Friday Five: Blackest Friday

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

Is everyone still basking in the sweet glow of Thanksgiving leftovers? Are the Christmas lights twinkling on your trees yet? It’s an affirmative for both over here. After yesterday’s high (and food coma), today was still a harsh reality for us. Mainly because our poor Bells is sick. Yes, so far today I’ve played two Nutcracker shows and cleaned up two hideous doggie diarrhea explosions.

She’s putting the black in Black Friday.

I’ll spare you the details, but needless to say I wanted my day to go a bit differently. It’s just all shits and giggles around here.

I had grand intentions of another type of post, but I think you’ll understand why I’m sitting on the couch in my PJs and not wanting to do much else.

More details about how we spent our Thanksgiving, but here are the top five things I’ve thankful for this year.

5. Job

I start my new job on Monday, and I’m just filled with an overwhelming sense of gratefulness to be able to do something I love and for a company in which I feel so strongly. It’s the difference between a career and a job, and I’m really excited about it. I’m also thankful for Joe’s job and me getting to see him in action.

4. Food

This is silly, I know, but food is powerful to me. I love gathering for Thanksgiving, sitting around so much food and enjoying that time together. We had SO MUCH great food yesterday — can’t wait to tell you all about it.

3. Bells

Despite me being on all fours cleaning up disgustingness on her behalf, I couldn’t be more in love with my dog. Breaks my heart that she’s not feeling well.

2. Family

Love my family and even though I missed them so much yesterday, it’s nice to be able to talk and Facetime with them any time I want.

1. Health

Really. This. This is everything. I’m thankful for my own health and the health of my family and friends, and try to not take this for granted.

What are you thankful for this year?? And, do they make doggie diapers? …they should.

 

 

Friday Five: NWS (New Work Situation)

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

This week. Oh, this week. How glad I am that it’s Friday night, 7pm, and I’m already in my PJs ready to call it in.

It’s Party Central over here, can you tell?

In the last few days I’ve dealt with more snow than I’d like (with more coming tomorrow!), coordinated International Education Week, ran a Photo Contest, obsessively planned two Thanksgiving meals and…oh yeah, left my job.

Yes, today marked my last day working at USU. I’ve graciously been offered and accepted a full time job working for my former employer, NWS, and I could not be more over the moon about it. I’ll be working remotely from Utah, but hopefully will get to hit up Miami a few times a year.

For someone who gets paid to put feelings into words, I have a hard time describing my love for NWS–its mission, its people, my friends. Six years ago, before I could even accurately point out Miami on a map, I applied to an online job posting on a dare…a DARE…from Joe! It has forever changed me. I’ve stayed connected and, as you know, done contract work for them since I left in 2011, but it feels so much better to be with them full time, to devote my time and energy into a mission I believe at my very core.

I’m sad to leave my USU job for many reasons. The people have been fantastic and treated me so warmly. Especially these guys. I could not have gotten through the last 8 months without them.

OGEbuddies

But, I am ready for this next chapter and know without a doubt that this is where I’m meant to be.

More soon, but here are the top five reasons I’m glad to be heading back to my work roots.

5. Avoiding this.

Snow

You mean I don’t have to scrape snow and ice off my car  for 15 minutes and then park 10 minutes away from campus and walk up a huge icy hill to get to my office? #sold

4. This place.

1. New World Center Exterior

Frank Gehry’s masterpiece has my blood, sweat, and tears in its beams. And, also, my signature. True story. It’s my home away from home.

3. These guys.

Craig & VR (Halloween)

Two of the most supportive bosses and amazing friends who continue to believe in me. They are absolutely priceless. They also know how to rock out on Halloween. #crazycontacts

2. My peoples.

The A Team

marketing staff 2

Luis Gala

Absolutely the best people I’ve worked with and known. Their talent, enthusiasm, humor, and heart know no bounds. I love these people.

1. This Face

DSC_7283a

Working from home will allow me to cuddle, smooch and smother this puppy face to my heart’s content. I can’t wait.

Friday Five: Linc turns One!

