Our lives are like quilts - bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love. ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My first venture into crockpot world!

While my husband has been in Israel, I have been trying to stay really busy so that I don't only think about how I miss him. It has been such a nice time to catch up with friends and family that I haven't seen in a while. I have had more people over to our new apartment, which I have only been in for about three weeks, than I had over in the whole year I lived in the last apartment!

Anyway, one of the things that I decided to do while Dillon was gone was to explore the slow cooker cookbooks that I have and pick out some things to make. And then actually make them. That's the key... haha. My first choice was to make an Apple Cake. This was the first dish I'd ever made in the CrockPot that we received as a wedding gift. I decided to make it because I knew this was something that Dillon would not like, and I'd rather save those that he WOULD like for when he gets back.

My sister was over when I decided to make the apple cake, so we went to the store and got the necessary ingredients.
Katie and I have always liked playing cooking show and pretending we are on TV, so that's what we did for the first half of making this cake. It was fun and easy! First, we mixed together sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs. Then we peeled and chopped up two apples (I used Pink Lady because they are a cooking apple and I love their flavor) and added those to the mix.

The peeling and chopping the apples was the longest part of the preparation, but it was just because we were playing around and Katie wasn't a very helpful peeler. I learned that I very much enjoy using the peeler! Next, we added flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda and chopped walnuts to the mix. After this step, all we had to do was pour the mixture into the crockpot. The recipe advised greasing a cake pan that would fit into the crockpot and placing it in there with the mixture, but I just poured it straight into the crockpot after greasing and flouring the sides and bottom.

If I had used the cake pan, I was supposed to seal it with foil, so we did the same thing by covering the top with foil to seal the air off in the crockpot. Then we set the timer for 3.5 hours on high.

After we got it cooking, I had to take Katie home. I got back to check on the dessert after 2 hours of cooking. The cake was completely done. One of the edges was even starting to look too brown! So I learned something very useful about setting my crockpot on high! I will have to watch my meals because I guess it works pretty well. Greasing and flouring the bottom and sides worked well, because I turned the crockpot over and the cake flopped out onto the plate. One of the sides got a little crumbled in that process, but otherwise it all stayed together.

I let the cake cool and then tried it. I'd characterize it as more of a huge apple bread or muffin, rather than a cake. Cake implies dessert, or sweet, and this was almost like a breakfast bread. It was also pretty greasy on the bottom, maybe from the cooking spray I used in the crockpot. But
the texture and flavors were great! I'd definitely make and slice it for a breakfast potluck or something. Overall, my first crockpot experience was awesome! I like preparing the food, not so much the waiting for it to cook. But I plan on starting to go home for lunch so that I can make dinner and let it cook while I'm back at work, so that should be great! More blogs about this to come! :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

First year of grad school? Check.

I remember my mom telling me once I started undergrad at TWU that no matter what happened from that point on, I could always say, "I have completed (insert number) hours of college work." I don't know what the context of that remark was; maybe we were talking about emergencies or life situations that come up in the middle of college that stop you from finishing. Whatever the conversation was, it comes to mind now as I say that as of yesterday, I have completed 18 hours of graduate work(and I still have a 4.0, yay!). That's right, first year of graduate school is officially dunzo. So, as I often like to do, I've compiled a list of my top five favorite things about grad school. In no particular order...

1. My classmates
At first when thinking about grad school, I'd looked for an online program, but there weren't many to choose from, at least not from institutions that I was familiar with. I did find a couple of hybrid programs that mixed face to face instruction with online courses, but when I found the UNT program, I was really drawn to the curriculum and the format of their MPA. Looking back from where I am now, I am so glad that I didn't go with a hybrid, because I love the people in my program! The program has done a great job of selecting a diverse group of students, and as a small class, we have a lot of opportunity to get to know each other both in and out of school... for instance, at Jupiter House and Love Shack. Yesss.

2. The higher level of commitment
Graduate school is different from undergraduate because people actually want to be there. Now, I had a lot of talented classmates in the honors program and in my upper level courses at TWU. But in graduate school, especially in our field where you don't really HAVE to have a master's degree, it's nice because most everyone is like me, AKA a nerd. We all get to know our teachers, we all print out our lecture notes before class, and we all average our grades constantly all semester to see how we are doing and what we need on our finals... except we calculate what we need to make A's, not what we need to pass the class. LOVE IT.

