Hot cross buns and Berry salad: A (new) Easter tradition

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Hot cross buns rising on the preheated stove

My family (Halvorsons) never had any “traditional” Easter foods. Sometimes we had homemade brunch after church, other times it was a ham dinner after Easter egg hunts (some salt to balance out the sweets). But being that this is our first married Easter I thought I’d ask Luke if there are any Greene family traditions.

The answer is yes: Hot Cross Buns (yes just like the song-sorry if I got it stuck in your head).

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Baked brown and ready for frosting

Apparently there were a few years Diana (Luke’s mom) was working that she bought the buns from the store. After this Luke took it upon himself to make them! (even though he claims to be a cook; not a baker).

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The hot-cross bun recipe is a family thing for now (sorry).

But a few times for Easter brunches I have made a simple and delicious berry salad I’m willing to share with all of you.  🙂 I thought this would pair well as a light  side for our weekend of homemade Easter carbs. Plus this is an excellent gluten-free and vegan addition to consider if you are bringing something to an Easter brunch or hosting one yourself.

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Here is the easy recipe for my berry salad:

1 16-ounce container strawberries (halved or quartered depending on size)

1 8-ounce container blueberries

1 6-ounce container raspberries

1 8/6 ounce container blackberries

2/3 T powdered sugar

2/3 lemons

1.If you bought frozen fruits then semi-defrost the berries. If you bought fresh put them into the freezer until you are ready to make the salad.  Leaving the berries frozen/semi-defrosted will insure that you don’t end up with a mushy salad.

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2.Grate 2/3 lemons into a small bowl then cut and squeeze about 2/3 Tablespoons of their juice in as well.

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3. Add the 2T of powdered sugar to the lemon juice and zest and mix together (the powdered sugar will absorb and coat the berries easier than regular sugar ). You can also probably use honey but use your discretion for portions diffrences versus powdered sugar.

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Tip: Do not throw away the lemons after this. Instead place the leftover lemon slices rind and all into a water pitcher!

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4. Add all ingredients into a large bowl and mix gently with a slotted spoon.

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5. Let the mixture sit in the fridge covered for a few hours or for best results for a day before serving so the berries can soaked up the sugar and citrus juice.

Possible variations: You can choose to use orange juice or lemonade in exchange for the lemon/powdered sugar mixture or add fresh mint as a garnish.

Or if you want a fancier grow-up version: Use a citrus liqueur such as Grand Mariner or Lemon-cello.

Do you have any traditional Easter foods?

What is your favorite brunch dish?

Living without a dishwasher

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The sink and counter after a weekend of un-washed dishes

We had all of three days to find our new home this past November (no pressure). At the end of the weekend, sitting in Cracker Barrel we talked through our options and chose on our little 750 sq. ft. yellow rented home in Corning.

Jump forward to the week of Thanksgiving. As we started reacquainting ourselves with our new home, I asked Luke “um . . . where is the dishwasher?”. The answer: there is no dishwasher or garbage disposal! I guess it isn’t a huge surprise after seeing so many apartments and houses in a short weekend that we forgot that detail.

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So for the past five months I have learned to live without a dishwasher. At first Luke and I would wash the dishes together after a meal, giving us some time to talk. But then Luke’s work training ended and he wasn’t getting home at 4:30-5pm everynight. So both the cooking and dishwashing responsibilities were turned  over to me.

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Most days I am left in a cycle of : washing last night’s dishes, any dishes from Luke’s lunches or mine, any cutting boards etc. used to prep. dinner, and then I  decide whether to clean up the dinner dishes or leave them for the next day. This can equal to 3 loads of dishes! (Although Luke does notices (about once a week) when I need a break from the scrubbing and soapy hands.)

But I dread Mondays the most. Because often I  choose to take the weekend off and just rinse the dishes, leaving leaving them in the sink for the next week.

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Monday load

Because of this, I think differently about what defines a dirty dish: utensils, cups, or bowls may be used more than once  (if they are rinsed out) before being washed. And as much as I love making wonderful desserts and complicated sticky, saucy dishes, I do not like the mess that awaits afterward (neither are Luke or myself clean cooks/bakers).

