Monday, October 7, 2013

Back from a LOOONNGGG Hiatus!

Okay, that was a ridiculously long amount of time with no blog post.  I don't even have a good excuse.  The stress of that first year of teaching and the detox that ensued over the summer kept along with two school classes and a bunch of mini-vacations with my handsome hubby kept me pretty much 100% occupied.  But I want to do better!

There is so much to say that I don't know where to start!  First of all, Ty and I are doing SO well.  I can finally say that I LOVE it here in Wisconsin.  I started having a really hard time even liking this place near the end of the school year.  I'm not sure what it was, but I was experiencing a bit of homesickness (which is somewhat weird for me...nothing personal, Mom and Dad, but I can think of the times I felt homesick on one hand) and a bit of culture shock.  Teaching last year took everything out of me.  I even questioned my decision to be a teacher (I know!! Can you believe it?!  It was a weird phase...).  And then it all accumulated to being the Camp Director for our ward at the stake Girls' Camp.  I won't lie about it--I decided I want all sons after that experience.  Just a wee bit too much attitude and drama for me (don't worry, I'm back to wanting daughters again).  Suffice it to say, when we went home in August, I bawled like one of my girls' camp young women because I didn't want to come back here and have to go through what I did last year.  It was that scaring on my psyche.

However, I am glad to say that I did come back.  And that was a really good decision.  All you teacher-friends of mine that said to stick with it and that the second year is better than the first one were all right!  I bow down to you all!  It's so true.  After a year-and-a-half of first years, I am glad that I am finally being able to recycle things and work on refining more than just writing curriculum.  I don't come home every day in tears, wanting to quit.  I actually come home now LOVING my job!!!  I love it! I love my students and I love being able to help them communicate in and love Chinese.  I love being able to help my American Lit kids think critically about what it means to be an American and how our literature reflects that.  It's great!  Even though I am full-time this year and have three different Chinese preps and one English prep, I feel WAY less stressed than last year!  Hallelujah!

Here is my cute Chinese club and me in the Homecoming Parade.  Aren't they just adorable?!  Also...that car was pretty sweet.

I love it here in Wisconsin, and I will be very sad to leave.  I love my ward here and how it literally has become my family away from my family.  I love the beauty of this state!  The Autumn here is absolutely stunning (I'll post pictures in a later blog).  The people here are so nice and are just good people.  I feel like I belong here now.  What a blessing.  
(Here's me with my friend's student's Flat Megan that she sent me--I took her drawing around Milwaukee and took pictures for her--but look how beautiful this city is!  That's the art museum that's right on Lake Michigan behind me)

So, all this to say, thank you so much for your prayers.  They worked.  The Lord has been so good to us, and I feel extremely blessed to be a member of His church.  I know He lives and He is absolutely aware of us in our times of need and stress.  He was there for me and I have grown closer to Him this last year because of my trials.  I'm grateful for modern-day prophets and their counsel we received from them this past weekend.  It totally rocked my world!  I invite you to go and see for yourself how wonderful it was (click on this link:  Life is good!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Okay Food, Good Friends

Cooking has been something that I have always loved.  I loved Sunday afternoons because I had time to try yet again to make a good loaf of bread or to make a nice dessert for the evening or--to the chagrin of my mother--literally spend all afternoon making Chinese food and a gigantic mess in the kitchen with my dad.  My mom would warn us not to go overboard, but we invariably did.

After getting married and moving to Wisconsin, I realized I would get to take cooking to the next level with all our new, shiny appliances and cookware.  I was ecstatic!  I cooked or baked nearly every day!...and sometimes without much success.  For example:

Case #1:

In October, we had two people come stay with us while they were interviewing for the Marquette Dental School.  The first was a friend of a friend who needed a place for the night.  It was a Sunday and I decided to make Peruvian Chicken Ragout--a safe dish that I had made it quite a few times and was healthy, fresh and delicious.  As Ty and our visitor were talking in the other room, I was finishing assembling the ingredients of the soup to let it simmer for a bit before eating.  The recipe called for 1-2 tsp. chili powder.  I went to our spice cabinet and began looking for the chili powder.  For whatever reason, I couldn't find it and then began second guessing myself when I did find the cayenne powder.

Kelsi 1: " this the same as chili powder and I am just being silly and forgot this necessary tidbit of information?"

Kelsi 2: "No, definitely not."

