Monday, March 30, 2009

Random Things I Like

-Hearing Reveille coming from Hill Air Force Base when I leave at just the right time in the morning.

-Sycamore trees

-Finding love notes left by my sweet husband

-TV night

-Having a full tank of gas


-Freshly vacuumed carpet

-Finishing a book

-Using a brand new tube of mascara

-Walking around in my fishing gear

-Getting comments on my blog (hint hint)

-Getting back my monthly status reports at work to see what my boss wrote on it

-Hearing Seth sing in the shower

-Watching Gracie's pupils get really big just before she pounces

-Licking the beaters

-Frozen grapes

-The way my ring sparkles after I have it cleaned

-Having all my shirts ironed and ready to wear (this doesn't happen very often)

-Delicious left-overs in the fridge that I forgot about

-The smell of almond extract

-Getting reviews on my Recipezaar recipes (or someone trying and liking something I suggested)

What random things do YOU like?

Friday, March 27, 2009

No Longer a Virgin

No longer a permanent hair dye virgin that is! hee hee hee (wasn't that title so risque?)
Approximately a year ago I was at my 'One and Only Trusted Salon' getting my hair cut by my 'One and Only Trusted Stylist,' Travis, when a fellow woman stylist came up to me and said, "You should totally get a glossing treatment done! You know when we start getting older, we lose the shine in our hair and a glossing treatment would make your hair so shiny!" My heart sank. I knew it was just a ploy to get me to spend money on another treatment, but deep inside I thought, " Has my wonderful hair really lost so much of its beauty that it is getting noticeable? I really am getting old!" That was the last time I set foot in that place.

Now I've only ever had a permanent treatment done to my hair once. I got highlights a few times probably about 8 years ago, but I didn't like them much, so I've kept my hair 'au naturale' since then (save a couple times I used the store bought 'wash out gradually over a month' kind of dye).
Dying your hair is so high-maintenance. That's the main reason I hadn't done it yet. But, we all know I'm no spring chicken. I have yet to see my first grey hair and I figured if I start dying it now, maybe I'll never see one!
Since that episode a year ago, I have found a new 'One and Only Trusted Salon' and 'One and Only Trusted Stylist,' Tawnya. I always get so bored with my hair the same way for an extended period of time and I didn't think going back for another cut was going to ease my boredom. Plus it seems like a waste of money to go and pay for "a trim." I thought about getting a 'glossing' treatment done, but heard it was basically the same chemicals used to dye your hair but without the color. Why not just dye my hair too? I've always envied people with darker hair... I think it's so beautiful (i.e. Rachel, Collette, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Julia Roberts...) so I finally decided to take the plunge and just do it.
After doing hours of extensive research online and pondering what I thought would look good, I ended up showing Tawyna a picture of a color I liked in a Cosmo magazine sitting in the salon waiting room. Two hours later I was strutting out of the salon with the most fabulous hair in the world. Ok, maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but I really like it.

Ok, maybe YOU can't tell much of a difference, but I can!

Today's Special 3/29-4/4

I'm posting next week's menu a little early so you have time to shop for stuff in case you wanted to make any of it .

Sunday: Crockpot Roast with Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Carrots & Rolls

Monday: Shredded Beef Chimichangas with Mexican Style (not Spanish) Rice-a-Roni

Tuesday: Spaghetti & Meatballs with French Bread & Salad

Wednesday: Burrito Bowls

Thursday: Lentil Soup (new recipe) with Rolls

Weekend: Market Street Clam Chowder with French Bread

Just so you know, I do try to plan my meals so that they are somewhat cheap and use up ingredients I already have. For example, I buy a big enough roast on Sunday so there's left over meat to shred for the chimichangas on Monday (also as a side note, I've used a beef or pork roast with the recipe I linked to). The spaghetti sauce recipe makes a lot, so I'll likely use up the rest to make lasagna next week. The lentil soup uses leaks which are not common for me to buy, but the clam chowder recipe also uses leaks, so I'm making that too. Also, the Lentil Soup calls for red peppers which in case you haven't noticed are incredibly expensive (as are yellow peppers). Not too long ago I discovered something amazing.... frozen peppers! They are mixed (red, yellow and green) and are already cut into strips (think fajitas) and are way cheaper than buying the fresh ones. Plus they taste just as good!

