Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Christmas in review!

I've observed the phenomena of "Christmas Newsletters" for as long as I can remember and have always had a certain degree of fascination with them. See, it's a hobby of mine to anthropomorphize anything and everything. That said, it's ever so satisfying to me to personify these letters of news. You know what I mean... the classic "Type A" - the letter that arrives postmarked November 30th and relays the family happenings, alphabetizing each child and including the recent shot records of their matching pet poodles. These letters are a joy to me. Then we have the "We smile like we know each other in passing, yet have never had a meaningful moment" newsletters - these are the letters that are so vague, I feel like I know less about the family now than I did before I opened the envelope. Or there's always the letter that comes with a personal note, handwritten and full of gush and well wishes, hand signed by everyone in the family... and yet I've never met them. I love those... makes me feel like I know a celebrity or something.

But my personal favorite are the newsletters that arrive in January. The kind that begin with an apology for their tardiness and end with promises to do better next year; the kind that switch back and forth between third and first person and use the words "crazy", "non-stop" and "Last month Jackson discovered a new use for mayonnaise", or "The cat is finally looking like a sort of feline again." This letter is a personality of mismatched socks, late nights of laughter, mud wars, musical instruments made out of cheese graters and vacuum hoses, and adventures at unholy hours. I hold these letters and find sweet relief knowing that life can somehow just fly by and we can either resort to backpedaling and guilt-filled regrets that disappear into the wind, or we can embrace where we are at and choose to keep sharing ourselves. Regardless of what the calendar says.


That said, here it is. Our very tardy, very untraditional, and very wonderful Christmas of 2009.










First of all, Bethany became sick.

No, let me rephrase that: Bethany defined sick.















Our Christmas surprise: "The Oklahoma Blizzard of 2009"
- this was a rather exciting moment for me. After roasting in the sun for the majority of December, I (Amy) was beginning to fear that my Colorado ways may have worn off. However, Christmas Eve morning found me peeking out the window in my footsie pajamas, squealing like a 6 year old at the sight of fresh snow! It was in that moment that Christmas became a reality for me.

A reality that lasted for several days in fact since Oklahoma apparently does not own snow plows. Funny.













Christmas is all about tradition for me. This year being the first year I've ever been away from home, I let go of a lot of my dearly loved traditions. (which was actually a very freeing experience for me) However, I never have and never will budge on this one: sardines on Christmas Eve. This has been a personal tradition of mine since I was 5 years old. Thankful I am to Mike for hooking us up with such a fine selection of canned fish - especially being snowed in as we were!














Margarita, our PHENOMENAL hostess and dear dear friend, was daring enough to give my traditional meal a try, and in fact handled it with much grace. In fact, there was even mention of incorporating it into her Christmas traditions!!

We washed it all down with soy nog and some chocolate truffles. My opinion is that Christmas eve is not a success unless you go to bed feeling ever so queazy. (:














Christmas Morning Pancakes!
(In shapes of snowmen, baby Jesus, candy canes, O Holy Night, and wreathes)

deeeelicious


















Our dear little tree... boy has construction paper come in handy on this trip!

















Margarita's first snow adventure! I was completely honored to introduce this adorable Californian to the wonders of SNOW. Marge is absolutely top notch in the snow... such a great student!

We covered all the basics: snowballs, snow angels, eating snow, walking in snow, skating in the parking lot, icicles, driving in snow...















... and of course snow men! Or in this case Snow Creature. We were all quite proud of our little fellow. And crushed when we found him without a head the next morning.













Oh simplicity ... like our rainbow candle... enriched by the conversations that went on around it.





















My favorite memory of Christmas: Marge reading us the Christmas story and then describing Mary like I've never heard before. Absolutely beautiful.
















Traditional and not-so-traditional Christmas carols filled the apartment complex that night! If I could remember our remixed version of "12 Days of Christmas", I would share... however, much like the original version, I can't recall one single line. Something about snow, sardines, and locked wireless internet. (:














Game night with Ben

- when in doubt and an Italian is coming to dinner, brusectta is always a winner!











For those of you who have never heard of the game "Stop Thief", allow me to introduce you to one thrilling game. Think "Dream Date" with cops and robbers. And a walkie-talkie! Seriously - it's a new favorite! Especially since becoming a detective has been a life long hope of mine. Oh dreams really can come true!







