Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bee Pollen

While escaping Hurricane Ike back in September, my mom and I spend a fantastic week with my Aunt Diane in Beeville, Texas. One day we went to visit an Amish community--YES, shockingly enough, there is a settlement of Amish in south Texas. I was shocked and also most pleasantly surpised. It was so surreal though to pull up in front of a little shop in my Aunt's hummer and park beside a row of carriages.

I was instantly enchanted--it was like taking a step back in time. There were no electric wires attached to the houses, and we passed several horse-drawn buggies on the road. Too cool. I made a mental note to learn more about the Amish, but so far have not done so. One of the tiny shops was full of handmade goods and a vast array of herbs, spices, jams, honey and soaps. What caught my eye were the jars of bee pollen. I did not realize that this was something people consumed--silly me. So I bought a jar. Unfortunatly I left this jar in Beeville.

While perusing the honey selection at HEB about 2 months ago I was so excited to see a little jar of bee pollen! I bought it and went home to do a little online research on the stuff. I can't say that I found any extremely helpful information about it, but according to my aunt (who knows stuff) it is very nutiritous and is believed to help balance things within the body. For two months I have been eating about a teaspoon full every morning, and have been pleased with the results I have seen... in my fingernails! For at least the past year my nails have been weak, brittle and have had ridges in them, but the new nail that has grown these past two months has been smooth and my nails have been so much stronger! If nothing else, bee pollen is a good source of vitamins and minerals, and just like honey, it can help with alergy problems. I think it's worth trying out, but you should be careful if you are allergic to pollen, I'm pretty sure if you are it's a bad idea to try. I like the taste--it's very earthy.

I would very much welcome and thoughts, comments, information on bee pollen, as most of the information about it online seems to be written by people who probably look into crystal balls.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Attempting the impossible

I am a chronic over packer. I am sickened by this every time I pack--which is often. I am going on a short snowboarding trip to Vail on Saturday (and by short I mean 6 days instead of the usual 4-5 months). I am going to attempt to only take my board bag with as many clothes as I can fit in it and nothing else. Writing that makes me laugh because I know how difficult this is going to be for me. I'm basically setting myself up for failure and misery. I have already laid out what I HAVE TO HAVE and it's enough to last me on a 6 month trek around the world--including clothes for winter-summer weather. My plan is to take exactly enough clothes to last me, and maybe an extra t-shirt. Just writing about this makes me uncomfortable, which is how I know it's the right thing to do.

So I would really like to know if anyone out there has any packing tips. Or if they feel the same way as I do and what groups they have joined to control their problem. I should probably figure this out before I move to England with two suitcases.

Please... help me.


Today started out a bit sketchy. First of all, I had to go to the doctor... the doctor. Which is, of course, never pleasant. It's usually a 45 minute drive to the office, but today it ended up being an hour and a half thanks to rush-hour traffic. I had to go to the bathroom SO badly, and after waiting 20 minutes to get through one light, and much gnashing of teeth, I finally came upon a gas station, which was lucky because I was also out of gas. But once I tried to pump the gas the actual nozzle would not go into the tank. If this ever happens to you just know that violently thrusting the nozzle in the general vicinity of the tank will not make it go in, and no combination of obscenities will get the job done either. My advice is move on. Which I did, with much squealing of tires, back into the rain and traffic. Luckily I did not run out of gas. After the appointment I went to work, and for some reason all I could think about was spending quality time with chocolate glazed donuts. Go figure.

The rest of the day was good though. On my drive home I listened to some talk radio. It seems like everyone is talking about the border control problem. I think this is ironic as I am desperate to get into another country myself. But for some reason sailing a small boat over the Atlantic has not yet entered the realm of possibilities for me yet. I wonder what it's like to be so desperate to get into the States that you would spend huge amounts of money and risk your life to do so. I don't think that it's something many people can relate to. I read a really good book last year called Coyotes, by Ted Conover, which is an account of a journalist who joins up with some illegal migrants from Mexico to see what their lives are like as they go back and forth across the border, and from one job to the next in the US. It is incredibly eye-opening--and more importantly mind-opening I dare say. I recommend people read it who feel resentment and condescension toward illegal aliens in this country.

Anyway, as I was listening to these broadcasts I realized that I truly do not know how I feel about it all. Should we let more people in? People who would have much better quality of life here, or keep them out and say it's not our problem. Look out for ourselves or look out for others. There are definitely good arguments to both sides I reckon. This is the problem though, I don't usually feel very strongly either way in political matters. So I am going to attempt to even if it's awkward. I don't want to be a flaky fence-sitter so I am going to have opinions. Some might say that I already am opinionated enough for my own good, and I would say to those people, "You are correct."