For the chimichangas, I just shred up the left over roast, mix it up with some green taco sauce so it's not too dry, wrap it up burrito style in a tortilla and fry them in an inch or so of oil, flipping once the first side is browned (you can use a toothpick to hold them closed if you need too).

To make the burrito bowls, I put tortilla chips as a base, then top with Mexican rice (left over from Monday), taco meat, refried beans, lettuce (left over from Tuesday's salad), salsa, sour cream & guacamole. (I buy Wholly Guacamole brand in 100 calorie pouches because I freeze them and just unthaw one pouch at a time so it doesn't go bad).

The recipe I use for rolls (thank you Rachel!) makes a ton so I just freeze them all and nuke a couple in the microwave when I need them. They taste just as good as fresh ones!

One more thing... I'll buy a loaf of french bread and probably freeze it so it doesn't get stale by the time I use it. Any left overs can be used on the weekend for French Toast!

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Window to My Soul

I've had some requests to post a list of my favorite music and books. Ok so maybe it's not quite a window to my soul, but it's at least peep-hole.

My music tastes are really quite random. I normally like softer nerdy type stuff, but I also love some of those bands that your mom's wouldn't let you listen to. I'm not much of a rap or pop fan, but I would say that there are still songs/artistis in those genres that are tolerable and even enjoyable. I'm going to make a list of my top ten artists. I LOVE all of these and highly recommend them. (I added links to each artist in, most of which have clips of the songs on the pages for each individual CD)

My Top Ten Artists
In no certain order....

1.Brandi Carlile (NOT Belinda Carlisle though she's not bad) ( I have The Story and her self-titled album Brandi Carlile and love both)

2. Alison Krauss (I own "Lonely Runs Both Ways" and "Now That I've Found You")

3. Fiona Apple (Extraordinary Machine)

4. Fleetwood Mac (The Dance)

5. Jeff Buckley (Grace-Legacy Edition)

6. Johnny Cash (I like most of his stuff, but his American IV is really good)

7. Oingo Boingo (Skeleton's in the Closet)

8. Devotchka

9. Pet Shop Boys

10. Pink Floyd

Wow that was hard to choose just ten. Here is a list of other artists I like...

A Perfect Circle
Velvet Revolver
The Cult
The Cure
Ben Folds
Depeche Mode
Violent Femmes
Alice in Chains
Anne Murray
The Carpenters
Big Wreck
Bonnie Raitt
Carly Simon
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Clint Black
Tim McGraw (Mostly older stuff)
Dan Fogelberg
Dixie Chicks
Don Williams (The Best of Don Williams)
George Strait
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

James Taylor
Midnight Oil (Diesel and Dust)
Modern English
Neil Diamond
Norah Jones
Pearl Jam
Soul Asylum
Tears for Fears
U2 (esp. Achtung Baby)

This isn't all the music I like, just groups that are at the top of the list. There's always one-hit wonders and those types of things. As you can see I love what I grew up on, including some guilty pleasures such as Anne Murray that are influenced by my parents. My sister Corinne also had a lot of influence on me as seen by the Violent Femmes and Neil Diamond. There really is only a handful of newer artists on my list, because they just don't make 'em like they used to!

As far as books go, I typically like non-fiction. I will read fiction, but usually only if it's recommended by someone. I'll just make a list of the books I've read and liked. By the way, I did read Twilight... this was before the real Twilight explosion and I didn't know it was a teenage girl-type book. It was alright, but not my style. No I will not be watching the movie.

Books I Like

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (had this on audiobook-loved it... thanks for the recommendation Mom!)

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

Naked by David Sedaris (I've read almost everything from him including "When You Are Engulfed in Flames", "Dress Your Family in Corduroy & Denim," and "Me Talk Pretty One Day"- all of these books are very funny)

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (thanks for the recommendation Mom Hanson!)

