Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sooner or Later Review

 I read a book today, which was my first in about a month or two. What with the hubbub of the last few weeks, I really haven't had time for reading. Also, I have been on the wait list for "The Help" at the public library, hoping that my name will come up soon. (I am really thinking about just buying the book already, because I don't think I can hold out much longer. Merry Christmas to me, I suppose.) Furthermore, my list of books that I want to read is becoming increasingly shorter, and I had no idea of where to go from there. (Suggestions, anyone???)

I digress. The book I read had a bit of sentimentality to me, mostly for the fact that it was written by a cousin of mine, Melissa. Truth be told, I really didn't know that my cousin was even considering writing a book, as she lives in Tampa, FL, and our families don't correspond very much or very often. I found out about her book when Gina randomly added her on Facebook. I happened to see that they were friends on there, so I checked out her page and added her. While reading some of Melissa's posts, I saw then and there that she had just published a book! I am so proud of my cousin for her accomplishment, and the fact that she has brought honor to the family name. (I have many cousins who have not necessarily lived lives of model citizens...)

The book is entitled "Sooner or Later" by Melissa Hladik Meyer. It is a fictional story of a Chicago magazine writer, Patricia Jordan, who is forced to return to her small Oklahoma hometown to write an article about the town's star football player, all while trying to avoid her long-lost high school sweetheart. Melissa did a nice job of creating the scenes, both in Chicago and in Oklahoma. (Melissa used to live in a Chicago suburb, by the way.) Through the book, she accurately depicts everyday details of life in rural Oklahoma. The characters were believable, from Patricia's critical, but ultimately loving mother, all of the usual small-town characters (family friends, random relatives), but mostly, Patricia herself. Patricia's character is a single woman in her mid-thirties who left her slow-paced Oklahoma roots to seek a high-powered career as a Chicago journalist. She has many hang-ups about relationships after being burned in most every relationship she has been in, stemming back to her teenage heartbreak.

The plot moves smoothly, with a few twists that take you by surprise, and add to the overall story. All in all, I had a hard time setting the book down, because just when I thought that I would be at a stopping point, there would be a cliffhanger between chapters that kept me hanging on for a few more chapters until I ultimately finished the book.

One thing about this book, which is really only important for people like me, who are not that technologically advanced, is that it is only available for digital download on the Kindle, and I think on the Nook. (Unless you happen to live in eastern Oklahoma, near Melissa's hometown of Checotah, where she had three paper copies published for their library system.) With that being said, I had to resort to borrowing Emily's Kindle to read it, which was no problem with Emily, thank goodness. My only real caveat about this book, is that it contains a moderate amount of coarse language, so, if that is not your cup of tea, you might not care so much for this book. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend it as a fun weekend read!

Two thumbs up to Melissa, and I cannot wait to read your future books! Keep them coming! :)

The Last Update of 2011!

-As I mentioned in my last post, I received a Betty Crocker cookbook for Christmas. What I didn't mention is the fact that I have been looking through it almost constantly for the last three days, like a kid in a candy store. I'm not sure what my fascination is with the book, because I have seen lots of cookbooks in my lifetime. The interesting thing about this cookbook is that it has lots of helpful tips, like what to look for in virtually all types of produce, and how to prepare them. I have already flagged some recipes with Post-Its so that I can try them when I go back to school. Props to Emily for picking out an awesome cookbook...I love it!
-The last week or so has left me feeling like quite the professional aunt. Not only have I been around all of my nephews on a more regular basis, I have also done more fun activities with them than usual, like baking or decorating. I think that after seven years I am finally getting the hang of this aunt business, and I love it! Today, I had Cody and Kyle come over to help me make some banana bread out of some brown bananas that we had sitting on the counter, and also to give Emily and Cole some time to rest. We had a productive afternoon, and they will have to come back to enjoy the fruits of our labor, because it was still baking when I took them home.

-The only downfall to all of my baking is that, as much as I enjoy it and as good as it tastes, my body cannot take much more abuse. After I go back to school, I need to start utilizing the workout facilities on a regular basis. Hopefully, Tonisha might be open to joining me, if nothing more than for moral support, because I don't like going over there by myself, and my location on the east side of Enid is not conducive for outdoor exercise, like running. I should probably eat better, also, which means that I should probably eat more fruits/veggies, and avoid the cafeteria more often, which usually only hosts highly processed, fried food with little to no nutritional value. All the more reason to be excited about my cooking gear!

-Speaking of going back to school, I go back in about 1.5 weeks. I am looking forward to it, so that I don't have to worry about what my classes will be like, and so that I can be that much closer to summer. On the flipside, though, I am not looking forward to it, because, quite frankly, I enjoy waking up without an alarm, having no real agenda for my day, and getting to see my family on a continual basis. Also, not constantly having to do laundry or packing is a plus, too. Oh well, such is life.

-Although it is the same length of time every year, I still have a hard time realizing that Christmas and the New Year are only one week apart. For whatever reason, the week between the two seems like it lasts much longer than it really does. I am not sure what my plans for this weekend are, but I know that they won't involve anything too crazy. Perhaps I will get to celebrate with Tevis at some point; hopefully, we will see each other at some point during the weekend!

I hope that everyone has a great remainder of 2011, and a safe, happy celebration of the beginning of 2012!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Weekend

After a the whirlwind that was last week and this weekend, everything has finally slowed down.

Our family Christmas celebration began, as usual, on Saturday afternoon. We were able to have Mimi over for a light meal before Mass, but the fun began much before that. I already had my cheesecake made, so I was able to direct my attention elsewhere, and I decided to expand on my domesticity. I took the plunge and decided to make some bread. Not banana bread, not pumpkin bread, real yeast and flour white bread. To make things more fun, I also invited Cody and Kyle over to help me. They really were a big help, and we had a great time baking bread! After we left the dough to rise, my mom asked if we would also make a dessert for us to have after our afternoon meal and start cooking the chicken for the soup. Needless to say, the boys and I kept plenty busy in the kitchen. We also listened to Mannheim Steamroller CDs while we worked, which made the time go much faster. Much to my delight, the boys have really developed quite the love of good Christmas music.

Later in the day, my mom picked up Mimi and we had a lovely dinner of homemade chicken noodle soup and rolls. Shortly after our meal, we loaded up and headed to church for Mass. I thought that I would have to serve, as usual, but I ended up being reprieved, so I got to sit with my family...well, sort of. I actually sat a row in front of them with our distant cousins, the Vaverkas, but it was still with my family nonetheless.

After we got home, I was greeted by my favorite musical on TV, The Sound of Music. I watched it for a while before Tevis came over. When he finally got here, I gave him his present, a cologne by True Religion called Drifter, which he seemed to love. We spent the rest of the evening making the topping to my cheesecake and visiting Wyatt. (Wyatt was thrilled to see his "bro", which is how he now refers to Tevis.) After Tevis left, I watched the ceremonial airing of the Midnight Mass from St. Peter's in Rome. It is probably redundant to watch Mass after already going, and I inevitably fall asleep during the homily, because of the translator and the fact that the Pope speaks very slowly, but I still enjoy watching it and marveling at the beauty of the basilica, while further reflecting on the message of Christmas. (I fell asleep just before Communion, by the way...a personal record for me!) A great evening was had by all on Christmas Eve!

Christmas day was just as good, as it was a day full of family and fun! When everyone finally made it over, we had a great lunch of pork loin, mashed potatoes, and veggies. After lunch, we got around to opening presents, and my serene, tidy living room suddenly turned into a wrapping-paper strewn, frenzied madhouse in a matter of a few minutes. As for me, I got a springform pan (to make my cheesecakes!), a skillet set, a saucepan set, some Tupperware, a paring knife, a Betty Crocker cookbook, a some lotion/bath gel/perfume, and a necklace. Do you notice an overwhelming trend there? I am super-duper excited about my cooking paraphernalia, as I am ready to cook when I go back to my dorm! Everyone else liked their presents, as some of the highlights were a steam mop for my mom, new jeans for my dad, chimineas for Gina, Emily, and their families, a scarf for Taylor, a Shark sweeper for Cody, a Lego model set for Wyatt, "cowboy clothes" for Kyle, a John Deere truck for Andy, and I'm not sure what Cole's favorite gift was, but ours was having him here to love and hold!

