First Annual Mod Bake-off

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This past Friday, the Library Mods had their first annual mod bake-off. Each of the 4 mods (2 boys, 2 girls) had 3 entries each. There was a lot of talking it up the week before hand, recon missions to see what the other houses were making, and perhaps thoughts of sabotage between the two RAs, Jessie and Brett. There was rumors of what was going to be made – Charlie making key lime pie, Amy making creme puffs… we weren’t about to spill what we were going to make.

The day of our bake-off was crazy – Katie making her grandmother’s chocolate cake in the morning, me making a double batch of cinnamon chip scones after class, and Jess making sopapilla cheesecake just before we had to have everything ready. Kelly was our awesome sous chef, doing everything from kneading dough to washing dishes. We couldn’t have done it without her. We were bringing things to the table just as our HRAs walked in with tickets for us to use to vote.

Anyone who was home at the mods got to make the rounds and taste test, and then vote for their 2 favorite treats. Mod 3 was our competition it turned out – they made apple muffins, chocolate brickle, and sugar cookies iced with lemon frosting. Mod 1 was tricky – they had chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven (read: they started them five minutes before we were supposed to be done), and they were so hot that you almost burned your mouth. Brett offered milk to anyone who would trade it for  a ticket. Sly, right?

We won the competition, apparently by a landslide, and Dallin and Cassie (HRAs) ended up taking a bunch of treats home for the boys 20130222_193559in the dorm next door. And then Miranda’s boyfriend ate the rest (even though he lives in the dorm that was receiving the scones). Cassie and Dallin had made an adorable prize for the bake-off winner. It is now proudly displayed in our dining room.

Also,  I figured I would share my recipe for cinnamon chip scones. They’re pretty awesome, really easy, and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love them (and they have been approved by people who have lived in England).

CINNAMON CHIP SCONES (makes 1 dozen)

3/4 c. all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 c. buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla

1/3 c. sugar

2 1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 c. cold butter, grated*

1 (10 oz) pkg. cinnamon chips

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter until the mix is crumbly, then add buttermilk until just moistened. On a floured surface, knead cinnamon chips into dough until the dough is no longer sticky and the chips are evenly distributed throughout. Divide dough in half and pat into 7-inch rounds. Cut into wedges (I usually make 6 per round) and separate, placing onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 425°F for 10-13 minutes or until just browned. OPTIONAL: combine powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla to make a glaze for atop the scones. Brush on 2 coats before serving. Enjoy!

*use a cheese grater to grate butter – it’s easier than cutting in cubes of butter, and evenly distributes the butter throughout each scone. Best trick in the book!

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Moving Forward

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It has been a really, really long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog. Far too long. I kept thinking, “oh, I’ll write another day,” or “I’ll write a post next week when I have more time.”

And now it’s over a year later. Talk about losing track of time.

A lot of things have changed in the past year and how many months, and there’s no real way to go through it all in a single blog post, or try to recollect everything and post it gradually. The only thing left, then, is to keep moving forward.

Definite lesson I’ve learned there – move forward. It’s a multi-faceted idea that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. It comes with the territory of the entire human existence  but particularly as I’m heading towards a mission (more on that later) and graduation after that. The future is a composite of everything in the past, but it holds few bounds and is limited to only what we outline it to be. Everyone has their setbacks, but the whole idea of hitting a bump in the road is to take a minute, realize what happened, and drive forward.

Minor setbacks have occurred over the past year, but I feel as though I’ve really been able to overcome those bumps and keep going, keep pushing forward and setting goals and figuring out who I am. There are challenges ahead, needless to say, but they won’t be so bad.

And actually, I’m looking forward to them. With every challenge comes a challenge overcome – a triumph and an opportunity to learn, grow, and become a stronger and better person. Can’t wait!

I’ll keep you posted on my adventures in the meantime. :)

– Meg

Nauvoo, the Beautiful City

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Nauvoo, the Beautiful City

Over spring break a few weeks ago I got to head out to Illinois to visit Nauvoo, a Church historical site. It was such a great time, and I loved absolutely every minute of it, even the 20 hour drive there (we got caught in a snowstorm). It was a strange thing to drive out of Virginia in snowy darkness, to watch the sun rise in West Virginia, see it set in Indiana, and arrive at moonrise in Illinois in the span of a day.

Considering the whole adventure has nearly twenty pages in my journal, I’ll keep it to the short story here. We spent a few days in town, exploring the shops and talking with the missionaries there who showed us the handicrafts and told us about the Saints who lived there. They were all so wonderful and excited to see us. Jenn and I were briefly “kidnapped” (‘student-knapped’?) by a couple from Alberta, because they insisted it was much too cold for us to be waiting outside for another set of senior missionaries to arrive at another shop. It was a blast talking with them, especially because Elder Olsen was telling us his favorite things about Nauvoo and kept saying, “the other day” and finishing the sentence with “in October” (or another month). It was a riot.

We spent a good amount of time in the town, but also spent an afternoon in the temple, which was wonderful, and definitely something I really needed. I loved poking around in Old Nauvoo, but I also needed a bit of a respite from my mind trying to ingest all that I was learning and feeling there. It was a lovely time we had in the temple, and afterwards a bunch of us returned ‘home’ to our condos where Sister Ellsworth made us some yummy soup as we watched a movie. The Ellsworths, who drove from out west to spend the week with us in Illinois, spoiled us to no end. So much food and love, morning, noon, and night.

Our last day in Nauvoo, we drove out to Carthage, which was a pretty emotional journey for me. I was a bit of an emotional wreck (sorry, fellow Nauvoo travelers, I know it was unexpected for me to cry like that), but really walked away with a powerful experience. I went through a lot of tissues that afternoon.

