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October 2010

It's a party in the USA

Or an All American party... whatever you want to call it!  (Admit it.  You have that Miley Cyrus song stuck in your head now, right?)  My buddies and I at school had been talking about having another Peanut Gallery party and inviting friends from class with their spouses and families.  So we finally decided to do it and Brent volunteered to host at his house (thank you Sherilyn!).  We got together for dinner and then just hung out talking and enjoying getting to know each other better and not talking about school and homework.  We had tons of fantastic food including homemade rootbeer, Brent's dutch oven potatoes, my spiced up slow-cooked pulled bbq chicken and couscous, watermelon & feta salad, brats and burgers and dessert... Chad's amazing trifle and Mindy's fantastic brownies.

I managed to get a few pictures during dinner...

Mindy and Darren:

Mindy and Darren

And Rick and Carolyn:

Rick and Caralynn 

And Mike with his adorable 8-week old, Finn, who was born just before Residency Week:

Mike and Finn 

And then... we played Rock Band.  It was inevitable.  I will admit that I have no idea who took most of these photos... lol.  I left my camera on the table and different people picked it up and snapped shots throughout the night.  It was definitely fun to go through the pictures and see what was on there!

Alan with excellent supporting vocals for Clayton... I can't remember which song it was, but they were rocking it!

Rock Band - Alan and Clayton

Mike and Chad on guitar / bass and Rick on drums...

Rock Band 3 

Laura and Brent's son Dillan on guitar / bass and Chad on drums...

Rock Band 2 

And somehow, I ended up singing.  I was coerced.  I warned them that they brought the results upon themselves (and then got vengeance later).  I think this is Rick on guitar while I was singing "Spirit in the Sky."

Rick Rocks 

And since I had to sing, I made Chad sing.

Rock Band - Chad Sings

And finally, me on drums with Laura and Mindy on guitar / bass with Alan on vocals:

Rock Band 1

After it started winding down, I think we all hung out around the island in the kitchen for a good 45 minutes just chatting. 

Anyway, it was a total blast.  It was a lot of fun to just hang out and not have to worry about homework (that's tomorrow.  lol.)  We'll have to have another party soon :)

I put all the pictures here.

P.S.  Check it out!  One of my layouts was featured on the Prima blog today for the August Build-A-Page.  How cool!


Okay, I'm totally not trying to be a food blogger, I swear!  But I just can't help but post the results of tonight's cooking adventures.  I had planned to do something with artichokes but then thought the better of it.  When I stopped by Whole Foods Saturday, they had a display of organic brown figs right at the entrance... despite my never having tasted fresh figs let alone made anything with them, I bought a little basket.  How could I resist?  They were calling me!  Since they have a very short shelf life after they're ripe (and they were ripe), I figured I should make something with those first.  So I did the sensible thing and Googled "fig recipes."  Did you know there's an entire website dedicated to that?  I ended up on a link I found on Epicurious... and boy am I glad I found it.  I stopped by the store on the way home to pick up some gorgonzola and an apple to make it.  Of course, I also changed the recipe just a bit to lighten it up.  I used whole wheat pita bread and instead of olive oil I used the 0 calorie spray.  After I finished, one serving is 2 points.  TWO!

Fig, Apple and Gorgonzola Flatbread 

I cut two 8" pita rounds into quarters and sprayed them then put them under the broiler for 2 minutes.  Then I crumbled 2 ounces of gorgonzola across all eight pieces, added the apple slices and the quartered figs and put it back under the broiler for 4 minutes.  Then while it was hot, I sprinkled 1 ounce of shredded fresh parmigiano reggiano evenly across all the pieces.  Finally, I drizzled just a touch of honey on the piece I ate. 

Oh my stars and bananas.

That was fabulous.  FABULOUS.  I will definitely be using fresh figs again... and this recipe is going into the "keep" pile. (2 POINTS!!!  I had to recalculate it a few times to be sure.  It's amazing.)

But lest you think that's all I made, that, my friends, was just the appetizer.  I also took a recipe from my Middle Eastern cookbook and whipped that up too.  Well, sort of... I modified it, of course.  lol.  I made stuffed tomatoes. (Look how closely they resemble the photo in the book!  I'm so proud.)

Stuffed Tomatoes
Of course, I had to change it up a bit.  In order to make them a meal and keep within my points I swapped out a few ingredients.  I used Boca meatless crumbles instead of beef and 86ed the onions.  However, without the onions I needed to beef up my filling mix so it would fill the tomatoes so I added in some leftover plain, mashed potatoes.  I also took the pulp that I carved out from inside the tomatoes and poured it into the mixture - it really helped moisten it up and added back in all the flavor and nutrients.  The filling also had pine nuts and raisins (I couldn't find currants) and I sauteed it all in a touch of sunflower oil.  The real key was the spice... I used allspice and cinnamon. 


