Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Last Halloween we really wanted to have a MarioKart theme, but it was way too late and there just wasn't enough time to put anything together. So we went as this.
This year we were ready and waiting for Halloween. We meticulously planned our trunk decorations, because we were determined to win the Trunk or Treat competition. We got to the church, ate dinner, decorated our trunk, and were then told we weren't eligible for the competition. WHAT!? We parked right beside the Young Men's president, and the youth [not the presidencies] were in charge of handing out awards. He nonchalantly mentioned to us, after we spent tons of time decorating, that it probably wasn't fair for us to compete since I'm in the Young Women's presidency. BUMMER...We were so upset, but the show must go on (and we weren't about to take down everything and go home). I'm not gonna lie, our trunk was da bomb.
Just in case the picture doesn't do it justice, let me explain everything we had going on. Spider webs, of course. But Brad also made huge spiders out of tennis balls and straws. The two you can see the best are right below the ghosts, which Brad also made. The orange twinkle lights could be seen from a mile away in the dark parking lot, and the black light was what made our trunk the most popular of the night. Everything we put in the trunk glowed. We had little pumpkins we drew faces on with yellow highlighter. We had a huge pumpkin candy bowl, some awesome scorpions, and some very neat highlighter water (again made by Brad). As the kids came I gave them candy and then drew either a heart or a smiley face on their hand with a highlighter. Then they got to hold their hand out near the black light and see it glow. This was seriously the coolest thing they had EVER seen in their little lives. Just imagine if you had never seen a black light before. They were amazed. One of the moms came up to me the next day in church, and said, "When we got home last night I asked my daughter what her favorite part of Trunk or Treat was and she said, 'Seeing the heart on my hand glow.' She really loved your trunk!" She wasn't the only one either. Some of the kids completely forgot about their candy and walked off without getting any. Several times during the night we had traffic jams, because one or two kids just couldn't get enough of looking at their hand by the black light and were holding up the line. It was great. I mean that's what Halloween is all about - making kids happy. (Truth be told, I totally marked on their hands just to see if they were coming back multiple times for candy.) Well, the youth decided they wanted to give us a prize. The YM's president said, "Oh sure, why not? You obviously put in the effort." YES!! We won second place and a $10 gas card. Brad searched in vain for the car that had won 1st place but it was nowhere to be found. We [and everyone else who thought we should have won] still think it was rigged since we won last year as well. So we'll just say we won again this year. I don't feel bad about that at all.
Before I get to our costumes I'll show you how we made the pumpkin candy bowl. It was super duper easy. Brad cut the pumpkin almost in half. It was more like he just cut the top third off. Oh, and the pumpkin we got was more long than wide, so we put it on it's side to cut it. Then he scooped out the insides and cut tiny triangles out all along the edge of the pumpkin. Then I got a plastic grocery bag and lined the inside of the hollowed pumpkin. To keep the bag in place, I stuck sewing pins around the top of the bag.

And the finished product...drum roll please...
Alright, I know you've been waiting for it. Here are our costumes, dog included.
 Toad, Princess Peach, and Yoshi. 

Killer seriously HATED her costume, so we only made her wear it for the pictures. But she sure was cute.
And just in case anyone out there is wondering how to recreate these costumes for themselves. It's super easy and super inexpensive. 
Killer wore the same costume she wore last year, which meant we didn't spend anything on her's. At the time I think I bought it online for $15 or $20.
We headed over to Goodwill to pick up almost all of Brad's costume. His pants are a pair of white scrub bottoms that still had the tags on them. We decided on this pair mainly because there were perfectly clean (I still washed them though, don't worry) and because he'd wear them again for pajamas or just laying around the house. Having a second use for something definitely makes spending money on it a lot easier. The vest we also found at Goodwill. It's actually a black vest with a blue lining, so we turned it inside out and altered it down to his size since it was an XXL. Then he just wore a long-sleeved button-up white shirt. The hat was actually pretty ingenious, if I do say so myself. We got his scooter helmet, covered it with a piece of a white sheet (which we bought at Walmart for $5, but we also used some pieces for the trunk ghosts and we still have some left over to use at another time) and used fabric glue to stick the red dots on it. Overall I think we probably spent about $10 on his whole costume, and everyone knew exactly who he was the minute they looked at him.
My costume was probably the most expensive. I bought the dress at Goodwill a few months before and wore it to the roller derby finals. I also had to buy the pink long-sleeved shirt I wore underneath for about $7, but it's something I will [and have] worn again. I put on some white tights underneath and wore my awesome pink sneakers. I bought the white gloves at Target for $5. The wig was also a Target purchase for $15, which was way cheaper than anywhere else I looked. Most places were charging $30-$40 for the same kind of thing. But if you have blond hair then you won't even have to worry about it. The crown came from the dollar store (thanks for the tip Sara!). It was originally silver and had a nasty pink feathery thing around the bottom. I took the pink feathery off and painted it gold. All-in-all I'd say we probably got everything for Princess Peach for around $40. But like I said before, most of it I'll use again or wear on a normal day.
So, there you have it. Super easy, super cheap, and super creative.

