Monday, November 24, 2014

T-DAY COUNTDOWN - THE MONDAY BEFORE

Idk if you know how student housing works, but I live with 5 other women in their late teens/twenties. And I love/hate it. In recent developments:

We're hosting Thanksgiving Dinner. @_@

  • None of us have ever roasted a turkey before.
  • None of us have ever done thanksgiving without our mom.
  • I'm the only one with any dinner party experience.
  • The only ones staying in the apartment this week are me and 2 freshmen.
  • We're providing dinner for 12.


...
I have this problem with over-committing.

BUT I AM A PLANNER AND I CAN DO THIS. Thank goodness for Pinterest. Here's a link to my board. There are some great nuggets of wisdom to be found there.

We're doing 2 turkeys, because our ovens are small. We're using a couple of different apartment's ovens to do all this. R's brother lives in our building and will be dining with us, so he's agreed to help, and their mother was sweet enough to offer to help buy the turkey(s).

Due to shared fridge/freezer space being super crowded, to save room we're COOLER BRINING thanks to abeautifulmess.com's Emma Chapman. She's walking us through that and possibly a couple of other things. I've taken the recipe and made a 1 page word document complete with ingredients in shopping list format, tools necessary listed, and easy to read and follow instructions, happy to share if there's any interest.

In Excel I've worked out a time table of what dishes we're making, how much time they'll each take, and when they need to be started in order for oven use efficiency. Practically an oven schedule. I highly recommend this, as cooking around a turkey in a small oven is not an easy task to do.

AND MAN OH MAN
While composing this little pre-post, our Bishop just sanctioned it the ysa ward thanksgiving dinner. Bad news - more people. Good news - budget.

HOW WE'RE FITTING (so far)
Our kitchen barely fits 4. Our living room fits 5 comfortably. They're open all the way across, so my idea as it stands is to by a folding long table and use it (smashed against our small dining table) and borrow some chairs to add to the arrangement to seat everyone. If more people show than we can fit, we'll do it asian style in the hallway. We'll take the foods and serving utensils and line the center of the hall, throw some pillows on the ground on the edges, and have everyone guard their cups in their laps. If we use the table, we'll use brown craft paper as a cover and put little mad-libs, games, and "thankful for" lists at everyone's seats. So far the menu goes as below:

Melody's Secret Holiday Hooch
-this isn't actual "hooch" but it's a fun mocktail. No recipe being shared. This stays a secret.
Tinsman Green Bean Casserole
Hodgson Turkeys
All Knight Stuffing
Corn bread
Cranberry sauce
Pumpkin Pie
Salad (which I would like to point out, I wont eat - but I will serve, as I know it's a dinner party necessity)
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
Dinner Rolls
Giblet Gravy
Some sort of cookies
Some sort of cupcakes
Egg nog
Sparkling Cider

All in all, we'll get through it somehow, and I'm sure it will be a whirlwind.


  • Important things to remember - play music during prep to keep the mood up. Some subtle jazz intrigues the ears and keeps things positive and calm.
  • Probably turn on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and set out the appetizers 20 minutes before you expect the guests to arrive.
  • Keep the dishwasher empty so the clean-up moves faster and DONT LEAVE OUT INGREDIENTS when you're done. Whatever you can prep the night before, prep the night before. 
  • Make sure you have all necessary bowls, pans, pots, tongs, and tools necessary to prepare and serve each dish. Maybe even make sure you have one of each required tool per dish that requires it.
  • Delegate.
  • Keep smiling - it'll keep everyone else slightly happier.
  • Delegate.
  • Light fall scented candles or use potpourri to set the atmosphere.
  • Delegate.
  • If space won't allow anything else, use a buffet style service. I think we'll do this for the non-finger foods anyway.
  • Have plenty of ice on hand.
  • Nothing is impossible. If dinner is late, it's late.
  • Timers were invented for a reason.
  • Keep your schedule close at hand and have all recipes printed so that wifi/phone service doesn't delay anything.
I guess we'll see how this is going tomorrow night. I'll be heading to the store after work, and I'm positive I'll forget stuff. Tell me about your thanksgiving plans in the comments! Any cool recipes or tips or traditions! I love this stuff.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Brovo, Utah

