Month: December 2013

Best of 2013

So 2013 will go down as one of the best ever for me- new house, roommate and tenants, new friends, social media galore, tons of fun experiences, 2 challenging open water swims,  and a job change. Add a boyfriend on there and you’d about be perfect!

But let me fill you in on some other ‘best of’ from 2013

Best Movie- Gravity.  Still say its a masterpiece.  One of the best movies I have ever seen period.

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/10/18/gravity/

Best Music- Michael Buble- To Be Loved album

Best Song- Sara Barellis- Brave

Best New TV Show- The Goldbergs (trust me on this one.  It is much funnier than it looks)

Also Super Fun Night

Best Reality Show- Survivor: Blood vs Water.  I had my doubts but the new twist of family on family really created fireworks.

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/10/24/survivor-blood-vs-water/

Biggest TV Letdown- Downton Abby continued the drab season 3 with a drab season 4 (sorry US viewers but it’s a doozie).

Best Book I Read- Nothing new really caught my fancy. Book Thief, Gift from the Sea and North and South were welcome rereads

Best Theater- I think In the Heights at Hale Theater Orem caught me off guard.  A welcome surprise.

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/10/12/hale-center-theater/

Best Concert- Michael Buble was amazing!

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/11/21/michael-buble-2013/

Best Restaurant- I love Couscous Mediterranean Grill

http://couscousgrill.com/

Best Bakery- Bake 360

https://smilingldsgirl.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/bakery.jpg

https://smilingldsgirl.com/2013/08/20/bake-360/

Best Food Subscription Box- Nature Box

Best Treat Box- Treatsie

Best Makeup Box- Birchbox

Best Lifestyle Box- Pop Sugar Must Have

Most Read Blog Post- Top 10 Overrated Movies

Goals Achieved- bought house, moved in, had custom made cake done for me, GSL and Deer Creek finished, and finished nanowrimo second time

Other highlights- white water rafting in America River, LDS Storymakers 2013, Disneyland with fam, finished eye therapy, new family ward, new friends.

And one of the highlights of my life and TV swimsuit debut!

What were some of your 2013 highlights and favorites?

2013 in photos

2013 has been a pretty amazing year. The highlights were buying my house and finishing the gsl swim and my disney trip.
The true highlight was all the great moments with friends.
Happy new year!

Sick Christmas

So remember how I wrote about this being the ‘perfect Christmas’?  Well, I had a feeling I was jinxing myself and I sure did.  I had been dealing with a cough for a couple of weeks but then on Monday I really started to feel poorly.  Enough so that I went to the doctor just in case it was an infection.  Turns out it was a virus.  No big surprise.

I was hoping it would just be a little thing but Tuesday (Christmas Eve) I wasn’t feeling great but I pushed through the day.  My throat hurt and I just didn’t feel good. I got through the day and then stumbled home and crashed sleeping till 10 am.  I felt pretty rotten but I went up to where my parents are staying and got my presents but I kept falling asleep (a bad sign.  I never take naps unless I’m sick) and after about 12:30 I felt so bad I had to go home and spent the rest of Christmas Day in bed.

Then yesterday and today came with more time in bed and I still feel very rotten.  I can’t talk, my throat hurts and I just feel awful.  Thank you to my home teachers who gave me a blessing this morning and my friend Tanya who brought me dinner.

I hope this weekend I am able to improve.  We will see.  At least I have some time off work to heal.

Send out a prayer my way.  Thanks.  Thanks to my family for coming out here.  I am soooo grateful to not be traveling with this sickness.

Merry Christmas 2013

Just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas!  I’ve got a bit of a sinus infection today but other than that this holiday season has been perfect.  A dream come true.  I am so grateful for my family coming to Utah for the holidays.  Especially being sick I am SOOO grateful that I don’t have to travel right now.

I am also grateful for my house and the chance I’ve had to make it a Christmas home with lights outside and my first real tree inside.  I am grateful for my memory ornaments and twinkle lights.  I’m grateful for the tree in my room and the goodies I’ve made in my kitchen.  I’m grateful to have a home that I love, a wonderful roommate and amazing tenants leaving and great one’s moving in.

