Monday, November 24, 2014


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'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.

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

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,
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.


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 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!