Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ten on Tuesday

1. Well, I did end up getting to see Tevis last week! He came home for three and a half days before eventually leaving on Saturday afternoon. I spent a considerable amount of that time with him, since I knew that it would be awhile before I saw him again. (He doesn't get back from Colorado until the 11th...Yuck!) I really, really missed him (as if you couldn't tell), but I made the most of the time he was here. The one thing that I must say is that you don't know how happy I am that he actually did end up going to Texas, because it postponed his trip to Denver by a week. His dad actually lives near Aurora (I think) and he very possibly could have been in that theater on the night of that horrendous shooting, since he and his brother love superhero movies. I guess it goes to prove that everything happens the way it does for a reason. Conversely, it saddens me to think about what atrocities some people choose to inflict on innocent people. Some things, I'll never understand...

2. On a much lighter note, Saturday was the Carr family pool party! They couldn't have picked a better day to have a pool party, because the temperatures were upwards of 105-110 degrees. It felt great to take a dip in the pool and enjoy some delicious food. Not only were those things great, I also loved getting to hang out with Tonisha and her family! I am so grateful to have friends whose families treat you like one of their own!

3. After I got done at the pool party, I had nothing going on for the rest of the evening. I decided that I was going to go to a performance of "Fiddler on The Roof" that was going on at the Gaslight Theater. I really wanted to go because my cousin Evan and Owen & Evan (brothers, from my church) were in it, and I wanted to go watch them. Also, I have never seen this play before, although I have heard so much about it since it is a classic, of sorts. I have to say that it was well worth what I paid for my ticket...It was awesome!!! The casting was great, the vocals were delightful, and the famed bottle dance did not disappoint! (Cousin Evan and Owen were part of the bottle dancing crew, btw, so I was slightly biased!) If you are in the greater Enid area, I recommend finding time to go...there are four or five more performances, but Sunday is the last one. It will be well worth the ten dollars and three hours you will spend there! Bravo to all!!!

4. Speaking of next Sunday, it will be Andy's third birthday! He is very excited about it, and he has already picked out his birthday cake, which will be Thomas the Train, in strawberry. He is very much the big boy these days, although he still has a soft spot for snuggling. He is quite the kid, and he never fails to make us all laugh! I'm sure he is very excited about his party on Saturday.

5. Today, I was walking along the campus, on an errand to turn in my timecard. I was walking right in front of the library building when suddenly I heard a weird noise. I am very aware of my surroundings when walking around through there, but what I saw next left me in a panic. There was a large goose sitting right by the front door and it was flapping its wings like mad. Needless to say, I ran away shrieking, in my ornithophobic terror. When I came back a little while ago to enter the building for my afternoon tutoring, I forced myself to try to go back in that way, because I realize how silly it is to be afraid of birds. I cautiously stepped toward the door, where I found that the goose was long gone...Whew!

6. I am out of ideas for books to read. I am on the hold list for Mockingjay, but that isn't coming up quite as soon as I expected, even though I was number ten on the list and there are three copies to be had...Really? (I'm too much of a cheapskate to buy a hardcover, and it hasn't been released in paperback.) I have one more book around that I'll probably read, but after that, I've got nothing. Does anyone have any suggestions? I've love to hear them! :)

7. As an update on the employment front, I am enjoying my job. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: My boss is an awesome lady, and I love working for her! I've never been overrun in tutoring, but I have had enough people come in to keep me occupied. Also, I will be continuing on this path during this next year, so that should be great!

8. Looking a little bit to the future, I have received some correspondence from the new PLC sponsors regarding our upcoming retreat. It turns out that we will be retreating to the school's place on Kaw Lake with the PLC groups from the other campuses. I am excited, because I love retreats of any sort, especially icebreaker activities. I am also excited to meet the new people in our group. On the other hand, I'm not so excited for a couple of reasons. One, I am not exactly a big fan of the other PLC groups. You would think that they would be similar to us, but there's definitely a big difference between the groups...maybe location has something to do with that, I don't know. Also, you might remember that Kaw Lake was the place where my friend Tyler drowned a few months ago. I know that we won't be camping in the same part of the lake where he drowned, but I guess it's just the mental association I now have with the place. Maybe that seems childish, and maybe I'm overreacting, but right now, that's how I feel. Hopefully, we will have so much of a good time that I can overlook this fact and come to peace with the beautiful place.

