WIP Wednesday: La Passa Progress

WIP is quilting lingo for Work in Progress.

When we were in Alaska, I shared the start of a sewing project that I was doing called La Passacaglia. 

I figured it was time for an update!

Now before you get too excited, just know that…I didn’t really get that much done. I know, I know, I had the whole summer with lots of time in the car to get some good progress…but I didn’t take advantage like I should have.

But with Ben in school and plenty of time to fill, I’ve been working on it more consistently. And while the going is slow, it is coming along! I try to work on it at least every other day (gotta keep my callouses!), but normally I pull it out and do some sewing every day.

I don’t think I’ll finish before the baby comes…but I’m hoping to get as much done as possible before she’s here!

So…as per another sewer’s advice, I started off doing two small rosettes…but I got worried that I’d run out of fabric for the big ones, since they use quite a bit more fabric. So I switched gears and focused on the large rosettes.

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Here’s my green/yellow one. I struggled with this one, but I really like how it turned out.

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Oh, dear. So, the one on the left is *hopefully* going to turn into my last large rosette. I made the one on the right first, but I wasn’t digging it, so I scrapped it (not really, I’ll still be able to use it in the quilt), and started again, thus producing the one on the left. Truthfully, I don’t love that one either…but hopefully it’ll turn out. The one on the left also endured Jaeger spilling some of my prenatal tea on it. After swearing and doing some moping, I had to unpick and re-sew parts of it. We’ve had a rough go, which is a crying shame because I love coral and was really excited to start this rosette.

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Just so you all don’t think that every rosette is a huge pain, I loved this blue one!

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It came together super easily for me. I just work row by row and like on the coral rosette, it seems like every row it’s a struggle to decide which fabric looks best for the next row. But the fabric knew what it was doing on this one, and it only took me a few seconds to know what the next row would look like. Bless you, bluey.

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Getting all my rosettes laid out was really good for me. When I have a hard time with a particular rosette, I need to remember that it’s part of a whole quilt. So, while the little pieces matter, they’re probably not going to make or break the end product (ha! Hopefully;).

The project is long and tedious but I totally love working on it! The quilt  requires 4 large rosettes. So as soon as the coral one is finished, I can focus on the small rosettes that I need. Which, I need like a billion…but they go so much quicker because they only have 4 rows (compared to 8). And hey, it’s conference weekend! Hopefully that will help me to keep working!

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Chinese Noodles

When I was getting married, I knew I’d be getting Ben. And I knew I’d be getting Ben’s dog. And I knew I’d be getting Ben’s family. But I knew nothing of all the new and delicious recipes I’d be able to sample by becoming a part of a different family. And that was a nice surprise.

To be fair, I also didn’t know about all the extra laundry which was not a nice surprise.

Back to the food, my in-laws have some seriously good taste. And I love trying food that they’ve made and loved since Ben was teeny. And somehow, it’s always surprising to me that the most tasty meals weren’t something that became a part of my family’s dinner rotation. Like, “Why didn’t we know about this???”

Good thing I remedied that by getting hitched. Right?

Anyway, one such recipe of awesomeness is Chinese Noodles.

 

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Ben’s mom made Chinese Noodles for us once when Ben and I were first married. It really hit the spot and quickly became one of the first things I request her to make when we go to visit.

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It’s totally a comfort food to me, and is a nice and simple twist on chicken noodle soup. It’s great for cold season (both when the weather gets cold and when sniffly, sneezy colds start running rampant). And I love that it’s a build-your-own kinda thing. There’s not many components, but everyone gets to choose what and how much to put in. Then if they hate it, it’s there own darn fault, right?

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Now, I’m hoping that in 20 or 30 years, I’ll be able to make this taste exactly like Mama Brown’s. How is it that you can make a mother’s recipe exactly how she makes it but somehow it tastes just a little bit different?? Science should figure that one out. But even without Mama Brown’s magical touch, this recipe is sure to make you come back for more.

Is it wrong of me to love this recipe even more because it doesn’t give exact amounts? And makes you feel like you’re in charge of the kitchen? Cause, like, you are?

See? It’s good stuff by being comforting and delectable goodness and by boosting your self esteem. Win-win….win-win-win!

Chinese Noodles

1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs.)*
Enough water or chicken stock to cover chicken*
Spaghetti noodles (I use whole wheat)
Hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
Green onions, chopped
Soy Sauce

Rinse chicken. Put in large pot and add enough water/stock to cover the chicken. On the stove, at medium high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil for an hour and a half, or until meat easily comes off the bone. Use the time while the chicken is cooking to cook noodles, boil, peel and slice eggs and chop green onions. When chicken is finished cooking, carefully transfer the chicken from the broth to a pan (keep the broth). Once chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bones. Put bite sized chunks of meat in a separate container for serving. Taste broth. If it needs more flavor, add some chicken base or bouillon. If it needs salt, add a little soy sauce. To build a bowl: fill with desired amounts of noodles, chicken, eggs and green onions. Pour broth over the top. Taste. Add as much soy sauce as you want. Enjoy.

