Thursday, December 31, 2009

San Pedro and Going Home


This is part 4 of a 4 part blog about Julie and Bradford’s trip to Belize. Posts 1 and 3 will be written by Julie, while posts 2 and 4 will be written by Bradford.

The delay in finishing up this travelogue has more to do with me wanting to forget the worst part of our Belize trip than simple procrastination. In fact, it was such a sad leg that we realized on our way out that we hadn't taken any photos on Ambergris Caye! And that is a shame since it really is beautiful, despite all the development due to tourism.

On day 6 we woke up very early in the morning in order to catch the early bus to Belize City. Ian happily gave us a ride to the bus stop even though the sun had not yet risen. Hickatee and its hosts Ian and Kate were the highlight of our Belize trip. We will definitely return and would urge any other travelers in southern Belize to visit them as well (a perfect rating with 80 reviews says a lot!).

The bus ride to Belize City was better than our other buses since this time we were lucky to grab a seat on a charter-style bus, not the regular school bus style we were used to. It was a good thing too, since the bus ride was very long.

CIMG1005Finally arriving in Belize City at the bus terminal, we stopped at our favorite food shack and shared a light lunch of chicken and rice made in the Belizean way. We then continued our walk out to the docks, only about 1/2 to 1 mile away from the terminal. Arriving there, we paid for our tickets and waited to board. The sea was beautiful on the way out to San Pedro and about an hour later we disembarked the ferry and rode a cab out to Pedro's Inn. Pedro's Inn is really a hostel with a bar on the ground level. We didn’t mind staying in a hostel since it was inexpensive and we planned on spending very little time there. Our agenda was full and we couldn't wait to get started!

Since it was too late to do any snorkeling, we decided to have a walk about town. After we returned we ordered a pizza at Pedro's Inn. Soon after, however, my gut started protesting (if not the pizza, then something else). I quickly realized a horrible case of TRAVELER'S DIARRHEA. We only had a few days on San Pedro and I was to be shackled to the toilet for the entirety of it. Talk about terrible timing!

CIMG1013I feel so bad for Julie who was forced to share my fate - at least the fate of being confined to our tiny two-bed box that was our room. Julie, I promise we will return! I have to make up for denying her the opportunity to snorkel in such a beautiful turquoise sea.

As we were getting a taxi to leave Pedro's Inn I noticed a worker at the hostel cleaning out a pipe to the septic tank. Later, I recalled small signs (which I ignored in my abject misery) around the bathroom warning not to flush the toilet paper. I will definitely tip the guys at the hostel well when we return! I can’t help but laugh however at the mental image of the poor guy cursing in his Belizean accent at the septic tank trying to unclog it.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We rode the ferry back to Belize City, caught a taxi to the airport, faced a profoundly irate airport worker, flew home, and went to sleep.

This trip was wonderful – it was (relatively) cheap and we had MUCH more fun than if we had bummed around a resort. In the famous words of General Douglas MacArthur,


PS- Side note from Julie- please ignore the ill-fitting background on my blog. It is under construction... :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Its Done!

I've finally finished my chair! After painstakingly hunting down a fabric, and then modifying it to fit my decor perfectly, this weekend was the crux of the whole operation.

I've made covers for this chair before (I decorated the living room in the house Bradford used to live in and his beloved bright red and black trimmed chairs did not make the cut for the color scheme). So this time around I knew better what not to do and what would work well. They ended up being a nice snug fit and looking pretty darn good.

They were super easy to make. All I did was pin and sew the fabric around the cushions to get a tailored fit and then I added a zipper to the back sides so I can take them off and recover them again if I ever feel like it. The hardest part was getting the zipper on, but even that was more or less a cinch.

Above is the twin to my chair. Its currently residing in Bradford's bedroom. He loves them. And I love them too. They are super comfortable. But I like them best when they are covered :) ... they're just so... RED. And my very red couch is PLENTY red for this room.

I was nervous that I might not have enough fabric for both cushions but- wonder of wonders- not only did I have enough fabric for both cushions, I had enough to make a pillow cover too! I haven't decided where I'm actually going to put the pillow yet, I have some other ideas in mind for the pillows on my couch, but for now that's where it sits. Side note- I've never understood why throw pillows or even just pillow covers cost so much to buy from the store. Seriously, they are so easy to make that I have a really hard time buying pillows from the store. Unless they are on clearance at TJ Maxx or something... Anyway, to make this I basically just made an envelope with the fabric and had the two ends overlap eachother in the back so I can slip the pillow in and out if I want to change the cover or something. Easy peasy.

Also, on another home operation note- I recently purchased and recieved from Amazon a little vacuum for my place! I couldn't afford a normal vacuum, plus I only have about a 12' x 15' space of carpet, the rest is wood flooring and tile, so I don't really need a full size vac. And this guy is perfect. He was only $46, I can use it on my wood, tile, and carpet floors, and it actually has a pretty powerful suction so it does a great job. Its also easy to store in my limited closet space since its compact. And its red, I love red... just not red chairs obviously... strange. And the cherry on top- its called a Hoover "Flair". How cute is that? I can't take the credit for this find though, Bradford, with his astute deal finding skills, did some research and found this one after comparing reviews and products. Gosh I like having him around.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Update from the Home Front

I am still in the process of finishing all the nooks and crannies of my apartment. (Moving and situating a new place is expensive- both monetarily and time wise.) The most recent thing I have been working on is getting my fabric ready to cover my chair and ottoman. The material I found for my chair was a great price, but it was missing any red to tie in the big red couch sitting in the same room with it. So, what I decided to do was to paint some of the flowers on the material red myself. This is what it looked like before:

And this is what it looks like now after my handiwork:

I was pretty satisfied with how well the red ended up matching the red of my couch. And I think it livens up the fabric quite a bit too.

