Wow. I’m a bad blogger. There, I said it. Well, having recognized this fault, I will apologetically try to re-cap. Let’s start with the very beginning, a very good place to start.
Ok, so as you know, Key made it home safely from his final fire for the season. We ended up canceling the house-warming party that was planned since he was out for such a long time. He did return just in time for the Utah State Fair, though. A VERY important event, as it is the one time all year where it’s completely acceptable to eat deep-fried everything & not feel a bit of remorse for doing so. Our delectable tastings throughout several days of Fair-fun included: deep fried cheesecake, homemade peach cobbler ice cream, funnel cake with whipped topping & strawberries, deep fried zucchini on a stick, pizza, cheese fries, sweet potato fries in a bucket, corn-dogs, fried alligator bites, and of course, fried frog legs. Resulting in major stomach pains and perhaps a collective 10 pounds gained. As we drove away the final night of the fair, I turned around to see Teagan, my sweet little daughter, viciously sucking every last speck of greasy, tendon-y meat off a frog’s femur bone. After she licked her fingers dry, she looks up at me, smiles wide, and says “Tastes like chicken!” Awww, till next time, State Fair.
Also, in September, me & the Teags went to a mommy ‘n me tea party that my friend Meg threw with her daughter Lily (they are the ultimate party planners). Of course, Teagan loved it, here are the pictures to prove it:
The fire season is officially over! Key could officially enjoy our new home for the first time without interruption & we finally felt more settled in. Teagan was getting more & more into the swing of things in her new school as a Kindergartener, and was even VIP Student of the Week.
The farmer’s market came to a close for the year, but luckily we were graced with a nice day to enjoy the final harvest.
That same day, we went to a family Halloween party over at Tim, Meg’s, & Lily’s house (I told you they were ultimate at party planning).
The next weekend, Key & I decided we needed some quality time together to reconnect with each other & the land around us. He took me down to Southern Utah for some camping at Zion’s National Park. I admit with embarrassment, that although I grew up in Utah, I had never been to a single National Park. It was the best experience! We bought a National Parks Pass and vowed to make this a regular trip & make me a well-rounded National Park goer. We hiked all three Emerald Pools, conquered Angel’s Landing & my fear of heights, and did about every other small trailhead around the park. One of my favorite discoveries of Zion’s were the wild turkeys! I don’t think the canyon shuttle driver ever heard anyone with so much excitement to learn of the indigenous wild turkeys (whom, by the way, at dusk nightly, fly into trees above head & sleep in their lofty branches). The nearby town of Springdale just charmed my pants right off, too. With their cute artisan shops & quaint pie bakeries. I stumbled upon a great calendar by an artist from Olympia, Washington named Nikki McClure. We also made a stone necklace for Key’s mom as a birthday gift to send to her at the same shop. The whole trip felt so refreshing, spectacular, and inspiring. Watching all of the canyoneers and backpackers come out of the backcountry, looking like wilderness, smelling like sweat & dirt, and having a glow in their face & a look in their eye – I knew what I was pining to do next. Hmm… Jen the outdoors girl? I might like the sound of that.
Oh, and of course, October means Halloween! My absolute favorite holiday of the year. I spent most of the month sewing our costumes and making decorative crafts (as a result of which, I am now forever banned from glitter projects by Kiyoshi). Teags went to a church “Harvest Festival” with her step-mom at her dad’s church, then Key & I picked her up & took her trick or treating around my parents neighborhood in Sandy. We all ended up at a neighbor’s house with homemade donuts, hot apple cider, a kid-ran spook alley, and a jam fest of classic rock songs. It was a blast.