*Notes For This Recipe*
*You could definitely use chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken instead of a whole chicken. You just won’t get the same flavor in the broth, but that can easily be fixed by the second bullet point here👇
*If Mama Brown were teaching you this recipe she’d say that chicken just doesn’t taste how it used to. So, to make sure your broth is flavorful, use chicken stock instead of water OR add chicken base/bouillon to the water. I always do this when making broth.
*I cooked my chicken in my pressure cooker! Just pressure cook for 30 minutes.
*I’m a little paranoid about cooking chicken…so I always cook it until it seems done…and then I cook it a little longer. And that is probably one of the things I could try to be better at so I can achieve more Mama-Brown-like results…I could buy a meat thermometer, I guess…

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Morning Muffins

When I was in high school, my mom started making this recipe. And it was like, “Wait…healthy things can taste good too???” Okay, I realized that a lot sooner in life…but this recipe had like soy milk and wheat germ and stuff that was totally foreign to me. So it was surprising that these naturally sweetened muffins were so gosh darn tasty!

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Nowadays, wheat germ and I are pretty tight (hey, pregnant ladies! Wheat germ is an awesome source or folic acid!) I shamelessly put it in pretty much everything that has flour in it. Don’t be scared ot it! It just adds more nutrients and I bit of extra fiber. If you need to buy some, Bob’s Red Mill is cheaper than the glass jars of it…or you can get it in bulk at Winco for cheap, cheap, cheap (if you’re one of the people lucky enough to live close to a Winco…).

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Ben is a hater of raisins, and I’ve made these a time or two without them. While they’re still good, they just aren’t the same! Keep the raisins! is my professional opinion. Also, since we’re talking about my opinion, these guys are best warm with a bit of butter on top.

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And you don’t even have to feel bad about how much butter  you melt on top because the rest of the muffin is packed with good-for-you deliciousness. Here’s the recipe:

Morning Muffins

1 cup milk (soy, almond or regular cow’s milk all work)
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 Tablespoons molasses
3 Tablespoons olive oil (I use extra virgin)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup raisins
3 Tablespoons sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray or line a standard size muffin pan. Combine milk and vinegar and set aside for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients-flour, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, ginger and salt. Add syrup, molasses and olive oil to the milk mixture. Mix wet and dry ingredients until just combined. Add raisins and sunflower seeds and stir. Pour mixture into tins to about 2/3rds full. Bake at 375 for 17-22 minutes (until toothpick comes out clean or until the muffin springs back when lightly touched). Makes 12.

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Our Trip to Southern Utah (A.K.A. Plays, Plays and More Plays)

I overheard Ben talking to his mom about seeing some plays in Southern Utah and I shamelessly invited myself to go. Lucky for me, Mama Brown made some phone calls and got tickets so that Ben and I could come along!

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Ben and I love Southern Utah. I went to school there (Southern Utah University) and that is where Ben and I met. So we were excited to spend some time there and have a chance to see some of the plays in the area. The trip was definitely centered around the plays, but we had a little extra time to go to some of our favorite restaurants, visit some good friends and hit up the Aquatic Center in Cedar City cause that’s definitely a fave.

While the extras were excellent, I thought I’d do a post on the plays we saw, what we thought and what we’d change if we did it again. Here are a couple things to know regarding these reviews:

  • Ben and I are in no way, shape or form play experts or enthusiasts. We are both mildly musically talented…but that’s about the extent of our play finesse (I know you’re thinking, “But Kim, what about the time when you played an extra in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat in 9th grade???”)
  • Guess what??? Utah’s Shakespeare Festival has more than just Shakespeare plays! It’s true! When I mentioned USF (what I’m calling it now because Utah Shakepeare Festival is too long to write), most people were like, “I thought they only did Shakepeare plays.” Which I could see where the idea comes from, but, no, they usually put on about 8-10 plays each season, only a couple of which are from Shakespeare.
  • The play season for USF and Tuacahn goes through October! So if you see something you might like and live relatively close (definitely worth a weekend trip), I highly recommend getting yourself some tickets and enjoying some of these awesome plays.
  • (Oh, P.S., the photos that aren’t mine have links to their sources.)

Here’s what we saw:

Tarzan @Tuacahn: This was the first play we saw to kick off our show showdown😉 The rendition they did was based off the Disney movie and it followed the film and songs pretty perfectly. The main characters were excellent-I especially loved the lady who played Kala (the momma gorilla). I would say that Tuacahn is known for the sweet special effects they’re able to pull off on stage and Tarzan did not disappoint. I wasn’t completely in love with their costumes and Tarzan’s teeth were so white they practically glowed in the dark (okay, that has nothing to do with actual play…), but overall it was a great show and it had several parts that had me totally mesmerized.

