Monday, November 19, 2007

baking success

This past weekend I baked my first turkey by myself. I learned how to make a turkey this past summer at our cabin, with my mom giving me directions since I had never before had a reason or chance to venture into the large bird baking world. I was so surprised at how incredibly easy it was to make a turkey, seeing as how everyone is so scared of them.

So when it came time to sign up to cook something for the ward Thanksgiving dinner, I confidently put my name down under turkey. My bird arrived early on Saturday morning, ready to be rinsed, covered in butter and sage, and then very gingerly placed in a baking bag and into my oven for the next 4 hours.

I have to admit that baking bags are brilliant. No mess and your bird is incredibly moist and golden brown. I also took the time to make my homemade stuffing, since I am not one to cut corners. If anyone is looking for a great stuffing recipe, here you go:

4 T butter
1 onion, diced
5 stalks celery, diced
ground sage
curry powder
2 c water
1 bag of stuffing mix
1 c craisins

Saute the onions and celery in the butter for about 5 minutes until soft.
Add the water and sprinkle ground sage into mixture. Add 1-2 t curry powder and
bring to a boil. Once boiling, add stuffing, remove from heat, and fluff with a
fork. At this point, taste for seasoning. I tend to add a few more shakes of
curry powder to give it a bit of a kick. Add craisins once seasoned.

The curry gives the stuffing a great "warm" flavor, especially with the craisins. I know it sounds crazy, but you really need to give it a try.

My turkey looked beautiful when I pulled it out, all golden brown. Sadly we didn't get to eat it warm since the drive to the church took an hour longer than usual due to an accident in the road. But luckily I am dating the most incredible guy, who is brilliant and knows to play Enrique to make me happy. And it worked. Thanks Ben.

Sadly, I will not get to test my turkey ability until next year, since we are headed out to the Virgin Islands on Thursday to spend six marvelous days snorkeling, relaxing on the beach, and watching movies on my personal DVD player while laying in bed.

tis the season to craft

Ben has decided to join me in the crafting season that is upon us, so this Saturday we worked on his Christmas present for his sister-in-law. Ben mentioned that she loves to cook, so I suggested a cooking apron. After a trip to Joanne's we were set to get Ben sewing. (Yes I showed him how to sew an apron, but for the record he did everything himself.)

Ben does look pretty pleased with his ability. Check out his mad ironing skills.

Ben picked out the green fabric, and I found the fabulous red star fabric, which went really good together. Above is a pocket on the apron.

Ben putting on the last finishing touches, the ties of the apron.

I have to admit that Ben is a better at sewing than half of the women I know. He is incredibly patient (which I am not when it comes to sewing, ask my mom), detailed oriented, and careful. I think I captured his seriousness about sewing in this picture.

Me showing off Ben's work. I think the apron turned out incredibly well.

And last but not least, Ben modeling his fine work. Looking hot Ben!
Next up, matching placemats to go with the apron. I am also working on some craft aprons for presents.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

pumpkin ravioli

For those of you who frequent the side bars of this bar, you have noticed that I have updated my latest favorite recipe, pumpkin ravioli. Let me just give one more shoutout to this brilliant recipe, which was very easy to make and tasted incredible. I was actually surprised at how healthy it was (only a tiny bit of butter) and yet how great the flavor was.

Ben and I tried out this recipe last night, since I am always looking for a new dinner idea. I really enjoy making new dishes and getting a sense of what combinations taste good together.

I love that I grew up cooking and that some things are just automatic for me. I never blink an eye when making a cream sauce since I have done it hundreds of times. Making bread dough takes me about 10 minutes flat. I still get a little nervous when trying to create something for the first time, mainly because I want it to taste great and sometimes have a hard time trusting a recipe. This often leads to extremely spicy foods (sorry Kim, this often affects you the most), since I think in my head, "a little more can't hurt, right?"

Any recent successes in your kitchen that you want to share? Favorite holiday recipes you want to post? Let's hear it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

nothing beats a parade

Well, technically it was a foot race. Every year the city of DC hosts a Drag Queen Race in Dupont Circle before Halloween, but it is really more a parade of costumes than a real race. Sure, a few "ladies" give it there all in high heels and vie for the trophy, but most of the contestants enjoy the four block stretch of street and strut their stuff. Actually, most of the fun is the hour before the race when the queens arrive (often with their entourages, which I will get to later) and bask in the glory that could only be found in Dupont Circle.

I went two years ago with a friend, but we arrived late, so we barely got a glimpse of the race. This year I took two friends who were intrigued by this event, and we probably arrived 20-30 minutes before the race started. As we got near the street, we realized that we wouldn't be able to see a thing, since the street was lined on both sides 15-20 people thick trying to get a view of the pre-show show.

