Yellowstone

May 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

“Live with intention. walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” 
-Mary Anne Radmacher

As I pack, clean, and prepare for my summer working outside of Yellowstone, I can’t help but reflect on my last trip there.

Osprey Falls

Yellowstone: It means so much to my family. I’ve probably told you this before, but here is a quick recap. My mom’s parents always took roadtrips, often to the west, to the Rocky Mountains. My mom fell in love with Yellowstone. Maybe the size, the grandeur, the sprawling valleys, surrounding mountains. The wildlife, the smell of the trees, the mountain air. After she graduated from high school, my mom found an ad for Yellowstone park employees and applied. She ended up working in the Fishing Bridge area for two summers. My mom fell so in love with Yellowstone, that she even has collection of vintage Yellowstone souvenirs in our house. I understand that; Yellowstone was her second home. Its the way I feel about Poland after I spent my summer studying abroad there. The places that provide us a different element of self-discovery, reveal parts of ourselves we didn’t know, teach us, introduce us to people who challenge us, and often, our best friends.

My sister, her roommate, Brendan and I at the hoodoos.

After my mom worked in the park, her brothers and sisters followed. My grandpa went after he retired. My cousins and I grew up with their stories. Yellowstone became larger than life for us. Not so much the place, but the idea of it; the experiences and lessons and secrets that the park held for us. We dreamt of living it for ourselves.

Sunset

My sister was the first cousin to go and live it. And she lived it big. She loved every second of it and Yellowstone revealed many of the same lessons and experiences to her that it did for our mom.

The group on a full moon river float

One of my closest friends, Brendan, and I roadtripped up to visit my sister last summer. This was neither of our first trips to Yellowstone, my mom would drive us out of the way on numerous family vacations just to make a stop in Yellowstone, but its the freshest on my mind which I can share with you. A few days after Brendan and I got there, my mom, dad, and cousin arrived.

My sister on top of Bunsen

My sister worked in Mammoth Hot Springs, so we spent a lot of time there and at the town at the North Entrance, Gardiner, MT.

Brendan and I on our 14 mile hike.

We had an amazing week. Not only did we get to hike, swim, climb, sightsee, etc. But we also made friends with my sister’s friends and got to raft, full-moon float, dance, star-gaze and just enjoy the vacation.

Mammoth Hot Springs

We hiked to my favorite waterfall, Osprey, secluded and not overly hiked, and enjoyed lunch there along the river. We hiked Bunsen Peak, Hellroaring, Fairy and Mystic Falls, and Beaver Ponds. We swam in Firehole Canyon, duckied down the river, fly fished, and played on the hoodoos (rock formation) that felt like playing on a God-made playground.

Yellowstone River

I love to hike. I wish I lived somewhere with better hiking trails. I’ve found a park here, but its just not the same. I honestly think I could hike to Osprey falls every single day.

Elk

Most people who visit Yellowstone don’t get very far off the trail. But there is so much to explore if people would just do a little exploring. I’m glad we did. We saw and did so much. Now, I can’t wait to go back. I’ll be there in about a week!

**I know I keep telling you that I’ll post something more urban, but I guess my heart is the mountains these days…ok, always. Why fight it?!

The Cave

May 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

“I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears” -Mumford and Sons “The Cave”

Ok, I’m clearly way off schedule lately. I get that way when I’m not in school. So, here’s some music for Monday (plus a day).

Its weird that I haven’t posted any Mumford & Sons yet. I’m obsessed with them. OBSESSED. Hey, Marcus, call me! (He’s the lead singer…FYI). I almost peed my pants when I saw them on the Grammy’s. TMI? Get over it. I was excited.

And about 4 books on my summer reading list came from Marcus’ book club on the Mumford & Sons web site. When I was thumbing through some Shakespeare sonnets one day (totally normal, right?? Thought so.) I realized that one of their songs is based on a Shakespeare sonnet. Tally that up for another point for the Sons. They’re freaking amazing.

