Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our Christmas 2009

Xan and I had a really low key Christmas and LOVED IT! We relaxed the whole day. Xan's parents came to visit on the 27th and will stay with us until the 2nd of January. We are all hoping we get snowed in here so they can take a few more days of vacation before returning back to LONG work hours. It's really fun to have them here. We've been doing a lot of shopping and movie seeing..

I've been meaning to post a picture of our tree forever for my mom and just keep forgetting. Here it is: It's a real tree about 3 feet tall. Thank you, Grandma Beck, for the Christmas star you gave me a few years back. It has made a fantastic tree topper. :)



I also crocheted Xan a hat. It was a simple one since I've never made anything beside an afghan or two. But here it is.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why are December holidays so angry?

Why is it that so many people get offended by being wished a Merry Christmas? Why can't it be something that I say Merry Christmas to them and they say Happy Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Holidays or whatever back? Why not make it a faith declaration as well as a warm, friendly greeting?

Why is it that people wait until the last minute to do their holiday shopping only to become irate if the lines are long or the desired and sometimes essential holiday item is out of stock? Shouldn't that be expected the eve of the specific holiday?

Why is it that people have to hurry during snow storms? Are there really employers out there that wouldn't look outside and simply say, "I'm glad you made it here safely even if you are 10 min. late."? Are the previews to a movie really that important that you would risk sliding into other cars or off the road just to see what is readily available over Youtube.com? Why not pay attention to the weather report and be prepared to leave 10 min. early? Or, if you are lazy like me, take a look outside before you start getting ready to know if you need to leave any earlier.

Let's take a deep breath this Holiday Season and be offended a little less. Plan ahead just enough to avoid last minute rushes (and the chance that menorahs, trees, or stockings might be sold out). And stop driving recklessly in slippery weather.

Let's actually ENJOY the celebration of Peace and Joy.

And... Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Where's the respect for the Ladies?

My job at work is to stock groceries. That means medium to heavy labor required. It also means that it is a world of men and very few women. The result is that if it were ever to air on tv, a good portion of the conversations would have to be bleeped out.

I learned today that I have earned myself a new reputation in the workplace in just my three weeks of being at Wegmans. I am the woman who scolds for using foul language or telling of crude jokes in the presence of women. I usually only get after the really offensive stuff, too. Yes, I get teased for it a bit but all in good spirits. Best of all, the men I work with respect it (even if some of the younger ones forget sometimes).

I am really sad that the world has lost that element. It used to be that when a woman walked into the room, gentleman would stand. Men would go out of their way to make sure that a woman was shielded from profanities, violence, and danger. Now, too often than not, the women join in with the men. And don't get me started on my opinions of women swearing. (briefly: Seriously! Is there anything less attractive than a woman cursing?)

I'm not demanding a revival of chivalry but I am disappointed that I had to ever open my mouth to remind some of them that most of what was coming out of their mouth was completely inappropriate to be saying when a lady is in hearing range let alone part of the conversation.

I do want to give my thanks to Rob even though he will probably never read this. Today was my last day working with him since he's transferring to another Wegman's closer to his house. Rob is the kind of guy that never would let me carry anything that he considered heavy even though that meant over 30% of what we stock in the International Department. He's the type of guy that only has compliments to say about his wife. He's the type of guy that a lady never has to worry about what she will hear come from his mouth. He's the type of guy that will chew another guy out if that guy is being disrespectful to a woman. He's the type of guy that helped set an example for other men to follow.

If we want to be respected, we need to respect ourselves enough to not be afraid to open our mouths and politely say, "I'm sorry. Could you please watch your language. You are talking to a lady here." It sounds cheesy. I know. But you would be surprised at how more often than not, the offender will be stunned and quickly apologize and clean up his language. It worked for me 90% of the time that I was working in customer service and had men yelling and swearing at me almost on a daily basis. (that excludes the women offenders. You can only ask them to watch their language or it implies that THEY aren't a lady and I imagine they wouldn't like that.)

