Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ice Storm Memories

This morning, when getting our Sunday paper from the bin, I was greeted by pictures on the front page of the ice storm. Apparently, today marks the tenth anniversary of that powerful storm. If you aren't from Oklahoma, this doesn't seem like that big of a deal. However, to me, the ice storm changed the way I look at life, and taught me a few lessons in the process. I will now recap my recollections of that time from my then-nine-year-old perspective.

On the night of January 29, I remember hearing Gary England, Oklahoma weather guru extraordinaire, say on the 10:00 news that there was the possibility of lots of freezing rain and accumulating ice. Being a nine-year-old, I didn't think too much of that statement, and went on to bed, knowing that I would have to wake up and deal with the drudgery of another day in 3rd grade. (I hated third grade. It simply wasn't a good year for me.) The sound of thunder and pouring rain lulled me to sleep, and I forgot about everything. Until I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night. I heard Gina tell my parents that the power was out, and I saw a glimmer of hope that there might not be school in the morning. Besides, our power went out on occasion, and it wasn't that big of a deal, was it? I went back to sleep.

The next thing I new, it was morning. I really don't know what time it was, because the clock in the bedroom that I shared with Emily was black. Again, I heard something about no school, so I was excited! I could go play in the snow all day! I was elated by this thought until I took a peek outside my bedroom window, when I realized that it wasn't snowy. I had never seen anything like it in my life. It was bizarre, to say the least. I ran into my mom's bedroom to ask her what happened. She told me that it was ice on all of the trees and grass and everything else. That thought alone seemed pretty crazy to me. However, I was out of school for the day, and I figured that the sun would come out, the ice would melt, and I would be back to school in the next couple of days. That's how it always worked, right?

I'm wasn't sure why, but my mom was freaking out about there not being water. I thought that she was crazy, because all you had to do was turn on the faucet, and, boom, there was water. No big deal. She was frantically searching for five-gallon buckets and placing them under the eave of the roof, to catch the runoff water, then she put the water into a big pot on the stove and boiled it. Gina and Emily were helping her, but I just floated around, oblivious of the reality. I was having fun. I got to eat PB&J for lunch, my favorite, so everything was perfectly fine. There started to be talk of getting a generator, whatever that was. I heard that it had something to do with us getting power back, so I was all for it. Emily, who was still dating Scotty at that point, was on the phone with him off and on, and there was talk about how every store in the greater Enid area was running out of generators, and they had to be reserved by credit card. We didn't have one, so my parents were talking about getting one soon. By the time that night rolled around, I got to eat another PB&J, we had the radio on, and Gina, Emily, and I played Uno & Taboo by candlelight, while our parents went to town to get a generator. It was fun, kind of like camping, I suppose. Mom & Dad got home from town late. There was talk about siphoning gas from our combine so that our generator would have gas to run on. I was too little to be of any help, so I just sat in the living room and listened to the music on the radio, while everyone else worked to get the generator up and running. I realized that something wasn't quite right. Eventually, I lulled myself to sleep again, hoping that I would wake up and everything would be back to normal.

The next day, I woke up, and my hopes were dashed. It was still an icy abyss outside, and our power was nonexistent. PB&J really didn't sound good anymore, but it was what we had. I was also starting to get tired of the radio, because we only listened to one station, a country music station, and I'm fairly certain that the only songs they played were "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning" by Alan Jackson, "Bring on the Rain" by Jo Dee Messina, & "I'm Moving On" by Rascal Flatts. If you have ever heard any of these songs, you know that they aren't exactly uplifting, good-mood songs. In fact, they are quite the opposite. After hearing them a few times over, it became pretty depressing. As the day progressed, I heard my parents talk about the devastation. They said that there were power poles down in so many places, that it was nearly impossible for them to make their trip to Enid the night before to get the generator. They also talked about how almost every power pole/line they could see was broken and on the ground. I couldn't even fathom that thought.
Then came the news that ultimately dashed my hopes: there was word that we wouldn't get our power back for at least a week or two.

For a third grader, that was the worst thing you could've told me. I had never known anything except having electricity. I had never had to deal with a major power outage. My world came crashing down around me. How would we cook? Would we ever get to turn on the lights again? Would we ever get to watch TV? Would I ever get to take a good shower? I was in a tailspin. I had no idea how everything was going to work, and I was very worried.

After a few days, my parents got the generator rigged up so that our deep freezers (which were full of fresh beef), our heater, and our water well all worked. We had a gas range top, so we could manually light it to cook on the stove top. We started to make do. I still hated it, but, then again, I was still out of school. Most of our nights were quiet and candlelit. Emily had happened to get a cherry-scented Yankee candle for Christmas that year, which we used quite often. I believe it was sometime around day 3 or 4 that we decided that we hated that candle and its scent. We opted for as many unscented candles as possible from that point on.