Kelsi 1: "But it has chilis on the picture...chili powder..."

Kelsi 2: "But where's the chili powder? Don't do it!!!"

Kelsi 1: "I have to get this done ASAP--shut up Kelsi 2 you don't know what you're talking about!"

Kelsi 2: (voice fading) "NNNNOOOOOoooooooooo!"

Kelsi 1 came out victorious and I put a little over a teaspoon of cayenne pepper in the soup instead of chili powder. 

We sat around the table with our soup and biscuits, said a prayer on the food, and began eating.  I reach for my biscuit first and begin talking and eating.  I watch Ty and the visitor begin eating.  I notice they begin sniffing and taking large gulps of water after every bite.  I take a bite and  WOW!  On a scale of 1 to SPICY it was HOLY WHAT-DID-YOU-PUT-IN-THIS-SPICY!  I coughed out apologies and these sweet men, probably not wanting to appear weak to the other male, quickly said it was good and wasn't that bad.  But after noticing their foreheads glistening with sweat, I knew otherwise.  

I went back to the cabinet and looked through every spice, finally found the chili powder and compared it to cayenne.  I am here to tell you, people of the world, that CAYENNE PEPPER is NOT a substitute for CHILI POWDER!  I repeat, THEY ARE NOT THE SAME!

Case #2:

A week later, Ty's second cousin Justin Nybo came out to stay with us for his interviews (which he totally rocked!).  I found a delicious recipe for smothered burritos on Pinterest and have since used it many times due to its ability to be awesomely delicious every time.  This was for sure a safe recipe for a guest and I wasn't going to mix up ingredients this time.  What could go wrong?

Nothing until it took two hours longer in the crockpot (which on a fast Sunday is basically an eternity) to be tender enough to shred (we're poor and don't buy good cuts of meat...sigh).  Then I put it in the oven on high broil to melt the cheese...but then I got distracted.  They came out literally black on the top.  We had to do an emergency surgery on them and cut the top half off in order to save the rest of the burritos.  I should just stop inviting people over for dinner--I obviously have angered the kitchen gods.
Notice how the tops are gone? Yep...
Rice-a-Roni Spanish Rice:  Our saving grace at the meal.  (Btw, have you ever had this stuff?? It is de-lish!)

Since then I have put on a few pounds due to my delight with my new kitchen appliance (thanks for the Kitchen Aid mom!).  So we have resorted to eating much healthier and I have to say that I have an awesome husband to put up with these concoctions!
Tofu with peanut cilantro sauce (YUM!!! I seriously love tofu so much)
Ty after eating the tofu--He was SO meant to love China!

Homemade Whole Wheat tortillas--we are trying to save money and eat healthy so we have been making our own.  We love them!  Ty is so meant for me--he loves whole wheat AND skim milk.  True love.  

Do you know how hard it is to roll out thin tortillas on a slippery tile countertop where dough gets stuck in all the grooves?  Now you know.  
Green shakes made with plain Greek yogurt, oatmeal, assorted frozen fruit, honey, and LOTS of spinach!  Don't knock it until you've tried it!  I may look like vomit, but it is SOOO good!

Chocolate chip cookies made using chickpeas as a base (so no butter) and honey and Stevia for sweeteners.  They were actually pretty good!

Okay, before you think I am crazy, you just have to try it.  It is pizza with a spinach crust.  It was good!  I would totally have it again.  

One of my favorite cooks, Julia Child, said “Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes.”  That's what this year has been all about!  Ty and I love being married and learning from our mistakes--both in the kitchen and outside of it.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ode to a BELATED Christmas Tree

Dear Christmas Tree,

                Yes, I realize that it is a month and a half into the new year and you are still up with all your lovely ornaments adorning you.  What can I say?  Things have been awfully crazy and busy.  But more than that, I must say that I enjoy seeing you each day.  I promise to let you rest for the year soon...


