Thursday, January 31, 2013

Well, I was with Clayton...

It seems like a lot of my funny stories start with that phrase...  Anyway, Clayton and his friend Dorothy came out to visit for the Broncos/Chiefs football game and New Year's Eve.  They arrived the Saturday before the game but were so tired from the long drive that we didn't do a lot besides lounge around the house.  Then, on Sunday, we got up and Clayton cooked us a huge, delicious breakfast...he's definitely the chef out of the three of us siblings.  After breakfast, we headed straight to the stadium to begin tailgating.  We had a cooler full of Budweiser products and a bottle of Fireball whiskey.  We had a lot of food with us too but we were all so full from breakfast we pretty much forgot about it.  And that was a bad idea.  So, I'll skip over the rest of the gory details and just let you know that Clayton and Ryan had to go out for dinner later alone because Dorothy and I were otherwise way of being in 6 pm.  That's right.  We were pretty impressive.

Here I am forgetting that I am a grown adult and not 21:
Clayton doing the same:
At the game:

The next day (New Year's Eve), yours truly wasn't feeling too chipper.  Which turned out to be okay because no one else was too energetic either.  We ended up having a calm day at home before we went to Rioja for New Year's Eve dinner.  Rioja is one of my favorite restaurants in Denver and I was excited to take Clayton and Dorothy.  It's in such a cute are of LoDo (lower downtown) and it's owned by one of the most well-known chefs in town.  Dinner was amazing and everyone loved what they had.  Even Clayton liked it and he had been skeptical from the start.  He had said "Is this going to be one of those places where we're still hungry when we're done eating?"  Not a problem.  Look how pretty my meal was.
We finished off the night by playing Apples 2 Apples at home.

We had such an awesome time and I was so glad to get to see my brother for a whole weekend.  It would have been nice if I could have stayed up longer after the football game but these things seem to happen when I'm with Clayton...  :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


We started off the weekend before Christmas with dinner and games with Scott and Sue and family.  We always have so much fun with them and I'm always so impressed that the the teenagers want to hang out with us.  And Sue is such a good cook.  The next day Scott and Sue's daughter, Lauren, helped Ryan out with his ski boots.
He got the boots last year and they bruised his feet and made one of his toenails fall of so Lauren said she could tweak them a little bit to make them more comfortable this season.  Or as comfortable as ski boots can get.  Then the next day, on Christmas Eve, we went skiing for the first time of the season!  We met Lauren and Billy and a couple of their friends and Ryan skied with them and Jenny met us and I skied with her.  And guess what....I am SO much better than the beginning of last year!

It was so awesome at Keystone that day because it wasn't really that busy and it started snowing halfway through the day.  I don't know what more could get me in the mood for Christmas than to be in the middle of a beautiful snowfall in the mountains.  That night, I made oyster stew.
This is the first year we've stayed home for Christmas instead of travelling back to Kansas and I wanted to create some traditions.  I had heard that oyster stew on Christmas Eve is something that people do for some reason and because I love oyster stew but never make it, I thought this would be a fitting tradition for us.  And how perfect after a cold day in the mountains.  I didn't have to worry about dessert since Sue had brought over tons of goodies.
Later that night we went to a late night service at our church.  It was beautiful.  It told the story of the birth of Jesus through scripture and song and at the very end we had a candle lighting with all the lights off while singing Silent Night.  The moment was so powerful and really moved me.

On Christmas morning, we woke up, enjoyed some breakfast (I think I made a chile relleno bake), and opened our stockings.  Two of our three pets were grateful for their presents.

We were able to spend the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying each other's company.  I think we even had a Wii dance-off competition since that was one of my presents.  :)  It was a wonderful Christmas at home, although we did miss being with our family and friends in Kansas.  We especially missed being able to witness the magic that Christmas holds for the kids, the quality time with our families and friends since everyone has some time off work, and the laughs that always ensue.  And this year there was someone new in Kansas for me to spend time with (and cuddle and squeeze) but since we didn't go back I haven't yet had the chance to meet Leslie's baby girl.  Even though we were sad on one hand, on the other we also were very happy to be able to spend quality time together and with our friends who live here, to be able to celebrate in our own home for the first time and start our own traditions, and it was nice to not worry about the time, costs, and perils of travelling in the middle of the winter.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Party Time

The weekend after my company Christmas party we had Ryan's company Christmas party.  Since he had only been working there for a couple months I hadn't met anyone yet and was excited to do so.  What a fun group of people!  And what a great party!  Several ballrooms were rented out at the Embassy Suites Loveland and they were set up with food, drinks, games, a dance floor, several places to eat/socialize, and a PHOTO BOOTH!  