One great help is my dish soap. I have already dry-skin and found that 2/3 loads of dishes a day was causing my skin to crack so I changed over to Palmolive soft touch and even then I need hand lotion.

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Even though I do not like doing so many dishes and digging out old food from the sink drain I realize this is merely an inconvenience. With some perspective I remember that many families of the world do not have dishwashers, garbage disposals, or even enough plates and utensils to let them pile up for a few days. I should be grateful I have a washing machine and dryer or clean water to drink, cook, and clean with.

So although we will probably double check for a dishwasher/garbage disposal for the next place we live, I will for now be grateful for clean water, hand lotion, my dish soap, and my dish rack.

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a rare picture of the dish rack “empty”

Do you have any complaints(tasks) that with some perspective could merely be inconveniences?

Sleep after marriage: isn’t always a dream come true

One thing I thought would be beyond easy after marriage was sleep.

Here is why: I have always slept better with someone else in the house or room with me; their presence is soothing and safe. Also, because Luke and I were super busy while dating I would often cuddle up to him on the couch to watch a movie or on his living room floor while he took a nap before working a night shift and quickly fall asleep.

What I am learning now is that nap time is not the same as sleeping through the night and sharing a bed.

So here’s another myth busted: Sleep after marriage: is not always a dream come true!

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Our bed: before I’m asked the the duvet cover is mine I bought it from World Market a few years ago

 Instead sleep patterns/habits much like personalities are unique to each person.

I grew up in a little twin bed. Usually I am a side sleeper and my feet and hands are always cold; if I am cold I can’t sleep.  I am a light sleeper too–any unusual sound, change in temperature, or odd dream can wake me up. To complicated this, it takes me a long time to fall asleep and sleeping soundly through the night is often a luxury. Because of this I need more hours of sleep; at least 8 if not 9.  When and if I fall asleep soundly I do not move all night.

Luke has at times chosen to sleep on hard floors over his own bed and has slept in beds of different sizes mostly double/queens all to himself (even at age 3!). He is usually a stomach or back sleeper. Luke alway runs warm so he often gets hot in the middle of the night and tries to take off the covers. He is also a very deep-sleeper, and falls asleep very quickly, usually only needing 6-7 hours. To add to this, Luke will move around in his sleep without realizing it.

Now you can imagine what we’ve been working through sleeping in the same queen size bed.

We finally came to realize we both have to adjust our sleeping habits and accept the other person’s habits if we want to share a bed or we will be constantly frustrated, grumpy, and sleep deprived.

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My mom made this red brass pinned retro-looking headboard for me during her upholstery class awhile back

It has taken us until 5 months into marriage talk about our sleep habits and decide what helps or hinders good sleep.  Even after talking it through there are still rough nights-this will take time.

A canvas print landscape picture from our wedding day hangs over the bed

A canvas print landscape picture from our wedding day hangs over the bed

If you are getting married soon and have never slept in the same room, same bed, or taken a nap together (or even if you have as I learned) I would suggest talking about your sleeping habits because you may not know what a “normal night” looks like.

Asking questions like: How did you sleep as a child? Do you like a lot of space/little space? Do you move around/stay in one place when your asleep? Do you like a lot of blankets/sleep with none? Do you love your PJs or prefer your birthday suit? might be helpful.

This could provide you with a head-start on developing a healthy sleeping relationships (and may help you determine what size bed you want).

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Our Queen size bed

Any married couples have advice to share? Have you had to make  similar adjustments?

Holidays grow on Trees

Since my wedding was during apple season and held in SoCAl’s apple country I decided to put apples from a local orchard on everyone’s plates. Hearing this plan, the florist suggested using manzanita trees to decorate the tables; as though the apples had fallen off of the trees! These manzanita trees were covered in purple and orange flowers and little mason jars filled with water, crystals, and LED candles hung from the branches. They looked amazing especially as the sunset.

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After the celebration we suddenly  had 12-14 manzanita trees to take home! When Luke and I came back from our honeymoon we had a going-away-party at my parent’s house. So I thought: Why not use one of the manzanita trees as a centerpiece?  I filled the  mason jars with candy corn pumpkins,  placed pumpkin spice candles in the center ,and lined the bottom with fall leaves.

