Friday, November 16, 2012

Birthweek Day 5: Let the Change Continue

Today is my birthday! Don't worry, we'll still have two more days of giving thanks by paying it forward, but today my choice is close to my heart.

Two weeks ago we said goodbye to our little Ojo. After suffering a severe traumatic head injury and subsequent seizures life was too difficult. Instead of focus on the pain, I want to reflect on the good.

We adopted Ojo during our time in South Korea. He was rescued after being abandoned in Seoul. Several people combined to provide a loving atmosphere for him, to help him heal and regain confidence in himself and humans. Though our time with Ojo was short, we are eternally appreciative of those who helped him, and people like them throughout the world.

In my hometown Cedar City, like-minded people are working to build a dog park. And so much more. According to their "About" page, "Our group would like a centralized location to conduct educational classes to enhance human-animal bonding, animal assisted therapy, animal adoptions, demonstrations, seminars and other activities to protect and enhance the quality of life and economic vitality of the local community." They seek to provide county-wide services, but have been unable to find a suitable location thus far. They have been approved as a non-profit organization and state, "The organization is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes." For more information you can visit their website here.

If you are willing to, you can donate money. But if you want to effect additional change, you can also write letters to the city council members and mayor of Cedar City to voice your support and ask for theirs. The website has all the information for contacting these civic leaders (click here and scroll almost all the way to the bottom).

Or, if you would prefer, find your local animal adoption/education organization and donate/support them in their efforts. The vast majority of these groups are non-profit organizations that require contributions to survive, and provide services to their communities.

Be a part of the change for the better.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Birthweek Days 3 & 4

After working a 17-hour day yesterday, I was a little behind getting the organization up for Day 3 of the Birthweek organization/charity pick (do not fear, one has still been chosen!).

826 National focusing on the tutoring, writing, and publishing of student writing from ages 6-18. Initially begun in San Francisco, CA, as a single entity, 826 Valencia, the organization was co-founded by veteran teacher Ninive Calegari and author Dave Eggers (A Staggering Work of Heartbreaking Genius). It has since spread to eight chapters across the U.S. Each chapter has a store front which supports the organization's work, and are themed to represent the area (for instance: in the 826 Valencia chapter the store front is a pirate shop, where the Chicago shop has The Boring Store (which does not sell spy supplies like trench coats or night-vision goggles). The organization has a network of over 5,000 volunteers who range from all careers and backgrounds.

I want to support this organization because the ability to write is a necessary life-skill. Being taught to write well is a gift not many are given. Helping students gain the confidence to express themselves in writing is an invaluable gift.

Help the gift-giving continue by supporting 826 National today. You can do so here. While listed donations begin at $25, you are able to specify an "other" amount in a field below.

Day 4 has me excited. Let's be fair. They ALL have me excited. What I like about the organization for Day 4 is the versatility, the number of ways a person can get involved, and the change that is taking place at an increasing rate.

Fight The New Drug (FTND) is a non-profit organization that seeks to educate the population about the harmful effects of viewing pornography. Not affiliated with any religious groups or political agendas, FTND seeks to display the scientific facts of how viewing pornography is harmful. From their information page they say, 

"Learning from the past, Fight the New Drug takes a non-religious, non-legislative, non-judgmental approach. We recognize an individual's right to view and produce pornography, however, once they are educated on the harmful effects of pornography we believe they will choose to avoid it. We only wish to educate about the negative effects of pornography on individuals, families, and communities." (You can read the whole "About" page here.)

Recently FTND has begun encouraging college-aged students to begin campus chapters of FTND. Many participate in parades and other community events to spread the word. Additionally, FTND goes on school tours to begin educating the population at an important age.

When a person decides to support FTND a change is made. One is not a supporter, one becomes a fighter.

Fight The New Drug. Become a Fighter! Support can take many forms. If donation is your goal, you can do so here. All donations go to support the Education Outreach Program, University Chapter Program, and Teen Recovery Program. A minimum donation of $10 is required. Their motto is, "Give a little, fight a lot." One can also purchase t-shirts, hoodies, belt buckles, or wristbands to wear their support.

I am a fighter!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Birthweek Pick Day Two

As I sit on my couch with books toppling into my lap, stressed about prepping a lesson plan for tomorrow and Thursday (and the additional stress that implies), I want to make sure I mention the second pick for my birthweek.

During my service as a missionary in the Ohio Cincinnati Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I met many amazing people. One of them was a fellow missionary. Sister Hovik. She was stylish, she was driven, and you couldn't help but love her. Since returning I've been following her blog. Now Ashley Lemieux, she began a non-profit organization called The Shine Project. In its genesis, Ashley encouraged people to effect change wherever they were. Noting that we may not necessarily single-handedly change the world, she makes the valuable point that if we are making positive changes wherever we are, and enough of us join, our circles of influence will overlap, we will inspire others, and we can all shine.

Later, Ashley expanded her vision by beginning a scholarship fund. Now, there is an entire line of items produced by at-risk students that generates funds for scholarships called Threads (you can buy them here--they are incredibly fashionable and trendy).

You can donate directly to The Shine Project here (all funds support a scholarship for students of Cesar Chavez High School), or you can peruse The Shine Shop and a portion of every purchase goes toward the scholarship fund as well.

This video is pulled from The Shine Project's "About" page with the tagline "watch the video to feel the power of TSP."

Feel the power. Be part of the change.

Oh, and when you make a purchase they will send you a card to pass along to others to help share change. Each card comes with a unique number, so you can see where you card has been, and where it goes. Be the change. Track the change!

