Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Improvise the Harmony--My New Blog

I have decided to create a new blog.  It is called Improvise the Harmony

Keeping Up With Kristie will still exist and I plan to continue adding to it, but I wanted a blog that was for more introspective thoughts.  I hope you will visit it, follow it, and leave comments.

I'm very excited about this new writing adventure.  To visit the site, simply click the screenshot below.  See you there!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chocolate Lust...Recipe with Pictures...

Last night I remembered--I have to bring treats to Book Club tonight!  It was 10 o'clock, I was tired from planting flowers, and I couldn't think of anything to make except for that standby box of cookie brownies in the cupboard.

Then, it dawned on me while playing Drawsome with my mom on the iPad...Chocolate favorite childhood dessert.  I messaged her for the recipe. And here it is.

You need a 9x13 pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 while you make this mixture:
  • 1 stick of margarine or butter (I used real butter)
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped walnuts or pecans (I used walnuts)
  • Mix together with a spoon and pat into the bottom of the 9x13 pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees and let cool. 
 It does not turn color after the 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, as the crust is baking, work on this mixture:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 2 cups of Cool Whip (Buy 2 eight ounce containers, you will the leftovers later)
  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • Beat together.
I have a big kitchen mixer, but I like using a hand mixer for this recipe.  

Pour this mixture on top of the crust and let sit for 5 minutes while you make the pudding mixture:
  • 2 four oz. packages of chocolate pudding (you can also use banana or any flavor you like)
  • 3 cups of milk
  • Beat until thick
Pour over the above layer and let sit for 5 minutes.
 While the pudding is setting, I like to beat the remaining Cool Whip in its own container to make it easier to spread.

 Spread the remaining Cool Whip.  
Essentially, you are done!  But I wanted to add one little touch just for decoration.  I grated part of a dark Hershey bar into a bowl and spooned the shavings on top of the dessert:

 Yummy!  Now you're done. 

It is best to make it a few hours before you plan to enjoy it so that it can set and chill in a fridge.  Mine is doing that as I write this.  I can't wait to try it out tonight!

It is also a great summer dessert because it is cool and light.  

 Now for the really fun up!
Anybody want to help? 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wishing for a green thumb...


Remember that line from Titanic when Rose gets mad at Jack for explaining ice fishing and he replies by saying, "Sorry.  You just seem like more of an indoor girl."

That is me.  I'm an indoor girl.  I don't mind cleaning house and I certainly love decorating, but working outdoors is not for me.  That doesn't fly too well up here in my newly adopted state, where few people have gardeners and even painting and construction is often a DIY project.

To top it off, as much as I love our house, it needs a lot of work.  A new paint job, new windows, new gutters, new lawn, and a whole list of expensive things that can only be accomplished little by little.

The yard has turned out to be a job that neither Eric or I anticipated because of its size and because we are on a corner.  While looking at the inside of the house (time was not on our side while we were house-hunting) we didn't pay much attention to how much mowing, edging, and general maintenance and beautification lay before us.  All we were thinking about was how great it was to be 4 houses up from the lake and how well my furniture would fit.  Not to mention the upcoming wedding and interstate move.

But now we are running out of excuses.  The last moving box was unpacked 30 days after we moved in.  The weather is getting better (apparently July 5th is the marker for clear skies until the week before Halloween) and my residual tiredness from 13 years of teaching is long gone. 

So now we are going to start chipping away at that very long To Do list and start doing what needs to be done a bit at a time.  Eric has his priorities, I have mine, and we have ours.  Naturally we notice different things, which define those priorities.  I notice aesthetics, and he notices structure.  First up?  Structure?  The rain gutters.  Aesthetics?  A new paint job (after the gutters are installed.)

Meanwhile, I have been wincing every time I see bare areas around the house that are just crying out for some attention and some color.  If I had my druthers and if funds were unlimited, I would replace all of the blocks used for the planters around our front door, tree, and driveway.  But, alas, other things have to come first.  Instead, I used what was there and cleared away the dried up remnants of past plants.

To me, this is all about knowing that some progress is being made.  If it is something that I can do, I'm going to do it.  So, I did it!