After everyone calmed down from the present high, we had some dessert. The red velvet cheesecake was well-received, although it was a mite bit rich, as I will further discuss in an upcoming post. We also had a fruit salad that my mom made, the dessert from the day before, which we never got around to eating with the soup, and a coconut cream pie, which we forgot to get out on Sunday...oops. After everything was said and done, Cody helped Wyatt assemble his Lego set, Kyle played with Andy's tractor, Andy napped, and Cole mostly ate, so he can get big enough to run with the big boys. I think that most of the adults, except Mom and possibly Emily took a nap at some point, so that was an added bonus to our already great day!

I hope that everyone else had a great Christmas celebration, and remembered the reason for our celebration. As Wyatt told us, "Christmas isn't just about presents. It's about spending time with family, and Jesus's birthday!"

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

1. Everyone in my family is still very excited about our little Cole. Although I didn't make it to the hospital to see everyone today, I will be going tomorrow. I actually talked to Emily earlier and she reported that everyone had a pretty good day, and that Cole had been sleeping well for the better part of the evening. He had his hearing test and a few other tests this evening, which I was told that he did well on. Tomorrow is the big day that they come home...I'm sure that they are all ready to come home and get settled. Also, thanks to everyone for all of the well wishes, prayers, and congratulations; everyone is most grateful!

2. Yesterday was quite the day for everyone, as last night was Wyatt's Christmas program. Although the drive up there left much to be desired, what with the pouring rain, howling winds, and reckless drivers, the program itself was cute! I also happened to see some of Tevis's cousins who go to school at Garber, so I talked to them for a while. On a high note, it stopped raining during the course of the program, so the drive home was ten times better!

3. I think I am coming down from my baby high from yesterday, as I had no energy to accomplish anything today. The weather did not help at all; in fact, it was conducive for being lazy. Also, I don't think I ate enough yesterday, in the midst of the excitement, so I was feeling a little off kilter for a while.

4. My biggest accomplishment for the day was getting three of my five aprons sewed. Thank heavens that they go together quickly, and that they were already cut out, otherwise I wouldn't be as far as I am now. I also got some embroidery work done on my dad's apron this weekend, as a fun touch. Gina's mother-in-law, Mary, has an embroidery machine, and she is gracious enough to let us use it if we need something embroidered. I decided to have the phrase "Real Men Don't Use Recipes" embroidered on the front pocket of the apron. I can't wait to see it all put together!

5. I can't believe that Christmas is in five, almost four days. Sheesh, where has the time gone?

6. I have yet to wrap any of my presents. I should probably get on that in the next couple of days, but with everything else that has been happening, that kind of thing really isn't at the front of my mind like it usually is. It makes me wish that we could postpone Christmas for another week, but I know that everything will be just fine in the end, and these little details really don't matter in the grand scheme of things. I have to remember to stay in the spirit of the season, and to remember to slow down and enjoy it for what it is; the details take care of themselves eventually.

7. I love listening to Mannheim Steamroller CDs. They have beautiful renditions of my favorite Christmas songs, with my favorites being Carol of the Bells, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and Silent Night. I recommend them if you are looking for some nice instrumental music during the Christmas season.

8. Our family Christmas tree is finally up! With Cody & Kyle's help, I got it decorated. Now it just needs some presents beneath it to look complete! On a related note, I think that we will have Mimi over on Christmas Eve before Mass, which is at 5:00 this year. (I wish it was a little later, to be perfectly honest, but no one asked for my opinion.) Our Christmas day plans are to have everyone over for lunch (I think?). Tevis is supposed to be coming over at some point on Christmas Eve, although I have no clue as to what time yet. All of our plans are slowly falling into place.

9. I am excited to make my newest cheesecake recipe, the Red Velvet Cheesecake! I have high hopes for it, and I hope that it doesn't disappoint!

10. I have said it before, but I'll say it again: I love being an aunt to my five nephews. My nephews are undoubtedly one of the best things that have ever happened to me. Honestly, they teach me more than I could ever possibly teach them, and I am eternally grateful for this fact. They humble me, and they help me to remember to look at the world through the rose-colored glasses of a child. They help me to keep a positive outlook on life and not get caught up in the cynicism of adulthood. Although I am not always the fun aunt who buys them frivolous things (I am aunt practical who is perpetually buying clothes and books for them.), I hope that the memories I make with them are more valuable than anything money can buy. I cherish all of the time I spend with them, as I know that a day might come when it isn't "cool" to hang out with crazy old Aunt Amanda.

A good night to everyone, and good tidings to all for a good Christmas celebration!
(PS-My computer/Internet are still not cooperating; one day I WILL get pictures of Cole on here.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Our New Arrival!!!

As most of you know, today was the big day that everyone in my family has been waiting for! At 8:28 this morning, Emily gave birth to her third child! I'll cut to the chase and tell you what everyone has been waiting to hear for nine months...SHE HAD A BOY!!! :) His name is Cole Joseph, and he weighed 10 lbs 4 oz, and was 21.5 in long. He is quite the little chunk, but he is an adorable little chunk! Emily, Cole, and the rest of the gang are all doing just great.

As a recap of our long day, it began with Scotty & Emily dropping the boys off around 5:30 AM. Although they were excited, they were still pretty sleepy, so they rested until it was time to leave. My parents, the boys, and I ended up leaving our house around 7:00, in the midst of the thunder and pouring rain. (Any other morning, it would've been the perfect day to sleep in, but not today, for we had better things awaiting us!) I actually drove my own vehicle, for reasons I'll explain later, so I missed out on the headed-to-town conversation with Cody & Kyle, but it's okay.

Upon my arrival to the hospital, I went into the Ante Partum room to talk to Emily for a while, and to help her pass her time in that dreaded space. After a while, the anesthesiologist came in to talk with her and Scotty, so I decided to leave them to square things away. In the waiting area, my parents and the boys were working a puzzle on the coffee table. It turns out that a nurse was kind enough to lend the boys the puzzle to help occupy them during the long wait. (Actually, my mom & Emily both brought things for the boys to do while waiting, but the puzzle came out before those things did.) We were all thankful for the puzzle, because Cody & Kyle actually sat down and worked it, with everyone's help. Cody & Kyle are natural puzzle solvers, and I'm thinking that more puzzles may be in their future, if you catch my drift. It took us about twenty to thirty minutes to finish it, but that was plenty long for us.

About the time we were finishing the puzzle, Scotty's mom, Carol, arrived. This began the interminable process of waiting. Waiting to meet the baby, waiting to know its gender, waiting to know that Emily and the baby were alright, waiting to know the baby's statistics, waiting to hold the baby, waiting to see the Tom Petty song says, the waiting is the hardest part. To be perfectly honest, my dad was making this process ten times more difficult than necessary, because he would tell us that Scotty was coming when he really wasn't, or that he saw something, etc. We all got to the point that we stopped listening to him for a while, because he was doing nothing but getting our hopes up, just to dash them. Wouldn't you know that that was when he actually was right, and Scotty came walking through the doors. (My dad had quite the smug grin at that point, just so you know.)

To digress a little bit, my one and only real duty for the day was to record Cody & Kyle's first reaction to the baby on Gina's camcorder. Also, the battery on it is a little iffy, as it really doesn't hold a charge that well and constantly needs to be plugged in to the charger. I had it all planned out, and I was ready, or so I thought...Back to the story... Once we knew that Scotty was coming out, I dashed over and turned the camera on to start recording. The lens cap was off, and I hit the record button. I captured everything on camera, and I had successfully completed my task for Emily. I had a beautiful new nephew (I know he is a boy, but he is beautiful, anyway.), and all was right in the world...well, until they went to weigh Cole, and I looked down to see that the screen did NOT say that it was recording, nor did it ever start recording. Awesome. Just my luck. I was more upset with myself than anything, because I had solemnly promised Emily that if I would do anything, I would do that for her, while she was temporarily indisposed. Later, everyone assured me that it was alright, specifically Emily, which made me feel a little bit better, but still disappointed. Oh well, I suppose that is a small picture thing, since my mom and Carol both got some pictures of the moment.

