Monday, November 30, 2009

Giveaway! iPod Tune Juice 2

Ever on a plane ride, enjoying your flicks and tunes on your iPod...and it suddenly dies? And you are stuck with reading SkyMall for the rest of your flight? Don't let this happen to you again!

I am holding a giveaway for a Griffin TuneJuice2 backup battery for iPod. These electrical lifesavers retail for $31.99 at Best Buy, but now you have a chance to score one for free! It juices your iPod with AAA batteries, giving you extra hours of entertainment enjoyment. It is compatible with the iPod Classic, Nano, and Mini via the standard Apple USB connection jack. (The iPhone 2G gives you an "incompatible device" error message but still powers up. Doesn't work for iPhone 3G). I keep mine in my purse at all times, and it's gotten me out of a power pinch when my iPhone is almost dead and I don't have an outlet to charge it at.

I'm feeling the spirit of giving for this holiday season, and want to know what tunes put you in the merry mood. Give me some ideas of what to add to my Christmas playlist.

To enter:
Just comment on this post with your top 5 Christmas songs (title and artist), like this:

I want to win!!
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Barenaked Ladies + Sarah McLachlan
Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy - Bing Crosby + David Bowie
Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney
The Christmas Song - Mel Torme
Grown Up Christmas List - Amy Grant

For extra entries:
Click on the sidebar and become a follower of
Head over to my review blog Nicole Rates It and become a follower
Follow me on Twitter at @cuteculturechic and tweet about the giveaway

(Gushing compliments will be accepted on a case-by-case basis)

Contest ends Monday, December 7, 2009 at 9:00 am.

Good luck!

DespairWear Shirts I want

All these shirts available at

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tender Tennessee Christmas?

Since Taylor has been with his airline, he's had relatively good luck with having holidays off. Sometimes he'll miss an "eve" but make it for the "day," or part of the accompanying weekend. For Thanksgiving, he had three days off. He flew in to ONT Wednesday morning at 4 am, and flew out of LAX Friday morning at 4 am. It is difficult to spend so much time commuting, especially because it typically involves pickups/dropoffs at early and strange hours. Since he's been in MEM, he's had much better luck jumpseating on FedEx than on Delta....and those flights are usually during the inconvenient hours.

Last week he got his December schedule, which made us happy and sad. Happy because he has 16 days off (for the first time since he was domiciled at DTW). Sad because he is scheduled on 4-day trips over both Christmas and New Years. He'll be overnighting in Nashville Christmas Eve, and Knoxville New Years Eve. It doesn't make sense for Rosie and I to fly out to be with him....he's flying multiple legs December 24, 25, 31 and January 1. My first (sarcastic) thought was "Another tender Tennessee Christmas," a song I love off of Amy Grant's Christmas album. Amy makes it sound so idyllic...for Taylor it will mean nights alone in a Hampton Inn or Fairfield Inn.

Come on weatherman,give us a forecast snowy white.
Can't you hear the prayers of every childlike heart tonight?
Rockies are calling, Denver snow falling,
Somebody said it's four feet deep.
But it doesn't matter, give me the laughter;
I'm gonna choose to keep

Another tender Tennessee Christmas,
The only Christmas for me.
Where the love circles around us like the gift around our tree.
Well I know there's more snow up in Colorado
Than my roof will ever see,
But a tender Tennessee Christmas is the only Christmas for me.

Every now and then, I got a wanderin' urge to see
Maybe California, maybe tinsel town's for me.
There's a parade there, we'd have it made there;
Bring home a tan for New Year's Eve.
Sure sounds exciting, awfully inviting,
Still I think I'm gonna keep

Another tender Tennessee Christmas,
The only Christmas for me.
Where the love circles around us like the gift around our tree.
Well they say in's a warm holiday;
It's the only place to be.
But a tender Tennessee Christmas is the only Christmas for me.
(Ohh, you know I wanna be home.)

Friday, November 27, 2009


Thanksgiving Dinner with my in-laws was lovely. Especially the stuffing. And the jello. And the mashed potatoes and gravy. And the spinach souffle. And the glazed yams and apples. And the turkey. And the sweet rolls. And the pumpkin pie.

And the best part? My skinny pants still fit the morning after!

Hope all of you had a great holiday with your families. Now....bring on Christmas!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

HiChew Heaven

One of my fellow food blogger friends tipped me off on an Asian Market in Hacienda Heights, CA called Nijiya Market. They have a wide variety of HiChew flavors that I've been looking for (and have gotten impatient waiting for J-List's 6 week shipping delay) Reviews to follow on my other blog, Nicole Rates It.

