? Why, I ask you? ) and I recently was inspired to do a little history on my own name, and Jared's too. I wondered what our names would say about who we are.

I've included both the meanings of the names, their origins, and tendencies that people with these names have.

Look how interesting this is:

Alexandra: Protector of Mankind (Swedish, Italian, English, Greek, Hungarian)
People with this name have a deep inner desire to lead, organize, supervise, and to achieve status, power and wealth.
People with this name are competent, practical, and often obtain great power and wealth. They tend to be successful in business and commercial affairs, and are able to achieve great material dreams. Because they often focus so strongly on business and achievement, they may neglect their private lives and relationships.

Bryne: (Irish surname. Oops again mom and dad...)
People with this name have a deep inner desire for travel and adventure, and want to set their own pace in life without being governed by tradition.
People with this name tend to initiate events, to be leaders rather than followers, with powerful personalities. They tend to be focused on specific goals, experience a wealth of creative new ideas, and have the ability to implement these ideas with efficiency and determination. They tend to be courageous and sometimes aggressive. As unique, creative individuals, they tend to resent authority, and are sometimes stubborn, proud, and impatient.

Jared: A ruling, commanding, coming down. Descending. (Hebrew)
People with this name have a deep inner desire for a stable, loving family or community, and a need to work with others and to be appreciated.
People with this name tend to be quiet, cooperative, considerate, sympathetic to others, adaptable, balanced and sometimes shy. They are trustworthy, respecting the confidences of others, and make excellent diplomats, mediators and partners. They are often very intuitive. They like detail and order, and often find change worrisome. They may sometimes feel insecure or restless.

Robert: Famed, Bright, Shining (German, English, French, Scottish)
People with this name have a deep inner desire to inspire others in a higher cause, and to share their own strongly held views on spiritual matters.
Strive for harmony and balance in their lives, and respond positively to beautiful things. 

 This was inspired also because this weekend Jared and I went the COURTNEY'S wedding! Her dad, my old bishop, came over and was chatting to us about life. It was great talking to him. He said some pretty nice things about my Dad

Here's a paraphrased conversation
--"Mike was always the guy we were trying to beat, he was young, and so fit. We kept trying to feed him to slow him down. I always wondered what it would be like to be Mike's son-in-law. Jared, how is that?
Then he said to me, "and Alex how do you feel about being settled down now and staying in one place for the next few years?"
When I responded that we are likely to be moving around a bit the next few years with school, and that I was excited about it, he said,"Well, you always were fearless."

Looking at my name, I guess that's true. Hopefully I'm not too intimidating. Sometimes I scare my husband with my enthusiasm....It's all in the name babe.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Green Monsters

Have you ever been bitten by the green monster? You know the one I'm talking about. Not these guys:
I mean that green monster of jealousy that oozes into your blood stream and sets things simmering below the surface so that it festers like a wound.

Like when your co-worker gets three presents from clients and they all turn out to be chocolate.
Or when your friends move away.
Or when there's so many fun things to do at night and your husband has work at 3 am and has to go to bed at 8. Lame sauce.

In those cases our conversations go like this: "Hi honey I'm home! How was your day? What do you want for dinner? "
He replies: "......I'm going to bed in 1.5 hours."
Okay, so caffeine? So you can stay up and play with me?

Or other times, when your sisters have a birthday and you don't get anything! Which is so unfair right?

Or when your family members go out of town on a super cool vacation and leave you behind, even though you're a grown up and supposed to be above all that jealousy stuff.

Or when you get a text like this:

"Look who got to play with 7 puppies at clinical today."

Happy for you Hales, but I'm never going to admit it. Carry on.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our Cantina

Sometimes we like to invent new recipes. Here is one I thought up while snoozing on the train ride home from work. It utilizes ingredients that will almost always be on hand, since everything but the toppings can be stored in the pantry or the freezer.

Cantina Chicken and Couscous
Makes 5 servings
(Or 3 if your family eats like mine)

1 C Mediterranean couscous blend
1 3/4 C water
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, divided
1/2 yellow or red onion (or both combined)
1 clove garlic, diced
1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp Stubbs Spice Rub for chicken
1 chicken breast
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes, drained. 
Fresh corn kernels, sliced off one cob. If using frozen, about 1/3 C kernels
1 fresh lime, washed and sliced into half moons

Chalula sauce
1/2 fresh avocado, diced
grated cheddar cheese
fresh lime juice

Bring 1 3/4 C water to a boil. Add the couscous blend reduce heat, cover and simmer for 18 minutes. Allow to rest with the lid on for a few minutes when done. Stir in a little olive oil and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper.

