Saturday, February 23, 2013

January of Traveling, Pt. 3 (and THE CONCLUSION): Utah

We only had a short time in Utah, and we were really there for a wedding, so in between wedding-related activities, we also had a great time eating snow, visiting a couple of close family and friends, going to a super-amazing wedding luncheon, playing new games, eating good food, breathing the inversion, and freezing our butts off. 

First, what we were there for:

Congrats to Whittney and Jon! Jon (my Jon) had an awesome group of friends when he was at the U, and it's fun that spouses get to be grandfathered in :) It's been really fun to get to know them better. We also had a wild and crazy game night with them that included an obscure, awesome game called Betrayal on the House on the Hill (wherein Jon and I were "an evil little girl"). It was every bit as amazing as it sounds.

As for the rest of the trip:

me, eating my daily bowl of snow:

A quick stop by Kristine's to see her and her week-old baby! It was also fun to see her gorgeous new house. Kristine makes everywhere she lives look really striking. I love seeing what she does with every new place.

Getting pupusas with Gracie! She had never had them before - I learned about them from my BYU roommates who all served their missions in El Salvador, and then another of my returned sister missionary friends showed us how inexpensive they are when you go out to eat them! I only eat the cheese ones, partly because I don't like beans and partly because I like saying 'oaxaca.'

 The gutted Provo Tabernacle, where we used to have stake conference when I was at BYU. There was a massive fire that destroyed it, and they are rebuilding it into a temple, which I can't wait to visit.

Christy and Steve! Christy is the oldest friend I have, in terms of how many years we've been friends. She invited me to her fifth birthday party and the rest is history. Jon did some shopping and Steve wasn't home yet for most of our visit, so Christy and I just got to catch up. Also, massages! She is a fantastic mom, she inspired a large chunk of my decorating style, and she is due with her third baby in just a few weeks.

When you go to Utah, you get some fry sauce. It's the only choice.

We also hung out with my family a lot, but I am embarrassed because I can't find any of the pictures we took on the night all of the Utah-living siblings got together with us, so we don't have pictures of everyone, even though I REMEMBER taking them or farming them out to my siblings to take. To sum up, we played games and ate snow and pizza and had family dinner (of some freakishly amazing spaghetti in parmesan cheese bowls that I am also sad I can't find pictures of) and spent an inordinately long time looking at cruise pictures and explaining what was in them. (Sort of like the inordinately huge blogspace of the same!) I got to go to Kelli and Michael's wards and Alison's work (she's a Spanish teacher) and talk to Rachel via webcam, along with my parents. We also did a big reveal of a thing we are doing for my parents' 30th wedding anniversary, which is coming up (which, due to potential stalkers and axe murderers, I may talk about after the fact but probably not before). Go Mom and Dad!

In all, as usual, we were sad not to have more time to spend with everyone, but we enjoyed what we did. It was a fun trip :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ugliest Cake Contest

(I have one more post to do of our January of Traveling, but I don't have all the pictures uploaded yet, so here is something to tide you over.) (maybe sort of Valentines-y, since it's about a cake?) (although maybe not a cake you would give your Valentine.)

When I was little, the kids in my family used to enter a lot of cooking contests in the Iowa State Fair. My mom would help us make something, and we would take turns entering the different categories (so there was no sibling-on-sibling competition). Usually it was for things like cookies or bread, but one year they had an Ugliest Cake Contest.

I got to be the one to enter it the first year it existed, and let's just say, that category beat the pants off all the other ones. My mom really let me do most of the thinking - what could make a cake ugly? I think my mom came up with the layers format and the smell (she decided if it smelled bad, it would look worse, but I might have been allowed to help choose the spices?), and I did the rest. So, we made it a layer cake. The bottom layer cooked just like a normal cake. The top layer was the fun part. My mom and I made the batter, added food coloring til it was sort of a sickly green color, put it in a pan, and then she let me go to town. I cracked an egg over the top without mixing it in ... and then added the shell. I ran outside and pulled some grass and weeds and a little bit of dirt, and tossed that on top. I added half a napkin. I don't remember what else - maybe a dandelion or two? I know after awhile my mom had to curb my enthusiasm - but it was all that kind of stuff. We put something under one side of the pan to bake it lopsided, and then, upon assembly, put some other junk in between the layers (maybe a banana peel?). You can just say it now, because I know you're all thinking it: my mom is the winner of moms.