3. The elective choices
My specialization in my MPA is Non-Profit Management, and I love the different electives that I get to choose from for this emphasis. I get to take things like Capacity Building, Volunteer Management, Fund Development and Program Evaluation. Pretty much my cup of tea x 100.

4. The connections
I imagine that most graduate programs are this way, but I really appreciate how our faculty keep in touch with our alumnae. It is a great feeling to know that we can volunteer and/or be called upon to come back to UNT after we are done to talk about our careers and help the MPA students know that there is a light at the end of the school tunnel. Of course, it doesn't hurt if we donate to the scholarship program as well! Our faculty groom us for these opportunities even now as students, which I think continues to ensure a strong foundation for the future of the program. I, for one, plan to serve on MPA advisory committees and attend networking luncheons with students in the future, provided I am still around and have anything to offer. Hopefully I will have at least some small tidbit of wisdom.

5. The expectations
Another thing our faculty do is expect us to be good at our jobs and to do them objectively and ethically. I had the chair of our department for a class this semester, and he would address our class by saying, "Okay, managers, what do we notice about this situation?" They already expect us to be smart enough to problem solve as students, which makes me want to actually think critically and not just follow what it says in my textbooks.

So, there ya have it! My hopefully not-too-snobby sounding (didn't mean for it to be) list about why I love my graduate program. Here's to one year down and one to go!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Beware of Lilies

Today has been a really sad day for Dillon and me. Last night when I got home from class at 9:30, our cat Jinxi was laying on the floor, barely moving. She had been acting lethargic for about a day, so we thought if she was still feeling bad by last night (Thursday), we would make her an appointment with the vet for Friday. I figured she might have caught a cold or something, because her nose seemed a little runny and she just seemed depressed. But last night, things had escalated. Her nose had turned a little yellowish, and she could barely lift her head. Most nervewracking was the way that she was twitching after every couple of breaths. Dillon got home and we called the animal hospital, and they told us to bring her in.

The Animal Hospital of North Texas was great; it was clean and the staff and vet were so helpful and caring. After taking her back, the vet asked us if we had any poisonous substances in the house, because she said the initial exam looked like Jinxi had been poisoned. We do have some household cleaners, but the cats can't really get to them. Then she asked specifically, since it was Easter this weekend, if we had any lilies in the house. I first said no, but then Dillon reminded me that my mom had given us a plant a week before. We googled "lily" with the vet, and sure enough, it was a tiger lily that had been in the house. The vet told us that most species of lilies are extremely toxic to cats, and they had to run bloodwork to confirm that Jinxi had ingested the lily. Even the pollen in her fur would make her sick, but eating even a small portion of leaf can kill a cat. The bloodwork confirmed that she had the toxins in her body, and the vet told us that if you don't catch the ingestion before six hours, the damage to the cat can't really be reversed. She was already experiencing renal failure and heart arrithmia from high potassium levels, since she was no longer producing urine. The only thing that could have kept her alive a little longer would be dialysis, and that can only be done in California at UC Davis. So little Jinxi had to be put down.

It was the saddest thing in the world when we had to say goodbye to our girl. She wasn't even two years old, and she had been so healthy and happy. Dillon was especially torn up, because that was his baby. As he held her and said goodbye, she used all her energy to purr in his arms for the last time. Then they took our sweet girl away and sent her to kitty heaven. We chose not to be present for that. I am still in shock, and I have been crying a lot today. We still have little Leelee, who did not eat the lily. She has been looking for her sister today because this is the first time she has ever been alone. I hope that we can help her adjust okay.

I didn't write this blog to make anyone sad, even though I know that it is a sad story. I wrote it because I have had cats for 20+ years and I didn't know about lilies being poisonous to them, so I wanted to spread the word in case I'm not the only one. Don't keep lilies anywhere in your house or outside your house if you have animals, especially cats. There is a lot of information on Google about other poisonous plants for animals as well. No one should have to go through the shock of having a healthy pet one day and having them gone the next, so beware: lilies are not good news for cats.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring semester lifesavers

Wellsies, I'm 3/4 of the way through my first grad school year. Congrats, me! That also means I'm 3/8 of the way through with grad school all together, provided I pass my comprehensive exams the first time I take them in January. Which I better. I was so excited to register this week for my next round of classes, which I'm nerdily excited for. Supposedly this current semester will be my hardest of all, so I guess we'll see!
Anywho, since we only have about six weeks left until finals, that means I am the downward slope to summer freeeedom! But only kind of, because I AM taking one summer class. But it's just one night a week, for four hours (yikes). Meaning I will get to see husby in the evenings again in the summer, which is practically unheard of! Dillon is closer to real freedom than me, as he has six weeks left too, but he will be DONE with seminary in May! Into the real world he goes now! Let's see how long it takes for him to beg to be back in class like the rest of us. Hehe. Everyone in school wants to get out, and everyone out of school misses the luxuries of only having to go to class!

