Thursday, March 24, 2011

Love At First Sit

I've been wanting an outdoor patio set for quite some time. After we hung the sparkly lights outside on our patio last fall, that need for a dining set outdoors kicked into high gear. Since my Mom is going to see my house today for the first time, we had lots of motivation to burn the 7:00 PM oil last night to finish assembling the chairs and table. And here they are!

My sister ordered this patio set for us using their employee discount at Walmart. It's nice to have family in the "biz.". We shipped it Site-To-Store to Mesa for free, though it was a long two weeks of waiting! When it arrived, my other sister helped me get it to my house in her Tundra. I couldn't have done it without these two ladies...thanks, Charloe and T'liese!

Last Saturday, while John was busy sawing and drilling the shed in the backyard, I worked on assembling some of the chairs on the front lawn. Though I was expecting green cushions, I am really starting to love the cream. I am not a fan of the lumbar pillows and wasn't even when we ordered, but I figured that would be an easy thing to replace (if we even use and need them at all). As each piece came together, I got more excited about this set. It's always a risk buying something online without seeing it in person first. But I am thrilled with this puppy.

It just screams, "Entertain here!" I really love the look of wood, but everything is made of powder-coated aluminum. It won't rust, but it looks like wood that will need a lot of tender care. In this case, I can "tender care" it by hosing it down with water. Does it get any easier than that?!

Since we are hosting Sunday Family Dinner here this coming week, I'm so tickled that the set is built and ready for use. In addition, we will now have somewhere to sit today to enjoy my homemade chips and salsa. I'm happy this thing is finally here! It's all coming together to help make this place our home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How To Win Your Husband's Heart With Pizza

A few months ago, my sister and I made several batches of homemade whole wheat pizza dough. I cried with the first bite I took because it was so good. Yesterday was such a busy day that I didn't have a chance to run to the store for groceries. However, thanks to a ball of dough in my freezer and some staples in my pantry, Hubby and I had a delicious dinner of made-from-scratch pizza.

I put the dough out to thaw that morning, adjusting the twisty tie towards the top of the bag to allow for expansion as the dough came back to life. After working outside all afternoon, I came in to heat up the pizza stone and prepare the toppings. We usually have a more gourmet pizza, with John's half being a Supreme with green peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, pepperoni, sausage, and lots of cheese. My side is a little more simple but perfectly delicious...pepperoni and olives with caramelized onions. Holy smokes, the taste defies description. How have I not been using caramelized onions all my life?! But last night, since I was working with what was on hand, we simply had pepperoni and cheese. I tried a new brand of pepperoni, and it slightly defeated the health factor for which we were striving. Look at all that grease! Don't get me tasted delicious...but we've been trying (and succeeding) at eating healthier around here. Lots of fruits and veggies with healthy entrees. It was an amazing realization the other night when I recognized that we eat what I buy. So I need to get my act together! It's been a wonderful, tasty success so far. All three days of it.

Did you know that an ice cream craving can disappear with a handful of red grapes? Who says you can't learn something new every day?

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Heavenly Pizza. After an agonizing half hour of heating up the pizza stone, the crust was ready to be cooked for six minutes. This gave the dough a head start without overcooking the toppings later. I stood guard with a sharp knife during this initial baking, since bubbles popped up and needed to be destroyed! Once the pizza cooked for this short time, it was ready to be dressed up on top.

First, a layer of sauce went on top. I usually use a pizza sauce, but I was out. Luckily, my pantry had some Prego with Parmesan and roasted garlic flavors. As soon as I started spooning it onto the hot dough, the smell of Italian cooking filled the kitchen. For the next topping, freshly-grated mozzarella really does taste much better than the pre-shredded varieties found in the stores. I don't even buy the packaged stuff any more, and what a difference it has made in our lives! Finally, a layer of pepperoni before topping everything with some shredded aged Parmesan cheese. Yum!

It all went back into the oven for another thirteen minutes. I got busy making our salads while the last baking took place. The salads had mixed greens, Feta cheese, pecans, and Craisins with our choice of dressing. John likes Ranch dressing, and I do, too, if it's homemade. So I opted for the delicious vinaigrette from Kraft instead. The timer beeped for the pizza, and we dished it up onto plates.

Making something from scratch puts a whole new meaning on self-reliance. It has been so much fun making all of these goodies. And I know exactly what is in each thing that goes into our mouths! It's been very satisfying, to say the least. And if it happens to taste really good, too? Double Bonus.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How It All Began, Part I

Some things in my life have simply become fuzzy memories. I vaguely remember the general details of certain occurrences. Other situations, however, I remember very vividly. The decision to become a pilot is one of those wonderful memories that I seem to remember so well.

I grew up in a small town in Utah that wasn't exactly known for its aviation roots. For so long, I've told this story from the first that must be the truth! I know it was very early on in my public education experience that I learned about aviation. It happened at one of those school assemblies where they get us all together to discuss the negative effects of drugs or make us practice for an upcoming Christmas program where we get to sing lots of songs for our folks. This particular school assembly was held outside. It sounds silly, but none of us knew why we were sitting out on the grass of the huge playground. Soon a chop-chop-chop sound appeared and continued to draw closer until we made visual with its maker: a Robinson 22 helicopter. I admit that I didn't know what it was then. That didn't prevent me from watching in awe, with my mouth dropped open, I'm sure, as the helicopter came into view. It slowly descended until a perfect landing was made one-hundred feet from us.

