Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Book maker!

OK, so not the gambling kind of book maker. The papery kind! I have been working on making a book using We just celebrated our third wedding anniversary, and so I decided that it is probably about time to make a nice photo album/memory book (use the term "scrap", and I'll be forced to violent retaliation). I've actually made this decision quite a few times before, but hopefully this time will be at least somewhat different. is a pretty cool concept, but I'm not completely feeling it for the execution. It's a bit slow, has crashed on me a few times, and doesn't give me complete control to make things look the way I want them to. At least I haven't quite found a way to make it obey my every whim. Seeing as I'm using it to make a photo book, I might just end up doing it in iPhoto. However, if I was going to make a more text-based book, I'd be all about People are making some really cool stuff, though, so I'm pretty motivated to keep trying. I have a feeling the key is most likely avoiding their templates like the plague, and going easy on the photos. I'll let you know how things turn out!

On another note, life has gotten really busy lately, and so I haven't had as much time to devote to my weekly projects. Yes, you know what's coming. I really want to keep going with this, but feel like I need some shorter projects that I can just do without intense planning and preparation. Let me know if you have any ideas!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Swimmy Swim Swimmington

The only downside to going to the gym in the mornings is that Nick never gets to come. We'd have to get up much too early for my liking to do that, and I do ever so like my bed in the mornings. To rectify this situation, Nick and I went swimming last night. Can I just say that I love to swim? I'm slow and not very good, and get self conscious about doing anything other than back- or breaststroke, but I just love being in the water. I think I like the same things about swimming that I do about yoga: it's unhurried and controlled, all you have to focus on is your breath and the movement of your body. In spite of being a lazy and self indulgent sort of person, I never turn down an opportunity to go swimming.
Neither did anyone else in Utah valley last night, it seemed. The pool, hot tub and steam room were packed with hordes of young guys. It seems Michael Phelps has done his job as far as inspiring the youth of this nation to get wet. I've never seen so many people at the pool at 9:30 on a Thursday night! Although I suppose that might just be because I rarely go to the gym at 9:30 on any night :)
This morning Jen and I went to the gym again. I added a minute to my time on the elliptical trainer (now a whopping 11 minutes!), and did 15 minutes on the bikes. It felt good, but it was harder to get going today than it has been throughout the week. I still managed to work up a good sweat, though. After that we went to work on the weight machines. I have about zero upper body strength, so I thought I might try working on my arms today. And guess what? I have about zero upper body strength! It was seriously embarrassing how little I could lift, or how few repetitions I could do of each one. If I do keep this up, I'll have to get back to that. I mean, I might have to lift or hold something at some point, and then where would I be?
This week has felt good. I'm a little stiff and sore today, especially in my legs, but overall I feel like I've had more energy and desire to do things. We usually spend our evenings watching movies or relaxing at home, but this week we've been out and about a bit more than usual, not to mention going swimming late last night! I'm a little concerned about what I'll be able to do this weekend, though. Saturdays and Sundays fill up so fast for us, and it's important to me to keep Sunday special, but I really want to try to squeeze in some exercise so I can feel like I've done this week "right". Any ideas?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Week 5: Workout Week

I can't believe it's already Wednesday, and I haven't told you what I'm doing yet! Naughty, naughty.

This week I'm working out. Now, I realize that there are millions of people in the world who do this every week and every day without making a big fuss about it. I also realize that I am not one of those people. I always want to be one of those people, but never really manage to exercise on a regular basis. Something always comes up and throws me off track, and then I feel guilty about it. However, I absolutely can commit to it for one week. Hooray! Of course, my secret wish is that one week will turn into two, and two will turn into three, and so on and so forth. But for now I am on board until Saturday at least.

The week so far:

On Monday I went walking with my neighbour, Jen. I've always liked going for walks, but keep making excuses like it being too hot, or not really knowing where to go, or being too tired. I still wanted to do it though, so when Jen asked me if I wanted to go walking with her on Monday morning, I was all about it. It also has the added bonus of getting to know one of our neighbours at long last. It was a good, half hour walk with a steep hill that got my heart rate up, but not so steep that I wanted to die half way up it. It felt really good to be out and about, and I was happy to find a good walk in my area. We also made the discovery that we both have Gold's Gym memberships, so agreed to go together the next day.

Which we did! On Tuesday Jen picked me up and we headed over to the gym. It's been a while, so I started out pretty gently with 10 minutes on the Elliptical and then 15 on the bikes before we headed over to the weights and did another 20 minutes or so there. And then we stretched like good little girls and came home. We also made plans to go again today.

