America, Celebration, Family, Farm, Food, Funny, Health, Uncategorized

The Marriage Bread

Chris recently said that he was “getting really tired of calling me his girlfriend.” Most girls would probably be a little bit offended by that, but I knew he was thinking about a title upgrade, not a title downgrade, so I let it slide.

I’m not really known for anything significant. Some people are known for being great swimmers or accomplished pianists, but I’m known for random things, like being able to tell the difference between cauliflower and broccoli plants, knowing the exact percentage of cotton in different t-shirts by just feeling them, and drinking an exorbitant amount of coffee every day.

And, apparently, bread baking.

I found a recipe for bread in my grandma’s local newspaper a few years ago. And like the dweeb I am, I cut it out and saved it. No new age Pinterest recipes for me! (Just kidding Pinterest, you know we’re buds.)

According to the article, people submit recipes all year long to the newspaper and at the end of the year someone chooses the favorite from each category. This just happened to be the best in bread and it sounded good, so I kept it.

I’d never made bread before, which should be a testament to how easy it is. However, I’ve made it multiple times for multiple people and everyone loves it and acts like I’m a magician for being able to make it.

When Chris and I started dating, I warned him that I was by no means a chef and didn’t cook super often. Then, I realized that was probably not the best thing to say to a potential suitor, so I followed it up with “but, I could feed you.” Yes. I really said those words. On our second date.

Which in my mind meant, I’m not a great cook, but I can cook and you won’t starve. He laughed because I’d worded it all in such a roundabout way. And, he kept dating me, so hey, not so bad!

Back to the bread. Chris met my extended family after we’d been dating for awhile and one of the first few questions he was asked was whether I’d made him bread yet. I hadn’t and my uncle said “just wait til you try the bread she makes, you’ll want to propose to her on the spot!”

We’d been dating about three months at this point and both found this to be a funny quip.

As we travel to see each other, we don’t cook together very often, so I still hadn’t made the infamous bread when Chris had been to see me. When he came in early December, I made a loaf and he claimed it was the best bread he’d ever had.

Now, was he just saying that because I was his girlfriend? Probably. I think he’s a bit biased. But, unbeknownst to me, he did ask my dad for his blessing to marry me that same weekend. Coincidence? Who knows, but the girl who regularly wears socks with sandals won him over somehow, so the bread theory is as good as any.

And a little over a month later, on our trip to Breckenridge, Chris conspired with another couple we were with and we drove out to Hoosier Pass on the Continental Divide and he proposed. And I said yes!

For breader or for worse.

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America, Beauty, Celebration, Culture, Family, Funny, Uncategorized

A Movember to Remember

Did I mention I’m dating Santa Claus this year?

For the past few years, Chris has dressed up as Santa for a Christmas event at work. And his dear co-workers were nice enough to document this year for me by taking a few pictures.

At the beginning of our relationship, Chris and I discussed some things that we are involved in every year. Part of it was just “getting to know each other” talk and part of it was a “this is me, so prepare yourself now” talk. His Santa stint in December was on his list, but at the top of his list was Movember.

For those of you who have never heard of Movember, I hadn’t either. But, Chris warned me that come November, there would be an inevitable addition of facial hair. Movember is similar to “No Shave November” except that you grow only a mustache.

The Movember Foundation is the group who promotes the cause and was originally started in 2004 as a way to raise awareness for various men’s health issues.

Chris had shown me pictures of his Movember ‘stache of 2016 and informed me all along that he would be continuing the tradition in spite of having a girlfriend this year. So, of course, I conceded.

To answer any questions that have already been posed to me multiple times by multiple different people during the month:

-No, Chris didn’t put on a fake, stick-on mustache. It’s real, trust me, it’s really real.

– Yes, I do realize he bears a small resemblance to Mario

– No, I don’t hate it. I don’t love it either, but it’s manageable.

And finally, to pay proper homage to the month, I present a pictorial I have appropriately titled:

A Movember to Remember

Because when you have a mustache, adding a funny hat is a must, right?