Then, in a flash of brilliance, a queen and her entourage walked right in front of me. The crowd immediately parted to give her room to get to the street, and without a moments hesitation I walked directly behind the entourage, squishing as close as possible and just kept on walking. Within seconds, Jill, Kim and I were are the front of the crowd. It was a Halloween miracle!

I tried to catch a glimpse of the fun, but Kim's camera wasn't being very cooperative. Here are some of the best shots.

Featured here, was our ticket to the front of the line.

The costumes were overall, incredible.

This falls into the not-so-creative category, but quite common at the race.

A lot of people dressed as groups. Here are the board games, each featuring a different game on their headdress.

When this group (three nuns and a priest) came up, they grabbed the girl in front of me and pulled her out to "spank the sin out of her." It might have been the funniest thing of the night.

The interesting thing about drag queens is that although they dress like women, I wouldn't say they are particularly feminine or reflect a woman's beauty. This photo is a little blurry, but I think you get the general idea.

Kim and Jill, not looking too horrified after the whole experience. Although, I will admit, there was a vast abundance of male upper thigh, which I would prefer to not see again.

This is what I am talking about when I say male upper thigh. I'm pretty sure that women fought to wear pants because it is more comfortable. Somehow that memo got skipped at this event.

Me, after the event, quite entertained.

Monday, October 29, 2007

With a little assistance (I don't own a digital camera, which is really beginning to cramp my style), I am finally able to post pictures of some of the projects I've been working on.

A few weeks back I ran across this easy pattern for a vintage looking vinyl purse. With a lucky run in with some clearance vinyl and a few hours of free time, I finished this purse, which I absolutely love. The shiny black vinyl is HOT and perfect for the fall.

I decided to line the purse, which is not part of the directions, but I really preferred a finished looking purse. I pulled out some scraps of satin that I had lying around and decided to gather the lining around the top instead of creating pleats. The effect (as seen below) is actually quite hot. I then folded over the top band, and sewed the lining into the purse, for a very nice finishing touch.

Next up, some of the Christmas crafts I am working on. And possibly some of the skirts I've made recently.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

high aspirations

I get on a sewing/crafting kick each year to gear up for Christmas. With such creative ideas, I usually make something for friends and family as part of the gifts I give away. To give you an idea of how in depth and awesome the projects are, here are a few of my favorites:

1. grill set. Actually my dad gets the credit for first making one of these, but I recreated it with a friend last Christmas. Who wouldn't want all your grill implements put into a canvas organizer?

2. family memories book. A few years ago I got extremely ambitious and spent nearly 100+ hours putting together family memories collected from all of the siblings. I then formatted it into a book, complete with chapters, pictures, and titles for everything. Add 20 hours of making them into hand-bound books and you have one of the best projects I've ever done.

3. vintage aprons. I started making aprons last year, kind of on a whim. Since then I've changed the pattern a bit and gotten more creative. This year's crafting has also included aprons, but specifically made for crafting, not cooking. Tonight I will actually be working on sewing a few more, and hopefully I will also have pictures to post as well.

4. favorite recipes. Since most of my friends know I love to cook, I thought I would pass along some of my favorite recipes last Christmas. I spent a few weeks collecting my favorite family recipes, typing up the ones I've created in my head, and then printing them out for my friends in DC. I also gave copies to my siblings and Mom. I may or may not have also included mini bread pans and a potholder.

5. witty t-shirts. I started making t-shirts years ago. In fact, one of my first Christmas crafts was to make t-shirts for all of my family members. (I then made them all wear the said t-shirt on the same day and we took pictures.)

Now I have high aspirations to sew the most adorable craft aprons the world has ever seen. Not that I need any more aprons because I already have four that I have made myself and one with Garrett's face on it that says "favorite brother." Most of the aprons will be as gifts, but I might just have to keep one. Eventually I might run out of craft ideas for Christmas, but until then I think I'll be doomed to be creative each year.

Monday, October 22, 2007

hang in there garrett!

Okay, I never once for a second doubted Garrett's ability to work hard, but I thought it was a good title to this picture. This is how I really know Garrett, chill and wearing stellar ties. Too bad he can't read this blog to see all the shout-outs I'm giving him.

Garrett arrived in the Motherland (aka Russia) over the weekend and is already getting to work. We received a short email from the Mission President saying hi and sending us a few pictures, the very presentable kind of Garrett in his full mission attire looking all dedicated. So I would like to post my favorite picture of him from the MTC.

