February 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, George!

Last Friday was the birthday of our nation's first President. And since my school is named after him, a group of students got to visit his beloved Mt. Vernon for FREE! Alexis, as a proud GW alumna, also got to join our little "field trip." :)

From the moment we arrived, I felt thrilled and excited to be there. Our excursion began with a brief film introduction, and a short spiel by one of the museum staff (who also happened to be a GW alum). Alexis and I discussed our thoughts on Washington after the film, and we both just felt so inspired by his life and his contributions to our country. I swear to you that I felt the Spirit during the film, and I felt a little cheesy about it, until I discovered Alexis felt the same way! (Who knew you could have a testimony about George Washington?!)


Friday was a cold, rainy day, but the estate was still so, so beautiful. Our group's timing was impeccable; we were able to tour the mansion with hardly any wait time in line! By the time our tour ended, the line to start the tour was SO long, I couldn't even see the end of it.

We weren't allowed to take photos of the interior of the home, but fear not: you can take a virtual tour here! I was particularly impressed with the formal dining room (This was my favorite room in the whole house, and I hereby VOW to have my future dining room walls painted in this color. I furthermore vow to have my wedding china look like the Washington's state dinner china (Which we weren't allowed to photograph!). I tried looking for a photo online but I can't find one. :( It was essentially just beautiful white china with gold trim that achieved the right balance of simplicity and elegance... That description does NOT do these dishes justice, but let's just say I've never loved a plate so much in my entire life!) and by the bright paint colors on the walls throughout the mansion. Below, a photo of the dining room borrowed from the internet. :)

via
The mansion has a beautiful back porch that looks out onto the Potomac. Even on such a cold, gray day, the view was quite lovely. I can just picture George and Martha sitting on the porch, admiring the hippos in the Potomac. :)

Seriously awe-inspiring.
I've kind of just learned to accept the fact that I stick my tongue out when I smile. Oh, well.

When our mansion tour ended, we ran over to the museum to see something really, really special. Mt. Vernon recently acquired George Washington's personal copy of the first "Acts of Congress," and it was only scheduled to be at the museum 'til last Sunday; we made it just in time! This beautiful book contained the acts passed in the first Congress, along with other important documents, most notably, the Constitution. What was really special about this particular copy of the Constitution is that Washington marked and took notes in the margins. As our nation's First President, he had no user manual, no predecessor upon whose example he could fall back. So he marked up his copy of the Constitution to more fully understand his duties, his powers, his responsibilities, and how he was supposed to work with the other branches of government. I felt that being able to see this amazing book and Washington's notes in his own handwriting gave such an intimate look into the heart and mind of one of history's greatest men. I felt quite moved to be able to see it, and I felt a great love, admiration, and reverence for our First President.

This short, 4-minute video tells a little more about this special volume and how it came to Mt. Vernon. (And yes, it's worth watching!)


Our final stop at Mt. Vernon was at George and Martha Washington's tomb. GW holds an official wreath-laying ceremony every year on Washington's birthday, and it was very beautiful to be able to be there for it. I felt so much reverence for General Washington as I stood in front of his tomb, and I truly felt that I was standing on hallowed ground.

Martha is on the Left, George on the Right. (and the GW wreath in #BuffandBlue in the middle.)
The plaque in the back is inscribed with the verse from John 11:25.

I was so sad to have only spent at few hours at Mt. Vernon, but trust me, I WILL be back! I enjoyed my time there so much, and I left with new reverence and respect for George Washington. Surely, he was a chosen man!


When we got back to campus, we continued the celebration of our namesake's birth with a bonfire in University Yard and S'MORES!!

The celebration included a Freemason ceremony, since GW was a mason.

I made a quick pit stop to kiss the GW hippo! It's good luck to rub its nose, but I decided to go big. ;)

And then Jeff and I ate at Bobby's Burger Palace.

Jeff gives Bobby's two thumbs up.

The end.

February 26, 2013

Thanks a lot, Facebook! :P

As if being a young single adult sitting in a young single adults ward, specifically in a Sunday School lesson for the marriage prep class entitled "How to Know When you Find the 'One'" (or something like that) weren't enough to make one's brain explode with marriage-osity (except actually, the lesson was really good, and I learned about the importance of distinguishing between fear of marrying a particular person versus fear of the institution of marriage in general, which is normal and good, because only a fool goes into marriage without any fear, and basically, that thought totally blew my mind, because in conclusion, it turns out I am not afraid of marriage (in case you were wondering); just afraid of how the heck I'm supposed to get there.), here's a little subtle hint from Facebook that popped up on my phone last night:

Thanks a lot, FB! :P

Facebook: 1, Me: 0, Marriage Prep class: 23.