9. Is anyone else getting overrun with squash and zucchini like my family has been? We have been coming up with "101 Ways to Use Zucchini"...not really, but it seems like it. Truth be told, production has slowed down in the past week or so, because I think our plants were infected by some sort of bug. Regardless, we have been supplementing most of our entrees with the veggies so that we can use it before they go to waste. I've noticed that with those crops, it is sometimes impossible to pawn it off on someone because either A) They, too, are overrun with them from their own garden, B) They have already been given some by another pawner, or C) They flat-out don't like them and, therefore want nothing to do with them. The group "C" people are missing out, because I think that they are delightful. Also, you can literally put them in anything, and you can't taste it! The other day, we shredded some up and made a zucchini cake, which Cody and Kyle absolutely LOVED! Cody told me that he didn't even realize there was zucchini in it, because it tasted so good. Also, he told me that he wanted the "squash cake" as his birthday cake! He might change his mind, but, even so, we have shredded and frozen some, just in case.
10. This Friday marks the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics!!! I have to keep reminding myself that it is then so that I don't miss it, because that is usually the best part of the whole thing, minus the swimming and gymnastics competitions, of course :) U-S-A!! U-S-A!!

Have a great week!!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile

I don't know about you, but sometimes I get really down in the dumps. I become cynical, and I don't see the good that surrounds me. I lose myself in the rush of everyday life and forget what it's all about. I decided to make a list of random things that make me happy. It is obvious that many things on the list are directly related, but I just let my mind jump around.  I could probably sit down again tomorrow and come up with a completely different list, but, for today, here it is!
-The people in my life
-Sunday afternoon naps
-Eating cold watermelon on a hot day
-Watching fireworks
-Reading a good book
-Listening to music
-Root Beer
-Chocolate shakes from Braum's
-Cranberry Limeades
-Helping others
-Looking at old pictures
-Getting a letter in the mail
-Catching up with an old friend
-Making a new friend
-Get-togethers with great people
-Reminiscing good times
-Swinging on a playground swing
-Learning something new
-Going on adventures
-Getting all dolled up
-Fourth of July
-Rainy, cloudy days
-The first cool day of fall when you have to wear a jacket
-The first warm day of spring when you can wear shorts
-The first snow of the season
-Getting new clothes/shoes
-Inside jokes
-Holding a sleeping child
-Summer Olympics (not Winter)
-Heart to heart conversations
-Falling in love
-Going to a play
-Crossing the finish line at a 5K race
-Watching a good movie
-Snuggling on the couch
-Mimi's house
-Playing guitar
-Finding a good bargain
-Exploring new territory
-Walking through the pasture
-Boat rides
-Accomplishing something you've always wanted to do
-My birthday
-Good surprises
-Calla Lillies & Roses
-Girls days with my mom and sisters
-Black & white reruns of old TV shows
-Good church services
-Fresh fruit
-Crossword puzzles
-Party planning
-Admiring Christmas lights
-Learning about cultures/religions different than mine
-Attending sporting events
-Gelato & sorbetto from Waukomis
-Smooth Jazz
-Meeting new people
-A new haircut
-Learning something new about someone you've known for a long time
-Eskimo Joe's
-Sweet potato fries
-Hearing your favorite song on the radio
-Hot showers
-A good grade on a difficult test
-Warm, fuzzy blankets
-Phone conversations
-Moonlight conversations with the one you love
-Dancing (even though I'm not so good at it)
-Watching my favorite TV shows
-Playing board games
-Being surrounded by those I love
What makes you smile? I'd love to know!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ten on Tuesday

1. In the past week my tutoring has finally started picking up. I can't tell you how happy that makes me that I get to actually do something instead of just sitting here on the computer. (I never thought that I'd say that, but it's true!) I have had two people come in, but one of them has come in every day. Yesterday, I had a good moment when that particular guy told me that thanks to my help, he went from failing his first test to getting a solid B on his last test. It made me feel good to know that I really am helping everyone who comes to me. Perhaps I am considering the right career field!