Friday, October 19, 2007

shopping karma

I have always had incredible luck at getting good deals, but over the past year, every time Jocelyn and I step into a store, we have the most amazing shopping karma. It is like good deals are just waiting for us to appear.

Last night I headed to TJ Maxx (a deal haven) to see what they had in store for me. I kind of wandered around the sale racks and finally decided to just try on every cute dress I could find. Now, dresses are hard to find because (a) women have very different builds so finding a garment that fits both top and bottom is often a miracle, (b) I require my clothes to be extremely modest, so finding dresses with sleeves that I like is hard, (c) dresses can easily fall into the frumpy category, so you have to be careful.

My strategy was to pick up every dress that has some sort of realm of possibility and just see what happened. The result: an incredible find of a black satin dress, with a little bit of a vintage feel. A few of the dresses were completely bust, one was a slight possibility (but I didn't love it), and then we had one winner. Not bad.

Moving on, I tried the same strategy with jeans, which is an even harder item to buy. Again, women are built in so many shapes, that finding a jean that makes you look hot isn't easy. And when dealing with TJ, you don't get the normal selection of cuts and styles. It was pretty gruesome going through a few racks of jeans to find only four possibilities that (a) were likely to fit me, (b) were a wash that wasn't ugly, and (c) a style I was willing to wear. But as I pulled on the first pair, the denim fairies smiled upon me because this is the best pair of jeans I have bought in years.

Now I swear by The Gap's Long and Lean jeans; they fit so well over curves and make everyone look thinner. But these jeans were incredible! And the sinker: the pockets are embellished with a darker blue velvet design. I know it sounds dumb, but it looks (and feels) fantastic. I made my friend Kim feel the pockets when I tried them on. They also have one of the best washes I have ever seen on a jean, which we all know is almost as crucial as fit. No matter how well a jean fits, if I hate the shade of blue I won't buy it.

And to prove how awesome the karma was: bill total . . . . $30.00!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

wednesday night craft night

In lieu of the large list of crafts on my to-do list, Wednesday night has now officially become my craft night, dedicated to all things craft. Last night Jocelyn came over and we started on our long list of things to get done.

First off, I made the vintage purse out of vinyl that I've been planning for weeks. The pattern was easier than I expected. I did make some improvements (lined the inside with a turquoise satin and added a band at the top of the purse), so it took longer than expected. But all in all, I love the purse. It turned out incredibly well, and I can't wait to make a few more for friends.

Inspired by the incredible success of the purse, I went on to finish my gold skirt that has been sitting for weeks waiting to be finished. I had to finish the waste band and then sew on three buttons. Thanks to lots of button-hole making when I was young, I am the master at button-holes. Most people are scared, but there is nothing to be scared about. I think this skirt might have its debut on Sunday. Possibly escorted by the new purse.

For everyone out there dying to get their hands on the action, feel free to join me in weekly crafting or, better yet, comment below on what you are working on. Or feel free to make a vinyl vintage purse of your own. Pictures of the purse will be posted as soon as I can get my hands on a digital camera.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

items on the crafting to-do list

1. Finish my gold skirt that I started months ago. Jocelyn and I found this incredible material months ago, and inspired, I started to make a skirt. Then frustrated because it wasn't turning out quite as I planned, I gave up. I think I just need to finish the waistband and sew on the buttons. My goal is to finish it tonight and hopefully wear it (that is, if I liked how it turned out. I have some hesitations).

2. Make my vinyl vintage purse that I've been thinking about for a few weeks. I found a pattern online and then by some miracle, ran into the perfect black vinyl at the fabric store while looking for some canvas to make a fly rod case. The pattern is simple, so I am confident that I can finish it in an hour. If it turns out well, I have some pink pleather that I think would look great as a purse.

3. Make a new planner for 2008. I've been making and using my own planners for three years now. Since it is the end of the year, my planner is almost full, and I need to start thinking about next years. I've reused the leather before (and just re-sew in the blank pages). Or I could change things up this year. So many possibilities. I might also add fancy paper to make it pretty.

4. Teach Julie how to craft. She is always commenting how she wants to join my crafting parties (often these parties consist of just me, sometimes Jocelyn and I join forces). Well, come on over Julie. Seeing how Christmas is approaching, I need to step up the crafting and get started on a lot of my Christmas projects which are too top secret to talk about on this blog.

5. Work on said Christmas projects.

6. Use the new semi-precious stones from Sri Lanka to make earrings. Diedra brought be back beads from semi-precious stones (quartz, citrone, something else) that I need to make into earrings. The beads are incredible and so much better than boring glass, in my opinion.