Which we didn't. Jen wasn't feeling good this morning, so I spent Wednesday morning at home. Fortunately, we have FitTV as part of our cable package, so I did some Namaste Yoga. I've tried a couple of their shows before, but get so annoyed by the instructors that I just can't handle spending 30-60 minutes of my life with them. The yoga one is not so bad, even if the narrator is a bit too breathy for my liking. My main beef with the show is that when the narrator tells you to do something with the right side of your body, the yoga babes all do it on the opposite side. Then I have to stop and think about what I'm doing, which kind of gets me out of synch a bit. I was a bit stiff from yesterday, so wasn't really feeling very bendy, but all in all, it was a pretty good workout.

I really like how I feel when I exercise (or at least how I feel afterwards!), so I wonder why I don't really do it more often?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I'm not titling this A Midsummer's Night dream

We had an absolutely fantastic weekend of truly epic proportions, but I still absolutely refuse to work that into the title of this post. Even if it was dreamy, and in summer. And at least partially at night.
As fervently mentioned in previous posts, Nick and I spent the weekend at the Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City. In spite of my trepidations, it wasn't nearly as Ren-fairish as it might well have been. Thus I did not have to punch* anyone in the face for the entire weekend. It was lovely.

Our highbrow activities started with dinner on Friday at the Garden House where we had baked Brie as an appetizer. Baked Brie! I don't generally tend to wax lyrical about dairy products, but I might just have make an exception for this little platter of tastiness. It was a wedge of Brie, wrapped in phyllo pastry, then baked and served with fresh fruit, crackers and the tastiest cranberry topping ever. "topping" doesn't even do justice to the little red pearls of ambrosia on my plate. Oh wow! We'll definitely be trying to recreate that during "French week". Dinner was good, but nothing too wildly ambitious, and then we had raspberry crème brûlée for dessert. It was very good, but we got it 'to go' so we could eat it later, so I couldn't break the sugar myself, which is honestly half the fun of crème brûlée. We rounded off the evening with a trip to the theatre where we saw Molière's School for Wives. It was a very fun piece, and I thought they did an excellent job of presenting a pretty dense text "to the masses". Before I sound too snotty here, let me explain: This is a play written for a 1662 Parisian audience who both spoke and thought differently than we do. To be able to make an audience in Cedar City, Utah in 2008 laugh at the same jokes and stay entertained by basically people talking in the same space for two hours is no small feat. Although apparently the two husbands sleeping behind us didn't feel the same way. I don't think I could really afford a $34 nap, but maybe that's just me?

The next day we had tickets to see The two Gentlemen of Verona by old Shakey himself. I hadn't seen it or read it before, so it was interesting to get to know a new play, especially one of his earlier ones. It was very well done, but sadly, by comparison to the other two, it was our least favourite. At least part of that was probably the fact that we were on the balcony behind a very tall wall. This had the effect that the people in the front balcony row were craning their necks to see over the wall, and the people on the second row were craning their necks to see over the people on the front row. And we were on the third row. I did like how they had kept the set fairly authentic to the time period, and the costuming was great. Oh, and it had a dog in it! Sweet puppy! The downside was really that the text was so dense that the actors seemed to feel like they had to do extraordinary amounts of physical comedy to jolly along the audience. It really was funny, but I think they could have relied on the text a bit more. They did have a cute puppy, though :)

We were going to end our play viewing escapades there, but decided last minute to get tickets to see Othello in the Adams theatre. There are two very cool things about the Adams theatre, one being that it is an outdoor theatre, the other being that it is a fairly accurate replica of the Globe in London (which is itself a replica, but that's another story). You can see it in the background in the photo at the top of this entry. I spent almost as much time looking at the architecture as I did watching the play. And the play was excellent.

I liked the set a lot. They used the bones of the theatre very well, and built a set that was both very simple and very elegant. The costuming was also very well done, but as the festival has won awards for that, I suppose that was only to be expected. I think the casting was both my favourite and my least favourite thing about Othello. Othello and Iago were both especially well played, and exactly as you'd imagine them to be. Iago was short, which added an interesting hint of Napoleon syndrome to him. Desdemona was good, but a little too... I think American is the best word I can imagine for it (sorry!). She was very young and blonde and bouncy and it was a little hard to imagine her putting up with as much crap as she is expected to in the play. I think my main issue with the casting, however, was that a lot of the minor parts were played by very young men. The Duke of Venice seemed especially hard to believe, and Cassio was hardly out of high school. Which I suppose might be plausible, but still... All in all though, it was an exceptional performance of Othello, and it has stayed with me since we saw it.

