Wednesday, July 25, 2007

the cabin: part two

I just couldn't resist sharing a few more pictures of our cabin, this batch in black and white. Below is the sunset, which really should be in color, seeing as how that is the point, but oh well. One of my favorite things about the cabin is watching the sunsets over the lake. The water is lightly lapping against the dock, you can dip your feet into the cool water, and watch daylight slip by.

For anyone who has vacationed with a Spencer, you are aware that we don't mess around when it is meal time. Here you can see the kitchen full of three cooks all trying to get dinner done. Me in the back probably chopping something, Mom giving directions, and Jocelyn multitasking with Theodore demanding constant attention.

Here I am fishing in Musky Bay at the break of dawn. Yes we torture ourselves and get up at 5:00 am just in case the Northerns decide to be hungry. But as you can tell, we have fun.

And of course the adorable newest grandchildren, Zari with her confused look and skinny, little Theodore.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

the cabin: a random sampler

Thanks to my brother and his digital camera, I finally have pictures from our family's yearly vacation to our cabin in the great up north. This is the view from our dock looking out along the shoreline.

Peter being funny while the family attempts to take a family picture. Trust me, this was the best one.

Every year we go to a fabulous candy store and stock up on sugar. Aunt Diedra is letting Peter pick out saltwater taffy, which I'm sure his parents appreciated.

Uncle Garrett sporting his aviator glasses and what I termed "the T-Bird" (aka his chest hair).

Grandpa reading their favorite book The Magical Drawings of Moody B. Finch to the kids. This was one of our favorite books growing up, and Grandpa always brings it with him when he visits to read as a special treat.

Eleanor watching very closely as Grandpa cuts up dinner. Fishing is one of our favorite things, even if we aren't so good at it. We usually catch Northern Pike, which are good, although filled with bones.

Peter accidentally fell in the lake, which was quickly captured by Uncle Garrett. He is the sweetest and most cautious 4-year-old I have ever known, wearing usually 3 flotation devices at the same time. So he was not happy when he was dunked. We tried not to laugh.

Eleanor eating some goldfish crackers out on the dock. Somehow this is a very normal facial expression for her (kind of confused). It is adorable.

Friday, July 20, 2007

the three-step plan

My friend Chris asked me this morning to blog about my three-step plan that I implemented for 2007. Every year I have a theme for the year, usually revolving around dating/marriage. My friend Jill got me started on this years ago, and it has kind of stuck. Hers for 2002 was "say I do in 2002." So 2003 quickly became "marry me in 2003." Most of the themes were tongue-in-cheek. Last years ago I smartly chose "drama nixed in 2006," which turned out to be one of the main goals that year for me. This year's theme is "make your own heaven in 2007, " kind of a motto to find your own peace in your life.

I've definitively become a lot more proactive in the last year in my own life. I got sick of blaming people, my job, and circumstances on my unhappiness, so I decided it was time to take charge. If something bothers me either I can find a way to fix it or accept it and try to make the most out of it. It is all about picking your battles.

So 2007 rolled along and I decided it was high time that my dating life took a turn for the better, so I developed the three-step plan:

1. date more
2. kiss more
3. freak out less

I have noticed that most of the dating issues that we Mormon singles deal with would be significantly decreased if we followed these three simple rules. If we went out with more people, had more interaction with them (and yes occasionally kissed them), and spent less time freaking out over nothing, we would all be more happy. Less analyzing. Less talking about dating and more of the actual activity. More physical contact, since no one likes to be love-starved. It is all about making your own heaven and either finding a solution or dealing with it.

I shared this plan with a few of my friends earlier in the year, but I probably got the best reaction from Chris, so now he always checks to see how the plan is treating me. I'm happy to report quite well, in fact. My sister has started to adopt the three-step plan and agrees that being more proactive in your dating life makes things so much better. I don't think anyone is happy in life just waiting for things to happen.

So let's hear about your brilliant plans for happiness. Or feel free to try the three-step plan yourself and report back. I would love feedback.