After a certain point, I was ready to go back to school, because then there was word that we'd be in school until June. Really?! All of those days off were nice, but going to school until June? That was the last straw. I spent quite a bit of time at Mimi & Grandpa's house after everyone went back to work. They didn't have power either, but it was better than being stuck at home. After about a week or so, my dad figured out how to get the TV to work on the generator. We had to shut almost everything else off, but we could watch TV! Then, two things happened. One, I had to go back to school. Two, it had already been two weeks, and our prognosis wasn't so good; it was looking like it would be at least the middle of March before we would get power back. I remember crying when I heard that news, because I had had it already. My parents weren't much comfort, but, then again, I was a drama queen about that kind of stuff.

Eventually, normal became redefined for my family. We couldn't use the microwave, dryer, dishwasher (I think), specific lights in the house, the electric oven, and the computer. The curling iron/blow dryer may have been in the mix, but I really can't remember. We could no longer defrost meat in the microwave as we had gotten used to, so meals had to be planned quite a bit in advance. It took much longer for my sisters and I to get ready. Anytime we left the house for a while, we had a list of things to do in order to save energy. This included a page-long checklist of how to shut off the generator, which breaker switches to turn, which cords to unplug, etc. This also had to be done every night, as we never slept with the generator on; we just bundled up more and found battery-powered alarm clocks. An interesting advent for my sisters and I was the discovery of velcro hair rollers. We became able to curl/fix our hair without having to use electrical appliances. We also had to get ready about two to three hours ahead of time so that those curlers would work. Thankfully, we still had a clothes line in our backyard, so we could get our clothes dried. Also, Gina took some of our clothes to the laundromat on occasion. We also learned that some things didn't need to be washed as often, like towels and pants.

In the midst of the madness, one really big thing happened for my family: Scotty proposed to Emily! I liked having him around, and I was excited that he would be there for all time to come. I was excited for Emily, and also for the prospect of getting to be in a wedding! I will admit though, I wasn't completely excited, as I soon realized how much work really went in to planning a wedding, as my parents started becoming busy with it. (What can I say, I was a third grader and a bratty diva. On the contrary, I understand the situation much better now, and I wish that I would've been much more patient with everything.)

This brings me to one point I mentioned earlier, third grade was the worst for me. I didn't really like my teacher, I had some struggles with my friends, people were perpetually trying to copy my homework, I broke my wrist on the monkey bars, I learned to write cursive the day after that happened, then with the ice storm and having no power for a month at that point, not to mention the prospect of having to have a significantly longer school year, add that all up and you would understand why I was pretty down in the dumps.

In the first week or so of March, things began looking up: After 35 long days, our power was restored! I had never been so happy to have electricity! Everything was going to get better, I was sure of it. By then, the "dark days" were over!

In retrospect, I learned a few things. First of all, I learned how to not be so reliant on modern technologies. I also learned how to be more resourceful. I learned that there is something to be learned from adversity, and that no matter how crazy things seem, one day, it will all be better, and perhaps, you will be able to laugh at the madness that once reigned. Finally, I learned that if Gary England says that there is the possibility of large accumulations of freezing rain/ice, you should probably listen and prepare (i.e. have fuel, water, and other resources on hand and readily available.).

Also, a few good things came out of that time: As I mentioned earlier, a new found respect for modern technology, Scotty & Emily's engagement, a new refrigerator (ours cratered in the process), and more things that escape me at the moment. As for third grade, I ended the year on a high note, having won the Chisholm/PPV spelling bee! Also, that was the year that Tevis moved to Pioneer. Although he didn't seem that important to me in that moment, I realize now how that was the beginning of everything to come.

The ice storm changed my life. For a short while, I lived in the fear of that happening again. I also panicked when our power would so much as blink off. I hope that nothing of that magnitude will ever happen again, but if it does, I will have a better idea of what to do and how to prepare! If nothing else, it will be a good story to tell future generations!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Things My Nephews Say

This anecdote is a little bit older, but I had jotted it down and after scanning through my list of anecdotes, I decided to include it this week.
A few months ago, I was doing some things in my room, and Kyle was in there with me. I have a bookshelf in my room, which has many books, many of which my nephews love to thumb through while they are in there. Among those books is one that Gina got me when I was about ten or so that consists of the internal anatomy of the human body and is separated into each of the body systems with a virtual model in the middle (It's much more interesting than it sounds, I promise.) Cody and Kyle have an unnatural fascination with this book, and are always admiring it when they get the chance. On this day, Kyle was looking through said book. Here is the conversation that followed:

K: "Beep.....Beep.....Beep....."
--Slightly puzzled look from me--
K: "Beep.....Beep....."
A: "Kyle, why are you saying 'beep' ?"
K: "I'm looking through the book backwards, and I say 'beep' everytime I back up, like a truck!"