And, just for fun, here are some more pictures.

We went over to David and Susie's for Halloween night to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters there. Susie was a big fan of the long blonde/pink hair. She said when she was little she used to tie scarfs around her head and pretend she had long hair because her's never grew much longer than her shoulders. So sad. I couldn't even imagine what that would be like. Right now I've got more hair than I know what to do with. I wanted her to have lovely dreams of little Susie running through flowery fields with her long hair flowing behind her, which is why we now have this picture:
Sweet dreams Susie!

Happy Halloween!

Toad, Princess Peach, &Yoshi

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lake Powell

September seemed to be a whirlwind of a month. Only two days after my birthday Brad and I flew to Las Vegas to meet up with his family for one of the best vacations we've ever had. I kept telling people we were going to a family reunion, and Brad kept correcting me and saying we were going on a family vacation. Apparently a family reunion means a 100 people (80 of which you don't even know), team building (or should I say family building) exercises, lots of hot dogs, and custom-made matching family t-shirts. Our Lake Powell family VACATION was nothing like that. At all.

Lake Powell is one of the prettiest places I've ever been. It's seriously like a little oasis in the middle of the desert. We drove 5 hours from Vegas to Powell and not once did we see a tree or a single drop of water. Then all of sudden we turned a corner and there was a huge lake right in front of us. Definitely a breath-taking sight.
We rented a house boat for the week and Uncle Mike and Lindy brought their boat and jet skis.
Although none of the plans for activities during the day came to fruition, we all had a great time just hanging out on the boat or on the beach relaxing from the stresses of everyday life. Brad and I were constantly out on the boat or racing on the jet skis. I even learned to wakeboard (ok, not really. I just got up on the wakeboard and crashed like 3 seconds later, but, in my defense, I had never tried it before in my life. So I think I did pretty good. However, I'll probably just stick with skis from now on.)
There was a slide off the back of the house boat, and Chloe and I went down it probably about 1000 times, no joke. We also made friends with the huge carp that liked to hang out underneath and right beside the boat. They probably knew there were 5 little kiddos on board, and they would get some yummy scraps that accidentally (or not so accidentally) got thrown overboard. Chloe also let me take her out on the jet ski, and we got up to a whopping 14 miles an hour before she got scared for her life. But we sure did have a blast going super slow.
One afternoon some of us were able to get out and go over to West Canyon for a little hike. This was most definitely the highlight of the trip for me. The boat ride to get there seemed almost magical. We had high canyon walls on either side of us and bright blue and green water beneath us.

The further we got back into the canyon the more constricted the waterway became. We were more than careful as we slowed down to a crawl and everyone had their hands out ready to guard the side of the boat against the rocks. We finally tied up, climbed out, and got started on our hike. For the whole trip I hadn't seen any sign of vegetation other than a tiny brown srub, but it seemed like we had stumbled upon a tiny forest in West Canyon. There were trees and bushes all around.