And thus concludes our snowy, non-traditional, joy-filled Christmas of 2009!

"For unto you a Savior..."

Friday, January 22, 2010

....ississippi

The rest of our time in Mississippi was spent down in the capital, Jackson. Which (random fact) is one of four US capital cities named after a president. I'll give you extra credit if you can tell me what the other three are (without using google!)



Here's where Jackson is in case you were wondering:







We went down there to see another DTS friend of mine, Joseph. Who happens to be one of my favorite people, and can make me laugh like few others can. We got there and immediately got the tour of his little apartment with his little dishwasher, little oven, little kitchen, little Christmas tree, etc. It was very cute.


Then he took us to this bomb Southern restaurant (which I can't remember the name of) and we feasted on sandwiches and got caught up on the last several years of our lives. Then we got the grand tour of downtown Jackson, which is currently in the process of revitalization. So I'm guessing if we come back in a few years, it will be a much more lively place. Then we saw an enormous reservoir, and then went back to Joseph's to make chocolate pie and Christmas truffles! He is quite a master in the kitchen.









TRUFFLES....








Joseph also had a huge batch of Christmas party mix made, which was also incredibly tasty. We certainly did not go hungry while we stayed with him. And all of these Christmas foods helped get us in the mood for Christmas, which was fast approaching!






Additional to this getting in the Christmas spiritness with food, we watched Mixed Nuts. Which, if you haven't seen, I highly recommend. It has a bunch of great actors in it such as Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn (two of my favorites). It's quite the hilarious and outrageous Christmas tale.






The next morning Joseph made us really yummy monkey bread and we chatted and laughed some more and then we were on our way, heading West again.













So West we went, and had the privilege of seeing Louisiana in the rain. Woo hoo! There was one thing that redeemed Louisiana for me though: the town of Bethany! I was very excited...kind of felt like coming home. We stopped to take a picture (of course), but my guess is that that is about all there was to do in Bethany, LA.




From there we drove through a corner of Texas, and let me tell you, we messed with Texas. Ooooh yah.

That or we met up at Panera with a friend who had just moved back to Dallas. Amy and I were both surprised that Dallas was such a large city...I guess in my mind everything in Texas is oil fields and ranches. Au contraire, it was very big and I wish we had had some time to see it. But Oklahoma City was calling. So we headed North...





Thursday, January 21, 2010

I've always thought Alabama and Mississippi looked like they go together..

So my (Bethany) parents have these friends in Birmingham, AL that they have been telling me about for a few years now, and this telling is always accompanied by a "you MUST go see them if you're in Alabama!!" They lauded their hospitality and friendship, so Amy and I headed up to Birmingham (after fueling up on eggs and waffles at good old Waffle House) to hang out with the Andrews Family. Unfortunately we only had enough time to spend one night there (due to the encroaching holiday: Christmas) but it was a grand time. They were everything I had hoped they would be: incredibly hospitable and incredibly interesting to talk with. Lydia is one of those moms that I look at and go...WOW. She has four small children, and they are so cute and well behaved. This is a picture of us and two of the girls after we all put together a puzzle (it just so happened it was of the US. How appa pro). They also took us out to a legit Southern Barbecue restaurant, which is where I [finally] hit my sweet tea limit. One too many glasses...
(Sorry Hallvard, I swear I tried to find you a postcard in Alabama, but they were very hard to come by)






Then we headed over to the booming metropolis of Columbus, Mississippi, which was about 2 hours due west of Birmingham. One of my good friends, Jon (from DTS), is stationed there while he is in Airforce pilot training. I previously had very little understanding/exposure to the military (with the exception of seeing the Naval base a few days prior), so this was definitely an educational time for me.


Jon had a very important flight to take on Monday, so he set us up with some girls to take us around the base. They were pilots as well, which makes them awesome. They showed us the base housing, the planes, and then took us in to see another new awesome friend we had met the night before, Kristi. Kristi does classroom training for such things as ejection seats, motion sickness, cabin pressure, and a bunch of other really cool stuff.



