Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nordic Skiing

  Yesterday Greg and I did something we have never done before; we went nordic skiing.  We went with our friends, Clark and Autumn, at Alta.  It was such a nice day.  The sun was shining, the weather wasn't too cold.  The mountains looked so majestic.  We rented all our equipment and were off on our way.  Clark was a professional right way.  He watched youtube videos of Olympic cross country skiers before coming up and I think it helped.  It was a lot harder for me then I thought it would be.  I woke up this morning with sore arms and legs.  Greg is more athletic than me so he isn't that sore.  He did do the splits once and said he is hurting a little from that! Haha.        
Start of the trail.
Greg, Me, Autumn, and Clark ready to start.
Action shot
On the trail.
  Greg was more adventurous than me.  He would go a lot faster and went down small slopes that I walked down instead of skiing.  This resulted in him falling down in the snow a lot more than me.  Here is one of Greg's tumbles.  

After 3 hours we definitely got the hang of it.  It was such a fun activity.  I would go again for sure!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Private Chef

  For Greg's birthday he received a very special gift from Camille.  She promised to make him dinner.  This would be no ordinary dinner, this dinner would consist of cheeseburger buns and oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies!  Greg loves cheeseburger buns and oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies.  So Camille came over last night with a bag full of groceries and we got to work in the kitchen.
Our private chef

Sister cooking picture
  I was in charge of making the cookies.  I was slightly nervous because I am not the best baker in the world.  That title belongs to Mae Mae Fe.  I followed Camille's recipe and they turned out really well.  So well in fact, I ate two!  I actually gave some of the cookies I made away to our friends today and they asked for the recipe!  Camille and I were having a blast cooking and talking.  We love saying quotes from movies that we use to watch as kids.  We were laughing at the most random things.  It was so fun.

The middle of the cookie making process.
   Greg was not allowed to help.  It was his birthday dinner so he sat on the couch and played on his phone.  

The final product.
  Thanks Camille for making us such a yummy dinner.  You are so talented.  If nursing school doesn't work out you might have a fall back with cheeseburger buns.  After dinner we watched the movie, She's All That.  Camille had never seen it.  Can you believe that?  She then explained she was 9 years old when it came out.  Haha!  She is so little.  I forgot how funny teen movies are.  We will need to watch more soon.  Happy Birthday Greg! Thank you for being so sweet and letting us celebrate you even though you have been 26 for a month already.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Winning Essay

  At work last Thursday I get a text from Greg saying he just won 3rd place with an essay he entered for the best travel writing of 2013.  I was really surprised because I didn't even know about the contest or his essay.  I come home and immediately read his essay about the Ukraine.  It is beautiful and I had to post it.  I hope you all enjoy it as much I did.      