Since Valeri didn't come on this hike with us Brad took over as acting photographer. I think he got some pretty good shots.
 And here's one of us:
On our way out of the canyon we ran over a log (we didn't see said log and we were going super slow). Well, turns out that it bent the prop so badly that we had to idle the whole way back to the house boat. Two hours. Poor baby Katie was starving and the only thing we had was a sucker I carelessly threw in my backpack before we left. That sucker entertained her for almost an hour though. She loved it! Of course we had no cell phone service so we couldn't call anyone back on the boat to let them know what happened. We just idled and idled the whole way home. By the time we got there Neil, David, and Mike were looking for the search and rescue number because they were sure we had gotten lost. Luckily we all made it back safe and sound, which is more than I can say for the boat. For the rest of the trip we had used the jet skis to get around.
Brad and I loved the West Canyon hike so much that we decided to go back the next day and explore a little more. After a few miles we found some awesome narrows that we had to swim through to get to the other side. It was some of the coldest water I've ever been in. The narrows were surrounded by high canyon walls and the path was only a few feet wide, which meant it never got any sun. It was also stagnate, disgusting, and smelt like cow manure. We also smelt like cow manure when we were through. If you've ever swam through a water-filled canyon you'll what I mean when I say I was completely banged up by the time we were through. It's pretty much impossible to see anything underneath you, which means occasionally you swam right into a huge rock just below the surface, which means I did it every 5 seconds. When we were out my knees and ankles were a bloody mess, and I was praying they wouldn't have to be amputated due to some nasty disease that got in the cuts. But it was amazing. The other side was another forest full of trees and plants and flowers, and I even think I heard some birds chirping. Unfortunately we didn't have a waterproof bag for our stuff, so we had to leave the camera behind, but we got some great pictures of the other parts of the hike.
 neat editing, courtesy of Brad Andersen
 Keens were our best friends on this trip.

We slept outside (mainly because we don't have a baby which means we don't really need a bed, and since Brad is the youngest we get last dibs on everything) and got to see the stars. I've missed being able to see the whole night sky lite up with stars. There's nothing quite like a desert night, in that regard.
Sleeping outside also meant lots of bugs. If all the lights on the top deck were turned off they weren't too bad, but even if one little headlamp came flickering on the bugs were immediately swarming. Here's a picture of them congregated off the back end of the boat where one light was on. It's hard to distinguish individual bugs since they move so quickly and their wings were reflecting the light, but you get the point. Insane.
 I woke up with bugs entangled in my hair, and I'm sure I swallowed enough to fill my quota for the next 30 years. We went to bed when the sun went down and woke up when the sun came up. We took baths in the lake and played till our hearts' content.

 We got to experience good food, a birthday party, great company, and some serious tantrums.
Thanks to all who made it possible!
photo courtesy of Valeri Andersen

And a special thanks to Mike Powell who graciously stopped the car in St. George on the way back to Vegas so we could partake in some long overdue Cafe Rio!
 photo courtesy of Valeri Andersen

Love, Brad & Courtney

Monday, November 7, 2011! 

Brad & Courtney

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hello 23

I started this post a week before I turned 23, now almost 2 months later I'm finally getting around to finishing it.

Per request of my big sister Valeri, a birthday interview with yours truly. I'm sure no one will be interested in reading this besides Valeri, so my dear, this is dedicated to you. Feel free to stop reading and come back later when I've posted more pictures if you get bored. I will take no offense to that.

Favorite thing to eat: Pizza. Any kind. All kinds. Every day. All day. All-time favorite - Mellow Mushroom. Brad definitely never caught the pizza bug, and unfortunately probably never will. He'll put up with it and eat it when I cook it or when I beg to go get some, but if I give him more of a choice he'll always choose something else. I love to save a few pieces and stash them in the refrigerator and eat them COLD in the morning. There's just nothing quite like cold pizza for breakfast.
I also love pasta. Recently I've been on a baked ziti kick. And before that it was cajun chicken pasta.
And you can never go wrong with bread. Sometimes I'll just pull a few pieces from the loaf and chow down. I don't put anything on it or toast it. I love rolls, homemade bread, pumpkin rolls (probably not considered a bread since it doesn't have yeast, but it does have flour - so I'm counting it), French bread, bread sticks, cheese sticks, pretzels, pretty anything with tons of carbs.

Favorite TV shows: The Bacherlorette/The Bachelor. Don't judge. I never really cared for these shows until my best friend Sara introduced me to them. On the night of the season finale, one of our roommates was having a church meeting in our living room, so Sara couldn't use the TV to watch The Bachelor. She decided that she would go accomonder her now husband Steve's TV. And since I didn't want to wait by myself up in my room until the meeting was over downstairs I went with her. And I've never looked back. Yes, it's overly dramatic. Yes, it's completely ridiculous. And yes, it's lame reality TV. But I love it.