Okay, it is a little embarrassing that we still have ALL of our Christmas decorations, but I honestly haven't cared until this week.  I like seeing the Christmas tree.  It reminds me of Ty and I’s first Christmas as a married couple.  It was definitely one that we will not forget.  Months previous I had implored our principal and district HR director to let me have the day before a vacation off so we could fly home to Utah.  Now, this is something normally unheard of in our district, but because it was going to cost us $400 more to fly out on Friday rather than Thursday, they took pity on us.  My sub was arranged (thanks Molly!) and we were getting all ready to leave when a storm rolled in Wednesday night.  The wind was 30-40 mph in some places with heavy snowfall, creating blizzard conditions.  Some places in western Wisconsin got 18 inches of snow!  Because of the storm, we had a snow day on Thursday!  Wahoo!  It was awesome!..until we got a text message that morning saying that our flight had been cancelled. Ty immediately called the airline and tried to get a different flight.  We got a flight out for Saturday night but the airline said we could try to get on a different flight if we wanted to. 

We immediately finished packing and left in the pouring rain (it rained more than snowed in Milwaukee).  To make this situation more complicated, we realized the night before that for some reason my ticket to Utah was in my married name and my return ticket was in my maiden name.  The problem was…I hadn’t gone to get my new license with my married name on it yet.  Zaogao (Chinese for “dang”—literally means messy cake).  I grabbed all the important documentation and we headed for the DMV near the airport.  The man helping us was impressed with all the paperwork I provided and was about to give us clearance to continue...until he asked for proof of residency and we didn’t have it.  Could this day get any crazier?!  In a rush, we ran back out into the rain, drove a few miles down the road to the nearest library where I could print out my pay stubs and bank statement that showed our address.  So, we walk into the library and ask if we can print something out and she said the printer was unavailable for another hour.  SERIOUSLY!?  We explained our situation and she said, “Oh my…ummm…there’s a printer upstairs you can use.  Just tell them I said it was okay.”  (insert angels singing here).  We ran upstairs and spent 15 minutes printing off a pay stub and bank statement on a computer that I’m pretty sure was on Widows 1919. 

We raced back to the DMV, got my new license, and then headed to the airport.  We were there for almost four hours trying to get on any flight out of here that would eventually get us to Utah.  No dice.  But we were super blessed to get that flight out Saturday because we heard a lot of choice words and angry people grumbling about how they couldn’t get out until Christmas Eve.  I am so grateful Ty felt he should call when he did! 

Exhausted and wet, we went home and to Chili’s to dinner.  The next day, we tried it all over again, but we could not get out.  However, it was kind of nice to have a few days where we could relax with each other and clean the house.  We even got to go to one of my piano student’s baptism and I played piano.  It was beautiful!

We went to Settebello's to get our yummy gelato fix before we left! yumm!!!

Over the break, I had my first adventure in Cabella's.  It was hilarious.  All I could think about was Chuck Testa and his taxidermy.  If you are wondering what I am talking about, check this out:

Christmas in Utah was wonderful!!  It was so nice to be with family again and back in the state I love.  It was tricky trying to balance families, especially now that they are an hour and fifteen minutes apart, but overall it worked out fine.  We got to go through the  temple with my beautiful sister Marissa who is now in the MTC going to the Taiwan Taichung mission!  She will be the first 19-year-old sister missionary in Taiwan, and she is already super 有办法 (you banfa).   Thank you all so much for the wonderful Christmas and for your generosity!  

After a lovely week and a half, we came back to cold Wisconsin and have been enjoying -20 degree wind chills and lots of snow.  School and work are as busy as ever, but I am learning how to deal with my stress so I don’t break out in shingles again!

So, it's actually been kind of nice seeing the Christmas tree every day, reminding Ty and I to laugh about our crazy first Christmas and to remember our wonderful family back at home.  There’s something special about Christmas trees and how the sparkling lights and dancing ornaments whisper childhood Christmas memories.  

In November, I began scouring Craig’s List for a cheap Christmas tree we could buy.  I got pretty close to getting one when all of the sudden Ty started really discouraging me from doing it, saying something about how unsafe it is to buy stuff of Craig’s List or how they were too expensive.  I was so confused because we had bought lots of stuff off it before and they were great prices, but I didn’t buy one.  Then one night, Ty came home and called me out to the garage to look in his car.  In the back, was this beautiful, new Christmas tree.  My kind, generous little sister Kaytlen knew that I was wanting a tree and in the goodness of her heart, she and Matt decided to surprise us with one.  They found a good Black Friday deal and got it for us.  I was so touched.  Words cannot describe the feelings in my heart and tears could not be held back.  That was the true spirit of Christmas, and it came to me halfway across the country from my little sister. She is such a good example to me.  I want to be like her when I grow up.  I HAVE THE BEST SISTERS (including my sister-in-law!!) EVER!!!