Again with the funny hats. Although I’m told “all proper Texans need a Stetson”

I also introduced Chris to banchan (the Korean word for all the little dishes of condiments) during this month. Not that it had anything to do with the mustache. Except for that he had it at the time.

And finally, an up close and personal (which he didn’t know I was taking) to remember it in all of its glory.

Until next year:

The Man.

The Myth.

The Mustache.

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America, Celebration, Culture, Family, Farm, Funny, Summer, Travel, Uncategorized

Thoughts from an MOH

My best friend is on her honeymoon right now. I didn’t text her to check in to see if they’d made it safely to their destination but she sent me a message once she arrived. Not a message to necessarily tell me that they’d made it. She sent me her thoughts from a plane. 

I’m not sure who started doing thoughts from a plane. I want to credit her with it because I feel like she was the first one who came up with it. But, it may have been me. I’ll have to confer and get back with you on that one. 

Anyway, thoughts from a plane are literally just that: your thoughts about what is going on around you while on a plane. Maybe we started doing it because it can get terribly boring being cooped up in an airplane for a long time. Or, it could’ve been because you’re in such tight quarters that you can hear and see everything that everyone is doing. Either way, it’s funny to us to share our thoughts from a plane with each other. I wrote about it one time, if you want to read about it here

As I was saying, Jordan got married last weekend and part of my Maid of Honor duties were to write a speech, which I then relayed at her rehearsal dinner. 

I’m not a great public speaker, but I’m generally not terrible. I don’t think I did very well with this speech for two reasons

1. I wasn’t quite sure what emotions were going to be going on, so I was a little apprehensive about being overly emotional. I made it through just fine though.

2. I wasn’t sure what crowd size I’d be speaking to, so I’d made my speech more for a little bit more intimate of a gathering and there were quite a few people there. 

I feel like I’m generally better when I’m conveying thoughts through writing rather than speaking. It just comes more naturally. Even though I tend to write exactly as I would think/speak a thought. 

So, since I’d written the speech anyway, I thought I’d memorialize it in blog form. Because this seems like an official place to memorialize something of magnitude, right? 

Here they are: my thoughts for my best friend on the evening before her wedding: 

When Jordan told me that I would need to make a speech tonight, I wasn’t really sure what a Maid of Honor speech should be like, so I just wrote what came to mind. 

Jordan and I have been friends for a long time. Our families have been friends for over 100 years, so we technically have a long history together. But, I didn’t grow up with her, so I never really officially met her until we were around 14 or 15 years old. 

I remember the first time I heard about Jordan. I had just switched schools and some of my friends were hanging out by my locker, talking about this girl and her shoes. I have never cared too much for fashion and as an 8th grader, I cared even less. But, there was apparently a girl walking around in pink stilettos. And it was Jordan. 

It’s ironic that my first memory of hearing about Jordan has to do with shoes, because I swear, the girl currently owns about 500 pairs. 

I really got to know Jordan in high school. We had a class together and the first day I walked into class, there she was, seated in front of my desk, crocheting. She had her yarn spread out and could care less what anyone thought about it. I thought maybe during the lecture, she would take notes, but she continued to crochet. 

We did our classwork together, probably mostly because I was the one with the notes, and also because we were two of the only girls in that class. I’ll not bore everyone with stories of our youth, that most likely only the two of us would find funny. But, we began a friendship that has personally enriched my life a lot over the years. 

We are pretty much opposites when it comes to most things, so I think we both stretched each other in different directions in a way that causes so much growth as people.

Jordan wouldn’t let me have a slide show, but immediately, when I first started thinking about this speech, there was one picture of us that immediately came to mind. It was a picture of the two of us, on our last day of high school, right before we graduated. 

I had tried like everything to convince her to go to the University of Arkansas with me and she had likewise tried to convince me to go to OSU with her. But, both of us knew that the other place wasn’t where we were meant to be. So, we were going to be parting ways and on the last day of high school, that reality was sinking in a little bit more. 

