Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cooking Fanatic

So, the honeymoon is over and it's on to real life!  Pictures of the honeymoon can be found on facebook.  Enjoy.  Real life so far has consisted of me dropping out of grad school (just didn't feel right once I got there), being the victim of fraud and losing $2,200, job hunting all day every day with my husband, getting called to work in the nursery at church, making couple friends, and cooking lots and lots of good food. Jackson thinks I should start a cooking blog.  I'm not sure if I have what it takes.  But as of right now, as an unemployed new wife, I have been finding satisfaction in cooking something different and delicious each and every day.  This of course makes for one VERY happy husband.  That's just a side benefit.  I'm still not sure if I do it for him or for me - I happen to LOVE food as well.

Mealtime is definitely an important event in our home.  We already have a bit of a routine: I typically get to work in the kitchen throwing ingredients together and assign Jackson tasks like stirring, chopping, and setting the table.  He must have picked up some pointers from the cruise ship because he is one professional table setter.  He puts our dishes out just-so on top of our placemats, folds our cloth napkins, sets our silverware out precisely, lights the candles, and dims the lights.  We're enjoying our candle lit dinners while we can before kiddos come into the picture!  Below are some pictures of what we've been feasting on:
These are just frozen breaded fish fillets but I spiced them up by rubbing
a mix of butter, parmesan, and italian spices over the top and then topping
them with tomato slices and mozarella cheese.  They were delicious!

Pancakes with Boysenberry Syrup!
Ramen stir-fry.  Simple and amazingly tasty! I cooked ramen with less water than it called for,
and cooked veggies (snow peas, green pepper, carrots, onion) in with the hamburger meat.
I threw it all together, added the ramen seasoning, as well as some other spices, soy sauce,
a bit of ketchup, and oila!  Cheap, easy, and SO GOOD!
Shrimp Alfredo.  I mixed in some red bell pepper and served it with broccoli and a salad. 

Pork Chops with a White Whine Mushroom Sauce
Served with Lima Beans and Fried Potatoes 
Jackson is REALLY excited, he hasn´t had this
since his mission! 
Gnocci/Ñoquis - A potato based pasta served with a red sauce...
I have to brag about the sauce in this, it was the best I´ve ever made!
Brazilian Chicken over Rice served with Chips and Guacamole

Chicken Mozzarella Bake... I LOVE casseroles!
This one had rice, chicken, corn, onion, and red peppers among other things.

Pot Roast with Potatoes/Carrots and Gravy.  Served with homemade bread and jam.

So, there's a look into the Calame Kitchen.  It's fun and tasty but makes for lots of dishes!  Here's a picture of our little kitchen where all of this magic happens: 

Friday, July 9, 2010

I Pledge My Allegiance to Craigslist

So, Jackson and I sat down and had a serious conversation about life plans the other night and decided once and for all to move to Austin.  (The week before we had decided once and for all to move to Provo... )  Austin works well with our life and family goals.  So, with no furnishings to our name I spent many hours at work this week perusing craigslist for furniture.  There were many exchanges of e-mails and pictures.  Well, yesterday, I was getting quite tired of searching through the junk (such as ads for "beautiful couch!" that turn out to look 20 years old with sagging cushions), but something pushed me forward.  I went back 6 days worth of hundreds of postings and then landed on a gold mine.  This guy is moving across the country and is selling his entire apartment furnishings! Even better, all the furniture is under a year old! He offered it all for $750.  I promptly texted the guy and set up an appointment for 5 p.m.  Definitely worth leaving work early for.  I called in the forces and got my dad, brother, Jackson, and my aunt to all bring their vehicles and man-power.  I already knew from the pictures that we wanted it all.  

Upon arrival I met the guy selling the stuff, James.  Really cool guy from the Bronx, graphic designer, amazing artist, former Navy, and presently a government employee.  When all was said and done Jackson bargained him down to $650 and check out what was included:  Queen size slay bed, box spring, mattress, 2 nightstands, GORGEOUS cream suede couch, dining room table, 2 chairs, books (he had his library up for grabs too so I took away "Home Improvement for Dummies" and "Guide to Personal Finance" figuring those were worthy investments for married life), 4 ft. dresser, washing machine, recliner, Blue Ray DVD player, decorative vases, 3 lamps, TV stand for 52 inch flat screen, coffee table, 2 end tables, and 3 lamps!!  We also bought his 42 inch flat screen plasma TV separately because it was half off retail price.  Some of this is shown below:

It took hours of taking apart furniture and loading it into the different vehicles, but we succeeded in taking his belongings out right from under him!  We have to return for the washing machine, it was the only thing we didn't manage to cram in.  The evening was filled with joyous smiles and twirley hugs as Jackson and I gloried in our abundant blessings and felt like we were living in a fairytale as we furnished an entire apartment for about 1/8 of what the stuff was worth.  