Ladies, let's take a stand!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Latest Obsession

INTRODUCTION:

Many of you out there know about my ADHD and my tendency towards what professionals call 'hyper-focus'. Most of my friends, and especially my husband, refer to it as my obsession for the day... week... or however long the topic lasts as my point of focus. Friends who grew up with me can recognize this trait by the number of times I switched interests. I'd go from acting to languages to cooking to traveling to Egyptology... and I think this specific train of interests all happened in the 7th grade.

My poor mother never knew what to do with me. I was always coming up with big ideas I'd want them to help me finance. They were able to help with some of them, such as putting me in acting or singing lessons, but others were too outlandish for them. Like when I was determined during my sophomore and junior year of high school that I wanted to be a foreign exchange student in Italy. LOL! Oh, the memories. Poor Mommy. I was never an easy child to raise but thankfully, she's a tough one and weathered the storm. Now that I'm married, she's off the hook and can simply laugh at all my crazy ideas. :)

My poor husband is left to sift through which ideas to support and which to silently wait out until something else catches my fancy. He was incredibly supported of everything that I wanted to do the first year while we were dating. Then, he started realizing how often my dreams changed and that I didn't follow through on over 95% of my ideas. :) Don't get me wrong. My husband has proven himself to bend over backwards to support me in the things I choose to do. But, we have both learned the value in making sure that I REALLY know that I want to do something long-term before investing any money or extensive time in a new hobby or project. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for his patience and his guidance through it all.

THE ORIGINAL THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO POST:


I've waited to blog this recent "obsession" until it made it past the initial month but recently, I have been fascinated by natural pregnancies and baby care. Before anyone jumps to conclusions (although I bet its too late for most of you:)) I am not pregnant and am not planning on becoming pregnant in the immediate future. I'm simply fascinated by ideas that I have never really even considered before.

I started wondering how people took care of babies before all the modern products came to be the standard. In modern times, we have plastic diapers, formula, bottles of puree baby food, special bath tubs, cribs, car seats, play pens, sippy cups, ect. So, I started researching. I'm starting to think more and more about how much more expensive baby care is today then it was even for my grandmother. I'm not even talking about price inflation. I'm talking about capitalism's and advertising's power to make us forget that most 'necessities' are in truth: CONVENIENCES.

Honestly, I am ALL about conveniences. I love my bread-maker, blender, tv, hot water, car, cell phone, computer, ect. Please do not take this post as me declaring that the old ways are the better ways. I just can't help but want to learn more about all of these alternative options.

CONCLUSION

I might be crazy and for all we know I might change my mind by the time comes, but I'm really considering trying out for a natural baby for the pure, educational, how-does-it-really-work purpose. If I do decide to go through with this idea, I am committed from day one of pregnancy, through the natural birth, cloth diapers, feeding babies real food, ect. I'm starting my research now so that I have lots of time before I even get pregnant to decide what I want to do, am willing to do, and what would be best for me and my baby.

Please! Let me know your thoughts. I would love to know what other people have tried or how you feel about this topic.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner all by ME!

Today, I made Thanksgiving Dinner for the first time ever. I'm not really even sure if I've ever helped my parents out in the past... don't think so. There were always older siblings for that. :) I've always wanted to make it, though. Last year, we had just gotten to Iceland and were invited over to eat with the Senior missionaries and Elders.

This year was my year and I did it all from scratch... okay, I cheated on the stuffing and used seasoned croutons... but it was almost all from scratch. :) Since it was just Xan and I for dinner, I skipped the whole turkey idea and got a simple Cornish Hen. Perfect size for two people. Menu: roasted Cornish hen, cranberry sauce, mashed yams, stuffing, garbanzo spinach salad, and dinner rolls. I also made a sweet potato and buttermilk pie for desert but we might be saving that for tomorrow.




Yum! We have a ton of leftover cranberry sauce and mashed yams if anyone wants any. ;)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE!