In times of stress with work or school, sometimes it is the little activities or resources that feel like lifesavers. So, here is a list of five silly things that are getting me through this semester:

1) Pandora: I have three stations that I rotate between: John Mayer (when I feel mellow or need focus), Michael Bolton (when I need the energy that only 80s and 90s cheese can provide), and Michael Buble (when I feel happy and mushy).

2) iPad: My computer provides lots of relax-y time at home, whether it be with mindless games, reading new iBooks or surfing the Web for home-related ideas with Dillon. Right now, I'm reading these two books using my iPad. They are (clearly) very different from one another, but they are also both very good! The iPad is fantastic for reading... I just have to be careful in the bathtub.

3) Coupons: I have a newfound appreciation for coupons, especially since I started getting this awesomely thick envelope full in our apartment mailbox. I always have my coupon carrier with me now, but sometimes I still forget to use it. Then I find the coupons a week later and they are expired. Rats! It's fun to cut them and sort them though... just the type of organizational activity that makes me happy.

4) Lays BBQ chips: I have been engulfing these by the hundreds this semester. I should buy the big bags and dole out baggies for the week, but lately I have just been getting them every day in the Union at work. Sooo goood.

5) Ojon dry shampoo: For the days that I wake up way late from snoozing my alarm 37 times, this spray freshens up my hair and soaks up the oil so it still looks clean. And it smells great, sort of like baby powder!

So, that's my list! I feel blessed that I don't ever get TOO stressed (BAM, made a rhyme), but when I do, those are some of the things that cool my jets. Note: look out in the next few weeks for an extra exciting announcement about Dillon's next move!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Surviving Snowmageddon!

Last week, something unheard of in my lifetime happened in North Texas.

There was ice and snow, a "wintery mix," as the meteorologists say. This is not the rare thing; in fact, we had a snow day or two sprinkled throughout my childhood. Those were always the best days- waking up and watching the news to see if your school district popped up on the scrolling list of closings.

But THIS... this was the mother of all wintery mixes in Texas terms. We had FOUR snow days. I had work and class on Monday, and then life stood still for the rest of the week. No work, no class, no getting out of the apartment at all unless on ice skates... just me, my husband, and our cozy couch.

I don't really have many pictures, but here is a list of some of our major accomplishments during Snowmageddon:

1. Nip/Tuck
Say what you will about this show. I know that it was controversial, over the top, etc., and it is definitely NOT for everyone. However, Dillon and I started Season 1 two weeks ago and finished Season 6 during snow week. 100 episodes total. That's a lot of TV... way more than I usually watch, but that's how much I loved it. I am having withdrawals from McNamara/Troy as we speak. And if I hadn't already found real life love, I would probably move to wherever Julian McMahon lives and stalk him. I may still do that anyway.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

2. Sleeping
For me, snow days were a time for catching up on rest... mind you, this was rest that I didn't think I actually needed. If you know me, you know that I have a self-imposed bedtime, and I already sleep 8 hours a night on average. But over the snow days, I'd go to sleep at 10:30 or 11:00 pm and finally get up at 11:00 am. I don't know what it was! Apparently sitting on the couch and being cooped up all day was exhausting for me! I think husby was a little perplexed at my sleeping, but he didn't seem to mind being up after me at night and before me in the morning. To MY credit, I didn't really take daytime naps like I thought I would.

I may have been as cute as this, but probably not.

3. Jewelry area
There was one evening that Dillon fell asleep on the couch, but I was still wide awake. He shuffled into our bedroom and I intended to follow him, but instead I stayed in the bathroom and made a jewelry area on the counter. Random much? We'd bought me a necklace tree in Hot Springs and I hadn't set it up yet, and I guess I thought that loudly untangling my necklaces, most of which are chainy or chunky, and dropping them everywhere while I set it up would be a good nocturnal activity while husby slept in the next room. I organized my self-made jewelry box and put up my new necklace tree, and voila! Jewelry area. Productivity, check!