"This is pretty dang cool," I thought to myself.

As the engine shut down and the rotor blades came to a halt, we were all invited to gather closer around the helicopter. The glass door opened and out stepped a man in a flight suit. And I was sold. Getting to fly something like that while wearing something so nifty? Count me in, sir! The pilot talked to us for about half an hour about the specs of his helicopter as well as how he got into flying himself. He was an uncle of one of my schoolmates, and Trevor certainly became the Popular Kid for the next several weeks. Others' enthusiasm began to die down after that, and the assembly organized by my school leaders was soon forgotten by most kids.

But not me.

It was at that point that I realized I really wanted to fly. It just seemed perfect for me, and I got butterflies every time the thought popped into my head. Which was quite often, considering I would run outside to follow the sound of anything flying overhead for the next ten years. My family just laughed at me when this happened. I would hear the annoyed shouts from inside that it was my turn for the game we were playing, but it didn't matter to me. There are airplanes to see out here, people! I would watch whatever flew over until it was out of sight.

While growing up, I had many opportunities to fly on commercial airliners with my dad. I remember my first flight as we boarded the Southwest 737, still painted with the classic brown and orange stripes. I was around seven years old. I lingered a little too long at the entry door, trying to peek into the cockpit. It was overwhelming to see all the buttons, flashing lights, and things to push in there! How could I ever know what all of that did?! As I sat down and buckled in, my hands grasped the armrest in eager anticipation. I will always remember the first time I got thrown back into the seat of my airplane as full thrust was applied for takeoff. Talk about exhilaration!

When I was about eleven, I attended a health clinic at the local hospital with my family. Most people attend this for the free popcorn (I did mention it was a health clinic, right?), but I was there because the LifeFlight Helicopter and crew had been invited. This was my first experience sitting in the cockpit of anything that flew, and the memory is forever burned in my head. I think the guy caught on that I was pretty interested, so he took the one-on-one time with me to let me touch the controls and explain what rudder pedals do. Luckily, there wasn't a line behind me, so I had lots of neat time sitting in the right seat of that Agusta A109 K2 helicopter. It was simply magical for me.

Just a few years later, I received one of the most precious gifts ever for my fourteenth birthday. My mom bought my registration for an aviation day camp hosted by Utah Valley State College, which had a thriving flight program. I got to spend an entire day on their campus at Provo Airport, learning about weather, aircraft systems, preflighting an airplane, and emergency procedures. I was so excited and nervous all at once, and it was at this day camp that I realized how outnumbered I would be for the rest of my life. I was the only girl in attendance! Rather than being intimidated, I was thrilled with my odds. I felt like I was more enthralled with everything, and I kind of ignored those dumb boys, anyway. I was too busy watching takeoffs and landings to be bothered by their childish games!

The best part of the camp was that I got to schedule a half-hour flight in their training airplane, the Diamond Katana. My mom even drove me all the way back up to Provo again for this adventure. It was incredible! In fact, I got to do my flight with the Director of Flight Operations, and he had a great time explaining everything he could to me in the shortest half hour of my life. Words can't describe the incredible feeling as the wheels left the ground. It just solidified my decision to fly.

I will be the first to admit that my attention turned elsewhere for some years of middle school and high school. I thought it would be pretty neat to become a spy. I still loved airplanes, but something else stole my thoughts for a while. You can imagine my killer social life at this point! I soon realized that I could be a spy and fly, so I soon went back to being obsessed with aviation full-time.

And then I enrolled in a college flight program after high school. That story deserves a second installment of How It All Began.

P.S. On a cross country flight while in college, I flew over a town just south of where I grew up. One of my readers lives there now. Hello, Karen in Salina! I'm so tickled that you read my blog. I thought just my mommy knew it existed...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Many Hands Make Really Heavy Work

We had some wonderful workers yesterday. An entire family showed up to help us get our alley way landscaped. The weather was perfect to allow us to work outside for five straight hours! I don't know how we could have done it without our manual labor assistance from Phoenix.

I had breakfast ready when they arrived. One must keep the troops fed and happy if a lot is expected of them. Soon we all headed outside to get to work. The girls weeded like there was no tomorrow, and it looks so much better! Weeds had to be removed before the boys could lay down the Weed Stop, which is a protective barrier that allows water and air to pass, but not weeds. Rocks had to be siphoned through John's homemade sifter before being placed on top of the Weed Stop. Since lots of gravel had to be moved before the Weed Stop could be placed, the first three hours of work were spent prepping the area.

We had some hard workers on our hands. We all grew up knowing how to work, and it was such a treat to combine forces to make such a difference at our house.

Did I mention this would have taken us a month without the help we received today?

Once the weeds were gone from the alley, the girls got to work pulling weeds by the root in the rest of the yard to prepare it for boys to scoop the gravel onto the Weed Stop. One of the girls needed a nap, and her mom took her inside to put her down. Then her mommy stayed inside to do all the breakfast dishes! Can it get any better?! The boys spent the last few hours separating dirt from gravel and then pouring it on top of the Weed Stop. We got all the corners held down before deciding we were all tuckered out for the day.

We ended with a delicious meal at Cafe Rio, one of my favorite places to grab a burrito.

Since they prefer to stay anonymous, many pictures are missing because our manual laborers appeared. It's difficult not giving them credit for all their hard work, but I am a respecter of privacy! It didn't mean I didn't ask a few hundred times if I could post the photos for all to enjoy.

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