PS> I'm uploading a few videos onto steppfamilypets.blogspot.com of Toad. He was wired this afternoon.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Choosing Pictures for the Wall


Now that Xan and I have all the furniture in place, I've been pulling out all my photo frames and trying to choose which photos to take to Walmart to have printed to fit them. I found this particular wedding photo and decided to share. :) I don't get very many pictures where Xan is smiling and so I'm pretty sure this one is going on the wall.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Self-Reliance

We recently had a Sunday School lesson on self-reliance and most of the lesson was on food storage, budgeting, canning food, ect. The Church of Jesus Christ has asked its members to have a year supply of food storage, lots of water storage, and have 72 hour kits prepared for emergencies. Great lesson, Amy!

Xan and I were talking about it over dinner a couple weeks ago and Xan made a few comments that have really made me ponder about what I am doing to become self-reliant. His emphasis was on the loss of self-reliant skills that were second nature to our ancestors just a couple generations ago.

He started asking me if I knew how to sew a button onto a shirt? Could I can or bottle fruits/vegetables if we had a garden and grew more than we needed? Did I know how to pluck a chicken? Could I make and use cloth diapers for a baby? If all my recipe books were burned and our internet connection was gone, could I continue preparing full meals for at least a week out of memory? Do I know basic First Aid ? ect. (I am happy to say that I can answer yes to a few)

With these questions in mind, I am making a few new goals. I'm learning how to cook according to the season. Since its fall, I've been learning how to cook with spaghetti squash, and other squashes . I'm expanding my crocheting skills and eventually want to pick up knitting as well. I'm hoping to start keeping up my own herb garden in the kitchen next Spring. I'm working on learning the art of oral storytelling tradition to be able to share world mythology and folklore without the aid of a book.

With all that said, the point of this post is to encourage others to take a look at their own life and see what type of skills they want to develop and what fits their needs. I'm not suggesting that we no longer use the convenience of modern times, though. For example, even if you do learn how to use cloth diapers, you can still use Pampers or Huggies and still maintain that skill. It's more about cultivating skills that might really help you in a time of emergency or shortage.

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I got a Job!

First order of business, and also the best: I finally found a job. My faith in Wegmans prevailed and I start on Saturday for an orientation meeting. I am really excited to have a job. :)

I've also have been putting my new bread maker into use and made dinner rolls. SO MUCH BETTER THAN THE FROZEN STUFF! Loved it. I made a new rendition of the Bybee traditional noodle dish and added broccoli to go with the delicious rolls. Definitely my new favorite spin.



New pictures of our cat and his attack on the Halloween candy have been posted at steppfamilypets.blogspot.com if you want a good laugh. :)

Lastly, on Sunday afternoon, Dan Evans came to visit us. He's one of our friends back from Provo and was here visiting some family. We loaded him up with Halloween candy, yummy snackage, and lemon cheesecake. Just the regular perks for those who visit us. ;) ;) Thanks for coming! We loved having you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Blog Make-Over

I have a lot of passions, interests, and tangents in my life that get pretty messy when I try to blog about all of them on this one blog. For example, not everyone likes to read about reptiles and I know a few people who won't even log onto the blog in fear there will be a picture of my pet snake posted. (I love you anyway, Jenn). Therefore, I have created two other blogs.

www.ashleystepp.blogspot.com - I've made this one my health blog tracker. I'm back in physical therapy and am working on trying to get my body aligned correctly and hopefully get a little more pain eliminated from my everyday life. I'm mostly using it to track my progress and to help me reach my exercise goals. I'll be posting best exercises for various joints and overall fitness.

www.steppfamilypets.blogspot.com - I've made Xan a co-author for this one. We both love learning about different animals and dreaming about all the different pets we would like to have someday such as an octopus, sugar gliders, ect. I'm creating this blog so that we can freely post pictures of our current pets, including our snake and frogs, as well as go off on tangents about other animals without boring those who don't share our passion. :) But we really hope that some of you out will enjoy this site and be just as interested as we are.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Today's Small Victory

I've been struggling here in Ithaca to remember people's names. Learning hundreds of new names comes with moving to a new place. It was easier in college. I would move to a new apartment and have 3-4 names down by the end of the day. Room mate names are pretty easy to learn since I see them all day and everyday. Frequent house hopping and visiting made it a bit easier to learn the other names in my single's ward within the first 2-3 weeks of the semester. Learning names in class took a bit longer but I usually would learn 3 or 4 out of each class: those I sat by frequently and studied with together.

