Friday Five: 2014 Resolutions

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

It’s a new year! Anyone smell the promise of 2014? I do. In true Falvey fashion, we rang in the New Year at home, eating some of our favorite foods and trying out some new recipes.

Since we weren’t home to have a traditional Christmas meal, Joe requested Dr. Pepper roast beef. He loves this recipe and it couldn’t be easier since it cooks in the Crock-Pot. I opted for Indian take-out. Don’t laugh. It’s not exactly holiday fare, or traditional in any sense, but it’s a food I love that Joe would never want, so we were each happy.

Dr. Pepper Roast Beef

I made a New Year’s ball of baked brie. With all of the other food we hardly made a dent, but it’s still one of my favorites and leftovers make a killer grilled cheese sandwich.

2014 Brie Ball

We also tried this recipe for soft pumpkin cookies. They were sooooo good. I didn’t make the butter frosting, opting instead for a glaze made with powdered sugar and a little maple syrup. We’re not big frosting/icing people, so it was perfect. Joe’s been eating these things like crazy ever since they were cool enough to touch.

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

By the way, this was my first photo of the new year. My God, I love my dog.

New Year's Eve with Bella

Like I mentioned in last week’s Friday Five, 2013 was a good one for me in terms of resolutions. And now that the dark shadow of Diet Coke is finally out of my picture, I had to think hard about where I wanted 2014 to see some change. 2013 will be hard to beat, but here are some of my goals for the coming twelve months. Hopefully putting them out on the interwebs for all to see will keep me on track! Here goes nothin’.

5. Momentum

In the words of my brother (circa 2004), this one is a bit “weak sauce,” but I really loved my resolutions last year and I’d like nothing more to be like Barefoot Contessa and turn the volume up on those goals. Let’s take them to the next level. Here’s a refresher:

Writing/Blogging: Well, here we are. I’m going to keep on keepin’ on. Thanks for being a part of such a fun project and reading about all of the nothing and everything in my life.

Books: I’m still a month away on my next reading post, but I’ve been a book-eating machine the last few months. So, this is pretty easy. I just want to keep reading. It makes me so happy. Maybe read more classics? I will read Anna Karenina this year. I will. Please keep me honest. I’m always up for suggestions, too. Send me the names of your favorite books and authors!

Cooking: Thanks to Pinterest, we’ve tried more new recipes in the last year than ever before. In fact, I just made a new “Tried and True” board to keep track of all of our new favorite eats. And thanks to the FIVE new cookbooks I received for Christmas, I have more than enough to keep me busy. Some things I’d like to focus on: conquering high-altitude baking (I need some serious brownie help!), learn how to make pastry cream and perfect scones, and be okay with halving every baking recipe I try. It’s just math. There’s no reason for us to have 36 warm cookies on the counter. Well, there is, but it’s not a valid one.

Photography: This is a huge passion of mine that has been cloaked in fear. Fear of failure, which is really hard to admit, but so very true. I feel like I’ve made a good leap lately, but I want to keep learning, keep practicing and start having the cajones to do something with it. I have some sessions in the works with new friends here, so we’ll see where it goes.

Gym: If I told you I now go to the gym six days a week, would you believe me? It’s true. I’m really trying to get my butt in gear, but the greatest take-away has been the stronger I get, the less my back hurts. That’s reason enough to keep running. Just call me Forrest.

4. Good Better Housekeeping

Here’s a new one. I do not make a very good housewife, at least in the keeping-house sense. I can have an awesome dinner on the table on time. I can make my bed every day. I can find a lost item in no time. I could vacuum in pearls and high heels…if I ever wore high heels (I don’t) or vacuumed (not often enough). Donna Reed, you ruined this for us gals. I want to be better at keeping things clean and taking time (at least) once a week to vacuum, dust and pick up each room. I’m betting my allergies will thank me in spades for this one.

3. Be More Girly

This is just silly, but I’d like to learn how to fix my hair other than leaving it in a curly mess or straightening it with a flat iron. There are some cute, fancy-looking ‘dos on Pinterest that have me wishing for some variety. This resolution has the greatest chance of not happening. Feel free to give me gentle reminders to get my Barbie on.

2. Give Back

I’m not Mormon, but that doesn’t mean I have to be an outcast in my community. I want to invest in our new home. I want to find a job that will be fulfilling for me, good for my resume and will allow me to meet new people. (NOT. EASY. in this small town) I’d like to volunteer my time at the local animal shelter, if I can work up the nerve to not take home every pup in the joint. I don’t really have this one mapped out, but the feelings are there in my heart.

1. Dream Big

Not to be a tease, but there is a big project in the works that I’m not ready to unveil (SOON, promise!). I’m tired of just dreaming about things I want to do. I’m ready to act. I’m ready to not be scared. I’m ready to fail and get back up. No more fear, okay 2014? No. More. Fear.