What's your favorite HiChew flavor? Mine is now cotton candy. HOARD IT IF YOU FIND IT. I also love mango, yogurt, and melon. Chewable bliss!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Way to Go, Wahlee!

Today, one of my very best friends achieved one of the most significant accomplishments of her life. Emily (aka Wahlee) has been working on her masters degree at BYU, and after much travail has completed her thesis and passed her defense. I was on campus when she passed to give her a big hug. She's worked so hard...CONGRATS!

Emily and I have known each other since 1993. We met in our 8th grade science class. We were at the same table, and I was quickly intrigued by her last name Bytheway. She loved music (just like me) and was smart enough that I couldn't keep up with her. We became fast friends, and have been ever since. She adopted my quirky addiction to They Might be Giants music, and we created our own TMBG-land as partners in 9th grade Geography. We wrote intricately-folded notes to each other in a secret language. We planned things out in our Franklin Quest planners. We listened to Broadway music together. We were roommates for EFY, and attended BYU Education Week together for many years. We were in the same high school dance groups, went to plays together, studied like maniacs, and sang together in MHS's Womens Chorus, A'Cappella Choir, and Bel Canto. We memorized Scripture Masteries together. We both took French in high school, and still slip in words en francais without thinking. She put up with my boycraziness, which is a MAJOR feat.

Emily is a DIE HARD BYU Cougar fan. She's been attending BYU football games faithfully, and has even attended some of their womens' football clinics. After high school, she headed down to Provo as I headed up to Rexburg. We emailed each other often, and met up on the weekends we both were in Murray. She was one of the first people I introduced "my fiance" to, and was my maid of honor at my first wedding. She was my shoulder to cry on when my marriage dissolved. She got me into blogging. She hooked me on to Harry Potter (and I've never seen such a devoted HP fan). She shares my mad addictions to Keane, Donny Osmond, Disneyland, BYU bookstore fudge and chocolate-covered cinnamon bears. I'm really lucky to have such a great friend.

Je t'aime Em!

At my 17th Birthday party

Green Gables Girls on High School Choir Tour to British Columbia

Jello-suckaholics Anonymous

Emily with her Hogwart's-obsessed family

Me, Em, Rosie, and Dobby at WahleeCon 2004

At my (2nd) wedding reception

Chilling with old friends at Dana Point
In line for Star Tours at Disneyland

Em's Family has felt like my 2nd family for many years, especially her sisters

Chillin' in the SLC at Sam Weller's Bookstore
Out to eat...our favorite thing to do together

Nicole's White Bean Chicken Chili

This week I had a few friends over for dinner when my husband was in town. I decided to make one of my favorite comfort foods...homemade soup in bread bowls. This is one of my "throw together" soup recipes, which always ends up better than if I follow a recipe exactly as written. Here's my best approximation of what went in...feel free to spice it up to your liking.

1 pound of boneless/skinless chicken, cut into cubes
32 oz box of chicken broth
2 chicken bouillon cubes*
1/2 packet of taco seasoning mix
2 cans Great Northern Beans, drained
1 10 oz can RoTel diced tomatoes and green chilies (with liquid)
1 small can diced green chilies
2 cups frozen corn
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 T. cornstarch
Cumin, to taste
Chili Powder, to taste

Brown chicken cubes in frying pan, seasoned with cumin, chili powder, and a splash of chicken broth. In a large (8 quart) stockpot, combine chicken broth, taco seasoning mix, chicken cubes, diced tomatoes, green chilies and Great Northern Beans. Simmer until 10 minutes before serving, then add frozen corn, whipping cream, cumin and chili powder. Thicken with cornstarch till liquid is desirable consistency. Serve in bread bowls.

Garnish with sour cream, tortilla chips, and shredded pepper jack cheese

Preparation time: less than 30 minutes. Makes approximately 8 servings.

*Depending on what brand of chicken broth you use, the soup may have a weak chicken flavor once all ingredients are in. I dissolve 2 chicken bouillon cubes in a small cup of hot water to make a runny paste, and mix splashes of the thick bouillon into the pot until it's got the right chicken taste.