The photo booth was so much fun.  They had props like hats, glasses, feather boas, fake mustaches, beads, etc. for you to use for your pictures.  I forced Ryan to go in with me twice because I thought it was just the coolest thing.  Once we got them done in black and white and the other time we did it with a "retro" finish.  I LOVE our pics from the photo booth.  This is not a pic of us in the photo booth but it is the only non-goofy pic I have of us.
Here's a goofy pic.  I don't know what I'm doing.
We stayed the night at the hotel and the next morning Ryan took me to see his office, which is so awesome.  It has a SLIDE in it!  Of course I went down it.  I had to contain my squeals as there were other people in the building.
Here's Ryan flying down it:
Then we went for breakfast at the cute little Backporch Cafe.  Later, I met Dana for lunch and a movie - the final Twilight installment.  So good to spend some time with my girl.
The next day we went to 3 Margaritas for Jodi's birthday celebration.  We lucked out because the mariachi band was there.  It was really fun to listen to them play all night and we even got them to sing to Jodi for her birthday.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Time for Christmas

The first weekend after we made it back home from vacation we had my company Christmas party at Mile High Station.  We had yummy food and drinks and were able to mingle and start getting into the holiday spirit, which was great because since we'd just come home from warm weather and different cultures (and had pretty much skipped Thanksgiving) we didn't feel like it was time for Christmas yet!
We also put up our Christmas tree and decorated the house that weekend.  Just like last year, I busted an ornament.  Maybe that's going to be one of my Christmas traditions...  I love how warm and cozy the house feels when the tree is up and all the lights are turned down except for a few lamps, candles, Christmas lights, and the fireplace.  Ahhhh, it just makes me want to curl up with a blanket, my fur babies, some hot cocoa, and a good book or movie.

Speaking of good movies, we decided to get a couple new Christmas movies for this year's holiday season.  The only Christmas movie we owned was Elf, which is probably my favorite movie of all time and I know every single line of it.  I used to watch that movie every single weeknight when we first moved to Colorado because we didn't have cable, Ryan was travelling, and I didn't know anyone.  I can't tell you why I didn't watch other movies or read books.  I can just tell you that's what I did and Elf will always have a special place in my heart.  But, for the new Christmas movies, we decided to purchase some classics:  White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life.  Neither of us had seen either of the movies before.  We loved them.  What beautiful movies.  Both very different but both so enjoyable.  I definitely think these are going to be movies we watch every year during the holiday season.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Welcome Home!

So just a few days after returning home from our vacation, we were welcomed back by our hot water tank bursting.  And when I say burst, I mean it was spewing all over the place at an alarming rate.  I came home one evening after work to find Mojo acting a little strange.  I figured maybe he really had to go to the bathroom or something so I hurried downstairs to the storage room to let the girls out of their pen.  And after a few steps down I smelled something funny (I have a strange nose) and then a few steps later I heard what sounded like a powerful waterfall.  And my heart jumped into my throat and I raced down those stairs faster than humanly possible.  What I saw in the storage room terrified and devastated me.  My sweet fur babies were being violently showered with water from the hot water tank.  I immediately released them and checked that they were OK.  Thankfully the tank had not been spewing for too long and it was ricocheting off the wall before it was hitting the girls so it wasn't too hot on their fuzzy little skin.  Oh I felt awful.  Then, after taking care of my babies I went into complete freak out mode and scrambled around trying to find the water shut off valve.  Despite having used this water shut off valve before, I could not for the life of me find it.  Yep, I'm cool, calm, and collected like that.  So I left a frenzied voicemail for Ryan (he got a chuckle out of that) and then sprinted over to the neighbor's house, with no shoes and no coat in December, and requested immediate assistance.  We got the water turned off and the dogs were fine so I was very thankful.  This is what the storage room looked like.  The pictures are kind of bad but basically there was some standing water on the floors.  I didn't have the heart to get a picture of China and Peanut because I felt SO awful.

This was Ryan when he got home:
And this is the crew we had at our house off and on for the next month because we had damage to the walls and carpet.  Ryan dealt with them more than I did but my impression was they were prompt, responsive, and nice to deal with.  Which is a relief when you're dealing with something like this.  Everyone we talked to said it is so rare for a hot water tank to burst like that.  I'm just glad it didn't happen while we were out of town and also that it hadn't been leaking too long before I caught it.
Mojo seemed impressed with the resulting "breezeway" between the guest closet and storage room.
China and Peanut were happy about the new living arrangements.  (Note dent in blanket and back of chair).
And Ryan and I are ecstatic about the new hot water situation.  I didn't realize how bad our heater truly was so I didn't know what I was missing out on.  But now I feel as though I've emerged from the dark ages and can wash dishes and laundry at the same time!  (gasp!)  And Ryan and I can shower one after the other without having to allow adequate time in between for the water to heat up!  (gasp!)  Life is grand.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