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Emerson: Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Matilda by Roald Dahl

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey

Death, Taxes and Leaky Waders by John Gierach

Well, that's it for now. If you have any questions about anything I've listed here let me know. I'd be happy to share details!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Attempt at Being Wifey

As many of you know, Seth will be starting a full time job tomorrow at Northrop Grumman. He is going to be doing this in addition to being a full-time student up at Weber State. Somehow he is going to go to school from 8-12pm and then work from 3-12 am, all while sleeping and eating and doing his homework. I'm overwhelmed just thinking about it and I'm not even the one that has to do it!

Since I will now be spending the weeknights alone, I decided that I will need some motivation to continue to cook dinner when I get home from work. I don't want Seth to have to dig frozen burritos out of the freezer or swing through the drive-through for a hamburger everytime he's hungry, so I'm going to make a concerted effort to at least make his meals easy and delicious (assuming he ever has a chance to eat!)

So, I came up with a plan. I figured if I can plan out my meals for the week and have the menu easily accessible, Seth will know what to look for in the fridge, and it will motivate me to make whatever is on there. I also came up with an idea (with help from my friend the Internets) to make a magnetic chalkboard to put on the front of the fridge. This way my kitchen would look like a fancy bistro and I'd want to plan the meals so I could update my cute chalkboard!

The chalkboard was very easy to make. All I did was get a 1' x 2' sheet of magnet and a can of chalkboard spray paint at the craft store. I lightly sanded one side of the magnet and then sprayed it with two coats of chalkboard paint. Then I waited 24 hours and primed the surface with a coating of chalk. Wha-la! Instant chalkboard! I never make 'crafts' so I was very pleased that it actually worked!

I also decided that you all should be able to reap the benefits of my meal planning, so I'm going to try and post my menu for the week, complete with links to the recipes I use. Most of the stuff I make is tried and true, but I do try to make new things as well. I'll mark the ones I haven't made before so you know. So without further ado... here is this week's menu....

Sunday: Chicken Cordon Bleu with Mushroom Sauce with steamed broccoli

Monday: Macaroni and Cheese with green beans

Tuesday: Tuna Casserole with broccoli

Wednesday: Porcupine Balls with mashed potatoes and steamed carrots (my grandma used to make these, this isn't her recipe though, just one I found I'm going to try)

Weekend: Pepperoni, Mushroom & Onion Calzones (My Pizza Dough Recipe)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Danger is My Middle Name

When I was about ten years old, we went on a family vacation to Capitol Reef National Park. I don’t really remember anything about the trip except for one night spent at our campground.

My family didn’t typically stay in public campgrounds. We were the ‘pick a spot out in the boonies and squat behind a bush if you have to do your business’ kind of family. But this particular trip we stayed at a campground, probably because it was a busy time of year.

As I recall, it was around Easter, or at least in the spring. Our campground was right next to a large apricot orchard and the blossoms were in full bloom. Millions and millions of tiny pink and white blossoms dotted the trees until it looked like a grove of puffy clouds. These clouds of blossoms were contrasted by surrounding rust red cliffs and bright green grass. The smell was intoxicatingly delicious and sweet. A small river bordered by thick willows ran along a walking path on one side of the orchard. During the day while walking along the path, wildlife such as deer, squirrels, chipmunks and birds could be seen in great supply. As far as campgrounds go, this place was Valhalla.

When all us kids were younger, we had a camper. It was a bit crowded with five people, but it provided a convenient place to keep all our supplies and there were enough beds for everyone to sleep in. It was common practice on camping trips to play card games at the small dining table in the camper in the evenings when it got dark. One night after playing several games of Indian Poker, Rummy and Hearts, Dad asked us how brave we were.

Now, when Dad asks you if you’re brave, you know there’s a dare coming. Dad would tell ghost stories one night and dare you to walk away from the campfire and touch a rock 25 yards away on the next night. True priming.

On this particular night we didn't just have to walk 25 yards in the dark. We had to walk through the streetlamp lit campground, down the path and out to the orchard. To prove that we had gone all the way to the orchard, we were to bring back an apricot blossom. For some reason (probably middle-child syndrome) I always wanted to look like the coolest, bravest child, so I volunteered to go first. I put my purple jacket on and hopped down from the camper. I turned back and looked at the well-lit camper and my family members looking down at me, then confidently began to march across the pavement to the pathway.