So this year, I've been learning to survive in the Wild Wild West,
                                                                            Mountains
                                                                           Brovosphere.
Utah is so full of adventurers and outdoorsy people. Every social media profile has a photo of the person either snowboarding or rock climbing or there's some majestic arch in the background. Cyclists and Joggers litter the trails and sidewalks at all hours of the day and night. Hot tub hopping is considered a widely acceptable social activity, and joining strangers in games of soccer, football, softball, and frisbee is not considered strange at all. Longboarding is a group activity. Hiking is a daily occurrence for many.

My phone is constantly being blown up by Gold's Gym on University inviting me to use my free guest day that my friends with memberships there keep signing me up for. My office has a volleyball court, indoor gym, horseshoe pit, ping pong tables, and pool table. Across the street, a local entertainment center (similar to Dave and Busters or Main Event) includes a ropes course and indoor surfing, but instead of a bar, they have an ice cream shop. The dance halls serve bottled water and powerade, as do the concert venues (where talking is discouraged during a performance, and wild movements can get you escorted outside).

Men here... We'll save that bit for later. Let's just say I won't be settling down with anyone from the Valley anytime soon ever.

Now this does not go for all of Utah. Nor for every native. I even believe that the majority of people who live in Utah Valley are transplants from other states or countries. The Provo/Orem area is constantly offering something fun to do, like new restaurant openings or the rooftop concert series. Bands that start up here have a tendency to be above average, like The New Electric Sound and Westward the Tide, and I'm sure you've heard of Neon Trees and Imagine Dragons. And there are food trucks EVERYWHERE. I'm eating Fiore pizza right now and it was worth the one hour line outside my office.

But a large percentile of the population do things a very different way from the outside world. Almost everything is closed by 11pm, and most places are open late only Friday nights, as Sunday mornings most everyone is at church. ComiCon SLC was vastly less scandalous than my own home state's. If you don't think BYU Creamery Ice Cream is the best, you're not American (as a southerner, I can't lie and say it's better than Blue Bell). All carbonated beverages are "pop." If you don't drive at least 20 over the speed limit, you drive like an old person. You have to drive out of state to see a decent baseball game. People CLAP at the end of movies - this drives me up a wall. Applause. In a cinema. Not just on premiere night. The prettiest plant life here is beautiful to look at, but get close enough to smell it and you're going to be sick. There are these trees with tiny little white blossoms that get everywhere and in the spring they smell like fish and ravioli. YUCK.

Where I'm from, confident men and women are considered a rarity and are usually well received and respected for their character. If someone walked up to me and made it clear with some degree of charm that they were attracted to me, they'd win some brownie points. Extra if I reciprocated said attraction. Here, if you approach someone and tell them how you feel, you're red flagged. Only players do that. Regular, good people beat around the bush and aren't bold in any way. YAWN.

The majority of the ladies I've encountered are very picky and have somewhat ridiculous standards for their eventual soulmate. I've heard everything from "He has to have all of his adult teeth and no cavities," to "He must know how to give a warm stone massage." To make things worse, many of the men who don't have equally strange and high standards ("She must weigh less than 120 lbs." or "She can't have ever kissed anyone else.") fall into the category of "Brovo." These young men are often summer salesmen (but not all salesmen fall under this category), have gym memberships they use daily, collect flat-brimmed hats and v-neck shirts, and a false sense of manhood they feel they've earned from the number of girl's they've had fall for them. They often are difficult to talk to about anything aside from work or working out. Deep conversations are unheard of with these types, and wit is wasted on them.