The Cocoanuts @The Utah Shakespeare Festival: We had no idea what to expect going into this one, but we all totally loved it! The play is set in Florida during the 1920s and includes characters who are supposed to represent The Marx brothers. The slapstick comedy was hilarious and they spouted off jokes so fast that I could hardly keep up. To me, the production was very vaudeville-esque with lots of fun show-tune songs, flashy outfits and colorful scenery. It was super fun with a sweet little love story and lots of cons. The actors were truly talented and at one point “Groucho” admitted they were way off script, but everyone rolled with it and stayed in character…I never would’ve guessed they were improving it was so smooth.

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Murder for Two @The Utah Shakespeare Festival: So….this play…oh my gosh…it was unreal! It was so funny and the talent…! I just can’t even!!! This play only has two actors. One actor played the detective and the other actor played about a dozen different parts. He could say five different sentences and be a different character with each sentence…and you always knew which character he was playing! It was hilarious! Both actors also played piano and they’d switch off or play together seamlessly. Both were incredibly talented. The script was clever and surprising, with great comedic timing. I ought to note that there were parts of the play that were a little bit raunchy, but I didn’t think it was too much and I still thought it all hysterical (so sue me:).

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Via

Mary Poppins @ The Utah Shakespeare Festival: This one was hands-down, without a doubt our favorite play that we saw. And it only ran through the summer, so you can’t go see it, which makes me want to cry for you!!! Seriously, we loved it. Truthfully, we almost missed out on this one. Neither Ben nor I were particularly excited about it, but Mama Brown offered to get these tickets for our birthdays and we agreed. I’m so glad we got to see it!!! It was totally magical! The characters were impeccable, the set and costumes were stunning, everything was absolutely spot on. I seriously get teary-eyed thinking about how much I loved this play which is a little bit pathetic but also attests the the play’s wonderfulness.

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Peter Pan @Tuacahn: I hate to start out on a bad note…but Peter Pan was the play I was most excited for and, unfortunately, most disappointed with. I think the main issue was that the script/songs they used weren’t from the Disney version. I think there’s a lot of power in recognition and familiarity. I think when most people think of Peter Pan it strikes some sort of chord because it’s a well known story. But none of the songs were familiar and even the story line was kind of different. I also felt like they didn’t take advantage of all the opportunities they had to do special effects. Yes, they had flying and that was awesome, but I thought there were lots of other parts where they could’ve thrown in something more. However, they did have a really awesome dance scene and the actors did a great job. Plus, there were liberal amounts of glittery fairy dust which is always a win in my book.

 

What we thought (overall)/ What we’d suggest:

  • Ben and I were really worried that 5 plays in 3 days would be too much. But we were both surprised that it wasn’t! I felt like it was the perfect amount. We were able to get a good feel so we could compare and contrast without getting overrun by too much drama.
  • We were also tremendously surprised to discover that we were way more impressed with the Shakespeare plays than the Tuacahn ones. Like by leaps and bounds. And it almost feels like heresy to say that but the USF plays were so…tight. Like there was hardly anything to point out that was wrong or unsatisfactory. The USF plays did a better job of transporting you to the play, in a way. Tuacahn is more show-y and it’s definitely an experience being outdoors with that gorgeous redrock background, so Tuacahn has its place. We just discovered USF to be more our flavor.
  • So, considering the above, Ben and I agreed that if we did this again, we’d either only see one Tuacahn or none. I’ve seen The Little Mermaid at Tuacahn and it was mind-blowingly good…so they do have some stellar performances. I think we’d just be a little more picky about what we saw there.
  • If we did this again, we’d actually see a Shakespeare play at the Shakespeare Festival. I had seen a few Shakespeare specific plays before so I wasn’t bummed about not seeing one this time. But I really want to experience the new globe theater (!!!) and give Ben a chance to experience that (cause it is super fun).
  • Um, Tuacahn is in St. George. And St. George is hot!! I mean, I definitely survived…but if you’re a pregnancy lady, I would recommend not going when chances are it’ll be a scorcher…so pretty much wait until September. I guess it wasn’t too bad…but my feet were definitely on fire for the better part of the shows even though I got myself an iced lemonade that was super delicious.
  • We hopped on board without really knowing what we were getting into, truthfully. We signed on and were told 5 plays in 3 days and the total amount for the two of us. As we were given our tickets when we went to the shows, I’d look at the price and think, “gosh, that’s expensive!” The shows do cost money. And I don’t think Ben and I would have done this if we hadn’t walked blindly into it. But we were both so glad we did. What I’m trying to say is that it’s expensive but totally worth every penny. In fact, Ben and I are already hoping to go to a show or two next year.
  • Last suggestion is just to go! If you live in Utah, these two play venues are absolutely worth the price and the trip (if you’re not right in Southern Utah)! It’s fun and can be a family activity (if you choose the right show) that everyone will love!