So it begins...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Cute Award

The very charming and talented Domestic Goddess passed this exciting award on to me last week--what a lovely surprise! Thanks dear--it is an honor. So I guess I have to now post 10 not so cute things about myself, which should be easy. Here goes:

1. I have a bad temper. I was once late to work because I couldn't find my wallet under one of the piles of clothes on my floor and had such a fit of rage that neighbors came out onto the street thinking someone was being murdered.
2. I really like things neat and tidy, which is why it's so shocking to me to discover that suddenly there are multiple piles of clothes scattered in my room (this also causes some stressful situations from time to time--see above example).
3. I really really passionately dislike being behind people who are driving slower than I think they should be--especially when running late.
4. I do not love animals, especially cats. I might like a dog if I get to know it, but usually if they just come sniff my crotch right off the bat without introducing themselves I will probably never like them--that makes me feel used. This is very not-cute of me. I do not hate animals, I just don't want them all over me. I'm being honest though. If I don't let your dog lick my face and cringe while peeling hair off of my clothes, just know that it's me, not them. Actually, I don't really believe that at all, but I would say so to make someone feel better, but that's probably also not cute. I guess maybe it is just me after all.
5. I screen my calls often. Just because I'm too lazy to talk, and I have been known not to listen to my voice mails until weeks later.
6. I threw an empty Capri Sun out of my car window once. I think of this and regret it often.
7. I taught kindergarten for a year, and am now much less fond of small children.
8. I once farted loudly in front of the man who will soon be my father-in-law because I was laughing so hard. That was really embarrassing.
9. I do not floss regularly
10. I can get really impatient while watching movies because I will think of things I could be doing. It makes my mom mad especially because I will sneak away for a few minutes to look at something or organize something. It's dumb really.

So there you go. Please don't judge me. Anyway, so here are the great blogs that I am nominating for the cute award:

Check 'em out.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Adventures in Visa-Land Part II

The quest for entry to the UK to live with my husband-to-be continues! It has been great fun (not so much) calling an assortment of different agencies and requesting certified copies of documents--I just received my birth certificate in the mail two days ago, and am greatly anticipating the arrival of my college transcripts. Sam has been busy gathering papers and just notified me last night that he has almost collected all of the documents I need him to bring when he comes in April. He has been so helpful and organized, and as always a major encouragement to me.

So basically what I have to do is this: gather and organize all of my stuff, then I can apply online and pay the extortionate fee. Then I can make an appointment to get my biometrics taken, then I must send in the enitre stack of papers and my biometrics within two weeks of having them taken to the office in LA. Then I must wait up to 12 weeks to have it approved (because having it denied is not an option here obviously). Seems easy enough. EXCEPT: I booked a 10 day trip to Spain to visit my sister in May before I knew of these details, which means I have to have my biometrics taken the day before I leave, and overnight it all the day I return to make sure I get it in within the two weeks. I have to wait until after this trip because I have to send in my passport of course. But wait, there's more: our wedding is 11 weeks from that time, a wedding which will require me to have my passport because it's in Mexico. So I am really just hoping that 1.) I can make my biometrics appointment for the day I need to have it done, 2.) that it doesn't take 12 weeks to process because then I'm really screwed, and 3.) that it gets approved and we live happily ever after.

I will admit that this causes me daily anxiety. The chances of it all being okay are looking pretty good, but since I have a pessimistic streak, or rather, since I am realistic, those few little ifs and maybes are worrisome to me. It will be so nice when this whole process is over and out of my mind, but until then, I am accepting that it will continue to be the first thing I think of every morning. Fingers crossed everyone...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

apron time

I have noticed lots of aprons lately, it seems like they're everywhere. I have always really liked aprons, especially the cute not-so-practical ones. Why wear a boring one? However, I think I have worn an apron maybe 3 times in my whole life, because even though I have collected a few, I always forget to wear them--who is with me on this? Or is just me? It makes so much sense though. If you watch old movies usually the mom in the story is always wearing an apron, it's almost like it's just part of her usual attire. I guess back then people cooked a lot more and made more things from scratch, hence messier kitchens and the need to always have an apron on. I think it's rather homey and nice, like you take what you're doing in the kitchen seriously and it means something to you.