While waiting, we watched Cole's first bath, his measurements, his foot stamping, his first diaper, and getting hooked up to all of the necessary monitors. I'm sure that Emily might be a little more technical than I am, but I know that all of his measurements were pretty well off the charts in all of the percentiles, so that is always a good thing! The best part of waiting was when Scotty told us that each of us (who was 18 or older, including me, for once!) could come into the nursery, one at a time, to admire Cole up close. Carol went first, then my mom, dad, and, finally, me! I felt bad for Cody & Kyle, though, as they wanted so badly to go and see their baby brother, but couldn't. I could identify with their feelings, because I was always too little to do a lot of things, and it is frustrating to no end, especially when everyone else is old enough to do all of the "cool" things. Of course, our words were no consolation to them, but it was better when Scotty was able to hold Cole up to the window for them to see him closer. Not long after, Emily came out of recovery, and Cole came out of the nursery!

At that point, I knew that Scotty and Emily needed some family bonding time, so I left to go get Mimi, which was why I drove separately. I loved getting Mimi, as we were able to talk at length, something I so love to do. A little over an hour later, Mimi and I were back at the hospital, and she was ready to see her newest great-grandchild! Everything was much calmer by the time we arrived, so Mimi got to hold Cole pretty much instantly, also she is 93 3/4 years old, so she has pretty much earned the right to hold babies whenever she wants to. Shortly thereafter, I got to hold him for the first time, although it wasn't a very magical experience for him. Cole was starting to get hungry again, I think, so he was a little bit fussy, which cut my time with him short. For me, I loved getting to hold my newest nephew! He was so soft, warm, and snuggly, not to mention that he has that new-baby scent! :) It was definitely love at first sight for this aunt! Besides, he is my fifth nephew, and I have long since gotten used to unhappy babies, and I have learned not to take offense if they were fussy, as I just love getting to snuggle with them any chance I get!

Gina got to the hospital a while after Mimi and I got back. The interesting thing about that was the fact that she had been at work all morning, as it was surgery day back at Perry, and (as per her request) she still didn't know the baby's gender when she got there. You wouldn't believe how incredibly difficult it was to carry on a phone conversation with her beforehand. Pronouns were virtually useless at that point, and we had to keep saying/emphasizing the phrase "the baby" (As in, "The baby is doing just fine." "The baby weighed 10 lbs 4 oz.") Emily almost slipped and said "he" at one point while she was on the phone with Gina, but thankfully, it cut out, and Gina didn't understand what she said. Gina was pleasantly surprised by Cole, and she got her cuddle time in before she had to go pick up Wyatt from school.

Not long after Gina left, Tevis made it up to see Cole. Cody and Kyle were ecstatic once they saw Tevis, and were bouncing off the walls trying to tell him everything. After I held Cole a while longer (it went better that go-round), Tevis finally agreed to hold him. I will admit that Cole was much calmer with Tevis than with me, although I think it has something to do with the fact that Tevis has a firm grip, and he probably just felt a little bit more secure, is all. (Tevis did happily hold that fact over my head, by the way.) After Tevis had his chance holding Cole, Kyle was literally begging to hold him again, so Tevis ceded his holding duties to Kyle. At that point, Tevis and I decided to once again leave the Moody family to have a little bit of peace.

I actually saw Cole one more time after that, since Emily had me run a few errands for her, but he was fast asleep by the time I made it back. I'm okay with that, because our little guy needed his rest after the big day he had, what with being born and all!

(I will add pictures later, because my computer is being unreasonable right now; sorry for the inconvenience...perhaps Emily will have some posted before then!)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Yet Another Update

It seems like I only post random updates like this one, but sadly, this is really the only thing I have had much time for in the past few weeks, so bear with me for a while longer!

-Tevis invited me over on Monday night, and I made an unpleasant discovery. As I walked into his living room, I noticed that he had a new watch on his arm. It was a nice watch, and that was fine, because he had been on the market for a new watch. Well, everything was fine about the situation except for one thing: I had already bought him the same watch for Christmas. I wasn’t too excited about it, as I had bought said watch last month, only days after he originally pointed it out to me. It wasn’t that I was mad about the situation, because I wasn’t. It was more of the fact that I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to give him something that I knew for a fact that he wanted, since he is impossible to shop for. He told me that his mom had given it to him as an early Christmas present, which was when I had to tell him about my predicament. The look on his face after I told him was an expression of amazement and sympathy, and he did his best to try to make light of it, by telling me that he could wear it on his other arm, that he could wear it on his ankle, that he could keep it as a backup if he lost/broke the one he already had, or that I could give it to him anyway and he could re-gift it. Although his suggestions made me smile and laugh, I wasn’t too interested. The silver lining to this is that I still have ample time to return his watch and get him something different; thank goodness I kept the receipt!

-My one and only final for the semester went just fine. I haven’t looked to see how I did yet, but I’m not too concerned about it. The worst part of my final was having to listen to the baseball players who sat behind me regale their tales of drunken debauchery from the night before. Have I mentioned exactly how much I despise baseball players? Oh well; life goes on.

-On Tuesday night, PLC had to serve at another banquet, with this one being more time-consuming than the last. There were about 300 people in attendance, and the Gantz Ballroom was packed. Personally, I could’ve gone without serving at this banquet, as I had other things that I could’ve been doing instead. At least we got a free meal out of it, along with the satisfaction of being told by the caterers that the Enid PLC is better at serving banquets than Tonkawa’s PLC is. Also, we were told that they have already fired three of the Tonkawa kids…how exactly does that happen?

-After we were done with the banquet, I went back to my dorm to do some end-of-semester cleaning. Carissa and I decided that we would split up the cleaning between the top and bottom floors. Technically, the top floor has less space, but it also has the bathroom, so that pretty much makes up for it. I volunteered to clean the top floor, since Carissa would be staying two extra days and was sewing downstairs. After two hours and a trip to Dollar General to get more cleaning supplies, I successfully got the bathroom/upstairs cleaned, including the shower, which was on the verge of being gross, in my opinion. When Carissa saw the shower, she was amazed, and she then told me that when she gets her own place, she will hire me to clean her shower! Hooray for The Works tub & shower cleaner!!!

-After cleaning, I also managed to get the bulk of my things packed up. I literally felt like I was leaving forever, and it appeared that way, too. The thing I do like about moving some of my things out is that it gives me an opportunity to see what all I have and haven’t used, and what I really need to bring back. Also, I think that I will have to take some clothes to Hope Outreach, as I haven’t really worn some of them since I moved in. I have come to the realization that it is time for me to part ways with much of my wardrobe, as I am outgrowing it not physically, but mentally. There are a few of my shirts that make me feel like a junior high kid when I wear them (probably because that’s when I got most of them), and I have gotten all the use out of them that I will probably ever get. Furthermore, I think that I should also go through my closet while I am home to weed out clothes that I haven’t worn so that they, too, can be given to someone else who is in need of gently used clothes.

-Thursday was an all-around good day. Besides the fact that it was my first official day of Christmas break, I got to spend my day with a menagerie of people. I began the day by picking my mom up from work and heading to town for Kyle’s Christmas program. (At he & Cody’s school, they split up the programs and have one for the Pre-K/Kindergarteners and one for grades 1-5.) Although I got there a little late, I still loved it! After his program, my mom and I had hoped to eat lunch with Emily, but because of circumstances beyond our control, we weren’t able to (No, she didn’t go into labor, if you were wondering.).  Instead, my mom and I decided to go out ourselves and enjoy a nice lunch at Pastimes, somewhere the two of us haven’t been in quite some time. After lunch, we headed to the mall so that I could return Tevis’s watch, and find a new present for him, which I did. We also did a little more Christmas shopping for a few people. Finally, we headed home for a little while. After eating supper, my dad joined us in our trip back to town for Cody’s Christmas program. Cody’s program was obviously longer than Kyle’s was, but it had a few welcome surprises. Their principal, who was in the Notre Dame choir, joined the children in singing “What Child Is This?”. He has a wonderful voice, and made it even more delightful. All of the songs were beautiful, almost moving me to tears…what a way to get someone in the Christmas spirit! One of my bigger surprises was getting to see a good friend of mine from my Confirmation class. I haven’t seen my friend Emily in almost a year, as she goes to college in Connecticut. She and I had a great chat, and it made my night to get to see her!

-Tonight I will be keeping Cody and Kyle while Scotty and Emily go to Scotty’s Christmas party for his work, and also enjoy one last night to themselves before the baby arrives (more on that in a bit). I have a few ideas about what we might do tonight, including our supper plans, and perhaps watching “Home Alone”, which is their favorite Christmas movie. I am looking forward to spending some quality time with them!