Holiday Decor
Holiday Decor

I am grateful for the stories of Christmas whether it be in a movie, book or play I love Handel’s music, Scrooge’s redemption, Ralphie’s red rider bee-bee gun, or George Bailey’s epiphany.  I like the sappy movies on Hallmark and all the Christmas carols even the silly one’s.  I love the gifts I was able to give this year and excited to get a few tomorrow.

I am grateful for our Christmas traditions of German food and a nativity play.  I also had a lot of fun spending time with my siblings this week including playing games yesterday and getting Christmas manicures with 2 of my sisters.

Nativity play.
Nativity play.
I got a Christmas card from the main office today and it meant a lot to me. Being a telecommuter it was nice to hear their words
I got a Christmas card from the main office today and it meant a lot to me. Being a telecommuter it was nice to hear their words
Our traditional German meal
Our traditional German meal

Most importantly I am grateful for Jesus Christ.  His birth, life, suffering and death makes it possible for all of us to be redeemed from sin and despair.  He has walked where we have walked . He has understood all and he loves us like nobody else could.  I know he is my Savior and He has never forgotten  me even when it seemed I was totally alone He was there. Gloria! His name be praised.

I hope He is with you this time of year and always.  Thank you for all your support on the blog and the love and fun we have together.  Thank you and Merry Christmas!!!!

To any of you that are alone this Christmas, I’ve been there and love you.  Christ loves you.  You’ll get through it and next year you may find you’ll have the best Christmas ever.  I know what that is like. 🙂

 

How Spaghetti Changed My Life

spaghetti singing

 

I know this is an odd post for the holidays but I am working on a personal essay for the BYU Studies contest and it is due Dec 31st.  I was wondering if any of you would be willing to read over my rough draft and offer me some guidance, editing.  Whatever you feel comfortable or have the time for would be great.  I can email you the .doc if you would like.  Just put your email in the comments section and I will send it your way.  Thank you in advance.

Most everyone has heard this story.  I have posted it in 2 different forms on this blog but this one is more personal and in depth than the 2 others.  I love it.  I think it is one of the best moments of my life.  I hope I have captured it even a little.

(and don’t worry I don’t love it too much to be unwilling to have it critiqued).

How Spaghetti Changed My Life

The stack on my desk seemed to be screaming with each piece of paper “Go home” and yet the existence of the stack meant I could not go home.  My boss Tanya had already read me a riot act about entering all the AP by the end of the day if you ‘can do something right’.

“I’m sorry.  I will try” I mumbled.  I had given up arguing with Tanya years before.  She was convinced I was an idiot along with most everyone else in the office.  If she had her druthers she would do everyone’s job at the office.  At least then, in her eyes, it would be done right.

Normally I didn’t mind working late and doing the mind numbing work but today I had a reason I had to be out of there and the longer I stayed the more frustrated I felt.  It was like each invoice was a slap in the face.  I wanted to speed up but that would make more mistakes so a slow well-done data entry was required.  Ugh….

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.  Every now and then I would look at a photo of my graduation and the excitement on my face would inspire and confuse me.  How had I ended up here with a stack of papers to enter and boss breathing down my neck, yet here I was.

The truth is I looked around, interviewed and the only offer I had was to work in accounting for our corporate office.  It was the last thing I ever imagined I’d be doing, balancing books and entering AP but it was a job and in 2008 you took what was offered and felt grateful.

It was never a great fit but I had worked hard and gained many new responsibilities.  In fact, 2 people had quit and I had absorbed most of their work in addition to my own.   I received little to no training and worked with a manager who treated me like a bug she wished she could shoo out of her way.

Somehow I had managed to last 2 years but each day I felt lower and more despondent that anything better could come in my life.  It seemed like madness to quit my job and dive into nothingness but the staying was like one of those Roadrunner cartoons and I’m Wyllie Coyote getting hit with anvils of misery and depression.