You can tell in the picture that we had been teary eyed saying bye to all our friends. And, I know it seems a little bit childish now, but it was a big deal to us then. We were, in a tiny way, embarking into the unknown. We weren’t going to be full fledged adults by any means, because what 18 year old can really be considered an adult? But, we were striking it out on our own. 

We had no idea the people we’d meet or the new friends we’d gain, most of whom for Jordan are seated here tonight. We had no idea if we’d still be friends after it was all said and done. And, we had no idea the lives we’d eventually lead. So, the tears were understandable. 

But had we known then what we know now, how even though this step from high school into adulthood was a bit daunting at first, how it lead to so many great things, we may have still been teary eyed, but not because we were sad for moving on, but because we were overwhelmed and happy for the new things to come. 

And, as I’m writing this, I’m expecting that there will be some tears as Jordan and Jade now prepare to enter into a new, exciting phase of their lives together. But now we know that if we get a little teary eyed, it’s not for sadness of what Jade and Jordan are leaving behind, but for joy for the life that they’re about to walk into. Congratulations Jordan and Jade! I am so happy for both of you and can’t wait to see what blessings marriage brings to your lives!

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First Friday

I’ve got two instructions: 

1. pay attention to the time

2. no public sleeping

The second one is a legitimate concern because right before the instruction was given to me, I was trying to devise a way in my mind to sleep on top of my luggage in the airport so that if anyone bothered it, I would wake up. Guess I won’t be doing that. 

This isn’t my first time traveling alone, but I guess it’s my first time going this far and for this long by myself. So, it’s a little bit of a first.

A girl in the airport bathroom asked me if this was my first time to fly. I was in the middle of brushing my teeth (and trying to decide if the tube I’d squeezed onto my toothbrush was full of toothpaste or hand soap) so I felt like that was maybe a good indication that I wasn’t new at this. Or possibly that I was completely new at this and didn’t have a clue. It could go both ways, really. 

She needed help with her boarding pass because it was her first time flying. She handed me the paper and asked me where she should go. She thought her gate was 952A. We’re at a small airport, so I knew she must’ve been confused. I explained to her that she was leaving at 9:52 am and her gate assignment would be on the board. 

To which she responded: where’s the board? 

I’m not good at giving directions, we all know this. So, I gathered my things, having happily decided that I did, in fact, use toothpaste and not hand soap, and went outside with her to see what gate she needed. We found it and she told me that she was flying by herself and was going to visit her boyfriend in North Dakota and she had no idea how to navigate everything. 

I can very much sympathize. Not because I have a boyfriend in North Dakota that I’m going to see. But because I’ve been in her shoes, traveling by myself for the first time.  And, because navigation is not my strong suit either. 

Which is why it was surprising to be asked for help in finding something. And even more surprising that I was able to help. 

Looks like there’s a first time for everything. 

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What Did You Say?

Jake is redefining the meaning of window shopping. We’re sitting in the window of a hotel lobby (not even our own hotel, which is an explanation all itself) and I’m not paying attention to him. But, I notice he’s making motions, so I look up and what do I find? A little Vietnamese woman out on the street, carrying a board of bric-a-brac (nail clippers, fans, bookmarks, bracelets, lighters, sunglasses, and so much more. Essentially, a walking convenience store.) And Jake, motioning to her from the window. She’d hold up one thing and he’d shake his head. He’d point at another thing and she’d hold that up. Nope, not that one. After about 5 minutes of this back and forth, Jake decides on a map (which he has somehow already bargained and agreed upon a price for) and leaves the lobby to go settle up with her outside. Ridiculous.

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We’re doing clinics at “stations” right now which means we’re traveling around Vietnam with a bunch of med students and government officials to government clinics and doing some outreach. They’re very good with us, keeping up with who we are and how we’re doing. This guy is even so nice as to carry my passport picture around just in case he needs to remember my name.

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That’s me.