Ukraine is a land which history has torn apart. For centuries it was caught in literal tug-of-wars between its surrounding neighbors. In fact, common tradition holds that the source of the name “Ukraine” comes from the Russian word for “borderland,” as it has always been on the outskirts of one nation or another. Its people have been worn down by centuries of being conquered, and they now struggle for identity—identity which has only begun to reappear in the past 20 years of independence. For years their faith and confidence were slapped by the stern hand of communism and almost beat into extinction by famine. Yet they are resilient, though at times they may seem lost.
In 1991 the sickle and hammer of the soviet flag gave way to the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian landscape: blue for the grand sky above and yellow for the vast fields of grain and sunflowers below. When my plane landed in Donetsk in November 2006, however, a grey cloud engulfed the entire city with a drab, monochrome existence. The concrete soviet buildings, the leafless trees and the barren ground all melted into the bleakness. The country felt bare and depressed.
Any news about Ukraine that makes it to America usually shows the unsuccessful attempts of the country to be taken seriously as it tries to establish its own identity. The former prime minister has become a political prisoner in her own country while the former president’s face bears the scars of an attempted poisoning by his opposing party. Numerous Youtube videos show fistfights breaking out on the floor of the Ukrainian parliament, complete with elected officials throwing eggs at their rivals. (This is ironic in that Ukraine is famous for its beautifully painted and decorated Easter eggs). On top of that, as preparation to host the European soccer championships, Ukraine had to pass a law at long last outlawing bars from force feeding alcohol to captured bears, a tradition passed down from generation to generation of vodka loving Ukrainians. No wonder Ukraine has long lived in the American mind as only a joke from an episode of Seinfeld.
But as our Ukrainian friend on Seinfeld tells us, “The Ukraine is not weak,” and neither are its people. Survival is an instinct for a nation which has persevered through such a tumultuous history, and the individual faces of its people tell that story. Walking out of my apartment on a bitter morning in early spring I passed a man peering into the large dumpsters in between apartment buildings. His wrinkled hands, swollen from years of exposure to the harsh winters, sorted through the discarded trash as his black eyes searched for something of sustenance. His hands emerged from the black plastic bag holding the skeletal remains of a dried fish. Setting the trash bag aside, he began to pick away at the bones, pulling off what little meat he could. He was dressed as most elderly Ukrainian men are: old slacks and a dirty sports jacket over a stained white tank-top. His dark shoes had somehow avoided the muddy grime of the melting snow which puddled across the city streets, their cleanliness attempting to reclaim some remnant of his dignity.
I walked towards him, pulling a five hrivna bill from my pocket.
“For grandpa?” he asked, his Russian slurred in the cold air.
“Buy yourself some bread.” I held the money out towards him. He hesitated a moment before reaching for my hand. The creases in his face easily broke into a gold-toothed smile as our hands met.
“Thank you and God bless you with happiness and luck.”
“Thank you” I said and I turned back to the street.
As I walked away, his words echoed in my mind. “Happiness and luck.” Where did those words fit into this man’s life, his past, or his future? His relentless image was pressed into my memory.
But he is not the first thing to come to my mind when I think about Ukraine. Neither is it the country’s painful past, the bleak winters or the devastating poverty that is so prevalent. I remember one day of perfection—perfection in the sense of witnessing potential fulfilled.
When I think of Ukraine, I remember filling a daypack with watermelon, fresh fruit and the rich, hearty black bread Ukrainians favor to our fluffy wonderbread. I remember climbing aboard a bus and driving far past the edge of a village and out to the end of the bus line. There I stepped out into the countryside and with a few companions, began to walk. We walked for hours. We passed small farmhouses and summer cottages. We walked past men fishing and boys swimming in ponds, the warm sun glistening golden on the water. We walked past fields and forests, past sunken homes long since abandoned. We passed over hill after rolling hill until we crested to find in the valley below us a field of sunflowers stretching to the horizon.
We stepped between the rows of towering flowers as they followed the sun’s westward journey. Finding a patch of ground large enough for us to sit, we took out our food and partook of the fruits of the fertile soil that surrounded us. Beauty was everywhere, and in that beauty was the hope of a nation. I suddenly understood much more about these people, their land and how they are able to keep such bright hope for their country than I had learned living with them for a year and a half. I had driven past fields like this in the winter only to see the dead, grey stalks of the once majestic flowers. But spring brings resurrection of life, and with life comes beauty, and from that beauty springs forth faith and hope.
 It’s no wonder such a scene inspired the Ukrainian flag. The people of Ukraine understand the beauty of their country and the potential it holds. They can see that from the pain of the past there can sprout a beautiful nation, rich with culture and confidence resurrected from the shadows of the borderland.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Guess Who Just Won a Travel Writing Contest with His Essay on Ukraine?

This GUY!!!!!

Birthday Boy!

  Greg's 26th birthday was so special.  We are so lucky to have family so close to celebrate with.  His birthday was fish themed.  I wasn't really planning on having a birthday theme for my 26 year old husband but it just turned out that everyone knows how much Greg loves fishing.  We had a family dinner the Sunday before Greg's actually birthday.  Greg wanted a fish cake and this is what I came up with.  Greg says it looked like pacman's cousin.  He's right!    

It has become a tradition that Greg's sisters make him dessert cheeseburgers for his birthday.  They are super cute and very tasty.  Burton thought they were real hamburgers and was quite a surprised after taking his first bite.  The kids loved having Megan Livingston over for dinner.  When we asked Brooke that night who her favorite aunt is, her response was Megan.  We held a picture of our Mae Mae Fe up next to Megan L. and asked again just to make sure which Megan was the favorite and Brooke pointed to Megan L.  It was so cute.    