Ah, kids sure do say the darndest things! I hope this brought a smile to your day, and I also hope that everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ten on Tuesday

1. I have finally settled into my second semester. Things are going alright, and I have adjusted. My days are much longer, as I have picked up more hours in the tutoring lab, but I am alright with that. I am almost to the point where I have taken at least one test in each class, and will be past that point by next Friday. Yay!
2. I gave my first speech today. Thank heavens, it went much better than I anticipated! I had to give a hero speech, so I decided to give it over Mimi. My teacher made us conduct formal interviews of at least three people/sources, even if it was someone we have known for our entire life. That fact irritated me a little bit, because honestly, who would go to that extent to plagiarize? Anyway, I bucked up and interviewed Mimi, my Aunt Pat, and Mimi's best friend, Irene. I had great experiences with all of the interviews, and it was well worth it. I even learned a couple of new things about Mimi! My favorite response from her was when I asked her what her biggest challenge was when she was growing up. I figured that she would mention something about the Great Depression or something of that sort, but she told me that one of her challenges growing up was getting old enough to wear makeup! I loved that answer, because it made me realize that teenagers have more in common with today's youth than I sometimes realize

3. After my whirlwind first week of Calculus, I am finally gaining some confidence in my abilities. To be honest, after the first two days of class, I honestly questioned whether or not I was even suited to be a math major, and that was just when we were doing the "easy" pre-Calc, Algebra-like stuff. How is it that finding limits is easier than finding the domain and range of a function? Really? Also, I enjoy the days when our teacher comes to Enid, as it feels so nice to actually have a teacher physically in front of us.

4. The first week of racquetball went great! I must say, though, Tonisha and I have fallen quite a way from our track days last year. After about ten minutes of playing, we were both winded. Yikes. I also remembered why the only organized sport I ever continuously participated in was track, as I have very little coordination. In my mind, I am graceful, agile, and can perform amazing athletic feats. In reality, I am a klutz and have horrible reflexes. Hopefully, I can gain some of these things after playing for a while, but so far, the only thing I have gained was an extremely sore forearm and stiff muscles. I shall plug onward!

5. Meetings and obligations galore this week. Yippee. Just as a reminder, nothing is ever "free". There is always some string attached. However, I must remember that a few obligations beat having loads of debt at 18. I am blessed in that regard.

6. <---That's how old Wyatt will be turning on Friday! Also, Cole celebrated his one-month birthday last Thursday! He now weighs 12 lbs, 4 oz. & is 25.5 inches long. He really doesn't look or act like a one-month-old. In my opinion, he seems more like a two-month-old. I will have to take some pictures this weekend so that I can post them!

7. I have mentioned this plenty of times, but I have to say: I adore my Mimi. She is my favorite person. I am grateful for the time I got to spend with her during this weekend. I went to her house on Saturday morning to pick her up so we could go to interview Irene, and I was greeted by lunch that she had kindly prepared for us! On one hand, I felt bad, because I know that Mimi had to put some work into it, and I didn't want her to have to go through any trouble, as I know it tires her to be on her feet in the kitchen. On the other hand, I know that she hates eating alone, as she usually has to, and I knew that she wanted me to eat with her, so I was also grateful for the meal we shared. I did help her in her preparations so that she wasn't completely exhausted by the end of the meal.

8. I have barely got to see Tevis this semester. *Sad face* I know that he is extraordinarily busy, as he is taking 18 hours of classes and works most evenings, so he has little to no free time that isn't occupied by homework or other obligations. I really have to remind myself to be more patient, which isn't always a strong suit of mine, but one that I must improve upon for my sanity's sake. Everything will be alright, and it isn't as bad as it seems. I still miss seeing him as much as I did, though.

9. Happy late birthday to my best friend in the whole wide world, Tonisha!!! She turned 19 on Sunday, and I even got to see her on her actual birthday! I gave her my present, which was her own copy of "The Help", and she loved it! She has been wanting to read it as much as I have, so it was even better for her!

Happy Birthday, Bestie!!! :)
10. Ah, what is that sound I hear outside my door? Oh, yes, that's it, rain! Glorious rain! Praise the Lord! I had quite the evening, as Carissa was out with a friend for supper, Tonisha was at church, and Tevis was working. I considered going out to run errands this evening, but once I heard the pitter-patter of raindrops, I decided to enjoy a cozy evening in my dorm. Reruns of The Big Bang Theory, a fuzzy blanket, the sound of rain, and Calculus homework that I fully comprehend: as pathetic as that sounds, those were the makings of a nearly perfect, quiet evening! Yay for me!

I hope everyone has a great week!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Things My Nephews Say

As promised, here it is! Most of you know that I have five nephews, ranging in age from one month to seven-and-a-half. I love them to pieces, and I cannot imagine life without them. Another thing about them: They are hilarious! Having never been around many small children before they were born, I never realized how funny kids can be. The thing is, they speak honestly and fearlessly. They are candid, to say the least. So, mostly for posterity's sake, I have decided to blog about it!
This week, I am including some of Wyatt's most recent remarks. Enjoy!

As I have mentioned, Wyatt recently started at a new school. One of the bigger changes that he has faced was riding the buses to/from school. After school, he gets off at my parents' house, since his parents are still at work. After his first day of school, I was eagerly awaiting his return, so that I could hear what he has to say about everything. When he first walked in, I asked him how his day was, and, in one word, he told me that it was "Awesome".

Later, I was asking him about his experience on the buses, because that was always a highlight of the school day. He didn't divulge too much information at first, but I finally asked him if he talked to anyone on the bus or made any friends there. What follows is our dialogue.