Anyway, this is an apron I made last night. It had been a while since I put my sewing machine to use so I was itching for some stitching. The design for this one came to me in a dream about chocolate cake, so now since I've made the apron I will have to make the dream come true and make the cake too. Actually, that's not entirely true--it's just that I was thinking of chocolate cake, which is not such a rare thing, and came up with what I imagined would be the perfect apron to make chocolate cake in. I just hope I remember to wear it!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I hope that one day I actually get to use that sentence while telling a long, drawn out story. I visited Leah's parents this week in Burnet, Texas. It was her spring break so I took two days off in honor of her, and to remember how it used to feel to celebrate such a glorious vacation. I really think that every business should abide by a school calendar, I believe people would be much happier with more vacation time. And I realize that businesses would not make as much money but then maybe people wouldn't make money the most important thing in their lives and our world might not be in such a shambles. We can call this idea the Spring Break Theory. I guess it might be a bit short sighted but oh well. In my own life and my own opinion I do feel better about things when I have days off (for evidence of how miserable I feel with no days off please see my Taiwan blog).

Anywho, it was a lovely day with lots of sunshine and just the right temperature. The first day that Leah and I ever spent together as friends was when we were nine years old. She and her mom picked me up from Vacation Bible School in an old blue truck and we spent the day riding her horse, Gail, and having a picnic. It was so much fun to spend another day riding with her over 16 years later. The horse Leah is on was named Pinot Grigio that day, and the horse I'm on is now Strawberry Wine (which was a very influential song in our early years and one that we requested on the radio more than once... yes I used to listen to country music). After a childhood spent desperately wanting a horse I am now Strawberry's godmother; an honorable role. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch on the porch chatting with Leah's mom and trying to figure out uses for all of the cedar trees that have been cut down in the area. Well I can't wait until my next visit, it was such a pleasure!! Thanks Leah.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Scooter and Soup

I had two horrific realizations today. The first was while I was making my 50 minute commute to work. I realized that this time last year I was still in Taiwan enjoying a 3 minute "commute" on my beloved scooter; Scootlydoo. Emily and I shared this scooter and it went everywhere with us--well it had no choice really. I so miss the crazy Taiwan traffic, and taking my life into my hands every day, and whizzing around every obstacle, and driving the wrong way down one way streets, and driving on sidewalks, and paying $5 for gas every other week and the wind in my hair (the hair that wasn't under my helmet of course). So I spent the rest of the day in a nostalgic stupor thinking of all the other things I miss about Asia, but aching for my scooter the most. So I came home and began looking through my 9,000+ photos I took during that year and this was the first I came to of Scootles, which just so happens to be a very special picture to me because Emily is in it, and this was taken during one of our first exploring adventures our first month there. See how cute Emily looks as she browses the map? Gosh I miss her, I miss her even more than I miss my scoot. Sigh.

The second realization was over dinner, when I looked at the clock and calculated that in 12 hours time I will already be in my car driving to work again behind a long line tail lights. Which lead to the ultimate horrifying discovery that I work more than I sleep each day. Is that even morally correct? How I never realized this before I will never know, it's sort of amateur math too, and totally obvious now that I think of it: approximately 8 hours of sleep is less than (<) 8 hours of work plus (+) lunch. Wow.

Anyway, on a more positive and not so mopey note, I made soup tonight. This is a "recipe" that I created in England a few weeks ago when I was cooking for Sam and his parents. Since they use crazy weird measurements over there I had no idea how much of anything I was adding to the pot, and therefore I wanted to try it again and see if I could duplicate the tasty effect. Gail said that it was "some of the best soup" she's had, which was an extravagant compliment to me because she is a Master Chef. At least I know she would kick ass on the show. And I think my mom is happy to see I am not totally useless in the kitchen as she's always feared:) Anyway, this is what I did tonight, and it was quite tasty, but 3 weeks have fogged my memory as to how the last batch tasted, but at least now I have some reasonable measurements to work with.
Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

1 butternut squash
2 med. sweet potatos
3 cubes of chicken bullion
4-5 C of water
3 TBSP butter
3 cloves of garlic
3/4 C of onion
1 TBSP brown sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
Fresh ground pepper and cinnamon to taste

Cut the squash in half, scoop out seeds, and peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Combine on cookie sheet (squash facing down) or baking pan and bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until soft. Once this is done you can easily scoop the "meat" of the squash out.

Melt butter in stock pot and add minced garlic and onion. Sautee until onion is soft and garlic is browned (about 1o minutes). Add bullion cubes and 5 cups of water. Add squash, sweet potatoes, cream cheese and brown sugar bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. You can use a regular blender and do it in batches, or use an immersion blender which is a bit easier and less messy--no transferring of liquids. Put back into stock pot and warm, adding pepper and cinnamon to taste. Go easy on the cinnamon and taste it little by little as a little goes a long way here and you don't want to over do it. This should make about 8 servings.