2. As you could probably tell, last week I was totally freaking out about my future college situation. You will be happy to know that I am not freaking out this week, and I have a better sense of calm about the whole thing. Thank you for all of your feedback, which was comforting to me in my time of worry! I have had some good conversations with my family members about everything, and right now, I am going do an extensive amount of research so that I can make the best decision when the time comes. I am hoping to get some time so that I can go on tours and talk with people. Also, I am leaving no stone unturned when it comes to transfer scholarships. The biggest downside is that, while I can look at these things, I can't take any action on them for about four more months. Oh well, I'll just be more prepared when that time does come!

3. Yesterday, I got signed up for my next 5K! It isn't until the end of August, but I figure there's no time like the present to get signed up. The funny thing about this race is that I have really wanted to participate since it began two years ago, but both years I was unable to due to a wisdom tooth surgery or time constraints. However, maybe it is for the best that I will get to participate now since I am very comfortable with races. Regardless, I am ready to race!

4. Speaking of racing, I have been trying to get in at least two good runs each week. That doesn't sound like much, and I know that it really isn't, but when the weather and timing are factored into the equation, that's usually what I am left with. I could be like most of the other runners I know and go work out at 5 or 6 in the morning, but I like my sleep too much to do that. Is that a bad thing? As far as I'm concerned, it's almost as cool around 8:30 at night, and I usually have time then, so that's when it happens for me. Last night, Emily joined me for a workout. It was a nice change of pace to have someone with me, and I hope that she will be able to join me again!

5. Yesterday, when I was picking up my race registration form at the running store, I bought myself a new headband. When I go running, headbands are part of my wardrobe, because I hate having my hair in my face when I'm gross and sweaty. I have found that many headbands don't work well for me because they either hurt my head or they fall off while I'm working out. My new headband is perfect! It is called a Fit Chic Headband, and the design is simple yet effective. The top is ribbon sewed to the bottom layer, which is velvet ribbon, with a short piece of elastic connecting the sides and is one size fits all. Truth be told, they looked easy enough to just make myself, but I bought one as a prototype. Tonight, I tried making a couple and failed epically. Let's just say that my mom's sewing machine and I were at odds, and I knew that if I kept working on it, I would only cause myself undue frustration. My mom thinks that it needs a new needle or to be recalibrated, so I will let her do that before I attempt those again. One day, I will make my headbands...one day!

6. Since summer has begun, I have known six people who have died. I don't like this at all. I know that it is a fact of life, and that deaths are more common in the summertime, but I wish that it would slow down for a while.

7. I did get to see Mimi today! Last Friday, my dad's last blood-relation aunt passed away, so today was her wake service. Mimi had known Aunt Josie for a long time, and they had the common bond of having birthdays only one day apart, so Mimi wanted to go with us to her service. As usual, I enjoyed talking with her and mostly just getting to be with her. As an update on her, she is still in good health, and she even drove herself to and from our house. I mentioned in the past that she had a pacemaker put in, which has done a world of good for her. However, last week, she went to her primary care doctor for a regular visit and mentioned something about feeling a bit "off". Upon further investigation, her doctor immediately sent her to her cardiologist. It turned out that her blood vessels were enlarging, and, if left untreated, would have led to a seizure or massive stroke. Thankfully, he put her on some medication and she is feeling much better!

8. This is totally random, but have I ever mentioned how much I love bargains? Yesterday, I was running some errands and I found a newer consignment shop. I decided to go in, since I was already stopped by there, and I definitely wasn't disappointed! No, I didn't make any purchases, but I was in heaven. They had name brand clothing that you would usually get for $20 on clearance that was priced anywhere from $5 to $15. I found lots of nice jeans, but I decided to hold off since I really wouldn't get much wear out of them and I don't feel like storing them for the offseason. I am glad that such places exist so that the average consumer can purchase quality, name-brand items at a reasonable price, while allowing other people to get rid of clothing they don't wear. It is a win-win situation!

9. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get to see Tevis this week. He has been off on adventures with his aunt from Texas, and should be back soon. My fingers are crossed!

10. I am very excited about the end of this week, because I will be attending Tonisha's family pool party/cookout! I went last year and had a blast, and I don't see how it would be any different this year, so I can't wait!

Have a great week!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Looking Toward the Future

Last weekend, I came to the realization that in exactly one year, may I emphasize one year, I will be getting ready to go to a different college.

I'll let you soak in that fact for a moment, because I am still struggling with this thought.

