Monday, December 5, 2016

International Treats

Teaching 9th grade is hard.  Teaching a subject where you are expected to do a tap dance all day is harder.  Teaching a generation that expects everything to be fun every. single. minute. is. the. hardest.

My solution?

Give them get a taste of their own medicine. :)

I have all my students do a presentation about a country from around the world.  We do one presentation a day from about Christmas until the end of the year.  (because is there anything worse than listening to students presentations for an entire period???)  One requirement for the presentation is some type of visual aide.  Some students just make a powerpoint of pictures, some bring in souvenirs from the country, others bring in guest speakers, but always welcome is the food.  Because of these presentations I have tested all sorts of crazy foods from all over the world.  (But let's be honest, the really crazy food I always pass on.... So I didn't eat the cow intestine soup or the pig feet or even the kimchi.  Ew.  But your better believe I taste all the treats.

I have become a connoisseur of international treats. Some international treats are becoming more popular in the U.S.  For instance, when I started doing these country presentations back in 2008 I had never heard of Hi-Chew.  But now you can find them anywhere.  *Did you know the Japanese created Hi-Chew to be like gum?  In Japanese culture it is offensive to take anything out of your mouth.  So they created this candy to chew like gum but then swallow when you are finished.  (Hence I feel like I have a lump of gum in my stomach if I eat too many)  But man they are delicious.

 Or like Haribo gummy candy.  This German company is a lot more common for not just it's gummy bears but all of it's different varieties of gummy candy.  *My personal favorite are the Berries and the Italian Sour Spaghetti.

 Japaneses Pocky can now be found in pretty much any grocery store.

 Ah.............. Brazilian lemonade might be my favorite non caffeinated drink of all time.

So those are all pretty common in the United States.  So I thought I'd make a list of my 10 Ten Not As Common International Treats.

10. Not necessarily my favorite but definitely needs to be on the list are alfajores.  This South American cookie *I've had students from Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil claim they originated there... so I'll call it South American.  But this shortbread type cookie is filled with dulce de leche and then rolled in coconut.  I put this one at number 10 because often times I find it very dry.  But a caramel center?  Can't complain too much.

9. Australian Licorice.  I put this one at number 9 for no other reason than it is common in US so not that impressive.  The taste on the other hand is amazing!  Although I feel there are a lot of imitators out there now that are pretty disgusting.  But a good authentic Australian Licorice is pretty hard to beat.  My personal favorites are strawberry, apple, and black licorice.  

8. Botan Rice Candy from Japan.  I have 2 different rice candies on this list.  This one is pretty amazing.

7. Cadbury Flake from United Kingdom.  I am not a huge chocolate person.  Especially plain chocolate.  But the way this candy bar flakes off and melts in your mouth is pretty impressive.  

6. Brigadeiro from Brazil.  The first time I had this treat I could not believe how unbelievably delicious it was!  It a barely chocolatey flavored ball of sweet and condensed milky heaven.  I don't understand why they aren't more popular in the US.

5. Nanaiomo bars.... okay.  This is actually the treat that I am most shocked that I hadn't had before.  They are hugely popular in Canada and they are delicious!   With layers of a coconuty, nutty bottom, a custardy middle, and a chocolate top... delicious!  I haven't made them because you have to use custard powder and I never remember to buy it, but I really need to make them soon.

4. I love lavender flavor things.  I understand it's probably an acquired taste....  kinda like number 2 on the list.  But still.... I love lavender.  In my top 3 favorite things I've ever eaten was a lavender gelato in Florence.  But anyway, luckily the British also love lavender.  I have had multiple different flavored lavender candies from Britain but here are two of my favorite.  The second I call Lavendar Smarties.  

3. Of course we've all heard of Macaroons before.   But this cookie is out of this world.  I had a student whose parents immigrated from France.  True french people.   (With the smell and all) My student and her mother tried to explain to me about macaroons.  I wasn't really clear in their broken English but I think they told me what Americans think of as macaroons are actually macarons.  These cookies are macaroons.  They are made with almond flour.  They are crispy and chewy and unbelievable delicious.