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When it was time to move I decided I  would bring one of these trees with me to be a holiday/seasonal decoration/centerpiece in our new home. I stole the sturdiest one that looked brave enough to bounce around in a bright yellow Penske truck across the country. It suffered a few bumps and bruises-lost a few twigs along the way but  survived the cross country venture.

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For christmas I bought red cinnamon candles and cut up soft peppermints to line the mason jars. Mini green ornaments hung from the branches and the bottom was filled with a cinnamon decorative pine cone potpourri all tied up with a peppermint Christmas ribbon.

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Valentine’s Day I bought vanilla candles and filled the mason jars with conversation hearts. Conversation heart stickers were placed on the tree and a large Styrofoam heart was covered in the same stickers. I also found some moss rocks to line the bottom which looks like grassy hills and once again it was finished off with a ribbon to match.

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For St. Patrick’s day I used the same vanilla candles but filled the mason jars with skittles to represent the rainbow leading to the pot of gold. In each mason jar is hidden one little gold coin, a small pile of gold coins is also sitting under the tree next to the lucky clover.

Luke likes to call this our Charlie Brown Tree but I think it reminds me more of the holiday gate trees found in the woods in A Nightmare before Christmas.

What do you think?

Do you have traditional decoration for specific holidays?

What do you like to use as centerpieces for your celebrations and parties?

Passport to new beginnings

                  Part of the name-changing process, as I mentioned in Becoming Mrs. ___________, is getting a new passport. Although I was a little sentimental about my CA drivers license and license plate, as made obvious by my I’m a New Yorker?!  post, I’m even more sentimental about my passport.

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                 In case you didn’t know, I traveled quite a bit in college. In fact 10 countries in 3 years!
My first time off the North American continent was in 2007. I embarked on a seven-week global internship backpacking through Guatemala, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. It was a humbling experience being apart of lives of many who have less than I do and therefore have more: gratefulness, humility, generosity, patience, and gentleness. The people we stayed and volunteered with treated us strangers like family.

Coral beach in the Philippines

Coral beach in the Philippines

Hong Kong's busy streets

Hong Kong’s busy streets

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Passport stamps from Guatemala, The Philippines, and Hong Kong.

                A year later I went on a two-week summer performing tour of Italy with my College Concert Choir. I got the opportunity to visit many famous historic locations and sing in many as well including San Marco’s Basilica in Venice and Mary Maggiore Basilica in Rome! I now understand the pride these people have for their native language, culture, food, history, and beliefs.

Siena in Tuscany

Siena in Tuscany

rehearsal in San Marco's Basilica

rehearsal in San Marco’s Basilica

Me holding gelato in front of San Marco Basilica in Venice

Me holding gelato in front of San Marco Basilica in Venice

                 Skip ahead to 2010,  I am off to the Middle East for a semester abroad. I lived in Cairo Egypt for two months studying Arabic, Egyptian current events and history, and Islam. Then we traveled to Turkey, Syria, The Kingdom of Jordan, and Israel where we met with many local politicians, religious leaders, non-profit workers, university students, writers etc. who share about their country’s history, current events, politics, and religion(s). If you want to know more about my semester in the Middle East click here!

Me  . . well I hope you can guess where I am here lol

Me . . well I hope you can guess where I am here lol

Me at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

Me at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

Me at the Krak Des Chevaliers in Syria

Me at the Krak Des Chevaliers in Syria

Me inside the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul

Me inside the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul

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Visa and stamps for Egypt

         My passport is marked up; but it is not full. Many of the people I know from college, my Master’s degree, and my semester abroad  have chose to teach, volunteer,  study, and explore other countries. It is hard at times to not be jealous.

                But I don’t regret the choices I have made. I love my husband and being married. We are here in New York for now. We both have a desire, after a few years, to move to another country which could put our knowledge, experience, education, and careers to good use. The new Amanda Greene passport will be used for that purpose. For now it’s blank pages will be a reminder to have hope in the many exciting adventures I know are ahead of us.

Becoming Mrs. ______________

It is interesting, in American culture, once a woman becomes engaged it is all about preparing for a wedding.