-My other “big plan” for the day is getting the Christmas tree put up. I know, where have we been, Christmas is only a week away, etc., etc. . In my house, even though we have resorted to having an artificial tree (I prefer real trees, to be honest.), we usually keep the tree up until sometime after the new year…usually around the feast of Epiphany, so it makes more sense to put it up later. Also, time hasn’t really warranted for my parents to get it put up, so I will be all over that today, after I finish cleaning the living room. Perhaps Cody and Kyle will also have to help me decorate it this evening!

-On a final note, in about 45 hours, Emily will have her baby!!!!! Of course, I will keep everyone posted on what is happening, although it won’t necessarily be up-to-the-minute news. It will probably be later- that-night-after-I-get-home-and-to-a-computer kind of news. Regardless, there will be pictures galore! I am beyond excited to meet my new niece/nephew, and even more excited to know what it will be…and to be able to stop calling the baby “it”!

I hope that everyone has a great weekend before Christmas!!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Last Week Wrap-Up

Yikes, last week has been LONG. After having something virtually every night this week, I haven't had much spare time to blog, but here is the recap of this past week.

- Monday night was caroling at the nursing home. From what I had heard, last year's event didn't go well, (the pianist had a panic attack on scene and everyone else was left to sing a cappella at the last second) so not many people were looking forward to it. Personally, I was excited. I suppose it's more of the fact that I love singing, community service, senior citizens, and Christmas, so this event was right up my alley. Carissa really didn't paint a pleasant picture of the event, but I decided to go into it with an open mind. I was glad that I did, as I had a grand time. My English professor's wife was gracious enough to play piano, and she did a great job. We sang a total of about nine songs, and most of those included obscure verses I have never heard of...who knew there were five verses to "We Three Kings"? Anyway, I had a nice time, and I am pleasantly awaiting next year's event!

- Our dinner theater excursion was splendid! I would definitely recommend the Mosley Street Melodrama to anyone who loves to have a good time. The only thing that I wish was different is the fact that it is in Wichita, but in reality, Wichita is less than an hour from the KS-OK border. The dinner part of the theater was worth the wait, as they served a garden salad, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, three types of smoked meat (brisket, turkey, and pulled pork), and sliced bread (white, wheat, & rye). After waiting for what seemed like forever, the play finally started. I really don’t remember what it was called, but I do know that it was an original production of theirs. It had something to do with WWII, German spies, and air-traffic controllers, and it was absolutely hilarious! What I didn’t realize was that it was an audience participation theater, and I also didn’t realize that it was a big deal to sit right next to the stage. You could perhaps imagine what happened next, but I will tell you anyway to save us both the confusion. The villain of the play (I don’t know what his name was, to be honest) could best be described as a man who vaguely resembled Hitler, spoke with a German accent (while he was in character), and wore an amount of blue eyeshadow that could really only be acceptable on a drag queen. This guy decided that it would be fun to awkwardly stare at me for the better part of the first scene. And they put the spotlight on me…It was a pretty weird experience for me, although everyone else thought that it was wildly hilarious. (Actually, it probably would have been much funnier in a different circumstance.) We ended up getting back to Enid around 12:30 Thursday morning, and I was very glad that I didn’t have class that morning, because I was bushed. Once again, I am excited to return next year!

- I have really lucked out this semester, as I only have one final this week, and, as luck would have it, it is in Astronomy! It will be on Wednesday morning, so I really have nothing to worry about this go-round. This is the last semester that this is so, but I was able to opt out of my math finals since I have good grades in both classes, and there really isn’t a final to be had in Comp, so that’s where I stand on finals week. I will also be able to pick up a few extra hours tutoring, so this is a win-win situation…Go me!

- Although this may sicken some people, I have been pretty lucky in the fact that I am virtually done with my Christmas shopping, perhaps in record time! Of course, I still have to sew the boys’ aprons, but those are only minor details at this point in the ballgame (Ha-ha!).

- This might take everyone by a bit of surprise, but here it is in print: I am considering changing my major. It really isn’t that big of a deal, because college kids change their major all the time, but this is a pretty big deal for me, because I have been stuck on wanting to teach for what seems like forever. The thing is, the more I think about it, the more unappealing it sounds. Anymore, the thought of writing lesson plans, grading tests, and dealing with irrational administration strikes me as something that I don’t want to spend the majority of my life doing. So, here comes the next big thing...I am thinking about changing my major to engineering. So, it’s really not that big of a change, but, hey, it is still a change nonetheless. Nothing is really set in stone, but I have been putting much thought into this idea for a while, and there is a decent chance that this will happen. After doing some research, I think that I might look into industrial engineering, which is basically a hybrid of business and engineering. One of the biggest roles of an industrial engineer is to make things more efficient, so perhaps this might just be right up my alley…we shall see!

- Yesterday was the annual Hladik family Christmas celebration at my Aunt Genevieve’s house in Prague. I love going to her house, even if it is a two hour drive to get there. We had a great lunch, with delicious smoked brisket. I enjoyed myself, and was able to have some nice chats with my family. The two big questions I was asked this year were what my major was (aka was I still planning on becoming a teacher), and where Tevis was. I gave everyone the run-down on my possible major change, and they were all pretty supportive, especially my cousin Tim and his wife Silvia, both of whom are engineers. (Tim is an electrical engineer, and Silvia is a petroleum engineer.) As for Tevis, he wasn’t able to join us for the trip to Prague, unfortunately. Well, he might have been able to come, but it was probably for the best that he didn’t, as he had to work yesterday evening and he also has a 100-question comprehensive final in Biology this morning. My family remembered him from my cousin Angela’s reception back in September, and they all told me that they liked him and hoped to see him around in the future, so I guess that Tevis has received my family’s approval!

- In exactly one week, Emily’s baby should be here! I am getting so very excited about its arrival, and I am even more excited to meet my new niece/nephew! I think that (actually I know that) Emily is ready to have the baby, as she is feeling VERY pregnant, as could be expected in the ninth month. Hooray for babies!!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's Going On

I haven't updated much on here in the last week or so, so I will fill everyone in on the happenings in my life!

-Thanksgiving went just great! We had a total of sixteen people at my house for lunch, and there was quite the abundance of food. We had turkey, ham (funny story about that), sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, green beans, peas, dill bread, and a plethora of salads/desserts. It was a feast! Thankfully, it was a beautiful day, so the children spent very little time in the house. they literally came in to greet people, went outside to play, came in to eat, then went back outside. Occasionally one or two would pop in to get a drink or get a snack, but that was about it. Like I said, it was a great day!

-Ah, yes...the ham. Back in May, Jeremy bought a couple of hogs to be butchered, because everyone was "out of pork". It turns out that his definition of "out of pork" and everyone else's definition were two different things, as when we got the pork, we had almost no room for it. Also, the hogs he bought were huge. No big deal, right? Well, when the men in my family were deciding how to get their portions cut, Scotty decided not get the ham split. Much to his dismay, he found out that he should have had the ham split, because it was massive. It also took up the bulk of he and Emily's freezer. No one had any idea of how to cook it, but we decided that it would have to be smoked, because it would not fit in a roaster to be roasted in the oven. It would also have to be prepared for a large quantity of people. When we were making food plans for Thanksgiving, Emily quickly volunteered their ham for the meal. I had not seen the ham before our meal, so I had no idea how big it really was. When Scotty brought it over on Thursday morning to be cut, I soon found out. IT WAS HUGE! It was probably just as big, if not bigger than Andy (well, if Andy was curled up in the fetal position).

This picture really doesn't do it justice, but that is half of the ham in all of its glory.

-Friday night included a trip to town to see "Happy Feet 2" with Tonisha. Mary was supposed to join us, but for whatever reason, she didn't. Such is life, I suppose...I'll see her again one day. I liked the movie, and Tonisha & I had fun being the only two people in the theater without small children!

It's crazy how 3D glasses have evolved from the old blue & red paper frames to looking like sunglasses...either way Tonisha & I made them look good! :)

-On a slightly related note, Emily had a ham & bean supper on Saturday night...One day the ham will be gone!

