Saturday, February 19, 2011

Build it like Bekvam.

I like our apartment pretty well, but the kitchen is not its selling point. Calling it an "alley kitchen" would be something of an exaggeration in its favor. In fact, I'm not sure  it can even technically be called a "kitchen" because it is missing one essential element of kithcendom: counters.

I'm not saying "Wah wah, there isn't much counter space." I mean, it literally doesn't have a counter to speak of. The one-foot-across surface between the sink and the stove is the closest we get.

This has led to many meals being prepared on a cutting board placed over the sink, and more than a few dinners served on a dining room table that is covered in mixing bowls and frying pans. It's not that our kitchen is tiny; it's not. There is plenty of room where a counter and more cabinets would've been ideal. (Ran out of time and money, maybe?)

So, we finally purchased a kitchen cart/butcher block.  In the tradition of IKEA, it is called something meaningless to English speakers: "Bekvam."  This rolls off the tongue more easily than "kitchen-cart-slash-butcher-block", so that's what we call it.  This device has improved our overall kitchen satisfaction immensely.

In the other tradition of IKEA, it had to be assembled by a husband.

I wouldn't say that we're oddly fond of it, but the phrase "Who's a good Bekvam? Yes you are!" is no longer among phrases that have never been spoken our home.

To address the other main flaw of our kitchen: lack of cabinetry, Ryan installed a shelf.  He thrifted it, fixed it up, installed some hooks, and mounted it on the wall.


"I'm trying so hard. Please love me. Here is your trashcan."  - Our Kitchen


"I'm a REAL Kitchen Now! "

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Say what you will about Valentine's day, but I never turn down a chance to get a new cavity.

Personally, I see it as a fun, low-key holiday. He gets me a rose (or not), I bake him cookies (or not), and everyone goes home happy. Growing up, we always celebrated it as a family, made valentines for each other, and had a gay old time. It's too bad that such a simple, fun idea as Valentine's day has to result in bad feelings and disappointment for millions of housewives, and loneliness for single folk (who are even more bitter  than the disappointed housewives.)

It just doesn't need to be that big of a deal!

But, I had to make dinner anyway, so why not do something special? In considering how to best gastronomically express my love, I remembered that there was shrimp in the freezer, and salmon. "I think there's even a couple sirloin steaks in there!" I thought "Maybe some pommes maxim and raspberry flan?!"

As I was getting carried away, I briefly considered Ryan and realized I was barking up the wrong tree.  Duh. Nothing would make him happier after a long day of studying and working than homemade pizza. So, I busted out the linens, canldesticks, champagne glasses, and pizza stone.

Pizza with Ina Garten's Cheese Straws

Despite being at school all day and taking a test until 9 pm, he still managed to bring home my favorite ice cream and some Swedish Fish, which I preferred 100 fold over anything resembling a bear. Hallmark-inflicted duty mutually fulfilled.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Continental US is the landmass I most resent (for trying to keep us apart).

Maybe it doesn't seem so miraculous in the information age, but I still  think it's pretty cool that people from opposite sides of the country, or the world, can actually get together and live happily ever after.

With Ryan being from Washington state, and me from the Washington, D.C. area, I'm pretty grateful for modern transportation  and communication. Come to think of it, I'm also grateful for this great nation that gives us the freedom to use them as we please (Hey, I said I resent the landmass, not the country).

So, in the spirit of Valentine's Day, I made this illustration to adorn our transcontinental hearth: 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Case for Jewelry

My jewelry storage situation has been getting out of control recently:

Tangled octopi of necklaces
Mountains of unruly adornments

Things were getting desperate.
The biggest offenders were my earrings. Maybe it's because I only got my ears pierced three years ago and didn't grow up learning how to care for them, but I have always been at a loss.  I've tried keeping them on jar rims, poking them into ribbons, and sticking them in cardboard pieces, but they were always getting tangled and broken. I had finally had enough. Necessity bred this solution:
Nylon stockings over an empty frame.
Secured with  staples and hot glue. Two layers.
I cut the lining from an assorted chocolates box to fit this clamshell box.
Now it neatly holds pins, pendants, and charms.