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's My Birthday: Let's Celebrate by Paying it Forward!

Whenever people ask me what my favorite holiday is, I tell them my birthday. 

Yes, I know it's rather narcissistic. 

The biggest part of what I love about my birthday is the timing. It's right in the midst of the holiday season, just after Halloween, and before things get into the full-swing with Thanksgiving and Christmas. People are kinder, the weather is cooler, and there's pumpkin (one of my most favorite things!) in just about everything.

This year for my birthday I was inspired by my dear friend Bethany. She always does unique and interesting things for her whole "birth week." And they are things that take the focus off of her, and put them onto others. So this year, I've decided to choose seven charities/organizations, one for each day of my birth week, to donate to. I invite you to join me.

In a world where initiatives for change are focused on just about every point of the globe, I wanted to choose organizations that I personally support and believe in; organizations that promote ideas I try to stand for and can get behind. The majority of these are not global enterprises, but groups that focus on more localized change.

For the first day I've chosen one of my first loves. 


Books opened the door beyond my rural Utah home to the world; they helped me see more, live more, and believe more. When I hear of children growing up without books (like one of my husband's favorite artists Skottie Young) it breaks my heart. I think every child should have books. Sometimes they might be their only friends.

The organization, First Book, does just that. It gives books, new books, to children who don't have them. 97% of donated funds go directly to buying books ($10 can buy 4 new books). Thus far, 90 million books have been distributed.You can read more about their impact here.They even have a marketplace which provides qualified groups new books at prices 50-90% below retail.

You can also make memorial or honor donations. There is a minimum donation of $5 (in part to offset credit card processing fees). All donations are tax-deductible.

Visit First Book today and make a donation.

Happy Birthday to ME!

Make sure to check in each day this week to see what other organizations and charities I like to support!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Salesman: An Open Letter

Dear Sir,

I do not feel that this title is befitting for one such as you; however, seeing how I have manners and you apparently lack them it behooves me to provide you with an example.

On Friday, you were plying your trade at a local grocer, a delivery service for goods at cut-rate prices. When first I passed your stand there was a gaggle of geriatrics asking questions and taking flyers, signing up for the "$100 Giveaway!" You seemed to be doing well.

I ran my errands, collecting take-and-bake pizzas, purchasing necessities like toilet paper and milk, and again I passed by. This time there was no buzzing crowd, solitary you stood at your utilitarian stand. When I had nearly passed you by completely you called out to me at over ten feet away, "Come, take a flyer!" Quite frankly, I ignored you. I did not want your service, my hands were full, and I had other things to do. When I kept walking you sneered, "Or not."

Excuse me? Excuse me! I must tell you, sir, that you are very fortunate I was so busy because as I walked away I played in my head the alternate ending to this scene.

It went like this: Instead of me walking away, arms loaded with a purse, a large package of toilet paper, a half gallon of milk, and two family-sized pizzas, unable to collect your superfluous flyer even if it had interested me, I turned on my heel toward you, came charging at your impotent stand and bellowed, "Or not?! How dare you! Who do you think you are?" Depositing my goods atop your barren counter I would rage, "You see a woman, burdened with goods, not a finger to spare, and you chastise her for not stopping to talk to you about something she clearly does not want or need? Perhaps you should do the world a service by removing yourself from the service industry as you are not fit for human interaction. Shall I go on or not?"

Regardless of the fact that I did not, in truth, say these things to you, I maintain that my sentiments are not far off the mark. You, sir, are a disgrace to your trade. May you never have the misfortune of crossing me again, as you are unlikely to be so lucky as to escape my wrath twice.


Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of School! First Day of School!

There's been a lot going on lately, least of which has been preparing to come back to school. It feels more surreal this semester than any other. It's my first semester being married, already having an apartment, and no new school clothes. Quite plainly...I feel too old. Of course I know this is just a personal mental block. Today a 19-year-old girl in my Spanish class told me I didn't look old enough to be 27. And I kept thinking, "I had my first degree before you were half way through high school." But such is the way of life. I wouldn't trade any of my experiences or time for anything else. Bring on the learning!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hot and Cold

Prompt: Share about feeling so hot or so cold you'll never forget it.

Generally I like to think I'm not particularly picky about temperature. In all honesty, the people around me seem to mention being too hot or cold before I do. Granted, my husband will likely disagree. He exists at a basic temperature about 10 degrees hotter than I do (and, I believe, everyone else).

But I have been hot and I've been cold.

The most memorable for me is when I was cold.

It was the winter of 2009 in Lawrenceburg, IN. I was serving as a missionary for my church, and the area was recovering from a recent ice storm. We were encouraged to go knocking door to door. The temperature was about 14 degrees Fahrenheit, but with windchill it was registering at -6. But with the wind blowing off the river it felt even colder.

As female missionaries we were required to wear skirts/dresses. I was wearing underarmor, a t-shirt, tights, a long sleeved shirt, sweatpants, a button-down blouse, my slip, a sweater, mid-calf winter boots, a heavy coat, a scarf, a hat, and two pairs of Thermal-insulated gloves. I had not even closed the car door before the liquid in my eyes began to solidify. My extremities were so cold they felt like they were on fire. It brought to mind Robert Frost's poem "Fire and Ice."

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Mischevious Fun

Prompt: Share about doing something mischievous but harmless just for fun.

Any woman/girl who has been to Girls' Camp has a story about this. Now to come up with the best prank...