DIY Pregnancy Pillow

I consider myself to be a pretty low key kind of person. And truth be told, I’m also kinda stingy. So my response to most “absolutely 100% essential can’t-live-without” pregnancy items was to figure I’d survive without it.

Buuuuuuut….when my sister in law offered to let me try out her pregnancy pillow, I took her up on it, mostly to see what the hype was about. And to see if it really would be worth shelling out the cash for one of my own.

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Guys, the pregnancy pillow is life changing! I’m serious. Pregnant ladies in the second and third trimester are supposed to avoid laying flat on their backs. Somehow, I got this engrained into my subconscious pretty well, so I started waking up in the morning having not shifted positions at all in the night. To say my hips were sore from taking the brunt of my weight would be an understatement.

But with the pillow, I’ve got something to rest my back against without fear of rolling flat on my back (regardless of which way I face). I’ve got the option to use the bottom end in between my knees, as is often suggested. And if I don’t use it, Jaeger dog took a great affinity toward the pregnancy pillow.

Anyhow, what I’m saying is that if you are pregnant, you should definitely consider getting yourself a pregnancy pillow. Whether you fork out the $60+ for it or choose to make your own for a fraction of the price, get yourself one! You won’t regret it!

To make your own, you’ll need:

  • 2 yards of fabric
  • a marker for drawing your pattern (I just used a sharpie and kept the marked side as the “wrong” side)
  • A sewing machine
  • scissors
  • measuring tape
  • matching thread
  • needle
  • cotton stuffing (4-6 pounds)

This project is super easy and quick. I based my pattern off my sister-in-law’s pillow. I’m sorry I’m not a fancier blogger and I don’t have like print out instructions for making this thing. The pictures aren’t the best, but hopefully you get a good idea of dimensions if you decide to make one for yourself. Also, remember that it doesn’t need to be perfect! If it resembles the pillow and is roughly the same size, you will be in pregnancy pillow heaven!

First, outline the shape you want to cut out. My fabric is folded, so when I made the cut, I have two pieces-a top and a bottom.

The weird thing in the middle will get sewn onto the bottom left part for a more substantial pillow (P.S. These pictures are upside down, I guess. Your head actually goes at the bottom…). Dimensions are below:

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Note that everything is in inches. Once all the pieces are cut, sew the middle piece onto the bottom left portion of the pillow. It should look like this:

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Ta-da! Do that with the other side too. If you have a clear front and back side of the fabric, always sew with right sides facing each other. If your fabric is like mine and indistinguishable between front and back, just think ahead and make sure the sewn edges will face out when you sew both side together. Here’s more dimensions:

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Face your two pieces together (wrong side facing out, as seen below on the left) and sew! I started in the middle and on the inside of the “C” and gave myself a quarter seam allowance all the way around. When you get about 5-6inches away from where you started sewing, stop! Leave a little hole so you can turn the fabric right side out. See? Hole…

Then turn the fabric…so it’s got the right side out all the way around! Then stuff!

I bought 10 pounds of Poly fiber fill on Amazon! You don’t need 10 lbs for this project…but buying in bulk is a waaaaaaay better deal! And who couldn’t do with a few more throw pillows? After I bought it, I realized that Walmart has this online for even cheaper than Amazon (Walmart has it for $20 and Amazon has it for $24). If you’re fixin to make some pillows, it’s worth getting the box! And opening up the bag of fill and watching it kind of explode is pretty awesome. Okay. Enough about Poly-fil…

Oh, I used about 5 pounds on this pillow if the huge box isn’t your flavor.

As you stuff, test it out a bit. I was packing mine pretty tight and after testing it, I had to unstuff a bit. Mine’s still on the firm side. It’s perfect for me! Once it’s all stuffed, pin the opening shut as best you can. Then use a needle and thread (preferably the same color as your fabric) to sew that last part together.

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Using the same color thread is where it’s at, because then you don’t have to worry so much about your stitches. I just used tiny stitches that aren’t very pretty…but you can hardly tell because they blend in pretty darn well.

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And wah-la!!!! You’re done!

 

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The above picture isn’t a very good representation of size cause I’m standing on my cedar chest (surrounded by…stuff…). But here’s the pillow in action:

Ben plunked Jaeger in there to be his baby belly…

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But it I got the vibe he didn’t love it.

Anyhow, super easy project! I spent about 2 hours on it from start to finish. I bought the cheapest fabric I could find and I think I spent about $6 on the 2 yards. I used half the fiber fill ($12) and everything else I had on hand. So I spent $18 on a pregnancy pillow that would normally cost $60!

Definitely worth it! If you’re pregnant, no matter if you make it or buy it, get yourself a pregnancy pillow as soon as possible!

Summer Vacation: Colorful Colorado

 

Sooooo….I was totes MIA this summer as far as the blog goes…and I don’t really have a good excuse except that I just kinda did what I wanted this summer.