A: "So, did you talk to anyone on your bus?"
W: "No."
A: "Why not, Wyatt? You should really get to know them, because you'll be riding the bus with them for a while."
W: "Aunt Amanda, I don't talk to strangers!!! My mommy told me that I shouldn't talk to strangers, so I didn't talk to any of them!"
---I sit in stunned silence, unsure of what to say next, and also trying to stifle a laugh.---
A: "Well, Wyatt, those kids aren't always going to be strangers. Soon, they might even be your friends."
W: "But Mommy said not to talk to strangers!!!!!"
A: "Okay then, you have a point, Wyatt. It's okay if you didn't talk to them on your first day. There's plenty of time."

---The next afternoon---
A: "So did you talk to anyone on your bus today?"
W: "No."
A: "Is everyone still a stranger to you?"
W: "No. I didn't have anything to say to them. I only want to tell them important things, and I had nothing important to say, so I didn't talk to anyone."

I must say, that I am proud of him sticking to what he has been taught, but it also struck me as being terribly funny, especially coming from him. He has since talked to people on the bus, and has adapted, so everything is fine now!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ten on Tuesday

1. I have survived my first week of the second semester. It left me a little worse for wear, but otherwise unscathed. I have much more homework than I did last semester, if you can believe that, but I am hanging on. Thank heavens for my time at work in the tutoring lab, which is where I do the majority of my homework. I have started to adjust to my schedule, so hopefully everything will keep going as it is.

2. I enjoyed my day off school yesterday. I spent it mostly with my dad who was hauling cattle home from the vet. I also got the majority of my closet cleaned out, which might not seem like an impressive feat, but, if you had seen my closet as of late, you would understand why I am so excited! On a related note, I think that the next time that I buy shoes, I would like to see if I can just buy the shoes and let the store keep the box. I had WAYYY too many empty shoe boxes in my closet. I savored my only day off until spring break, as it isn't looking as if we will ever get a snow day.

3. I love having my best friend, Tonisha, here with me at college. We have already had some exciting adventures, and the semester has barely begun! Among our adventures were making a late-night trip to Walmart to find a shower curtain, eating together in the cafeteria, and going to basketball games. I hope that this week we can get around to playing a rousing game of racquetball in the gym, as the college has facilities and equipment for us to do so. Racquetball might seem a little random, but it's kind of an inside joke between Tonisha and me. Also, we are anticipating it to be a better workout than spending hours on a treadmill or elliptical.

4. I mentioned in a previous post that I was having trouble getting my TV to work properly. It turns out that I found the solution, and it was a good thing that I waited it out. When Tonisha moved in, her dorm mom told her that she needed a cable box for her TV to work. I figured that that was probably my problem, too, so I got one from the residence life office, and I am happy to report that I have all kinds of channels now, and, even better, it was free!

5. I have also mentioned how much I wanted to read the book, "The Help". I was about to lose all hope in ever getting to the top of the library wait list, and was about to buy it for myself. Once again, it was a good thing that I waited, because when I got out of class last Tuesday, I found a voicemail awaiting me that told me that I could come pick the book at my convenience! After I finally found time to read it, I couldn't put it down. I absolutely loved it. It met and perhaps exceeded my expectations. Now I can move on and watch the film adaptation with no qualms!

6. This weekend, a few of the priests in our archdiocese participated in a priest swap. They hoped to generate more interest in vocations, etc. Anyway, in the swap, we got Fr. Kevin Ratterman, who used to be the priest in Enid, but is now in Ponca City. I have to admit, I really got something out of the homily this week. He told us the story of how he came to be a priest, and talked about how everyone knew that he would be a priest, but didn't tell him, as they assumed he already knew that or wanted him to figure it out on his own. He went on to say that after people told him that, it greatly upset him. He reminded us that everyone is responsible for the person next to them, and that we shouldn't sit in silence, hoping that the person will eventually get the message. I have more thoughts about this weekend's Mass, but that would entail me getting on a soapbox, and I don't think that I should right now. Onward I shall go.

7. Last week, in a random turn of events, I ended up having a lovely chat with Tevis's mom, Kim. I had called Tevis to see if he would be home so that I could bring him a book, and he told me that he was working, but to bring it over anyway, as his mom was home. Upon arriving at his house, his mom was slightly surprised to see me, but she welcomed me in. We ending up having a wonderful chat. We talked about random facts about our families, and everything else in between. After talking for a little while, she told me that Tevis should be off work soon, and she invited me to stick around for a while to see him, so (of course) I obliged. I even talked with Tevis's step-dad and younger brother, and played with his little sister. It was a great evening indeed.

8. Wyatt is loving Pioneer. On his first day of school, he reported to me that it was "awesome". He also informed me that he has the same kindergarten teacher as I did, Mrs. Noak. He still likes it, and has adjusted to riding his buses. He told me yesterday that he misses his Garber friends, but he still is enjoying Pioneer.

9. I enjoyed being at home with my family this weekend. I really do miss them while I am at school.

10. I think that I will be adding a new feature to my blog. I have been considering this for quite some time now, and I have finally amassed a few items so that I will have some material to work with. It will be featuring my nephews and the funny things that they say/do, so be looking for that in the next few days/week!