All in all, for young newly weds or families, Utah Valley is a WONDERFUL place to live. Your children will be safe and well educated, and there is plenty to do as a family. As a single student who wasn't raised in the suburbs and likes to live life a little closer to the edge, I can't wait to be done with school so I can get out of here. I work for a wonderful company and I've made a lot of great friends. Brovo is a wonderful place to visit in my opinion, but when I eventually settle down, I want my children to know what the rest of the world is like. I want them to be roudy teens, adventurers and travelers, well cultured and well educated and widely accepting of the way other people live. I want them to be proud of who they are, to know confidence and self-respect. Mostly, I want them raised in an environment that doesn't just nurture them, it tests them and strengthens them. My opinion - Provo is not the place for that.

These are my opinions, the bad seem to outweigh the good but I promise it's really equal, most of the good stuff is just generalized and the bad stuff I get specific about because I feel the need to. I know many friends who moved here and feel the same way I do, and I know many friends that may move here that would do well to be informed.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

So You're A Stake Dance DJ! [Part 1]

For almost everyone in the LDS community, the idea of having to attend a Stake Dance for the YM/YW is often one of nightmarish proportions. I'm not saying every stake in the world has these issues, but from what I've witnessed in at least 30 different US stakes, it's a general problem.

For the youth - less than 5% are the outgoing type that thrive on social interactions and are good at getting the party started. The percentage of those who are willing to risk embarrassment to try and have a little fun is barely any higher. You either go because you WANT to have fun (which is the case for most) or because your parents/callings make you. Often, aside from large special functions like conferences, youth leave these events disappointed.

For adults - You're there for your calling or your kids. You watch the undead-like atmosphere jump to life during the line dances and occasional slow/swing song, then resume zombie business as usual when the song changes. You attempt to talk to the youth you know to encourage they interact a little with new people. If you're really dedicated, you even dance yourself or ask the DJ to (or as the DJ) start a snowball or other game to get things moving. Usually, this meets a lot of sour looks and disappearing teenagers. Man, you sure know how to clear a room, don't ya?

Fret no longer, friends. This Part the First of a series of posts to appear over time is chock-full of ways to pump life back into the heart of your Stake Youth's dance activities. Before I left my home ward to go back to school this year, I had the opportunity to "spin" for the youth of the Weatherford, Texas Stake for the last few dances of the year, and both youth and adult have been coaxing me to return for the summer dances to step up to the stage again. What set the dances I turned for apart from the others? I'll tell you, and I will tell you more every few weeks.



STEP ONE: DO YOUR RESEARCH.

I cannot stress enough how much a difference it makes when you stay up-to-date on Top40 music trends and the response the youth have to certain tracks. Different regions will have different trends, as well, so you have to go to the best source to figure out what drives the beat. The best thing you can do is talk to your youth. Make a suggestion box, facebook page or blog, or hand out your contact information to the youth and ask them what they like and dislike about the way dances are now. Granted, there are bound to be some contradicting results. If there is no majority one way or the other, my advice is to do what you yourself like, as you have to listen to the music you're playing, too. 

Use bilboard.com to stay current. A week before each dance go through the Top40 general list along with the top few of any genre that's particularly popular in your area or that fits the theme of the dance (ie: Top10 country songs for a Barn Dance) and review 2 things before adding them to the playlist. FIRST - Lyrics. They have to meet For The Strength Of Youth standards. SECOND - Rhythm. Don't bother with songs that have a mild beat. If it's too slow to be a fast song and too fast to be a slow dance, no one will know how to dance to it, so they wont. Remember to incorporate the new tracks with the tried-and-true tracks you already play that the youth still like to dance to.