February 25, 2013

Best Pizza Crust of Your Life

Before this last Valentine's, I had never made pizza crust from scratch before. I looked for a recipe on Pinterest for which I had all of the ingredients (including regular flour. I have a personal policy against recipes that call for weird kinds, like "self-rising" flour or "cake flour." That cake flour is the one that kills me the most. I'm like... You guys, don't you know that you can make cake out of normal flour?? Goodness. And they call themselves professionals.), and I found this one. I made a few little tweaks here and there but mostly stayed true to the recipe (also, I doubled it, and we had enough to make six really big personal pizzas), and holy crap, my mind was BLOWN away by how good this was! (And everyone else thought the same thing, so it's not just my opinion here!)

And so, for you friends who did not celebrate LOVE with me last Thursday, here is the best pizza crust recipe ever! I'll never use another crust recipe as long as I live.


Heart-shaping not required. (Also, heart = courtesy of Camille for Nif)

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 c. warm water
6 T active dry yeast (I used the kind that comes in a jar and goes in the fridge.)
3 T honey (Steph's on a no-sugar thing right now, so using honey was perfect!)
3 T olive oil
5 c flour (*This is less than the recipe calls for, but it was definitely enough.)
2 t salt
2 t garlic powder
1 t dried basil (it smelled so good!)
a few good shakes of Parmesan cheese (I sort of just eyeballed it 'til I thought it smelled good.)


DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, mix water, yeast, honey, and olive oil. Let sit until foamy (about 10 minutes).
  2. Add the flour and seasonings. Stir with a spoon until dough comes together but is still sticky. Form into a ball and smell the good smells (No, but seriously. This dough smells amazing!)
  3. On a floured surface (I spread out 1/2 c. flour on my counter), knead the ball of dough for a few minutes and work the 1/2 c. flour into your ball of dough until the dough becomes less sticky. 
  4. Grease a bowl and put your ball of dough inside. Cover and place in a warm place to rise. (The recipe says to let it rise for an hour and a half, buuuuut I only let it rise for about 20 minutes, and it turned out just fine.)
  5. After the dough has risen, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  6. When the dough is done rising, punch the dough down on your floured surface and roll it out into your desired shape. (I don't have a pizza stone or round pizza pan, so I used rectangle cookie sheets.)
  7. After you roll it out, cover the dough and let it sit in a warm place for 10 minutes (I also skipped this step. On accident. Oooops. It turned out fine anyway. Also, at this point, the recipe calls for putting melted butter and garlic on the dough, but I chose not to. You do what you will. It's your crust, after all.)
  8. Add sauce, cheese, and toppings.
  9. Bake until the crust is a light gold/brown color. (Don't let it burn!)
  10. Enjoy! The crust will be thick and fluffy and delicious and warm. Best. Pizza Crust. Ever.

February 19, 2013

Wild and Wonderful: President's Day Weekend in West Virginia

*Warning: This post is long, but the pictures are pretty, so here you go! :D 

One of the BEST things about living on the East Coast is how easy it is to travel to so many places. I came home last night from the loveliest, snowiest, most beautiful, perfect President's Day weekend in the history of presidents! I went with a group of 21 friends from church to the Cranberry Lodge in the-middle-of-nowhere West Virginia.

The lodge was so remote, we spent the weekend off the grid (no internet, no cell service = glorious!) and relying on solar power and a wood-burning fireplace for electricity/heat.


The scenery was absolutely, jaw-droppingly GORGEOUS, and I concluded that THIS (ie- nature, beauty, white winter wonderlands, snow, mountains, etc.) is what will get me back to Utah someday.

I may or may not have brought five different beanies, solely for the purpose of NOT doing my hair the entire time. I figure, as long as the bottom part still looks "curled," I'm good, right?


My favorite part of the weekend was the lack of schedule/routine. We woke up when we wanted, ate whatever we wanted (oh, MY, did we eat! April planned the most delicious menus and snacks!), watched movies/read/played/etc. whenever we wanted.

Daytime movie-watching: because we could!
We read a lot of very important things on this trip. (Actually, I did start reading Team of Rivals, and I'm excited to read the rest hopefully in the near future!)

A few highlights (and OK, to be honest, everything was a highlight, so... by "highlights," I mean here is almost everything we did..):

We enjoyed an amazing weekend of MUSIC thanks to Nils/James/Eve/Janan/Hunter/April/Brad etc/etc and their AMAZING guitar/singing abilities. And to Sergio for his amazing DJ-ing/playlist abilities!