Not only did the kitchen smell amazing, but the taste... wow.  So good.  The allspice and cinnamon in this savory dish gave it a certain... je ne sais quoi.  (No seriously.  I really don't know what it was.  lol.  But it was awesome!)  So the result... two entire deliciously decadent stuffed tomatoes for 6 points.  You just can't beat it.

Okay... I guess that's enough sharing... bed time.  TTFN!

Little pink rings of happiness.

I found this recipe for vanilla bean mini donuts on a blog a while ago and bookmarked it.  Then last week while attempting to relieve a spate of overwhelming boredom, I was going through my bookmarks and found it again.  As I read the recipe, I thought to myself, "self... this actually doesn't look too fattening!  Let's run it through the Weight Watchers recipe builder and see what it says."  Would you believe it was only TWO points for 3 of these little guys?  Or if you're really craving donuts, 5 points for 6 of them.  So really, do you have to ask if I made them?  Duh.

Vanilla Bean Mini Donuts 

I made a few changes... I added almond extract and used egg beaters instead of eggs.  Also, I don't like the flavor of the food coloring so I might skip that next time or use a different brand.  It's a little bitter, but fortunately the flavor doesn't come through much when the glaze is actually on the donuts (I was about out of powdered sugar or I would have ditched the glaze and redone it).  This made five dozen... I put aside a little tupperware for me to have as desserts and put the rest of them in a hermetically sealed container to take to my peeps at school on Tuesday.  (Okay, so it's not hermetically sealed, but hopefully it's nice and air tight.)

Hmm... what else did I do this weekend.  It was super busy and it's all a blur.  Oh yeah.  I went to Archivers and left without buying anything.  Seriously?  I'd say there was something wrong but I made up for it when I treated myself to a trip to Whole Foods yesterday morning.  Mini artichokes, fresh herbs and some other fun goodies I can't get anywhere else here.  I'm planning another Middle Eastern dish tomorrow night as my first artichoke dish.  It looks delicious... we'll see if I pull it off.

I also put together the invite for my sister's baby shower next month.  I can't be there for the shower, so this is my contribution.  Not too bad for a non-digi girl, huh?  I just uploaded them (the non-censored version, that is...) to be printed and delivered to my mom's house.  (Check out the awesome free kit I used from Kristie at The Shabby Shoppe.)

Nicole's Baby Shower Invite Blog Version 

I also did a super quick layout for Steph's wedding album...


And I did another quick necklace and earring set.  I'm not sure what I'll wear it with, but I like it!  The earrings are pretty cool but you can't see them well here.  The dark beads are a reddish brown faceted crystal... really nice color.  The pendant is from a vintage necklace I picked up in a small lot a while ago.

Gold Sunburst Necklace

And in my spare time, I did my Sunday school lesson for Gospel Doctrine today.  It went pretty well, except there's one gentleman who loves to make long and slightly off-topic comments.  He's awesome and normally it's cool, but today he took like half of the time all told.  I'm going to have to think of a way to tactfully deal with that :-P

Don't Make Me Think I'm also doing a little consulting work on the side for some friends at school who are starting up a new web business.  It's kind of exciting to work on something where you have a blank slate, carte blanche and no red tape.  I'm doing a little background reading on web usability and going back over some of my website conversion books before I start working on serious plans.  We'll see what comes of it, but it's definitely stimulating!  I've been reading this book on and off over the weekend and I'm loving it.  He's super funny and there's great information here.

Okay, I think that's it.  Really.  lol... time to hit the sack and get ready for another week!

P.S.  I think I've now gone beyond loving the new Linkin Park to being seriously addicted.  And did I mention that the Avs started training camp this weekend?  Yay for hockey starting up again in a few weeks!

Wow! Surprised and humbled.

So I hadn't said anything until now since I didn't actually think anything would come of it, but several members of my class and the administration at school have been working hard over the last year to form the BYU EMBA Association; our class just held elections for the inaugural executive board of the EMBAA.  (And since all blog posts should ideally have pictures, here's the one of my class again :)

BYU EMBA Class of 2011

I didn't plan to run, but during the nomination period (you could nominate yourself or others), someone actually nominated me to run for Executive VP of Student Life.  It's kind of a big responsibility and when Melinda told me about it, my first instinct was to say no.  But at the same time, I felt that it was an honor to be nominated and I wanted to be respectful of the person who nominated me (and I still don't know who that was!)  So I spent a bit of time thinking about whether I was up for the challenge and the time and work commitment that went with it (this person holds the office for the class for 5 years, including planning the reunion).  But in the end, I accepted the nomination, wrote a brief campaign statement and entered the running.