We also like to watch Glee. It used to be really good when they would write the storyline and then find songs that fit into want they wanted to show, but now that they're writing more and more episodes around particular songs or artists we don't like it so much.
Raising Hope is a show that we accidentally stumbled upon. Back when we had cable and watched Glee on our TV and not through the internet, we left it on after Glee was over. Raising Hope comes on right after. It's absolutely hilarious, and we got sucked in. We love it because there's no bad language, no innuendos, no sex. It's just a good sitcom about an unusual family.

We also loved the show Outsourced on NBC, but apparently no one else did because it got cancelled.
Again don't judge, but we definitely love us some reality TV. Teen Mom (Brad actually hates this show and leaves the room when I turn it on), and MTV's The Challenge.

Favorite movies: If you know me and are a movie critic, you've learned to not listen to me in the least bit when I talk about movies I like. Why? Because I honestly like everything I see. Granted over the years there are definitely been movies I haven't cared for and haven't even finished watching. But I totally get sucked into everything else. I've only ever met one other person like this - my dear friend Steve. Actually for his birthday, Sara said he wanted some new movies and asked me to pick them out because we liked the same kinds of things. Unless I absolutely LOVE a movie I won't watch it twice. I find no joy in watching something where I already know the ending and how the characters made it there. My all-time favorite movie is The Boondock Saints. I could watch this movie everyday for the rest of my life and never get bored.
Actors I love: Hugh Jackman, Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Gerard Butler, Liam Neeson

Musical artists I love: Relient K has always been a favorite of mine since high school.

I also love Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Van Halen, Journey, Boston Metallica, Breaking Benjamin, Alkaline Trio, Bowling for Soup, Cher, Josh Turner, and Nickleback. As evident from this short list of my favorites, I will listen to almost anything and love it. But if I don't absolutely love it, I'll never listen to it again. What can I say, I know what I like, and I stick with it.

Favorite Christmas song: Without a doubt, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." Every version I'd heard is just as great as the last. A new favorite (as of last year) is "A Baby Changes Everything." I heard it while watching Faith Hill's Christmas program on PBS at my in-laws on Christmas Eve.

Favorite hymn: I've been told that when I was a baby my grandmother would rock me to sleep while singing "While of These Emblems We Partake," and I've always loved that song. I can just picture my wonderful grandmother lovingly rocking her first grandbaby to sleep and already instilling in her a love of music and the gospel. In fact, that very song was the first hymn I ever learned to play on the piano. And I get giddy when I see 174 on the second row of the hymn number holder by the organ in the chapel on Sunday mornings. As I gotten older and gone over bumps in the road that have seemed to try me to my very core I've developed a new but just as meaningful relationship with the hymn "Be Still, My Soul."

Be still, my soul: The Lord is on they side;
With patience bear they cross of grief or pain.
Leave to they God to order and provide;
In every change he faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul: Thy best, they heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: Thy God doth understake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

The topics listed for this hymn are assurance, comfort, encouragement, faith, guidance, hope, patience, peace, and trials. It's amazing how quickly this song seems to pop into my head and how almost instantaneously I feel assured, comforted, encouraged, faithful, guided, hopeful, patient, and my now still soul is filled with peace.

Favorite primary song: "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus"

Favorite scripture story: The brother of Jared. When I was younger my parents taught me that if I had enough faith in God I could literally move mountains. Oh, how I tried to move mountains. I honestly thought in my 5 year old mind that if I just believed hard enough that I could do it, the mountains would move at my command. It wasn't until I few years later when I was old enough to fully comprehend the story of the brother of Jared that I realized not only did I have to believe in myself, but I had to believe in God. I knew I wouldn't be able to move a mountain just for the heck of it, Heavenly Father would need that mountain to be moved and perhaps one day He would entrust me to do it. Only after I thought of that solution on my own, of course. :-) Just like the brother of Jared.

Current church calling: Second counselor in the Young Women's Presidency. This is beyond a shadow of doubt the hardest calling I have ever had. In my home ward we had a good 25-30 young women the whole time I was there, and they still do now. I've always wanted to be part of the young women's organization, because of how much I loved it growing up. We had wonderful activities that taught us valuable lessons. The ward we're currently in is unlike any other ward I've ever been a part of. Only about half of the ward members have jobs, and only 1/3 have cars. Most Sundays we barely fill the chapel and most members have at least 2 callings because of the sheer number of people who attend church but are unable to hold callings. We have 40 kids in primary - all home schooled or enrolled in private elementary schools (most likely paid for with scholarship money). We have ... drum roll, please ... 4 young women. We only had 2 for the longest time, but we just had 2 convert baptisms. There are about 3 young men. The school systems around here are pretty terrible, so as soon as kids turn school age most parents up and move to a different district. Leaving us with no youth. Many Sundays we come to church with a wonderful lesson planned and no girls to teach. When Wednesday comes around we have spent hours planning a fun activity and no way shows. I hate to say it, but I developed an apathy for my calling. Not for the girls. I would do anything to help them out whenever they needed it, but it's hard to constantly care when it seems no one else does.