I love that their songs are subliminally religious. “Awake my soul, for you were made to meet your maker”?? ok…maybe not subliminally. But they aren’t in your face in such a way that you would only play them on Christian radio. I mean, they do cuss quite extensively. But it makes the things they say more meaningful; like they come from the heart and not just what they’re “supposed” to be singing about. Passion.

Lyrics:
It’s empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you’ve left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I’ll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s hand

So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

I find this song incredibly moving. About facing your fears and doing what you were called to do, even when people are trying to convince you that it isn’t right. Its also about helping each other do what best.

I, of course, love the words about finding strength in pain and changing. Also, the line about holding on to hope.

When this song comes on my iPod (or I play it on repeat, either one works), I belt it out like an anthem. Every line speaks to me and I find myself caught in a determination to live life fully, to challenge who I’ve been, and keep hoping in spite of every obstacle in my path.

What do you think of it?

Smokey Sweet Potato Homefries

May 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

Apparently I’m on a breakfast kick. I already told you I could eat breakfast for every meal so just go with it.

The boys loved these. But, I’ve determined they may not be the best taste testers since they seem to love everything. The Nutella cheesecake that I couldn’t get to set; they said “What are you talking about?! It tastes fantastic!” The time I couldn’t get my Texas Gold Bars just quite right; they begged for the whole pan. Maybe aesthetics don’t matter at all. I could just through a bunch of their favorite foods in bowl and hand them a spoon.

These called for smoked paprika. So I sprinkled it on. Then I saw chipotle powder in my spice drawer. And I smelled the essence of smokiness from the paprika. Then I looked back at the chipotle powder.

Yeah…it was asking, no begging, to be sprinkled on top of these succulent, smokey chunks of sweet potatoes.

So I did as the chipotle requested and dusted a little on top. It was a lovely little marriage.

Recipe adapted from: How Sweet It Is

2 large sweet potatoes-peeled and cut in cubes
1 small sweet onion-diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1-2 tblsp EVOO

Heat a skillet and EVOO over medium heat. Add onion. Season the sweet potato cubes with salt, pepper, paprika and chipotle powder. Add to skillet. Let brown, flip. Serve when softened.

Oh…and do that whole mimosa thing again. You still deserve one.

S’mores Pancakes and Brinner

May 5, 2011 § 2 Comments

I love breakfast food. In the morning. At night. For lunch. Brunch. Snack. Midnight feasts. And apparently brinner. (Remember the world’s best french toast?)

So when Josh asked for a “brinner” to celebrate his birthday and the end of finals, I couldn’t wait.
I had seen a recipe for s’mores pancakes recently, but decided to play around with it a little and see what I could do. I knew I had to have some graham flavor (I love graham crackers), chocolate and ‘mallow. (“Then you take the ‘mallow…” -Sandlot, anyone? Anyone?? ok. Moving on). I was quite happy with this concoction and, of course, the whole group loved them. I’m gonna miss my taste testers!

The usual group came, plus one of Scott’s friends from out of town, Brooks. Brooks brought some mexican martinis to the mix, Grant made breakfast burritos, Becca and Josh brought biscuits and I made pan sausage and white gravy to top the biscuits (we’re obviously southern), I made brown sugar bacon, some Pumpkin pancakes from a mix I got at one of my favorite restaurants, Kerby Lane, and some s’mores pancakes.

None of it made sense together. But, we didn’t care. Honestly, we were exhausted from the tediousness of the past week, the stress of the finals we’d just taken and all that mattered was spending out last weekend together before finals.

And, of course, it was an excellent way to put some food away before our partying. ; ) Yeah…it was the last day of finals. And we would be slowly leaving town over the next week. Its what we do.

Recipe adapted from: Food.com

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tblsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 1/4 cup milk
2 tblsp melted butter
3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat griddle to medium/medium-high. Mix flours, graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a seperate bowl, mix egg, butter and milk until frothy. Add to wet ingredients and stir together. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour small amount onto griddle and cook a few minute on each side until golden brown.