7. Work on a baby blanket that I've been thinking of doing.

8. Make a handbag using the awesome handles I picked up months ago. I actually have the perfect fabric, I just need to sit down, create a pattern, and put it all together.

9. Sew aprons. I give these away as gifts frequently, so they are always on the craft list of things to do. I also picked up some great fabric recently that I should use up. I think I gave away my last apron, so I should make a few to have on hand. The great thing about making aprons is that I use my scrap material from other projects, and surprisingly enough random fabrics put together actually turns out quite cute. Who knew?

Wow, 9 projects. That should keep me busy for while. Hopefully after tonight I can at least make progress on a few of these, and if any of them turn out well, post pictures of my success.

Peru: Hiking the Inca Trail

Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is probably the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life, by far. We knew that it was going to be a rough 4 days on the trail, covering a lot of ground each, but we didn't realize it would actually be that taxing on us. We were all in good shape, and I even ran stairs for the past three months to prepare for it. And it still kicked my trash. But in the end, it was worth it.
Here is our group at the trail head of the Inca Trail. Yes we are carrying our packs, which we found out we would be doing about 1 hour before hiking. Not our idea of fun, but the show must go on. So we strapped on our packs and hoped for the best. I'm actually incredibly proud that we hiked with our 30 pound packs for two days, seeing as how we really weren't prepared to.
Here is a view from the first day of hiking. Incredibly beautiful and breathtaking. Pretty much every day was this good or better.
Here is proof that I am hardcore. I'm carrying my backpack, bed role, sleeping bag, day pack, and two water bottles. It was HEAVY, but I can take it.
We hiked past several Incan ruins each day, which was a great chance to rest and enjoy the history of Peru. Here Zack, Jocelyn, and I are surveying the view of the valley below.
On Day 2, we got up early to hike up the next mountain, and about 1-2 hours into our hike the clouds rolled in below us, which made for some beautiful pictures. I couldn't get over how lush the mountains were and how incredible the view was.
The group taking a break on Day 3 on an overlook. Here you can see just how far up into the mountains we were. We climbed across and over three mountains on Day 3, which was the best day of the hike.
On Day 4 we got up at 4 am to hike to the Sun Gate and then down into Machu Picchu. Here you can see me and Katie hiking down the 1-2 hour hike into Machu Picchu.
We spent the entire day exploring Machu Picchu. I may or may not have stolen Todd's camera and taken a million pictures. His camera was incredible, so it was a lot of fun to take really incredible pictures (some are featured below).
This is one of my favorite pictures of Machu Picchu, which I took of course. It really was this beautiful and breathtaking.
I also took this opportunity to catch Jocelyn being sassy after she accidentally dropped Todd's hat into a sacred fountain. Oops!
Yes this is me next to a llama. Yes that is Machu Picchu behind me. Yes we are on an overhang and I thought the llama was going to kick me off.
While exploring with Jocelyn and Todd, we found this incredible overhang. Don't I look hardcore!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Peru: Lima and Cusco

We started our trip off in Lima, sightseeing and taking in the beautiful buildings of one of the largest cities in Peru. Compared to a lot of Europe and my recent trip to India, I was blown away by how clean this insanely large third-world city was. The streets and buildings were beautiful. Here is our group taking a break after seeing a lot of the older city and visiting some cathedrals.

Here is one of the main squares in Lima. The city did not feel as big as it really was. The night before we randomly ran into a Peruvian man who is also LDS, so he took us around Lima for part of the day. It was incredible to have a native tour guide tell you about his city. Zack, of course, was my personal translator since I was the only one there who didn't speak Spanish or Portuguese.
Hoops and Yoyo came along for the ride. Thanks to my friend Arianne (who's family has the tradition of taking these two guys along on trips and snapping photos with them), they have been on my last two trips and Julie took them along to see Peru. Here they are following the local behavior. When in Peru....

After seeing Lima, we took a city bus to the edge of the city near the coast, called Mira Flores. We stood on the edge of the hill and watched the ocean. It wasn't warm by any means, but it was refreshing to see the ocean. I also decided to give Jocelyn a little love.
Jocelyn, Julie, and I taking in the scenery. Hey, are those matching bags! Yes, they are. I found an incredible deal online, so we all decided to get the same bag. You might also notice we have matching clothes and hats as well (also due to some great deal finding and everyone jumping on the bandwagon).

Here is our group with our friend, Jose, who took us around Lima. Thanks Jose!

From there we flew to Cuzco, which was an incredibly beautiful city high up in the Andes (11,000 feet). I couldn't get over how steep some of the streets were, how cars still managed to drive up these steep, narrow streets, and how much it reminded me of Florence, especially the view of the city's tiled roofs (below).