-For whatever reason, I have a strong desire to go see the Christmas lights in Kingfisher this year. I'm not entirely sure why, because I have seen them at least four times in the past, but I really want to go this year. I'm thinking that this might be a date idea for Tevis & me when he has a Friday or Saturday night off! :)

-Since I have gone to college, I have become really into watching videos on YouTube, mostly since I don't have a TV. My latest obsession has been watching Demetri Martin comedy sketches. If you have not seen any of his material, I recommend it. My favorite thing about his comedy is that it is intelligent humor. The man is practically a genius (I mean that in the most literal way possible.). His humor is pretty tasteful, although he has a few vulgarities, it is nothing like most modern comedians. I recommend watching his six-part YouTube video called "If I", if you ever have the time to do so.

-Last night was my first Christmas celebration of the season, as the PLC members were invited to a party at our president's home. I really enjoyed myself. Dr. Evans has a beautiful home, and it literally looks like it could have come out of a magazine. The food was also very good, which is always a plus. The worst part was that Tonkawa's PLC was there, and I don't really care for most of them, especially the girl who loudly (and obnoxiously) discussed her upcoming play audition/recital for at least twenty minutes. (Quite frankly, I could have cared less.) We ended the evening by playing Silly Santa, with presents purchased by the president, which was quite generous of her. I ended up with a glow stick wand, which was fine with me, as it provided entertainment on the car ride home. It was a great evening, and many thanks to Dr. Evans for having us over!

-Today is Kyle's 5th birthday! I talked to him for a little bit this morning, and he seemed pretty pumped about it. He was very in love with being four, so I hope that five will be just as good to him as four was. He is literally a handful now! (Ha-ha!) I hope you have a great day, kiddo! Love you!!!

-Speaking of children, it is only 2.5 weeks until Emily is due with her baby!!! I am so excited to meet the new bundle of joy!

-Next week is already shaping up to be pretty busy, as I have an event almost every night. Monday, I go Christmas caroling at the Greenbrier Nursing Home, Tuesday, I have a Lit Club pizza party, Wednesday is the Mosley St. Dinner Theater in Wichita with PLC, Thursday, PLC serves at the faculty Christmas dinner, and Friday is...wait for it...empty!!! I'm sure something might come up by then, but I would rather have a teeming schedule than nothing at all.

-Have you started Christmas shopping yet? I really haven't, and I need to. Now that it is December, I am ready to start my Christmas shopping, as I have ideas for almost everyone. I have already purchased my dad, Scotty, Jeremy, and Tevis's presents. I have also purchased half of my nephews' presents. The only person I still need to figure out is Gina. She has given me suggestions, but I still have no idea. Perhaps inspiration will strike soon!

-On a final, happy note, I am done with my last essay for Comp! Oh, Happy Day! The only thing I have left to accomplish for that class is a service learning reflection, which shouldn't take me too long to accomplish. I am so happy to have that burden off of my shoulders...the procrastination bug bit me, and I (sadly) didn't really do much of the writing on it until Tuesday night...and it was due this morning in class/online. Thank goodness I can write a large amount in a short time, or else I would've been sunk. No worries now!

I hope everyone's week finishes on a high note!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake Recap

I have really hyped up this recipe. One might see that there is only one can of pumpkin in this recipe and think that it wouldn't give it enough pumkin flavor, but honestly, it does. After having successfully created it, I would definitely recommend it to anyone as a first-time cheesecake to make. It was easy, and very delicious...Enjoy!

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick melted salted butter

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For crust:
In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For filling:
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.

Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Recipe Notes
-The only bad thing about this recipe was that it didn't suggest using a water bath to bake the cheesecake in, and it cracked. If you are fine with a crack, then proceed as normal. If you are like me and don't like the crack, then you might try using a water bath to bake it to hopefully reduce cracking. When baking cheesecake in a water bath, you must first cover the bottom/sides of the springform pan with aluminum foil to keep water from seeping in (Do this before you even start making the crust). Second, when the cheesecake is ready to bake, place the filled springform pan inside of a larger baking pan, and place both in the oven. When both pans are inside of the oven, pour one inch of water into the larger pan to surround the springform pan. If using this method, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for 45 minutes, then turn off oven and let cheesecake set in oven for another hour. After this hour, cover with foil, and refrigerate.

-Another interesting tidbit, this cheesecake tastes better the longer it sets, so perhaps you might make it a day or two in advance for the flavors to blend to their full potential...or you can eat it after it is chilled, it's delicious either way.

Here's Kyle, crushing the graham crackers to perfection!

The cheesecake in its beginning stages...

And, finally, in the oven!
(In my haste of serving it on Thursday, I neglected to take a picture of the finished product...Oh well, you get the idea.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

1. Because everyone is so desperate to know about it, Tevis's & my one-year anniversary celebration was just great! He came and picked me up, and we headed to supper at Applebee's. As I was getting into his car, I was greeted by a present, which I totally wasn't expecting (or I didn't expect to get a gift, so I didn't get anything for him...). He got me a rose, well, his mom did, because she happened to pass a florist on her way home from work, and Tevis told me that he doesn't like to get flowers because they don't last, and he likes to get things that will last. (The rose is still kicking, btw.) He also got me a beautiful pair of earrings, which I love! (He really has me spoiled, you know?) After supper, we had some time to kill before the movie we planned to see, so we got some ice cream, then walked around the mall. We ended up watching "Tower Heist" with Ben Stiller & Eddie Murphy, which was pretty funny in my opinion. We had a great night! Also, thanks to Carissa for taking our picture, which turned out quite well, as you can see...Tevis even bought a new sweater for the occasion! :)

2. If you read my sister Emily's blog, you may have read about our bread-baking event last Saturday. We got a later start than we originally intended, but we still had a successful venture nonetheless. We made bierox and cinnamon rolls, just as we had planned. They turned out well, and served as our supper/dessert for Saturday night. It was my first time to actually mix the dough, and it went splendidly! After all of these years of thinking that making bread was impossible and something that only my mom or grandmothers were capable of doing, I came to the realization that baking bread is no harder than making cheesecake, pie, or anything else I make. Perhaps, I will post something later about bread-baking, including pictures!

3. The annual Bison Thanksgiving dinner was on Sunday, and the food was great as usual! I left with a full stomach, and a happy heart. Again, I was reprieved of clearing tables, because the Hennessey Youth stepped up and did a great job. The biggest thing I miss about that job would probably be getting to see everyone and converse, but I got to sit with Mimi this year, so that was the best!

4. Speaking of Mimi, she seems to be quite the queen bee at the dinner. As my parents and I sat to eat with her, there were numerous people who stopped and talked to her. A family friend noted that many people would stop her just to ask where Mimi was sitting, so that they could talk to her. As people would stop to chat, she would recognize them, and her face would light up with the sheer delight of seeing an old friend. Sometimes, I think that even though Mimi is 75 years older than I am, and many of the people she grew up with have already passed on, she has more friends than anyone I know! Just another reason why I aspire to be like my Mimi...she is an amazing woman!

5. I am in the midst of what I'm thinking will be my last paper for Comp II. It is an argumentative essay, and I have decided to write about how the high price of healthy lifestyles is a limiting factor in the battle against lower/middle-class obesity in America. (I think I may have mentioned this already; bear with me if I have.) I did a little bit of outside research today as I hit the stores to do some price comparisons between healthy foods and their "unhealthy" counterparts. What I found was pretty much in line with my original thesis, and I hope that I can weave all of the little parts together to create my paper.

6. On a random note, my nephews (Andy included) have become obsessed with Candyland, as of late. It was my favorite board game when I was their age, so it is interesting to see them become so fascinated with it!

7. I will not be Black Friday shopping, in case you were wondering. My theory on Black Friday shopping is that unless there is something on your Christmas list that will be a part of a major sale, it really isn't worth the overall frustration and irrationality that accompanies most Black Friday excursions. I, for one, prefer my sleep, and will remain in bed while some lunatics are mauling each other for TVs and game consoles...that sounds more relaxing to me.

8. Tomorrow, I will be babysitting Cody & Kyle and preparing for our Thanksgiving feast on Thursday. Hopefully, they will help me get a few things straightened up around the house, as well as getting some things cooked. Here's to a good day tomorrow!

9. Among my preparations tomorrow will be my pumpkin cheesecake! I am beyond excited to see how it will turn out, as I am with any new recipe I try. Perhaps Cody & Kyle will be able to lend a hand in this endeavor.