Learning names here in Ithaca hasn't been as convenient. I learn a new name and then don't see them for the rest of the week. By the time Sunday is back again, all previous name-learning has been erased. It was really getting to me because it is hard to make friends when I am constantly asking, "Remind me of your name again..." It's worse with some of Xan's classmates because I see them maybe only once a month.

I realized a small victory today, though. I was substitute teaching in Relief Society for someone who had just had their baby and was able to call on by name all but one of the sisters who raised their hands. A small victory, but I'll take it!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Crisis of Job Interviews and Decisions

I've been actively looking for a job since mid-July. I've done the internet searching before we got here and have filled out countless applications and sent resumes all over the place since then. I've tried going in and handing the application with my resume directly to the manager in charge of hiring. I've sat through several interviews... and nada. No job.

And then...

One of my new friends here, Kim Yost (Mother Nature in the Halloween post), works at Kohls and helped pull some strings to get me an interview for seasonal hiring. It went really well. They had me in a group interview and told me that if my background check clears, I would be hired in the shoe department. I was ecstatic!

And then...

I get a call from Wegmans an hour after coming home from my interview with Kohls this last Wednesday. Wegmans is the most wonderful grocery store I have ever been to. It's comparable to Harmons (for those who don't know Wegmans) only BETTER! I'll spare you the rant of how fantastic it is and just say that their employment offer was much better. I was able to have an interview Thursday with their Human Resource department and then the last interview Friday with the grocery department. I was blunt and told them about my Kohls offer and letting them know I'd rather work for them but don't really want to tell Kohls no until I had a solid offer from them. They have to do the background check and I'll hear from them next week.

Well...

Kohls called Later On Friday with their job offer to work in the shoe department and I had to... TURN KOHLS DOWN. Now I'm in that hopeful state that Wegmans pulls through and I didn't just turn my only offer of employment down. While I am SUPER GRATEFUL for all this positive employment attention, it would be nice to only get one offer at a time and not have to close second-choice doors with the chance of door #1 never opening. I may be 95% positive Wegmans will call back and hire me ... but there is still that 5% feeling of doubt.

Wish me luck!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween 2009

Here are a few pictures from our Halloween. I dressed up in my Chinese outfit and Xan dressed up as Odin, a Nordic God. We first went to the Branch Halloween party and then went to some of Xan's classmates house for their party.

Here is Kim Yost and I. She's dressed up as Mother Nature. Gorgeous!


This is Matt and Caroline with their little girl. They had these outfits for the Renaissance Fair. Caroline made all three by herself. Very impressive!


This is Joel, one of Xan's classmates, working up the Pope look. Love the candy jewel rings. Reminds me of Disney's Robin Hood when Robin sucks all the jewel's off the King John's fingers. :)


Here's Xan in his costume. Below is the picture of Odin that inspired the costume.

Odin is often visiting places in disguise so he looks like a commoner in this particular disguise.


And last picture I have for you is of Kristin. Loved her costume! She dressed up as the mad hatter. Brilliant!


Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween full of lots of candy!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Our family's new addition

My mother-in-law has come to visit and brought one of their cats for us to keep. :) It's been a really fun visit so far and we love our new cat. His name is Toad. Xan's parents found her when she was barely born and took care of her for the past couple of years.

We also finally got those dart frogs and I'm trying to get good pictures of them but they don't like to hold still long enough to get a good shot. I'll keep trying and hopefully get some good pictures up soon. We got lucky and got one male and one female frog and are hoping to be able to breed them. We named the male Thor and the female Ana.

But, back to our cat, which was MUCH more easy to photograph...


He is a really good cat so far. He chases Xan's toes but somehow knows well enough to stay away from mine. :)




He's also started to warm up to us. He wasn't very happy yesterday when we got him but who would be after a long flight from Saudi Arabia?


He looks like an Egyptian cat. Long, tall, lean, and the facial bone structure.