I have won two chili cook-off awards with this recipe: one for most original, and one for best non-beef chili. If you like it with more beans, throw in more beans (it's really good with black beans). You can spice it up as much as you want, such as a splash of Chipotle Tabasco, pico de gallo or diced jalapenos. For those faint of tastebuds, omit the small can of green chilies and garnish with cheddar cheese.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pilot News

Pilots, planes and aviation have been in the news a lot this year. Let's go over the highlights:

Planes that crash just short of the runway in wintry conditions

Distracted pilots who overshoot their destination by 150 miles

A drunk pilot failing a breathalyzer test prior to a trans-oceanic flight from London

A flight landing on the taxiway instead of the runway at ATL

Air France flight 447 crashing into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all on board

It would be nice if there were more stories of successful "near misses" or "Miracles on the Hudson?" (well, obviously NO crash would be better, but if problems arise, I want my crew competent like Sully, Skiles, and their experienced flight crew) Crew payscales are ridiculously low compared to the last few years, and some crew members have resorted to living in an LAX airport parking lot.

But not all pilot news is bad. My favorite news is when I know that my husband is successfully assigned a non-rev or jumpseat and he's on his way home (even if it means picking him up at 5 am). It's been tough having him commute from Memphis, but I'm excited for the time DO get to spend with him. Even better is when he brings along my other favorite pilot for the ride. It can get a little zany with two pilots in the house, but it never feels more like home.

Oh My Darling Clementine!

Does anyone else get giddy when temperatures drop and clementines start showing up in grocery store produce sections? I do! Even more so when I find them on sale for $3.99 a bag. Here's to my favorite cold-weather fruit! Huzzah!

p.s. Are any of you reading my review blog, ? Click over and give me a follow. If you do, I'll share my precious clementines with you (but you'll have to come to my house to collect it...but that isn't so bad, is it?)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Right Now (1992 edition)

RIGHT NOW...I am watching my favorite music video of 1992.
And the Crystal Pepsi Super Bowl commercial that followed...

Don't wanna wait 'til tomorrow, why put it off another day?
One by one, little problems build up and stand in our way. Oh!

One step ahead, one step behind it
Now ya gotta run to get even
Make future plans I'll dream about yesterday, hey!
Come on turn, turn this thing around

(Right now) Hey! It's your tomorrow
(Right now) Come on, it's everything
(Right now) Catch your magic moment
Do it right here and now
It means everything

Miss a beat, you lose a rhythm and nothin' falls into place. No!
Only missed by a fraction
Slipped a little off your pace. Oh!

The more things you get, the more you want
Just trade in one for another
Workin' so hard to make it easy
Whoa, got to turn. Come on, turn this thing around

Did anyone else love this song? It was my pubescent theme song, empowering me until I discovered alternative music, and delved into Depeche Mode, The Cure, TMBG, INXS, U2, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and all those other bands I obsessed over. (I still considered it my theme song until I heard Cake's "The Distance.")

Just in Time...

Just as I was leaving for the Imogen Heap concert on Thursday night, I encountered an automotive obstacle. My car, which had been showing no symptoms of illness, wouldn't start. The battery seemed fine, as the radio and lights worked, but the engine wouldn't turn over. Since I was at my parents' house, they let me borrow their Civic for the night. My dad and Taylor did some diagnostics, and guessed the battery charge was low and hooked it up to charger overnight.

In the morning, the car still wouldn't start, so I picked up some jumper cables. Still no luck. We called up AAA to see if they had any ideas, and they had a repair shop on the line to listen to the squealing ignition noise. The car was towed off, and the repair shop had a diagnosis shortly thereafter. Timing belt and water pump. Luckily the timing belt was a non-invasive type, and the break didn't damage the engine. Hopefully it will be done this afternoon.

I'm grateful that the repair wasn't as bad as it could have been. I'm grateful I had my dad and husband there to help diagnose the problem. I'm grateful for AAA. I'm grateful that Taylor gets paid his "big check" on Monday (every other paycheck has his perdiem pay) I'm grateful that the repair shop is also fixing my AC adapter. But mostly, I'm grateful this didn't happen while on my way to California for Thanksgiving in 9 days. Heaven knows how bad it would be to get stuck needing repairs along the more desolate sections of I-15.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Three weeks ago, Taylor and I signed up for a gym membership. My health's been better recently and I'm feeling motivated to lose weight again (especially looking at myself in all those London pictures). In the past 11 days, I've had 7 cardio workouts. I started out barely being able to hang on for 25 minutes, now I can make it through 40 minutes. I haven't done much weight training yet, but I'll incorporate it fairly soon. I got a freebie session with a personal trainer and went over some suggested exercises, and did a health profile. I've been feeling more energetic, my clothes fit a little better and am motivated to stick with this.