Greg and Brooke's favorite Aunt
Greg use to have a bright green Florida shirt with sharks swimming on it.  He got it for $1 on a family vacation the Livingstons took the summer before we met.  This shirt was really ugly and I hated it.  However, Greg loved it and would wear it a lot.  He called it his "Flow-rida" shirt.  Luckily this shirt got bleached and had to be thrown away, and before you all assume it was foul play, it wasn't.  It was an act of God because prays are answered.  Chris and Amelia thought it would be a good idea to replace his lost Florida shirt with this birthday gift.  The shirt exclaims, "Fish tremble when they hear my name."  Classy!  Thanks Sutherland family.  

Birthday Morning

    Greg's other gifts included fly tying tools, a new fly rod, a fly rod case, a wii fishing game, and a fly tying station.  It was definitely a fish themed birthday.  My baby boy was so spoiled.  Thanks family.


  Today was the first warm day we have had in a long time and it made me want to blog about some of the winter activities we did.  Greg always finds fun activities for us.  We went to the World Speed Skating Championship back in January.  Here is Greg outside of the Olympic Oval.         

We also went to the World Aerial Ski Competition in Park City.  It was the first time either of us had been to a skiing event like this.  It was incredible what the athletes were able to do.  They ski down a super steep slope up a ramp that catapults them 30 feet into the air.  They twist and turn and somehow land on the feet again.  We were so impressed and also really cold.  We went with our friends, Noah and LaShae.  All the other attendees were wearing snowboarding gear and all bundled up.  We were slightly less prepared.  We were all in jeans and Greg was wearing his work shoes.  It was freezing.  It was hard to smile for pictures because our lips were so cold and becoming fat.  I definitely want to do this again next year. 

  My favorite activity was learning how to curl.  We took a 2 hour introductory course at the Olympic Oval with our friends, Clark and Autumn.  Greg was a natural of course.  He says this is his last shot to become an Olympian.  I think Greg wants to join a league now.  Curling is way harder then it looks.  Sweeping the ice is a workout.  Beneath is a picture of Greg and me with our brooms.

Greg throwing a stone down the ice.
   We recently went sledding up Big Cottonwood Canyon with some friends.  It was a sunny day, hence Greg is not wearing his coat.  We went sledding for a few hours and packed in a picnic for lunch.  The sun felt so good  but after we had been home for a few hours our sunburns set in.  Greg and I were bright pink.  It was so funny.  It was nice to be outside and in such a beautiful canyon.  Utah really has so much to offer outdoors.  It makes we want to do more.

Greg and I are trying to white wash each other.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

  This post is way late but I caught the blogging bug tonight and have to post this too.  Greg's favorite musical artist is Mason Jennings.  He preformed in Salt Lake back in May but we missed it so to make up for it we drove over 24 hours to see him in San Francisco back in September.  Luckily Kathers Cole and family were there to make the trip even better.  We started driving on Thursday night after work.  We planned to camp out in the middle of Nevada for the first night of our trip.  

Home away from home.
   Neither of us slept every well on the cold hard Nevada soil so we were really glad when morning came and we could continue down the road.  We could hardly wait to get to San Jose because we knew what was waiting there for us: Halle and Ryan!!!!!  We could not have had a better time playing with those two.  We had a tea party, ate candy, played with cars, spun around a ton of time and got really dizzy, and hung out at Kath's new house!!!!

  Mom, Dad, and Megan could not pass up the opportunity to hang out.  We went to the farmer's market and were shocked to see actually produce.  A farmer's market in Utah has 1 stand of produce and 99 craft stands.  It was a refreshing change.  The sisters were so happy to be together!  
50% of the Engstrom girls!
Mom and Dad Engstrom with sour dough bread that they forgot  at Kath's house :(
  The concert was in downtown San Francisco.  It was the same night as the BYU vs U of U football game but we don't want to talk about it.  Greg and I were looking up the score during the concert and were unlucky enough to catch the last few minutes of the game after the concert.  Come on Cougs!

  Mason Jennings was amazing.  He was charming and funny as well as being musically talented.  I knew a few of his songs but Greg was the real fan.  The concert was held in this amazing jazz club.  We took a few pictures before the concert but were strictly prohibited from taking pictures during the show.  So if you want to see who Mason Jennings is and what he looks like you will have to do some youtube research.  

  I asked Greg once we got back to Utah if seeing Mason was worth the long drive and the camp out from heck.  Greg didn't hesitate in saying he would do it again just to see Mason.  I guess good music does that to a person.  It made me smile just because it made Greg so happy.