The campground where I spent all my summers was Evelyn Webster's Flat, also known as Miner's Peak. When I started attending camp there the majority of the tent sites were raised, wooden platforms that giant tarps would be stretched across, and we had portable toilets that would be stirred with a stick to keep things "processing." We called them Riley Johns or Blue Rockets. There were a few scattered near the further campsites, but near the main meeting area/pavilion there was always a row of 5 or 6 together.

We had our own penchant for stirring up trouble. Coloring on people's faces with permanent marker, putting dead fish in people's beds, setting people's cots to collapse, taking liberties with "decorating." One summer our focus was on the Blue Rockets. We had a length of rope and 5 or 6 of us. After night set in we went prowling for unsuspecting victims.

The plan was to tie the door shut and shake things up a little, then let them loose and run off for the next adventure. After a little luck with the lower camps (granting immunity to our own, of course), we risked going to The Row. Directly behind them was a drop-off into the trees. We took up hiding there and waited for campers to arrive. It wasn't hard to tell which toilet they entered as their flashlights illuminated the white top like a nice little target. We had to focus on the end stalls because we couldn't get the rope around the middle set. Then, after fruitless waiting, we resorted to more primitive means to attack the central sets. A stick would hold the door shut quite easily.

Soon enough we heard footsteps in the dark, a dome lit up, and it was time for action. We flanked the Blue Rocket and started pushing it into a rocking motion, careful not to tip too far so that it rolled down the hill. Shouting in triumph and glee we sent the fastest person to remove the stick and we fled back into the trees to celebrate our brilliance.

Later, the man who was our Priesthood representative approached us and knowingly said, "Thanks for the ride, ladies."

As it turns out, we weren't the sneaky masterminds we thought we were.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Interview Bloopers

Prompt: Share about something amusing or unusual that happened during a job interview.

Note: This sounds kind of braggardly (even to me). I don't intend it that way...but yeah. I'm aware.

I've been mentally scanning through the job interviews I've had. Few really stick out in my mind, mostly because I spent months training how to interview when I was a candidate for Sterling Scholar in High School, and it's something I enjoy. Sure, some people may say, "That was 10 years ago." Well, I have an uncanny ability to remember highly detailed information.

I know most people hate hunting for jobs. Random Chelsea Quirk: Sometimes I want to apply for different jobs just so I can interview because I love the intensity and pressure of having to be well-spoken, yet humble; brilliant, but teachable; observant, but understated. It speaks to the very nature of my competitive soul.

During a lull in my otherwise stellar resume (which may or may not include such specialties as "Pest Control Technician" "Grant Record Keeping and Reporting Specialist" "Babysitter" "Inventory Specialist"...ahem, that's enough of that) I took the dreaded hit that many people take when you need steady income and nobody else is hiring.

Have you already guessed? Yup, telemarketing.

Convergy's to be specific. But I digress. This is supposed to be about the interview.

After an initial screening and a simple typing and computer efficiency test I had an interview scheduled with the HR Manager. His name was Jeremy. I believe there were four required questions. You know, the basics of "What's your greatest weakness?" "How do you work with other people" and that other nonsense--where they want you to "answer honestly" but are really trying to see how well you sell yourself because everyone knows you're supposed to make your weaknesses look like strengths, show how resourceful you are, and that you absolutely a people person. Go team!

At any rate, in the middle of the interview he put down the paper and said, "I just want to stop you right now. I have to ask all these questions because I'm required to, but I want you to know that that the job is yours right now. You interview better than anyone I've ever met. If you ever need a reference in the future have them give me a call, here's my card." At which point he handed me his business card, and asked the concluding two questions.

To be honest, there has only ever been one job I've applied for and not been offered the position. I told my husband when we were dating, "Just so you know, I'm used to getting what I want." This applies in many cases.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Achievement and Pride

Prompt: Share about something you achieved that you're extremely proud of.

Yeah...this is hard for me. In part, because I'm a prideful person and think that just about everything I do is awesome (this is part sarcastic, and part true. seriously). As I've recognized this trait in myself I've worked on being more humble. Humility does not come easy to the proud.

When I maneuver my gaze into a more exterior lens I think, What have I done that other people would think is cool? If I told a story about what I've done what would make people's jaws drop in amazement and admiration? (I'm telling you, humble people don't think this way.) And nothing comes to mind.

Sure, I've won awards and honors for my writing. I volunteered 18 months of my life to service work. I graduated from University Magna Cum Laude.

But so have millions of others!

Did I forget to mention I also struggle with uniqueness? You know, the need to be unique? Cause yeah, I do.
Casting an introspective searchlight, and after pondering all these things I've come up with something. It's not earth-shattering, it's something many people have done. Yet, it's something I've worked really hard for, it's something I've earned, and it's something I will have to work on for the rest of my life.

I've changed.

Shocking, I know. Because, hey, everyone changes, right? Or do they?

I have changed for the better.

In my life I have been allowed to walk through some very hard things, I've also been given magnificent opportunities. And I have allowed them to change me. To me stagnation is death. I seek to learn, to experience, to grow. I know have a great deal of room for improvement, but I am proud of the person I am today and the person I am becoming.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Right Place. Right Time.

Prompt: Share about being in just the right place at just the right time.

I'm willing to bet most people would think of a specific event that happened in a split second, attributing it to some semblance of luck or fate.

I can think of a lot of those times. But there's a different kind of time/place event that is more important to me.

In the fall of 2010 I was just starting to put the pieces of myself back together. I was damaged from a relationship that had ended the previous October, and I was just regaining myself. I was led to Cedar City, and felt like I needed to stay there. I couldn't use my degree, so I decided to go back for a second bachelor's degree that I could use. I only needed one more creative writing class, and I was able to get into the only section.