 The area by the garage.  The only place in the front that gets sun.

 The Zinnias at Freddy's were just stunning!

 There were some nice, healthy marigolds there too.

 The other planters are all in shady areas.  Finding colorful shade flowers isn't easy, so I stuck with the old standbys of begonias and impatiens. 

Today's project was the 4 planters by the front door.  This involved pulling out some azaleas that rarely bloomed and another leafy plant I didn't like.  I got some sun plants for the front and all begonias for the back.  Between clearing away the old plants, smoothing out new potting soil, buying the plants, arranging them, and setting them into the ground, this took a lot longer than you'd think!

And with all the planting, that was actually the easy part!  The hard part for me is keeping everything alive.  I come from several generations of green thumbs, but my generation got skipped somehow.  Can I do it??  

I'll post pictures again in a few weeks and we'll see...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Admit Two!

One of my favorite things to do with Eric is to go and see a concert or musical theater production together.  Access to those kinds of activities is pretty easy in Los Angeles, so I didn't know what to expect when I moved to Washington.  Happily, there have been plenty of opportunities!  In fact, as I think about it, we've been to quite a few different shows together.  Here's our list, as of now:

Mary Poppins (Los Angeles)

Chicago (Los Angeles)

Wicked (Eugene)

Donny & Marie (Las Vegas)

Josh Groban (Portland)

The Fab Four (Longview)

Celtic Woman (Portland)

Jenny Oaks Baker & Portland Ensign Choir and Orchestra (Vancouver)

This is since January 2010.  I still feel like I'm forgetting something, but I'm not sure what...hmm..

All of them have been wonderful in their own way.  I loved seeing Chicago on stage.  It was so different than the film, but still incredible.  It was fun to see Wicked with Eric, because he had never seen it, although it was the 4th time for me.  The Josh Groban concert was his 1st and my 4th too. (He is great to see in concert.  What a voice!)

The Donny & Marie show was a quick whim and a whirlwind of a trip.  I had had the chance to meet Marie Osmond at a doll-signing event at Disneyland in January 2011.  When I returned home and told Eric about it, he had the impulse for us to fly to Las Vegas and see them in concert (HIS 4th time and MY first.)  Three weeks later we were on a plane with our VIP tickets all ordered. It kind of counted as a 6 month anniversary trip, but it was more like a "let's blow out of town and go to Vegas" kind of a thing.  At the meet-and-greet Marie even said that she thought I looked familiar, but the fun part is that she recognized Eric because she had pulled him onstage to sing with her a couple of years before!  He and his great singing voice had made himself very memorable.  I wish I could've seen that!

The Celtic Woman concert in Portland was only 2 months ago.  We had donated some money to PBS in order to get those tickets.  It was my 3rd time to see them and Eric's 1st.  They put on a beautiful, beautiful show.  It was my first time to see them perform indoors, because the previous two concerts had been at the Greek Theater in LA, which is an outdoor amphitheater.  Eric loved it, we were in the 7th row, and it was a really fun night.

The Fab Four is a Beatles tribute band that is incredible.  It is probably the next best thing to seeing the Beatles play live.  I have seen them more times than I can count, because they used to play at Disneyland on a regular basis (I do mourn the loss of my Premium Annual Pass!) And it just so happens that a high school acquaintance of mine plays Paul McCartney (who turns 70 today--Happy Birthday Sir Paul!)  The FF actually had a gig right here in our little town at the local theater last year.  We took Eric's parents--his dad is a big Beatles fan--and had a really enjoyable night.

This past Saturday night we drove down to Vancouver and saw Jenny Oaks Baker (an accomplished violinist) play alongside the Portland Ensign Choir and Orchestra. It was all movie themes and Disney music, which was fun.  It was also in a high school auditorium, but not like any high school auditorium that I've ever seen. My high school had a rinky dink little stage and people sat in metal folding chairs.  This auditorium was gorgeous!  This is the only picture of it that I could find online:
The choir reminded me a lot of the Southern California Mormon Choir, although SCMC does not have their own orchestra that travels with them.  Jenny Oaks Baker was wonderful.  She plays with a lot of expression.  The only thing that detracted a bit was some immature teenagers sitting in front of us who clearly did not want to be there.  Fortunately, these were not $100 tickets, otherwise I would've definitely said something!