Monday, July 16, 2007

the tipi cake

Theme cakes are a family tradition. We grew up eating cakes shaped like bunnies, rockets, and merry-go-rounds and then started venturing out into things like violins, sheep, baby chicks, and skateboards. When I first moved to DC, my sister and I got the idea to make one of our all time favorite theme cakes: a pyramid. However, the story about that cake will have to wait since I don't have pictures of it available. This post is dedicated to the tipi cake which I made for my work's bake off two years ago, which I might add, I won.
I entered the bake off thinking it would be fun, but once I decided to do a theme cake, it really became a challenge. I had a whole list of ideas, but settled on the tipi cake for a few reasons: 1) it seemed very appropriate for Thanksgiving, 2) it would be relatively easy to construct, and 3) my family actually owns a tipi, which is another post entirely.

Back to the cake. So I decided to stack about 4 layers of cake and then carve with a knife to create the right shape and frost. Then, I placed kabob skewers on top of the cake as the poles, and then rolled out fondant for the tipi skin. I had been working with fondant for a few years, so making the tipi skin was no problem and actually turned out to be quite easy. The final part was actually my favorite: painting the tipi. My roommate Jami helped add the final finishing touches to our Indian tipi with a few crescent moons, deer, and arrows.
The tipi in all its glory.
Jami's hunter and moon phases.
A little turkey and squash decoration we did last minute.

egg rolls

I was probably 12 when my mom first started making egg rolls. I think we just curious one day and guessed what was in them and went from there. I started making them on my own since I was 15, and my love of the roll has only increased. A few years ago I discovered a great way to broil them (instead of frying) which significantly cuts down on the heart attack factor and actually produces a quite tasty egg roll. Enjoy:

1 lb sausage
1 yellow onion
1 head cabbage
3 carrots
1 tsp hot chili sauce (I'm not exactly sure what this is called but it is PIPING hot and you get it in the Chinese food section of the grocery store.)
2 tbs hoison sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1 pkg egg roll wrappers
1 egg white
dipping sauce

Brown sausage in large stock pot. Dice onion and add when sausage is mostly cooked. Cook sausage and onion until done. Finely chop cabbage. Peel and grate carrots. Add cabbage, carrots, and sauces to the sausage and cook on medium for 4-7 minutes, stirring constantly. Cabbage should cook down, but NOT be soggy. Liquid should be minimal.

Remove from heat. Wrap in egg roll wrappers as directed on package and place on GREASED cookie sheet. Beat egg white and brush on top of rolls. Broil for approximately 2 minutes per side, watching carefully because they will burn easily. Flip eggs rolls (hence the greased cookie sheet), brush with egg white, and broil for another 2 minutes. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

This is dedicated to Julie and her love of egg rolls.

Friday, July 06, 2007

sewing lessons

I've been sewing since I was a teenager, but it hasn't been until recently that I have discovered the secret taking on new sewing projects for people: teach them to sew and have them do most of the work. I will admit that sewing my cousin's wedding dress was one of the best experiences of my life. I really wanted to do this for her as a gift since we were so close, and I was thrilled to be able to make her wedding day extra special with a completely original dress that made her look stunning. I don't regret at all dedicating 8 hours each Saturday to sewing.

Two years ago I did the same thing for a very close friend who needed to look stunning at her younger sister's wedding. Easy, I told her. Again, I was overjoyed to help her out and serve her this way. And it was actually really fun sewing a vintage looking 1950s cocktail dress for her.

However, recently a friend asked me to make her bridesmaid dress, and I thought to myself "wait, why don't you teach her how to sew and let her do most of the work." Brilliant. She actually loved the idea since she would learn and that way she wouldn't have to pay me (I'm expensive, trust me). Last night we headed down to the fabric store to pick out a pattern and then decide on fabric. So we are set, now we just need to start working on getting the lining sewn and fitted and make sure that it is exactly what she wants.

Even though it will take longer to teach someone, I think this might be my new thing. I love helping others and really would love to teach someone to sew. It honestly isn't that hard. First off, the patterns come with really great directions. And as long as you can cut and sew a straight line, you are fine. I'm also looking forward to having sewing parties as she works on the dress and I work on several of the projects that are waiting in my sewing queue, which hopefully will make it on this blog soon if I can remember to take a picture!

I actually look forward to the day when I can teach my kids to cook and do so many of the things I learned from my mother, who learned from her mother. There is something so noble and rich in learning to do something that has been taught by each generation. I cherish the recipes from my great grandmother. I love that my Aunt Carla taught me to crochet. Some of my fondest memories of growing up was cooking with my mom, usually helping with dinner. Thanks mom for taking the time to teach me. And thanks to all of you who share you talents.