After a nearly two week vacation in Hong Kong and Chiang Mai we left for the looonng flight back home.  Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Hong Kong to LA.  Overnight in LA and then finally...home!  I made sure to get my very last Thai tea in the Chiang Mai airport before we left.  I also tried another chip flavor, hot and spicy crab.
Here I am being sad while Ryan is being unhappy about flash in his face.
The nice thing about flying home from Asia is that the flight time was much shorter than on the way there.  We spent around 16 hours on the plane on the way to Hong Kong but on the way back we only spent about 12.  It's still a long time to be on a flight but the 4 less hours really was noticeable.  I watched movies most of the way back:  21 Jump Street, Four Christmases, and Sherlock Holmes.  Once we got to LA we were so tired and had just a few hours to sleep in the hotel before we had to get back up to fly home that Saturday morning.  And because my planning was impeccable, on Sunday we drove to Hays to meet Linda and Vearl to pick up the fur babies.  We ate at the yummy Gella's Diner and got to visit for awhile.  I think China had a grand old time getting to run and root around on land at Grammies and Grampies.  Dirtball.  Seriously what is going on with that face?
Then, the very next day we went back to work.  I think for the next trip I plan I will make sure there is an extra day between work and leaving home and also between coming home and going back to work.  It was very tiring to travel for two straight weeks with no break.  I'm not complaining about the awesome trip because I'm so happy we went, but I learned from it and think I could plan the logistics better next time.  I think it took me a week and a half to readjust back to the time zone and the daily grind.  It was helpful that we had traveled to warm weather destinations and returned home to cold weather because I didn't have to immediately do laundry in order to have clothes to wear everyday.

I am so thankful that we were able to take this trip.  It was such an eye opening, exciting, unique experience and I loved learning about different cultures and immersing ourselves into local activities and foods.  What are some of your favorite trips/vacations?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cooking School

On our final full day in Chiang Mai, we  finally made it to the cooking school that we were supposed to go to earlier in the week:  Siam Rice Cookery.  

After all of the students were picked up we were taken to a local market and given a short tutorial on some of the ingredients we would be using.  I knew what most things were yet some of the items looked so different, like the mini (and I mean mini) eggplants.  While our guide purchased all the ingredients we would need we were able to roam around the market.  Here they are processing fresh coconuts.

All the meat for the day was being butchered and laid out in the middle of the market.
When we arrived at the cookery, I noticed that this seemed to be someone's house, which made it a very cozy experience.  And like many other places we had to take off our shoes to go inside.  (Side Note:  I wonder why we don't do that in the US?  Or do people do that?  We tried it when we came home because we thought it would keep the house cleaner but the habit isn't sticking.) The main area was set up with two large dining room tables and outside there were two large cook stations and a couple more dining tables so there was plenty of room for more than one group to cook and eat.  We were able to choose the dishes we wanted to make.  I had originally signed us up for a full day but after we realized that would mean we would make and eat 7 dishes we decided to do only the half day, which involved making 4 items.  Nancy explained to us that most Thai dishes use the same main ingredients so that is why we didn't have to choose which dishes we all wanted to make before the shopping trip to the market.  I chose to make:  Hot and Creamy Soup, Fried Big Noodles, Panang Curry Paste, and Shrimp and Chicken Panang Curry (using my handmade curry paste).  Ryan chose to make:  Chicken Coconut Soup, Drunken Noodles, Jungle Curry Paste, and Shrimp and Chicken Jungle Curry.

Here Nancy is explaining the basic ingredients to us and telling us the different items needed for our first dishes.
Chopping our ingredients:

Making and eating our noodles.  I'm happy to report no one lost any eyebrows or nose hairs in the making of the noodles.  Well, actually I can't confirm on the nose hairs.

Immediately after we finished eating our noodles it was time to make soup.  Here's mine:

Here's Ryan's:
Mine was delicious.  Ryan really liked his too (minus the kaffir lime leaves).

Then on to curry paste.  Making curry paste is actually quite a process.  First you take all the ingredients, such as chilies and other veggies, and cut them up before you place them in a mortar and have to beat it all with a pestle for what seemed like an eternity.  Seriously, it was a workout.

And eventually you end up with this:

And then you use your curry paste to create this:

Everything we made was really good and it didn't seem that difficult but I think that might be because someone planned and shopped for all the ingredients and led us step by step.  Also, I wonder if it would be difficult to get some of the ingredients in the States, like oyster mushrooms and wee little eggplants.  Clearly I haven't made an effort to find out but if I ever want to I have all the recipes from Siam Rice Cookery as we were all given recipe books upon departure.  Going to cooking school made for a really fun day and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who loves food and is travelling to the area.  I felt like I wouldn't need to eat for the rest of the day but I rallied and convinced Ryan to take me out for Thai Iced Tea later.  :)
In turn, Ryan convinced me to change out of my short dress into pants.  He politely suggested I might not scratch my legs as much if I were wearing pants, but I know the truth.  He was subtly trying to get me to stop showing everyone and their mother my giant leg rashes I developed  from riding Ruby (my sweet elephant) bareback.  Apparently it is inappropriate to talk about leg rashes to strangers.  I just wanted to let people know that if they were going to ride elephants to make sure their pants didn't ride up causing their skin to directly contact the elephant's skin.  Those elephant hairs are like wires poking you!  So anyway, I put on pants.  And Ryan was able to breathe easier.  The man has a very high (and climbing) threshold for embarrassment being married to me but I think the rash incident was a bit much for him.