Here is my completed jewelry area!

4. Store excursion teamwork
On Thursday afternoon, we really couldn't wait any longer to go to the store. We'd had enough of scrounging and cooking the last of the things in the cabinet and freezer (which were only there because we'd put off eating them the first time). So we bundled up in our insufficiently warm Texan winter clothes and slid our way to the grocery store, which is less than a mile away but still across the Highway 114 bridge. Two instances of marriage teamwork happened on this excursion:

a) We successfully cleared the ice and snow off the front and back of the car. It might sound like a breeze, BUT mind you, this was no easy task with no traction for standing on sheets of solid ice AND no scraper or deicer. Dillon used a pink putty knife from my girly toolkit... and I used a rectangular plastic eyeshadow container. BAM. We are the new Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

This is my girly pink toolkit, which I love and recommend. You can see the putty knife!

b) After navigating Wal-Mart, a task of such proportions that it could be a post in itself, we had a cart full of groceries that we had to push to the place where our car was parked, also known as Africa. I started out pushing it and made it about halfway before the wheels went haywire on the ice. I could barely walk myself, let alone control the cart! So SuperHusby got behind and put his arms around mine, and together we pushed the cart through the ice-filled treachery. I'm pretty sure we looked adorbs.

We had many MORE fun times, but all in all, it was a great week even though we were snowed (iced?) into the apartment. It was like a mini-vacation- no work + no school + no pressure to go anywhere because it was impossible = a nice treat for newlyweds!

Love my ducky!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mystery Date!

Despite my epic FAIL of not blogging about my wedding, most of you already know that Dillon and I got married on November 20th, which makes us a) married about 70 days and b) marriage experts (yes, I'm kidding, before all you married-for-longer people get in a snit).

Anyway, these first two months of marriage have been like living in our own romantic comedy, full of learning-to-live-together adventures and overall fun-having-ness. I want to do a better job of blogging some of these occasions for both your reading pleasure and my memory's sake, so I thought I'd start today by posting about some stuff that happened this weekend.

On Friday, Dillon and I were texting, and then suddenly:
D: "P.S., me and you have a date tomorrow in the afternoon."
C: "We do?!"
D: "Yes, I'm taking you out."
C: "Sweet, where?"
D: "You'll find out then."
C: "Hmm!!! I'm so curious now."

If you know me, you know that I don't do well with surprises. This is not to say I don't LIKE surprises; on the contrary, I think surprises are thoughtful and awesome. But if I KNOW something is coming and I don't know when or what it is, I turn into a badgering, questioning, all-consumed, surprise-wanting fiend. In fact, last year when I thought that we might be getting engaged soon, I asked Dillon constantly where we were going and when and why, thinking the proposal might come at any time, until eventually he exasperatedly asked me if I just wanted him to do it right then or if I'd wait until he could carry out what he had been planning. (Enter shame.) So this time, I made a conscious decision not to be a nag and to simply allow my sweet husband to surprise me like he wanted to, instead of being a day-ruiner (which is what comes naturally... yikes).

Sue and I are kindred spirits. She can't handle it either. (If you aren't familiar with this, look here and thank me later.)

So, Saturday came, and I tried sneakily to guess the plan by doing things like:
a) getting out the soccer ball (which was quite a task, as it was buried in the closet) and asking, "Do we need THIS!?" (answer: no)
b) creeping on Dillon getting dressed with a critical eye, looking for clues as to where we might be going by his choice of clothes (soccer jersey and jeans, hmm)
c) asking casually if I should set the DVR for certain shows that were coming on throughout the day and trying to gauge how long we might be gone (Dillon reminded me that we have all our shows on
d) cooking a mini bagel for breakfast to see if Dillon would object because maybe we were going out to eat for lunch (he didn't)

My covert tactics were not terribly successful, so I resigned myself to sitting quietly in the car while we drove toward Fort Worth (hmm...interesting). Well, actually, we talked the whole way down, but due to my supreme multitasking ability, I still secretly pondered lots of possibilities while we drove.