2. Like I said... this one is also a very acquired taste.  Maybe it is my Danish heritage... but man oh man do I absolutely love a good hearty Scandinavian black licorice.  I have had some really awful ones... too salty.  Or too soft.  OR the worst was the bag I bought in the Copenhagen airport that had menthol in it! Ew.  Anyway, but a good black licorice is hard to beat.  

 1. But my favorite and possible the most unique of all the international candies I have tasted is the White Rabbit from China.  I like to call it a Milk Flavored Tootsie Roll.  They are so simple and absolutely delicious.  Sometimes a bit hard (I read they are supposed to be hard because they were created for Chinese workers out in the fields.  They would keep them in their pockets and the heat of their body would warm them up as they worked all day.)  But they are delicious.  And a good source of calcium. :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanksgiving Break

The best news about Thanksgiving this year was it meant Jason is done with school until January!  Another semester under his belt... only 5 to go!  *But who's counting? :)

So Tuesday after school we headed down to Cedar.  Wednesday morning we woke up and headed to sunny perfect weather St. George.  While I went for a run along the Virgin River Jason and Brad went to breakfast, took a nap, and hung out.  Then we went to Chuckawalla to do a little rock climbing.  It was an absolutely beautiful perfect day.  I don't usually post videos on here.... but this one is too perfect!!!  It just shows how Brad really is the best baby in the entire world.  Because A. He just sat in his stroller and hung out while we climbed.  B. He responded perfectly!!! (Yes, in the video I accidentally say that it was Thanksgiving when it was really the day before Thanksgiving)


Anyway, after Chuckawalla we decided to go to Zion.  Zion has turned into a pretty crowded place most of the time.  Thanksgiving is the PERFECT time to go.  Hardly any crowds and no stupid shuttles.  It was a bit chilly but it was amazing!
We decided to hike to Emerald Pools because Jason has never been and at least half of the trail is stroller friendly. 

And then when the trail got to hard for a stroller we just parked the stroller and used the carrier.

It was awesome.

Our Thanksgiving plans kinda changed last minute but luckily for us Brad still got to hang out with his closest cousin in age, Max.  It was wonderful to be with Craig and Marcie and to see Max and what Brad will be like in 6 months.  It's crazy how relative things are.  We were thinking of how big Brad is... and then when he got around Max Brad seemed like such a baby.  

And then we had our cute little Thanksgiving dinner.  Just the 5 of us.

And then it was off to San Diego we went!  Because we needed to reunite Brad and his Grandma....  it had been far too long.
Startin' 'em young!
Friday morning was one of those runs.  I've talked about it a million times.  How so many runs just suck.  Are absolutely terrible.  Every single stupid step hurts so badly.  I question over and over again why I do it.  (My run in St. George was that way on Wednesday)  And then this run happened.  The stars aligned.  It was a beautiful 60 degrees.  Perfectly sunny.  Not a stitch of wind.  And my body felt great.  I ran and ran and ran listening to Christmas music every step of the way.  It was amazing.  I kept stopping to take pictures along the way.  I thought the scenery was worth documenting. The Rolling hills of Fallbrook...
Grape vineyards....
My favorite row of palm trees............
But all the beauty of Fallbrook can't even compete to what I saw when I got back to the house....
Seriously... this yard never gets old.
After getting ready I saw that Friday was the best day to go to the beach.  Perfectly sunny, 72 degrees, and no wind..... that good of a beach day doesn't always happen, even in the summer!  So we took advantage and it was perfect!  I don't know what it is about the ocean, but it gets me every time.
Obviously, Brad loved it too!

Just in case you think all our pictures are picture perfect.....
All my favorite things........... kisses.... Baby.... ocean.... and sunshine.
I love this set of pictures of Brad trying to smile and clap even with the bright sunshine.