Marshmallow sauce from: Can Do You Stay For Dinner?

1 cup marshmallow fluff
2 tblsp boiling water

Mix until mixture is syrup-y.

Top pancakes with fluff syrup and extra chocolate chips. EAT.

Oh…and have a mimosa, too. You deserve it!

Lake Bled

May 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Finals are officially over and I’m a 3L. But, I’m tired. And don’t feel like doing much. I got to spend a couple of days at home and after the drive back, I’m just going to give you a short bit about Lake Bled, Slovenia for Travel Tuesday.

After I completed my study abroad in Poland in 2007, my mom, sister, and my mom’s friend Gayle, came to visit. We flew down to Croatia, rented a car, drove the coast, and somehow ended up in Bled, Slovenia. I got my first view of the awe-inspiring Alps in the distance as we drove beside Slovenian farm land, worked by families with rustic equipment.

The tourism in Bled is based on this beautiful lake. There is a church built on the island in the center and the same family has handmade the boats to get to the island for generations. Simple, woode, canoe-like boats. The castle is built above the lake and overlooks the lake and the church.

My sister and I at the boats to the church.

The Castle area had some fun “monks” that helped my mom and I bottle our own wine. Which satisfied both our need for a souvenir and my mom’s constant wine craving. I mean, we were buying off the side of the road in Fanta bottles on this trip. Sheer madness…but it lead to some great stories.

Our group at the castle.

The traditional cake of Lake Bled is called Kremsnita. It tasked a lot like the cake that BLESSED (!!!…sorry uber-Caltholic moment there) Pope John Paul II called his favorite from his childhood in Poland called Kremowka. But considering that both nation’s are Eastern-European and the ingredients are simple and inexpensive, that isn’t too surprising. This cake is perfect with a really strong cup of black coffee. : )

Traditional Kremsnita

I’ll be making this cake sometime soon. We didn’t stay here long, but it was nice to be in a town that so much resembled any tourist-type town that I would have found here in the States. A lot of the towns we visited were the same way, but this was unique simply because I just felt like I was in some small Colorado mountain town and not in a foreign country at all. Until, I tried to read something, and then I was at a loss. Or got back to the hotel and had to sleep in a twin sized hotel bed. Then I remembered where I was.

We even got to go to mass in Slovenia. Not the church on the island (if I remember correctly, they don’t have mass there anymore), but another church in town. It was beautiful. I mean, I love going to mass in other countries, simply because there is an interesting bond I feel with all Catholics because I know what is going on even though I don’t understand a word being said. But this church was particularly quaint, quiet and simple. Just lovely.

I’d love to go back to Lake Bled, or really spend more time in Slovenia next time I go.

Slovenian Farm Land

My first view of the Alps


Poison and Wine

May 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

“I don’t have a choice but I’d still choose you.” -The Civil Wars. Poison and Wine.

Love this. Its beautiful.

Just listen and enjoy it. I’m home enjoying some time with my mom for the first time in months. So, this will probably be my only post for now.

*Now, go listen to “To Whom It May Concern” by The Civil Wars. Beautiful.

A Law School Family Easter

April 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Live in the moment and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering!” 
-Crosby

Family is sometimes what you make it. Sometimes it isn’t about blood.

I love my law school family. They get me through finals stress, emotional breakdowns, caffeine meltdowns, sugar cravings, sweat-pants only weeks (yes, weeks), baseball cap days, social embarrassment from said sweats and baseball cap days, cruel professors, late nights, and lonely holidays.

And we have fun too. Dinner nights, and softball league arguments, and karaoke embarrassment, and flag football bruises, and Just Dance 2 awkwardness.