Which pretty much wraps up my weekend, and thus the first month of my project! Keep the ideas coming. As well as being a fun project for me, I'd also like for it to be good reading for you, so let me know what you think! :)

*As most of you may or may not know, few things make me as angry as people why try to behave like they live in the Middle Ages.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A long farewell to my greatness*

My dear little readers!
I wont be updating my blog again until Sunday, because we are going on a lovely little anniversary trip! Nick is leaving work early, and we are going to drive down to Cedar City to watch us some Shakespeare! And Moliere :) I will give you an update when we get back on my cultural activities.
As for the wedding at the Springville Museum of Art (or SMA, as their trendy little t-shirts in the gift shop proclaim) it was a little bit of a disappointment in that they had closed off the permanent exhibit, so our highbrow activities were limited to the 35th annual quilt show. Now, I want you to know that my art appreciating abilities are stretchy, and last night I stretched them to quilts. Last night I appreciated, colour, form, detail, style, balance and rhythm. Actually, I mostly got in really close, looked at the hundreds of thousands of tiny little quilting stitches and exclaimed: "Holy crap! Do you have any idea how long that would take?" Yeah, not really a quilter.

*Henry The Eighth Act 3, scene 2, 350–358

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Emily Dickinson & the New York Times crossword puzzle

Good thing this is a weekly blog, seeing as it's already Thursday and I haven't posted anything yet. But fear not, I have been highbrow and snobbish all week.
I started out on a high note on Monday by reading some Emily Dickinson poetry and thinking about death. Or, to be perfectly honest, about her wish that her "coffin [was] not driven but carried through fields of buttercups" on its way to the cemetery. I really think that's the way to go.

Yesterday I did the New York Times crossword puzzles and only missed 7 words, which made me feel pretty smartypantsed. There was a baseball clue that I couldn't figure out, but I personally feel that only adds to my intellect. And I didn't know what the New Hampshire prep school was, which perhaps does not.
The more discerning among you may have noticed that I didn't mention Tuesday, and that is because Tuesday was an extremely busy and pretty rough day where I didn't have time to do anything at all, high brow or otherwise. Which raises the question: Do I have to do something every day for a week long project to count? What do you think?

Tonight we're going to a wedding at the Springville Museum of Art, so I am going to kill two birds with one stone and think some very intellectual thoughts about their art while I am there. If you're extra lucky, I might even write a post about it when we get back.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Seared Skirt Steak with Mushroom Salad - And we're done

I ended my week of new recipes on a high note with a very tasty Sunday dinner of Seared Skirt Steak with Mushroom Salad, unsurprisingly from the August issue of Real Simple. I don't really cook a whole lot of steak, and don't generally feel overly confident about doing it right, but this recipe was actually pretty easy. All I had to do was thaw the meat, season it with salt and pepper, and then pan fry it for four to five minutes on each sides. I can do that! Thanks to Nick and a little bit of internet research, we also knew to cut the meat against the grain, rather than with it, which made it seem even more tender. Yay for conquering steak! I was a little big skeptical about the mushroom salad, because it just seems like mushrooms served with steak should be sauteed, but I resisted the urge and followed the recipe like a good girl, thus ending up with a very fresh and citrusy side dish that I would absolutely make again. I also made some green beans, and Nick baked some rolls (I love having a husband that bakes!) and we ended up with a really delectable Sunday dinner. It was definitely a high note to go out on, and a very appropriate farewell dinner for Cody who is leaving us tomorrow.

Thus endeth week three.

Like I mentioned earlier, next week will be somewhat coloured by the fact that three days will be spent on a little anniversary trip. Not that I mind, of course :) Seeing as we're going to the Utah Shakespearean Festival to see a couple of plays, I am going to get in touch with my inner Humanities snob and do a week of highbrow activities. Stay tuned to be intimidated by my intellectual prowess.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

My first trainwreck: Fiskekaker

As a combination of Cody the Fish Lover visiting, and a fit of homesickness, I attempted to make fiskekaker. In Norway, they are juicy, fishy and cohesive. At my house they fall apart and get stuck to the pan. I fretted and frowned all the way through cooking them, convinced that they were unfit for human consumption - and then fed them to my family. Shockingly, we all survived. OK, so they actually tasted pretty good. Looked awful, but tasted decent. I think I definitely want to try making them again, but will make a few alterations and take a few precautions next time. As this was another Norwegian recipe, and not one that turned out too great, I will refrain from posting the recipe this time. Men hvis du er norsk og veldig lysten på å lage fiskekaker, så finner du oppskriften her.