This is pretty vulnerable for me. I’m changing already.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, productive 2014.

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# 2013 Poinsettia Bowl

Welcome to the day after Christmas, aka Game Day!

Even though the game wasn’t until that evening, the band had to load up around 2:30 to head to Qualcomm Stadium—home of the San Diego Chargers.

Upon arrival, the band unpacked and did a quick warm up around the bus area. The band was scheduled to perform at several tailgating events, hence the need to be there so early.

Poinsettia Bowl 1

The first stop was at the official USU/USU alumni tailgate. The band was joined by the cheer and dance squads and the area was packed with Aggie fans. The President of the University gave a speech, thanking Joe and the band—which was nice, and we even met up with these fans, whose shirts got them past the gate.

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The next two tailgate stops were for a VIP dinner/party and another party honoring the Make-A-Wish Foundation. That one was my favorite, seeing all these little kids jumping and clapping with the band. So sweet.

After those performances, we only had a few minutes before needing to be in the stadium for their pre-game performance, so they stopped for a quick break and I was able to snap this photo of the Aggie Band’s fearless leaders.

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My job was to film their pre-game and halftime performances, so I don’t have any actual photos of those, but I did take this one of my perch in the press box area. I think Joe will eventually post the videos to the Aggie Band’s Facebook page, if you’re interested in seeing them.

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Back in the stands, I found a seat across from the band, where I sat with 7-8 guys who coach middle school football leagues together. They were hilarious and managed to get ESPN’s crew to film us waving and yelling for USU. They grilled me on Utah weather, Utah sports (uh…), USU’s football season record (uh…..), and we even had a few minutes to hang with the USU mascot, Big Blue.

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This is my “game face.” It’ll come back throughout the night.

The band had free reign to play in the stands, and the crowd really got into their stand tunes. What’s funny is that we saw a little bit of the game’s replay on ESPN2 that night and there must have been one piccolo player standing close to one of the broadcast mics, because some of the music sounds like a concerto for piccolo and pep band. Hilarious! (What’s not hilarious? Joe having to stand on that ladder for the entire game. Made my lower back hurt just watching him.)

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There was a fireworks show after the bands performed at halftime and the second half of the game was full of lots of music, lots of screaming and a pretty awesome victory for USU. *insert game face here*

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Probably one of the most memorable events of the night came when one of the percussionists noticed her band hat was stolen in the stands. There were a lot of drunk people near her in the aisle at the end of the game, so we knew someone must have thought it was funny to swipe it. We ended up running into the thief in the parking lot….completely drunk and stumbling around. While trying to convince me and Sam that her nephew was in the band, Joe walked up behind her and grabbed the hat out of her hand. Luckily she was too intoxicated to do anything crazy, other than tell Joe he was a few choice words. No harm done, to us or the hat.

We hung out for a while at the hotel after the game, before needing to repack our suitcases and get a little sleep before climbing back on that bus in the morning. Not a bad way to spend 48 hours in SoCal, or Christmas, for that matter.

# Our Cali Christmas

*WARNING* Long Post Ahead!

You would think that spending Christmas on the sunny shores of California might leave you rested and in a peaceful state of mind. *errr* Wrong. Turns out, taking 50 kids by bus and coordinating every moment of the stay is a little stressful. Well, it was for Joe at least. I had sympathy stress for him and have been helping the recovery process with lots of food and sleep since our return. Which is why I’m just now getting to this post…food, sleep and binge-watching The Shield.

I’ll write about the game itself in another post, but for now I’ll give you the high- and low-lights of the trip.

*HIGH: Getting to thaw out in warm temperatures for a few days
*LOW: Spending 17 hours on a bus (one way!) with kids who only wanted to watch animated movies
*HIGH: Getting to spend Christmas with Joe, my Mom and Mike at a beautiful hotel on Mission Beach
*LOW: Leaving Bella in Utah
*HIGH: Wearing shorts the day after Christmas
*LOW: Wearing snow pants when we returned to Utah
*HIGH: Winning the Poinsettia Bowl
*HIGH: Did I mention it was warm in San Diego??

Now for more specifics…we left early on Christmas Eve on a massive bus bound for San Diego’s Mission Beach. As boring a time-suck as the bus ride was, I’m glad I got to tag along for free and not pay for a plane ticket. Worked out pretty well. I don’t remember much of the bus ride down, except that it felt like forever and when I finally crashed for the night I felt like I was still rocking on the bus. Kinda like being on a boat for a long time. Sea legs? I guess I had Bus Butt.

I woke up early on Christmas morning to catch my friends and family on Skype and Facetime. I got to see little Abby showing off the table and chairs Santa brought her, along with some awesome open-mouth virtual kisses. Love this family!