The greatest part: This was two days before the competition entry date. For the next 48 hours, we left it in the garage to get moldy before driving it over to the fairgrounds. I mean, there were plants in this thing. I can still remember how disgusting it smelled. We sealed it up in a box to turn it in. Those poor judges; I wish I could have seen their reactions. I just remember hoping they didn't have to taste it, because guys: there's dirt in there, and also mold.

I was so anxious over the next few days, until the fair opened and we could go see how my cake did. (I was particularly excited to see how the mold was progressing.) We got there, and every single other cake in the competition looked something like this (courtesy Google Image search?):

Here was my cake:

The sad part was that, the next year, it was my brother's turn to enter that category, but by then, everyone else had wised up. He still got an honorable mention, though, probably due to his clever addition of my sister's shoe baked into the side.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

January of Traveling, Pt 2: Cruising (Princess Cays and Disembarkation)

Today was our last day! It was bittersweet. We have had a great time, but we're also a little bit ready to get back to normal life. (I imagine you're a little bit ready to get back to our normal blogging, too. For starters, less of it!)

We took a "tender" to shore today - that just means a smaller boat. (Actually, I think they used the life boats to do the ferrying. They were hardcore lifeboats.) So, you get off the ship into a lifeboat, and they run the ferry back and forth all day long. Today's stop was to a small island in the Bahamas that the cruise line owns. The island is called Eleuthera. Actually, the cruise line only owns part of the island, but anyway. It was nice to finally have a stop like I thought all of them would be - dropping you off at the beach. It was great to get to go to a beach without having to do any work or spend any extra money to get to it. My coloredy dress worked great as a coverup, to save my sunburned back. We looked at some shops, which were way better and cheaper than most of what we saw on our trip. I almost ALMOST bought an old blue and yellow Bahamas license plate for $10, and I'm still a little bit mad I didn't, except Jon convinced me that it would be cooler to just hang up license plates for places where we actually owned cars. This is Good Logic. It was just a relaxing day. The island is pretty much just an extension of the ship while you're there - we had burgers and BBQ and fruit for lunch that were all the same food as from the ship, and didn't cost extra money. We laid out and waded and swam and I did some snorkeling. (We didn't want to rent the expensive snorkeling gear, and while we were swimming around a lady offered to let us use her mask. That was so awesome of her. I got some pictures with our camera.) The water was ridiculously clear - we could see all the way to the bottom in the 15-20ft harbor that the tenders were using.

Back on the ship, we went swimming and then watched "The Sting" from the hot tub (it was on the big screen) while we pulled away from the island. I love that movie. Then we went to pack and get ready for our last night on the ship. We had to have the bulk of our luggage outside our stateroom door before we went down to dinner, so we spent some time packing (again, bittersweetly). Then we headed to dinner, where Jonny had steak and I had a Thanksgiving dinner sort of thing. (I wasn't very impressed with their tri-tip on the first night, so I didn't really get distracted by silly things like steaks for most of the trip.) We shared three desserts - that chocolate mousse brownie "princess dream love boat" thing that I got the first night, an "ice cream bombe," and some rhubarb and dark cherry sorbet. And then, later, I got an ice cream cone covered in as many rainbow sprinkles as the girl could fit on there. You gotta go all out for your last one. It was terrible, but you know. It was my last chance to walk up to the counter and get handed free ice cream with sprinkles. There's sort of a rush to that experience.

For the rest of the night we just wanted to take part in the entertainment on the ship, so we went club hopping (there were like four clubs with different stages and entertainment). Unfortunately, there wasn't anything great going on. We went to the piano bar again, which was fun for awhile, but he was doing a lot of stuff we didn't know, so we didn't stay long. The video below was the best song we heard - "Battle Hymn of the Republic," Elvis-style. The guy actually does have a good voice, but he does a lot of impressions and acts crazy, so sometimes you can't tell. (It was standing room only for awhile, though, and this old man was sitting next to where we were standing. When he got up to leave, he took me by the wrist and sat me down in his chair, insisting that I take it. It was adorable.) We explored the mini golf course and checked out some of the amazing views from high-up places with few people. It was a nice good-bye to the ship.