So, after our first clinic station, they informed us that we had been invited to lunch. Where at? We didn’t know. But, our bus dropped us off at the entrance of a gate and we walked in. To this.

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I’ve seen some full tables before but nothing quite like this. We were seated with some of the Vietnamese medical students and were joking about having to put bowl on our heads because there was no more room.

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Hospitality is great but also kind of terrifying. Because you don’t know what you’re going to be served. You just know you’ll have to eat it. And when I sat down, I knew it was going to be one for the story books.  I also happened to be seated right next to the main “translator”, who is in charge of our group (she requested the seat next to me), so I knew I was in for it.

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Stuffed bitter melon, which I had decided not to try

We started with a table full and you automatically start looking around and wrapping your mind around what you’re going to have to try. You mentally prepare for battle. And you bravely dive in. But, then the war changes. The battle you were fighting is over and you think: I’ve made it. Then, bowls are changed out and people scurry around and all the sudden, a new fight begins.  This was a tough one, guys. Mostly, I had no idea what it was. My original plan was to stick with the fruit and some corn and see if I could make it. But, two seconds later, a lettuce wrap was being made and handed to me with whole shrimp in it (legs, head, shell, everything) dipped in fish sauce and ready to be eaten. And, when you’re handed something, there’s no escape.

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My “translator” feeding me the bitter melon five seconds later…

(PSA: If you haven’t ever traveled to third world countries, greens are one thing they advise not to eat because of the water they’ve been washed in)

I should also tell you that halfway through this meal, one of the Vietnamese students leaned over to Jake and said: “you’ll need to take a pill after this meal.” I had already guessed that, but I’m glad she felt the need to go ahead and tell us.  I’m not sure if Jake will need the pill though because at the beginning of the meal, the man of the house came around insisting that the men at the table take a shot of “banana wine”.

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Jake happened to be the first one he approached and after some insisting, he took it. So, he got a dose of medicine early.  Halfway through the meal, I began to question where we were at? It seemed to be a home, but more like a mansion. It had a waterway in the middle with rooms and stairs going off in different directions. I was informed by our “translator” that we had been invited to the home of the former Vice President of Vietnam. So, this was a big deal. Who knew?

Our lettuce wraps and fruit and corn and other various concoctions were only the appetizers. The meat dishes came out later, along with this soup, which they called “black chicken soup”.

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I asked what the meat dish was and she said “duck”. Okay, I can do duck. I took some, put it on my rice and ate it. It was good, a little different than the other duck I’ve had. It was darker and chewier and had a lot of cartilage. But, it was fine.

 

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My duck and rice and what I think may have been a potato.

After lunch, they took us on a tour of the gardens, as most of the fresh things we had eaten were from the garden. And, they were kind enough to give us sun hats to wear.

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My “translator” friend gave me and one of our other guys a little bit of a private tour, explaining what the different plants were and how they were prepared. We went by a cage with a dog and some chickens in it and the guy with me commented that it was surprising to see a dog so well behaved in a cage alongside chickens and how we wouldn’t see that on our farms in America.

We were asking her about the things we saw and as we were going along, the guy said, ask her what these greens are?  I recognized them from our table and so I called her back to have her tell us the name, but she didn’t know. The gardener happened to be nearby, so she called him over to ask and he spoke to her in Vietnamese. She said, this is the plant that you eat with the “duck”. I said, oh, yes, duck, because we had it at lunch. And the gardener said, “no, no, no, not duck! Dog, woof woof!” Only then did it dawn on me why the dog was in the cage with the chickens. And why that meat at lunch had been so dark and chewy.

Where’s that pill they were talking about? I think I might be needing it.

{post blog update: no one in our group got at all sick from that meal, in case anyone was wondering}

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Keep Calm & Carry On

I’ve already gotten a lecture this morning on my baggage. I got new luggage recently. My suitcase is currently weighing in at the heaviest: 59 pounds. It’s really not that bad though, because I did pack gifts for some of the families we’ll be visiting. I also packed approximately 32 jackets/sweaters/cardigans. So, maybe it is kinda bad.