I hope everyone has a great week!!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Love Thursday: Quotes

In the last couple of weeks, some of my other blogging friends have posted some of their favorite quotes. Upon seeing their posts, it reminded me of one of my loves: quotes. I love quotes that make me laugh, make me think, make me realize things about myself that I never would have realized. I love quotes so much so, that Gina got me a huge book of Reader's Digest anecdotes and quotes for Christmas a few years ago. The book has the quotes separated into subject matter, so if I am in the mood for reading quotes that pertain to specific things, I can easily do so. I have even marked my favorite quotes in the book itself, so that I can come back to them later. Now, in saying that I love quotes, I should add that I am not a fan of having to cite quotes when writing papers, only for the fact that there are so many rules as to how you found it and how you present it, and so many other details that it just becomes irritating. (I know why this is necessary, but I still don't like it.) Otherwise, that is my only complaint.

I never would have thought about this, but my friends included lots of quotes from their loved ones. I love these, especially quotes from loved ones who have already passed on, as it is another way of keeping their memory alive in your heart. It also made me realize that I would have a somewhat hard time remembering specific quotes from my loved ones. Perhaps, it has led me to be more conscious of trying to remember things that people say.

As I feel is appropriate, I will include a smattering of my favorite quotes, although I don't have my huge quote book. (Note: Some of these quotes will have obviously not been coined by the person I credit it to, but that is the person who most commonly said it to me.)

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.~My Grandma Hladik's coffee mug

Watch your pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.~My mom

Never go to bed angry, for you may never get to forgive them.~My mom & Mimi

What doesn't kill you, will ultimately make you stronger.~My mantra for life.

We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take time to enjoy where we are.~Calvin & Hobbes

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.~Eleanor Roosevelt

Be the change you wish to see in the world.~Gandhi

Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow.~James Dean

In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on.~Robert Frost

To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.~Steve Prefontaine (One of my favorite track quotes.)

Life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop to take and look around every once in a while, you might miss it.~Ferris Bueller's Day Off (My favorite movie)

The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer somebody else up.~Mark Twain

Stand for nothing, fall for anything.~My mom

When we are whom we are called to be, we will set the world on fire~St. Catherine of Siena

Going to church doesn't make you any more of a Christian than being in a garage makes you a car.~Emily (I know she didn't come up with it, but she has always said that.)

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose~Romans 8:28 (Also, my favorite quote.)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Red Velvet Cheesecake

I had quite a bit of hope for this recipe, as I originally found it on Pinterest about two months ago. With its vivid red color, this decadent dessert was the perfect choice for our Christmas meal. Also, it could be a fun treat for Valentine's Day! (Or really any other celebration that you wish to eat cheesecake at...) If you are a fan of red velvet cake or anything red velvet flavored, then you are in for a treat! As you will see, the ingredients are split into three sections: the crust, filling, and topping. Enjoy!

1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
2 (1-ounce) bottles red food coloring (I used 1-1/2 bottles...I'll explain why at the bottom)

1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar; press mixture into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Beat 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar at medium-low speed with an electric mixer 1 minute. Add eggs and next 6 ingredients, mixing on low speed just until fully combined. Pour batter into prepared crust.

Bake at 325° for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 300°, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until center is firm. Run knife along outer edge of cheesecake. Turn oven off. Let cheesecake stand in oven 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Beat 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese and 1/4 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth; gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth. Spread evenly over top of cheesecake. Remove sides of springform pan. Garnish, if desired.

Recipe Notes
-As I mentioned above, I use 1-1/2 bottles of red food coloring, instead of the suggested 2 bottles. After reading a few online reviews, many of them said that two bottles of food coloring gives the cheesecake an "off" taste, as red food coloring so often does. However, there were also a few reviews that suggested only using 1-1/2 bottles, as it gave the cheesecake its signature red color, without giving it a bad taste. That is what I did, and it tasted fine, while looking vibrant.

-Please remember whenever working with red food coloring that it is advisable to use rubber gloves, or else it could appear that you have been involved in some sketchy dealings (i.e. a duel, decapitation, slasher movie, etc.). Although, I suppose it is possible to be neat and precise when working with it; if it is possible, I have missed out on that.

-Yes, this cheesecake cracked. Ironically, it was in the shape of a T on mine. The good news is that this cheesecake has a topping, so any cracks or other imperfections will go unnoticed.

-This cheesecake is extremely rich. I recommend sharing it with others, and enjoying a small sliver for yourself, as you might fall into a sugar high otherwise. Very good, but very rich!

Pictures of Cole...Only Three Weeks Later!

While I was at home for Christmas Break, I was able to write blogs, but I was unable to add pictures. My Internet was being unreasonable, and I was unwilling to wait thirty minutes to get one picture to load. So, only three weeks later, here are a few pictures of baby Cole!
Here he is, basking in the glow of his heat lamp, and generally loving life.

This is Scotty's "tattoo" of Cole's vital statistics/footprints. I really like this, and I wish that they would have done this for all of the other children.

Scotty definitely has the golden touch with this baby boy, as he was fussy literally moments before I took this picture. Very precious.

Cody & Kyle got their first look at Cole after he was bathed and snuggled up. I love the look of wonder & amazement on their faces.

Yes, you read that correctly. 10 lbs. 4 oz. That is one big boy!

