Monday, June 25, 2012

Refashion: Wedding Cake Edition

Once upon a time, I had a very delicious wedding cake. I only got to eat a little bit of it, so luckily my mom saved the top layer and put it in the freezer for me.
A year passed, and my mom decided to be even nicer by overnighting it in the mail for me, so I could eat it with my husband for our one year anniversary. Despite her best efforts at packing it up, it arrived looking like this:
But the cake still tasted delicious, so I thought it would be a good time to test my culinary skills by making the oh-so-trendy, and kind of overdone treat called "cake pops." I guess all you need is a baked cake that's all crumbled up with frosting, and considering that step had already been done thanks to the United States Postal Service, these were pretty easy to make.

I used this tutorial, which was very easy, so I'll probably make these again sometime for entertaining or something. Here is the finished product:

 That top layer of cake sure made a lot of cake pops, I must say. So if you want any, come and get them!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gone to Carolina in My Mind

First of all, this post is not just about North Carolina, but how could I go to Carolina and not use a James Taylor song for my title??

Second of all, living on the east coast is awesome in that there are plenty of "weekend getaways." For our anniversary, we had a lot of options on where to go, but we decided to go down south to visit Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I was really craving a trip to the beach since the last time was the Dominican Republic for our honeymoon. I was so glad that Victor was able to get a long weekend so we could celebrate and relax. We really really love traveling and exploring together, so we take any chance we get to see new places. 

Virginia Beach is a much more bustling area, with a boardwalk, events, tons of restaurants, etc., which I really like because it reminds me of California. But at the Outer Banks, the beaches are quieter and much more natural. I loved both. The Outer Banks was so charming and beautiful.

In Virginia Beach, we were able to hang out with friends, which is always a pleasure, and in North Carolina, we enjoyed the time alone together exploring the area.

So, it was the best of both worlds!

How about some photographic evidence?
Virginia Beach:

Outer Banks, NC: (Where I took A LOT of pictures, it was just so picturesque. And the day of our anniversary)
And, since I can't get James Taylor out of my head:

Carolina In My Mind by James Taylor on Grooveshark

Duck Donuts: So amazing we visited one day. Even Victor was in love. I will crave these donuts every day until I die.
Pinterest inspired. Call it cheesy, but hopefully in 20 years it will turn into something really cool
I'm in love with the sand dunes. 
I love anniversaries. Or any excuse for a trip. 
And I love my husband, naturally. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

If I didn't blog it (or instagram it), it never happened.

In case you don't follow me on Instagram, here's some tid bits that I've been up to lately. I forget that there are still people that don't use instagram. In my mind, if my parents actually use it, then everyone must. Now I just need to get them playing "Words with Friends" as well. 

You can follow me too if you want: @aocastro!

 This BBQ place in the redneck part of town is DELISH.     
Domnul Popa, our gnome.
 The tea shop in Annapolis, that also looks like it could be in Diagon Alley.           
 D.C. Temple
 Best macarons ever.          
 Charly, my favorite toddler.               
The choc chip recipe was amazing. Thus the photo.
 Thrifting success!!                              
Another day at the Archives.
 FHE at the batting cages. 
Not our dog, but Victor was in love. 
 This salt water taffy reminded me of "Friends," which naturally reminded me of my bestie Kelsy.      
The Outer Banks, NC
On our anniversary at the Outer Banks
Double lighthouse all the way!! (Don't know what I'm referencing? Check this out. You're welcome)

Monday, June 18, 2012

He Says She Says: Lessons Learned in One Year of Marriage

Love On Top by Beyoncé on Grooveshark
(for your listening pleasure. I think it will enhance your reading experience)

I thought it would be fun to think about some of the things that I have learned/come to accept during this first year of my marriage. I really have learned a lot, that's for sure, and it's been a pretty good year full of highs and lows, laughter and tears, and as always, lotsa love.

And, I thought it would be extra fun if, for the first time, I invite my hubby to come on and share some of the things that he has learned as well. Maybe I'll have him participate more often if you like what he has to say.

So, here you go!

He says:

First lesson: Never get your wife kitchenware for her birthday.

Second lesson: Keep you wife happy by avoiding her becoming these three things: sleepy, hungry, or hot.