We hurried back to Jason's because Brad's favorite aunt came to town!  We were so so so excited that Aunt Wendy and Uncle Mike joined us for Thanksgiving at Jason's parents.  (And I'm not just writing this because Wendy might read it :)

I am so bummed I didn't take any more pictures.  The rest of the weekend was rainy and windy so we spend most of our time inside talking and of course eating a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with Jason's parents, grandparents, Wendy and Mike, Jennifer and Jake, and Jonathan.  It was wonderful.

Then early early Monday morning we started the trek home.  We left at 5 am.  And here is what Brad looked like most of the time.
Not kidding when I say perfect Baby.  He slept from Fallbrook to Stateline.  He was actually pretty whiny from Stateline to Vegas.  We let him play in the back seat while we got gas and ate breakfast in Vegas.  He slept from Vegas to Cedar.  He played hard in Cedar.  He fell straight to sleep when we left Cedar and didn't wake up until we got to Orem.... 

Which would have been perfect............... except we hit the Winter Storm Carmagedon of 2016.  It started dumping snow.  It was the peak of rush hour.  And long long long story short it took us 1.5 hours to travel the last 20 miles home.  Man were we glad when we finally pulled into our drive way and saw our cute Christmas tree glowing in the front window.  

Like all other Thanksgivings I just feel so completely blessed to get this wonderful life I live.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


One of my favorite things to do is to go back through my blog and read through posts during the current time of year in years past.  Like I have stated a million times it is crazy how my emotions and attitudes are so cyclical.  Every year around this time... first off I wake up at an ungodly hour.  (Sadly, Brad has inherited my genetical defect.) Second, I am started to feel like teaching isn't all so bad.  I am starting to get to know my students and they are starting to love me.  And third, I become to lovey dovey about all the wonderful relationships in my life.

Happens every year.

This morning I was looking through the blog posts from 4 years ago around Thanksgiving.  This was when Jason and I were starting to get really serious.  He had just moved back to Utah from his 2 month "vacation to California" (Don't ask)  And we were trying to decide if we should get married.  It was an absolutely wonderful time.  But man it was scary as heck.

There are so many things in life we can't control.  So many decisions that we are forced to make.  But deciding who to marry is one that we have so much control over... but really the weight of the decision barely sinks in.  I think if we knew how much it would change and affect the rest of our entire existence I think the decision would be even more paralyzing.  

I would probably say the decision to have a baby is almost the same way.

But as I sit here on my couch with my baby sleeping next to me (of course he woke up at 4:30 ready to party but after a bottle and some lullaby's I was able to get him back to sleep) I stare at our cute Charlie Brown Christmas tree glowing across the room, and I am so unbelievably grateful for my life.

I am grateful that 4 years ago I rolled the dice and took my chances with an adrenaline loving, quietly confident, closet nerd who has made my life exactly what I always dreamed it to be.

Here are pictures from our 4 Thanksgivings together.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Southeastern Utah

Confession:  I had only been to Southeastern Utah once in my life. I traveled in the backseat of a our tiny 2 door car with my sister in laws best friend  to Blanding for my brother and sister in laws wedding open house.  That was 14 years ago.  And needless to say I didn't see much of the scenery.

Oh that's a lie.  Back in 1998 we went to Lake Powell.  But we drove through Arizona to get there... so I still didn't see much.

So when Jason said let's go somewhere last weekend I suggested Moab.  Moab is a mecca for BASE jumpers and rock climbs and dirt bikers so Jason has been many times.  So I was pretty lucky to go with an expert.

Since it is November and a rather cold weekend in south east Utah I figured we'd just stay in a hotel..... Silly Kristin.  When Jason saw how expensive a hotel was even in this almost "off season" Jason decided we should use the money that would go to a hotel to purchase a new (to us) tent off KSL and a tent heater.  By the time I got home from school Friday, Jason had loaded up the tent, sleeping stuff including Brad's pack n play, a cooler full of food, the rock climbing gear, the fire wood, and even laid out possible outfit options for Brad for me to pick from.