All that is left now is to sew the covers! That is my project for today after work.

Slowly but surely, I am getting this apartment looking snazzy.

Stay tuned for pictures of the kitchen buffet Bradford built for me. It is lovely and now I can actually cook without pulling out my hair or having to sit down with a cutting board on my lap in the living room... Bless him.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Glove You

As mentioned before, I love a good deal. I can't help it. I don't just like inexpensive things-I like expensive things that I can get for way cheaper than normal.

Exhibit A: 100% leather gloves with 100% silk lining
Lord and Taylor brand
Beautiful dark pink
Retail price: $100
My price? Oh yeah, $19.99.
I've been wanting some nice leather gloves for these cold seasons upon us and I happened to stop by Ross and found these beauties. Can you love a glove? Because I think I do...

I also bought these soft, plum purple gloves, Fossil brand, retail $35, which I got for $5. Because you can't wear pink leather gloves with a hoodie right? I can justify anything...

Another reason I love these gloves (both pairs) is because they are longer so I won't have any exposed wrists to suffer the cold. I hate being cold. So I love that idea.

Also, if you'll take a gander with me at Exhibit B:

Eco friendly
Real bamboo handles
Soft, supple, cruelty free bristles
Oh and don't forget the generously portioned 4 free sample jars of mineral based face powder you can get with any purchase

I bought 5 brushes, my grand total after shipping, etc: $28.59. Uhm, have any of you out there shopped for make-up brushes? They is dang expensive. So the fact that I got 5 lovely brushes for the price of one in any normal shop is enough to tickle my budget-minded fancy. LOVE these. What's even better about the price? I was fully prepared to pay the $33 (before tax) for these brushes but for some reason (not one that I'm complaing for mind you) the total showed a "Discount" line that took off almost $9 of that price! I hadn't entered a promo code or anything. They apparently just sensed how wonderful I was and wanted to honor me with a discount... or so I can keep telling myself.

Some might be skeptical, buying make-up brushes so cheap, but I have been using brushes by eco tools which you can buy at target, ulta, and online at just about at any beauty store, and I love them. They've held up really well and stayed super soft and applied evenly- I love them. They range from $4-$10 and when I first got them I was sure they'd be cheap and I'd just have to end up getting newer ones soon so they were my temporary stand in until I found better ones. But I never did. Mostly because the price tags on any others quickly deterred me, but also because they seemed pretty on par with my eco tools. Maybe these don't compare to high-end brushes- I couldn't tell ya, I've never used anything else- but they sure have worked great for me.

I have a feeling these brushes from everyday minerals will be just as good as my eco tools. I'm excited to try their make-up too. Its pretty reasonably priced and if I like my free samples, I might just come back to try some more!

Anyway, have a lovely day all and I hope everyone is making the most of this autumn season. I personally plan to be scared out of my wits at things popping out of a cornfield at me all night, among other activities planned for the coming up weeks.

Frugally yours,

Friday, October 9, 2009

Time for Change

I've recently been in the market for a new blog background. I've had my blog for about a year and a half now and I think its time to try out a new background.

I've meandered the usual haunts and nothing is particularly sticking out to me.

Does anyone have a site for free backgrounds that they like? I've checked out a handful but let me know what ones you love and maybe I'll find some inspiration.

Class dismissed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Must be Fall

I have officially hung up my "spooky" sign on my apartment door.

I am ready for October.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Red

Here is a picture of my red couch that I promised some of you I would post. The picture is grainy, and makes the couch look more orange than red, but trust me, this sucker is red. Very red.

Soon I will have the pillows recovered and my decorations will be going up, so stay tuned for the final results!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Love Tomatoes

Hey look! I wrote another post!

I don't really have a good excuse for how long its been, other than I moved last month and most of my time has been spent getting my new apartment put together. I don't have any pictures of the place right now but once everything is all up and finished I will gladly share with you my cute little studio apartment that I've really come to love.

My most recent addition to the place is a big red sofa bed. Since I don't have a bedroom (its a studio, remember?) I had to decide if I'd rather have a bed or a couch. The space isn't big enough to have both so I flirted around with a lot of ideas. At first I was going to get one of those loft beds. Basically a bunkbed without the bottom bunk, so there would be room for a desk or couch or whatever underneath it. But then I couldn't find any that were really worth spending a couple hundred bucks on and I then went to the idea of a futon. Not your traditional futon. Because I hate the way those ones look. I wanted something that looked like a couch but also flattened out into a sleeping space. There are "click-clack" sofas that are basically futons but they look like a couch. I spent a lot of time tracking down ones I liked and almost bought a few on seperate occasions. I was never really impressed with the reviews though, and never did find one I LOVED. They also made them out to be pretty cheaply manufactured and I wanted something that was going to last. An investment really. Plus the idea of spending $500 on a cheap sofa that I didn't love wasn't very intriguing.

I was just about to resign myself to sleeping on an air mattress for the rest of my time here when on a whim Bradford and I stopped at the RC Willey outlet Saturday morning. He had orginally suggested, back when I first rented the place, that I just get a sofa bed. His point was that it would be sturdier than a click-clack and probably last longer, which I agreed with, but for some reason I was really turned off to the idea of a sofa bed. I just thought I would find it a huge hassle to pull out and unfold my bed every night as opposed to just laying it flat. I really didn't even consider it. Plus, I figured the only ones I would be able to afford would be used ones bought on the local classifieds and that just screams "gross" to me. But, after all my other options seemed to fall flat on their faces I came around to the idea of getting a sofa bed. I even got excited about finding one in the classifieds because then I could recover it in whatever fabric I wanted and so it wouldn't matter how ugly it was! I liked that idea. I found a few that were reasonably priced but after going to look at them in person and watching a guy fall through the mattress to the ground (after he sat on it proclaiming, "its really sturdy too,") I was starting to feel a little discouraged again (after a good chuckle of course).