One thing I love about Jackson is how ready he is to make new friends and get to know strangers.  By the end of the night he had invited James over for dinner on Sat. night, volunteering my cooking skills.  James accepted the invitation and we plan on a wonderful little party on Saturday night, as a gesture of our gratitude for him providing a huge blessing in our lives!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Rantings Concerning a Certain Pet Peeve

I have a few pet peeves in my life, as my freshman roommates could certainly attest to.  One is un-rinsed dishes.  Another is people mispelling others' names.  (It's their NAME!  Get it right!) And, I realized this week that a MAJOR pet peeve of mine is restroom goers who wash their hands with water.  I've seen it more and more lately.  It's one thing if it's a little kid doing it, but GROWN ADULTS?? Let's think this through:  Anything you touch in a bathroom only adds more germs to your hands.  So, 1) Touch faucet to turn on water 2) Rinse hands... for what?  Oh yeah, this is the stone age where we think water rinses germs off of hands. 3) Touch paper towel dispener or air dryer to dry our now-infected-even-more-hands! 
Let's review the steps of hand washing, shall we?  [See Picture on Right]
I like these instructions because it tells you to turn the water off with a towel.  I appreciate that.
I struggle to know how to approach this problem.  Do I just continue to raise my eyebrows and look in disgust as women skip over the soap dispenser?  Do I viciously throw hand sanitizer their way?  Oh wait:  Freshman year I posted a much-hated sign above the sink that said "Rinse ya'lls Dishes Please!"  Maybe I could post a sign above every bathroom sink I frequent that says "Wash your hands with SOAP!" Ugh.  I don't think any of those things would work. It is hopeless.  May society smarten up and realize that water does not kill germs.  Soap does.  And if you run your hands under the faucet solely to keep up appearances, shame on you!  Your tricks won't work with me.  I see your filthy germ-infested hands!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Societal Blunder

I have never considered myself to be a feminist.  I have a very traditional view of the way things should be, I fully intend on being a stay at home mother with a masters degree.  I value womanhood and also value a man's role to lead and provide.  However, I had a very strange experience this past weekend that causes me to ponder whether I have a bit of a feminist in me, or whether I have a bit of a pride issue in this regard, or whether niether is true and I am justified in my annoyance. Let me explain:

Saturday afternoon Jackson and I arrive at the Sears Automotive department to pick up my car.  As we walked towards the garage area I was mentally preparing myself to shell out $534 for the routine maintenance that had been done on my car.  We approach, holding hands.  The employee says, "How can I help you sir?" I step forward and say, "Actually, I'm here to pick up my car.  The Chevy Cavalier".  And he goes on his merry way, trying to help 3 different customers at the same time and Jackson and I stand and wait.  I was annoyed inside.  Here I was, coming to give them half a grand of MY money, and they didn't even acknowledge me as the customer.  They immediately addressed the man.  It wasn't his car or his money and I am perfectly capable of getting my car fixed on my own, I have taken care of such matters on my own since I bought it 6 years ago.   I pondered my feelings and paid the man who had committed the blunder.

Fast forward 1 hour:

Jackson and I walk into the optometry section of Wal-Mart, holding hands.  The Wal-Mart employee says, "How can I help you sir?" Once again I step forward and say, "Actually, I'm here to pick up my contacts.  I ordered them 10 days ago and they should have been here by now".  The man finds my contacts, apologizes that I was not notified, and I pay and politely go on my way. 

30 minutes later:

Jackson and I are at the check out register.  Not holding hands.  I pay for my purchases.  The lady hands my receipt to Jackson.  I take it from him. 

We walk out of Wal-Mart and I re-play the past 3 incidents to Jackson and ask his thoughts on the matter.  Originally, I was approaching the topic from a purely sociological perspective.  I was curious as to why those incidences had just happened.  It seemed so contrary to this day and age.  I mean if I had been the employee and saw a young couple walking towards me I would say something like, "How can I help ya'll?" or, "How can I help you folks?"  but I would definitely not assume that the man was my primary customer.  As Jackson and I discussed the matter and Jackson thought I was being slightly silly, I became more and more bothered and my purely sociological study progressed to real annoyance. 