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

Yesterday, our precious and perfect baby nephew turned O-N-E! It’s cliche, but I really have no idea where the last year has gone, but I do know it’s hard to imagine what life was like without Linc. He has stolen all of our hearts with his sweet grins and snuggles.

He and Lily make quite the team. I remember in the early days she would want to be kissing him nonstop, to the point where Booh would remind her that Linc had to breathe. She’s still always loving on him, showing him off, trying to make him giggle. It’s the sweetest thing to see.

NoNo and Mikey Joe love us some Linc. Here are my favorite sides to his personality:

5. Studious Linc

Lincoln3months_25071-1
Quite possibly the cutest photo of a baby ever. I love this family of readers, big and small!

4. Fashion-Forward Linc

IMG_7024
IMG_0988

IMG_0784

Mixing patterns, hats, glasses, bow ties — this guy struts his stuff everywhere he goes. Love how he can pull off any look with those big baby blues.

3. Family-Man Linc

IMG_2464

img_1109
IMG_7799

Linc has already adopted family traditions, likes to hang with the men in the family, and is best friends with his dog, Molly — practically all prerequisites in this family.

2. Little Brother Linc

He’s the “nc” to her “ly” and the Olaf to her Elsa. Never before have siblings been so absolutely adorable.

IMG_4829 IMG_2202

1. Sweet, Smiling, and Snuggly Linc

This is my #1. I could stare at this cutie alllll day long. What a happy, happy baby big boy!

IMG_8597
IMG_2701

IMG_0525

Happiest of birthdays to you, Linc! You are our dream come true.

# pumpkin walk 2014

Every fall our tiny canyon-land town ruffles its community feathers with a now time-honored tradition, the Pumpkin Walk. I heard murmurings of one last year, but didn’t look into it much further. Turns out, this is a pretty big deal and luckily my boss suggested we take the exchange students to see it. A little background before we get to my not-so-great phone pics (sorry!): The Pumpkin Walk was started by a couple who would use pumpkins to create scenes in their yard for families to view on Halloween. Over time, others wanted to chip in and it turned into a huge community-wide event. So fun. I love the camaraderie, Utah. Here are the highlights:

When you arrive, you’re greeted by a pumpkin puppet show:

IMG_2267

IMG_2268
IMG_2270

The contributors of the actual walk get to pick their scene–most were kid-friendly or centered. This was a particular favorite. Who remembers when my first email address was MadamMim@juno.com??

IMG_2274
IMG_2275
IMG_2276
Pop-culture favorites:

IMG_2278
IMG_2281

IMG_2283
IMG_2286

How awesome are these little pumpkins for flowers?

IMG_2288

Lego Movie was a popular scene:

IMG_2290

IMG_2291
IMG_2292

IMG_2300

IMG_2302

It was the last night of the Pumpkin Walk, so some of the pumpkins lining the actual walk were on their last leg.

IMG_2303

IMG_2305
IMG_2308
I absolutely loved the Robin Williams tribute. (More on that later) Look at those adorable pumpkin flowers again!

IMG_2313
Mary Poppins was another favorite of mine.

IMG_2317
IMG_2318
IMG_2319
IMG_2320
Charlotte’s Web:

IMG_2322

IMG_2325

IMG_2327
IMG_2328
IMG_2329

IMG_2330
IMG_2331

Cue Frozen:

IMG_2332
IMG_2333
Love that Fall light on the mountains!

IMG_2334

IMG_2336

After you finished the walk, there was a tent of special crafts using pumpkins. This display of Robin Williams’ famous characters was incredible. I just watched Dead Poet’s Society for the first time this weekend and I’ve never felt his loss more.

IMG_2337
IMG_2338
IMG_2339
IMG_2340
IMG_2341

The rest of the walk was made up of character cut-outs that kids could put their faces through. So funny to see our exchange students get into the spirit:

IMG_2354
IMG_2355
IMG_2358
IMG_2359
IMG_2362

Consider yourself Pumpkin Walked! Put this on the to-do list for anyone wanting to visit next Fall.

