Monday, March 30, 2009

Indian cook-off and birthday week begins

Wow, what a great weekend, and what a great kick-off to birthday week. In my family you don't just have a birthday, oh no, that would be too simple. Instead, you have an entire week to celebrate. My actual birthday is not until Friday, but that didn't slow down the festivities.

On Friday, my Grandma and I went shopping for my birthday present, a garden bench, and we came home with one I had picked out earlier, and love. That night E and I joined my Grandma for cocktails at her house and dinner at a fancy restaurant of my choice. We went to Tiburon and had a wonderful time. I ordered the filet mignon, which I had decided on weeks earlier. E surprised us and ordered elk (he said it was great), and my grandma ordered lamb. We talked about spring, gardening, Ben and Jo's wedding, and E's fantastic job. The three of us had a wonderful evening.

On Saturday I attended Brooke's bridal shower. Brooke is getting married to my good friend Logan at the end of May, and so attending her shower was a fun excuse to get to know Brooke's family and friends. After the shower Mike, Justin and Becky decided to use our kitchen again for another famous dinner. Mike made fantastic fish tacos and rice, and afterwards we played some poker.

On Sunday E and I went over to my mom's house late in the afternoon to help prep some food for a Indian cook-off birthday party. We sliced potatoes, tomatoes, onions and everything else. Soon Yagnesh arrived and we began to cook. My grandma showed up with appetizers, and because I was the birthday girl she brought a baked brie wheel, my favorite. Laura, Mike, Kendra and my siblings showed up and the party really began. Yag was cooking up a storm, adding onions and specially mixed spices to everything. I was prepping carrots, more tomatoes and spinach and Yag even brought out his homemade cheese, called paneer.

After quite a lot of cooking, getting to know Brandon’s new girlfriend Kathleen, chatting with Kendra and Laura, and playing with my mom's cats, finally dinner was served. The food was fantastic, better than fantastic. Yag used to be a chef, so his food is almost always better than what can be found in the restaurants. We ate and enjoyed and ate some more. And once everyone was too full to eat other bite, we got out the bunny shaped birthday cake (what I've had almost every year since I was little) and sliced into it. Everyone enjoyed the fantastic carrot cake and soon the evening came to a close. E and I headed home happy, tired and extremely full.

Chuck and my Grandma enjoy chatting near the bar.
Baked brie wheel, my favorite. Not a single bite of any of this was left by the end of the night.
Yagnesh, master at work. Notice all the jars above his hand, they are all custom mixed spices from Yag's pantry.
Yag teaches me to make raita, the Indian yogurt and cucumber dip.
After dinner we enjoy cake.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Antelope Island

This time of year is really tough for E and I. We love to be active on the weekends, so in the winter we go snowshoeing and in the summer we go hiking. In both spring and fall we have a hard time knowing what to do during the weekends. The mountains are snowy, so no hiking, but when it is 65 degrees we don't much feel like snowshoeing either. This means that we often times explore in the car. We've explored literally every small town in driving distance including Heber, Ophir, Eureka, Fountain Green and so on. We've explored many of the state parks, canyon roads and desert highways. We've explored so much, that it is hard to think of something new that we haven't checked out.

Well Saturday was going to be a beautiful day, and the last thing we wanted to do was stay home. We thought and thought about a fresh place to explore and only came up with one - Antelope Island. Antelope Island is the largest island on the Great Salt Lake and can be reached by car via a cosway. E and I had both been to Antelope Island, but not since we were teens, and never together.

We drove north towards the cosway hoping for a fantastic day. In reality, it was an extremely windy day, and Antelope Island is pretty in a very desolate way. The lake has receded so much in recent years that the beaches were just brown salty sand (not that we were going to go swimming or anything). We didn't really want to hike do to the wind, so we explored most of the island by car and had a picnic lunch at the end of the road. We saw some interesting birds and overall it was a fun day. Really, though, we are just ready for true spring to arrive when we can hike in the foothills, enjoy the warm temps, and BBQ late into the evening.

Little book of art

I bought a tiny little book about a month ago that was blank on the inside and looked like a beautiful antique Harry Potter-esk book on the outside. I wanted to fill it with tiny paintings of some of my favorite items in the seven book series. I started painting when I was with my mom, and I took nearly three weeks painting and I am not even half way through the book. I know now that filling the tiny book is a huge task, but something that I can work on from time to time over my long Harry-Potter-loving-life. The things I've painted include Helga Hufflepuff's cup (at some point I'll have all seven horcruxes), the animals from the four Hogwarts houses, Fawkes, the pensive, and so on. Here are a few samples from the book, if you'd like to see the entire book, I'd be happy to show you sometime.

Friends at our house

Our friends love our house, especially our kitchen. It is so fantastic when a friend calls and says "we want to make dinner, can we use your place?" E and I are thrilled to have people over, and when someone else is cooking, planning and buying, it doesn't get any better.

A week and a half ago this happened (yes, I am horribly behind blogging). Becky and Mike called and said they'd love to cook. We said sure. They brought over a wide assortment of wonderful food, salmon, macadamia nuts, balsamic glaze and a homemade three tired green cake courtesy of Becky to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

We had a very fun time. Next dinner at our house? Mike says when he gets his job he might cook a celebratory dinner, but only if our kitchen is available.

Logan, Brooke, Suzy and Mike.
E, Becky, Justin, Logan, Brooke, Mike and Suzy.
PS- Ben and Jo - if you think this post showing not only our friends, but yours, is a horrible ploy to get you to move back to Utah, you are correct.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Read read read

I've been reading a lot lately. Instead of working every single day (which I really really want to do, don't get me wrong), I wake up late and read. Then I check the job boards and eat lunch, and then read some more. I have read some wonderful books lately and of course want to review them here.