I am a firm believer that these kinds of cultural experiences makes one's life much, much richer.  I have a tradition that whenever I go to one of these shows I always buy a magnet (if there is one) to stick on the fridge and remind me of the fun evening we had.  Our fridge is becoming a mini scrapbook of our adventures (along with Solvang, Carmel, The Winchester Mystery House, the Norton Simon Museum and the Arboretum.)  All of these fun things weave themselves into the tapestry of our life together.  So far it has been pretty fun.

(My wish list includes:  Seeing Michael Buble' in concert, The Lion King, Les Miserables, and Phantom of the Opera.  I've seen them all, but I would love for us to go together...)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Life...Then and Now...

"Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things..."

For the past month or so, it feels like my weeks have taken on more of a routine than usual, which is fine, I actually like routines.  I know that sounds weird, but I like having dinners mapped out for a few days, knowing when I'm going to wash sheets, go to the grocery store, etc.  Everyone needs something to look forward to, and a reason to feel useful and get up in the morning, even if that reason is to clean out the cat litter box or put clothes in the dryer.

When I moved up to Washington after Eric and I married, the lack of routine was one of the things I feared the most.  As a teacher, my days, and the days of my 32 students, were extremely scheduled, because that is the way I liked it, and the kids responded better to that kind of predictability.  Not being bound to a schedule of bells and daily subjects and meeting has been VERY liberating, but also a little scary in that now there are no excuses for not getting things done.

I feel very lucky that, as a married couple, Eric and I have had relatively little trouble in carving out our individual duties. The fact that he works outside the home and I don't made this a little easier.  He has a few responsibilities around the house, but the general management and cleanliness are mine.  I'm officially a Housewife.  That word used to rank up there with some other bad words when I was a working woman, but I realize now that I was allowing my job to define me way too much.  I also realize that I did that because there was really nothing else to define me.  I was not a wife, I did not attend church for a long time so I had no church calling, and I was not even an auntie until 4 years ago.

Surely, there are other housewives who sometimes ponder the tedium of the constant making of beds, cooking, cleaning, and laundry.  I did that a lot at first, although I wasn't attending church when I first moved up here and we were just getting into the bad weather phase of the year.  It took me a while to tell myself that EVERY job, no matter how exciting, has it's tedious moments.

I remember when people would find out that I was a teacher and think how fun and exciting it was.  I would nod my head politely and think about how clueless that person was about the realities of the profession.  I didn't want to burst their bubble.  I didn't want to tell them about the hours and hours it took to set up the classroom every September, the hundreds of dollars of my own money I spent each year on supplies that were not provided, the hours it would take to change the bulletin boards when usually the only people who saw them were my students and me, the amount of time taken away from teaching because of trainings and meetings and dealing with those one or two severely disruptive students that we were all lucky enough to get.  Don't get me wrong, teaching is a great and noble profession when we are actually allowed to teach.  But those golden moments don't happen as often as any of us would like.

Yes, I miss the a lot of the kids.  Some kids are unforgettable, even from when I first started teaching back in 1996.  I miss those times when we felt so unified as I taught a lesson in Social Studies or Math (I loved teaching math.)  I really miss Story Time, which I did even when I taught 4th and 5th grade.  I miss those times when I would be walking down the hall and about 10 kids would cross my path and say "Hi Teacher!"

But I don't miss the interruptions and meetings and trainings. And I don't miss that, when you are a teacher, the job never ends.  Never. You are either actually doing it or you're thinking about it. When so many little lives are in your care, you can't leave them behind at 3pm.  So when teachers say they aren't paid enough, they aren't.  Because they are really on the job ALL the time.  And, as we know, there is so much more to be a teacher than teaching.  You are a nurse, a psychologist, a referee, a time-keeper, a friend, sometimes even a mother.  And you are always an example.  Kids notice everything.

I am very glad that I had all of those years in the classroom and in the workplace.  They taught me a lot.  But I'm also glad that another chapter of my life has begun.