Third lesson: Saying "you're right" to your wife keeps her happy and will avoid any strife. (He was proud of this little proverb he made up)

Fourth lesson: Getting a kiss and hug every day before you leave for work is one of the greatest things ever...and a home cooked meal when you get home is pretty good too.**

**Ok so, this is a lesson that I was going to include in "she says,"  but I'll just make my comment here. I'm not one to give into that notion that being a perfect wife involves always having dinner on the table. Sometimes he makes dinner, and sometimes I have no desire to make dinner, so we eat Mac 'n Cheese. The lesson is that if you want to do something nice for your husband that really will be appreciated, making dinner for him really is a very simple thing to do. 

Fifth lesson: paying bills totally sucks, but if feels good knowing that I am providing for my family.

She says:

Maybe you'll have crazy dreams about your spouse leaving you or doing something else that makes you mad or breaks your heart. (I don't know why, but I've had like one of these every three months or so.)And since they are the first person you see in the morning, it's fresh in your head. The lesson is that you need to remember to not be mad at them for something that never happened.

Maybe you'll be sick and throwing up in the night. Remember how your mom would have an amazing ability to hear you and come to comfort you and hold your hair back? Well, husbands don't always have that ability and instead they stay soundly asleep. The lesson is that you shouldn't be upset at them for that.

And one of the most important things I have learned this past year is that men are just as vulnerable as women are. I think I had this assumption that men are naturally the opposite of women, meaning that I could say something harsh and that it would roll off his back or something. I know. Not cool. Just recently I heard something from Zoe Saldana on "The Conversation" (such a good show, btw) that said perfectly what I am learning as a married person:

"Part of being equal is being really equal in every sense of the word. It's not just equal in that you treat me equal for me — it's equal for them. [Men] are extraordinary creatures and sometimes we deprive them of their own battles. They are entitled to having their daddy issues. They were exposed to a certain life growing up. They have their own nightmares. Women, we have the power of the word, and we can make or break a man with just a sentence. To abuse that power makes you just as crippled as men who abuse women."

So, so true. I'm still learning this lesson, for sure.

And one last lesson:
If you find a guy that will help with dishes every night, will clean the toilets, put up with any and every kind of mood swing and still love you, and always kiss you goodbye every single morning, then you have found a keeper.

Oh, and one last last thing, because my girl Beyonce sums up perfectly what a marriage is all about:

"It's not perfect, but it's worth it."

Happy one year to us!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

One Year Later

"Grow old with me, the best is yet to be."
Robert Browning

I don't keep a journal, and I realize that's a shame. Especially for life changing days like a wedding day. But let's be honest here, my journals always suffer because I get so embarrassed reading the crap I wrote as a teenager knowing that my posterity will read it. So, I justify my blogging as a form of journal because I know that at least five people will be reading it, so I won't say dumb things. You're my tester audience.

So anyway, I got married one year ago today. And I really want to document some of my favorite details of that wonderful day that I have yet to do, so I don't forget.

I want to remember how great it felt to pack up the last of my stuff and leave Provo after my last final the day before the wedding. Even though I still had a mini breakdown on the drive up to Kaysville (bless Victor for persevering through those), it was still a feeling of accomplishment. I remember spending the afternoon just with my sisters and my mom, just painting our nails and doing last minute wedding projects, and it helped calm me down from the nerves and emotions that are involved in that situation of "oh my gosh, I really am getting married tomorrow."

I want to remember the wonderful evening before my wedding, where we all came together for our rehearsal dinner. I was still on edge, because a lot of people were late, and people that told me they were coming didn't show, and people that hadn't been invited showed up. But there was finally that moment where I realized that none of that mattered, and that it was time to just sit back, relax, and soak up the sweet memories that were ahead.

I want to remember everyone's sweet toasts at the dinner. They meant so much. It was such a memorable evening. I still think back on it and smile, feeling so grateful for the wonderful people that are in our lives, and who were there to support us and celebrate with us.

I want to remember the morning before my wedding ceremony. I had the worst butterflies in my stomach. As I was getting my hair done, my mom was there to calm me down. She drove me up to the Bountiful Temple, and I was still extremely anxious as we were getting some of the paperwork ready. But as soon as I went back to the bride's room to get ready, I was able to calm down, because of the peaceful spirit that exists in the temple.

I forever want to remember how my grandpa married us, and how before our ceremony began, he took us to a separate room to talk to us. Unfortunately I don't remember everything he said to us, but I do remember how sweet it was. Our wedding ceremony was very calm and very sacred. My grandpa gave us some very wonderful words of wisdom and beautiful blessings for our marriage and our life together. I also loved that it was short and sweet.