The trail was only about 25 yards away from the camper and I stopped at the entrance to gaze at the eerie dark path. I paused for just a moment to consider turning back, but quickly decided against it as I'd surely be dubbed a 'wuss.' At that I broke into a full-out run. The thick willows that beautifully lined the river in the daytime were now terrifying. The rushing water from the river and rustling of the willows sounded like surging footfalls through the branches and twigs. Anything could be hiding in them, waiting to pounce and eat me alive. The trees in the orchard seemed miles away as my feet slapped the pavement in a steady, panicked rhythm. I ran at least 100 yards before I finally got to the first trees on the edge of the orchard. To my horror, the blossoms were higher up than I thought they'd be. With pure adrenaline rushing through my veins, I jumped as high as I could, reaching my arm high above my head, straining to grab anything I could get my hands on. To my surprise I tore off a handful of blossoms just before my feet landed hard on the damp grass. Without hesitation, I scrambled back to the pathway and sprinted back to the camper. I had made it, and I was alive.

The look of pride on my dad's face was priceless. I was the bravest kid in the world. Now, wanting some of my dad's praise for herself, Corinne volunteered to go next.

We all sat in the camper and waited and waited for Corinne to come back. Five minutes. Ten minutes. My dad eventually decided he'd better go out and check on her. We waited for another fifteen to twenty minutes before Dad and Corinne finally came back.

Dad said he'd started to walk down the path looking for Corinne and came upon a skunk. He had to wait there for several minutes for it to go away before he could move. Had I gone out there ten minutes later than I did, I surely would have startled this putrid creature in my frenzied race and come back with more than just a handful of apricot blossoms.

Dad eventually found Corinne on the other end of the campground. Apparently she'd found a way to get to the orchard by walking straight through the low-lit rows of campers in the campground. She successfully completed the task, but only by essentially cheating. Annie was too young to go out on her own and so by technical knock-out, I won. I was the pluckiest kid by far and no one was ever able to surpass the high bar I set that night for sheer bravery.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blog Suggestions

Ok so call this a cop-out, but I want to do some more posts, but I'm having a hard time coming up with new material. Any suggestions on something you'd like to hear about? Specific subjects? Stories? Memories? Karen's Personal Opinions on Stuff? Anything?! (This applies to my Hopper Dropper blog too!)

Love Your Personal Entertainment Provider,

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tolstoy? Why Yes, I've Heard of Him...

About a year ago I was wandering around in Barnes and Noble looking for something to read. I came to the classics section where I was drawn to the ever famous monstrosity, "War and Peace". I've always thought it would be cool to say I'd read "War and Peace"'s kind of the nerd equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. At just over 1400 pages, it's three pounds of pure intimidation. Needless to say, I had to have my very own copy.

Now I've read book reviews for "War and Peace" and all of them rave what a delightful, amazing book it is. So far I've read about 130 pages (I started two weeks ago) and not much has happened. I was really hoping it would be the kind of book I couldn't put down. I set a goal to get through at least one chapter a day. If I can stay awake long enough, sometimes I'll read two. I'm going to read this whole book even if it kills me.

I plan to follow up later on this enormous goal of mine. I'm hoping I won't embarass myself by quitting or finally finishing it when my as yet non-existent children graduate from college. Although, if I keep up with the current rate I'm at, you should hear back from me around my birthday (which is July 23rd in case you wanted to get me anything).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

This One Isn't About Fish

I am five minutes into hiking up the side of a cedar tree and sage brush covered hill when I begin to wonder what the fuss is about. I'm already breathing hard as I slowly lift one giant mud covered boot in front of the next in my futile attempt to keep up with Seth who is several yards ahead of me already. "I really should be concentrating more on my cardio workouts," I think as I trudge up the embankment, trying hard not to slip and fall into the mushy snow saturated earth.

There's no way I'm ever going to be a hunter at this rate. I'm only carrying a small day pack filled with a couple liters of water, a wind breaker and basic survival supplies and I'm already getting winded. Would I even be able to move if I had to carry a rifle or bow and actual supplies like food? What if I actually shot something? I couldn't carry the meat down on my back, I can barely move these stubby legs!

