Thanksgiving in Colorado

Welcome to 2015!

I am far behind on uploading pictures and posting something new so I’d thought I’d try and capture your interest with a peak into my Thanksgiving with Jon and his dad in the foothills of Colorado. His dad moved up on Conifer Mountain around 8000 feet above sea level with a view of Pikes Peak from his front porch and I immediately came down with post-mountain depression upon my return to Texas. Let’s take a looksy and see how jealous you get.

On Friday Jon and I hiked to the top of Conifer Mountain (where the marker is so it definitely counts as summiting) and I was a little worried when I got winded just climbing to the top of the driveway but my years of swimming and then running came to my rescue and my lungs decided to work with me so I could take in this view:

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Pikes Peak in the distance

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bear sighting on top of Conifer Mountain

Pikes Peak from his dad’s porch. And no, there is no way that this view gets old.

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On Saturday we went out to one of Colorado’s newer state parks, Staunton State Park, for a hike. I was so ready for this hike thanks to Jon’s dad being a gear guru, something about working for PMI and volunteering on a mountain rescue team for years made me trust his advice, I dunno. Where we started was about 8000 feet up and then up up up we climbed.

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some Colorado pride

If I remember this correctly, I believe this one is called Mt. Baldy and is a popular climbing spot.

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I’ve always liked the line from Pride and Prejudice “What are men to rocks and mountains” and without getting to John Muir-ish philosophical on you, that line could not be more true. I have always been humbled going up into the mountains because you immediately know that you are not the big-shot you think you are, in the best way possible.

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this is Colorado in the “ugly season” according to Jon’s dad…

why yes… those are some snow-capped Rockies you see down there. Have I convinced you to pack your bags yet?

this is the highest we went and it was well worth the huffing and puffing

this is the highest we went and it was well worth the huffing and puffing

Thanks to our guide dog and the newest member of the Hauser family, Gabe. Part rotty, part lab and a whole lot of love and couch-potato. He was a trooper on this hike.

DSC01855Until next time Colorado! Thanks for letting me put my new hiking boots to good use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for a Simpler Move

Now I’m not saying that your move will be flawless and stress free but it sure can be less of a nail biting hair pulling experience than you picture when you first survey all the belongings you have accrued. It really just takes the right planning before hand to lead to a successful move, and that’s where I come in. Let the OCD person tell you how it’s done with a few quick tips.

I recommend starting the process a month before you move. This will you give enough time to thoroughly go through your things, take your time in choosing what stays and what goes, buy enough packing supplies, then go buy more bubble wrap and tape because you’ll never have enough and then have the time to sleep the night before the move.

1. Start with going through each room, closet, shelf, nook and cranny and decide what is definitely going, what might go, what should be thrown away and what can be donated. After going through all your other rooms, go back through the maybe piles and I guarantee you can lessen them in some way. If it’s broken or warped go ahead and throw it away because a move is certainly not going to help it’s condition. Be brutal. Be thorough. Think about when the last time you used the object. Now is not the time to be a hoarder.

2. Decide on a numbering system for each room. Example: Kitchen starts with 100. Living Room starts with 200. Bedroom starts with 300. As you pack each box, jot down what’s going in each box and assign it a number. Label the box with which room it’s going in and it’s box number. Like Box 203: Throw pillows. This will save you so much time when unpacking and trying to organize your new home. It also lets you keep track of what is fragile or not, so you can appropriately label the boxes.

3. The first things that should be packed up will be decorative objects: pictures, paintings, mirrors, vases, etc. If it’s not serving a function beyond aesthetic, it can be packed. Your home will look bland for a little bit but be focused on the end game. Besides, how much entertaining will you be doing during this time in your life? Pack books early on too, and in small boxes. No need to try and impress anyone with how much you can carry because a hernia is never impressive.

4. For the kitchen, since this is where the bulk of my fragile belongings are, I found other ways to protect my belongings besides just buying the Container Store out of their bubble wrap supply. Use disposable plates to separate your dinnerware. Wrap things in dishtowels, they belong in the same room so why not. Put glasses in koozies for extra padding. Put measuring cups and spoons inside of storage bins. Get creative. Use what you have in front of you.