Back to RC Willey- We asked a sales associate what sofa beds they had and he showed us the first of three that he had. It was a red micro-fiber classic styled sofa bed that was deliciously priced at $419. Clearanced, since the style has been discontinued. After sitting on it, and seeing the price tag, what little hesitation I may have had over the tomato red fabric was gone. I loved it. "I'll take it!" I said, whole-heartedly, even after only 5 minutes of being in the store (that factor alone about knocked Bradford over with relief). The sales person then told us that if we came back to pick it up the same day we would get 20% off! That means I could get this sucker for $358 TOTAL. Tax included. I could have cried.

Even the smashed up toe and ridiculous frustration it took getting the blasted thing up the stairs to my apartment was so worth it.

Pictures forthcoming.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One in a Million

Today I'm not going to blog about any of the million blogable topics I surprisingly have on hold up in my gray matter. Because lately I have been much too occupied with this:

to even think clearly enough about anything else.

Number one thing I want to do when I get home from work: sleep. Until I couldn't possibly sleep anymore.

Number one thing I actually do when I get home from work: not sleep. I try as hard as I can to keep myself far away from my bed or anything else remotely comfortable so I can stay awake and pack some more, possibly take another load to the new apartment, and then try to scrounge up something not too entirely random to eat for dinner.

I hope that once I am settled in my lovely new place I will find more energy to be productive. Blogwise and otherwise.

Moving is not my favorite.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bye Bye


I am not ashamed to admit I have a blankie.

I am sad to inform you that I have now decided to bid farewell to said blankie.

I think he has had one too many stitch-ups and it is time to finally go.


Bye Blankie. You’ve served me well. You’ve protected me from spooky monsters in the closet. You made the best princess skirt ever with the help of a few safety pins and dad’s belt. You dutifully caught many tears shed from an emotional Julie on more than a few occasions. And you kept me warm and safe when all I needed was a good night’s sleep or a Sunday afternoon nap.

I’ll miss you Blankie, but I’ll keep part of you to remember you by.

Thanks for the snuggles.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Blessed Day!

I will no longer be homeless in a few weeks. I've found a darling little studio apartment at the low end of my budget.

I'm just a teensy bit thrilled.

Lovely day to you all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

He's Done it Again

That boy, he's gone and done it again! I came in to work today and what should I find waiting for me on my desk? A beautiful bouquet of roses, that's what.

Bradford is so sweet. I don't care what people say about flowers being a waste of money, yaddy yaddy yadda... I think they are wonderful and they make me blissfully happy. Especially when they smell so delicious.

I am kinda a dummy though. Once I got to work and bubbled over my gift for a little bit, I looked online to find the snowboarding helmet Bradford told me to look at so I could order it, and I called him to ask him a question about it and I didn't even say a single word about the flowers!!! I felt like a jerk. I then proceeded to text him and tell him I was sorry for being so daft and that I loved him and his beautiful flowers (Thanks again Bradford! You're a gem).

Anyway, everyone should have a bouquet of fresh flowers by their desk. Especially from a loved one. You just can't have a bad day with them sitting next to you.

*And here's a picture of my helmet. Its lovely too.

And still stay tuned for Savannah/Charleston stuff. I know you all are just DYING to know all about it ;)

Monday, July 20, 2009


...was good.

Just what the doctor ordered.

At least, they would have if I was seeing a doctor.

Stay tuned for pictures.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Do you ever feel like all you need in life is an escape? That everything in the world will be set back upright if you could just stop time for a little while, and do something-anything- that doesn't reek of responsibility and "must-do?" Yeah. I figured you did.

I've been feeling that way a lot lately. More often than normal. I can usually expect to feel that way a few times in the year, but the past month or so its almost been an every other day thing. Now, it could be due in part to the fact that I have been living here in Provo for 4 1/2 years (longer than I've ever lived ANYwhere mind you, by about a year and a half), and I'm feeling antsy because everything about my biological time clock says its time to uproot and head to a new place. I never thought I would feel inclined to do that. I hated moving around as a kid. Now, in retrospect, I can see how much good it did for me. Back to the point though: I need to get out.

Maybe labeling it as an "escape" latches a too negative connotation onto things. I like my life. I've got it pretty good: Good job. Great boyfriend. Learning new things everyday. Feeling more and more comfortable with myself and who I am... So its not like I feel this desire to run away from everything and shut things out of my head because they're too exhausting or whatever to bear. I do however think that I do need a spontaneous South Carolinan adventure or an unexpected trip to Belize every now and then to keep my head on straight. To re-focus me to who I am and what I want and need from life. Rejuvenation. What a beautiful idea! And so essential to sanity...

On a smaller scale, even just treating myself to a $100 shopping "spree" is sometimes all I need to get that little extra boost. No, I'm not a shopaholic... I'm much too practical. The desire is there, the guts however, are not. Every now and then though its healthy for me to be a little irresponsible (just a little). Helps keep me loose and not so high strung... just ask my sisteritas about the asparagus basil ravioli incident of '09...