The good news was that Seth and I weren't out on an actual hunt. Well, not the kind that requires a weapon anyway. We had talked about going out to hunt for shed antlers and this morning after eating our breakfast burritos, Seth got a crazy look in his eye. "Hey," he said with a mischievous grin on his face, "you want to go down to Huntington Canyon to look for antlers?"

Wow! We were actually going to do it! I skipped my daily shower and got ready as fast as I could. We packed up some drinks and stopped to get some sandwiches for the cooler on our way down. We drove past the giant windmills at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon, past the fishermen along Thistle Creek, past the wind sailors and sledders at the top of Skyline Drive and came down into Huntington Canyon by the power plant.

It was a beautiful day, around 50 degrees, so all we had on were our thermals, jeans and hoodies. After the first hundred yards or so I was beginning to sweat and thought about taking off my sweatshirt. My camouflage baseball hat was blocking my view and that combined with the heat, I was starting feel agitated. "Just relax and have fun," I thought, "you don't need to keep up with Seth, just enjoy the scenery. Go slow and keep your eyes open, who knows, maybe you'll actually find something."

We climbed to the top of the hill and followed a barbed wire fence for a few yards. The fence was down at the point where we needed to drop into the draw on the other side of the hill, so we effortlessly stepped over it and kept going. Now that we were going downhill in the shadows of the mountain, I began to cool off and really open my eyes. I was no longer walking directly behind Seth, following the footprints that he left. I was making my own trail in an effort to cover more area and get a new view of potential hiding places for sheds.

The ground was littered with cedar branches and twigs, all of them looking like antlers. I would take a couple steps, scan the area and repeat. I was falling farther and farther behind Seth who would periodically give a small bird-like whistle so I knew where he was. I'd catch up to him and the cycle would start over again.

Seth mentioned earlier when we stopped at this place that he'd been hiking around in the same area once before and had seen a herd of about 200 elk. Up to this point I had never really seen an elk in the wild. I've seen hundreds of deer, antelope, jack rabbits, and even a tarantula, but no elk.

About an hour or so into our hike, Seth gave a faint whistle and motioned to me to come quickly, but quietly over to where he was standing. I made my way over to him and he pointed towards the rolling hills in front of us. "You see that elk?" he whispered, "it's laying down right out there on that hill." I looked and couldn't see anything. He handed me his binoculars and I scanned the hillside. There straight across from us about 250 yards away, was a cow elk. Not just one, but a couple. We slowly inched our way over to a large boulder where we would be more hidden and have a better view. I scanned the hillside again and this time counted at least 10 elk. As we sat there and watched, more elk came into view. Most of them were grazing and making their way towards another draw that would lead down into a field full of grass. There were at least 40-50 elk in the herd, including two young bulls with small spikes. We were upwind from them and had several trees and boulders to hide in and just observe these beautiful animals. All those eyes and ears and not one of them knew we were there.

After a while we got curious as to how close we could get before they saw us. We started walking straight down the hill towards them, being as quiet as we could. When we were about 100 yards away, one of the little spike bulls saw us and let out a small warning cry. All the cows on the hill looked at us and just stood there. The whole herd just stood there and watched. We slowly came a bit closer and they decided they didn't want to stick around. The lead cow took off down the hill and the others followed behind her. It was an amazing thing to see.

After the herd left, we decided we might as well go scan the area they were in for antlers. We never did find anything, but just being able to get that close to them in the wild made it all worth it. I've always heard hunters say that getting up close to wild animals is one of the best things about hunting and it doesn't matter so much if they actually get to make a kill. Up until today I thought that was something the bad hunters said to make themselves feel better. But now I see what they mean. It was such a rush and such a great moment to just be there and witness what we saw. Anything more than that would just be gravy. Gravy on top of gravy.

If being a hunter means I get to experience what I did today on a somewhat regular basis, I'm in. Nature like that won't just walk up and sit in your lap. You have to work for it. You have to plan for it. You have to want it.