About the end of October I started having the strongest desire to get to know the man I referred to as "the bearded fellow" in my class. I started noticing him outside of class. My friends told me to approach him. I was nervous. What if things didn't go well? What if I didn't like him? So I set a personal deadline. If he didn't ask me out by the end of the semester I'd ask him.

Two weeks later he asked me on a date. I had this sense that if we actually went on the date we'd get married. Of course I didn't tell him that!

I must say, I wasn't wrong.

I've been married to my best friend for 455 days. We moved to Korea. We adopted a dog. We moved back to the USA. We've laughed, we've cried, we've read a lot, and we've loved. We've loved through it all.

Had it been left up to me in the fall of 2010 I would not have picked Cedar. And I couldn't have been more wrong. He was made for me, and I couldn't be happier.

Friday, August 10, 2012


It's time to clean out the cobwebs.

The corners that are not often visited, the issues that don't require immediate attention, those things that are allowed to gather dust.

What's funny to me is that it can take less than a week for dust to settle on some things. Especially when I consider all the changes since my last post.

Adopted a dog.
Moved back to the USA.
Started working in Rehab again.
A dear friend's spouse passed away.
Met my youngest niece for the first time.
Surprised Mama for her 50th birthday.
Chopped off my hair.
Did a live reading.

And a bunch of other little things in between.

Why didn't I write? Because I didn't know where to start. Then I became overwhelmed because I build up in my head what a post "should" be, and that I have to write about all the little things.

But then I remembered, writers write. Every day. So all I needed to do was start to write.

My husband has been doing BEDIA (Blog Every Day In August). Today we picked up some cards from a local bookstore called a Chat Pack. This one is specifically geared toward stories. There are 156 prompts. My new goal? Write something about each of them.

And there is no better day to start than today. So with that, here goes!

Prompt: Share about forgetting something VERY important.

Oh this is so hard...because I am a forgetter! I forget things all the time! Just ask my husband. This week alone I forgot to turn the stove off and nearly caused us carbon monoxide poisoning, and left a loaf of bread baking in the oven for almost an hour. Obviously those aren't VERY important (well, the stove thing is), but you may be getting my drift. I am a forgetter.

If something isn't written down, or has an alarm set, it doesn't exist. I will have not even the vaguest of inklings that I've even forgotten something, even after someone has brought it up (not always, but it has happened more than once).

Anyway, to get down to telling a story I'll write the one that cropped up first in my overflowing box of "forgotten" memories.

I forgot a razor.

Sounds simple enough, right? Razors aren't that hard to come by. It shouldn't have been that big of a deal.

This razor was a very big deal.

It wasn't forged of titanium, or enchanted to never dull or rust. Just a standard, run-of-the-mill woman's razor (Sidebar: women's razors are a travesty. Much like women's socks. Compared to the "men's" version, they don't hold a candle, and are laughably inferior in quality and durability.).

Why, then, was this particular razor of such great importance?

It was my sister's razor. One she had left in our hometown. The one she asked me to bring to her new home. The one she was going to use the day before her wedding.

But again, it's just a razor.

Well, in Nephi, Utah at 10:30pm on a Thursday night nothing is open. Nor is anything open at 7:30am when you are departing for a neighboring small town. Not only that, but it was the night before the wedding. You know, the night that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. The night when people fight and everyone wonders if this whole event is even worth the stress when it could be as simple as a justice of a peace and a bride and groom.

Well, the straw that broke our stress-camel's back was a razor.

I used to think "if only I had brought the razor..." but time and experience has taught me that if it hadn't been the razor it would have been something else. We were a powder keg waiting to blow, and it just so happened to be a double bladed Venus that ignited a spark.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Service & Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

So I find that doing things for other people makes me happy. Like ridiculously happy. Even better? When I can serve someone I love.

This all goes back to a post my husband made on my Facebook Wall yesterday.

The evidence.

I worked my magic, and made the following reply this morning...

Nothing like results!

Apparently we weren't the only ones who thought these would be fabulous because the requests I've received for the recipe have been pouring in. So, here goes the story (with links to the idea origination, and the actual recipe I used).

I followed the link, and I agreed. These did look amazing. They also looked impossible for South Korea. They don't have Grand's here. And the average package of bacon comes with six strips. So, I had to improvise (as always happens in baking, right?).

First, I needed a cinnamon roll recipe. Since Mama is away at Spring Training in AZ, and the handwritten recipe my sister found at home is indecipherable I was left to the vast interweb to find something. I wanted a quick turnaround, so I spent a whole morning searching for something suitable. Finally, late last night, I finally found this. As you can see, it's a Southern Food recipe. Nobody does unhealthy goodness like the blessed people from the South, and the recipe was a cinch! Plus, it included a recipe for a nice glaze (I'm not a heavy, cream cheese frosting kind of girl after an unfortunate incident in the past).

Because I had to hand-roll all the cinnamon rolls at one time it increased the difficulty of ensuring nice, even rolls with their allotted two strips of bacon each (the end of the roll ended up without bacon, but who's going to turn down "regular old cinnamon rolls"? Um, nobody. That's who). But what's life without a little variety, right? I have a good serrated knife, but I opted for the dental floss method of slicing the rolls, and I'm so glad I did! 