So when I compare my life then and my life now, I think one of the greatest things about my life now (besides being married to a wonderful man) is my freedom.  It is glorious.  I don't have to get up at 5am anymore.  I don't have a bedtime.  Mondays are not that dreaded day that spoiled Sunday anymore.  I have the energy to be in a Book Club because I have the time to actually read the book.  (When I taught I only read books during summer vacation.)  I am loving my calling as a Relief Society teacher and even preparing the lessons is a joy.  I love Visiting Teaching and getting to know the sisters in my ward more than I ever did when I was working.  It used to feel like a chore and now it feels like a privilege and stewardship.

I don't even mind my hours of solitude during the day as I'm cleaning house or writing or reading a book.  They make the time with my husband all the more special.  I don't mind the tedium of certain things because of the freedom I have in return.  I don't mind cooking and cleaning for my husband because I know that he is doing more than his share putting in all of those hours at his work.  We are a team, and running our house and our little family of 2 (plus 3 pets) is a team effort. 

But the important thing is that new things define me.  I am Eric's wife.  I am Xander and Angelique's auntie.  I am Sister Cooley who teaches Relief Society each month and feeds the missionaries whenever possible.  I am the one who runs the book club.  I am that lady who walks her dog by the lake each day.  I am the friend of some wonderful ladies.  I really love being all of these things. 

Amidst the normal things like never-ending laundry, cooking dinners, and always trying to keep the floors clean (which isn't easy with a big, hairy dog and 3 cats,) there are plenty of things to look forward to.  These are the things that make the routines feel less restrictive.  Just this week there are 2 concerts, going to the temple tomorrow (I've been going weekly and love it,) working on my Relief Society lesson for next Sunday, hosting the missionaries on Friday night, and taking advantage of this fabulous weather and working in the garden. 

See?  Just enough planning to give Life purpose. And just enough freedom to create new purposes.

Life is good. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Movie Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Is there anything more fun than a film about a group of unrelated people thrown into a fish-out-of-water situation?  That is the skeletal explanation of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

My main attraction to the film was the cast, some of the UK's best--Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkensen, Celia Imrie--you cannot go wrong with a group like this.  Even more thrilling was that the film was actually playing in one of our 2 local theaters, which is pretty unheard of for a movie like this.

The premise is this:  7 British seniors, for a variety of reasons that range from financial to medical to a thirst for adventure, leave the comforts of home to live in India.  Their destination is a run-down hotel for the "elderly and beautiful," run by the idealistic Sonny, a young man desperate to make his fortune and his mother proud.

What follows is a delightful 2 hours as we follow our cast on this journey of self-discovery in a setting that none of them (save 1) are accustomed to.  They must adjust to everything...the food, the language, the hygiene, customs, geography, shopping, transportation--not an easy thing to do in your 60's and 70's.  Some are more successful than others.  All are deeply changed by the powerful effects of their new home.

The dialogue is witty, the characters are multifaceted, and the Indian landscape is both colorful and staggering in its poverty.  We are reminded that love, life and wealth have nothing to do with where you live and how much money you have.  They are found in your attitude, perception, and relationships with others. 

I enjoyed every moment of this movie and highly recommend it to anyone who loves British films or is in search of something a little different.  I look forward to seeing this again and eventually adding it to our DVD library.

The trailer:


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Funniest ventriloquism act ever...

I keep on telling myself that I should probably use my blog for serious writing and the expression of deep thoughts and opinions, but, I'm human, I'm flawed.  And I have a weakness for innovative entertainment and people who take a genre and do something completely different.  Enjoy.  =)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Question of Talent...

Last night I turned on the Queen's Jubilee Concert ready to be entertained and what I saw was just a sad comment on our times.  It was a confirmation that many of our most famous and popular singers are not really singers at all, but "entertainers" (and I use that term generously.)  Weird, isn't it?  How do people like Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, and others get famous when there are incredibly talented singers that have to beat the pavement, audition for shows like America's Got Talent, or set up YouTube channels just to get noticed?