At one point, Jenn, Bev, and I went down to the Trail of Hope, where the Saints left Nauvoo to go west. Jenn and I couldn’t resist stripping off our socks and shoes and rolling up our jeans to wade into the Mississippi (holy crow, was it COLD). It was surreal, to think that so many people passed right over that piece of shore over a hundred years ago. And in February, no less. I can’t ever complain that it was cold in March, I suppose, ever again. It wasn’t snowing, the river wasn’t filled with ice, and the wind wasn’t too terribly strong. We were blessed with beautiful weather for the majority of our stay.

The thing I really loved about Nauvoo is that it’s so completely different, but extremely familiar all the same. It feels a bit empty, but so welcoming and beautiful. It’s always windy in the winter/spring, apparently, but I spotted a few crocuses pushing out of the ground, and each of the buildings were warm. It was really something to sit there and think about the experience that the people of Nauvoo had years and years ago in this exact area.

I love history, and always have, but really cherish those places where I can stand in a certain spot, touch something and know that something of immense importance in the history not only of a religion or a nation happened there, but also that the history of the world was changed to some extent. So standing in Nauvoo, along the banks of the Mississippi or outside the temple, or in Carthage had a powerful and amazing significance to me.

What made the trip as wonderful as it could have been was definitely the people. There were nine of us students from the university, Brother and Sister Rasmussen (Brother Rasmussen teaches Institute here in BV, and I’m in 2 of his classes this semester), Bishop and Sister Olsen, the Ellsworths, as well as their daughter and two awesome grandsons, Tanner and Spencer. We became close quickly – especially considering we were packed so tightly in a van for every drive – and got to know each other well by the end of the week. It was a privilege to see the usually hidden side of my classmates (and teachers!), the quirky sense of humor at terrible hours of the morning, the dorky po-jammies that we  wear, the strange music we listen to… it was a treasure trove of the human discovery.

I wish I had been able to take more photographs, but I kept being distracted by all the things I was learning, the conversations I was having (or simply overhearing…), but that really just means that I get to go back again. Anywho. Enjoy them!

We stopped at Gross’ Burgers on the way. It was an experience.

This is Bev. I love her, she’s so happy and the best traveling companion.

The view of the Nauvoo Temple from the visitors’ center.

One of my favorite pieces in the sculpture garden.

The first flowers I found in Nauvoo, little snowdrops!

The view of the Mississippi River from the Smith home.

The story of the trip. Burke (Bishop Olsen) shoving cameras in our faces. :)

A moment of heartbreak for me. Having read the plaque, but finding hope in the by-chance glance at the temple.

The view of the Temple from the Trail of Hope.

Jenn standing in the Mississippi where the Saints crossed from Illinois into Iowa.

The spires are my favorite part of the architecture of temples. This is no exception.

The front of the temple. I love this wonderful place.

My absolute favorite shot of the trip. And my favorite view.

Joseph and Hyrum looking at the temple. Love it.

Photographer in me being in love with the water pattern. Sorry guys.

Seriously. Lying in the middle of the road with a camera. Meet Burke.

Temple! Love.

Crocuses outside the tin shop. They made me happy.

Old Nauvoo.

Half the lot of us.

One half of one of the teams we met in the carriage and wagon rides.

Just a shot in Dan Jones’ Hollow.

Another temple shot.

I just loved the juxtaposition of the hat and the suit. :)

Most nights in the condos. The adults talking around the table, kids on the floor joking around.

The quarry where the stone for the temple was cut.

The Rasmussens. I love them.

One of my favorite quotes from Carthage (by Joseph and Hyrum Smith).

I love these people!!!!!

The Lion King

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About a week and a half ago, I was able to go see the musical The Lion King in Richmond for the first time, at the Landmark. I’d gone to see Wicked last semester and loved it, but Lion King went above and beyond anything I had ever expected. I felt like a little kid, counting down the days till Disney Land, giddy and impatient as I waited for Thursday afternoon to arrive. A bunch of SVU students drove up to Richmond, grabbed dinner at the local restaurants, and went to enjoy the show.

It was a ridiculous amount of fun to watch everything come alive on stage, especially because all the costumes are incredible. You’ve got giraffes, elephants, lions, antelopes (or were they wildebeests??), all sorts of birds, elephants… the elephants were what really got me excited – they came up through the audience onto the stage, and boy were they huge! I was really impressed.

The music was awesome as well, especially since I already love a lot of South African music already. The cast sang beautifully, charged with emotion and energy. And I have to admit, the one-liners were pretty awesome as well.

We definitely had a blast seeing the show, and listening to the soundtrack on the 2 hour ride home. I think given the opportunity to go see one more Broadway production in my life, I would definitely go see The Lion King again!!!

Snowy Sabbath

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We had our first real snow of the winter on Sunday here in Virginia. It was lovely. That’s the one thing I love about these mountains – while it doesn’t snow all that often, when it does, it’s utterly beautiful. And the awesome thing about it all is that because we don’t often have snow, everyone turns up outside to play until their toes and cheeks are too cold to bear the temperature any longer.

I woke up from a nap on Sunday to peek out the window and find the soft, lacy flakes coming down quietly. Upon trekking down to campus for supper, I found that it was the perfect snowball and snowman making snow… just wet enough to compact well. It was great fun to see everyone in Chandler building snowmen and engaging in snow ball fights like little kids. 

Later in the evening I was invited to a snowfest down at the bottom of the hill. Essentially the lot of us ran around in the snow till our gloves were soaking and our toes were frozen, pelting one another with snow balls and building a not-so-effective igloo. It was a great break from everything going on right now. And I don’t think I’ve been in a real snowball fight for years (it took a bit to get my aim back). That made it all the better.

I snapped a couple photos, nothing spectacular, just some shots that make me smile. 

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