When planning the summer, I kept nudging Ben towards finding a summer job, to which he finally replied, “Kim, I’m a teacher. Teachers get the summer off.” For some reason, I hadn’t clicked those two things together, but it made sense to me, so I went with it.

The summer was mainly spent hopping back and forth between our families-sometimes in Utah sometimes in Idaho. However, we did have a few trip trips where we went somewhere/did something different. One such trip was to the mountains of Colorado.

My extended family has reunion-type events pretty often. My parents and siblings haven’t ever really planned a reunion just for our family because it seemed like there was always a wedding dictating when we got together. However, weddings slowed down, more siblings moved out of Utah, and more grankids started coming. Long story short-we needed a reason  to get together.

We debated for quite awhile on where we should meet. Luckily our dad snagged us a chance to stay at a gorgeous lodge in northwest Colorado.

Now, the sad part is that we only got the cabin because we knew someone…so as incredible a place it is, it’s not something you can go online and book. Sorry! But it was gorgeous and huge and a perfect place for our family to adventure and hang out.

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We were blessed with absolutely gorgeous weather (they predicted snow! Luckily there was none!). And everyone planned some stellar activities throughout the week. Besides the activities, there was lots of hiking, laughing, eating some freaking good food, and just enjoying nature (and each other, naturally). Here’s some of the fun stuff we did.

A huge hit with the kids was this beach cake. My mom baked a cake slanted in the oven, and on the empty end she made and set some blue Jell-O. Seriously, the kids looooooved it. They helped decorate it, and since they couldn’t eat it until after dinner, they spent hours just staring at it. And I’m sure sneaking some tastes…

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My mom(yes, she is awesome and a kick-A grandma) custom made all the kiddos a t-shirt with her sweet embroidery machine. Again, the kids loved their shirts!

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One activity we planned on was a popcorn making contest. We did sweet and savory and it was delicious to be snacking on p-corn throughout the day. We had every flavor between cake batter and bacon. Yum. Another fun contest we did was a blind root beer tasting contest where you had to guess the brand. We had like 10-15 different root beers to taste and guess. It was really hard (for pop amateurs like me) and super fun. And Ben would probably like me to mention that he tied for first place with Matt. Our soda connoisseurs.

My parents had been to the cabin before with my dad’s siblings, and my dad said the best thing there was to do was take the 4 wheelers out. Does my family have 4 wheelers? No. But no problem! Pa went out and bought some! Broken ones, of course and then he got them fixed up before he towed them to Colorado for us to enjoy all week. All in the name of a good time🙂 And they really were a blast!

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Somehow I missed snagging a picture of one of the most deviously infamous parts of the vacation-the rubber band gun wars! And let’s be real, I didn’t get any pictures because I made it a very high priority to avoid getting hit (pregnancy is a wonderfully lame albeit valid excuse for many things). But you can see the guns in the above picture on the left. Mom and dad built the guns and there was a serious  rubber band battle field every single day of the reunion. It always started out quietly enough…but soon became a raging battle with Grandpa, Grandma, grankids, aunts and uncles all wielding a four-“bullet” capacity shooter. There were only minimal tears and nobody lost an eye.

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Dance party! Luckily Aunt Whitney has trained her kids well and so the dance party was totally grooving. Mom brought finger lights that made it super awesome.

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Aunt Linda had a game involving pantyhose on the head. It was freaking hilarious and unfortunately, I think Linda and I were the only ones to witness the hilarity of it.

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The week before the cabin, Ben and I saw the new Alice in Wonderland movie, Through the Looking Glass. So when we saw this, we just about died laughing thinking of  Sacha Baron Cohen yelling, “You can’t win a race against time!” But you probably had to be there…

Aunt Heather planned this super fun scavenger hunt that led to this ice cream cone piñata. Yeah, she made that! Isn’t it adorable!? It was sturdy too! I think we cycled though each kid taking a whack at it like 3 times, which I think is pretty much unheard of in the history of piñata whacking.

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In fact, it eventually just had to be wrassled to the ground in order to get to the goods.

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Another win for mom were the tie-dye t-shirts. I have it on very good record that some of the grandkids may or may not have made 5 t-shirts. Each. Because when is tie-dye not an appropriate fashion choice???

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It had been awhile since we’d had all the siblings together so we tried to take advantage and take some family pics. Let me just say that getting all these people to look good in the same photo was a challenge. Not that they don’t look good…just…faces…eye contact…eh, you know what I mean.

But everyone, to my knowledge, survived the photo-taking session.

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Kids are probably the easiest to all get looking at the camera at the same time. Ha! But seriously-this one actually turned out pretty good!

Anyhow, totally awesome trip. Tons of fun seeing everyone. And all the activities were a huge hit (none of which I can take credit for…).