I have made a similar recipe before using an acorn squash instead of sweet potatoes, and using thyme and a dash of ginger instead of cinnamon and it's delicious too. Prepare the acorn squash the same way as the butternut squash. You can also use chicken broth if you prefer, use two or three cans and add some water until you get the texture you like. I have found that soup-making is very forgiving, and you can always add more liquid to thin it out if that's what you prefer.

I also made some yummy bread to go with this soup:

1 loaf french bread
3 TBSP butter
1 TBSP thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 C grated gruyere cheese

Slice bread into about 1/4 inch this slices. Melt butter in a bowl and add chopped thyme (lemon thyme tastes good in this too), brush or spoon butter mixture onto each bread slice, then top with cheese. Place on cookie sheet and broil for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is slightly browned. YUM!

I think I like this soup because I love the colors of the ingredients. If I could I would peel sweet potatoes and halve squashes all of the time and set them on my mantle as decoration. They're just so warm and lovely. It makes the corners of my eyes sting a little. It is weird to get choked up over gourds? Yes. Yes it is.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Snowey England

My trip to the Kingdom this February happened to coincide with the country's first heavy snowstorm in 20 years--lucky me! I got to land in the tiny airport of Bristol while people were still waiting for their flights to go out from days before. Sam and his mom hiked out of their house in the country 4 miles (uphill in the snow each way...) to get to his sisters house so he could use a car that wasn't snowed in to pick me up. It was so much fun to see the country blanketed in so much snow! It was breathtaking. We got to have lots of fun sledding, and I so wished I had my snowboard with me--but at least Sam got to try out a couple kickers that we made. Sam's talented mother is responsible for all of the photos except the top two--aren't they excellent??!! I love the ones of the birds--there were so many birds, and they looked so vibrant against the white of the snow.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Great Visa Adventure Part I

ad·ven·ture [ əd vénchər ]

(plural ad·ven·tures)
1. exciting experience: an exciting or extraordinary event or series of events
2. bold undertaking: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or undertaking
3. involvement in bold undertakings: the participation or willingness to participate in things that involve uncertainty and risk

Adventures. I have been on many. I have lived in other countries, taken perilous taxi rides in foreign cities, sailed an ocean in a small canoe with no flotation devices, run cross-country my freshman year of high school and eaten pork bowel soup. The adventure I am embarked on now, however, is an adventure of my mind--and my will-power. I must say, getting married can be stressful at times, and there is a lot to do. There are constantly lengthening to-do lists and little dilemmas that arise (should we go with teflon or calphalon and what's the freaking difference?). It's fun though, and you know the end result will be pleasant and memorable. Heck, a wedding is probably the biggest party you'll ever throw (or your parents will ever throw). But add to the mix a foreign fiance and things start getting weird. Like I did not know when I agreed to marry Sam the hours of work that would be required to even get to live with him. What I am talking about is of course the visa process. Ask anyone who has ever gotten a visa for any reason, and they will probably tell you it's a pain in the back side. And even if its just for traveling you will always wonder, "What if I don't get approved and I've already spent $1200 to fly to Taipei?" So it's basically no fun at all. When I was finally able to get through to a human at Worldbridge, which is the company contracted by the UK Border Agency, I had the pleasure of having a very serious conversation with a person I could not understand. Eventually I was able determine the correct visa application for my situation after spelling out every single word I was saying; "H as in helicopter, E as in Emergency, L as in lunatic, P as in Paul."

The Settlement Visa. This is a visa for spouses, civil partners, unmarried partners, etc. Basically this is a visa for those who wish to join someone in the UK with whom they are in a relationship and want to permanently be in a relationship. OR, for people who want to make it appear that they want to permanently be in a relationship. As an application it's pretty straightforward. It's 17 pages of questions that must be answered such as "Have you ever, by any means or mediums, expressed views that justify or glorify terrorist violence or that may encourage others to terrorist acts or other serious criminal acts?" Well that's easy enough to answer. It's understandable this day and age that countries should take very seriously who they let in. Among other documents that I must submit are copy of a mortgage, proof of employment, letters from employers in the UK stating that I'm hirable (an interesting requirement seeing as how you cannot apply for jobs unless you have a visa. Hmmm.), copies of all of Sams financial documents, proof of his job, proof that he has not taken any government funding, proof that we have known each other for at least 2 years, proof that we have met, proof that we can support ourselves on our savings for at least 3 months, and proof that if we are not able we have someone with whom we can stay. I have also been advised to include personal documentation of our relationship such as copies of letter, emails, photos, and anything else I can possibly conceive that might help make my case. So far I have a 2 1/2 inch stack of papers ready to go, and I have not ticked off half the things I need to send in (this is going to be one pricey little priority mailer). I am lucky to have a fiance who really wants me to be able to live with him once we're married so he has been so helpful and encouraging. So I will apply in May and cross my fingers because its a one shot deal--at a rate of $750 pounds per application, and at a max processing time of 12 weeks I have just this one chance. I could very easily be living with my parents again after I become a Mrs. and waiting for a visa to be approved. Even though I have a good feeling that wont happen, I still have this little uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and in my mind almost constantly because WHAT IF???