Another look of wonder from the big brothers. This could quite possibly be my favorite picture I took all day.

That is one proud great-grandma!

This was the second time I held Cole...he wasn't this happy the first time I held him.

Tevis even held Cole!

Here is Cole, all ready to go home! As Emily called him, her "little elf".
What a precious baby boy! (I am not biased at all.) :)

Second Semester Classes

Biology-9:00 MWF
So, I wasn't so sure about this class, mostly because of negative reviews from other people, but after attending my first class, I think that everything will be just fine. As I expected, the reason that people were so negative about that class was because they were not willing to put forth the effort required to get a good grade in that class. I will have to study, I will have to work, but I don't see that this class should be too hard if I do all of those things. Also, my teacher is awesome, which really helps. She is one of my PLC sponsors, and she has a wonderful sense of humor, so it makes everything much better. We will see, but I don't think I should have too much trouble with this class.

Biology Lab-10:00 M
I haven't been to this lab yet, as it has been cancelled for this week. Furthermore, next Monday is MLK day and we are off from school, so it will be cancelled next week also! Maybe one day I will have a lab to attend. Until then, I will enjoy coming back to my room at 10:00!

Calculus I-1:00 MTWR
After my first day of this class, I am still a little bit apprehensive about the whole thing, but I have a small glimmer of hope. This class is structured much like my Trig class from last semester, so I am already used to that. The ITV shouldn't be too much of a problem (I hope), and the biggest up-side is that the teacher will actually be on the Enid campus for the Thursday class and have a few office hours! Also, she recommended that, if we need help before Thursday, to go talk to another teacher here in Enid, so I suppose that I should be alright if I need any sort of help. The biggest downfall about this class is the fact that it starts at 1:00...right after lunch. If I had a life before this one, I think that I probably lived in a culture that encouraged siestas, as I get pretty groggy around that time. Also, this class will last until 2:15 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which should be fairly interesting. Perhaps I will have to pop a B-12 at lunch time for some extra energy. I am going to drop my negativity about this class, put on my big-girl pants, and hope for the best...all while working my tail off!

Oral Communication-9:30 TR
Ah, speech. This class is alright. I wouldn't say that it's my favorite, but it has potential. On paper, my teacher sounds like an anal-retentive nutcase who deducts participation points if you don't give eye contact during a speech or are three seconds late to class, but she claims to be otherwise. We will see how well this class goes in that regard. I shouldn't have too much trouble getting up and talking in front of everyone, because I love to talk. We have already done a small introductory activity, and she has already assigned homework, so I guess I should get to work pretty soon. Like I said, this class has potential.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Move-In Day, Take Two

This morning, thanks to Emily, who already happened to be making a trip to town this morning and who also has a vehicle with a surplus of storage space, I got my bigger things moved into my room. This go-round went much better than the first time I moved in, although there were still a few snags. (Like I've said before, nothing ever goes perfect when you move in.)

Because of her classes at Vo-Tech, Carissa has been moved back in since Tuesday, so she was there to greet Emily, Cole, and I when we arrived to the dorms at 8:10 this morning. I proceeded to bring in all of my cookware, which she was delighted to see, as she has high hopes of doing more cooking this semester, as well. Perhaps we can collaborate on meal plans! Finally, I got my TV & TV stand moved into the room. After dusting both off, I decided to set up my TV. Thankfully, I remembered the antenna cables, so I was able to hook up to the cable instantly, or so I thought.

Before I get much further, I should tell you about the TV. The TV is an early 2000s model, so it isn't that old or terribly out of date, all things considered. My dad originally bought it for my Grandma Hladik while she lived in the nursing home, because her old TV was too big. After my grandma died, we ended up getting the TV, since it was my dad who bought it. It has served us well at home, because at one time, we had it in our kitchen, and my mom mostly used it to watch the news/weather while she was cooking or doing dishes and couldn't hear/see the TV in the living room. To describe the TV, it has a 16-inch screen and has rabbit ears, although it does have an antenna output at its base. It is still the deep base screen, as it was purchased before flat-screens were readily accessible for a reasonable price.

With all of that in mind, I turned on my TV and got it set up to view channels on Cable, which is what we have access to in the dorms. After I did all of that, I started flipping through channels, I got to about channel 22 and I got static. I kept flipping through channels, hoping that it was just a fluke, but it was still more of the same. Drat. So, although we are supposed to have cable and over 100 channels, I only have about 15. I later found out that we actually have about 17, because I found the Home Shopping Network and EWTN, which is the Catholic channel. (How ironic.) That wasn't too exciting though, as EWTN was airing some show that was probably circa 1970, with a stern-looking nun who was wearing a huge crucifix, thick-framed glasses, and a habit. Carissa found that to be a little bit disturbing, as would I, if I had no idea about anything Catholic-related. I tried finding a channel scanner in my TV menu, but there was no luck there, either. I eventually went over to my neighbor's room, and she told me that she had had the same problem last year when she forgot her new TV and used her small TV temporarily. She told me that she only got about 15 channels, and everything else was static, but when she brought her new TV, everything worked perfectly and she had lots of channels with no static.