It is only after you get married the government asks: “are you sure?  . . . is this relationship worth the red-tape?”.

I don’t question the decision to get married. But the weight of what I consider to be a permanent legal change did not hit until I had to fill out piles of government paperwork. (I even learned to bring a personal profile of all my legal documents with me places to show proof of my name change.)

For those of you who are/will be engaged soon, let me give you a heads up on the legal stuff required after you get married to become Mrs. ___________:

1.  Your officiant has to sign and deliver the marriage certificate to the country clerk within 10 days after the wedding. Then you can file for copies which includes having your paperwork notarized. Once you pay the fee and mail off the paperwork you wait.

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2. Eventually you receive copies (more than one is helpful) of your marriage certificate. You can then file to change your last name with Social Security. This  requires another form, another fee, copy of your marriage certificate, and your passport/birth certificate. Then you wait again.

3. When your new social card comes you can go to the DMV! At the DMV you need your social, copy of marriage cert., your license, and of course the name changing forms. You take a new photo, pay another fee, and wait.

4. When you will get your new driver’s license  you can apply for a new passport! For this you need copy of your marriage cert., your old passport, new passport photos, the name changing forms, and another fee.

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So yes becoming Mrs. __________ on Facebook is the easiest thing you will do.

You don’t know how many times I became confused as to when to write/sign my maiden name and when to write/sign my married name. (Let’s just say I had to fill out some forms more than once.)

For any women the journey of adjusting to a new personal identity, becoming  Mrs. _________ is greater than the legal name-changing saga. Every piece of paperwork in the name-changing process or new piece of mail addressed to a Mrs. ________ is a reminder of a permanent change in social and lifestyle status. After four months of marriage I am still asking myself: who is Mrs. Amanda Greene ? What is or will be different about my identity or roles as Mrs. Greene over when I was Ms. Halvorson?

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Although my name changing process is finally over my  journey to become Mrs. Greene, to adjust to the meaning behind the name-change, has just begun.

For those recently married: any thoughts to share on adjusting to new roles/identity?

Any other newlyweds find it takes awhile for the name-change to sink in?

Dispelling Marriage Myths

Although I like to think of myself as serious minded and realistic, I cannot ignore the fact that media affects me and what I believed about marriage. I know I definitely fit into the category of “newly wed” but there are some media-induced myths about being married that I’d like to dispel.

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1. You can still feel lonely

Although your spouse does “complete you” they are not your  “everything”. Luke is not my co-worker, student, girl-friend, parents, or God. As we are still adjusting to a new area most weeks he is the only person I have a conversation with that does not end in “thank you and have a nice day!” So yes, sometimes it can get lonely. Sometimes I wish our conversations would go deeper than talking about taxes or planning out our meals (and sometimes they do). But I would be abusing his role in my life to treat him like and expect him to be everyone and everything to me.

Can you imagine the pressure I would be putting him under to fulfill more roles than he was meant to? (I’m pretty sure he did not vow to that). He is my husband and that is very important to me, but opposite to what the media portrays, his role in life is not to succumb to my every whim. Although I am less lonely than I was before he was apart of my life, he is not “all I will ever need in the world”.

2. Your personal problems and insecurities don’t go away.

In fact they are highlighted by how you interact with and treat your spouse.  It amazes me that in the most unexpected moments the lies I believe about myself (you know the ones in your head “I am   . . . ” “I have too little/too much” . . . “I will never be” etc.) get in the way of clear communication. I can easily misinterpret an attempt at encouragement to be an expectation on how I need to live my life!  It is true, we make each other better people-but it is exactly that make, it doesn’t happen automatically or easily, it is what we choose to do.

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Because in reality your spouse is a mirror/window into your self. And Yes! sometimes that can be scary. Honestly: if you don’t like facing your problems and insecurities-don’t get married! The positive thing is that you have someone who thoroughly knows you and  has committed to love you who will help you work through those issues.

Well there is more I’m sure where this comes from.

But now it is your turn:

Those that are married-you find this to be true for yourself?

Any stories about relationships you are willing to share?

Any advice for the newly-wed on other myths that need to be busted?