So I pose the question to the blog-reading community:  Am I being silly and getting slightly worked up about nothing?  Or am I justified in my annoyance at a modern-day social transgression?

Friday, April 16, 2010

I am a Creator

     One of my favorite talks is by President Uchtdorf and is entitled "Happiness, Your Heritage".  In it, President Uchtdorf talks to the women of the church and tells us that "the desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul".  I remember listening to this talk in Ecuador and Becky and I couldn't help but nod and express our heartfelt agreement with his explanation of how women find satisfaction and joy out of creating.  Yes, I need to express my creative energies or else I begin to be unhappy with life.  When I create, it comes in many forms - I sometimes create sound as I play the piano, or I take a ball of yarn and turn it into a crocheted scarf or blanket, or I create a delicious meal from random ingredients, or I take a disorderly or dirty space and clean and organize in order to achieve a pleasing and relaxed space, or sometimes I take everyday moments and travels and take a picture and create a photo book to preserve meaningful memories.  
     Recently, I have let myself become extremely busy.  Between working full time, fulfilling my calling as Institute President,  and dating I haven't left any time for myself.  This has recently culminated in creating an internal imbalance and I became determined to make time for me again.  Yesterday, I experienced my first slow day at work in months.  I've finally reached the goals I needed to and can slow down a bit on my appointments.  So, with my extra time I spent the day brainstorming and pondering how best to express all of my creative energy that has built up inside of me over the past few months.  I considered buying a ukulele.  A guy in Austin a couple weeks ago taught me some songs and I caught on really fast.  I was pretty much a natural.  I also considered taking up guitar again.  I resolved to practice the piano more.  I resolved to set aside time to work on my photo book.  I made plans to make cascarones (confetti filled eggs) for fiesta next week.  Eventually, my ponderings and browsing on Amazon and craigslist led me to impulsively buy my first sewing machine! 
     I spent a solid 20 or 30 minutes researching customer reviews and comparing brands and capabilities and prices and called my mom for a vote of confirmation that my impulsive purchase was acceptable.  I decided to invest in a nice one and ended up with a Brother CS6000I 60-Stitch Computerized Free-Arm Sewing Machine with Multiple Stitch Functions.  Now I can finally finish my t-shirt quilt and stop having to depend on others in order to use a sewing machine!  And after I finish my quilt I will embark on other creative sewing projects.  I took a sewing class at BYU.  I got a C+.  It is the only C I have ever received all through grade school and college.  You can imagine the bitter feelings that leaves me with when I even think of sewing. Not only that, but I know full well that it is much more time efficient and cost efficient to buy clothing these days than sew it yourself.  However, I feel that sewing is of course necessary for basic mending and acceptable for creating blankets, pajama pants, and skirts.  These are the three things I intend on creating.  Skirts to the knee are hard to find these days and I'm excited to practice and become more creative with different trims and accessories on them.  And I have an extreme LOVE for blankets.  
     Moral of the story:  Don't let creative energies build up inside of you until you consider buying a baby-grand piano, ukulele, guitar, AND sewing machine all in one day!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Check it.

I also received my acceptance to the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M today. 

I have been selected!

I have been anxiously awaiting an envelope from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at UT-Austin notifying me of whether I have been selected for admission to pursue my Master of Global Policy Studies.  Today, I sat down at my desk after being away for about an hour, and opened up an e-mail from admissions.  There it was.  My anti-climactic acceptance to their school!  
While simply clicking on an e-mail was not nearly as exciting as it would have been to tear open the sealed envelope holding pretty UT Stationary, sure to be filled with exlamation points and positive words of acceptance, I am still thrilled! And, the letter will follow shortly, and perhaps that letter will be filled with exlamation points at the end of some large sum of money that they are offering me to attend their school.  That would provide enough excitement to make up for finding out about my acceptance by e-mail.  
In other news, I had a very successful interview with A&M and should find out about their decision shortly.  I was nervous for the interview, but shouldn't have been.  If you get me talking about my professional goals and experiences, I get on a soap box and go on about my passion for international development forever.  They were extremely impressed with my field experience and what I'm doing now as well as my expressed enthusiasm.  Right now I am still saying that UT is my top choice.  But in reality, who really knows.  I haven't ever visited either school.  I need to visit, attend a few classes, check out the singles wards, and check out the cities.  Austin is a REALLY cool city though, so it gets big points for that.  I'll keep ya'll posted on what I end up deciding to do!