I am back to where I was about 1.5 years ago, when I was worried about where I would be attending college. I don't like this at all, because I feel very frustrated and like I have no control. Maybe I'm being irrational, I don't know for sure. The only thing that I do know for sure is that I am going to have to go through the entire scholarship/admission/waiting process all over again, and I don't like it, not one bit. I like where I am now. I am happy, and I am comfortable. I know people, and they know me. I am bummed to have to think about giving up some of those things.

I should add that the scholarship/financial aid situation is/will be a major deciding factor as to where I go, since I am not independently wealthy and am responsible for financing my higher education.

Yes, I could just go to NWOSU here in town, but there's a small snag in that plan...the Enid satellite campus does not offer any math or science classes, and despite the interest level of students, it isn't looking like that will change between now and next year. Really?

Well, there's the actual campus of NWOSU in Alva. They offer exactly what I want, like most other four-year institutions, and it isn't all that far from home. However, it is far enough away that I wouldn't want to commute, which means that I would either have to live on campus or find a place in town. Once again, no big deal. Here's the thing, I am not a big fan of the town of Alva. No offense to anyone from there, but I have my reasons. There was once when I was a seventh-grader that I attended an honor band on that campus. I had an okay time until I ended up getting horribly sick shortly before the concert. Ever since, I have had an aversion to the town. Also, my ex-boyfriend attends college there, and I have no desire to see him anytime in the forseeable future. If I attended college there, I know that I would invariably (and regularly) run into him, since it is a relatively small campus. Knowing what I know, I can tell you that that isn't something I really want to do, if at all possible. Okay, so that is a childish cop-out reason that I could probably overlook, but still. I guess I'll say this: I will go to NWOSU-Alva, if and only if I am offered a scholarship that exceeds an offer from any other college. (Yes, I will apply there anyway, because there is an agreement between them & NOC for transfer students that offers a decent scholarship. Also, maybe they'll get on the ball and get a math program going in Enid.)

Another place I have toyed around with going to is UCO. Oh, UCO... Actually, I would be fairly interested in going there if the price is right. According to some, it is like OU or OSU on a slightly smaller, cheaper scale. I would be fine with that. The only thing that really wigs me out about UCO is that I am not very familiar with the greater Edmond area. I can get to a few landmarks, but that's about it. I suppose a GPS could help with that problem. Also, I would have to find living arrangements, because while I could live on campus, I would feel weird living on campus as a Junior who is transferring in. I suppose that that isn't a big deal either, but my main concern would be finding a place to live that I won't have to live in fear of getting gunned down on my way to my vehicle or being in the midst of a SWAT team invasion or getting roaches. However, that would also entail extra cost on my part because of rent/utilities/food/incidentals. I'm hoping to maybe schedule a tour for there sometime in the next few weeks while I have some spare time.

My final place that I could be considering is OSU. Let me say this: I love Stillwater. I know how to navigate the town, I know people there, it is close to home, and, oh yeah, I love the town! Here's the problem with OSU: it is expensive, I don't want to take out that much in student loans, and, like I mentioned earlier, I am not independently wealthy. Ugh. If only OSU was priced the same as UCO! Regardless, I am still applying and I am going to have to try for all the scholarships I possibly can. Also, I might take a tour, just to meet some people and see what they have to offer.

Now, you can maybe understand part of why I am so worried. Yes, there are a few other reasons, but I don't have the energy to delve into that right now.

I suppose I will have to start doing some major research and, more than anything, talk to people. Thank heavens I am good at networking and talking to others so that I can get some facts, because there is only so much I can get from websites.

I guess I have to keep reminding myself that I have to just be able to have some faith and let go so that everything can work out alright!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Apple Strudel (Pt. 2)

I talked about the backstory on this recipe in yesterday's post, but I will add a few notes. If you have never had an apple strudel, think apple pie with less crust. This is a very old recipe that came from a church cookbook, so I have made a few notations of my own to make it easier. The toughest part of making a strudel is either rolling the crust out or getting it into the pan, which really is tougher than it sounds. (I'll explain when I get there.) If you can get past that, you're golden! I recommend reading the recipe completely and thoroughly before starting, so you can get a better game plan. Enjoy!