I was left in a quandry: Is my TV the issue, or is it something else? Furthermore, if was my TV that was the problem, do I get a different TV, try to do something different, or just settle with what I have? I was feeling pretty perplexed, because, although I could easily go buy a small TV for a halfways reasonable price, I don't like to spend money unnecessarily when I have more economical options at my disposal. For the time being, I have decided to settle for the meantime, and see exactly how much use I will get out of my TV before I go through the trouble of doing anything else. Also, I can bargain shop to see where I would get the best deal, if I do decide to do something different.

After all of that, I decided to work on something I could easily handle: buying my books. I walked over to the bookstore, schedule and ID in hand, and prepared to deal with the perpetually grumpy bookstore people. Thankfully, there were no issues, and I was once again thankful for my scholarship. Otherwise, I would have had to pony up about $300 or so, which isn't as much as it could be, all things considered, but is quite a bit nonetheless. I was greeted by my huge Calculus book, which really only left me with a sense of impending doom, especially when I saw the little keycard that accompanied it, which has an Internet code to access online homework assignments, etc. Just what I wanted, more parts to this class that are solely based off of the Internet. Yippee. (I am really starting to sound like a luddite, aren't I? Really, I'm not; I should just buck up and move on with it already. It will be alright.) The only reason I am getting negative about that is that I will be pretty much sunk if the Internet decides to not work, as it sometimes doesn't in the dorms. Surely all the bugs are worked out of the system by now. I will take a deep breath, and hope for the best!

Finally, I got around to washing up all of my new dishes. I unpackaged everything and was ready to commence washing...or not. I turned on the hot water, and, here's the thing, it didn't turn on. At all. Really?! The cold water worked great, but there was nothing going on with the hot water. Trying to channel some of my dad and remember anything I have picked up through the years watching him do various plumbing repairs, I decided to check below the faucet and see if the hot water valve was still turned on. It was, and actually, it really didn't even move, but I didn't try to force it to do anything else. (A water line break really wasn't something I wanted to deal with at that point.) Carissa was upstairs drying her hair, as she had just got out of the shower. She hadn't mentioned the hot water not working, but I figured that I'd go check upstairs anyway. When I checked our bathroom faucet, the same thing happened. I decided to go hunt down a maintenance person to see what was up. As luck would have it, I happened to see not one, but two maintenance vans parked in front of the laundry room in the middle of the apartments, so I asked one of the guys what the problem was. He explained that they had the hot water temporarily shut off, as they had to do a couple of quick repairs. He said something about the fact that it was about to completely go out and flood the laundry room, so I suppose it was a good thing that they fixed it before that happened. Within ten minutes, he knocked on our door to tell me that the hot water was back up and running. I finally got my dishes washed and put away!

On that note, Emily, Cole, and I decided to pack up and head home for the day. I will still have more stuff (aka clothes/towels/etc.) to move back in on Sunday night, but until then, I will kick back and enjoy my final days of my vacation! I hope that everyone has a great day and an outstanding weekend!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ten on Tuesday: 2012!

1. Last year ended well (I love saying it that way, even if it was just last week..), as I spent it over at Gina's house. However, we spent the evening sans my parents and Tevis. My parents had plans to attend a card party in Enid, and Tevis had to work. Gina and I spent much of the evening keeping Emily company while she was feeding Cole, which was perfectly fine with us, because we were able to just sit and chat at leisure. Midnight came, and we all enjoyed some sparkling grape juice, courtesy of Scotty. Hooray for 2012!

2. I ended up spending the night at Gina's on Saturday night, as I randomly fell asleep in her recliner, and she wasn't going to make me leave. When I woke up on Sunday morning, Wyatt decided to play his new Wii, and he let me join him. To shed some light on the subject, I have never owned a game console of any sort, as my parents (mostly my dad) were vehemently against them. With that being so, I have very little experience playing on any of the game consoles, and I pretty much have no talent playing on any of them. In recent years, I have discovered that I have decent abilities in Rock Band, but that is the extent of my talent. (I usually sing on Rock Band...the one that takes the least amount of coordination.) Playing Super Mario Bros. with Wyatt did not go well at all. I'm pretty sure I had no idea how to use the controls, and I kept dying on the game. Finally, we ended up playing Wii Sports, and that went much better for me. My best sport was boxing, which actually made me feel the burn after a couple of rounds.

3. Sunday night was also pretty great, as we had a family game night. I, for one, love playing games, be it board games, card games, or trivia games. It's probably part of my competitive nature, but I also love the way it brings a group of people together. (The exception to that is Monopoly, but that is a story for another day.) Wyatt got a Bingo set for Christmas (I think), so we started by playing Bingo, which was a kid-friendly game, since the three older boys know their numbers. After about four rousing rounds of Bingo, we decided to move on to another game. We were going to play Scattergories, a family favorite, but Gina forgot it at her house, so we decided on Bunco, which is a dice game. I got a Bunco set last year after playing it at a YAB meeting and loving it. At first, I was afraid that it wasn't going to quite work out, but after a few rounds, everyone settled in, and we had a great time! We played two games, which lasted until 11:30 that night. The boys even played for a little bit, although they eventually left to watch a movie/fall asleep.