With November, comes Thanksgiving. Typically, I head to the Whole Foods Market & purchase a frozen, pre-packaged food-like substitute called a Tofurky. Yet, this past year, I had learned so much of food, it’s origins, and what good food really is (quick plug: please, please, please see Food, Inc. or read any of Michael Pollan’s books if you have not already, I beg of you). I’ve cultivated this love for food as it should be – wholesome, fresh, natural. I’ve grown to create comforting family feasts to enjoy around a table of loved ones with these wholesome ingredients. It’s strange how far removed I was from the food that was entering my body for so many years. But now, with this new found love & knowledge, I felt empowered to put on quite a feast this year. A meatless feast for my meat-eating family, made purely from scratch with my hands. I went back and forth on a few options of things to make, it came down to two main courses: Sweet Potato Gnocchi vs. Stuffed Acorn Squash. The Acorn Squash won me over after improvising with my own version. Baked acorn squash cups, stuffed with a wild rice pilaf, topped with dried cranberries, and smothered in a homemade mushroom & red wine gravy. It came out beautifully if I do say so myself. The colors looked great for a perfect fall-time feast. Along side the squash cups, were Honey Pecan Glazed Baby Carrots, and another dish of Parmesan & Pine Nut Brussel Sprouts. To end the meal would a decadent Dried Cherry Bread Pudding with a Warm Maple Vanilla Sauce. Holy crap, yeah, I did all that. Thanksgiving was hosted by my mother, so when I showed up with all these dishes that I single handedly made, it about floored her & everyone else. This was all coming from the girl who’s cooking resume included mac ‘n cheese and breakfast cereal less then a year prior. Sure, there may have been some in attendance that couldn’t give up their traditional turkey and green bean casserole for my modern take on Thanksgiving with vegetarian delights, but that’s ok.
Enough about food, Thanksgiving has a meaning beyond food, after all. I really do have so much to be thankful for this past year. Despite the emotional roller coaster I sometimes am on & put people through, I have been so rewarded by life. I have my health, my daughter who teaches me love like I’ve never known, a wonderful, strong boyfriend who gives me the courage to go beyond myself & teaches me what living life really is, a warm home, a great job I really enjoy, and the list goes on & on. I’ve also realized that I’m so thankful for that burning desire in my heart to keep growing, keep searching, keep trudging, keep questioning – these are the things that keep me a float, that keep me gaining something. I hope I never lose that.
Such a hustling, bustling month. I think I set some pretty high standards for the month of December this year, and to be honest, I think Key was a little worried for a foreseeable nervous breakdown on my end. I am proud to say that no such event took place. And although the month left me with a small pocketbook and a bit lack of sleep after all was said & done, my heart was full of joy, love, & giving, and it was all worth every fleeting penny and every missed minute of slumber.
Here’s a list of December’s goings-on:
- Hanukkah party at our friend’s Justin & Kim’s house (mazel-taf!)
- Non-stop Christmas decorating (I have this horrible problem with buying tree decorations. I love Christmas trees – they remind me of the fat girl dressed up for the prom)
- Baking, baking, baking
- Delivery of the baking, baking, baking
- Card designing & mailing (thank you for the Gap ad-esque photo shoot courtesy of Lisa Trent)
- Our dear friend Chris Purkey visiting from South Bend, IN
- Family time (both mine & Key’s)
- Gift buying, making, and giving
- Friends’ Jesse & Emily in town from NYC for their engagement party
- And best of all: Meeting of Key’s mom and her kids who came to visit from Cottage Grove, OR
We rang in the new year at our house, inviting a gaggle of friends and family & tons of junk food. Key’s mom was still in town & she was able to spend this time with us along with her kids. This also gave her the opportunity to meet my family. We just kicked back, chatting it up and laughing, while about 15 kids ran around in circles screaming through our house all cracked out on sugar. It was awesome. We set off fireworks in front of the house and a good time was had by all. What a great way to spend the new years!
Also, in the month of January, I threw my dear dear friend Holly a baby shower. A casual gathering of friend’s and family to celebrate the up-coming birth of her baby boy, Kai. I find things like a baby shower a good excuse to do some fun crafting & designing. I designed & printed the invites, made the decorations (thanks to some ideas found on Martha Stewart), and created a whole theme around Japanese inspired things. We did origami for creating a baby mobile, eat sushi, and finished the afternoon with some mochi ice cream. Mmmm. The Japanese know a thing or two. Holly is probably THE c u t e s t pregnant girl ever, and I’m was as excited for baby Kai to get here as she probably was. Key even proclaimed himself as Kai’s Godfather.