In the end, we just headed back to our room to watch one of our last movies we brought that we hadn't watched yet: "U-571." Which turned out to be surprisingly good, even with Matthew McConaughey in it (who has been my least favorite actor - because of his romantic comedies, where I always hate him - but then this movie made me like him a tiny bit because he was a believable character and he was not ever trying to be romantic). Though, it may have been mildly unwise to watch a movie where almost every boat sinks, while we were on a rocking boat. I had a slight complex over that, but it wasn't too serious :).

The next morning, we finished packing up, got our last breakfast, and then hung out on the deck by the pool until it was our turn to disembark. The process was remarkably smooth and well-organized. We were led off the ship to our luggage, through customs, and deposited into a taxi to the airport for our flight to Salt Lake, all in probably 20 minutes. It was impressive. And thus ended our cruise!

Ft. Lauderdale:

Guy in the airport wearing three hats:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

January of Traveling, Pt 2: Cruising (Last Sea Day)


Today was just a sailing day. It was actually pretty busy, and a fun day. We got up and went to breakfast first thing. Then we went to a “culinary demonstration” – it was held in a big theater, and there was a kitchen set up on stage where the head chef taught everyone how to make three different things they serve on the ship – a basil pesto fettucini thing, a sea scallops thing, and tiramisu.

We left during the tiramisu and went to get a little treat (the tiny pastries at the International CafĂ© – we got a lemon merengue and a white chocolate cheesecake) and then stop by a big sale they were having in one of the dining rooms. It was weird – it turned out to be all excess stuff from previous cruises, plus some clothes and damaged items. After that, we went on a tour of one of the nine ship kitchens. They had some of the fruit sculptures out. and Jon went to an ice sculpture demonstration:

Mangos, maybe?

We checked in on a ballroom class being taught, but they were doing triple swing, which I don’t really like. So we skipped it and put on our swimsuits to go swimming instead. We got burgers at the little burger stand at the pool, before swimming, but while we were eating it suddenly started raining. We went back to the room and read for about 45 minutes and then headed back out, and it was sunny again.

I got in the very cold but fun pool … the big swimming pools on board slosh back and forth pretty heavily when we’re sailing, and I wanted to see what it was like to be in it while that was going on. It was less dramatic-feeling than I hoped, but still kind of awesome. We also saw an older cruise patron dancing it out mostly by himself (and then with his wife) for the entirety of one song by the tropical band. Which was hilarious and provided here for your enjoyment:

Then Jon and I hung out in the hot tub, he got a free piece of pizza and I got a free ice cream cone, and we headed back to the room to change and shower and get ready for dinner. (It was Formal Night #2 tonight.)

We said we wanted to be seated with other people, and ended up at a table with two couples where we had some things in common, so that was fun. The big meals tonight were lobster tails (which I had) and beef wellington (which Jon had). (And one lady at our table ordered both. haha.) After dinner, we stopped by the Crooner’s Bar, where a piano guy named Kory was playing Broadway songs and having people sing along. When he got to the songs from “Oklahoma!” he asked if anyone in the room was from Oklahoma, and I cheered and was the only one. and he said he had never had anyone actually from Oklahoma during those songs before. It was funny because these songs were kind of pervasive in my middle and high school years, and sometimes I realize that not everyone used these songs every year at camp and in school and in pretty much all over the place. but most people seem to know them, anyway ... I cannot tell you the number of times at BYU that I got serenaded whenever people asked me my home state ...

Later, he stopped doing Broadway singalong and started doing requests, so I said, “As long as we’re doing Oklahoma, do you know ‘Friends in Low Places?’” (Garth Brooks lives in my stake at home. It's sort of a thing.) He did and played it, and then proceeded to play a ton of songs from the 40's, 50's, and 60's, that were maybe more suited to the audience. I didn't know as many of those, and we left after awhile. but I had a great time. Jon was patient and stayed a lot longer than he probably would have liked, and I thank him for that :)

Yes, he was talking to me.