USE I-TUNES. You can use iTunes to transition from track to track without a gap in between songs. Silence is not golden at these things. It's awkward in a bad way. Also, iTunes lets you keep track of songs by amount of plays, rating (I'll tell you more about that in a moment), decade, playlist, recently added/played, genre, and by using GENIUS you can create playlists based on a single track. Keep your songs rated yourself by paying attention to how many people dance to them. 5 stars is the best rating, and 0/1 is the worst. If not even a few kids dance for a little while to a track - it's safe to say that's a 1-star song. If more than 80% of the youth dance to it, go ahead and rate it 5 stars. This way you can clear out the poorly rated songs every few months to make room for new music. You can add comments to a song's information, too, so labeling them as a fast/slow/group/step song makes it easier to keep track of what you're playing. Time to slow things down? Find a 5 star song you labeled SLOW. Ready to raise the roof? 4-5 star FAST should do the trick. Need to encourage more people out onto the floor? A well-rated GROUP or STEP song (these are the ones people linedance to) will turn up the funk. 

A tip about researching lyrics and rhythm: Sometimes, a really really popular song will have just one cussword in it. If you don't find it against your better judgement, you could try finding an edited version of the song with that lyric changed or deleted. If the rhythm isn't dance worthy to your teens, but you know they love to listen to it, usually you can find a faster/slower (Always try slower first) cover version or remix of it somewhere on the internet. The youth will really appreciate you taking this extra step.

Any LDS DJs (actual career DJs or just called to serve) feel free to comment any input you like! It's a forever-learning process, I know. We'll progressively get more in-depth as we go along, but for now the above advice should make a very sizable difference. I know it takes time and effort, but you WILL see results from this.

Keep Spinning!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Please, Captain, not in front of the Klingons."

Guys. Idk if you've realized this yet, but I'm super nerdy. I love really nerdy stuff. I can't help it. Today I get to share with you my tips on a costume I did a few months ago for a themed party that was almost as fun to put together as it was to wear.

Okay but really. It's a super easy costume. It's a super fun character. You don't have to worry about fussing over it all through your event, and EVERYONE wants to take a picture with you.


Okay. Not everyone... But all the cool people


Alright. Alright. Enough with the pictures, you all know what he looks like. Here's my version below!


That's my dad, the original Trekkie in my family. I have a lot of fond memories staying up late on school nights to watch Star Trek with him. I'd pretend to go to sleep, then when he'd start popping some popcorn, I'd grab my blanket and sneak out of my room, fix myself a glass of milk, and snuggle up next to my old man for an hour of sci-fi filled awesomeness. I was a Trekkie before I knew what it was, before I knew what a nerd was, and probably before I knew what Star Wars was. Enough backstory, I can hear you all yelling like a herd of Monty Python extras already.

"GET ON WITH IT." Okay, geez.


I made due with what I already had, and being a huge nerd I had a captain's tee, not the blue uniform Spock himself wears. You can purchase the same shirt here on ebay for roughly the same price I got mine for, off the back of a cereal box no less! If you search, they have the blue shirt, too. And the red shirt, but really... You don't want to wear that one, unless you're doing a Star Trek/Expendables mashup cosplay. You might notice mine is a tad more form-fitting, I did take it in with my serger, around 3 inches each side from the bottom to the sleeve. 

Here is the make-up tutorial I followed for the eyebrows. This girl KNOWS her stuff. I didn't use those ears, though. I didn't have any and I was in a rush. The make-up starts at 3:45 on said video.

For my ears, I followed another video tutorial here that just uses cello tape and make-up. It took quite a few tries to get right, but if you have someone help you it's a lot easier.

Okay, sorry, I know I said no more. (C'mon, though, it's Zachary Quinto, you know you liked it).
Back to the costume. That shirt, that make-up, and those ears, you just need black slacks and black shoes and you're golden. It held up really well, this last photo is after hours of dancing up a good sweat.

Don't forget to share your own costumes! I'd love to see what your version of any of these posts are, or even your original costume ideas!!! One can never have too many options when considering the age old question, "What should I wear?"

Live Long and Prosper ;)


Sunday, September 29, 2013

DIY Onesie Wolf Costume

Howl cute would any kiddo look as the Big Bad Wolf? I can't begin to tell you how adorable the man cubs were last year as Baddie and Little Red together. They had a terrific time at their pack's costume party, and I'm sure a good deal of that candy had them up with the moon all night.