I have also learned that it is harmful to my psyche to ignore these urgings. If I do, these feelings turn into ugly facades that my life is unpleasant and that my life has all these problems and it would be better if I just dropped this old life, moved to New Mexico (where I think part of my heart will always live) and become a new me and start a new phase. These thoughts I know are false and completely distorted. If you remember, my life is great. And if there really were so many issues in my life, they'd find me again, no matter where I plop down. And life goes by fast enough without me rushing it along. I need to enjoy it. All these feelings do is make me a cynical grouch, even if just temporarily.

Ergo, its much better to listen to those desires for adventure, satisfy them, then return with a smile (and decreased stress level) to the life I love.

Charleston, you never looked so good.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


A recent blog post by my friend Shanna has set me to thinking. I absolutely LOVE fireflies. They are a wondrous miracle. Sometimes I think God created them just to bring sheer joy to our lives. There really is something magical about the soft blinking in the serene dusk of a cooling summer day...

My first memory of seeing a firefly was when I was in kindergarten. We were living in Ohio at the time and I remember feeling like I was experiencing something akin to a real life fairytale. Amazingly, when I was older and again lived in places that I was lucky enough to be around fireflies, I felt the same way I did as a 5 year old. I love that. Sometimes I feel a lot of the magic I found in life when I was a kid has disappeared. Its wonderful to realize that I haven't lost all of it.

I also remember going "firefly hunting." I couldn't help but smile and feel energized during these hunts, no matter how ridiculous I might've looked. I spent countless evenings outside chasing around the blinking lights, earnestly trying to capture one little bug to marvel over in the cup of my hand, without even realizing how much time had passed. Even if I was outside all evening and I didn't catch a single one, I'd still come home thrilled from the experience.

Firefly evenings left me feeling invigorated and happy, all while pursuing my mission: getting me an up close and personal view of one of those lightin' bugs. I didn't always. Sometimes all I caught was the smile on a grown man's face as he jumped around the yard like a child. I guess accomplishment can have many faces. There's probably fewer disappointments to be found with that realization, even in the event of not catching a desired firefly.

Even if I don't actually catch a firefly every time I chase after one I hope that I can come away, glad to have tried anyway. Although I may not have caught a firefly, despite all that running around, I at least learned how cool grass feels between bare toes. Success can look different at one end from the other.

One thing I have learned from these many hunts is that there is a magic hour of twilight when all the world seems to be twinkling aglow with fireflies- but they don't stay out all night. After a few hours you'd be lucky to still find one flickering around. Sometimes though I need to just get out there and watch, even if I don't feel like catching a firefly right away. At least I would be where I needed to be if I ever decided to go after one. Its a few steps closer than sitting inside watching TV and then deciding I might like to look at one, only to realize that by the time I make it out the door it may be too late...

I guess what I mean by all this is that these days I'd rather be out on the porch, ready with my hole punched lid and jar. Just in case.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Maximize my Maximus

I am on a mission to work out 5 days a week for 90 days. I am also limiting my treats and sweets intake as well as eating three well balanced meals every day. So far so good. Its only the second week but I feel great!

It was surprisingly easy, too, to start waking up at 5:45 every morning to go to the gym with Bradford. Especially since I am not a morning person. I don't function well before the sun comes up. I think because its summer time though and the sun rises a little earlier than the rest of the year, I've been able to make the transition fairly well. There have been a few mornings when we've copped out and instead went to the gym after work, but for the most part we've been pretty diligent.

I'm excited to be in a new workout routine. As I've mentioned before on here, I tend to go in phases, as I'm sure most people do, with working out like a dream for a month or two and then all of a sudden it stops. Don't know what makes me do that but it almost always happens. I'm hoping this phase will last a lot longer.

Wish me luck!!!

You can look at my nifty little calendar over yonder -> to make sure I'm keeping on track :)

Monday, June 8, 2009


Bradford and I saw "Up" on Saturday night. It is probably one of the best movies I have ever seen. Not only was it entertaining but I was amazed at the skill of the animation. Incredible!

I cried a little and laughed a lot. One of the best parts of the whole thing was that it wasn't overly predictable. Which I loved. Its probably more of an adult movie than a kids movie in that the humor would probably be lost on most kids, but I definitely recommend seeing it!

We watched it in 3D. This is us in our cool glasses.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Don't Be Chicken

I have to share another recipe. It just so happens to be from Better Homes and Garden again, this time from their website. This particular one caught my eye a week ago. Ready for it? It may seem a little strange but seriously I'm on the verge of drooling just thinking about it now that I've partaken of its deliciousness. OK, here it is: Parmesan-Stuffed Chicken and Melted Strawberries. Ack, I can hardly type it without wanting to eat a plate full of it right now...

Uh. May. Zing. This recipe was incredibly easy. Easy to make, easy on the eyes, easy on the tastebuds. No, I take they back. They were incredibly cruel to the tastebuds. It leaves them unhappy when you finish eating and you realize that there is no more left. I made the mistake of only making two chicken breasts worth. I only had two chicken breasts, but if I had known how good it would be I would have run to the store first.

Mind you, I was a bit skeptical. And the only reason I printed the recipe off and decided to make it was because I happened to have a surplus of strawberries in my freezer (due to a tragically failed attempt at a strawberry shortcake recipe) so I was looking for a reason to use them. When I saw that the recipe called for fresh basil, chicken, strawberries, fresh parmesan cheese, and balsamic vinegar... I thought I must be crazy to try this. Then I realized that I love all of those things, so who's to say they wouldn't be amazing all together? I was very pleasantly surprised.

The only alterations I made, other than decreasing the amount of chicken breasts, were that I used fresh Parmesan cheese that was already shredded instead of slices since that's all I had. Oh, and I didn't have white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar so I used a little more than half regular white distilled vinegar (that isn't the same thing as white balsamic vinegar is it?...), and then made up the difference with regular balsamic vinegar.