 

Friday Five: Ica

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

Last Saturday was a very special day for one of my very best friends, Ica. Not only did she turn a year older…not only did she move into her new house…but she also got engaged! What. A. Day.

Ica9

I met Jessica (Ica) in the summer of 1998. I had just moved and was sitting in my new band director’s office telling him about the music camp I was going to attend that summer and he said, “Oh, we have a girl in the band that will be there too. You should meet up with her.” This is probably the smartest thing that man ever said to me. (Seriously…it was all downhill from there when it came to him.)

Little did I know I had been staring at the back of Jessica’s head for over a year – we were in Youth Symphony together! But it wasn’t until I spotted her in the admissions line at Northwestern, checking into camp with her parents, that we finally clicked.

Ica6

Since that fateful day, we have traveled a similar course in life: music, arts administration, university employment, and then going back to non-profits. I seem to always be trying to catch her shadow, sinking into the footprints she’s left behind. It’s a good place to be.

Ica2

It’s hard to describe what she means to me and my family, who have flat out adopted her as their own. She’s at our Christmases, baby showers, weddings, birthdays, family trips—never wavering in my family’s loudness or silliness. She’s my diet-coke-and-wheat-thins-and-a-book-on-the-beach enthusiast, Pocahontas-tan, fluent-in-sarcasm soul sister.

Ica1

And now she will be Alex’s wife. What an incredibly lucky guy.

I’m sure he has a long list of everything he loves about her, but here are a few of my own (by location):

5. Oklahoma

Moving in the middle of high school can be a bitch. After that summer, I stepped into a town swallowed by churches and fast food and had never felt more out of place. Ica warmly invited me into her circle of awesome friends who quickly became my own. We were band trip roommates, Taco Bueno frequenters, and confidantes. All of my favorite memories from that high school are ones with Ica.

Ica8

Ica7

4. New York

When Ica moved to New York, I wanted to visit right away and ended up going twice. She showed me an entire restaurant for Peanut Butter, we were in the audience of a Dave Letterman taping (and then were too tired to stay up and actually watch the show), I watched her nanny two families that lived in ridiculous neighborhoods—the ones where Sex and the City was filmed and where Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman lived. We attended Oscar-watch parties with her friends who had applied to be on the early seasons of Trump’s Apprentice and I helped her carry furniture across town that we found on the curb. We were young, we were adventurous, and we were on top of the world. Ica’s NYC was the best NYC.

Ica5

3. Florida – Sanibel

Despite my skin’s disdain for the sun, some of our best times have been beach related. Sanibel and its sandy beaches was the perfect place for me to turn 30, especially when surrounded by my besties. There was a lot of sun on that trip, but there was also a lot of laughter. It also solidified the dangerous trifecta of Bobbie, Ica, and Marci. A truly unstoppable force.

Sanibel
IMG00780-20110813-2013

2. Florida – The Keys

Ica’s first trip to Florida was one of the best times I’ve ever had with her. I was determined to show her something special, so I booked us a snorkeling trip in the Keys despite her telling me she’d never done it before and didn’t know if she would like it. But we pressed on, driving down to the Keys, grabbing Pie on a Stick and Wendy’s before climbing on the boat. The tour would have three different snorkeling stops and you had to buddy up. Perfect! So, there we were, decked out in gear and jumping off the boat into the water. It took all of 2 minutes for Ica to realize this was not her thing and to tell me she started clawing my back trying to get out of the water. It was probably our finest moment…until we finally got back into the boat, calmed down, and I quickly got seasick. Cue me leaning over the boat heaving every piece of pie and baked potato out of my systerm while Ica sits next to me all calm and collected, facing forward. After I finished and collapsed back on the seat next to her, she slowly looks over at me and said, “Did you just throw up?” It makes me laugh every time I think of it. We celebrated our sea survival by going out for Cuban food so we could have authentic “swampy” mojitos. Man, was that a fun few days.