10. My family's plans for Thanksgiving include a feast at noon on Thursday. It will include ham, turkey, potatoes, rolls, vegetables of some sort (I'm not in charge of that), perhaps a few other desserts, and my cheesecake. As far as I know, it will be my parents, my sisters and their families, and me. Hopefully, I can see Tevis at some point in the day, but we will see. I am grateful for yet another opportunity to celebrate with my family! I will be counting my blessings along with everyone else!

Here's to a great Thanksgiving for everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love Review

I happened to have a little bit of time before I have to go tutor, so I decided that I should write my review of "Eat, Pray, Love" that everyone has just been DYING to read ;)

"Eat, Pray, Love" is Elizabeth Gilbert's autobiographical account of a year she spent traveling around the world, and the inner transformations she experienced while on the road. The book is split up into three different sections (hence the eat, pray, love part), with each focusing on a different aspect of the author's life through the year. The book begins with the backstory of Gilbert's painful divorce, which really sets up the entire book. The explanation is lengthy, but necessary, in order to fully understand the depth of it, and why it impels the author to commence her travels as she does. As you may (or may not) know, the "Eat" portion of the book is largely set in Italy, and focuses on the marvelous things she eats while she is there.

The second portion, "Pray", is set in an ashram in India (she doesn't say where for reason she explains in the book. This portion focuses on the spiritual transformation Gilbert makes during her travels. In the book, she is studying about Yoga, and some parts of Hinduism, that were largely foreign to me, and were, at times, difficult to understand. I didn't necessarily agree with everything she said, but it was interesting to read about, for nothing more than to broaden my horizons.

The final portion, "Love", is set on the Indonesian island of Bali. It continues many of the practices mentioned in the preceding portion, but adds the element of pleasure. This portion may very well have been my favorite of the three. She encounters Indonesian medicine men, a colorful, yet tragic Balinese healer, and a few other people who shake up her life for the better.

To speak generally of the book itself, Gilbert does an awesome job of describing everything. From the scenery, to the food, to the people themselves, I felt like I lived vicariously through her book. I will admit, however, that in the beginning, she is slightly vulgar, and the book does include quite a bit of coarse language, at first. She is also brutally honest about some things that she encounters. As the book progresses, however, it becomes clear that she has succeeded in changing her life for the better. It is apparent that the mood of the book changes as she experiences new things, and has new epiphanies.

I will say that this book may not be for everyone, if you are unyielding in religious matters, or really just not open to hearing about religious matters. (No, she doesn't necessarily turn into a holy roller in the course of the book.) It might not also be for you if you aren't the kind of person who could ever consider just uprooting for a while and traveling the world; rather, if you think that that kind of thing is frivolous and selfish, then I might not read the book.

Overall, I really liked this book. If you have seen the movie, it fits the plotline fairly well, although there were a few minor differences, as could be expected. It took me longer to read it than I thought it might, but it was definitely worthwhile, in my opinion. I would also enjoy reading some of her other accounts. However, I would definitely recommend it!

Love Thursday

I am starting to like the process of consciously thinking about what I love. For this week, I will go with a fairly generic topic, but is a definite love of mine, nonetheless.

Music. I love music. I don't necessarily love all genres, but I love music. I am almost constantly listening to music, mostly because I don't have a TV, or if I'm at home, I can still work while hearing it, and I don't have to watch anything. (Yes, I know that it is possible to only listen to the TV, but I just don't work that way, for some reason.) That makes me sound like I am dependent on it, which I am not, and it also sounds like I never appreciate the silence. the fact is that sometimes I face more silence than I care for, and music eases the atmosphere.

Sometimes music is therapeutic, as it helps me to sink away from anything that might be troubling me. Sometimes it serves as an emotional release, as I listen to particular songs when I am in certain moods. I have found that I have an easier time accomplishing tasks while listening to music. Exercise is more pleasant, and goes quicker (for me) while listening to music. I don't really listen to music while I do homework, though. That is usually when I have my silence, because math homework requires an extreme amount of concentration for me.

I grew up listening to all genres of music. My mom almost always listens to classic rock. My dad usually listens to oldies or country. Emily almost always listens to country. Gina listens to most genres, but she primarily listens to pop or modern rock. My friends have quite the range in musical taste, as Shea usually listens to heavy metal, Christian, and some pop (I don't particularly care for heavy metal, but she is aware.). Tonisha listens to pop and R&B/rap, some of which I have grown to like. Considering all of that, it is no wonder that my music taste is all over the board.

Some of the artists on my laptop include, but are not limited to, The Beatles, Eli Young Band, Fleetwood Mac, The Fray, Hank Williams, Jr., Justin Timberlake, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nickelback, Norah Jones, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Train, Katy Perry, Daughtry, Hall & Oates, and Carly Simon. My online playlist is a lot more varied, as it includes Black Eyed Peas, Skillet, Lifehouse, Linkin Park, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha (yes, really.), Bill Withers, John Mayer, and Coldplay.

Like I said, my music taste is all over the board. I can't pick one genre over another as my favorite. I think that that just might be impossible for me. My favorite bands are The Fray and Train, like I've mentioned multiple times, and my all-time favorite song would probably have to be either "Drops of Jupiter" by Train or "Never Say Never" by The Fray, for reasons that I can't quite explain, besides the fact that I just love the songs. My new favorite song is "Paradise" by Coldplay; if you haven't heard it, I recommend it for some easy listening.

An amazing thing, just as a side note, Tevis has pretty much the exact same taste in music as I do. All the way down to Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers...Also, his favorite band is The Fray; a man after my own heart, he is. Truth be told, I pretty much fell for him when he told me that The Fray was his favorite band, then Nickelback. Yes, that definitely drew me to him!

My most recent love has been for big band music, like I mentioned in last week's Ten on Tuesday(which was actually on Wednesday). It is simple, and I love listening to it. I imagine living in that era, and going dancing to that music. Sometimes I wish I could have experienced that era of life; I think it might have suited me well.

If I knew that I would be able to talk and promote random businesses at ease, I would consider going into radio broadcasting, just to gt to be surrounded by music I love, but then again, I don't know that I would enjoy it as much as I think I might. I also think that it could be fun to be a DJ, but that requires lots of equipment, time, and a large music selection, none of which I necessarily have. Sometimes, though, it is a comforting thought.

That is why I love music, and what kind of music I love. What is the most random kind of music you like? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

1. I had a good time judging at the Regional tournament this past weekend. I actually had a pretty easy job, since I didn't have to moderate. I also got to see my old Quiz Bowl buddy, Darian, which pretty much made my day...just saying :) I was a little bit upset after finding out a few things, though. For one, there were three guys who joined the team this year, two of whom are seniors who could have joined in the past, but didn't (I won't mention names). Apparently they joined because they needed more extracurricular activities than sports to put on college/scholarship applications to make themselves appear to be more well-rounded. Also, they have a knack for quiz bowl and are the highest scorers on the team. It would've been nice to have them on the team when I was there, but apparently, they were too good for it then. The second thing that upset me was the fact that Darian, who has loyally been on the team since she was a Freshman, even when we had really good seniors, and has NEVER quit, now doesn't get much playing time because of the new guys. She is a senior, for crying out loud! The last thing is that we have dropped a class since last year. This particularly irks me for the fact that the last two years of my quiz bowl career, Pioneer got pushed up to 3A, and we were the smallest school in that class. Our competition was 10 times harder than in 2A, and that was the only reason we didn't qualify for state. Now they are back to 2A, and are flying by in the competitions. Goodness. I will step off of my soapbox now, and move on to happier topics.

2. I have three meetings to attend this week. Have I mentioned lately that I'm not a big fan of meetings? Oh, yes, I think I did last week. I still don't like them, just so you know. I suppose it's a small price to pay for getting free college.

3. I have recently discovered Pinterest. It is my new web addiction...heaven knows I need another one of those :/ I have to say, though, I love it! I have found so many cute ideas on there. I will probably never attempt most of those things, but I still enjoy looking. My favorite thing is all of the interesting recipes I have found on there; those have got to be my favorite!