I want to remember the calming and happy feeling I had as we were taking photos, and especially when we went back to my parents house for lunch afterward. My family was there, and all of Victor's family was there, and his friends who flew out for the wedding. It wasn't anything organized or formal, but everyone was just happy and enjoying themselves. And I looked at the guy who had just became my husband, and it just felt really really good, for lack of a better word.

I want to remember what a beautiful evening it was the evening of our reception. The weather was perfection. So many amazing people came and shared the evening with us. I want to remember the music, and the food (what little of it I ate). I danced one dance with my husband, and one with my dad, and honestly, that was enough for me. I much preferred to just be able to talk all night to everyone that had come. So many people were in uniform, and made me feel like a princess. (How's that for cliche?!)
I want to remember how bittersweet it was saying goodbye to everyone at our send-off. It was my last evening living in Utah, and I knew I wouldn't be living there ever, if not for a very long time. But it still felt great to be embarking on this new adventure, and this time with someone at my side. And I want to remember the rest of the evening, but naturally, that is stuff that will never be written down on paper. (wink!)

We left on our honeymoon the next morning, and I called my parents on the phone while waiting in the airport. We were on still on a high of what a great day it was. My parents told me that they were going to Park City that day with Victor's family, and it made us so happy that our families hit it off so well. Such a blessing.

My one regret is that it all happened too quickly. You put so many hours and so much money for the event, and when the day comes, it's the one day that you really wish you could have slowed down. Or I wish I could re-live it every year in celebration---at least the party part.
To all of you that were there, thanks for being a part of one of my fondest memories. And to that guy who was my boyfriend, then my fiancee, and then became my husband, I love you. Here's to many more years!

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Art of Imitation

"Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life."
Oscar Wilde

So, have you ever let your vacation plans be dictated according to events/locations that you have seen in movies, or paintings, or the theater?

For example, have you ever been to the top of the Empire State Building simply to connect with wonderful films like "An Affair to Remember" and "Sleepless in Seattle"?

Or have you ever longed to visit places forever immortalized in art, like Monet's water lily pond?

Or have you ever wanted to visit a place so badly, simply because you read about it from a book? I'm so impressionable that I even wanted to visit Afghanistan after reading The Kite Runner. And I still kind of want to.

Are you catching my drift?

So have you ever done this? Just me?? Hmm.

It's things like this that have had me thinking a lot more on art and the way that it sometimes dictates or directs our lives and actions.

In my opinion, the hardest class I had to take as an English major was literary theory, because it takes art/literature and turns it into a science, with way too many break-downs and theories of the way literature works or what prompts the artist, or if it's not about the artist, it's about the art that creates the artist, and we shouldn't even talk about who wrote it, we should talk about the structure of the art, or talk about what it says about [insert issue] or what it doesn't say about said issue, and how scholars have been arguing about this ever since the days of Aristotle, and it all starts to get all mumble jumbled and it starts to make your head feel like it's going to explode and you're all, "Wait? what does this have to do with Jane Eyre? Isn't it just an good love story?"

But there is one theorist whose theories I can relate to. My man, Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde came and said that Aristotle was wrong about art imitating life. Oscar Wilde said that it's life that imitates art and is what sets the aesthetic principles by which we perceive life. So, things that are found in life and nature are actually perceived the way that we have been taught by artists to perceive them. I love his example of the fogs of London. Something like the fog in London has existed for centuries, and yet so often, people perceive it now as something mystical and romantic, because that's what poets and painters have shown to the people, and without them, those modern perceptions wouldn't exist. It would just be fog.

Even in just analyzing some of the actions in my own life, I really do believe this is true. I can't even tell you how many things I have done or have put on my bucket list because of a book, or a film, or a painting. All you have to do is read about my trip to London to get an idea.

Just this weekend, I found myself in NYC again. And, of course, some of my activities were involving me imitating art. I swear I do that every time I'm in New York City, because there are just so many artistic highlights that have roots to that city.

This time it was imitating the Hispanic community of the New York City area.

Maybe I should back up a bit. When I was still dating Victor, he took me to a Broadway musical that I had wanted to see after hearing great things about called "In the Heights." "The Heights" was referring to the Dominican-American neighborhood "Washington Heights" in northern Manhattan, but as far as the culture and community of the storyline and the characters is concerned, it could have also been called "In the Jersey City Heights" (they do exist.) because it is pretty much the exact same community. It was a fantastic show. Amazing music and very original. It makes me sad it's not still playing.