Okay, I'm done with the puns. I think.

First, I went to Hobby Lobby. That's usually how I start most projects. I bought a brown onesie in the right size, a 1/2 yard of furry brown/pepper material, and a half yard of a brown knit fabric that was soft and close to the color of the onesie. This tutorial involves sewing,  but very minimal. I'm no expert, and I survived in and completed this in one attempt.

Figuring out the layout of a hood was the hardest part. I mostly eyeballed this part, and it worked out well. The important part is making sure the hood is deep enough and tall enough to actually hood the wearer with the desired effect. For Halloween, you usually don't mind a deep, loose hood, so if you're guessing, the longer the measurement, the safer. 

I cut the knit fabric a bit wider than the onesie it'self, since I'd be attaching it at the shoulders and back, the finished project will be about half the width of the armspan of the onesie. The length of the fabric I left as the length of the spool of fabric. This seemed to fit well on the 18 month old who wore it.


Fold the fabric top to bottom, face side should be inside the fold. Sew seems along the sides first, then turn right side out, and sew the bottom closed. I folded the bottom in a bit so there wouldn't be a rough edge, and used a zig-zag seem so it would be more durable.


Fold the same fabric down again, then in half.


Sew a seem along the TOP where the fabric meets, then turn right side out.


If you bring the top seem to the middle and let the fabric open in the front, you'll see your hood is finished and now needs attaching. 
Like I said, it's better to guess big. This hood pretty much fits my head. I'm not 18 months old.

For this I just hand-stitched the hood onto the onesie. I found the center of the bottom of the hood, then the center of the onesie between the shoulders on the back, and stitched.

Then take the corners of the hod, and attach to the front of the shoulders with hand stitches. The overlapping shoulders on the onesie made this really easy.



Next, cut tail from the furry fabric. This part is messy, I suggest you do it outside if possible, or over a wide mouthed trash bin. The fur got everywhere.

For the tail, I just folded the fur fabric in half and cut long mirrored acute triangles. I sewed a single seem down the center to hold it together. I didn't take photos of this part, I apologize.

To place the tail, center it about waist-level on the back of the onesie. I pointed the tail upward and sewed a seem along the bottom, so the tail would fall with some curve.




At the moment I do not have a photo of the entirely finished product, which featured EARS, too. Those were just cut triangles from the fur as well, same as the tail only small, and attached equidistant from the center seem on the top of the hood. I also used excess fur to make leg warmers and wristbands for our little wolf, those were just strips sewn onto his black leggings and tied onto his wrists. Little Red will be posted soon!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Refashion an Old Mask

I know I'm not the only one that goes into that kitschy import store in the mall and falls in love with a lot of things I ended up using a maximum of ONE TIME. Friends, I fall victim to the wall of masks at Earthbound Trading Co. every single time I walk into any of their locations. Even at the local party store, those papier-mache faces just steal my gaze. But if you plan on reusing them year to year, you're going to either have to be extra careful, or very prepared to retouch those beauties. The latter isn't very hard, as I'll show you today!

I recently received an invitation to a HUGE masquerade party. If you don't know me personally, you may not be aware that I have fantasized about going to one since I was a little girl. You may think of some recent television episode of a popular show featuring elegant ballgowns and tailored tuxedos. Personally, my first thought was the Masquerade scene in Phantom of the Opera. I'm actually planning a big road trip with friends to the event, as it's out of state, and asking someone particularly special to be my arm candy for the evening. I want the weekend to live up to my expectations, and since I'll be asking someone as my date, I realized it's only fair I provide them with a mask as he may not be prepared.

So, I need TWO masks. One for me, one for him. I happen to never throw anything away, so I'll be using one from a previous Halloween costume, and another from a   past Mardi Gras celebration. This tutorial is great for a mask that just needs some retouches or even if you just dislike the color. You can also use this on an undecorated mask to give it the look you'd like.