This is a picture of Amy trying out the ejection seat simulator.


















my turn! There were so many crazy seat belt straps and buckles that are supposed to go around your waist and legs.














Then they took us to what I fondly refer to as the "puke chair." This chair exists for the purpose of curing people of their motion sickness. [As some of you may know, I have been a sufferer of motion sickness for as long as I can remember, so this portion of the tour was not my favorite. Although Kristi did give me some helpful tips on how to overcome it.]



Amy was the braver one; she did a few of these chair activities. This particular one is where they put these goggles on her so she can't see, then headphones so she can't hear. Kristi spins her around in the chair, and then Amy (with her thumbs like that) was supposed to point to the left or right, based on which direction she felt like she was heading. So Kristi spun her in the same direction for a while, and as time went on, Amy started to point her fingers the opposite direction of how she was really heading. This all illustrates the fact that if you're in a plane and you've lost control, are falling, etc., you can't rely on your instincts to tell you which way you're going: you MUST rely on your instruments.



After our wonderful tour, we headed back to Jon's to begin making our specialty: curry. He lives in an apartment with his roommate, Collin (also in pilot training) and I have to take a moment to brag about their kitchen. In fact, I wish I'd taken a picture of their fridge and pantry. At the risk of sounding unfair by exposing the stereotypes I hold...I will say that typically when I go into the kitchen of a bachelor, I don't expect much. Usually there are some condiments such as mustard & mayonnaise, and of course a good supply of beer. However, as Amy and I began to cook (and of course snoop through all of their cabinets) we discovered items such as whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, organic frozen lasagna, broccoli, unsweetened applesauce, etc. We were, to say the least, very impressed. Collin and Jon have restored my faith in bachelor health.



And then we started cooking. During our meal-making, Amy typically makes the curry and I make the dessert, which in this case was apple crisp (I have an affinity towards apple desserts). Collin came home from flying and joined us in the kitchen...proceeding to add an extra can of curry paste to the dish. It was incredibly delicious, and incredibly spicy (to the rest of us wimps. Collin didn't even bat an eye). But pairing it with cottage cheese (or in Amy's case, applesauce) made my mouth a little more willing to work with me. Overall, it was a fantastic meal, with fantastic conversation.



Also while in Columbus we went to Jon & Collin's Bible study and we learned how to shine shoes! As I said, Jon had a big flight while we were there, so Amy and I shined his boots for him. I could literally see my reflection in them by the time I was finished.



It was really great seeing Jon and meeting Collin. I have a lot of respect for what they're doing in the Airforce-it's a lot of hard work and they are rising to the challenge!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SARDINES

Sardines are going to surface later in the blog...and I will let Amy explain their significance to you. But in the meantime I will explain to you how we stumbled upon quite the stash of them.



My brother-in-law's brother is in the Navy, and is stationed in Pensacola, FL. (I swear this will be the last blog about Florida!) So we swung by his base to say hello and catch up. It was great to see him again: he gave us a tour of the base (unfortunately we couldn't find any bumper stickers that say "my brother-in-law's brother is in the Navy" to add to the Taurusaurus), and then took us out to Waffle House! Yumm-o. We chatted about things such as his ability to read the same book multiple times, the beaches of Pensacola, and of course we discussed our mutual admiration for our amazing neice and nephew.



***Random note: So as I may have mentioned, Amy and I wrote a rap song about Florida while in Vero Beach, and of course we referenced bingo. Anyway, while we were at the Waffle House with Mike, this girl that was working there comes up to us and asks if we are from the Naval base (me and amy in the Navy? HA!) and then asked if we ever got bored, and if so she had just heard of this great bingo night, gone, and won 30 bucks. The funny thing was, she was our age. Anyway, I just thought that was really funny and random.



So Mike just happened to be about to leave to go back to Indiana to hang out for Christmas, and apparently it was policy that he clean all of the food out of his room. So he needed a willing soul to take multiple cans of sardines off his hands. Amy was more than willing. Thus the acquistion of the little fishies. To be continued..

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back in the South

You may or may not know that the Panhandle of Florida is very much so considered part of the South (I didn't realize this til we got there). I have even heard it termed the "redneck riviera."