There was a hot tub, buuuut it had no filter/temperature gauge/jets, so... it was basically a large pot of human soup. Not for me, but these guys sure seemed to enjoy it!

Ruth brought her adorable new puppy, Oswin! She is only two months old.


I really truly DID love the snow so much, I bundled up from head to toe and headed out with a friend to read and journal outside! Yeah, that's right: I read the Book of Mormon. in German. in the snow! So cold, but so worth it! The view from the balcony was incredible, and guys, did I mention the beautiful SNOW??
This is for all of you out there who post those "here are my feet on the beach" photos. I love you in spite of them! 
It was so, so fun to eat dinner as one big, happy family. Whoever decided to put those four tables together into one big table is a genius!

(Note: 4 family members + Oswin are missing from this photo.) 
Speaking of eating, there was also the time on Saturday morning that Joe had a hankering for some cantaloupe, and then Kayvon decided to knife-feed it to a few of the ladies?

Liz and Sunni look terribly pleased. 
Mags and I enjoyed a snowy walk (Read: hike. Because we were on a MOUNTAIN, so any "walking" was mostly vertical.) together.

I really dislike walking uphill, so I started RUNNING up the hill instead. I was sooo tired near the end, I essentially just fell over into the snow. This is me lying flat on my back.
What I saw when I was flat on my back looking up at the sky. The moon was just visible through the trees!
Oh, and I also loved it when we went stargazing! I tried for the zillionth time to learn how to find the North Star (thanks for trying, Brad), but guys, no matter how hard I try, I can never remember! All those years of Girls Camp were in vain! I did, however, enjoy lying flat on my back in the snow (again) and chatting under a beautiful, starry night. :)

And please let us not forget the dance party on Saturday night!

Nice touch with the  twinkle lights, friends!
We had talked about going to church, but there was soooo much snow, most of us had gotten stuck on the mountain on the first night (thankfully, BJ, aka- our new "best friend in West Virginia," was able to rescue us!), and we didn't want to risk all of us getting stuck on the mountain again, so we had our own devotional on Sunday morning.

After the devotional, Mags, Kelli, and I decided it was time to cuddle and nap. :)

Kayvon, why didn't you smile for our picture??

Snowshoeing was one of my favorite things we did up here. I now really want to buy my own pair, so I can go exploring whenever I want!
That there on the right is Nils trying to invent the sport of  "ultimate snowshoeing."
I'm pretty sure this is my favorite photo from this trip!
On our way back to the lodge post-snowshoeing, we decided to sled, because we hadn't yet. And also, why not? Nils, Serg, and I went down together

Fresh-faced and innocent, keenly unaware that we were about to face death... and live to tell the tale!
We didn't fully consider our route before we sent ourselves down on one sled and our snowshoes on the other... Halfway down the hill, we realized that we were heading straight for...

THIS! So many benches and chairs and trees! And a fire pit (not visible)!
Through some careful leaning and maneuvering (and screaming. What is a near-death experience without some good screaming?), we were able to avoid all the chairs/tables/etc.

Unfortunately, we were not so successful in avoiding this tree...


It was GREAT! That sledding run was the cherry on top of a practically perfect snowy morning adventure!

I could share a zillion other photos, but I won't. In conclusion, it was the most perfect snowy weekend. Thanks for organizing and inviting me, Kelli and April! Until next time, West Virginia!


February 15, 2013

Valentine's Love

Valentine's was lovely this year, as was my evening celebration. I got together with some dear friends, and we made homemade pizzas with the most amazing pizza crust recipe of all time (no, really). We also made cookies (sugar and chocolate-chip) and took them to some of our friends. (It was our small way of sharing some love on "the day of love." ❤ I think it's often very easy to focus on the love we want but *don't* have, and then we miss out on opportunities to show love to those around us who might really need it. We also miss out on appreciating and feeling the love of our friends and family who probably love us a lot.)

Anyway, here are some shots of the festivities. (And somehow C-lin isn't in any of them? Aww, man!) I hope your Valentine's Day was full of giving and receiving and appreciating LOVE in all its forms (and good food!)!







February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

I may not have a romantic love, but I am grateful for the love I feel from my family, from good friends, and always, from God. 

And now, a few holiday wishes from my favorite TV shows: :)

Oh, Dwight... (via)
Now THAT is the sign of a true friend! (via)
Translation: a LOT! (via)
ISO: someone to give this to... (via)
Robin Sparkles, everyone! (via)
That Ron Swanson just kills me! LOL! (via)
HAPPY DAY OF LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP (as it's called in Spanish)!

Remember to SHOW LOVE to someone else today!

xoxoxo

P.S. A few DC-themed valentines!!!

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