The finished nylon-backed frame.

 A similar invention for necklaces:
Paper-covered cardboard in an empty frame.
Not exactly fine art, but at least the jewelry
is off the counter/carpet/dresser tops.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

From The Archives: Mexican Riveria Cruise, Summer 2009

We were late adopters of the whole "web logging" thing, so I feel the need to go back and share some of memories we've been collecting in our  (almost) three years of marriage. These posts will be titled "From The Archives" so you can easily identify and skip them. Enjoy!

As a graduation present from my incredibly generous parents, we got to go on a cruise! We had planned to go immediately after my graduation in April of 2009, but that whole swine flu scare  (yeah, remember that?) messed things up. Carnival, instead of cancelling our cruise to Mexico, just told us one week before we were supposed to leave that it had been 'rerouted' to Canada.

Great! Instead of warm, beautiful Mexico, we can go spend a week on the freezing coast of CANADA! No offense to Canada (I'm kidding - definitely offense to Canada), it's not the tropical get away we had in mind. But, after several long hold-times and conversations with "vacationers service" (Carnival's adorable answer to "customer service"), we were able to reschedule for August and go to our original destinations:  Porta Vallarta. Mazatlan,  and Cabo. Yippee!

It was a very full week of eating, relaxing and playing. We tried to keep a balance of having fun and just doing nothing. (We even hit up the gym a couple times to keep energized. I have to say the ocean sunrise was a more inspiring view than I've ever seen on a gym television.)

Of all the good food we had, this Molten Chocolate Cake
was the item we had to order with every meal.

When it came to the meals in the dining room, I'm not going to say the food was all Michelin-star worthy, but the service was top-notch, and the food definitely better than I've been served in some restaurants.  Our favorite meals came not from the formal dining room, but the  sushi bar, the tepanyaki, the seafood/steak grill, and the various buffets on the seven decks of the ship.  And of course, everything was complimentary, including the fully-stocked sundae bar.

A new cute towel animal in our cabin every day!
We had a monkey, a parrot, a dog, a rabbit and this little humanoid.
Overall, we were impressed by how comfortably the ship and staff accommodated over three thousand people all week long. Our days aboard the ship were just as enjoyable as our days on shore.

Our favorite excursion was in Porto Vallarta where took a speed boat (pictured), then a jeep, and finally a donkey to get to the top of the Sierra Madre mountains. From there, we repelled down a 100 ft waterfall and and ziplined at 50 MPH down to the other side of the mountain where we enjoyed a delcious lunch on the beach.

We were so dirty after the ziplining that we washed up public
fountain. (Hey, other people were doing it too.)

In Porto Vallarta, we saw a couple kissing parrots. Cute.

This is our cabin. Very cozy. We were just grateful to have our own bathroom.

Not sure if I've ever felt whiter than when we took this picture in Mazatlan.

These next three pictures capture a lowlight of the trip:

Ryan entering the water in Mazatlan. Note the glasses on his face, where they belong.

Returning from the water moments later, longingly
looking back for any sign of his glasses.

Resigned to having lost them, a picture of discouragement.
After a wave knocked the glasses off Ryan's unwise face, I purchased some goggles from a passing beach vendor and swam around, looking for them. The surf was pretty clam so I thought there was a chance of finding them, but the water was so murky that I couldn't see a thing. We went to a local mega-mart with an optomotrist,  but they said it would take six hours to make him new ones.

With only an hour before the ship set sail, Ryan had to return to the ship mostly blind. We cancelled the scuba excursion we had planned for the next day since Ryan wouldn't have been able to see a single fish.  He squinted for the last three days of the cruise, which I found pretty amusing.