Thank goodness for YouTube, which is literally the world's stage, where people can post videos of themselves and show their talents.  I never used to pay much attention to YouTube, but Eric has shown me what a resource it can be for looking up anything...ANYTHING.  (That's not always a good thing, of course, and, luckily, they do have some rules that need to be followed.)  And I have to give a shout-out to hosts like Ellen, too, who give the little guys a chance, because the talent out there is amazing.

Here are a few I ran across today:

Go the Distance, with Danny Fong

We Are Young, with Alex G and Jon D

The Edge of Glory, with Jake Coco and Alexandra Amor

And then we have the crazy talented Nick Pitera, who is kind of in a category by himself...

In my opinion, THIS is talent.  And I must say--pretty entertaining too!  (Especially Nick P, who somehow makes me jealous and uncomfortable at the same time.)

Have a great rest of the week, everyone!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Weekend getaway in Lincoln City...

Eric and I have been talking about spending the weekend at the beach for a while, and this past weekend we finally made it happen.  One thing I realized was that it doesn't matter if you are going way for 2 weeks or 2 days--the prep is pretty much the same.  While Eric was at work on Friday, I was in charge of vacation prep--taking Bailey to the kennel, pulling out the suitcases, setting things up with our house-sitter, putting out fresh cat litter, filling the gas tank, making sure clothes we needed were clean, etc.  The kind of things that make you feel like you need a vacation from preparing for a vacation.

By 4:15pm on Friday, we were off on our little adventure.  I have to say that one of the things I really like about living in the Pacific Northwest is that there is really no such things as a bad drive.  Yes, you hit traffic, and we had our share, but the drive is usually scenic and nice.

At 7pm we decided to stop for dinner at the famous Cedar Plank Buffet at Spirit Mountain Casino in Grand Ronde, OR.  90 minutes and 2 full bellies later we were back on the road for the last stretch of road towards Lincoln City, OR, our final destination.

We checked into the Looking Glass Inn at 10pm, after making a slight wrong turn that took us 30 miles out of our way (whoops!)  That's our room on the bottom right.  The "ocean view" we were expecting was kind of a joke, because, as you can see, the room faces the parking lot.  It was more like a "bay view," which can only be seen out of one of the side windows.  Other than that, though, it was a comfortable room with a small fireplace, kitchenette, TV/DVD, and a whirlpool tub that was loud, but relaxing.

At the end of the sidewalk is a path that leads to the beach.  We enjoy taking walks, so both of us walked that path on our own and together.  We also got lucky with the weather, because it was a misty, beach rain until around noon on Saturday, at which point it stopped and cleared up.

Lincoln City is known for its outlet mall, which we visited briefly, and its little gift and antique shops, I visited a few while Eric was napping on Saturday afternoon.

Mostly, though, you just go to relax.  I also took lots of pictures at the beach.  Some were taken at midday and some as the sun was beginning to set.  Photography is so fun, even with my simple little camera:

The beach is very different than a California beach or a Hawaii beach, but still beautiful.  I'm not really one for swimming in the ocean, but I do love standing and watching the waves go in and out in their endless cycle.  I like to ponder the ocean's vastness and majesty, all the while thinking about how, with all of their ingenuity, there are still so many things that Man could never duplicate.

Because the little shops close up early, and because we aren't into the "bar scene," Saturday evening was spent in the hotel room after dinner.  We relaxed away from our obligations at home and work, enjoyed each other's company, and settled in with a movie we rented from the front desk (Australia, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman...pretty long, but good, and worth seeing at least once.)

Yesterday morning we were back on the road, headed for home.  This time we took a different route though Cornelius Pass in Oregon.  I've been on that route once before and it is quite lovely.  Trees are everywhere.  Like I said, odds are you'll have a nice view when you drive up here.

We arrived home with that combination of mental rest and vacation tiredness.  It was a nice getaway with my #1 sweetie.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Another Fantastic Marriage Proposal

Remember that fabulous dance-flash-mob proposal at Downtown Disney that got so much attention?  Here's another with the same song, different setting, and just as good.  I had to post it.  Get ready to smile!  (It has already had over 11,000,000 hits...)

Have a great weekend everyone!  We have some awesome plans this weekend!  Photos to follow soon!