Warm the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add diced onion, chicken and Stubbs spice rub and 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper. Sauté until no pink shows on the chicken. Add the garlic and the sliced limes and sauté another 2 minutes. Add the beans and the corn and cook another 3 minutes. Using a spoon, add the tomatoes in 3 batches to avoid over wetting the mixture. Continue to cook on low-medium heat for another 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Serve over couscous and enjoy with toppings. If you like cilantro, that would taste good also. But I don't like cilantro, so I don't recommend it. 

A Quarter Century

So on Monday, Jared turned 25. GASP!!

We celebrated with lots of family, two days in a row. We got to see WWZ, which was extreme, frightening, and intriguing. Neither of us are really into the zombie scene, but we were entertained and pleased at the end. Some die-hard zombie fans wouldn't like this movie though since the zombies move uncharacteristically fast. I just thought it gave them an added frightening edge. I did get REALLY good as zombie impressions. Ask me to do it for you. I make Jared jump every time.

We finally had a chance to celebrate the way I had planned, on Wednesday. Although frustrated at the time, at not being able to make a special dinner and dessert on his actual birthday, good things come to those who wait. Check out the good things we ate.

 Jared loves pie. So we, meaning I, made a raspberry apple pie for dessert. While that was baking, we made dinner. Chicken cordon blue. Another of Jared's faves. He kept saying I could just buy the box kind, but seriously? No. I always opt for homemade when possible.

 Apple Raspberry Pie

Mix 2 1/2 C flour, 1/3 C sugar, 1/4 tsp salt. 
Cut in 1 C cold butter until it makes pea sized lumps.
Add 1/4 C ICE water until mixed, again use cutting technique to combine.
Roll out into 2 crusts.

(adapted from Sur la Table)
8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 C frozen raspberries
2 TB fresh lemon juice
4 TB unsalted butter
1/2 C sugar
3 TB all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon

Toss the apples and raspberries with the lemon juice in a large bowl. In a large skillet, melt 2 TB butter over medium high heat. Add half the fruit mixture and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Cook, stirring often for about 7 minutes, or until the apples are barely tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl or baking sheet, and add the remaining fruit, butter and sugar to the skillet, cooking for 7 minutes until barely tender. Let the filling cool completely, then sprinkle the flour and cinnamon over the filling and toss well to coat. 

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Lightly flour your work surface and first roll crust out. Using the rolling pin, transfer the first crust into the bottom of the pie pan and pierce with a fork. The crust should hang slightly over the edges. Next, gently spoon the filling into the crust. Roll out second crust, and again using the rolling pin, gently lay the second crust on top of the filling. Trim the edges of the crusts and press them together using a fork. Slice a few holes in the top crust to let steam escape as the pie bakes. 

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 with foil around the edges. Then turn the heat down to 350 degrees, remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. 

Let cool before serving. This allows the pie to hold its shape, and it wont ooze as it does in the above picture (we didn't want to wait). 

Note. We made this pie on Wednesday. Today is Saturday and there is only one piece left. Jared last night said, "I love pie for every meal." And that's how he's been having it.

 Chicken Cordon Blue
from Better Homes and Gardens cookbook
adapted to make 2 servings and fit our needs

2 chicken breasts
2 slices quality ham (about 1/16 in thick)
2 slices swiss cheese (about 1/24 in thick)

IKEA gravy sachet
Fresh steamed broccoli and cauliflower

Lay out a piece of plastic wrap, put the chicken breasts on it, and cover with an additional piece of plastic wrap. Pound the chicken breasts flat, and attempt to do this into the shape of a rectangle, with the smooth edge of a meat mallet. If you don't have one, a wooden spoon also works. 
Remove plastic wrap and place ham and swiss on top of flattened chicken.
Roll chicken up and secure with a toothpick. Note, if you don't have a tooth pick, pieces of raw spaghetti noodles also work. 
In a hot skillet, melt some butter and cook the chicken breasts until the juices run clear and there are no pink spots left in the chicken. Note, we cooked on low-med heat covered with a lid for the first 10 minutes. Then we removed the lid and turned up the heat to give it a nice brown crisp, about another 10-15 minutes. 

Serve with veggies and gravy. Don't forget to remove the toothpicks before eating.  If you use spaghetti noodles, you can eat them.