Despite the newfound motivation, I'm frustrated. I stepped on the scale and I've gained 7 pounds in two weeks. Everyone gives me the "gaining muscle mass" excuse (which I think is partially true) but it's still disappointing. On the whole, my eating has been really healthy; lean meats, fruits and veggies, whole grains, etc. I've splurged a few times, like cupcakes and sweet potato fries, but my portions have been MUCH smaller than the last few months. I hope I'll be able to take off weight (or at least not gain anymore) as the holidays (and holiday food) will be present for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Yesterday's Verdict

The hearing was emotionally intense. I had not seen him in 4 years, and my first glimpse of him in the courtroom made my body lurch. His back was facing me so I never saw his face. Hearing his voice brought chills down my spine. Giving the victim impact statement was difficult and emotional, but I made it through. The hearing officer recommended another review in 15-18 months. So for now, I'm relieved.

(If you have any specific questions for me, feel free to email me. The details aren't anything that should be discussed in a public setting)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Justice and Mercy

Later on this morning, I will be here:
I will be making a victim impact statement. It's been 5 years since the crime, and the offender has been behind bars for 4 years. It's parole hearing time, and he could be out on the streets very soon. I'm nervous. Especially because I'm living in Utah again.

For a long time I hated him. The lives of my daughter and I were forever changed. It was a painful recovery process, riddled with insecurity, doubt, distrust, fear, and feelings of violation. But now, a few years later, I now feel like I've forgiven him. Forgiven, but I don't trust him. I don't know if more time behind bars will honestly be beneficial in the long run. I hope he can find a way to live a normal and productive life. I just want him to stay out of mine.

For weeks, I've been struggling with what I would say. I just finished editing and printing the document for the court record. Now it's time to gain my composure, drive up to "Point of the Mountain," and look him in the eye.

Pineapple Teriyaki Wheat Thins??? Seriously?

Last night I dreamed that I was asked by Nabisco to review their new (not real) Pineapple Teriyaki Wheat Thins on my new review blog, Nicole Rates It. In the dream (not in real life) I was pregnant and I thought they were the best cracker ever. I downed a whole box in one sitting. I gave them an overwhelmingly positive review on my blog, and Food Network caught news of the posting. Food Network was so impressed that they offered me a job as a host of my own show. On my first episode, a panel of judges decided to have a tasting of the Pineapple Teriyaki crackers, and everyone HATED them. I was laughed off the show, and the network gave me a large lump-sum check to never mention them in my blog again.

So strange!

What kind of crazy person would think this cracker flavor was marketable, let alone edible?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

CALoween 2009

There's something really nice about celebrating Halloween in a place where it's warm. All growing up, I remember Halloween night being bundled up in parkas or raincoats, covering up my costume....coming home with a bag of soggy candy. For the two years I lived in California, I decided that I preferred warm, sunny Halloweens. We went last year while living in Michigan, and had a great time trick-or-treating through La Verne. When Rosie had a day off school last Friday, I decided to get in a little family and friend time in California.I pulled Rosie out of school a little early on Wednesday. We drove up to SLC, parked our car, went through security, and made it to our gate just as the plane was boarding. We were assigned seats together, and the flight was just long enough to finish my Entertainment Weekly, drink my Coke Zero, and browse some of the Delta entrainment options. We arrived at LAX around 4:00 pm, and hoped to zoom up the 405 before traffic got too congested. Unfortunately, I went with a super-cheap car rental company, and it took almost 40 minutes for the shuttle to pick us up. At least we had a good view.I had a handful of problems with our rental car company. First, I'd rented an "intermediate" vehicle...and they wanted to give me a PT Cruiser (my least favorite car to rent, usually rated as an economy or compact) I knew I'd be doing a lot of driving over the weekend, and said I'd wait a few minutes to see if a car I liked better was turned in. A Toyota Matrix drove in, and I was happy with that car. About 35 minutes later, and after an argument over my method of payment (strange online reservation didn't run my card correctly), I pulled out of the rental agency nearly 90 minutes after landing. By then, it was too trafficky to get on the freeway. We went to the Trader Joe's on Sepulveda to pick up $14 of groceries to avoid eating out for most of the trip. Rosie got her California Rolls and mini merengue cookies, and I got my 4-cheese sourdough bread, Popchips, and Sweet Savory and Tart Trek Mix. We drove over to Dockweiller beach just as the sun was setting. We snapped a few pictures and ate some sushi at the beach.