5. If you have the space, leave open boxes in the rooms so as you use something for the last time it can be packed. Once a box is packed and taped shut, move it out of the way (garage or other outside storage or against a wall) so you can better survey what’s around you.

6. For the last couple of weeks, set aside a place setting for each person and just re-wash those. Set aside one set of sheets and one towel per person and just re-wash those as well. Bonus points if the sheets and towels can be washed together. You’re getting the hang of this now. Live like a minimalist for a week or so.

7. Pack a clear tub with all the things you will want as soon as you get to your new home. This can include cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels, chargers, and toiletries for the first night. If you take it with your or if the movers move it, you’ll be able to see what’s inside and set it aside early on so no frantic searching for a toothbrush!

As a future Army wife, I am positive that I will have my fair share of moves coming up and hope to update this list as I get my system streamlined but these will have to do for now!

Hope these tips help you breathe a little easier during such a stressful life event.

Book Review: An Officer and a Spy

One of the things about myself that I have learned since graduating and finally getting to read what I want to, is that I love historical fiction. Which is really odd because I wasn’t the biggest fan of history in school (from the beginning all the way through college) and I think I took one history class while in college. But it’s true. I find it fascinating. Maybe it’s the personal touch from reading from someone’s point of view instead of cold hard facts or maybe it’s the embellishment that adds more life to the story. Whatever it is, I’ve been digging in. An Officer and A Spy was recommended to me by GoodReads due to my interest in Erik Larson books, and I think the recommendation was spot on. If you’re familiar with European history, specifically French history, then the Dreyfus Affair will be familiar, which is the basis of this novel.  For those of you who may slept through this section of World History, the Dreyfus Affair in short was a political scandal in which Alfred Dreyfus, a French soldier, was accused and convicted of treason and sent to solitary confinement on Devil’s Island. The “scandal” part of the story is that he was innocent and when evidence of who was the real traitor came to light, the French military began an elaborate cover-up to frame Dreyfus instead of convicting the true traitor.

An Officer and A Spy begins at the public degradation of Dreyfus, and follows Georges Picquart, a French Officer, recently promoted to head of Counter Intelligence, as he slowly begins to bring to light the details surrounding Dreyfus’ conviction. The evidence, or lack there of, against Dreyfus uncovers the real spy but Picquart quickly discovers that maybe that’s not the goal anymore and is forced to make decisions for or against his moral standing and for or against his country.

It’s a spy novel with real substance. Even knowing the ending didn’t keep me from reading more and more into the night, wondering the fate of Picquart and his clandestine investigation. It’s historical fiction done right and I recommend reading it if you can give it the time. Here’s the GoodReads summary and reviews if you wish to read more about it.

If I knew how to say “Have a good read” in French, I would. But, instead, all I have is Bon Voyage! Close enough.

“It is better to have your nose in a book, then in someone else’s business” -Adam Stanley

Autumn Resolutions

I read this article about setting autumn resolutions on the Atlantic the other day and it was hard to dismiss. I’ve been mulling over it and now took the time to reflect back on my New Years resolutions, and see if they really applied to my life right now and for the rest of 2014. Some did, others did not. The ones that didn’t carry over from earlier this year did seem grand at the time but it was really before I even knew what I was getting into for this year with my mind still in holiday gear. Now that I’m in the thick of the year, I would like to set autumn resolutions. Autumn is the beginning of a new chapter for a lot of people: anyone returning to school, anyone starting their jobs after school, starting a new job after the budget has been made and so on. So why not set resolutions in the fall? They can be completely new ones (in addition to or instead of the goals set in January), edited ones, or the same ones that maybe you need to remind yourself of. I say go for it!

Mediterranean Power Salad

It may be September but here in Austin it’s still in the high 90s and the humidity did not get the message to go away because it’s supposed to be turning into autumn. So what does one do for a healthy weeknight dinner that does not involve touching the stove? You make yourself a power salad filled with all that is good and filling. I do not believe that salads have to be boring or limp. You can add grains, you can add protein that isn’t bland and it can have a ton flavor. Since my mind has been preoccupied with dreaming of a trip to the Mediterranean, my taste buds needed to be inspired too. Mediterranean power salad it is.