Free room service! A delicious pairing for whatever junkfood
movie was on HBO that night. Something with Jennifer Aniston.

Day 6, Cabo San Lucas

Ryan pointing to my tiny floating head.

Cabo had the best beach of the cities we visited. White sand,
clear water and amazing snorkeling.  (The fish were so close
that even Ryan could see them a little bit)  

(More brilliant than they appear. Bluish purple).

With our Scuba trip cancelled, we had a chance to tour the city and do a little window shopping. I didn't expect to get anything, but Ryan insisted on spoiling me with these beautiful tanzanite earrings and necklace.

 Apart from the stone, the best thing about this necklace is its versatility.
It's  sterling silver on one side, 18k gold on the other so I can
wear it with a bunch of different pendants (and I do)

Back on the top deck of the ship, we played
some mini golf. Ryan won by two strokes.
Towel Monkey hanging from the ceiling of our cabin.
(Note Ryan squinting to look at it without his glasses)

Our last night on the ship was  "Formal Night", and we
were a little unprepared. Ryan didn't even have a coat!
Oh well, at least we weren't wearing sneakers like some folks.
Each night there was a plethora of events to keep even the most ADD child happy.  Live music,  karoke, and gambling (we played no stakes) around every corner, as well as a main show in the theater which seated about a thousand people at a time.  We didn't go to all of the main shows, but the ones we did attend were worth watching.  Our favorite was a stand up comedy set by a hilarious gentleman whom I had definitely seen on Comedy Central, but whose name I can't recall. The Vegas-style singing and dancing chorus was a big hit with the 70+ set, and I secretly liked it too.

Enjoying some live lounge music and a virgin Miami Vice
on our last day aboard the Carnival Splendor.

By the end of the week Ryan had made friends with the
chef at the 24-Hour Pizza Bar. We visited him at least once a day.
There are definitely worse ways to spend a week! We both agreed that next time we visit Mexico, we'd like to go by ourselves and do some real exploring, without a cruise director pandering to our laziness. But it sure was nice being so spoiled. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Say those words I love to hear.

Vanilla Raspberry Panncotta
(moments before I backhanded it off the table. The
patient waitstaff quickly cleaned it up and replaced it for me.
I'd like to submit that among the most beautiful word combinations in the English language is the phrase "Free Food."

I don't know about you, but the very words give me a rush of joy and hunger, especially when that food is good Italian from Carrabba's. And yes, by Provo standards Carrabba's is "good Italian." It's a national chain, but there isn't any fake antique sporting equipment or music paraphernalia plastered on the walls, so it's pretty much the best you're going to do around here.

They actually serve up some darn tasty, and I'd even say, authentic dishes. And because I signed up for their "Amici Club" a few months ago, they invited us to a preview tasting of their new winter menu. Sweet!

Here's what we had:
Spinach Fonduta with Fontina and Guyere and Olive Oil Toast.

Rigatoni Al Forno with Ricotta and a nice fennely pork sausage

Clockwise:  Chicken Cacciatore, roasted veggies, Mushrooms with Sundried tomatoes and Polenta, Tri-tip skewer.

It was a nice casual dinner served up family-style, and much more than I expected from a complimentary tasting. The chef and the manager both greeted us personally and we had nothing but compliments for them. Surprisingly, the polenta was a highlight of the meal. It was really light and flavorful, compared to the greasy slab of cornmeal it can sometimes be. The steak and pasta were delicious too. Nothing was over-cooked or under-seasoned to the credit of the kitchen.

The manager at our Orem location said they'll be doing this again in the Spring, so maybe go check out the Amici club and if nothing else, you'll get a free appetizer on your next visit (at any location). I signed up about eight months ago and they've only emailed me a handful of times, and one of those was an invitation to a free meal. Can't complain.

Ryan enjoying his favorite beverage. (Coke zero, not wine)

This guy sitting next to us wasn't nearly as creepy this picture would suggest.