When we got back in the car, the center console of the car had blown a fuse: no radio, clock, A/C power, etc. There was NO way I'd be able to handle a trip without a way to charge my phone on the road, let alone have no access to the radio. We went back into the rental car agency, explained the problems, and waited for them to figure out what to do with me. They said I could pay extra to get a nicer car...I said that was unacceptable. I talked to the manager, and he eventually let me WAIT for another Toyota Matrix to get vaccummed out and ready to rent. As soon as I got in the car and reached for the seatbelt, the plastic casing for the door frame snapped off! I went back to the rental agent, told him I was fine with the broken doorframe, but I wanted to make sure I wouldn't be charged for the damage. 3.5 hours after we landed at LAX, we were finally on the 405 up to Palmdale.

We stayed with my blogger friend Heather (aka Hizzeather). We've been friends online for a year, but only had met in person one other time at her wedding reception. It was so nice to finally have some quality bonding time with her. Between our blogs and Facebook, I feel like we know each other quite well...but it all comes together when you stay up till 2 am in your silly PJs, eating junk food, watching "The Office," and gossiping about scandalous blogs.

In the morning, Heather's husband Cody made us some delicious pumpkin pancakes. The we played some games on the Wii, and I have to admit it was nice to play games other than Wii Sports :) Heather and Cody were preparing for their ward Halloween party, so Rosie and I left Palmdale in the early afternoon. We didn't have anything planned until the evening at our former ward's Halloween party, so we had some time to kill. I got some advisement from Cybele at Candy Blog for the best places in the San Gabriel Valley to get Japanese candy. First we went to Pasadena, where we picked up a couple things at Japanese-style combini Famina!. We continued down Colorado to Federico's Bakery. I was introduced to their marzipan princess cake by my dear Lizzie, and no trip to Pasadena is complete without this slice of heaven. Next, we drove into San Gabriel to Mitsuwa Marketplace. I was pleased to find their sizeable assortment of Japanese candy at a reasonable price. I picked up several hard-to-find flavors of Hi-Chew, Ramune and Mango KitKats, gummies, Pocky, and fizzy candies. I look forward to reviewing these on my other blog, Nicole Rates It. We spent a little too much time candy shopping, because by the time we reached the freeway it was well into Friday traffic. It took about 75 minutes to get from Pasadena to La Verne. By the end of the drive, we were a little stir crazy.
We immediately raided my mother-in-law's costume stash, and headed to the ward halloween party. Baked potato bar, costume contest, indoor trick-or-treating to the decorated classrooms, and catching up with old friends and ward members.

Pretty kitty and sinister villain ( Me and my brother-in-law Nathan)
Nathan the Villain and Sophisticated Dayna won 2nd and 1st places in the costume contest

I was so tired by the time the party was over, I could barely make it back to my in-law's couch to sleep (I was running on about 3 hours sleep). In the morning, I met up with Liz for breakfast at Coco's (sadly, no pictures). I had pumpkin pancakes again....delicious! I then ran a few errands, and then took Rosie and Nevaeh to meet up for tea in San Dimas with our friend Kevin.

After tea, we went back and prepared for the Halloween festivities. Neither Rosie nor Nevaeh were satisfied wearing the same costume trick-or-treating that they wore to the ward party. They dug up some bobby-soxer costumes and modeled them for some pics.

When Taylor's sister Janelle made it to LV, we drove over to Lissy and Tyler's to get the twins ready for trick or treating. Eleanor made some adorable witch costumes, that could only possibly have been cuter if they'd kept the witch hats on.

Sarah, Rosie, Phoebe, Nevaeh - the 4 cousins

We went trick-or-treating in some of the finer spots in Pomona, including the liquor store and the dollar store. Fearing for our safety, we collected candy in a residential neighborhood till the twins were exhausted. Afterward, we went back to have some homemade apples cider and sort through the candy treasures.

The last spot for festivities was in Burbank. I met up for dessert with my fellow Keaneheads Elizabeth and Kathryn. I had an assortment of fresh sorbets (lime, tangerine, blackberry) and the others ate decadent chocolate souffle. Rosie said it was the best dessert she'd ever had (and it should have been good....the price wasn't on the menu and it ended up being $10!) They couldn't stay long because they were off to a big mid-Singles party. We said our goodbyes and I drove to our amazingly cheap $27 3-star Priceline hotel.
With the daylight savings change, my alarm went off earlier than I'd expected. I was wide awake, and figured I'd just check out and get to the airport. We had planned on the 7:15 flight back to SLC, but made it on the 6:05 am flight just as they were closing the doors. We arrived back in SLC just in time to zoom down to Spanish Fork for church.

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