There’s not a lot of real measurements so you can make it however big or small you want, so here’s the cast of characters:

A bed of power greens

Diced red onion

Chopped cucumber

Kalamata olives

Cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup couscous per person

Rosemary citrus shrimp (marinade to follow)

 

Simple list and the shrimpies cook up quick with just 2-3 minutes (or until opaque) on each side on medium high heat. Throw the veggies and greens together, dress with your favorite vinaigrette (try using pomegranate red wine vinegar if you make your own) and top with warm couscous and shrimp. I paired mine with a grapefruit vodka and soda cocktail and was happy as a clam.

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Yes yes you get an iphone shot instead of a real picture but it’s actually because I was too excited to eat the salad than actually try and take a pretty picture of it. And the fact that I was only an episode away from finishing Sherlock had nothing to do with me not wanting to get up and find a camera. Nothing.

I posted my favorite vinaigrette recipe here. And here’s my rosemary citrus shrimp marinade for around 1/2 pound of shrimp:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh citrus juice (I tried lime and grapefruit and both balanced out the rosemary very nicely)

1-2 Tbsp. diced fresh rosemary (really depends on how big your shrimp are)

Sea salt and cracked pepper to your preference

I recommend seasoning your shrimp with salt and pepper before adding to the marinade.

Now all you have to do is let your taste buds take you to a Greek Isle and enjoy.

Baked Pesto Pasta

I did something good. Like really good. And it was easy too so it made it that much better. I made this baked pasta dish with pesto and veggies and cheese and goodness in abundance. I got the inspiration from here but subbed in some other ingredients to fit Jon and I’s taste and it turned out so well I can’t wait to make it again. Lets begin shall we:

You’ll need:

-3/4 lb- 1 lb angel hair pasta

-1/4 cup olive oil

-1/4 cup pesto

-1 Tbsp Italian seasoning

-1 Tsp dill

-1 Tsp crushed red pepper (or however much kick you like)

-1/2 container of mushrooms, sliced

-1/2 onion diced

-1/3 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, drained of oil

-3 red bell peppers, sliced

-8-10 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

-freshly chopped basil and grated parmesan for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil pasta to al dente and drain well.

While pasta is cooking, slice your mushrooms and peppers and dice your onions (SLICE AND DICE–name that reference)

To your baking dish (I used an 11″ gratin dish that worked great, or a 9 X 13 of course) add the oil, pesto and seasonings to coat the bottom of the dish.

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Add your pasta and chopped veggies and sun dried tomatoes and toss to coat with the oil and pesto.

Add 3/4 of the shredded mozzarella on top and then add the peppers on top, followed by the rest of the cheese.

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Bake for 45 minutes or until peppers have cooked down.

Top with parmesan and fresh basil and enjoy!

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Hope this makes for an easy weeknight dinner that all will enjoy!

Book Review: Wild

A very honest memoir to reflect a life that was torn apart and then pieced back together. After her mother’s death, her family members scattering after the death, and her marriage falling apart Cheryl Strayed decides to take on the Pacific Coast Trail. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker and really no preparation for what lie ahead but she took it on alone in hopes that it would put the pieces of herself back together.

Spoilers coming…

My review of the book: Meh. I guess I had higher expectations for such a daunting task after being broken into pieces after tragedy but this did not deliver. I don’t know how harsh that is to say, seeing it is a memoir and what’s being said actually happened but it didn’t seem like she actually took away all that she could from that experience. I got so tired of her as a narrator. She was in amazing scenery, surrounded by nature and few material distractions and all she could think about was sex. That was disappointing to me. Sex, the last time she had sex, who she wanted to have sex with, then she had sex with a stranger and then talked some more about it. Oh and the last time she did heroin (right before the trip). Just great…

This was an incredibly empowering achievement to do this by herself and she had the right motive but it just seemed to me that she couldn’t get past the immediate needs, the superficial needs instead of what was to come out of this hike, how this was going to help her or bring her clarity or some kind of enlightenment. I hope she got what she needed from the hike because I’ll never really know from her account. I did enjoy what scenery she did describe and the account about the fellow hikers and her few encounters with the wildlife but they were few and far between. I guess I’ll just stick to Kerouac and Krakauer. It got good ratings on GoodReads here.

Has anyone else read Wild and have a different review? Anyone have this on their To-Read list? I read it for a book-club I’m in.

Happy reading!