A calling I would enjoy: Young Women's in a ward with a large[r] youth group.

Favorite holiday: Honestly, it's Halloween. No joke. I love dressing up as someone else and pretending to live in their shoes for a night. I love planning my costume, putting in lots of effort, and having people admire what a great job I did. Egotistical? Yes. True? Absolutely. And let's face the facts, I'm pretty much addicted to candy. So there's no better holiday for me in that aspect. I also love that Halloween is centered around children (if you don't account for the "sexy" [aka. slutty] adult drinking parties). It is a holiday where adults focus on the children in their home and those coming to their home. The children pick their costumes and get to be whatever they want to be for one magical night. Adults carefully pick out candy and treats for the little ones visiting their doorstep during the night. How wonderful! And here's a sneak peak of our fabulous Halloween (stay tuned for a whole post dedicated my favorite holiday):

Favorite candy: Sour Patch Kids and Now and Laters (only the red one though).

Favorite smells: Nutmeg, ginger, and pumpkin (reminds me of Thanksgiving). Nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and apples (reminds me of Christmas).

Places I'd love to go: Check out my Pinterest board dedicated solely to the places I WILL one day visit.

What I want to be when I grow up: Oh, this has been a long road. After changing my college major no short of 5 times and finally receiving my degree in Human Development, I decided I didn't want to do anything with it. Now that I've been a college grad for over a year and a half, I've finally realized what I want to be when I grow up - an occupational therapist. If you don't know what that is, look it up. I have one semester of per-requistes left to take (because I graduated not knowing what I wanted to do with my life and therefore, not having all the classes I needed) and one huge test left to take (ahhh, the dreaded GRE), and I'll be ready to apply to grad school. And yes, you will have to call me Master Andersen when I'm finished.

Biggest pet peeves: All have to do with driving. I don't use the word "hate" loosely here. I hate when people neglect to turn their blinkers off. It seriously drives me insane. I have to speed up and get around them or I literally will go crazy. Do they not hear the blinking sound constantly going off in their car? Or the signal still flashing on their dashboard? And along those same lines, I hate when people don't use their signals at all. How in the world am I supposed to know that you're planning on cutting me off by jumping into my lane while I'm driving 70 miles an hour if you don't signal? People in Atlanta must not know how to use their signals because everyone either has them on constantly or never uses them at all. Some days I seriously yell at people in my car because I get so frustrated.

What I hope to accomplish in the coming year: I WILL run a 5K. My sister, Brittney and I are planning on signing up for one around Christmas time. I WILL apply to graduate school and get accepted. I WILL spend everyday loving my husband even more than the day before. I (hopefully) will develop a better sense of interior decorating. I WILL makes some of the crafts/clothing/home decor that I pin everyday on Pinterest.


So what did I actually do for my birthday? Well it was wonderful as usual. Brad knows how much I love birthdays (not just mine, but eveyone's) and always tries to make 9-14 extra special for me.
Brad came home from work for lunch and surprised me with Chick-fil-A, one of my favorites. But not so much a favorite for him, so we don't get it that often. He also graciously wrapped a cell phone cover I bought for myself and totally blew me away when I opened a brand new iPod Touch! My 5 year old iPod died just days before and my wonderful husband had already bought me this new one, which turned out to be a fantastic coincidence. The opening night of Wicked also happened to be on my birthday, and knowing how incredibly obsessed I am with it, Brad told me he would be a horrible husband if he didn't take me to see it ON MY BIRTHDAY. It was wonderful.
My mother-in-law, Susie surprised me with some awesome capris, new cutting boards, and new turbie twists. For those of you who don't know what those are, they're small towels with an elastic loop on the back so you put your hair in it, twist and loop it in the back. I can't live without them. You can learn everything you every wanted to know about them and more on their website.

 Brad and I also stopped by the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield. They covered a field in American flags, each one representing someone who had died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It was quite the sight to see.

Love, Courtney