I will admit that as the voting period drew to a close this afternoon, I actually got pretty anxious... to the point of being sick.  lol.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to win, wanted to lose, or if I could even do it if I won!  My competitive side wanted to kick butt and my lazy side hoped that someone else would win (there were four other amazing people running).  I just wanted it to be over.  lol.  So at the beginning of class they announced the winners.  The VP of Student Life was the last position before the president to be read and when they got to it and Chad looked up at me and called out my name, I about fell through the floor.  I'm sure the look of shock on my face was priceless.

So, now that I've been elected, I still don't know if I can do it.  I'm incredibly honored and humbled (and surprised!) that the members of the class selected me to do this... it's going to be a challenge and I hope I can exceed expectations.  Fortunately, I get to have a committee to help.  And also fortunately, there are a lot of fun people in the class (ahem... Peanuts... friends of peanuts... you know who you are!) that I'm going to lean on to get me through. This last year is going to be awesome! 

So to the BYU EMBA Class of 2011, thanks for your confidence in me!  I'm excited to get to work :)

And now, I really need sleep... I think some Excedrin PM is going to be involved after this crazy day!

Thanks Rae...

... for succeeding in making me simultaneously super excited for hockey season to start in a few weeks and totally homesick.  lol.

Rae just sent me a link to this video from Remy; the genius behind "The Arlington Rap," has also done the Capitals song (sung to the tune we sang during a break at every game... "oh the good old hockey game is the best game you can name..."  Of course, if you don't like hockey you probably won't actually enjoy this.  :D

I'm just trying to think of how many times I followed that EXACT routine... from route 66 to the Vienna metro station taking the Orange line to Gallery Place. It even had the old guy with the dreds playing the sax. He was there at every single game, I swear. Sigh. That's definitely one of the things I miss the most living out here in Utah. We've got the Grizzlies, but it's just not the same.

P.S.  The new Linkin Park is awesome.  iTunes doesn't download in order so I was just listening to songs at random and was kind of disappointed.  However, once I listened to the entire album from start to finish, I totally loved it.  Good stuff!

Happy Linkin Park Eve!

I think by the time I finish this blog post, it will be Linkin Park Day... lol - AKA the release of their new album.  I've heard a few of the songs on the radio and I really liked them and I've been looking forward to some new music from them for a while.  Can't wait!

In the meantime, a few projects to post.

First, a layout of Adorable-Niece-Eraleigh that I started yesterday and finished tonight.  She's going to be our little shoe fiend... shoes and bling, apparently.  While we were in Monterey we went shoe shopping and she found these sparkley pink princess shoes that she adored.  Once she got them on, she refused to take them off and we had to put her on the counter to ring them up.  She twirled and showed off her shoes for the rest of the trip.  And now, she also has a second pair of shoes (also pink, I think) that shoot off beams of light when she walks.  I'm just shaking my head.  lol.  So naturally, the layout had to have plenty of pink and sparkle.

She Loves the Sparkle 

And a close-up of my fun little embellishments (that would be my own bling and sparkle addiction.  lol)

She Loves the Sparkle Close-up 

And next, I actually made some more jewelry tonight.  It's been quite a while since I've made any, and I have to admit that I don't wear most of what I've made so far.  I've gotten kind of finicky or something and I've decided that I don't like some of it.  No worries... I'll just remake it all eventually.  But I've been browsing through Etsy lately and marking tons of really cool jewelry.  Today I found this one which heavily inspired the one I made tonight.  I loved it when I saw it, but I thought to myself... "self - you could totally make something like that with what you already have and not have to pay $137!"  So I did.

Silver-Blue Flower Necklace 1

I have to say, I'm really loving it.  I took several findings, mountings and stampings and put them all together with some fun beads.  The pendant is just plastic made to look like cut glass so it's not heavy.  It's a very subtle blue and I think it's the first silver based one I've done which is a bit weird since silver is by far my favorite metal for jewelry.

Silver-Blue Flower Necklace 2

And one more...

Silver-Blue Flower Necklace 3

Blue being my favorite color, I have tons of blue in my wardrobe so I should get some good use out of this set.  Now I might have just enough time to find something I can wear with this tomorrow before it's time to download the new LP :) 

Look Steph, wedding layouts!