You'll see in my picture that I made garlic bread again. Apparently whenever I make something that is "special" or "fancy," fancier than normal anyway, I feel the need to make garlic bread with it... I should try out some new bread sides. Any suggestions are welcome!

Also, there is fresh basil in this recipe. Have I mentioned I love fresh basil?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Dear Green Thumb:

I love Fresh Basil. Love it down to my toes. So much so that I have really been wanting to start my own herb garden just so I can eat it whenever I darn well feel like it. Now, I live in an apartment, with barely a blade of grass to speak of, and I am wondering: has anyone ever had an indoor herb garden? And if so, do you have any tips? Otherwise, I might just buy some plants, plop 'em in some dirt, stick them in my window and hope for the best!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kenya Kookies!

The other day I was perusing the isles of our local grocery store, Maceys, looking for some ingredients to some dishes I'm wanting to try out, and around the foreign foods section I saw it. Right there in all its glory. Marias cookies! When I was in Kenya, Aimee and I would hop into town every now and then, and we always had to wait FOREVER for the matatu (a bus/van type form of transportation) to leave back to our village. So, while we were waiting, there were a bunch of vendors walking around with their wares selling them to the tired passengers and Aimee and I always bought a package of cookies/crackers called Marias. And we loved them. They taste like animal crackers and were a welcome treat to our hungry bellies there in Machakos town waiting on the matatus.

The packaging is completely different from what it was in Kenya but the cookies were the same beloved morsels of goodness. I was so excited that I'd stumbled upon them! I couldn't believe it. I did a double take, snatched up a package of them and blurted out something along the lines of, "Holy heck I LOVE these!" The guy in the aisle next to me made a weird face and then slowly started inching away from me... OK, I was a mite exuberant. Simple things excite me...

What makes them even better is that they were only 50 cents. It can't get much better than that.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Harmonious Flavors

About a week ago I had that urge again to cook something out of the mundane, so I looked to some trusty resources (in this case The Pioneer Woman and Better Homes and Gardens magazine, June '09 edition) and found some recipes that make my taste buds dance.

First on the menu is this delicious looking, sounding, and tasting, Baked Lemon Pasta, via The Pioneer Woman. Not only is she hilarious but she has some pretty awesome recipes. For those of you who haven't already discovered her, take a look. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Here is my picture of the pasta: (Don't judge my photography. I'm still using my trusty exilim while I save up to splurge on a nice SLR...)

Oh, I also added shrimp to the pasta before I baked it. And I used whole wheat spaghetti which some how got kinda smushy. I plan to try it again with "regular" pasta to see if that makes a difference. Maybe I just over cooked the stuff. :S But seriously, try this recipe!

As I was about to leave to the grocery store I thought, what am I going to serve with this? Salad and garlic bread is easy, I'll do that. Then I thought, heck, I'm in the groove so I might as well do a "fancy" salad while I'm at it. I retrieved my BHG magazine that arrived earlier that day, flipped to the recipes section, found the first salad recipe (I was in a hurry to get to the store), and jotted down the ingredients I'd need. Later I realized how perfect the salad "choice" had been because it includes a lemon garlic dressing and the pasta was a lemon garlic pasta! Perfect!

This picture doesn't make it look spectacular, but Oh, don't you be deceived!

Here is the recipe for the Basil-Tomato Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette:
1/2 c. olive oil
1 tsp shredded lemon peel
1/3 c. lemon juice (or the juice from 1-2 lemons, I used two. I also added some of the lemon pulp)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
In a small screwtop jar (I used an empty olive oil bottle I'd set aside a few weeks ago), combine all ingredients, tighten lid, and shake well.

1 small head of green leaf lettuce, aprx. 6 cups (I actually used red leaf lettuce and I just eyeballed the amount I used)
3 c fresh basil (again, just eyeballed the amount)
2 c grape tomatoes, halved (yep, eyeballed! I don't like to mess with measurements if I don't have to... maybe thats why I have yet to successfully bake a cake. More on that later. Maybe.)
1/2 c toasted pine nuts (pine nuts were like, $8 a pound, crazy, so I opted for the more pocket friendly, $3/lb, toasted soy nuts instead.)
2 oz. parmesean cheese (I had a block of fresh parmesean from my roommate which was a treat)
In a large bowl combine ingredients. Drizzle with dressing before serving (I think I can handle that).

All I have to say about this salad is: MORE PLEASE! I mean, hello? fresh basil and fresh parmesean, with an awesome dressing? Can you say Yum? I sure did. In between just about every forkful of the stuff.

I've made this salad a few times, since I had everything I need for it, and I've tried a few variations. Tonight for example I added paprikaed/basiled grilled chicken and some dried cherries, another time I ate it with some left over tilapia, but no matter what you do to it, its going to be good.

I also made garlic bread. I'm sure just about everyone knows how to make it in some way or another, but in case you don't I just softened some butter, mixed it with garlic powder and dried parsley, slathered it on sliced pieces of french bread, laid it out on a cookie sheet and baked it for about 5-7 minutes with the pasta so it could get toasty. In hindsight I would have squeezed a bit of lemon juice over the bread to coincide with my dinner's theme. Ooo! I should've also made mint lemonade for the drink... I'll have to remember that for next time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Seeing Blue

I love a good deal. And I find it incredibly hard to resist a really awesome deal. Bradford sent me a link earlier today for a website that is selling some Pyrex bakeware for $1.99. Yep, you read that right. I got two loaf pans, a pie dish, a 13x9 casserole dish, and a measuring cup all for only $16.90. Including shipping.