Beth, Xan's mom, is teaching me her Cinnamon bun recipe right now. SO TASTY!

PS. We've been experiencing a few computer technical issues this past month but hopefully I'll be able to post more regularly. I miss the blogging world. :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Place I Call Home

There is no better feeling than to wake up and know that your home is in order. The floors may not be scrubbed and there might be a few dishes in the sink, but we have finally gotten our apartment to the point where most everything has a place and each room is functioning as it is supposed to. It is fun to be the Lady of a well kept house. Now, I just need to get in the habit of keeping it a well kept house. ;) I can see my mom rolling her eyes now and thinking of how well I did that living in her house. LOL!

I'm also especially proud to be married to Xan. Yesterday, he found a way to read an Icelandic bit of poetry in a Near Eastern and Mediterranean poetry reading by his professor's request and then showed off his sweet athletic skills by helping our Branch's intramurral football team maintain an undefeated season. He is FAST running down that field. :) Xan is incredibly well-rounded and sometimes irritatingly good at everything he does even if he is a bit of a nerd with all his dungeons and dragons stuff we've uncovered through unpacking. ;) Hopefully, Cornell will continue to appreciate his diversity in his studies and not try to curb his interests into one rigid field as long as he continues to show them that his physics, Scandinavian, and Near Eastern interests really do connect together.

Speaking of Xan and his accomplishments, he has almost finished his natural terrarium. Don't worry, any of you reptile-phobias, there are no reptiles in this photo... yet.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Kitchen Table!

Craigslist is a grand thing. We found a table this last weekend for a good price. The chairs are cushioned and have a hinge on them so you can lean back on them. We have six of them. Two of them are serving as our temporary couch! It is really nice to have a place to sit down and great to be able to sit at a table with a bowl of cereal.



While having a table is great, its driven us to unpacking the last of the boxes. We now have all the last odds and ends lying around. Just a taste of the evidence is all over the table. :) We also got sick this last week. Nothing serious but enough to slow us down. Thankfully, it was not the Swine Flu, something that is going around Ithaca. We are both doing better and are ready to get back to the ungoing task of settling in. Speaking of which:


More reptiles, I know. Xan found a FANTASTIC deal on a bunch of tanks. We got a 50 gallon, a 29 gallon, a small turtle tank, a couple other kinds of tanks, and a stand that we are going to use as a table next to the door for a whopping $60. This purchase has made it possible for Xan to finally get started on his dart frog terrarium. It will stand up with the right side down on the bottom. We're hoping to have it ready for the frogs in a couple more weeks. There is a local seller with two dart frogs waiting for us. Xan has been really excited in this project.

I also came across all my old art things. To save on money, I'm repainting them to decorate our bare walls (a lot of them are a bit damaged from being stored, let alone most of them were incomplete.) I'm still working on this one below. It looks better in this picture than it does in life, but it's a work in progress. It's really fun to be able to paint again, although its a bit more expensive buying the paint through Michael's than through my high school art teacher who got good discounts. LOL!


Things are changing outside our apartment, too! Autumn time in New England is AMAZING! The colors of the leaves are beginning to change and there are vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges mixed in with the remaining green. I'll have to go out with my camera soon and get some pictures so that I can share it with all of you. Seriously, it is worth coming and seeing for yourselves if any of you haven't been to the East Coast for the Fall.

Soon I'll have the apartment put in order, hopefully be employed, and have some kind of schedule beyond my current one which consists of watching Charmed all day with a few errands fit in between. Not a bad life, mind you, but not one that I would like to keep up for the rest of my life. I am about to finish all 8 seasons of Charmed within a month and a half. Only 5 more episodes to go. The question tomorrow will be which series do I start next? Buffy.... Bones... Scrubs... 24... So many others to choose from. But, I have a few hopeful job trails that might turn something up in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I need to catch up in reading all of your blogs. :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Friday Afternoon Outdoors

Xan and I went out exploring Friday afternoon when his class was cancelled. First stop: Buttermilk Falls State Park.


This is the bottom of the gorge we followed on our excursion.


The whole walk was really pretty!