So following our non-panhandle-Floridian adventures, arriving in Pensacola we felt like we were right back in the deep South. We stayed with some lovely locals, who said "if we live in the Bible belt, then Pensacola is the buckle."
They introduced us to some more Southern things, such as Uncle Remus, shrimp gumbo, grits and of course: boiled peanuts.

For those of you who have not had boiled peanuts, they are basically exactly what they sound like. Peanuts boiled in salt water, so you eat them when they're all warm, soft and salty. I found them to be quite delicious. Very much so a comfort food.

So I thought this would be an appropriate moment to reflect on all of the Southern food we have consumed on this trip:

Virginia was our introductory experience: kettle corn and sweet tea. It kind of scares me how much I like sweet tea. I was not really expecting to (everyone says it's like chewing on your tea because there's so much sugar in it) but I found it to be lovely.


Next came North Carolina where we ate sweet potatoes every day for five days. We found them for 19 cents a pound at Piggly Wiggly, so we stocked up. We ate them baked (just as you would bake a potato), as fries (chopped up and roasted in the oven), as a pie, as chips, and then we did it all over again.

(Factoid: among root vegetables sweet potatoes offer the lowest glycemic index rating. That's because the sweet potato digests slowly, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar so you feel satisfied longer. They also boast dietary fiber, natural sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein, Vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Good and good for you!)

Also in North Carolina we observed (but weren't brave enough to try) cinnamon pickles and chocolate vinegar pie. And, of course, coon-rabbit-squirrel stew.




And then there's the never ending debate (I speculate it could be the catalyst for a second civil war) about whether to pronounce pecans as "peeh-cans" or "peh-cahns." I'll leave that up to your judgment.

These lovelies can be turned into pie, pralines, and I'm sure many other things that I'm just not aware of.







And then there's SAUCE.

Oh boy is there sauce. Variety up the wazoo. Apparently in the South Barbecue is a noun, not a verb.








Then we were told we had to stop by Bojangle's, which is a Southern fast food chain. So we stopped in Columbia, South Carolina for a little treat of biscuits, sweet tea, sweet potato pie, and a whole lot of grease. This is how Amy felt after her ham biscuit:

















Remember how I said I like sweet tea? Well I somehow consumed three of those cups of the stuff this evening. Needless to say I didn't sleep that night.

A little sugar jacked..













You can almost see me on the other side of this grease-laden wrapper:



Other foods we tried and (for the most part) enjoyed (but forgot to take pictures of) were: collard greens, catfish, chocolate pie, fried green tomatoes, and corn fritters.

One of the few things I still need to try is coke & peanuts (you actually put the peanuts in your coke and eat them that way). Apparently it's a Mississippi thing?








Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Southernmost Blog


Key West is one of those places that I (Bethany) have wanted to go to for a while, but kept debating whether or not we could actually make it that far South. But we finally decided to take the plunge and go all the way. Why not?

So we spent the night in Key Largo, and then drove down to Key West the next morning, which was an amazing drive. It is in my top 5 favorite drives of this trip: absolutely beautiful.
Apparently there are 1,700 keys (little islands) off the South tip of Florida. We drove over several of them, and in the process drove over the 7 mile bridge. It was probably the longest bridge I've ever been on.


And then we went to the Southernmost point in the Continental US (see picture above) which is as far as you can possibly get from Boise in the Continental US: 3,040 miles from home. So this was our official pivot point-from here we started heading back. I must say, we were quite pleased with ourselves this day. Quite an accomplishment, especially for our trusty old car. I even took a picture of the Taurus next to this buoy and sent it as a postcard to my car mechanic.


Then Amy started to overheat (it was HOT HOT HOT...90+ degrees) so we went and relaxed by the beach and ate our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.


While in Key West we putzed around, looking at shops and shells, and shell shops. They take shells and make them into all sorts of gadgets and trinkets and sell them to suckers (not us!) We also saw Ernest Hemingway's house.
Then we went to Mallory Square at sunset, which is apparently THE thing to do. There were tons of street performers, and we watched a man tie himself up in a straightjacket and chains, and then get himself out. Quite impressive.

And of course we had to get Key Lime pie while in Key West! It was completely delicious, and, good news folks: Amy didn't react to the evaporated milk in the pie. Perhaps her dairy allergy is relaxing. We can only hope.
(We also feasted on Conch Fritters. A must in the Conch Republic!)