Here is a view from above the city looking down on the main square of Cuzco.

After seeing the city, we hiked up to see old ruins in the mountains above Cuzco. From there we took a horseback ride around the mountains to see four different sites. Our horses were pretty poorly behaved, but we had a really fun time seeing the countryside and the beautiful sky. I still can't get over how incredible the clouds were.

Here is our group (notice the matching pants and hats) huddling for warm at one of the stops we made on our horseback tour. It was pretty chilly high up in the mountains, especially with the sun setting. Todd apparently was too hardcore to huddle for warm, but Zack had already given in. Welcome to the fold, Zack.


There really is no excuse to the utter lack of blogging, but I'm going to at least try to explain where I have been for the past, say 6 weeks.

I went to Peru to hike the Inca Trail in the beginning of September. This was one of the most incredible experiences in my life (up there with visiting the beaches of Normandy on the anniversary of D-Day). My first order of business after posting this blog is to start posting about my trip in Peru.

After getting back from Peru, real life set in (read: responsibilities), which kept me quite busy. Then a bacteria decided to take over my throat, causing tonsillitis and putting me in bed for literally two weeks. I kid you not. I was out of commission for over two weeks trying to (a) recover, (b) get my tonsils to stop swelling and go back to their normal size, and (c) regain all the energy I lost while not eating for four days.

A few days after I finally got off the medication and my throat reverted back to its normal state I left for a weekend trip to visit my sister, her husband, and their three adorable kids. The second order of business is to post pictures from that trip.

After all that, I will try to get you to speed on some of the projects I've been working on. Note: I just bought the most beautiful vinyl for a vintage purse I am planning on making.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

camp out adventures

I know this blog is supposed to be about crafts, but I have been too busy lately with my fun social life to get a lot of crafts done. I have also been too busy to take pictures of my crafts, so I promise I will get on that!

But in the mean time, let me tell you about our camp out last weekend. Kim, Arianne, Jocelyn, and I started off the evening right by eating dinner at El Pollo Rico, our favorite Peruvian chicken place. Now we did have the option of eating hot dogs at the camp out, but who in their minds would choose a hot dog over rotisserie chicken, fresh off the spit, with coleslaw and french fries? It was an obvious choice. After a delicious meal we made our way to the campsite.

Thanks to my lovely tent (courtesy to my fat ex-boyfriend . . . which is another story in itself) and my hand tent-raising skills, we had our tent up in no time, even though it was pitch dark outside. With four girls in a two-man tent, we decided to just lay down the sleeping bags on the floor to maximize the padding. Once all the necessities were in place, we decided to get to the fun stuff: marshmallow blow guns.
Now, this all started my sophomore year in college when some guy friends introduced me to the glory of a marshmallow blow gun. I have since fallen head over heels in love with it, making several for myself over the years. I sadly left my last one at home when I moved, so a few months ago Kim and I decided it was high time to recreate the glory, so we headed to Home Depot. With a little muscle and ingenuity, we quickly had ourselves a beautiful marshmallow blow gun. And the camp out sounded like the perfect place to put them to the test.

We walked back to the car, picked up our guns and ammo and headed to our next target. After a quick demo for Jocelyn, we ventured in the direction of the guys who were camping nearby to make sure we were safe (or something to that effect). As they were helping make their fire, we were sneaking closer and closer to their camp, all white shooting them with mini marshmallows. Now, I thought we were being pretty loud, but apparently they couldn't hear us walking through the brush or our giggling. After finally making it feet to their camp and being quite loud, they finally decided to investigate what exactly was hitting them, and they finally found us. We were not about to give up quietly though; the moment they spotted us, I stood up and proceeded to shoot Zack straight on.

My favorite shot from the night was my lying on my stomach, army crawling through the leaves all while shooting. I think the camo pants did the trick.
After making easy prey of the men, we headed back over to our camp to see who we could hit from our group. We had a riotous time shooting people 30-40 feet away, hiding behind tents to give us cover, and most of all, posing with our guns. We looked hot; I ain't gonna lie.

Eventually after using most of our ammo, making a few people mad, and laughing until our stomachs hurt, we decided to call it a night and joined the rest of the camp for s'mores, campfire songs, and general relaxation.

Despite that this was an all-girl camp out, we actually headed to bed at a decent hour because we were so tired. Remember how it was four girls in a two-man tent? Well that meant we were just a little squished. At one point Jocelyn noticed I was cold in the night, so she shared her blanket with me, and I immediately cuddled right up with her. Sorry about that Joc. At least we know my husband will get the best cuddle-buddy ever!