4. I had another experience playing volleyball last Thursday night, as I was invited by my next-door neighbors to go play with some FCA people. I was pretty nervous at first, mostly because I really didn't know anyone there, and I was doubting my abilities. Thank goodness my neighbors are very encouraging, and gave me the courage to step out of my little box once again. We literally played until 11:00 PM, but I loved it! Maybe I should see if there will be intramural volleyball, and form a team...maybe. I am succeeding in my goal to step out of my element, though, and I can honestly say that I am starting to make a few friends in the process. I suppose that really is the goal of these groups!

5. <--The number of weeks until my new niece/nephew is due! The reality is beginning to sink in for me; I could only imagine how Emily feels! I can't wait to have another little one to give my love to!

6. I finally finished "Eat, Pray, Love" last night. I did like the book, and I will probably post a review a little bit later, time warranting. Now I am waiting to read "The Help", as I have heard great things about that book. Any ideas for new books to read in the meantime? I would love any suggestions!

7. I finally remembered to take my crocheting things home this past weekend to have my mom guide me. I should have done that in the first place, because, as I said before, the book is generally useless, and it is much easier for me to see someone do it, then replicate what they do. After about fifteen minutes, I had a much clearer understanding of how to single crochet. My mom also told me that she would only teach me one stitch per week, because she wanted me to completely understand how to do a certain stitch before we moved on, which I think is a good idea. Thanks, mom!

8. On Saturday night, all of the adults in my family went to the Taste of St. Joe's, the annual wine tasting/silent auction fundraising event, which is for the benefit of St. Joe's Catholic school here in Enid. Since I am not really an adult, in the fact that I am under 21 and unmarried, I was designated as babysitter for the evening. I happened to get this great picture of everyone before they left, don't they look great!

The boys all ended up staying the night, and I also got this great picture of them on Sunday morning...just looking at it makes me happy!

9. I have taken up coaster making, like with the loom and nylon loops, because it is a good way to spend an hour or so in the evenings, and I now will have coasters! It's a win-win situation!

10. Last, but definitely not least, today is a good day for me! As I have vaguely mentioned in previous posts, today is Tevis's & my one-year anniversary! He managed to get off work tonight, so I think we might go out to eat and then to a movie. I have to decide where we eat, so it's probably a good thing that he doesn't have to know until he comes to pick me up tonight, because I still haven't decided. I have it narrowed down, but I don't have a definite decision. This has been an amazing year with him. I have grown to truly love him in almost every way possible, and I can't wait to see what the future holds! Yes, today is a good day!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Love Thursday

As per the suggestion of my friend Debra, I have decided to start including a Love Thursday feature on my blog. Don't expect it to be on a regular basis, but I will include one when something really strikes me.
What do I love???

I love lots of things, and I have a hard time narrowing it down this week, but I have come to a conclusion. Not including the obvious (you all probably have a decent idea of what/who that might be), my love for this week is...

Crossword Puzzles!

Yes, it is true. I love crossword puzzles! They are my favorite hobby of all time, with Sudoku puzzles coming in a close second. I love buying the crossword books to do in my spare time; however, the last book I got was the National Observer Sunday Crossword Collection, which is WAYYYY harder than I anticipated. No big deal, I'll just take my time with it. I have now moved on to the 21st Century version of crosswords, and I do them online! If you were to ask Carissa, she would probably tell you that I spend an inordinate amount of time doing the online puzzles. I found the most amazing website, Boatload Puzzles, which offers literally 40,000 puzzles online for free. No signing up for anything, just fun puzzles. Of course, if you want the deluxe version, you can become a member, but if you can get free things with no obligations, why mess with that?

Why do I love crosswords?

I do believe that it would have to be because they are a fun activity that actually builds brain power and vocabulary. They are a stress reliever to me, as they help me to focus on something besides what may be troubling me at the moment. Doing crosswords are a good, clean activity that can take up as little or as much time as you want them to. They are kind of like working a puzzle, but better, because you don't have to worry about losing pieces and not having a complete puzzle. They come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties, and literally anyone can do them. They also aren't something that is to be done for competition, you can just do them for fun! I am definitely a crossword addict! :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday Ten

1) Last Saturday, my mom and I went to the Mennonite Relief Sale with Carissa and a good friend of hers. It was the first time for my mom and I to go, and we both enjoyed ourselves! They had good food, and lots of awesome items for sale. I actually ended up buying some material and a mini wooden ironing board, which was only $1. There was also a Ten Thousand Villages booth there, from which I bought a trivet made of recycled newspaper. I think it is quite the ingenious idea, and a great form of re-purposing. Also, the money I paid for it went to a worthy cause; truly a win-win scenario!

2) Since the bake day at church, my sisters and I have been feeling increasingly domestic. We have made bread quite a few times already, and we have plans to make more on a few other days! On the agenda will be kolaches (of course), cinnamon rolls, and bierox (for November), and dill bread, Grandma Hladik's cheese bread, and houska (sometime before Christmas). I love learning the traditions of all of my ancestors, especially with my sisters!

3) I suppose I'll add my two cents like everyone else already has...The earthquakes. To be perfectly honest, I only felt the "big one" on Saturday night. I obviously slept through the first one, and was too busy riding on Carissa's stationary bike to feel the Monday night earthquake. Apparently, there were also tornadoes on Monday? If it weren't for Facebook, I probably wouldn't have even known about that. The biggest thing I dislike about not having a TV is not being able to watch the news to hear the weather reports, and hear the comforting timbre of Gary England's voice during storms. Perhaps, I'll bring a TV next semester, mostly for that purpose, being that it will be in the midst of blizzard/tornado season.

4) Does anyone ever get tired of attending meetings? Just curious...

5) I have already decided what I will be making for all of my family's upcoming holiday celebrations...Cheesecake. I am beginning to think that this may just be "my thing" that I make. I have already found three new recipes to try, because I want to mix it up from the usual plain/turtle cheesecakes I have made in the past. The first recipe I found was for a pumpkin cheesecake. (It's a Paula Deen recipe, and you really can't go wrong with her!) The second recipe I found was for a red velvet cheesecake, which I originally found on Pinterest. The final recipe is for a sweet potato cheesecake. I know, that's a lot of cheesecake, but I plan to stagger them all, and share them with everyone, too!  I feel so adventurous, trying all of these new recipes...I just hope they all turn out well.

6) Tonight, I was desperate enough for activity that I decided to pick up the old crocheting stuff from beneath my table. I have come to the conclusion that the best way to learn how to crochet is to have someone who knows what they're doing teach you...not the book, because it doesn't give nearly enough visual aids for my taste, and I am getting generally frustrated. Perhaps my mom will show me if I remember to bring my things home with me.

7) I had a great night last night! Carissa happened to be out to supper with friends (she does that often), and I was lonely in my room. I realized that I had a library book that I thought needed to be rechecked, but, as I learned after the nice librarian scanned it, it isn't due until next week. I just so happened to see the due date from the last book I checked out that I have long since turned in. I decided that while I was out, I would drop in to visit my cousins, since I haven't been over there in a while, and word was that they were missing me. I had a great time over there, and, as always, I got my fill of laughter. When I had only been there for about 30 minutes, I got a text from Tevis, inviting me over to watch movies. I felt mildly conflicted, but I compromised, and decided to stay over at my cousins for a little while longer, and then go over to his house a little bit later.

When I got to his house, they had decided that they were in the mood to watch Christmas movies, which was perfectly fine with me. I got to pick the movie, and I decided on the original "Home Alone", which is Tevis's mom's favorite Christmas movie, as it is mine (Christmas Vacation is second.). I didn't realize it, but Tevis had seen that movie so many times, he literally knew almost every word to the movie. It was pretty hysterical, and, if we're being totally honest, cute :) I ended my evening by having a nice chat with him, which is always my favorite! I happened to get this picture as I was leaving, and he decided to swipe my scarf...he is such a goof, but I wouldn't want him any other way ♥ :)

8) I have come to realize that I have a random fascination with Big Band Music. I'm not too knowledgeable about the genre, but I know that I love it. It was good, clean music from a simpler time. At times, it makes me wish that I could've lived through that time to truly enjoy the music when it was in vogue. I wonder if my grandparents ever listened to much of that kind of music? The music also makes me want to get all dolled up and go swing dancing, like a glamorous 40's woman. Of course, I would have to learn how to swing dance, or just regular dance, first. Then, I would have to find someplace where I actually could go swing dancing that isn't THAT far away. Hmm, maybe one day this dream will come to fruition!