I finally managed to get back to Steph and Mike's wedding album.  I really want to finish it so I can give it to them, so I did a few more layouts.

Steph Wedding pg 11

And another...

Steph Wedding pg 12

And as if I could let a post go by without posting a close-up (and I told you those handmade paper roses were going to start showing up everywhere.  lol).

Steph Wedding pg 12 close-up

Whew... two more down!  Just gotta keep going now.

And another bit of happiness, my herbs are starting to sprout!  I moved them to my kitchen table near the patio door so I could open the blinds a bit to get them more light.  Cilantro, parsley and sage don't want to play nice (yet), but the rest of them are sprouting little bits of greenness :)

Herb Garden Sprouts

And finally, I could NOT let the weekend go by without using my tagine.  I took a recipe from my new cookbook and changed it just a bit.  I took out the onions (because hello, gross!) and used chicken instead of lamb since it's a lot leaner and would still work well with the other flavors in the recipe.  I think lamb or beef would make a nicer sauce during cooking though, so I still might try that sometime.

Chicken and Apricot Tagine Cooking

I added a pound of cubed chicken breast to cinnamon, cumin, fresh minced garlic, fresh ginger and a bit of chili powder and water and cooked it on low for about 1 1/2 hours.  It made the chicken so moist and tender!  Then I added 1/2 pound of dried apricots and after another 20 minutes I added 7 ounces of chick peas and cooked another 10 minutes or so.  I absolutely love the smell of cumin and cinnamon cooking together.  It's so warm and tangy!

Chicken and Apricot Tagine

I served it up with some whole wheat Greek flatbread and a little tzaziki sauce.  It was a bit odd to have this kind of flavor profile as home cooking, but at the same time it was pretty delicious.  And now I have yummy leftovers to hold me over until my next culinary adventure!

Anyway, I've had a raging headache all day that no amount of medicine has been able to get rid of, so I'm heading off to bed to read for a while and see if I can make it go away.  TTFN!

Where does the time go?

I think I say this all the time, but I can't believe how fast time is flying!  It's already September!  I guess it's just that I'm having fun... and we all know how time flies when that happens :)

I have managed to squeeze in a smidge of scrapbooking.  I went back to the safari mini album that I started in May (yikes!!!) and finished pages for all of the rest of the pictures that I have printed out so far.  Time to print some more!  In the meantime, here are the new pages (all the new pictures = 2ish pages.  lol.)

Safari Mini Album 3 

And a glimpse of what it looks like if I flip the little mini page:

Safari Mini Album 3 Close-up

Man that was an awesome trip.

School is going well so far this semester and I'm enjoying my classes and spending time with the friends I've made there.  I've also been on a cooking kick lately and I've hardly scrapbooked at all.  When I'm home, conscious and not exercising, I swear I'm either watching cooking shows, cooking, or reading cookbooks.  Or some combination of the above (IE tonight, I watched Master Chef while reading my newest cookbook.)  I'm a nerd.  I own it.

Speaking of... here's my latest special delivery from the Amazon fairy:

Middle Eastern Cooking

My latest crazy interest is Middle Eastern cooking.  Which if you know me isn't actually all that crazy... I've long adored Moroccan, Lebanese and Turkish food and since I'm very likely to be heading back to the Middle East on my Foreign Business Excursion for school this coming spring, it's got me craving it more than usual.  Add to that the fact that it tends to be really healthy food and I'm all over it.  I just finished seasoning my tagine tonight and I can't wait to cook something in it!  And this cookbook... I adore it.  It had super high reviews so I picked it to start with.  I'm seriously just reading it... she weaves the recipes (over 800 of them) in and out of anecdotes, history, travel highlights and other insights. Or is it the other way around?  Anyway,it's super well written and just fascinating.  Not to mention the recipes have me drooling... even the ones without pictures!  This is the year I learn to cook artichokes.  I'm going for it.

Finally, I've become obsessed with herbs and spices as a way to learn to add flavor to my food without using lots of fatty yummies (IE cheese.  I miss cheese).   Tonight I made quick, light samosas with lots of Indian spices.  Can I just say, yum?  So good.  Anyway... back to the point.

Herb Garden Seed Cups

So I'm attempting to grow a little kitchen herb garden.  I got a bunch of different seeds and all kinds of special dirt and stuff.  I looked up all different instructions and tips on growing your own herbs from seed and they all said something different so I just gave it my best shot.  They've only been planted for a few days so I guess sometime next week we'll see if I did it right.  If not, I've got more seeds!  It's all good.

k... off to bed!  I've got to present in class for my group tomorrow night in Leadership so I should probably get some sleep :)