DSCN1217

1. Florida – Miami

True friends are at their best when you are at your worst or, at least, most stressed. This perfectly describes Ica, especially when she came to Miami for our wedding. I was stressed to the gills, but she came first and immediately took charge. We put together programs and playlists. She helped throw a rockin’ bachelorette party and made sure Bella was spoiled when everyone else was busy. She helped get me ready and then sat next to me as we drove to the site. She carried our cake topper back home and saved it from sure disaster, getting covered in frosting in the process. She helped make sure everything was as perfect as it could be, all under the radar, all with a smile and full of support. And I felt it. I know I couldn’t have done it without her. I sincerely hope I can do the same for her.

Ica3

Ica4

ica and cake

Oh, Ica, I can’t tell you how happy I am for you. You will be the most gorgeous bride and I look forward to spoiling you silly. I hope Alex is ready to join the family, because some of us are not going to be able to let you go. You are so, so loved.

Congratulations, my sweet friend.

# pumpkin scones

I do not normally drink coffee. Well, at least not the non-dessert variety. But when we hit this time of year, you’ll be hard pressed not to find me craving Starbucks at some point every single day. I love the PSLs, the Peppermint Mochas, the Creme Brulee Lattes, …and, duh, the scones. Their pumpkin scones are dynamite, but like most things in that store–way over priced. And why pay when you can make them at home in less than 20 minutes?

DSC_9737

I’ve tried my hand at high-altitude scones before and they didn’t look quite right, despite tasting amazing, but these were spot on for both. I think you just have to treat their crumbly dough like you would a cake batter at this high altitude: a little less leavening, a little higher temps and a little shorter baking time. Welcome to my baking hell.

DSC_9707

The scones are baked with a brushing of half-and-half over their tops, leaving them glistening and crisp when removed, but soft and pillowy on the inside. Aka The Perfect Scone. And just like Starbucks, you dip it once (or multiple times) in a vanilla glaze that will harden upon standing.

DSC_9721

You have to add Starbucks’ signature cinnamon-flecked pumpkin squiggle. Theirs is thicker than mine was, but–news flash–size doesn’t matter when it comes to scones.

DSC_9730

Robbi called them the “best scones she’s ever had” and I’m right there with her. These were so delicious.

DSC_9726

I was even going to do a *real* photo shoot with them, but they never left the drying rack. We ate them that fast.

DSC_9735

See those incredible glaze drips? A sheet of wax paper will act as the perfect catch for the mess….and, if you’re my brother…the perfect vehicle for snacking.

DSC_9741

Make these this weekend–savor Fall and this pre-Thanksgiving time that will quickly turn into all-things holidays.

DSC_9731a

Pumpkin Scones

source: Cooking Classy

Scone
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 c. packed light-brown sugar
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, diced into 1/2-inch pieces and slightly frozen
1/2 c. + 1 Tbsp. canned pumpkin puree, chilled (don’t chill in can)
3 1/2 Tbsp. buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. half and half

Glaze
1 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. half and half, then more as needed

Pumpkin Icing
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. half and half

Dice butter and place on plate in freezer for at least 30 minutes. Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, brown sugar and granulated sugar) in a bowl and put in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425-degrees. In a food processor pulse together cold, dry ingredients until well blended (if you don’t have a food processor you can whisk by hand in a large mixing bowl, then cut in butter with a pastry cutter). Add butter and pulse mixture several times to cut butter into mixture (large pieces of butter should no longer be visible). Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl and create a well in center.

In a bowl whisk together chilled pumpkin puree, buttermilk, egg, vanilla extract and honey. Pour mixture into well in flour/butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate. Knead in bowl (or on work surface) by hand several times to bring mixture together. Dust a work surface with flour then invert dough onto surface. Pat and shape dough into an even 8-inch round. Using a large knife or pizza cutter, slice into 8 equal wedges.

Transfer scones to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush tops with 1 Tbsp half and half then bake in preheated oven 13 – 15 minutes until tops are golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool 10 minutes (no longer) before spreading with glaze.