Zajkowski collage

Then I got a fashion show from Lily: a Thunder jersey to wear to the game with her Daddy, a “beautiful” coat from Santa and matching Christmas jammies with little bro, Linc. They are the CUTEST!

Christmas Childress Collage

My last Skype session was with my Dad, Janet, Rach and the soon-to-be-married Bryan and Robbi, where I finally got to see the bling. Don’t mind my crazy brother. Robbi, are you sure you’re up for a lifetime of this?!

Bryan and Robbi collage

After Skyping, I was finally successful at waking up Joe (no easy feat) and we said hello to these guys!

San Diego 1

We were beyond excited and grateful that my Mom and Mike came to California to spend Christmas with us and help cheer on the Aggies. I ended up having a lot of free time while the band was rehearsing, so it worked out perfectly for some quality time by the ocean and with San Diego’s finest animals. We fit right in.

On Christmas morning, the band split up between Sea World and the Zoo. And since Joe and I are officially boycotting all things Sea World, to the Zoo it was! Luckily, my Dad and Janet had gifted me a new “purse camera” for Christmas, so I didn’t end up hauling my big camera on the trip. It was a lifesaver and I loved having a small, reliable camera again. *Thank you guys!* And it takes pretty awesome photos, to boot.

The Zoo was all decked out for their Jungle Bells – it’s a gorgeous place anyway, but they really went all out decorating it for the holidays.

San Diego Zoo 23

What’s funny is on the way to California, Joe asked me if seeing palm trees made me think of “home,” as in Miami. I didn’t realize how much they did until we were surrounded by them at the Zoo. I guess I miss my coastal living just a little bit, although snow-covered mountains are just as wonderful in their own frigid way.

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My mom and Mike met us there and our friend Sam, who works with the marching band’s battery (percussion) line, joined us for a romp around the park. Here’s Sam as we were about to take off on our Skyfari Ride.

San Diego Zoo 1

Which, as you can see, is pretty high up there, but it gives you amazing views of the park. I was just a little freaked out being up there. A little. Maybe just enough to not take a lot of photos.

San Diego Zoo 5

The Skyfari takes you all the way to the back of the park, which was perfect since that’s where the Arctic animals lived and they were numero uno on Joe’s priority list. Especially these guys:

San Diego Zoo 3

I think it was at this point that Sam was rethinking joining us for the day. Beware: I make people take stupid photos. Joe knows this, and that’s why he’s not smiling. …poor Sam.

San Diego Zoo 2

I couldn’t get over how sprawling the Zoo was. I had visited as a little girl, but I didn’t remember anything. Just look at how beautiful the walkways are and how convenient those moving sidewalks are when your lower back is screaming for mercy. Yeah…sitting on a bus for 17 hours one day and hauling ass all over San Diego the next isn’t the wisest thing I’ve ever done.

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San Diego Zoo 7

Enough yapping. Here are some of my favorite animals of the day:

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This is a horrible photo of a tiger, but he was literally pacing against the glass and a swarm of people were watching. It was actually a little freaky, like he was agitated and wanted to kill one of us…or all of us. I’m mostly posting so you can appreciate the size of those paws. Good Lord. They are the size of my head.

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The flamingos ended up being one of my favorite exhibits. They were so pretty and we could get so close to them. Check out the baby!

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They look like a painting!

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It also was a good stopping point for bathrooms, so I took a lot of pics and managed to get in one. A rare sighting, this Marci.

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After the flamingos, I loved the koalas and elephants. I don’t think I’d ever seen an elephant with such enormous tusks!

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San Diego Zoo 17

And check out this baby giraffe! What was awesome is that they also had a four-day-old giraffe who wasn’t making an appearance that day, but he was even smaller than this guy. Such incredible animals! You can see him and his Mama behind my Mom and Mike.

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San Diego Zoo 21

The rest of our Christmas day was spent either rehearsing and eating with the band (Joe) or relaxing and eating an incredible Italian dinner downtown (me). With sunny weather and so much romping around, it didn’t really feel like Christmas Day, but it was a wonderful one nonetheless.

The next day was GAME DAY and Joe had an early start with another rehearsal at the stadium, meetings with ESPN and a lunch meeting with the Bowl representative he’d been working alongside for weeks. With a few hours free, my Mom, Mike and I headed a few miles north to La Jolla. (Pronounced La HOY-yuh, for those that wish to not embarrass themselves like I tend to do.)

La Jolla 1

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La Jolla 6

This place was ah-mazing. It reminded me so much of Miami Beach. But with Sea Lions!

La Jolla 2

La Jolla 3

La Jolla 5

We spent some time walking the coast before grabbing another awesome Italian meal. And before you knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel to meet Joe and the band and head out to the game.