So back to the definition of adventure at the top. I really do feel like this is an adventure--another notch in my risk-taking belt (but then when you think about what a risk getting married is anyway the whole visa thing really does pale in comparison). It is extraordinary that I am even moving to England, and am so happy to be doing so because it will be with Sam. I am uncertain about it because the last time I became a resident of another country a nice little Asian girl did all the paperwork for me and now I don't know what I'm doing at all. It is hazardous because people get denied for this visa every day that ends in "y". It is exciting because, hey, it just might work out! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

bright blue skies out my window

It's an exquisite day today! I'm afraid this is probably some of the last nice weather before the summer heat and humidity hit us with a fury. Since I spent nine hours of the day in the cave that is my office I am excited to get outside and soak up the nice evening sun. The days are getting longer and I like that! I even skipped yoga to enjoy the weather.

These little drawstring lovlies have so many uses. I think that they are great to use as gift-wrap instead of paper--they're much cuter and greener than paper, and infinitely reusable! I started making these in a frenzy when I realized how quick they are, you don't even need a pattern or to measure anything at all. Just cut, fold and sew. They use so little fabric that they're perfect for all those old scraps from other projects. I even used some of the optional piping you often get with bridesmaids dresses for the drawstring on the one on the right (thank you Ellie). I do apologize for the somewhat morbid way they seem to be hanging from little miniature gallows.

This was one was the perfect home for Mr. Ipod. He looks quite happy there--nice and snug. And maybe tomorrow my cell phone will live there, or my camera, or my lip gloss, or my...

Jewelry? Why not? I could go on and on. And probably will. Before I go I want to share these incredibly delicate spoons that I got at a little boutique--they're made out of sea shells and mother of pearl. They are so fragile and dainty and I love them to bits! You know, the first thing I thought when I saw them was, "Those would be really nice to serve crab dip with." Irony? Perhaps for the little crab that used to live in the shell on the end of my lovely new spoon.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Tonight I made a handy little stamp with my old and new initial ('cause it's staying the same!). I love carving stamps like this, its so fun and your options are practically limitless. I have always used linoleum blocks in the past, but recently discovered these great rubber blocks that literally cut like butter--too easy, it took me all of 5 minutes and voila! I love projects that I can complete when I don't have a lot of time. So here's what I ended up with:

And I also really like that it can look like this:

I made our save the date cards a few months ago by carving out a stamp (the grey lump in the middle) and then finished them by using turquoise-y-blue-y embossing powder and an embossing heat tool. It was great fun and extremely cheap. The only downside was that some of them got scuffed in the mail, which tends to happen with postcards, so I would put them in an envelope if I had to do it all over again, which thankfully I do not! But I really liked the way they turned out. They make me think of the beach. Stamp carving kits can be bought here.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A new beginning

Here's to a new blog! I have thought about starting this blog for a while, but of course have procrastinated and thought it would be okay to wait. Well tonight I have found myself quite hyper and in need of something to do. So here I am with a hearty glass of shriaz and I'm ready to go.

I would like to start this blog for a number of reasons. I have blogged before while I was traveling and enjoyed the convenience of it--it allowed me to convey lots of information to lots of people at once. It's a great to way to share things, and to connect. I have loved reading my friends blogs, just about their everyday lives and the goings on that I wouldn't otherwise know about. I like to create things and love to make things myself. I spend lots of time with my sewing machine and my vast array of art supplies. I also like to write. And I also have a lot going on.

I am very happily engaged to the most wonderful man, and am excited to be with him finally in the same place. Sam and I met just over two years ago while working in Vail, Colorado, and have been together ever since. He asked me to be his wife on my birthday last November, and since then we have been planning our life together. It will begin this August after our wedding in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. But before we get to that point there's lots to do and plan and talk about, which is where I'm at right now. Sam lives in England, which is where I will be residing as well after our wedding. This means visas, job changes, lifestyle changes and more. I am terribly excited about it all.

So this blog will start out at the very beginning of my journey as I become a wife. Now I am in Texas and soon I'll be in England. There's so much to do and look forward to! I am very excited to share my thoughts and ideas, and all of the crazy stuff that happens in the every day rigamarole that is life.