For my carry-on, I figured it was time to retire my backpack and get a more adult looking tote.

My old backpack says I may or may not be going to a place where I’ll be living outside for a period of time and hitchhiking the dusty backroads of Cambodia. Which isn’t too far from accurate.

 

My new adult-ish tote says I’m probably going to a place that atleast has a front desk and maybe a gym. And, running water. I’m trying, guys.

My whole “adult” vibe is probably being thrown off a little bit by the fact that I’m carrying my quilt around, rolled up in my yoga mat carrier. I can’t travel without my quilt and I had no place to put it. So: stroke of genius and I’ve got a new kind of carry on.

My family thinks it’s slightly ridiculous that I carry it with me. My dad likens me to Charlie Brown. (Don’t worry, I corrected him because, as we all know, it’s Linus who carries the blanket, not Charlie) You just never know when you’re going to need to sleep in an airport.

 

Sleeping in Paris

 

My tote is currently about to bust at the seams. I told Jake when I got it that it would keep me from packing so much. Famous last words. It’s so full that the buttons won’t stay closed and the flap barely fits over it. See below.

So, after checking every five minutes to make sure I haven’t lost anything out of it, I’m finally on the plane. And, fortunately, the guy loading on behind me puts my carry ons to shame. He’s wearing a cowboy hat and carrying a boom box.

Yes, a full on stereo.

With speakers and everything.

And he’s trying to put it in the overhead compartment. I’m just hoping he brought some cassette tapes for that thing. Looks like we’re gonna be having a party! Let me just unroll this quilt and I’ll be good to go!

  
Note: after writing this, we happened to be going the same direction, so I managed to snap an extra picture. You’re welcome.

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Old Saint Nick

You know what one of my pet peeves is? On cooking shows, when they make something and don’t fully scrape out the bowl. That drives me crazy. I realize they probably don’t want the hosts wasting precious air time scraping every last particle out of the bowl. But seriously, they leave half the batter in the bowl.

Sorry, I got distracted.
Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve written. How is Christmas already done? Wasn’t it just the Fourth of July? My favorite part of Christmas is caroling. This is a long standing tradition and I love it. Singing to people just brings so much joy.

Unfortunately, it was raining cats and dogs on the day we were scheduled to go caroling at church. So, we cancelled. And I was sad. However, never fear. My college ministry group carols too, so disaster averted. We all loaded in a van and drove around Fayetteville to houses and a retirement home to sing. My friend, Jordan, who is a grad student at OSU, went with us and it was her very first time to carol.

At our last house, one of the ladies was greeting us as we left and said to us, are you ladies freshmen or sophomores? Hmm, neither. We kindly informed her that we had both already graduated from undergrad and that Jordan was in grad school. Sadly, she’s not the only one who has questioned my age lately.


24 is an odd age. Are you old? Are you young? Who knows?

Literally, no one knows.

On a recent flight, my brother and I were seated in the exit row. He boarded ahead of me and the lady informed him of his “exit row duties” and let him on. As I stepped forward, she told me I was seated in the exit row as well. When I told her that was fine, she looked at me a little puzzled and said, you are 15, right? Apparently, you have to be at least 15 years old to sit in the exit row.

Yep, I’m over 15. By 9 years.

Then, I went to the movies with some friends this past weekend and the movie we happened to choose was rated R. They went first, gave the girl their tickets and walked through. But, when I stepped up behind them, the girl said: I need to ask you, how old are you? Confused as to why she was asking, I said I’m 24. She looked embarrassed and let me go. I forgot that you have to be 17 to see anything R rated.
15, 17, 24, who cares at this point? Age seems pretty relative anyway. To my delight, caroling was rescheduled with our church group and we got to sing to Santa! Literally, one of the little girls thought it was really Santa’s house.

But, as we all know, the real Santa lives in the North Pole.

Wait, how old am I again?

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