The gentle sawing might not have worked through the bacon, but the dental floss snapped right through it. Not familiar with the method? It's quite simple. Pull out a 12" piece of dental floss. Slide it under your roll, measure about 1 to 1 1/2", cross the floss at the top, and pull tight. It will slice right through the dough and the bacon. It's a lovely thing.

Anyhoo, with two packages of bacon baked to a done-but-flexible state, my oven was preheated, following the Southern Food recipe, and a lot of waiting we ended up with some very tasty bacon cinnamon rolls.

For the easiest rolls, follow the Rainy Day Gal's recipe. It's simple, it's fast, and I'm pretty sure they taste great. Although, as I was waiting out the process of dough rising, I had an idea to make it even easier.

Sometimes, for reasons I'll never fathom, people sprinkle raisins into their cinnamon rolls. Instead of trying to roll up whole strips of bacon, why not sprinkled bacon crumbles? No, not Bac-Os. We all know that's not real bacon. You can either cook and crumble the bacon yourself, or buy those handy bacon crumbles that are already bottled at the store (unless you live in South Korea like some of us...).

But for all the ease in the world, I'd never trade homemade/from-scratch taste.

I'll also make the note that the total time for the cinnamon rolls, from start to finish, was nearly three hours (including rising time). That may sound like a lot. Every single minute was worth it after that first, gooey, sticky bite still warm from the oven.

Whatever route you choose, I hope you enjoy 'cause we sure do!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Cake

My husband is an introvert. He isn't anti-social, he just has different limits when it comes to people and being the center of attention. Enter me, the antithesis of introvert. I'm not a complete polar opposite, and I wouldn't say he's on the far side of introverted either. But we do balance each other.

Yesterday he said, "I hope you've taken my introverted nature into account for your surprises." The surprises he mentions are in relation to his birthday. It was also yesterday. If he could get away without anyone knowing that he would be just fine with that. Once again, enter me. I love birthdays. Especially my own. I'll tell everybody it's my birthday. I love celebrating life. I love celebrating me. Even more than I love celebrating me, I love celebrating those I love.

My Need to Celebrate - My Husband's Introverted Nature = Pent-Up Energy Looking for Escape

Since I couldn't expend all my energies letting the world know how my incredible husband came into the world yesterday and nothing could make me happier (because he wouldn't like that) I turned all that energy inward into trying to do the things he would like.

He only asked for two things, so I gave both of them to him. He says I spoiled him. I can't see how I did him anything close to justice. I mean, how hard is it to shop? The thing that took the most effort and planning wasn't either of the gifts. It was the cake.

My husband loves chocolate. Lu-uhves the stuff. Milk. Mild. Dark. The man is a regular choco-holic. His favorite treat combines his love of chocolate with peanut butter in the Reese's Dark Peanut Butter Cup. A perfect balance of the bitter with the sweet, the smooth with texture. They aren't easy to come by in the States, so getting them in Korea was unthinkable. But I could...I could make a cake!

From Good Gracious Cakes, found here.

This is my vision for a future cake of his because he loves The Wizard of Oz equally as much as chocolate. But, as I think you and I both know, that was so not happening.

When I was searching for recipes for cakes and frostings and how to do what all the different sites have members with rated cooking experience. I would rate my experience at "wishful thinking." I've never made a cake from scratch. I've never made a layer cake. I've never made frosting. Sure, I worked in a bakery where I took the PRE-BAKED cakes out and frosted them with the PRE-MADE frosting, and even learned how to use the fancy piping tips to edge, make roses, and even leaves (I never could get the proper control for writing). The bakery also had the cake plate that rotated for easy control, and actual tools for spreading the frosting.

So here I am in Korea with no experience, no tools, a counter-top convection oven, a whole lot of energy to expend, and this vision of a chocolate cake with a peanut butter center, complete with chunks of actual peanut butter cups, and topped with whole peanut butter cups. didn't turn out like that.

But I did achieve (personal) rockstar status with what DID happen.

First, it's nearly impossible to get Reese's in Korea period. So there went that idea. However, they do carry Peanut Butter/Chocolate Creme filled Oreos. Yeah...that'll work! But before I ever got there I trolled the internet recipe sites. I wanted a good chocolate cake, but I also knew that I was coming in with a knowledge deficit, and a $25 hand mixer to make this happen, so it had to be simple enough I could do it. A few months back I found this cake on Pinterest, and I thought I could probably make that (sans the liqueur). But the making of melted chocolate drizzle, and the prohibitive pricing for things like Kit Kats or Twix here (which don't taste the same as the ones at home anyway) led me down a different path.

After lots of searching I ended up going with a very basic recipe from Hershey. It's their "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake. And the site also includes their "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting. I remember he had mentioned something about his mother's peanut butter frosting recipe, so I did some searching online and found this at However, as you can see in the myriad comments there seems to be no agreement about the proper way to make it, but it seems almost no one follows the recipe as it's written.

So here's what I did.

Using my one 9" cake pan I made the cake exactly according to the recipe and baked my cakes one at a time (which is why they are uneven, because I couldn't "equally distribute" the batter as I was just eye-balling the results). And, instead of flouring the sides of the pan after lightly greasing them I dusted them with cocoa powder. After the cakes were baked and cooled (I did this a day ahead) I wrapped them in foil and tossed them in the freezer.