I have to say it is absolutely wonderful being married to a man that loves to work to have fun.

Anyway, we left around 4:30... which mean we got to Moab way after dark.  Of course there was no way we were going to pay to camp.  Jason had called the rock climbing store to make sure he knew of a place that you can camp for free outside of Moab.  (Moab is very very strict about where you can camp because there are so many dirtbag climbers)  Anyway, so we turned off some dirt road and drove and drove and drove looking for an area with fire pits.  (In the dark it was very difficult)  So finally we just pulled over and set up camp.

It wasn't until morning that I really had an idea what the place we were camping looked like.  (insert an image of the Arizona Strip here.)  (If you have never been to the Arizona Strip.  Let's just say you aren't missing out.)

Anyway, it was a fun adventure setting up camp in the dark.  Our new HUGE tent was awesome! It was super easy to set up and our queen sized air mattress and the pack n play easily fit with room to spare.
Brad slept like a champ until 3 am when I freaked out a little bit.  You see my mom has done a very good job of making me conscience of carbon monoxide poisoning.  I hadn't heard a peep from Brad so I jumped out of bed to make sure he was alive... (Of course he was.  And of course Jason had done a great job making sure our tent was ventilated so I logically had nothing to worry about but that doesn't stop me from worrying.)  So I probably woke up Brad... and so he joined us in our bed.  Eventually Brad and Jason went back to sleep... I wasn't so fortunate.

I ended up going for a little run out in the wilderness.  I came back to camp where Jason was cooking eggs on our stove in our tent.  And Brad was having a blast playing in his pack n play.  It was awesome.

After we cleaned up camp we headed into Moab for our second breakfast.  (When Jason camps all he wants is sugar.  So he brought Hostess Hohos, hot chocolate, and snack pack puddings to go with our eggs.)  I would feel horrible if I ate that for breakfast so we drove into Moab to get me a salad for breakfast and a packed lunch.

We didn't really have exact plans for the day.  It was not the most beautiful day.  It was cloudy and rainy.  But it didn't take us long to realize that was probably the best possible time to visit without crowds!  The temperature for the day was delightful!

We drove through Arches National Park and hiked to Delicate Arch.  You know how a lot of people love to bash on tourist or touristy things?  I have concluded I LOVE being a tourist.  And all things touristy are that way for a reason, because they are awesome!!!  Delicate Arch was so stinkin' cool!


We had our picnic lunch in the parking lot of Delicate Arch and then we went for a drive on Highway 128.  It was absolutely gorgeous!  It follows the Colorado River through a canyon with Arches on one side.  Jason showed me cool rock climbing areas and places he's BASE jumped.  We stopped at an area where he hopes to rock climb soon.
The kind of bummer thing is I've kind of turned into that mom.  You know who I am talking about.  The mom that stops having fun because of the chance that baby will be miserable.  We could have camped in Moab area another night.  We could have done more hiking or sightseeing or something.  But after we finished look at the area that Jason wants to climb next I saw that we were so far on Highway 128 it would be faster just continuing on that road to get home than to go back to Moab.  Brad had struggled in the car the night before.  I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep... and so I turned into that mom.  The fun sucker.  And I am kinda bummed about it.  But oh well right?  By this time it was like 4 pm.  So we headed for home.

We stopped in Price for dinner.  And you know what?  There is a huge part of me that love love loves small towns.  I was so happy when I went into a gas station and heard the cashier say to the customer, "How's your day going?"  and the customer really answered.  Or the cute little kid... couldn't have been more than 13 years old pull up to the gas station in a car to fill up with gas.... or the customer service we got at the pizza joint we went to.  It was all so refreshing.  But then I saw how ugly Price is.... and realized there is a reason only 7,000 people live there.

But it was the perfect ending to our delightful weekend getaway.