Maybe they're selling it so cheap because its blue glass and Pyrex purchasing people generally only want the clear stuff? So now they have an overflow of the blue in stock? Don't know and don't care. As long as I can get me a Pyrex bread pan, blue or not, at $1.99. Now that I have more than one loaf pan it will no longer take me 4 hours to make two loaves of bread... Blessed day!

They also have some darling little custard bowls (that are absolutely perfect for personal sized pizookies). I would have bought some too, if I didn't already have 4. I'm kind of resenting the logical part of me that talked me out of it though.

Here's the link if any of you are interested (hope they still have some left!). Go ahead and look, I promise it won't hurt:

(Its also linked on slickdeals for those of you who know)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Punta Gorda

This is part 3 of a 4 part blog about Julie and Bradford’s trip to Belize. Posts 1 and 3 will be written by Julie, while posts 2 and 4 will be written by Bradford.

Day 4: We woke up early, packed together all our things, and left the cabana at about 7:00 for the bus station. We were running a little late, and at the terminal we discovered that we had missed the express bus to Punta Gorda. We checked the schedule and saw the next one would be in an hour. We took the time to get some breakfast which ended up being a pretty poor excuse for a burrito. I still don't know what it was made of but it looked and tasted a lot like something that had been eaten already... The one good thing about it was that it ended up being the only gross thing we ate on our trip... thank goodness. We also still had a jug full of the saril that we bought from Betty but upon opening it we found that it was already in the early stages of fermentation. Bradford wanted to keep it, the stinker, but I convinced him to throw it away. One less thing to lug around and no drunken Bradfords to contend with (I kid)!

Before we got onto our bus we saw our friends the missionaries again, talked for a bit, and then we were off. The drive down to Punta Gorda was gorgeous. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was perfect. I was reminded a little bit of Kenya again when we kept stopping and stuffing more and more people onto the recycled school bus. Bradford and I took a video before it got too full to move our elbows.

Punta Gorda is a quaint coastal town and the last 15 minutes or so of our drive was right on the shoreline. It was gorgeous! We were the last ones to get off of the bus and our driver was kind enough to go beyond the normal route and drop us off as close as he could to our destination (Hickatee Cottages).

He let us off at the end of a dirt road on the edge of town with directions the rest of the way. Bradford and I quickly learned, however, that when given directions in Belize they're only good for a little way, then you have to stop and ask for more. After about 4 miles of walking (in the hot sun with ALL of our bags mind you... yes I whined a little...) and three installments of directions from friendly natives (one of whom was the only of two people we met on our whole trip that didn't speak English), we arrived to the refreshing, rainforesty acreage that was Hickatee. I was never happier.

Hickatee is a wonderful retreat that has multitudes of plant and animal species, nature walks ranging from 15-90 minutes through natural rainforest, three darling cottages, a "dipping pool", a lodge, Oscar the cat, and a very hospitable British couple. When we arrived we walked up the gravel path to the seemingly deserted main lodge. We wandered a bit, trying to figure out what to do when a fellow guest who had been laying by the pool came and told us that our hosts had just laid down for a nap but that he was sure they wouldn't mind checking us in first. I tried to stop him from doing said waking, but to no avail. Kate soon greeted us in her charming way and very warmly introduced us to Hickatee, our cabin, and Oscar. We soon released Kate back to her nap and we immediately took turns in the shower to cleanse ourselves of the day's bus ride and "walk". Afterward, I explored our little cottage and was instantly smitten. Our cottage is their "deluxe cottage". It used to be Kate and Ian's home until they moved closer to the lodge. Needless to say, the ONLY reason we stayed in the deluxe cottage was because Kate cut us a screaming deal. I adore Kate. Without her our whole Belize trip may not have worked out as well as it did. She was my pen pal during the planning stages of our trip and proved herself as a priceless resource of information.

Anyway, our cottage: it had a glorious bathroom with a very nice shower, a nice sitting room, a back patio, a front porch with a hammock, and a bedroom. It had tons of windows, the most beautiful wood floors I have ever seen (seriously, I wanted to ship them home with me) made from native trees, a large luxurious bathroom (did I say that already?), and comfy furniture. I wanted to take up permanent residence. We had a few hours to relax and snooze a little before we recruited Ian to drive us into town for dinner (it was Valentine's Day so we decided to go out instead of staying in and having Kate cook us something).

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He dropped us off at a restaurant that was complete with chairs made from logs, a stage set up for a live reggae band, and little geckos singing and scuttling on the walls. I loved it. We got there at about 7:00 and there was no one there but us. We wanted to stay until 11:00 when the music started but we were so tired from the day that we decided to just call it a night. We walked to the main part of town and grabbed some ice cream from a little grocery store. After we finished we found a friendly cab driver to take us back to Hickatee. At night there's a generator that runs for a few hours so Bradford and I picked out a movie from our cottage's little library and watched a movie until the generator turned off. Then, we set up the hammock on the porch for Bradford to sleep in and I snuggled into the wonderful queen sized bed and fell into a blissful sleep.

Day 5: When I woke up I was surprised to see Bradford asleep on the floor in the main room. I found out that he had come in halfway through the night because the hammock was uncomfortable. I think he was scared from the eerie monkey noises or Oscar pouncing on him but he denies it ;). Soon after we woke up, Ian brought us a tray of ginger tea that we took out onto the patio to enjoy in the cool morning air. After tea we dressed and headed to the lodge for breakfast. Kate is an excellent cook and breakfast was quite a treat of fresh fruit, eggs, sausage, bacon, and delicious homemade bread with local jams and honey. We also had the opportunity to chat with the other five guests that were staying there. After breakfast we all went our separate ways. Bradford and I took advantage of the free bike rentals, provided by Kate and Ian, to ride into town and found a spot on a bench by the beach. We sat and enjoyed the beautiful weather and sea breeze. We were soon joined by a native teenager. I think Bradford and I were both holding our breath for a minute, waiting for him to finally ask us for money or something but we were pleasantly surprised to find that he really did just want to visit with us.