For the frosting I halved both the recipes. I decided to fill the center with peanut butter and top it with peanut butter, then do the sides in chocolate. I followed the measurements for the amount of butter, vanilla, and cocoa/peanut butter to use, but beyond that I didn't measure anything, I just alternated powdered sugar and milk to consistency. No, I've never MADE frosting before, but you can trust me I've spread plenty of it (or...on occasion...eaten it out of the container from a everybody does...). I left the peanut butter quite a bit thicker because I wanted it to be more like the center of a Reese's. The chocolate I thinned out quite a bit because I wanted to make sure I had plenty to cover the whole cake. And because I'm short on proper bowls I had to mix one frosting in the mixing bowl, scrape it out into another regular bowl, wash it and the beaters, then do it all over again for the other frosting.

I repeated a mistake I've made in the past and froze the Oreos. The problem when you smash them is that the cream doesn't budge and the entire cookie becomes completely pulverized instead of nicely crushed. Note to self: next time leave the Oreos at room temperature.

I took the cakes out of the freezer (learned this from the baker: if it's frozen it's less likely to fall apart while you're frosting it, and since I was using THICK peanut butter frosting I needed it to stay as in-tact as possible) and placed one, rounded side down, on an upside-down, aluminum-foiled baking sheet (because it's what I had). It made for a slightly uneven cake, but I certainly was not going to attempt to level the sucker with a knife. I spread the peanut butter frosting quite thick, then pulled out the un-pulverized Oreo centers and stuck them on, then spread a thin layer of the icing on the bottom of what would become my upper layer so the Oreos would be nicely sandwiched with icing. Then I spread the remaining peanut butter frosting on the top of the upper layer.

Next, I frosted the sides with the chocolate frosting. The gap between the two layers was rather enormous because the frozen Oreo centers had absolute NO give...nor did my frozen cakes, so I was worried about filling in the gap. But shortly after beginning I saw that it would be fine.

Because I lacked the tools to really trim the cake nicely I decided to stick with the messy look. I placed the remaining Oreo centers on the top (had I been thinking of aesthetics I would have reserved some whole cookies for beautiful cake toppers...but I didn't), and sprinkled the pulverized cookie bits on the top. At which point I decided, wouldn't it be fun to have the bits all around the outside? So I scooped up some and literally threw it at the sides of the cake. It was atrociously messy and decidedly delightful to literally throw cookie dust at the cake. Some of the bigger pieces need a little firm pressing to stay attached, but it was really quite fun.

Voila! The sinfully decadent (and delicious!) result...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


So I'm not really much of an activist. I've never been a sign-toting, pledge-signing kind of person. However, there are a few things that stick very closely to my heart, and I will always fight for. And no, these are not in order of importance.

First, the PRIVILEGE that U.S. citizens have to vote (and, to their everlasting shame, one that they squander). But that is a soap box for another day my friends. This post is reserved for something different.

Two, the neglect, abuse, and/or murder of children. No, I'm not a mother. That does not mean I don't have the instincts of one, and will do my best to protect any child I can regardless of my relation to him/her. The idea that anyone could knowingly or intentionally take advantage of, manipulate, maltreat, or otherwise harm such an innocent, malleable, helpless being deserves whatever judgments the God I believe in has to serve.

Last week was the first time I had heard of/saw anything regarding Joseph Kony, as I'm sure many of you did. My initial reaction after watching was, "Let's get this done!" I wanted to shell out the $30 and buy our Action Kit immediately. But my husband, the prevailing cooler head in our relationship, suggested we wait until it wasn't such a "tight" month. So I waited.

As I waited the rush of doing it cooled. Opposing responses appeared, rebuttals followed, etc. I observed these things and sat back, taking it in. But the fire that ignited inside me to be part of change burned on. I began researching other organizations that work to promote real change. But they all had drawbacks of some kind or another. Reasons why one "shouldn't" donate to them.

So I reflected on what's important to me. What I think "worthy" causes are, and on some of the comments people made that we need to start taking care of our own before we start taking care of the world.

This is what I came up with.

Every month I donate 10% of my earnings as a tithe to my church, which supports causes like humanitarian aid. I believe very much in what they do, and the same group who oversees the spending of that tithing is also in charge of the humanitarian arm of our church. Currently they are receiving donations that go toward the following projects:
I can willingly, happily donate to these causes, and I am confident that my money will not be lining pockets, but actually working on the intended cause.

Additionally, I was reminded of something my husband read to me. One of his favorite comic artists posted something on Twitter about not having access to books as a child. Both of us agreed that not having access to books is nothing short of tragedy. So I've been looking into charities that focus on literacy. An excellent list of charities, non-profits, and volunteer organizations who do just that (it has 125 on the list!) can be found at Playing by the Book --a site dedicated to reviewing children's books.

One that I've found, and wouldn't mind supporting, is First Book. According to it's website, "First Book has distributed more than 80 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. By making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis, First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and the elevating the quality of education." They also receive a 4 star ranking on Charity Navigator which you can find here.

Also, I believe that individuals can be the change. I have the good fortune of knowing a woman who has started the grassroots campaign to "be the change." She encourages people to be the change wherever they are. Her name is Ashley, and it's called The Shine Project.

And last, going back to what I said about children, I feel that children are often neglected when parents get caught up in dangerous, harmful situations. Sometimes the children are not taught what is dangerous and they become those same kinds of parents. It took years for people to figure out smoking was bad for you. Some people are starting to sound advance warning about pornography in the same way, and I support them. Their non-profit organization Fight the New Drug focuses solely on educating people--especially youth--about the harmful effects of pornography. People who stand with them are fighters. I am a Fighter.