Michael cutting the mozzarella

The value of having these people in my life only continually goes up, especially as we all sift through case law, and text books, and outlines, and rules we should have learned before finals week. We sympathize, uplift, encourage, and inspire each other. And make each other laugh. Hibernating with copious sugar and caffeine in our study caves leaves us texting each other “I miss you!”s and “Only one more”s. I bake to relieve stress. Grant trades me two 12 packs of diet coke in exchange for my baked goods. Josh texts constant reminders of how close our Brinner (breakfast for dinner) party is after our last final. Early morning good lucks and late night funnies. We make it through.

I know I’ve told you this before, but I’ve become a MUCH happier person in this town ever since I found this group of friends. I honestly can’t describe how much I love them. In fact, I have a little secret: while I’m so beyond excited about my summer, I’m going to miss my friends here. A lot.

I hope they follow through on their promise to visit with Christa. And ride back with me. And go to Vegas on the way back. Ok…I digress. But, have I told you that I’m really really really excited about summer?

Anyway, back to Easter.

Because of our finals schedule this year, I didn’t get to go home for Easter. In fact, I haven’t been home in 5 months. I hate it. I miss my family. But, I’m also happy enough here that I haven’t hit the feeling of full-on homesick. Anyway, since my friends and I were all going to be here for Easter, we decided to celebrate together.

Because it just wouldn’t be Easter without a good (read: huge) dinner and family.

The drizzling.

Scott came to mass with me that morning and I saw at least 15 law students there. The solidarity of stressed students stuck here in Waco was comforting. I didn’t have time to do an full-fleged Sunday family dinner, we we opted for a pot luck instead.

As good as candy. Seriously.

That would be me.

Here’s how that went:
Me: Baked chicken pasta, bean salad, Texas gold bars.
Scott: Homemade salsa, and some chicken, sun dried tomato and spinach dish (That I need the recipe for…so good!)
Michael: Caprese salad skewers (that I helped him make and made a balsamic reduction for)
Becca and Josh: Red Velvet cake, apple crisps
Grant: LOTS of wine and a box for croissants from Wal-mart

For law students, mid-finals, we didn’t do half bad.

Cutting board from my mom, with the description.

My mom had sent me an excellent Easter basket the day before with a new apron, a wooden cutting board, a luggage tag, a prayer book, funny napkins, and a pashmina (seriously, she makes a killer Easter bunny. The woman knows me so well!). But, it wasn’t until Michael and I were putting together the caprese skewers that I realized the cutting board had been made out of olive wood from the Holy Land. Precious, Mom. And very Easter appropriate.

Scott, Michael, and Grant digging in.

We had an evening with lots of wine, sharing, a movie and a break from the stress of looming finals. If I couldn’t be home for easter, this was the next best thing.

Too many people for my apartment. And a baseball game on TV.

This is my Family. Even if they aren’t blood.

Michael had called earlier to decide what to bring. I was having a caprese craving like I’ve never experienced before. I usually crave sweets if I’m going to crave any type of food. Occasionally french fries. But, caprese was a new one for me.

Beautiful Becca. With Lauren and Scott on the couch.

So he suggested we put them on skewers. And I suggested we drizzle them with a balsamic reduction. Yummmm. We make an excellent team. I didn’t get any easter candy, but the perfect caprese skewer can make up for that.

This isn’t even a recipe. But whatever.

Josh tying my apron on Scott so he can do the dishes.

Its up there with pizza as my favorite food. And stawberries. And pineapple. And chocolate.

Yeah…pizza, caprese, strawberries and pineapple. Hawaiian Caprese Pizza next week. With chocolate covered strawberries for desert. #winning (yes, I often speak in hashtags. #blameTwitter)

Caprese Skewers:
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
A few basil leaves
1 ball of fresh mozzarella (cute in cubes)
about 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Wooden skewers

Place balsamic vinegar in pot. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until reduced to a couple of tablespoons.
Meanwhile, skewer tomatoes, mozzerella, and torn basil leaves. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.

It sounds fancier than it is. : )

Best part of the evening. Shhh...he'll kill me for posting these.

**I promise a real recipe soon. Really. I promise.
Also, please excuse my horribly, poorly decorated apartment. I am a broke law student, remember??