This is the first cicada I've ever seen. Xan found it and showed it to me.
















I'm lazy and am not adding nearly as much caption as usually. This was towards the top of the trail of the gorge. It was pretty strenuous walking up hill a few times at the steep parts but the views were well worth it!


We took a different trail back down to the parking lot that was a bit further from the river itself.


These last two pictures, above and below, are from another park we visited called Robert H. Treman State Park. Apparently, in the summer, this is a popular swimming spot.


Come visit and we'll take you along! I'd suggest coming Spring, Summer, or Fall for the scenic stuff. The Winters here are supposed to be cold, snowy, and icy. :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Aakash's New Home

Aakash, my pet ball python, arrived back to me Wednesday morning via UPS. While she was being kept in Utah until we could ship her (Again, HUGE thanks to Emily and Mike for taking care of her!) we upgraded her home. She has been moved from her original 20 gallon tank to a 50 gallon tank we found here on Craigslist. It took a while to get it all cleaned up but she has a LOT of space now. :)


She can now stretch all the way out in her cage. We're also going to have room to put more dark places for her to hide in besides her one log.


She's really funny. If you catch her outside of her log during the day, she'll freeze wherever she was and sit there frozen. "If I don't move, they won't be able to see me." You have to sit very still for a couple of minutes before she'll continue on her way.

Update: I am still job-hunting but am really enjoying the Classical Chinese course. Xan is getting back into the swing of classes and homework. We bought two bookshelves last night that we are hoping will hold the rest of our boxes of books. I am the one constructing them so I sure hope they hold! LOL!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pics of our Place

For any of you who are curious or interested in where we are living, this blog is for you. I tried to take pictures of all of our rooms today. Xan was in class all day so I did a bit of rearranging and some straightening.

We'll start off with the bedroom. Our one major furniture purchase was our bed. We have not had a bed since we were living in relative's basements last fall while waiting to get to Iceland. We made it through Iceland without one. Can I just say that life is so much better when there is a comfortable place to sleep! I wake up just a little bit less sore every morning. :) We decided to go for a King bed and we did a combination of two XL twin mattress that together is the same size as one King mattress. Not only was it much easier to haul up the the third floor, but it makes it harder to feel the other one moving around in their sleep since they're on a separate mattress. Highly recommend it!

Here's the living/family room. This is where we spend the majority of our time. I like to study while watching Charmed or whatever movie/tv show appeals to me at the time. Xan is enjoying the return of football season.


Here is the other half of the living/family room. Most of these bins are full of books with books on top. We will be getting bookshelves eventually. I just need a job first. :) They work really well as our couches for the moment. We just use our pillows and prop them up against them while sitting on the floor. Works quite well!


Here is my wonderful kitchen. Nice and open!


This is the middle room that we are using for the study. You can see most of the cool desk we got Xan. Of course, it is COVERED with books but he has no papers to write yet so we have some more time to clear it off. We are also using this room for reptiles. Xan has some plants he'll be using for the aquarium under a high UV light. It makes the room glow funny. :) You can also glimpse that 50 gallon tank I am still getting cleaned out for Aakash. We are hoping to get her shipped to us and arrive by next Wednesday. She started shedding right when Emily was about to ship her to us a week ago so we had to put it off. I'll get her back soon. :)


Here is our guest room. It is currently acting as my study and is loaded with all my books and crafts. It's also a place for misc items.


A glimpse at the bathroom. It looks like it got remodeled recently and is really clean. :)


This is the entrance to the attic. There were some wasps up there when we first got here but that got taken care of. It is now a safe place and, thankfully, holds a lot of stuff.


It was raining hard this evening so I went to pick Xan up after his classes and we took some of his classmates home. I've met them a couple times previously and they are all really nice girls. From left to right, we have Rae, Kristin, and Adin. I hope I spelled their names correctly! I had my camera with me so decided to take advantage of my chance to focus on my blog again.


If the weather is nice tomorrow, Xan and I plan on hiking around campus. There are some gorgeous trails and walkways. We also are going to try to go to the museum. Hope you enjoyed the tour of our place!