Ingredients:8-10 medium apples, peeled & chopped into small chunks
2 C. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 C. butter/margarine, melted
1 egg, beaten
1/2 C. milk, near boiling (This is best done by microwaving for appx. 30 sec.-1 min)
Chopped nuts, Cinnamon, Sugar, Brown sugar, etc., for inside
Extra melted butter

Directions:Put flour into a medium bowl. Make a hole in the middle of the flour and add salt, melted butter, & beaten egg. Then, add milk. Mix and knead til smooth. Put the warm bowl ober the dough and let stand 10 minutes.

(Here is where it gets hairy, so hang in there!)

Divide dough into two. One at a time, you will proceed to roll the dough into about a 12x16 rectangle. The biggest key to success is keeping your surface floured, and flipping the dough often. Make sure that the dough is thin, but not so thin that holes will easily form.

When the dough is rolled to your specifications, brush the crust with some of the extra melted butter. Place about half of the apple pieces down the center of the dough. I should also mention that you might not have to use quite that much, but it all depends. You don't want too many apples on there, or else it will tear the delicate crust. (It's always better to have too many apples than not enough.)

Next, you will add some of the extras to flavor the apples. We usually use a blend of cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar, and nutmeg. If you have it, apple pie spice would work wonderfully. I recommend using sugar of some sort, because it forms a nice caramel-like juice in the bottom of the pan. We always chop up some pecans for an added crunch, but I know there are many people with an aversion to that, so use your judgement. Walnuts would also be delicious, if you have some on hand. After it is spiced to your taste, roll up the crust, burrito-style. Before sealing the crust, we usually put a little bit of melted butter along the edge to help it stick together some. Then, you will place the "loaf" into a greased 13x9 baking pan. It will be long, and somewhat heavy, so this takes a bit of finagling, but is completely doable.

Once you get the first "loaf" done, you will repeat the entire process for the other half of the dough. After you have both loaves in the pan, brush both with the remainder of the melted butter, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30-45 minutes in a 350-degree oven, until golden brown.

Notes:-When rolling out the dough, I cannot stress how important it is to incorporate more flour. That is the key to a great crust...something I have learned the hard way.

-I realize that I really should have added some pictures, but in my haste/frustration, I neglected to do so. I hope that my instructions are helpful enough. If not, please let me know and I will be more than happy to clarify!

I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!

A Sweet Memory (Pt. 1)

I have a recipe that I will be posting, but the backstory is detailed enough that I feel it deserves a post of its own, so, here goes!

On the morning of the Fourth of July, I was awakened by a call from my uncle Charles. He was wanting to talk to my dad, who was at the lake, so I didn't know for sure why he called. (Uncle Charles doesn't call too often, fyi) Eventually, I talked to my mom to find out what the call was about. She told me then that my dad's cousin's wife, JoAnn, had died. (It sounds like we were barely related to the lady, but really it is a fairly close relation.) This came as a shock to everyone, because she was in her early sixties, she was in relatively good health, she was fairly thin, and she ate a healthy diet, because she was an avid gardener. Out of everyone in the family, no one could've guessed that she would be the next one to die. From what I've been told, she and her husband were at one of their children's houses for a small get-together. They were in the car to leave, and her husband looked over at her, and, just like that, she was gone. Everyone's best guess is that she had either a stroke, massive heart attack, or brain aneurysm. I guess it goes to show you that everyone has their time, and you can never guess when your last day will be. It seems cliche to say this, but really, it is the truth.

Her funeral was today, and my mom was trying to decide on something to bring for the funeral dinner. After much deliberation, we decided to make an apple strudel. Apple strudels are a big deal in my family, almost as a big a deal as a pie. In recent years, we haven't made as many as we used to, but it makes them taste that much better when we have them. For me, this recipe holds many memories. All of us girls started learning how to make strudel at a young age. It always began by watching, which is really the biggest step in learning. When we got older, we would help peel the apples. Next would be to learn how to mix the dough. Finally, when we got old enough, we'd get to roll it out. Most of the time, my mom rolled the dough out, because she does it best, but sometimes we would.