Now we just need to figure out how we can top it next year…

Super Simple Granola

I thought it was only appropriate that my first recipe on the blog was granola. Because…you know…Crunchy Granola Sweet, eh? Eh?

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So here you have it! A super simple recipe for the crunchy deliciousness that is granola! Yummy with almost anything you can think of-from milk to yogurt to smoothies to overnight oats…okay so mostly breakfast-y stuff. But, yum!

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I think my very favorite thing about granola is how gosh darn simple it is. And adjustable. This particular recipe has all my personal favorites. Salty sunflower seeds. Colorful pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas which is kind of fun to say and makes you feel like a culinary master). Tart craisins. And flax seeds for fiber (cause more fiber is always my goal;).

And cooking it low and slow makes it extra crunchy and delectable. Makes you wonder what else would benefit from being cooked like that…I mean, roast beef, duh. But what else???

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Now as you dive into making this amazingly versatile stuff, remember that you can make it totally delicious for you and what you might have on hand. No seeds? Swap ’em out for nuts! Gluten free diet? Replace the wheat germ with more oats! It’s already naturally sweetened, but if you’re watching your glycemic index, use agave instead of honey. In the words of the Pioneer Woman, “do whatever makes your skirt fly up!” (That lady seriously cracks me up.) Any way you bake it, you’ll be glad to have a stash of this stuff on hand.

Super Simple Granola

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
3 cups oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
3 Tbsp flax seeds (optional)
2 Tbsp millet (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Melt coconut oil and honey over medium heat on the stove or in the microwave (no need  to boil, just get the oil melted). Add remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Spread mixture evenly onto a jelly roll pan and put in oven. Bake for 40 minutes total, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. I like to transfer it to a piece of foil or freezer paper for cooling, but you can just leave it on the pan. Once cool, add 3/4 cups craisins (or raisins). Store in an airtight container.

Book Reviews: From the Bush

I love reading. A nerdy and embarrassing amount. Like when I was a young teenager, my mom had to ground me from books. It’s sad but true…nothing else would work (!).

I worked at a library all through college and then when we were in Alaska, I was in charge of keeping the library relatively organized. It was the best job ever. The only issue was that as I’d go through books, I would discover more and more that I wanted to read. There was no check out/ due date system established so I took advantage and just carted the book to our house when it caught my eye. I created myself quite the stack. I didn’t get to all the books I set aside…but I did get to quite a few of them.

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A handful of the books I read in Alaska. There were more. 

Anyhow, I want to start doing a book review here on the blog and I thought this would be a good place to start. The good thing here is that since I read so many darn books out there, I get to be picky with the ones I share this time around. Meaning that all of these come highly recommended by me. I will remind you, though, that while this was a community library, it was funded by the school district…so the books I’d go through and consequently read are definitely catered toward young adults. Which is totally fine by me.

Fiction

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My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson

Luke knows his I’nupiaq name is full of sounds white people can’t say. He knows he’ll have to leave it behind when he and his brothers are sent to boarding school hundreds of miles from their Arctic village. At Sacred Heart School things are different. Instead of family, there are students – Eskimo, Indian, White – who line up on different sides of the cafeteria like there’s some kind of war going on. And instead of comforting words like tutu and maktak, there’s English. Speaking I’nupiaq – or any native language – is forbidden. And Father Mullen, whose fury is like a force of nature, is ready to slap down those who disobey. Luke struggles to survive at Sacred Heart. But he’s not the only one. There’s smart-aleck Amiq, a daring leader – if he doesn’t self destruct; Chickie, blond and freckled, a different kind of outsider; and small quiet Junior, noticing everything and writing it all down. Each has their own story to tell. But once their separate stories come together, things at Sacred Heart School – and in the wider world – will never be the same.
My Review: The other teacher recommended I read this book to get a better picture of Alaska, and while the book is set in the 60s, I’d say that it still has issues that are relevant today. It’s definitely a historical fiction and very interesting and insightful regarding the time period. At first, I was a little put off by the author’s tone. It seemed kind of morose (and I’m not sure that’s the right word) and I truthfully almost didn’t finish it. But as I got further into the book, I was more impressed that the author’s tone is very intentional and appropriate; Edwardson is incredibly talented. The book made me cry and I had to let it simmer for a day or two after finishing it before I could decide what I really thought. And ultimately I decided it’s a really good book and definitely worth the read. (Be sure to read the author’s notes at the end of the book…super interesting!)

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The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures. The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.
Review: This book is one of those kinds that is completely enjoyable from start to finish. It’s timeless. It’s fun. It’s written for a younger audience (like 8-12 maybe???) but after reading it, I was discussing the book with Ben and we came to the conclusion that a truly great author can write a book that every age will enjoy. And this is one of those books. It’s a sweet story of some sisters on a summer adventure. There’s plenty of shenanigans and cute little lessons and probably every family in the world should read this book together at bedtime, mmmkay? I loved it and Ben did too.