Overall, I think people should not be won over by bouts of mass-propaganda. I do think one person makes a difference, and by choosing to make a difference in the lives of others that sphere of influence expands and overlaps with other people. We can make this world a better place. We can shape the future. We just have to find our book, our shine, our fight, and go with it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Talent Show

So I am terribly remiss in posting this, considering the talent show of which I write occurred in JANUARY. Ahem, that aside, here it finally is and that's what really counts. Right? Right!

It all started with an email recruiting female teachers at the school I work at in South Korea. The guys generally participated, but they felt a little more estrogen was needed. And thus formed the OWP Girls dance troupe (not really, but we did a one night that's something).

ANYWAY...back to the important part of the story, we decided to do a dance number. There were four of us in the group. Mary, Katherine, Lorelei, and me. We had nightly practices for three weeks and learned a K-Pop dance routine using the YouTube dance tutorial.

To get an idea of what we were trying to do you can watch the actual K-Pop group...

...and this is the tutorial we watched to learn the dance (well, one part of it, anyway).

The hours were long. There were room scheduling issues. And sometimes there were curse words (like the night before the performance when I broke my shoe). But in the end it was a lot of fun, and I'd do it all over again.

This video has our dance and the remaining portion of the talent show (don't worry, it's only 6 minutes long so it won't kill you).


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bread and Soup Recipes

On Pinterest I just uploaded some pins of things I've made, and have received a request for the recipe I used when I made bread bowls and soup the other night. I'm not sure if it was for the bread bowls or the soup--so here are both!

First, the bowls are from a basic bread recipe that my mother uses *all* the time. Yield for this is four loaves; I quartered it for our bread bowls.

4 c warm water
3 T yeast
4 T sugar
2 T salt
1/4 c vegetable oil
10-12 c flour

Combine yeast, water, and sugar. Let sit until yeast proofs. Add salt and oil, and first 3-5 cups of flour. Slowly add the remaining flour about a cup at a time until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl, but is still a little sticky (I always have to touch to tell--if it looks shiny then it needs just a little more flour). Let the dough rest until it has doubled in size (usually an hour; I had other things to do, so I mixed the dough in the morning, covered it, and placed it in the fridge until the afternoon). On a lightly floured surface knead dough. Shape into loaves and place in prepared loaf pans (prepared meaning lightly oiled). Let the loaves rise (again, until doubled in size) then place into an oven preheated to 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

For the bread bowls I obviously didn't use loaf pans, I just shaped them into round balls. Additionally, to make them more crusty I followed the steps located here. I don't own a baking stone, so I just used my tinfoil lined baking sheet and it worked just fine. I also glazed the dough with egg whites after I had made the slits/just before placing them in the oven.

The soup recipe is something I found here. But with a few modifications. I only add a splash of olive oil because I am not at all health-conscious and saute my onions in my bacon fat. However, it's not quite enough, hence the splash of olive oil. I've also found that the starch in the potatoes is MORE than enough to make the soup creamy, so I nix adding flour as well. One thing I absolutely stick to is adding the salt and pepper after removing the soup from the heat. It makes all the difference in the world.

Happy eating!

Friday, March 2, 2012


Spring is coming.

I can feel it.

Each morning as the sun rises a little earlier I feel the hope of Spring. I've even noticed the angle of the sun shining into our apartment is changing. I'm sure Adam grows weary with my constant pronouncements of the upcoming season, but I just can't help getting excited about it!

The season is not the only thing changing here in Korea. Last week I was selected to be the new Coordinator for the Special Programs division here at English Village. I feel very overwhelmed by all the things I have responsibility for, but I am hopeful that they will all turn out well. One might ask what a Coordinator does. With my job I'm a little bit scheduler, teacher-trainer, content-coordinator, supply chief, game developer, prize and certificate distributor, and assistant to the program's Head Teacher. Yeah. It's a lot of change.

The position was vacant because many teachers are finishing their contracts and leaving English Village. The change with their departure is palpable.  By the end of this month we will be down to 39 teachers (this may sound like a lot considering we aren't a traditional school, but when you also take into account that it used to be a force of over 100 it puts into clearer perspective how things are going). Many of those going have been the people who have defined life at English Village for me; I call them friends before I call them coworkers. Because I am selfish I am sad to see them go, but I am happy for the opportunities and possibilities that await them with their changes.

One of the benefits of people leaving is they sell stuff they can't/don't want to take with them. It was through such luck that we are now the proud owners of (much larger) small convection oven! I almost feel as though it deserves a name because of the inordinate amount of love I have for the simple little appliance. It was too late last night to make something for dinner after we installed it (read: cleared off space next to the microwave for it to sit), so it's inaugural use tonight was bread bowls for dinner.

Didn't they turn out lovely?

And another picture of them all dressed up!

Don't worry, it's ok to be jealous of how good it looks to eat cause it was divine ;)

I also finally decided I just couldn't take it anymore with the growing of the hair. Nobody but Adam knew I was going (ok, Jamie knew, too). 

Here is the last day with the long (for me!) locks. 

Aren't they awful? Yowza! This was taken just before I left for the salon.

And (drumroll for the big reveal...) the new haircut!

This was the immediate-post salon styling (can I just tell you that the head massage during the shampoo alone is worth the $30 I pay to go there? part of my week so far). I'll have to pick up some pomade ASAP so I can get the funk back into it. I just about laughed out loud when the stylist finished and said, almost in surprise, "It looks much younger." I heard, "You don't have prematurely old-looking mom hair anymore!"

Hooray for change!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Gettin' Crafty!


After, literally, months of crafting, waiting, searching for menial things, and eventual problem-solving I can post my living room renovation blog!