The reason this recipe has such meaning to me is that it is the one memory I really, really have with my Grandma Hladik. I've never really talked about my grandma, but I guess now I will. Sadly, most of the time that she was alive during my lifetime, she wasn't in the best of health. When I was born, she literally lived in my backyard. In saying that, I mean that her house was literally twenty feet from my back door. She had a massive stroke when I was five, and shortly thereafter she went to the assisted living in town. She was alright there, but towards the end, dementia had began to set in, and she just wasn't the same. When I was eleven, she passed away. Her death, also, was quick and unexpected. She was the only grandparent I ever knew from my dad's side, since my Grandpa Hladik passed away in 1987, six years before I was born.

I may not have really had her for very long, but back in the day, there was nothing I loved more than going to Grandma's house. I remember afternoons spent at her house eating Schwann's ice cream sandwiches and watching PBS cartoons. I loved exploring all of the rooms in her old house, always finding something new. If I think hard enough, I can still remember exactly how her house looked. When I was about four, Grandma usually made a strudel on Saturday mornings. Most of the time, she'd invite me over to help her, mostly to keep her company. She'd always let me sit on the counter and watch her stir the ingredients to make the dough, or peel apples. She'd usually let me have a few apple pieces, too...talk about fringe benefits! She would roll the crust on her table, sometimes letting me roll it just a little bit. Next, we would put the apples in the rolled crust, and I'd get to sprinkle cinnamon, sugar, and nuts over the apples before she rolled it up. While it was baking, we did the dishes, and I got to help with that also. Oddly enough, I was excited to do dishes back then, but I think it had more to do with the soap bubbles and my step stool I used than the task itself. Soon enough, the strudel would be done, and I would get to have some before I eventually went home.

That was usually how it went, but there were two instances that I remember the most. Once, Grandma let me help her roll the crust and put it in the pan. She always made it look easy, so I thought that I could do it just fine. It turns out that there is much more to rolling a crust than one would think, because it didn't turn out well at all. There were all kinds of holes in the crust, and it just didn't look right. I was bummed that it didn't look good, but I remember Grandma telling me that sometimes we had "boo-boo" crusts, and that it all ate the same. I found that very comforting, and I still think about it sometimes.

The other instance was more of a reflection of me as a four-year-old. By this point, Grandma and I had a standing date on Saturday mornings. We always started around 8:00 in the morning, which was nothing for my young self. Usually, before I went over, I would incessantly bug one of my parents to call Grandma to make sure I could still go. Well, one morning, I was up at the crack of dawn, unlike the rest of my family. I got myself dressed and I was waiting for someone to wake up so that I could go to her house. It got to be a little bit later, and no one was awake, so I took it upon myself to just go over to Grandma's because I didn't want to bother anyone. My grandma was pretty skeptical, since there wasn't a call, but I assured her that it would be just fine, because I always went there on Saturdays. Well, everything was going great...that is, until her phone rang, and she was greeted by my parents wondering where on earth I was. At that point, my little world came crashing down, and I went home to meet my doom. Unfortunately, my logic wasn't quite in line with my parents', who were worried that I had run away or was in harm. Needless to say, I spent quite a bit of that day in trouble, and I learned my lesson for sure!

Good or bad, I will always associate this recipe with Grandma and the good times we had together. I love you Grandma, and I miss you still.

(Keep watch for the recipe, which will be coming soon!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Ten on Tuesday

1. Today, I am in my second day of my new job as a student assistant for a math teacher on campus. So far, nothing too exciting has happened, but I do like it quite a bit. Yesterday, all I really did was sit through the first half of the class, so they could meet me, and then I rearranged a filing cabinet in my boss's office. I also sit up in the library in the afternoons to do some tutoring, although no one has showed up for that just yet. (They're only on their first chapter, so I think they'll be in here pretty soon after that.) As the class progresses, I'll actually get to sit in on the class and help when she has everyone do group work. Today, I got to come in later, but I also got tasked with some "teacher-y" duties. I got to grade quizzes and type out the next set of quizzes. Am I a nerd for liking that stuff? I'll just go with the fact that this is a great job for me!
2. Usually, my family has a Fourth of July get together that we celebrate on the third, mostly for whimsical reasons. This year was the one exception to that, since the fourth is on a Wednesday. We decided to move our party to Saturday the 30th, and it worked much better that way. Dad and the rest of the men smoked pork loin, brisket, and kielbasa, and it was absolutely delicious, not to mention low-stress. I say it was low-stress mostly for the fact that we didn't have to wait around until an hour before to cook the main dish, like how we did with hamburgers or fried chicken. My dad decided to invest in some misting fans, and they were a hit with everyone! After the meal, we enjoyed the massive fireworks show that the guys also rig up. As usual, it didn't disappoint! It was definitely a great evening!