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As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins

Wait. The train was moving. Ry could hardly tell at first, but now he knew. It was gaining speed, and he wasn’t fast enough to catch it. He had only gotten off for a minute, just to make a phone call—and now it was gone. He was in the middle of nowhere, alone. Maybe it was the middle of nowhere, but to Ry, it felt like the beginning of something. Something that would take him in cars, planes, boats . . . over an ocean and back. Something like an adventure.

Review: I almost didn’t include this one….but then I decided to because I really did totally love it. It’s definitely a teen read but it is absolutely hilarious. Like I was seriously laughing out loud during several parts of it. It’s very well written. And can I just say that I find it totally hilarious and awesome when an author inputs her opinion throughout the story? I mean, she really has to do it right, but it can be so funny. Perkins does that occasionally throughout the novel and it was just straight up amusing. Cracked me right up.

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Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

When Lady Saren refuses to marry a man she fears, she and her maid, Dashti, are locked in a tower with just a tiny flap open to the outside world. As food runs low and the weather changes from broiling hot to unbearably cold, it is all Dashti can do to make them comfortable in their dark prison. Not long after their confinement begins, Saren’s suitors arrive-one welcome, the other less so-and she orders Dashti to speak to them. Impersonating Lady Saren is a crime punishable by death, but Dashti will have to play the role many times if she is to save them both from the tower and the dangers outside. As she takes control of their desperate situation, Dashti begins to understand her own astonishing talents and believe that even a low-born maid can find true love.

Review: I’ve read a few books by Hale and I really enjoy her writing. This book took me right back to age 13 or so when I read princess books almost exclusively. However, this story is very unique and not at all predictable. Hale has created a different world for this book and it’s totally convincing. I loved the main character-she was different than your usual princess heroin but she still kicked butt. This book wasn’t super amazing or anything like that, just a good, well-told story that kept me wondering.

Non-Fiction

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Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox

Lynne Cox started swimming almost as soon as she could walk. By age sixteen, she had broken all records for swimming the English Channel. Her daring eventually led her to the Bering Strait, where she swam five miles in thirty-eight-degree water in just a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. In between those accomplishments, she became the first to swim the Strait of Magellan, narrowly escaped a shark attack off the Cape of Good Hope, and was cheered across the twenty-mile Cook Strait of New Zealand by dolphins. She even swam a mile in the Antarctic. Lynne writes the same way she swims, with indefatigable spirit and joy, and shares the beauty of her time in the water with a poet’s eye for detail. She has accomplished yet another feat–writing a new classic of sports memoir.

Review: Guys. This book is crazy amazing! The title refers to Cox’s peak experience as a long distance/cold water swimmer, but the book chronicles her life and adventures with swimming-and she’s accomplished a lot more than swimming to Antarctica! Truthfully, the book kind of made me think that I’ve done nothing with my life…but somehow Cox illustrates all of her incredible feats with so much humility. It’s not at all boastful or braggy. I also felt that the book was inspiring. Cox used her skills as a swimmer to further research on the human body, to enliven patriotism and to unite countries. Like, seriously. It makes me think that pretty much any skill or talent could be used to benefit something in some way. Incredibleamazingastoundingawesomewow. Read it.

 

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Marley and Me by John Grogan

The heartwarming and unforgettable story of a family and the wondrously neurotic dog who taught them what really matters in life.

Review: So I watched this movie before I read the book, and let it be known that the movie is in my Top 3 Favorite Movies Of All Time List…which, hello, only has 3 movies in it! I will defend it forever and always that it is NOT a dog movie-but a movie about life! Everyone-animal lovers and not-should watch this movie! It’s wonderful! Now I totally and completely 100% loved the book, but the truth is that it’s definitely more for animal lovers and not so much for the opposite (non-lovers and haters just couldn’t appreciate it). So if you hate animals, stop reading now and go watch the movie. Lovers? Read on! Oh my goodness-this book was so hilarious. It was another book where I found myself laughing out loud at Grogan’s anecdotes about his crazy dog. I think it was so amusing because much of the time I was thinking “OMG! Our dog does the SAME thing!” And then he’ll switch gears and you’ll find yourself misty eyed because you’ve felt that same stupid love for your crazy stupid pet. And likely you’ve had that tender moment when your pet just knew that he/she needed to calm down for a sec to give you some love and snuggles. Oh dear, anyone who likes animals or who has ever had a pet should read this book. It’s a winner and a half.

And Then There was Internet…

Guys! It’s official! We have Internet!

Which is a big deal because in our whole lives neither Ben or I have paid for or hooked up Internet. True story. When we lived in Rexburg, we went 2 years without it because we were cheap. And everyone wondered about our sanity.

But now we have it! For my sanity. And for hopes that maybe I’ll see Ben a bit more often if he can do some work at home.