In fact, this has been so long in the making I have had to go to three different sources to find all the videos and pictures I have taken to document this process (this, of course, does not include any of the websites I will be referencing).

Ok, so our little apartment in Korea really is a great size for us right now (especially since we don't have all our stuff). But as any woman will tell you, a little bit of nesting has to happen no matter how small the space. Just a little something to make it "homey" and to make it really "ours." Not to mention, the stains on the walls that just won't come off really start to wear on you after a while (especially when they weren't your stains to begin with).

A relatively cheap and easy fix? PAINT! I also like to think of it as tennent-improvement-of-property. As you will see in the following I've made a few other minor additions (that took WAY more time and energy than they should have for how they turned out!), but by far the biggest difference has been made with a simple coat of paint.

My coworker and friend, Jennifer, came over the first Saturday in October (yes, I'm ashamed to admit, it's been THAT long) and in about 4 hours we were finished and I was taking tape back off the walls.

Here is a "before" video with the details...

And another with our "tools of the trade."

We listened to General  Conference, visited a little, and made quick work of it. I did all the edging, and Jennifer did all the rolling.
Here's the finished product!

Can you believe what a difference that made? It's been HUGE! For weeks, and sometimes still, I come out and feel like I've walked into someone else's apartment. Beside the great addition of color, it's so nice to feel like the walls are clean.

For additional accent we also placed a few vinyl clings on the walls.

(And, uh, PLEASE don't mind the mess...)

Another project, which I had actually started before, but did not complete until after the painting, was finding a suitable covering for the main light in our living room. All our lights are fluorescent and it's just a little too bright for the larger area.
While browsing through Pinterest I saw this really cool coffee filter lamp, and I thought, "I could do that!" Except I wasn't so comfortable permanently adhering coffee filters to our light fixtures, so I had to come up with a different way.

The first thing I wanted to do was stain the filters with a variety of colors so it would look more like stained glass. I chose to do green tea, and coffee (leaving the filters in for different amounts of time to let them absorb more or less color for lighter or darker hues).

There was only one problem. Coffee filters in Korea come in the unbleached form. Meaning? They're already brown. I decided to try coloring them anyway. And if it was all for naught, oh well!

Here are the filters in their varying stages.

The coffee water was pretty murky. I used about 10 packets of instant coffee in about 1 1/4 cups of water. Our apartment reeked of it for days.

The unfortunate truth is, it didn't really work. Oh well! Next it was time to figure out how to attach the filters to the fixture. Initially I tried double-sided sticky roll-on (I thought I was buying tape, it was my own fault for not checking more closely). It failed miserably. Especially when facing the air conditioner blowing at full speed.

So the coffee filter light filter came down for a while. Then I followed Adam's idea and chained them together using a stapler. Each chain was fixed to the next in three places. I then taped the chains securely to the fixture. It's both easy to remove when a light bulb burns out, and has a nice canopy/billowy effect (especially when the heat turns on and it blows!).

Next was something for my big wall. It was nice and clean and brown now. And very, very empty. Once again I was perusing Pinterest (see! People actually make stuff happen from that site, it's not just a soul-sucking waste of time!), and I found this...

It was simple, It made a statement. It was perfect. Why is it perfect, you may ask. Because it's made of toilet paper rolls and spray paint! I didn't have access to a cheap canvas from Michael's like the original crafter did, but I figured I could make do. And I knew I had access to spray paint and toilet paper rolls.

So for weeks I meticulously collected our empty rolls (honestly, I still find myself in the habit of wanting to keep them "just in case" I find something else really excellent to do with them) as well as paper towel rolls, since they're the same diameter and a bit longer.

For a background I had the ingenius idea to use the little boxes our packages of noodles came in, along with a couple of cereal boxes, and the final addition was the box our shoe rack came in. They were different lengths, heights, and depths. I figured it could be really cool to have them that way.

Finally, the day came to paint. I was going to spray the boxes white and the flowers/butterflies/what-have-yous brown.

Here are the photos from that day.

I was ready to roll! Until, that is, I realized in a very short period of time that my "white" spray paint was actually just a clear topcoat, and my toilet paper rolls needed much more than a single can of brown, as they quickly absorbed the entire thing.

If I were doing this again (at home, in English, where I know what things are) I would use a primer, as was suggested by the original crafter, to avoid using so much color on the toilet paper rolls. But that didn't solve my problem of the background. If that wasn't white, then there was no white to be found where I do my shopping.

A new plan was needed. And it took until Christmas Eve when Adam and I were wrapping our presents that I realized the embossable foil paper we bought would be perfect. So yesterday I picked up two more rolls at the store, two more cans of brown spray paint, and we were back in business.

I had agonized over the shape and design for a long time when I did the initial layout back in OCTOBER, so I just stuck with it as I was putting things together this time. Now, looking at the completed project, I think I would have played with the space on my wall a little differently. But I still like it.

The only problem was I didn't mirror the picture when I was assembling things from behind, so it actually turned out a reverse of the original design.

Alas here it is!

This last picture is how it looked in the morning light today, and it helped me to like it even more.

That's it! Renovation is complete!

Now, for some lucky little add-ons.

Last VIP Adam and I taught students a Western class where you make a horse's head with your foot, then add googly eyes, a triangle neck, and some yarn for a mane (notice that none of us got that far). I made one with a class, and so did he. Then a student gave her's to Adam, so we had a little horse family! Points if you can guess whose horse is whose!

Also, Christmas this year was pretty low key, but we decided to get a little taste of home (or close to it). Here's a little video of that as well. Enjoy!