While we were sitting and enjoying our pie, we heard all sorts of commotion erupt on the street next to us...only to discover that there was a Hanukkah parade happening that very night! We saw larger than life size dreidels on trailers, massive menorahs, and a whole lot of earlocks, honking, and celebration. Who knew there was a large Jewish population in Key West?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Turn up the heat!

The farther South we went, the hotter it got.We experienced a record breaking 90+ degrees while in Miami. Now I fully understand why Miami's basketball team is called The Heat.

So Miami is one of those places that gets a bad rap. "Don't go to Miami, you'll get robbed" "Miami is dirty" "Miami is so unsafe!" and on and on the warnings go. I'm not in any way disputing the crime rate in Miami...but I will say, it is quite the amazing place to visit! I've also found that all of the places we were expecting to totally SUCK, usually surprise us with how great they are.So we drove through Little Havana and found ourselves in South Beach. THE South Beach. As in ... the South Beach Diet. Oh yes.


This was driving in. There were abundant cruise ships.




We walked along the beach (I wore a ridiculous yellow visor that screamed "TOURIST"), saw colorful lifeguard huts, pretty palm trees, and warm water.




We were also in the art deco district, which meant really awesome architecture. I LOVED looking at all of the old style hotels with their array of neon lights.



Authenticly Cuban. Cigars being rolled on the street.



So if you ever find yourself in southern Florida, don't let the negative stereotypes of Miami deter you from visiting. I highly recommend it! Where else can you go where its 85 degrees, at night, in December?? (If you need further convincing, refer to my blog about Cuban food.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fort of the Lauderdale persuasion...




At this point, we began to realize just how big a state Florida is. It's really really big. But the best part is that the farther down we drove, the warmer it got. Oh glorious sunshine in December! And my goodness is Florida diverse.






From Orlando, our next destination was a condo in Vero Beach that one of my dear friends hooked us up with. After spending a few glorious days there, we stopped in West Palm Beach to meet up with my cousin who is a stylist and entrepreneur. We got to watch M'lis rock her hair styling skills and had a great time hanging out in the midst of high fashion and cutting edge (haha) style. She even gave me a spin in her chair. And as we left, she gave us her newest creation - the Versi Comb - which put a great shine in Bethany's hair. Check it out at her web site - www.versicomb.com or www.fringekit.com
Definitely good stuff!










So our visit to Fort Lauderdale was multifaceted in that we had several reasons to visit. The first reason was our dear friend Spencer who is from Boise, but is going to worship school at the Calvary Chapel in FL. We were so excited to see this guy again - he was at our "going away party" in Boise when we started this trip and we all joked around about meeting up with him if we actually made it to Florida. Even more exciting, Spencer and his fellow students were putting on a Christmas show - A Not So Silent Night - the very night that we showed up in town. Here he is rocking the house on the drums. Let me just say, this show was hands-down the BEST Christmas production I've ever seen. The caliber of music was mindblowing and there was so much creativity bursting out of really amazing people.








So not only did Spencer bless us with that incredible Christmas show, but it was so good to meet up with a familiar face at this point on our trip. We laughed a lot and just simply enjoyed each other's company. He even let us eat his mom's baked goods! And he lent his musical skills to our newest interest - rapping! Yes, maybe we've spent too much time in the sun lately, but we've been having a blast. We even took some time to take some band photos... we figured the Jonas Brothers knew how to pose, so we just followed suit. (:



Now for the other reason to visit Fort Lauderdale: my great friend Nate. Who wasn't there. But he used to live there and really really really wanted us to visit his old tromping grounds. We actually stayed with his friend Jeff for a couple of days and had such a great time. Jeff woke us up at the crack of dawn one morning and we all piled in his car and met up with a bunch of fabulous people in the park where we spent the day handing out burritos, giving away clothes, and simply hanging out with anyone in need - whether they needed food or just a friend.



Here is Bethany with one of our new friends (no - she's not Lindsey Lohan) along with one of the 120 burritos for the day.

Fort Lauderdale was truly a time of refreshing community and family time... even if they were family we just met. Thanks for the good times guys!