I still haven't quite decided what to do next week. I need to take into account that I will be gone on an anniversary trip (YAY!) from Friday to Sunday, so it needs to be something I can do away from home without taking up too much time. Any ideas? (I'm just going to keep asking!)

Image shameless thieved from here.

Friday, August 8, 2008


As we were going out to dinner with friends tonight, I went the dessert route and made Havreflarn, which is a fairly traditional Norwegian oat cookie. I haven't eaten them in years, let alone made them, so it was fun to make something that tasted so much like home.

They're super easy to make, as long as you don't let it weird you out too much that the "dough" is pretty much the same consistency as really runny oatmeal (it's supposed to look like that!) and if you take into account how much each glob runs. Because I don't really want to translate and convert the measurements in the recipe I used, I found one online that is pretty much identical to mine, only they added almonds. I love nuts, so I'd be all for that. Or, they sell them at IKEA, so you could just go and buy some. I loved eating mine with a tall glass of milk and feeling like a little Norwegian kid again. :)

Image borrowed here

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Zucchini Cakes with Mushroom Ragoût

Oh my. Goodness. I made these zucchini cakes for dinner today, and they were delectable. I mean, wow. If all vegetarian food was this good, I'd be all about it. They were also quick (about 25 minutes, maybe?) and really easy to make seeing as they were made with a corn bread mix with zucchini and cheese thrown in. The only annoying part was having to pull out and dirty the blender for a cup of roasted red peppers. My only alteration this time was to use red pepper rather than cayenne pepper in the cakes.

Also, seeing as Better Homes and Gardens makes you sign up before you can see their recipes, I copied and pasted it for you so you can do yourself a favor and make them:

Zucchini Cakes with Mushroom Ragoût


Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 of a medium zucchini, shredded (1 cup)
1 8-1/2 oz. pkg. corn muffin mix
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 oz.)
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
12 oz. assorted mushrooms, quartered (4-1/2 cups)
1 cup drained bottled roasted red sweet peppers

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat twelve 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with cooking spray; set aside.
2. In mixing bowl combine zucchini, muffin mix, cheese, milk, egg, and cayenne pepper; spoon evenly into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 11 to 14 minutes or until golden.
3. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Place roasted peppers in blender. Cover; blend until nearly smooth.
4. Arrange 3 cakes on each plate with some of the mushrooms and pepper sauce. Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pot Sticker Salad with Snap Peas

Tonight's recipe was the one that inspired it all. As mentioned, the August issue of Real Simple had a lot of really tasty-looking recipes in it, and the Pot Sticker Salad with Snap Peas looked so tasty I knew I had to try it. And I'm glad I did! The preparation method leaves the carrots and peas just the right amount of crunchy, and the bean sprouts added a very fresh feel. I think I might pan fry the pot stickers next time, rather than just steam them like the recipe called for, because I missed that little bit of crispness. Also, although I had bought the ingredients for the sauce, I just used the sauce that came with the pot stickers rather than make my own. Which I honestly think was probably tastier! Nick and Cody really liked it too, so I think this one is definitely a keeper.

On a different note, I can't quite decide what to do next week, so I'm going to ask y'all what you think. Consider this a shameless solicitation for more weeklong project ideas. Leave them in the comment section (you can leave a comment without signing up for an account) or tell me in person if you prefer. I also think it would be fun to see who's reading this, so let me know! :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Cool Southwestern Salad with Corn and Avocado

Tonight's dinner was another recipe from Real Simple magazine. Hey, it's not my fault that the August issue was packed with tasty treats! :) The recipe itself was pretty straightforward, but I was so scatterbrained while making it that I kept skipping steps and forgetting things, so I was forever picking pinto beans out of the lettuce so I could rinse them, and remembering after I had already added 1/4 cup of bottled lime juice that I had bought two fresh limes to squeeze. After I finally managed to wrangle my head in the right direction, the salad turned out really good. The lime dressing made it taste really light and fresh, but the avocado added enough bulk to fill you up. And it was so tasty! I made some corn mufffins to go with it at the last minute, as well as the tortilla chips suggested in the recipe. Plus we have Cody staying with us, and that boy is starving 30 seconds after he eats, so I wanted to make sure there was enough to eat.
So far (day two, I know) of making new food has been pretty fun. I practically never use a recipe when I cook, so it's nice to slow down enough to read and think about what I'm doing along the way. And I especially like getting some new ideas and trying some things I haven't done before. If we're lucky, this could lead to a whole new world of North family eating, and if not, at least we will have eaten well for a whole week :)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Berry Shortcakes