4. In a baby update, Cole is doing just great! When he left the hospital, he had dropped to 9 lbs. 8 oz., but at his check-up last week, he had gained all of his weight back, plus some, weighing in at 10 lbs. 5 oz. Emily has lovingly dubbed him Coleman, like the lunchbox, because he is always packing away food. He is starting to become more alert to his surroundings, as he stays awake longer now. He can also hold his head up quite well. Everything is going great!

5. On a related note, Andy has grown quite fond of Cole. Whenever Andy sees Cole, he usually pats him or gives him kisses, ever so delicately. Andy sometimes refers to him as "Baby", but he is starting to call him by name, although it sounds like "Dole". Andy is very attentive to Cole's needs, as on Sunday night, my mom was holding Cole for a while and he was starting to get hungry. My mom said something about Cole being hungry, so Andy found Emily to tell her that. Andy lovingly watches over him, although he is a little bit standoffish at times. I just find it interesting to see how Andy has reacted to Cole.

6. For what it was worth, I did eat my black-eyed peas on Sunday. I ate plenty of them, so I figured that good luck should be mine for the taking this year...or not. My mom had made a cold salad out of black-eyed peas, which I had every intention of sharing with you all in the form of a recipe. This was one of my favorite cold salads, although my mom doesn't make it too often. Well, needless to say, I will NOT be sharing the recipe or enjoying the salad for quite some time in the forseeable future, as I fell extremely ill last night. I will spare you the gory details, but I have a newfound distaste for black-eyed pea salad. I'm fairly certain that I fell prey to a strain of stomach flu or just regular flu, I'm not sure which, but it was unpleasant. I felt like death warmed over, and I had a horrible night's sleep, which probably had something to do with my sleeping on the couch. I woke up this morning still feeling pretty miserable, but after taking some Emetrol (anti-nausea) and sleeping for the remainder of the morning, I started feeling better. Around noon, I finally brought myself to having some toast, chicken broth, and Gatorade. That went well, so I had some more broth a while later, although my appetite still isn't quite back. I have to keep reminding myself to drink fluids, as water is starting to taste bad to me.

7. I am not the only one in my family to catch this bug, as Cody, Andy, Wyatt, Jeremy, and Gina all had some form of illness, although Gina's was fairly mild. My mom came home from work feeling achy, so I hope that illness is not in her future. I hate being sick, and I especially hate it when my family members are sick, so I hope that we are all on the mend very soon!

8. I probably haven't mentioned this, but Wyatt will be attending Pioneer starting this semester. It is one of those things that was coming eventually, but it just happened sooner than we anticipated. Everything is alright, it is just that everything will work out much easier for him to go to school there than at Garber. Wyatt will now partake in the customary fare for country kids like me, my sisters, and our neighbors, and will begin riding two buses to get to school, instead of having Gina take him to school. I think that he will do just fine, as he is pretty adaptable, and he started riding a bus after school last semester. Unfortunately, he had to miss his first day because of illness. Oh well, such is is better for him to stay home than to go to school and be miserable and have to come home early. Thankfully, Cody and Kyle don't go back to school until tomorrow, but I think they have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, because their doctor was still on vacation, as were his PAs, and apparently every other doctor in the greater Enid area. (Emily even tried getting them in at the Urgent Care clinic, but no dice there.)

9. I hope I start feeling better by Friday, because I will have to start moving some of my things back by then. I should start getting my things together, but I am trying to prolong the inevitable. I have really grown accustomed to staying at home and not having to live a nomadic life. I could just stay in town on the weekends, but, let's be honest, there is nothing keeping me there, because there is only so much to do in my dorm, Carissa is never there on the weekends, anyone I would want to see in town (aka Tevis) usually works all weekend, and my family is only twenty-five minutes away. It is worth it to come home on the weekends. Oh well, soon it will be back to the grind for another sixteen weeks.

10. Although I will describe it in more detail next week, I will give you an overview of my schedule. I am enrolled in twelve hours of classes, thanks to my fifteen hours of concurrent classes, and a full-ride for four semesters! However, that is where the excitement stops, as my classes are Biology (I've been told that my teacher is one of the hardest teachers, but she is also my PLC sponsor, so maybe it's all hype from people who weren't willing to actually work for a good grade in a class.) Then, there's my Calc I class, which really has me nervous, being that it is ITV. For the hundredth time, (Don't expect it to be the last time I say it, either) Who in their right mind offers a math class over ITV?! History, that would be fairly easy; Comp, that would be alright; some form of class that only involves discussion/Powerpoint slides, no problem, but Math? Really? I know that I am a Math major, but still, I am having qualms about this. Hopefully my fears will be disproven, and I will emerge successful...we shall see. My last class is a speech class. I have heard an overwhelming amount of negative things about the teacher, so I suppose I could try to switch classes if it gets to be that unbearable, but I will try to stay the course and go in with an open mind. Besides, I think you all know that I have no problem talking in front of people, so this shouldn't be so bad.

Here's hoping that everyone has a healthy first week of 2012!!! Also, get your flu shots!!! As soon as I am on the mend, I will be getting a flu shot.