I was confused when we exited and went to Dillon's school, but he assured me that it wasn't our date and that he just had to buy a book for class. We took the opportunity to walk around the campus, though, because the weather was gorgey and I hadn't really ever been on the seminary grounds before. The campus is very well groomed, like TWU, and there are a lot of sculptures/statues and fountains. When we were leaving, Dillon told me to pick where I wanted to go for lunch, so I picked Genghis Grill. Freakin' YUM. (SOME people say I waste pick-your-own-ingredients opportunities. I only put chicken, egg, and pineapple in my bowl at GG. Just like at Subway, where I only put turkey and cheese on my sandwich. Umm...haters.)

At lunch, Dillon actually SOLICITED my guesses about where we were going next. I wanted to guess that we might be going to the museum, because I'd been dying to go, but then I decided not to make any guesses in case I guessed something way better than what he had planned. Hahaha. He agreed with my logic. Hahaha again.

Finally, the moment of truth was upon us. Being the Fort Worth expert that I am, I could tell as we drove away from lunch that we were heading toward the cultural district. I remembered that the Stock Show was going on and hoped fervently that we weren't going there (so sue me). But then... voila!

He took me to the Kimbell! Now, I've been to this museum lots of times having grown up in FWISD and having a family that appreciated cultural experiences, BUT Dillon and I had been really wanting to go again for a while. And we did! And it was awesome! We browsed and explored and exchanged faux-intelligent commentary about the artists and their intentions with each piece. AND we visited the gift shop, where I found the uber-cutest coupon organizer which I shall now use to save hundreds of dollars on every product. I convinced Dillon that I should get to buy it because it would pay for itself in a matter of days... we'll see.

Best friends forever.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Five things I love about fall!

Despite my 24th fall being my craziest so far due to starting graduate school and planning our wedding, it doesn't change the fact that it is FALL. And fall is by far my favorite season, so I have decided to dedicate this post to the five best things about fall. It is utterly fantastic, for reasons that I have only begun to outline below.

1. School starts. This is why some people DON'T like fall, I guess. But it was never a bummer for me as a child. I was usually ready for summer to be done-zo; I wanted to get back to school with my brightly colored Lisa Frank folders and patterned wooden pencils. The fall semester, rather than New Year's, signals a fresh start in my mind. I suppose I will always be wrapped in academia at this rate, either as a student, a staff member, or a professor (one of these days!).

I think I had all these folders, except for maybe the lame unicorn.

2. The blistering Texas heat finally begins to subside. We natives pull out our fleece jackets when the thermostat gets into the 70s and 80s. Today it is 85 out and my office heater has been on full blast all day. Brr. But there is something about being outside in the crisp autumn air that just makes me feel clean. It is always this season when I begin walking or running outside in the evenings because, for once, my otherwise-cozy apartment makes me feel confined and stuffy. Disclaimer: this feeling dissipates by the time "winter," also known as 50 degrees, arrives. You will find me happily burritoed into a blanket with hot chocolate.

That's me, except not me, but it's what I look like in the fall.

3. The leaves change from boring green into my very FAVORITE, more interesting colors. Deep yellows and reds are just beautiful to me (hence the wedding palette I have chosen!).

No comment is amazing.

Plus the leaves drift down into awesomely crunchy piles. I didn't really play in piles of leaves, or sand, or mud, when I was little. I really despised being dirty. BUT I still like to crunch the leaves, especially with the toes of my boots, which brings me to...

4. Fall clothes! They are the BEST clothes. Light sweatshirts and the aforementioned fleece jackets, leather dress boots and the clothy, Uggs kind that go over your jeans, sweater dresses with big belts, and... scarves! I broke out my first fall scarf last week and I thought I'd die of happiness when I looped that sucker around my neck in the stylish+warm fashion I learned in Europe.

I had some people model my fall wardrobe.

5. And finally, fall has awesome holidays. It will soon include my wedding anniversary in addition to the currently great holidays that are known as my birthday, Halloween and Thanksgiving. At these holiday celebrations, you get to eat delicious treats with flavors that are the most appropriate in this season, like caramel and cinnamon and apple and pumpkin. What does winter have? Peppermint? Blah. Not a deep or warm flavor at all. (And you can stretch out that Halloween candy for a LONG time.)

Oh, fall treats, the epitome of Good Housekeeping.

Yes, yes, autumn is the most superior season by far. It really makes me want to move to a place where the seasons are more defined, like New England, since none of my reasons for liking fall are decidedly Texan except for the heat going away. Maybe one day! :)