Indeed, God had told me to make a change many times.  Prayer after prayer I heard the words ‘make a change’ but I set it aside or was left asking ‘how?’  ‘How does a sane person quit their job from their family company, in a recession, with benefits?  That’s nuts!’ but on the other end, ‘how does someone live life with a cloud surrounding their every movement, a cloud of stifled dreams and confusion that weighed me down until I just wanted to cry.

And so on this day like many I continued down the pile until all the AP entry was done.

“There!”  It was 6:30.  Worked overtime again but at least Tanya always knew that my 10 key was insanely fast, faster than hers, so if that’s how long it took me that was the fastest it could be done.

Of course she didn’t praise my speed “Oh get on out of her”

Like a prisoner getting a pardon I grabbed my bag and raced home.

You see there was particular urgency to get home tonight because I had a meal to prepare.  Most of the times I was too exhausted to cook but when I did I loved to make a big to go of it.  There is nothing grander than the large pot of soup simmering for hours or a turkey that is just crispy skin but moist on the inside.  We lived in the tiniest apartment in a basement with basically a bar-sized kitchen but I could make masterpieces when given the encouragement.

Luckily such encouragement had come a few months before.  My ward did a service auction every year to raise money for sub 4 Santa.  It was something I had spearheaded many times, even in high school, and I would have liked to this year but I was too busy at work, especially in the busy holiday accounts and end of the year reconciling.  January, the month of my birthday, was even worse.  I thought about it with a shudder….

At the auction I didn’t know what to donate but I knew that many knew what a great cook I was so I offered up 3 meals of your choice made by Rachel Wagner.   The bidding started and it was pretty brisk than Darren came through with the win.  I must admit I groaned.  He was the last person I wanted to win. Not because he wasn’t a nice guy but he was so boring.  I had tried so many times to start up a discussion and nothing, no opinions or thoughts on anything!  It kind of made me nuts (and not a nuts you kind of like him nuts, just nuts!).

After the auction I met up with Dave and I asked him what meals he would like.

“Well, whatever.  I’m sure it will be great”

“No, it says your favorite 3 meals?” I pressed him further.

“I don’t really have a favorite”

“Ok.  Is there something you don’t like?” I asked

“Mustard.   I don’t like mustard”.  I was honestly proud of the boy.  An opinion had been shared for the first time in 2 years of our friendship.  The boy didn’t like mustard!  But that really doesn’t help me with my meal.

“Well, if you aren’t going to decide than I will.  I will make my favorite 3 meals without mustard, which is basically all my favorite meals!”

So he agreed and I made a couple of unmemorable if tasty meals and tonight was the coup de gras- my favorite food period: spaghetti and meatballs marinara.

This was to be a meal to never forget.  Sweet and spicy sauce with tender meatballs, spaghetti, parmesan cheese.  Perfect.

I had done all the shopping beforehand but by the time I got home I had an hour to make the entire meal.  My roommate said

“Maybe we should just go out to eat”

“No! I’m tired of mediocre food.  I promised this meal to myself (I mean Darren) and I (he) is going to get it!”

“Ok.  Let’s help.  I’m mixing the meat and then we will be rolling meatballs.  Can you fill the pasta pot up with water and get started on the sauce”

At this point my hands were submerged in meat.  Going against the grain I used pork, beef and Italian sausage (which I realize is pork but different).  Veal was out of my budget but the sausage has a bit of spice and tastes great.

I had learned that both dry and wet breadcrumbs are key to their moistness and a cookbook I read also suggested putting a tablespoon or two of water when you are mixing.  How can water not make something moist!

Eventually the meat mixture was done and I started rolling.  It was already 7 by then and I had just started. The sauce was bubbling and smelled great.   My phone kept ringing but as long as it wasn’t Darren I kept my head down and rolled as fast as I could.   Finally, after what seemed like forever it was done and the raw beauties sat out in front of me ready to go into my Dutch oven for browning.

The meat sizzled as it went into the hot oil and all the spice and fat in the meat smelled delicious.  I felt myself deep breathing in the glorious aromas and the cloud went away for a few minutes.  I felt lightness and happiness as I worked making a meal for friends.