What you'll need:

Mask
[Mask]ing tape (Couldn't resist)
Hot Glue Gun
Exacto Cutting Tool (OPTIONAL)
Spray Paint (Try and think of what you'll be wearing with it when choosing a color)

Start by looking at your mask and decide what needs to be done, then follow what steps you find necessary out of this tutorial.

This mask had pieces chipped with the paint that were necessary to the textured swirling pattern.
I guessed at the finished look of the pattern and filled in the missing parts with the glue gun. My gun is a little old and my hands are a bit shaky, so my lines aren't perfect, but I don't consider them noticeable to those who don't read my blog. You'll see them better on the painted mask nearer the end of the post.


Next I wanted to conserve the sheet music artwork on the mask already. To do this, I took small bits of masking tape and pressed them over the parts I wanted untouched. I used the Exacto Cutting Tool to get better definition and tear away the excess tape so I wouldn't have to worry about the old colors showing through after the painting process. I had the thought that I could take either more music or pages from an old book and Mod Podge them onto the mask after painting, but the masking tape was just as efficient.

Alright, a final look before going outside to paint...
OH RIGHT I don't want those ribbons all crunchy with dry paint! Cover those with some tape, too. I just went about halfway down each ribbon, making sure the tape didn't stick to the actual mask.

Time to paint! I love painting. Even spray painting. I used a Metallic Silver on this mask, and a Satin Red on the other that you'll see near the end.
PLEASE make sure you paint on a surface you don't mind getting permanently altered, and in a well ventilated area. Outside in a remote part of my backyard near my shop is where I set up my little pedestal (empty peach cans work great).


Follow the safety guidelines and instructions on the can's label. Also, don't forget to check under the ribbon and along the edges of the mask for old color to cover. I also painted the back of this one, as it had some writing on it I wanted to cover.



Make sure you didn't miss any spots and allow to dry.


Next, remove your tape, and you're done!



My other mask, the one I'll be wearing myself, I had to repair where the ribbons attach to the inside of the mask. The end were glued and tipped with felt circles to prevent the ribbon from coming loose, but the base white paint on the inside of the mask came off where it was glued, detaching the entire ribbon. This happened on both sides, and I repaired it twice. The first time I used glue dots, found in the scrapbooking section of your local hobby store or WalMart. The second time I used Gorilla Glue. The second repair seems much more permanent than the first.

This mask was originally a darker red with gold glitter accents, but the paint had chipped, and I had Red Satin spray paint from a previous project lying about. Voila.


If we happen to be at the same Masquerade this fall, be on the lookout for the supermegafoxyawesomehot couple wearing these, and feel free to say hi!


Monday, February 25, 2013

UnMASKing the Secret

Have you ever used masking tape? Also referred to (somewhat misguidedly) as painter's tape? Usually found in beige or blue, and commonly used like duct tape in a 2" wide variety... This stuff is fantastic, but so frustrating. You start to peal it, and no matter how painstakingly slowly and carefully you go, it separates too early from the sides and leaves you with an angled edge on a piece usually much shorter than you'd planned. HOW ON EARTH DO I FIX THIS PROBLEM???... I thought to myself as I attempted to use it to patch a crack missing trim beneath a windowsill in our little home. So of course, after many a failed attempt at discovering the secret to a good clean tear, I did what I should have done in the first place. I turned to the internet for answers.

AND I FOUND THE SECRET. Right here. All you have to do is just what it says. Grip the roll with a few fingers on the inside of the ring and your thumb across the tape below the start of the tear, applying firm pressure. Unroll the tape at a shallow angle, maintaining that pressure (I would stop and move my thumb along with the separating edge of the tape every 2-3 inches). Get the measure of length desired, and tear! Presto! It's easier with a new roll of tape, or a roll with clean, even sides, no dents. If you store it properly, it should stay in like-new shape for a long time and last you quite a few smaller projects. :) Now you know!