After a few hours of enjoying the beach and our new friend's company, we rode around town again and found a shop so we could purchase some delicious hot sauce. I think I ended up with 5 bottles at the end of the trip, plus three for Bradford's dad... Its good stuff. And all different flavors. After we made our purchases we went back to Hickatee and enjoyed a nice sit in the pool and conversation with one of the other guests. We, read, talked, snoozed, and enjoyed being outside until the bugs became too much of an annoyance. We went to the cabin for a nap and then went on one of the nature trails before dinner. We'd wanted to catch a glimpse of all the animals but we started a little later than we'd hoped and we ended up stumbling around in the dark. It was kind of eerie, especially with the occasional spider web in the face, but it was really neat to see and hear the rainforest at night. Once we finally found our way out of the trees we met the rest of the group on the lodge porch for dinner at our respective tables. I had swordfish and a salad and Bradford had soup and chicken. I don't love fish, but Kate can make just about anything taste great. After dinner we had fresh ginger tea and a plate of chocolate made by a local Mayan woman in the Toledo district. She grows all the ingredients herself and the result is some deliciously earthy tasting chocolate that can easily become an addiction... We bought 6 bars to take home with us. It was all they had or else I would've gladly bought more.

After dinner we sat and talked with Ian and Kate about the ways they try to live green and support the local businesses, not the larger resort type places and business that are squelching some of the native charm. Something that I found absolutely fascinating. We also played with Oscar, the orange tabby cat that roams the premises. He has a stick with a toy bug attached by some fishing line and he chased it all over the lodge. It was really entertaining.

After our enjoyable visit with Ian and Kate we went to our lodge to watch another movie and then showered, got our things put together for our early morning departure the next day, and settled in for a few hours of sleep.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Go with the Flow

(No Bradford, this isn't a Belize edition post... I'm such a bum! I don't know why its such a chore for me to get those written but I promise in the next couple days it will be done. Promise.)

I have noticed lately that things are different. A lot of things. Things that I've gotten so used to being around and a part of my life that I've hardly stepped back to really look at them and take them in. Its funny to see how those things, or my relation to those things, can change so much in any amount of time without me even realizing it. I'm speaking in fairly vague terms not to be mysterious but because there have been so many things lately I have been discovering this for that its hard to be more specific. Especially in the new stages of this discovery.

Change isn't bad. Its when I refuse to adapt or don't want to ride with the flow of those changes that it harms me the most. Change is also unavoidable, natural, so it doesn't make sense to stand still and never do anything or think anything differently from what I always have thought and done. Change is liberating. I've found that my mind has been opened and new opportunites and possibilities have been brought to my attention because of some of these changes. I've also discovered desires that I didn't realize I had until I took the time to look at myself more closely.

One thing that has been reiterated to me from all of this is that happiness is a choice. Anything and everything I do is a choice. I can choose to let life pass me by, or I can choose to embrace change and go where it takes me.

I have also learned that I need to get to know myself better. Its shocking how little I know about myself and how hard it is for me to be alone sometimes. Me, a fairly shy, introverted person has a hard time being with myself. You'd think if I'd had a hard time feeling perfectly comfortable around other people I would at least be able to find refuge in myself. But I found out recently that even with myself I felt like a stranger. Its not because I don't like myself, I just haven't taken the time to get to know myself better through all this change happening. I didn't realize how much I had changed. So much so that I became estranged from myself. I don't even know how long its been. I've learned that its important for everyone to find time to hang out with themselves. Otherwise we risk losing some of our substance and foundation.

Monday, March 30, 2009

You are Loved

Yesterday I had the precious opportunity to hold a 3 day old baby boy. It wasn't just a beautiful experience because he was so soft and warm and smelled the sweet way only a newborn baby can, it was also beautiful because I found it touched my soul. Here is this pint sized human being who is the most innocent and pure person out of anyone I've been in contact with for a long time and I couldn't help but love him. Not only did I feel overwhelmed with love for him, but I felt very loved myself. Not necessarily by my little friend, but by someone who saw me and my worth in the way that I saw the baby in that moment. I couldn't help but get teary, and I tried to stifle my sniffles as best I could in fear that his mother would think I had a cold or something and retrieve her darling son from my euphoric moment. Luckily, I was able to disguise it and I had the most wonderful few minutes sitting with him.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dangriga and Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve

Map picture

This is part 2 of a 4 part blog about Julie and Bradford’s trip to Belize. Posts 1 and 3 will be written by Julie, while posts 2 and 4 will be written by Bradford.

CIMG0862Day 2: On our first day in Dangriga we decided to take it easy. We slept in our cabana until about 10am. The sound of the surf and the cool breeze made it easy to sleep late. We woke up to Ruthie, our hostess, shouting to us through our window whether we wanted breakfast. We were served a simple breakfast of homemade bread, jam and juice.

After breakfast we got our gear together and took a walk around Dangriga. We headed in the direction of the market hoping to pick up some souvenirs. Walking about town was a fun experience; the streets were full of friendly Garufina, Creole, and Mayan people. We browsed the market and found ripe, inexpensive pineapple and papaya for sale. We continued exploring, walking the quieter roads off of the bustling main street. We walked past a few schools, an LDS church house, and were even offered some “green stuff” which we politely declined. On our way home we waxed hungry so we stopped at a random roadside eatery and ordered the usual: beans, rice, chicken (or fish or beef) with some delicious sauce over all of it. We also drank some saril, a tasty Jamaican tea made from the saril flower and ginger.