For the glaze: In a mixing bowl whisk together powdered sugar and half and half, adding more half and half as needed to reach desired consistency (it should be fairly thick not runny). Spoon and spread mixture scones to evenly coat tops (use all of it). Let glaze set at room temperature.

For the pumpkin glaze: In a mixing bowl (I just used the one from the glaze above without cleaning out) whisk together powdered sugar, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and half and half. Add more sugar to reach desired consistency. Transfer mixture to a small Ziploc bag, seal bag, cut a small tip from corner and drizzle mixture over tops of scones. Allow icing to set. Best served day prepared.

 

# surprise trip, part Jackson

I thought my year had already been full of surprises. There was this trip to Tulsa and this trip to Tampa before the tables were turned on me for my birthday.

My dad and I had been planning his trip for weeks and since he’d already been to Utah before we were planning out what we’d do for Round Two. He arrived on a Thursday and in order for me to take Friday off, I had to work some overtime that week, so I wasn’t able to see him until riiiight before 5pm on Thursday. He pulled into the parking garage and I walked over to meet him. He wanted to see my office, so I took him through the front door and right as we were able to pass through the second door, a guy grabbed the door behind us and asked me to hold the second. I didn’t think anything of it since we were about to close and they’d be locked, but when I turned around and saw Bryan….well, let’s just say it felt like my heart exploded. I probably would have cried if I hadn’t been screaming OHMYGOD! over and over. I even dead-weighted him via hug. He’ll probably bill me for that chiro visit later.

It was such an incredible shock and then my mind was freaking out over what we’d do, how we’d spend that time together. Of course, it included good food — it always does when it comes to me and my dad! — but since Bryan and Robbi had never been to Utah, we wanted to do some new things for them. Here are a few of the highlights:

Wind Caves: This was already going to be on the to-do list for me and my Dad, but it was perfect for Bryan and Robbi, who love to be outside and who needed to see the glory of Utah’s canyons. (We went in the dead of the afternoon, so don’t mind these overly-sunny smiles.)

DSC_9642
DSC_9648
DSC_9649
DSC_9650

Typical picture of my Dad. I think I have more pictures of him taking pictures than I do of us IN pictures. #sad

DSC_9653

100% Rugged

DSC_9656

We made it to the top!

DSC_9662
DSC_9665

I’m the King of the….Mountain?

DSC_9666

Inside the Wind Caves

DSC_9680
DSC_9682
DSC_9683
DSC_9689
DSC_9693

All smiles as we made our way down:

DSC_9696

A few pics from Robbi of our hike:

IMG_0080
IMG_0081
IMG_0086

Our Saturday morning  was spent fly-fishing (for two of us) or baking pumpkin scones (for two of us) before heading to the  football game (for all five of us). I’ll let you guess which of the morning activities I chose. (Separate scones post coming up soon!)

Bryan and Robbi found a *cold* spot on the Logan River to do some fly-fishing. (Photo Credits: Robbi Jackson 🙂 )

IMG_0092
IMG_0105

That afternoon we headed to the game to watch USU play UNLV…and win!

DSC_9747

Our view

DSC_9770

Teaching them the Scotsman!

DSC_9773

It was even the Breast Cancer Awareness game. Glad Bryan got the memo and wore pink for us.

DSC_9779
DSC_9781

That game’s halftime show was the music of Pitbull:

DSC_9792
DSC_9799
DSC_9804
DSC_9836

On Sunday we enjoyed a trip down to Salt Lake City to eat at Caputo’s and check out Trolley Square before they had to catch their flight.

IMG_2261
IMG_2263
IMG_2264

I can’t put into words (for once!) how wonderful it was for us to be with my Dad, Bryan and Robbi. We are so rarely together and it was fun to just *be* — something we don’t have a lot of opportunities to do. A big thank-you to my Dad for making this all happen, for thinking of it and planning all of the details with Joe (again, apparently the best liar ever). I appreciate it so much and had a blast having you all here.

Alright, scones and pumpkin posts up next and then we can talk about Christmas, right? Or at least the fact that there’s snow on the ground?