Actually-lots has changed since I last posted (not just the fact that we got Internet ..). So here’s an update on what’s new with the Browns (in no particular order…):

I’m pregnant! Okay, so I’m pretty sure the only people who read this blog are going like, “Um, Kim, you’re like way pregnant.” Which is very true. But for anyone who didn’t know…I guess now you know😉 I’m currently 31 weeks along (32 tomorrow)…which for you non-mommas means I have about 2 months left! We are expecting a little girl (👶🎀💕) and we are SO excited!

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We are living in Flagstaff! After a summer of being wonderfully and (mostly) happily transient, we finally, finally found a place to live. We moved in and got to unpack our stuff that had been in storage since December at the beginning of this month (hello, clothes that definitely don’t fit…). Just FYI, it’s ridiculous trying to find a place to live in Flag, and the place we got only came about by miracles. For real.

Ben started a graduate program! The reason we moved to Flagstaff specifically is that Ben is starting school up again at Northern Arizona University. Today was actually his first day. He is doing a Masters of Arts in Teaching Spanish (mouthful). He was also awarded an assistantship so he’ll be teaching on campus as well.

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First day of school🙂

Anyway, with all the crazy changes, I thought I ought to warn you all that the blog is also going to be changing. Obviously, we don’t live in Alaska anymore, so I won’t be posting about living in the bush…but I love writing/blogging and I do hope to be posting a couple times a week about any of the following:

  • Food/recipes
  • Crafts
  • Adventures
  • Books
  • Life

Life changes=content changes. If this kind of stuff doesn’t interest you, feel free to unfollow without consequence of me being offended (not that you need my permission to unfollow…or that I’d ever be offended by someone choosing that;).

Summer Time

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I’ve discovered something.

Teachers are more excited about summer than the kids are.

Fact.

Or at least that’s been the case with me! I’m SO excited! Today is our last full day in Pilot Point. We’ll be flying out tomorrow, (it’s the bush so it’s almost obligatory to add: weather permitting) right after we send the kids home for their summer vacation!

Here are the things I’m most excited for in heading back to the lower 48:

  • Family! Famiiiiiiily! Faaaaaaaaaaaamily! Famillllllllllyyyy!!! No explanation necessary. It’s just good to be around people you love and who love you back.
  • Food. Things I want in my mouth as soon as possible include but are not limited to: ice cold lemonade, watermelon, this Our Best Bites Thai Peanut Salad and Dressing (I do it without the noodles), my mom’s spring rolls, my dad’s cheesy potatoes, and just about any Chinese food I can get my hands on.
  • Sunshine. Something like 5 weeks ago we started having days here where we were like “Spring’s going to be here soon!” Buuuuuuut that kinda never really happened. This weekend was we had 2 absolutely gorgeous days here in PIP. For the first time since getting here, I ran in a short sleeve tee! It was awesome! However, the weather is back to blustery cold where I felt chilly in even my winter coat. My skin is in need of some vitamin D and I plan on soaking up some serious rays, please and thank you.
  • Options. Truthfully, Ben and I aren’t the most happening people in the world, but we still appreciate availability! You know…running to the store when you’re out of an ingredient…or going to see a movie if you don’t have anything else to do…or going out to eat because you just don’t feel like cooking, darn it! All this equals delicious option-y music to my ears.

Everyone says that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m sure, after we leave, I’ll pinpoint a huge handful of things I miss about PIP. But right up front, here are things I know I’ll miss once we’re gone:

  • The nature-y-ness of the bush. Do you guys know that vibe you get in the morning during a camping trip? The one you get after rolling out of your sleeping bag and stepping out of your tent into nature? It’s so serene and fresh and birds are chirping in the background and it’s pretty much one of the best things ever? That’s what it’s like all the time in the bush! It’s kind of magical.
  • Not having to be wary of traffic while running. Everywhere else that I’ve lived, I’ve had to be hyper-diligent in watching out for cars while I’m running so as not to get smooshed. But out here…I basically don’t see anyone else while I’m out for a run. And on the off chance that I do cross paths with a vehicle, more likely than not it’s a 4 wheeler and takes up only a little bit more of the road than I do. It’s pretty sweet.
  • The small town kinda pace. I have some relatives who live in this teeny tiny town near Bryce Canyon National Park and I’ve always wondered how they live in a town that is so minuscule. But living out here totally makes me see the benefits. Especially because in the Lower 48, you can drive x amount of time and be back in civilization! I’m not saying I’m signing up for small town life from here on out. I’m just saying that I could rock a small town and I’d like it!
  • Time. I know I’ve complained about having too much of it….but it really has, for the most part, been a good balance. I work, get off by 4, and have plenty of time to do other stuff. It’s nice being able to get stuff done. It’s nice being able to not get stuff done (ha!). And I especially love all the time Ben and I get to spend with each other (and Jaeger Dog). For the record: I’m not sick of either of them!

So here we go! Utah (by way of Anchorage to Seattle to SLC) or bust!

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