This musical is one that will always stick with me as a favorite, not just because of the great music and story, but because it helped me understand and relate to the man that I would eventually marry, and get a glimpse into the culture of his upbringing, which was so so different from mine in mild old Utah. The story is all about young Dominicans/Puerto Ricans yearning for something more: whether it be education, career, quality of life, etc., by basically getting out of the Heights. In other words, my husband's life story. And it's filled with plenty of cultural references and plenty of spanish phrases like "Que Dios te Bendiga," "Bendicion," and "Ay Dios Mio": all things that I hear on a regular basis coming from my in-laws' mouths.

So here I am imitating the way that this community is perceived from my experience with the artform of the theater. This weekend, it was something as simple as experiencing "piragua" aka a snow cone, one that is sung about in the musical, and also experiencing the piragua cart guy's competition: the Mister Softee. The song is great. Take a listen

Piragua by Piragua Guy on Grooveshark
It was something simple and unassuming. I know what a snow cone is, but you don't see snow cone shacks in the Heights, you see Piragua carts. This was the world that my husband grew up in. And isn't is funny the way I'm trying to imitate it from something I experienced through art?

To him, it's not art. It's life. So, wouldn't you say then, that at least for him in this case, art is imitating life, and not the other way around?

I agree with Oscar Wilde, but then I think of my own life. What art has ever imitated my life? Let's think. So, I grew up in quiet and peaceful Utah. I was taught to do what's right, and in my community, most people were taught this as well. Sometimes I was naive about the world. I decided to expand my horizons by living abroad teaching English, and then once again to teach others about faith in Jesus.......
.........oh wait, you know what?
I thought of something that imitates that life of mine:

You know what, I really like this song. So I guess for now I'll consider it as art imitating life. If you can call it art, because there are some who are firm in saying that the South Park guys are incapable of creating art. How about we just call it "broadway musicals imitating life." Victor gets "In the Heights" and I get this.


So, whose side are YOU on? Think about it. And if you can think of any other type of art that imitates my life, please share. Maybe I'll think of something, but right now all I have is Broadway on the mind. Maybe it was because the Tony's were last night.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012


My mom taught me how to be a host. 

When we had family or friends visiting for an extended stay, or maybe just an evening, she showed us how to do it. Most of the time, this involved scrubbing the house down for a whole day beforehand, which I hated. We had to make sure the bathrooms were clean, the beds had clean sheets, and the fridge stocked full of good food (didn't hate that part). It took hours, but when the time came for our visitors to arrive, the house was clean and welcoming, and even I felt a sense pride in having them in my parents' home. 

As I have created my own home these last months, there are moments where I really do feel like an adult. And having house guests is one of those moments. My mom isn't there to make me scrub the toilets or wash the sheets and towels. She isn't there to do the grocery shopping and to make sure that the fridge is stocked with yummies. It's my house, and I really don't have to do it if I don't want to. 

But I have realized that I really do want to, and need to. Because it's my house, and I do take pride in it. And I want my friends and family to feel at home (and not think I'm a bad hostess!).And while I don't mean to brag, or claim that I am the perfect host, I do want to say that when my friends have told me that they have felt well at ease while staying with us, it really does make me feel happy and satisfied. It makes me feel grown up. And I owe it to my mom. I also give credit to Victor, because he is also a great host, and I don't think I'm just being biased.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you should come and visit. You'll have a comfortable bed, a bathroom to yourself, and we'll try to show you a good time. I'll cook for you a little. And we'll go out too, since that's a fun part of vacation too.

We've been able to play hosts a lot this month, and it's been really great. A month ago, my friend Sarah came and stayed after some business brought her to D.C., so we took her up to Annapolis, Georgetown, and the Marine Corps Museum before taking her to the airport. We had a great time.

Then my friend Tiffanee came to visit from Ohio this past weekend. I originally met her in China, and I hadn't seen her in four years, so it was way fun to catch up. She had never been to D.C. so we saw the sites, and we also took her to Annapolis and the Marine Corps Museum. I'm seeing a pattern here??
sarah on the left, tiff on the right

Also, my long-time friend Monica and her husband came to D.C. a few weeks ago, and we were able to go out for some dinner and gelato. I hadn't seen Monica for at least seven years. We even used to be pen pals when she was still living in Bolivia. Thank goodness for social media so we can keep up, but it was still great seeing each other in person!
And going back to Tiff's visit, we met up with our other China buddy Holli, who lives in Virginia as well. It is always so great to get together and catch up. And Holli's baby is no longer a baby: she's a darling toddler, so I just had to include these photos!

I'm grateful for friends.

Just let me know when you're coming to visit, and I'll start getting the sheets and towels ready :)