We always have dessert on Monday nights for Family Home Evening, so I decided that my first recipe would be a dessert. I picked this recipe from the August issue of Real Simple because it looked light and summery. And it has berries. I love berries! It also looked fairly quick and easy, which I was all about seeing as I knew we were going to have a busy day. Little did I know that we'd spend two hours shopping in preparation for this week's project! And a significant chunk of change. I bought all kinds of stuff that we don't typically get, including a jar of sweet red peppers, sesame seed oil (expensive!) and Crimini mushrooms, so now our kitchen is bursting forth with foodiness. I'm excited to try it all out!

Back to the berry shortcakes. Basically they're biscuits topped with whipped cream and fresh berries. Call me un-American, but it would never occur to me to put whipped cream and fruit on a biscuit! Gravy, yes (it might not taste good to me, but I have seen it done), whipped cream, no. The most time consuming part was baking the biscuits, but all in all I estimated that it took about 20 minutes start to finish. And they were tasty! I think I'd omit the sugar from the berries next time because they were just good on their own, and maybe try less salty biscuits. We made them with blueberries and strawberries, and against the whipped cream I think they'd make a very good July 4th dessert. Yum!

Sunday - the end of week two!

Sunday was a pretty mellow day. We went to church, and then took Nick's brother Cody to go and visit tiny little Grandma Jo, who will be 99 in December! Isn't she beautiful?

I'm adding this photo of her with Nick and Cody so you can get a better sense of scale and her true tininess. I think she was about 4'11" at her tallest, and, being 98, has shrunk quite a lot since then. The thought of picking her up and carrying her around is almost irresistible, and if she wasn't so frail, I think we'd all do it.

After that we went to the temple to get some shots of a photo project I'm working on.

Temples are admittedly pretty easy to work with. They sit still, and are beautiful from just about everything angle. When you add the super blue St. George sky to the equation, along with my natural bias from the fact that we got married there, I think these turned out rather well.

And that concludes week two! Next up: A new recipe every day. Sometime this week, I will also adding a new "Featured Blog" section to the bar on the right where you can learn about other some of the other blogs I read.

Saturday - Dustin & Dani's wedding

The wedding started out great with Nick's parents forgetting their camera, Andy's (Nick's brother) camera being broken, and us
discovering that our camera battery was about to die. This meant that all the North family wedding photography fell to me and our fading battery. Lesson learned. A few favourite shots from the wedding:

I like this one of Nick's mom and our sweet little niece Abi, even if she does look a little apprehensive. It was taken before she warmed up to the situation and started running around like she owned the place.

One of the most exciting things about this wedding was that we gain a very cute little new nephew, Gavin. He was a bit skeptical about all of the new people, and felt most comfortable with a couple of fingers in his mouth.

More Abi. She's just cute!

Backwards weekend

And I'm not just saying that because we spent it in Hurricane, UT. My laptop is having some issues, so I am going to write about each day in order, and then post Friday's photos later* because they haven't made it onto Photobucket yet.

Friday was hot, and mostly spent stressing about getting ready and what to pack, and then in the car on the way down to Nick's parents. We were driving down to go to Nick's brother Dustin's wedding on Saturday, and to spend the weekend with family. I tried taking some road trip photos on the way down (don't judge me for my giant strawberry limeade! It was hot!), but mostly things were pretty uneventful. Until they weren't.

Yup, that is our tire. I don't know if you can tell, but the hole is actually just below the word "Assurance". Nice. We didn't actually realize anything was up until we got off the freeway and were driving through town. About five blocks from Nick's parents house we suddenly heard a thump-thump-thump sound that seemed to be coming from the front left tire, so we carefully drove the rest of the way, and got out to take a look. At first everything looked fine, until Nick noticed a bubble the size of a softball on the inside edge of the tire. The size of a softball! We freaked out a little bit, and then went inside to tell Nick's parents about it. Ten minutes later Nick's brother Andy and family pulled up, and were unloading their car when they suddenly heard a loud BANG! From our tire. If we had taken ten more minutes getting there, that would have happened on the freeway. Scary!

*edit* Obviously the photos are up now! :)