As I looked up the pasta water had boiled down to nothing and our kitchen looked like a sauna with the windows fogging up.  So I filled the pot again and literally waited for it to boil.  It really feels like it will never boil!

Eventually we had pasta cooking and I moved the meatballs into the sauce to cook together for a time.  Darren was here by now and he was giving my roommate his normal annoying answers- poor girl.

I cooked with a form of devotion veering on madness.  This one thing in my life I would do perfectly right.  I was tired of screwing up all the time and having my boss remind me of each and every last one.  Goodness knows she’s totally ignorant of all that I do and how to do it so it’s easy to criticize others when you are ignorant.

I took a deep breath and said to myself ‘I need to not think about her the rest of the evening.  No more’

Easier said than done but I sat down in a dining room chair waiting for the meatballs to finish cooking.  I felt exhausted.  My whole body hurt.  My brain hurt.  I was ready to hibernate for months, preferably until summer.  I was totally spent.

Eventually the water bubbled up over the pan so I checked the pasta and it was al dente.  The meatballs were cooked all the way through and we had a light salad made on the side.   It was finally done and only 1 ½ hours late!

So we sat down my friends and I and said a prayer over the food and then dove in…

The spaghetti noodle rolled around my fork for a few minutes until it was about the size of the meatball.  I cut the meatball in half and it became the perfect bite.  As I feasted on all those flavors I tasted acid, sweet, earthy parmesan, hearty pasta.  The meatballs were light and full of flavor.  Everything was delicious and I said to myself.

“This is the best meal I have ever made and I feel sublimely happy. I feel like I could conquer the world.  That’s how good this food tastes. I felt alive in a way I hadn’t felt for years eating that perfect plate of food. “

In one of those moments of clarity we all have in life, I looked up at my friends and said

“Why isn’t the rest of my life this good?”

Indeed, why wasn’t the rest of my life as good as this amazing plate of pasta?  It was a question I pondered on for many weeks.  Eventually I realized that I could either be miserable forever and have a true nervous breakdown (already had a panic attack so it was coming) or I could start having joyous experiences again.  I could find things that make me as happy as that spaghetti.

So I quit.  I quit and I’ve never looked back.  It was the best decision of my life and it was all from a bowl of spaghetti.

It’s a Wonderful Christmas

I know I’ve spent my fair share of time complaining on this blog so let me give you a bit of joy.  I have had such a great December.  I feel happy.  I feel light and joyful (although the news last night left me a bit miffed but I’ll proceed).  Anyway, I can say with 100% assurance that this has already been the best Christmas of my adult life.

Yes, you read right.  The best Christmas of my adult life.  Like I explained in my previous post I’ve gotten to do everything I want to do at Christmas from attending Tabernacle Christmas Concert to watching every Christmas movie I can think of.  My trees are beautiful, treats have been yummy, friends have been great and today I had carollers at my house!

I think part of it is it’s my first Christmas in my own home and there is something very comforting about and isn’t Christmas all about comforting?  In some ways I feel like it has been my first Christmas at home since Maryland (that would be 1998).  I was always visiting except for last year which doesn’t count because I was in boxes waiting for this house to be done (worst Christmas ever).

I know people say that home is whereever your family is but I don’t know if that is true for me.  Maybe it would be if I never saw my family but I see them every couple of weeks (or at least my Dad) so when I’m in California it really is traveling and being away.  Also I realized in September that traveling isn’t as much fun as it used to be.  If it isn’t at the beach I’m kind of over it. Anyone else relate to that?

It’s not that I wasn’t happy before but I can’t deny that I have felt a lightness and happiness lately I haven’t experienced in a long time.  It makes me happy that I’m happy. :).

Even my Mom was saying today that she notices I’m a different person when I’m home, and yet I don’t mean to be.  I can’t explain it, but I am so grateful.  I’m grateful my family came out here and grateful for every part of this great Christmas including all of you!  Merry Christmas!!!

It’s a wonderful life and time to be Rachel!

Best Christmas of my adult life.  Any of you relate? Are you ever puzzled by yourself and how you feel?

(skip the bad santa clip)