CIMG0827Ruthie helped us prepare the pineapple and papaya and we sat in the shade on the beach, reading our books and eating our fruits. It was very relaxing. Ruthie had her son get down some coconuts from the tree and we drank the juice, after which Ruthie then told me how much to tip her son. That was kind of annoying – we ended up avoiding the helpful Belizeans because for the most part when they were helpful they expected a tip. I blame tourists for creating that false economy.

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In the evening we ate dinner at Ruthie’s with an Irish couple staying in the next cabana, then went to bed.

Day 3: We woke up early and walked out to the bus terminal to catch a bus heading south. After a short ride (maybe 25 minutes) we arrived at the Mayan Village outside the Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve.

The reserve is located about 7 miles from the main road and there are taxis that take people up to the reserve, however they are $20 USD ONE WAY. We were on a tight budget so we stubbornly decided to walk. It was a beautiful day, not more than 85 degrees (F) and the road was lined with bushes of big beautiful flowers. We found some “12 o’clock”, the local name for a plant that will fold itself up when touched. And just before reaching the park, we saw a sign that cryptically said “Plane Wreck 500m” so we investigated.

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Soon, however, the walk started losing its charm: we were wearing our new Tevas without socks (read: blisters). About halfway up we realized we were doomed, and when we finally made it to the reserve I could barely walk.

We looked at a map with a helpful park guide and decided a tubing trip down the river would do our feet some good. The tubes were only $5 USD for two. We walked the short trip to the entry point, and it was at this moment that I remembered my fear of rivers and lakes. The park guide’s affirmation of snakes in the river didn’t help. I grabbed a big stick and gingerly started floating.

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The jungle was beautiful. The birds were singing and the sun was shining and I was on the lookout for snakes. Julie thought it was hilarious that her big strong bad boy was petrified by an unseen terror slithering toward him in the clear, cool water. At one point we made a wrong turn and found ourselves in a smaller river running parallel to the main river, full of branches and scary spiders. Fortunately our little terror tunnel met back up with the main stream.

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In order to get out of the river we were supposed to look out for a rope running across the river, grab it, and pull ourselves to shore. After that, we were warned, there are dangerous rapids. When we finally saw the rope we did manage to grab it and start pulling ourselves to shore, however it was at that moment that I saw a spider on my leg. It wasn’t particularly big or scary, but it did take all of my attention to fling it off. When I finally rid myself of the spider, I looked up and saw that I had drifted beyond the rope’s safety! I jumped off my tube, threw my pack to Julie (who barely caught it), and forged my way back up river. I nearly died.

Being out of the river, we decided to leave our tubes on the trail and make the small hike to the waterfall near Ben’s Bluff. The waterfall was cool and dark and made for a great place to relax. We contemplated swimming under the waterfall but eventually we both lost our nerve. It was dark and scary, and I couldn’t help but imagine huge tentacles grabbing me when I got close. Julie was braver than me though, and made a valiant effort.

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We relaxed at the falls for a while and even made a friend with an indigenous crab named Crab Cake. We remembered seeing that Ben’s Bluff appeared to be somewhat close to the falls when we looked at the map earlier, so we decided to once again abuse our feet and go to one last place before heading back for the day.

The trail to Ben’s Bluff looked bad to begin with. I thought “Ben’s Bluff… bluff… aren’t bluffs above everything…?” 45 minutes and nearly as many “lets rest here for a minute”s, we made it to the top. What a beautiful view!


The hike down to the park visitors center seemed longer than it was because our feet and legs had reached their limits. Arriving at the visitor center we realized that we did NOT want to hike down to the road to catch our bus. We found another American couple from Colorado who were going down as well so we split the $20 USD cab.

While waiting for the cab we were attacked by small, biting flies. I looked at my legs and saw tiny pools of blood and realized that they were eating me!! This was when we realized that I shouldn’t have convinced Julie to not bring the bug repellant (“ah there’s no bugs in Belize…”).

Arriving at the road we quickly surmised that we missed our bus. We waited, hoping another bus would come, but it started getting quite dark. I remembered the times in the Philippines where my companion and I would hitchhike our way home when it was too late for public transportation, so I ‘nonchalantly’ started poking my thumb in the air. The problem with trying to hitchhike without letting anyone know is that no one knows you’re doing it. So, at the approach of a big tanker truck I blasted my thumb out with such force that he couldn’t do anything BUT stop.

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Our friend Hugo was trucking gasoline all over Guatemala (where he was born) and Belize (where he lives). We were so grateful, even though Julie had to sit on my lap and he wasn’t passing by Dangriga directly (we would be dropped off a few miles from Dangriga). We even invited him to dinner (somewhat of a ploy on my part to get him to take us all the way to Dangriga, but mostly because we were so grateful) but he looked at us, shrugged sheepishly, and said “I’m late…”. Next time Hugo, next time!

After he dropped us off at the junction, we found a good spot to hitchhike the remaining distance. After just a minute or so, a couple in a pickup truck stopped and gave us a ride to our cabana in Dangriga. As we rode, we spoke through the window and found out that they were Jehovah's Witnesses from Spain on a mission. Hugo and the JW’s were like angels to us.

We were on such a high after that – what a perfect day! And to top it off, while we were walking to the eatery to grab some dinner we met two LDS missionaries who were assigned in Dangriga. It was fun talking with them about the work in Dangriga and the branch they had there.

After dinner we fell asleep almost immediately to the soothing sound of the surf just 20 feet away.