Harry Potter 1-7 - I adore Harry Potter. Love it. Each time I read it, I swear I love it more. I am not going to review each book here (they all get five stars), but I thought a bit about which books I like most. I think if I had to rate all books in order of my favorite it would go something like this: 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 7. Yes, seven is my least favorite, and Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite. I also really love four, five and six, they all tie for second place.

Quidditch throughout the Ages, Fantastic Beasts, and Beedle the Bard - of course after reading all the Harry Potter books I had to finish up with all the supplementary books. These are not really novels, more short stories or extra info.

Escape - This is a really great read if you are a Utahan or have any interest in polygamous life, marriage and traditions. I found this book moderately well written but extremely interesting. I couldn't believe what I was reading, how horrible these woman's lives are. This was an easy read but something I've thought about often since finishing it. Four stars.

Marley and Me - I did not read Marley and Me because the movie just came out, I read it because I just lost my dog Lucy. Marley and Me is a must for any animal lover, especially if you are a dog lover. It is sad at the end, but 90% of the book is laugh out loud funny. Marley totally reminded me of sweet Lucy. Four stars.

Astrid and Veronika - I just finished this book last night and I LOVED it! It was fantastic. I loved the Swedish scenery described and the beautiful New Zealand landscapes. This book is slow, sad and just plain lovely. Speaks of love, loss, and moving on. Five stars.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I've been on a reading kick and need some new material

I'm not really sure where to ask for book recommendations. My mom, aunt and Grandma all read voraciously, but lately, I've been reading more than any of them. So, I need some book recommendations. Have you read anything fantastic lately? Or ever? I don't mind if it is child, teen or adult fiction or non fiction, I just want a page turner! I'm not much of a suspense, thriller or mystery type of reader. I prefer books where a character goes through hardships and understands the world a little better afterward.

Comments welcome!

Here are a few of my favorite books so you get an idea of what I like-

Beach Music
Thousand Splendid Suns
Harry Potter
Fortune's Rocks
The Giver
Memoirs of a Geisha
Gap Creek
Sarah's Key
Diary of Ann Frank

So, any help?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Weekend wrap up

I hoped for awesome spring weather this weekend, but alas, it was like March. Windy and chilly. However, we did have a nice weekend. The sky was clear blue, which was a nice change from the gray it’s been most days.

On Friday we decided to invite over the guys to play poker. David, Mike, Justin, E and myself made a great group. We began playing and joking first thing, and I was losing money quickly. David seemed to be the big winner. Soon Chelsea and Joe also joined us. We decided to play Red Dog, a fast paced game where there is little skill, other than the amount you want to bet. The pot soon got enormous, one of the largest poker pots ever (still under five dollars, but since we play with low amounts, even a dollar is a good pot). It was David's turn and he decided to bet the pot. He lost and had to match the pot. We were laughing like crazy. Next was Mike's turn and he got a 2 and an Ace high. The point of the game is that you have to guess if the next card played will be between those two cards. Well a 2 and an Ace high are the best odds a player can get, virtually everything is between. He played the pot again, which was already huge. Logan laid down a 2, which, technically is not between. The rules say he lost. He matched the post again, this time with dollar bills because the pot was so large, he couldn't match it with chips. We were roaring with laughter. Mike face was priceless. After a few lackluster turns Chelsea won the entire pot, the largest, to date, poker pot ever - $11. Nice job! I just wish I had snapped a few more photos.
Saturday was pretty uneventful. E and I were hosting a dinner party for my family on Sunday and so we spend Saturday prepping. We ran lots of errands (Costco, Home Depot, Supermarket) and began cooking. We made a homemade ragout that cooked all day Saturday, cooled overnight and then cooked for another hour on Sunday. The idea was that all the flavors marry and all the meat cooks down and begins to fall apart.

Sunday we made a big breakfast of hash (are you bored of this post yet? I hope not). E and I decided to finally get out of the house and drive out West, since we were ready for the party. Sometimes when we are bored, E and I like to explore our own backyard. We've found many interesting things that way, abandoned homes, interesting structures, and such. Well we headed West and ended up at the Great Salt Lake. The lake is a stinky, yucky, uninviting place. Not a place to spend a nice day. However, it is interesting, so E and I decided to take a few photos. The lake had receded more than a hundred years leaving a gross white sand behind. I snapped a few photos, because in a way, it is beautiful, before returning to the car.

Once at home we started our party. My grandma arrived, Chuck and my mom, all my siblings, and my aunt and uncle and cousins. We've rarely hosted a party this large in our house, and seating for 13 is a little tricky, but we made it work. The ragout was fantastic. Everyone loved it, and everyone seemed to have a wonderful time. Brandon was joking with my cousins and siblings, my Grandma and aunt were talking about gay rights (their new favorite topic), and Mike, E and Chuck were all sampling E's collection. Overall it was fantastic.
Sorry I don't have more photos of the party, I had more pressing responsibilities as the hostess, so I didn't take many photos.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Spring is here!

I feel like spring arrives on the first of March. I've always said that in my mind, each season lasts three months, and the season begins on the first day of the first month. Anyway, because, in my mind, March is a spring month, spring has arrived. In Utah, spring is slow coming. Most days in March are still fairly cold and snowy, however, there is hope, spring is on the way!

Here is photo I took on Sunday. E and I took a walk in Memory Grove near downtown Salt Lake. Most things were still brown and gray, but I did spot some snowdrops blooming! I hope that each week I will see more and more things that assures me that spring is on its way.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I am unhappy with my blog layout

Once upon a time I liked my blog, even loved it. Now however, I feel that it really needs some sprucing up. I think the design is beyond ugly, but I like the wide post space so I can make my photos nice and big. I hope to be back and running in no time.

Also, today was that day that we put Lucy down. Poor girl.
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