3. The beauty of having our get-together before the actual holiday is that all of us are freed up to do whatever we want on the fourth. I think some my parents and Gina's crew are going to the lake, but I don't know what Emily's bunch is doing. I will be going to Tevis's aunt & uncle's house for their annual Independence Day bash. The highlight of their party is the annual bingo game with white elephant prizes. I found a great white elephant gift yesterday...a 1000-piece puzzle of a platter of hamburgers and hot dogs! It was oddly ironic, and it cost less than five dollars, so I went for it! (Last year, Tevis's brother came out of it with a giant tub of cheese balls, so that explains how random the gifts are.) Anyway, I can't wait for tomorrow!

4. I can be crafty, but usually I don't get too crafty with my cooking because it usually turns into a total disaster that I regret about halfway through. (One year I made patriotic cupcakes with red, white, and blue batter, and once I made a rainbow cheesecake...both times I decided about halfway through that I was insane for starting it in the first place.) Anyway, against my better judgement, I think I will try to do a crafty food for tomorrow. Last week, my mom and I cleaned out our pantry and we realized that we have a plethora of rice krispies and almond bark, so I am going to attempt to make patriotic-looking rice krispie treats. By patriotic-looking, I mean that I'll cut them into stars instead of squares, dip them in plain white almond bark, and sprinkle cutesy sprinkles on them. Surely I can handle this, but I guess we'll have to see!

5. When I went to Carissa's wedding two weeks ago, I got myself a new sundress for the occasion. Before the wedding, I was showing it off to my sisters and they got the idea that all of us girls should deck out in sundresses for our gathering. Usually, I settle for wearing a nice shirt and jean shorts, so this was a step up for me, because I usually just wear dresses for church or other special occasions. However, I think I could really become a sundress person, because I was very comfortable on Saturday! Also, everyone thought that it was cute that us girls were the sundress trio, so maybe this could become a new tradition...who knows!

6. For the longest time, outside of the north door of my house there was a concrete step with a huge crack in it. This has always bugged my mom, so she and my dad started thinking up ways to jazz up the north side. Last week, my dad decided to start that project. He, with a lot of help from Scotty, built a large semi-circle patio out of flagstone. They worked very hard, and it looks beautiful! Now, it is my parents' favorite place to drink their morning coffee. Eventually, they plan to put in some new flower beds next to it.

7. Speaking of gardens, I have really started taking an interest in gardening. Two weeks ago, I weeded my mom's raised bed and really worked the ground up. After seeing the finished product of how nice it looked, I was hooked. I think that most of my interest is rooted in my OCD ways of wanting everything to look neat. After getting the garden cleaned up, I took on our iris and peony beds and tidied those up also. I now understand why so many people enjoy gardening, because it is something you can do with visible results and I find it to be incredibly relaxing!

8. I have got to spend quite a bit of quality time with my friends during the past few weeks. Shea and Tonisha both made it to our party on Saturday, and today we had a great lunch date! I so enjoy getting to spend time with them, and it is nice to know that we can all keep in touch even after school.

9. I'm a little bummed because I think that Tevis and his brother will be going on their annual Colorado trip sometime soon (aka in the next week). If everything goes as planned, they'll be there for a while, which is both good and bad. It is good for the fact that they get to spend time with their dad, who they otherwise don't get to see very often because of their busy schedules. I know that they really miss him through the year. Of course, it is bad for me because I won't get to see Tevis for a while. I feel selfish for saying that, because I don't expect him to give up his dad just for me. Also, I know if I was in his shoes I would want to spend time with my dad. It will be alright; I will keep busy with work and everyone else, and he'll be back before I know it!

10. I think I'm going to take Cody and Kyle to see "Brave" sometime this week/weekend. They really wanted to see it while I was watching them, but time didn't allow for it because of party preparations last week. Also, I pinkie-promised Cody that we'd go, and I know he won't let me renege on that! Perhaps this weekend? We'll find out!

I hope that everyone has a happy and safe Fourth of July celebration!!!