9) I have received an invitation to be a judge at the Regional quiz bowl tournament this weekend at PHS. I can't lie, I'm pretty pumped about it, and the best part is that I'll even earn a little bit of extra money for helping! Once again, it is a win-win situation!

10) I can't believe I am already here, but this is my 100th post!!!!!! Go me! Like I've mentioned in many of my other posts, I just love to write, and I don't plan to stop blogging any time soon. Thanks to everyone who reads this; you are my inspiration! Here I come 200! :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thursday Night Thoughts

I am suddenly feeling the insatiable urge to write about something, anything, no matter how random. So, here I am, writing about the last few days I have had, in a modified version of a Ten on Tuesday!

-The volleyball game that I attended at Carissa's church went well. Although I was slightly nervous about going (mostly because I was going to stick out like a sore thumb), I ended up having a nice time, and I wasn't holed up in my room, like usual, so it was fun. We played about four games, and I managed to do a decent job playing. One revelation that I had while there was that I enjoyed playing with Mennonites more than I probably would with other groups. This sounds odd, at first, but bear with me. I have no skill at most sports, largely due to my lack of coordination (which is why I always chose to participate in the sport that requires the smallest amount of it), and I have been very self-conscious of this fact since the 6th grade, when some of my classmates not-so-nicely told me that I had no athletic ability during our volleyball game against the teachers. Ever since that day, I have been quite reluctant to put myself out into foreign situations like those, for fear of what others might say about my abilities. It sounds petty, and like I should buck up and move on, as I one day hope to, but for now, I am slowly beginning to put myself back out there. BACK TO MY POINT. The group of people I played with on Tuesday night were very gracious and accepting of my lack of athletic ability. They applauded my efforts and were very encouraging. It wasn't a big deal about who won, as it was more about the fun time we were having. I enjoyed that, and I wish that more young people would act like that, instead of being rude and constantly making derisive remarks. Perhaps I will go again..(No, I am not considering becoming Mennonite, if you were wondering. I am perfectly happy with being Catholic, and plan to stay that way for the indefinite future.)

-Last night, shortly after getting our food, Carissa and I were sitting in the cafeteria, and suddenly, the lights went out. No, no one was by the lights; the power went off. Lovely. Since the infamous ice storm of 2002, I am very pessimistic about power outages, while having no sympathy for those who claim the power was out for "forever". After your power is out for 35 consecutive days or more, then we can talk, but until then, spare me. Regardless, we made the best of the situation and continued to eat in peace, as there was plenty of light coming in through the cafeteria windows. (For whatever reason, everyone else was freaking out, which accomplished absolutely nothing, in my opinion.) After finishing supper, we sprinted across the street (it was cold, windy, and rainy) and went back to our room, which, of course had no power. We also had no heating or internet access, and Carissa already had plans to leave for the evening. Some evenings, our room is depressing as it is, so I knew that if I stayed in my room much longer, I would get into a funk, which is never good. I decided to call Tevis, and, miracle of all miracles, he had power and was at home! I proceeded to drive over there, and enjoy some time with him! Thankfully, by the time I came back, the power was back on, and I could proceed with my evening as usual.

-I have come to realize that my dorm room has many quirks. One of which is the door knob on my side of the closet, which is barely hanging in there. I'm not really sure how to fix it, besides pushing it back into place after opening the door and living with it. Also, as I have previously mentioned, maintenance is virtually useless. Another quirk is the towel rack in the bathroom. It is only used for holding Carissa's and my hand towels, which is probably a good thing, because it is made of very flimsy metal. It is also VERY unstable. I realized this on about my third day here, when my elbow grazed its edge, and it clattered to the floor, separating into its three pieces. This has become a standing joke between Carissa and I, as it always falls apart at inopportune times like, say, when one of us is asleep and the person in the bathroom is trying to not make too much of a racket. Well, yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in my recliner doing some Trig homework, when I heard a sudden crashing noise. I spook easily as it is, and that noise alone nearly gave me a coronary. I had no idea what it was, and I initially thought that it was the dishes in the dish rack falling over, as I had just finished doing dishes about fifteen minutes prior. It wasn't until I went upstairs to go brush my teeth before a dentist appointment I had that I went into the bathroom and saw the towel rack on the floor that I realized that that was the noise that nearly sent me over the edge. Sheesh...

-Another quirk about my room is the heating/AC unit. It is a window unit that reminds me of ones you see in hotel rooms that are impossible to regulate. I am beginning to realize the challenges of regulating temperature in a room with an upstairs. I have always lived in a one-story house, so this is totally foreign to me, and I am now realizing that in order to keep it warm downstairs, we must constantly keep a fan on upstairs, and turn on the AC at night to keep it from feeling like it is 100 degrees upstairs. Oh well, at least the heater works, right?

-For the moment, I have read all of Nicholas Sparks's books that are in the public library, and feel like I need a hiatus from his books, as they are beginning to run together in my mind. For a change of pace I am currently reading "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. I happened to watch most of the movie at Tevis's house one time, which was when his mom told me that it was actually a book. From that moment, I have really wanted to read the book. It was a good thing that I didn't want to read it that bad, because last week was the first time that it has been in the public library since I first wanted to read it back in May. (Like I've said, that's what I get for wanting to read bestsellers from the public library.) So far, I am enjoying it, and perhaps, I will get around to writing a review of it when I am finished. I wouldn't count on it, but it is a definite possibility!

Well, I hope that everyone has a great weekend; I plan to, as Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday, and I will get an extra hour of sleep, which I always need before going to 7:45 AM Mass!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

I felt like I only posted these for a while there, so I took a hiatus. However, I am back to doing these!

1. The blood drive I helped run last week was great! We had a record turnout, and I got to donate, as well. I have again contributed to saving the life of a baby! (I'm O-, CMV-, btw.) Hooray for saving lives!

2. Last Saturday, I got up literally at the crack of dawn with my sisters and Wyatt and baked kolaches with some ladies from church. It was my first time to actually participate in this event in its entirety, and I must say that I really did enjoy myself. I was very thankful for the coffee that Gina provided, though, as I am not so much of a morning person...caffeine does wonders for the human body at 5:00 AM!

3. I got to enjoy plenty of quality time with my sisters this weekend, as I also went to a play on Saturday night with Emily. Her boys were at a Boy Scout event for the evening, so she decided to accompany me to watch our cousin, Evan, in his play. He did a great job, I loved the play, and I had a nice evening out with my big sister! :)

4. Technically, my dad's birthday was yesterday, but my family celebrated it on Sunday. As is usual, I made my dad the ceremonial birthday pie. Yes, pie...he likes it better than cake and doesn't get them as often. Here is a picture of my nephews blowing out the candles with him! I LOVE this picture!

5. I am on top of things, as I like to be, and I have already enrolled for next semester! (Enrollment opened on Monday, which was when my appointment was with my advisor.) Thanks to my concurrent classes I took, I only have to take 12 hours next semester! Hooray!

6. The biggest downfall of next semester is the 5-hour Calculus class I will be taking. Four days a week. Ick. I guess that's what I get for being a math major, and I know that if I stay on that track, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Did I mention that I have to take it via ITV from Tonkawa? Who in their right mind offers a math class via ITV???!!!! Hopefully it goes better than I am presently anticipating. We'll see.

7. <-- That's the number of weeks until my new niece/nephew arrives! I am very excited about having another little one to give my love to! My anticipation is building and I am ready to meet him/her...and to know which it will be. I won't share names, but I have a great reason that I will explain momentarily!

8. I'm already starting to think about Christmas shopping, and I have a few ideas of what I will be getting people, like my mom, Tevis, Emily, and a few of my nephews. I love Christmastime, and can't wait for it, either! And the baby will be here for that, also!

9. Tonight, I will be stepping a little out of my element, as I am joining Carissa for a youth volleyball game at her church. It should be interesting, and nothing too out-of-the-ordinary, but I am a little nervous nonetheless. However, a friend of Carissa's, who I have met, was insistent that I come, so we shall see! Hopefully, it goes well!

10. My biggest news of the day is that I have a new blog to read. Many of my readers know the author quite well, as it is none other than my big sis, Emily! She was my inspiration to start my blog, and I am so excited that she has joined me! You can read about her adventures here! Congrats, Emy!

Have a great week, everyone!!!