Saturday, January 24, 2015

Random Greatness

A bit ago, I downloaded all the photos from my iPad to my laptop, and then to photobucket. Some of them tickled me just enough or in just the right way as to convince me that they needed to be shared here.

So, if you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen most of these already, but if not, then here are the greatest hits of Charlotte's iPad:

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From ShaLiece. Makes me miss Cedar City

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The day I bought rum at the state liquor store and started the process of making my own vanilla.
(Jury is still out on this one, verdict coming soon-probably in March or so)

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Heather and I made our own salt dough nativity while listening to October General Conference.

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This was the summer and fall where Marilee became a prolific and generous mouse catcher and giver.

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Thankfully, Eric shouldered the vast majority of the clean-up of Marilee's handiwork.

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Speaking of Eric . . .
(what a gem.)

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And finally, two girls playing "Annie" in our backyard. Like, seriously. They were singing, "It's a hard knock life" while scrubbing the cemented back patio and having a grand time doing it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sweet November - sweet for lion-finding, that is!

We have some North American Lions today, and if my calculations are correct, they were all discovered and photographed within the same week. Pretty cool if you ask me.

These next two pictures I shot on November 20th, while we walked from our hotel to Disneyland on our first full day in California.
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Meanwhile, Lyn was living it up in Merida, Mexico. She photographed this guy on November 18, just two days before I got the one above.
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And then, whe have this beauty from Juliana, who was in St. Louis on November 22, waiting at a stoplight when she looked over a spied our friend here. She couldn't get out of the car (stoplight, remember?) but she managed a photograph (I assume she wasn't driving) and sent it to me. Notice the name of the shop--The Bug Store. How cool is that? According to their website, the Bug Store has brought elegance, romance, charm, and humor at great value for 25 years.
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So there we have it, three lion pictures within six days, in fascinating places all over the continent, and as if that weren't enough, one of the lions lives at a place called "The Bug Store".

I don't know that it gets any better than that!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Smoky Butternut Squash Soup

I love this soup.

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It's creamy and hearty and silky and scrumptious, and it's chock full of vegetables, so it's like guilt-free creamy-hearty-silky-scrumptiousness. Win/win!

Eric thinks I have a bordering-on-unhealthy obsession with squash, and particularly winter squash, but really, isn't it more healthy to have an obsession with squash than it is to have an obsession with chocolate?

(Of course, I'm obsessed with both, so what do I know?)

Anyway, I was hankering for soup a bit ago and happened to have a butternut squash hanging around, so I made a batch of this deliciousness. I loved it so much that I thought I'd share it with all of you.

Smoky Butternut Squash Soup

(I always half this recipe--but we are a family of three and while all three of us will eat this, only one of us gets excited about having it left-over. So, while half makes plenty for our needs, it might not make plenty for yours.)

4 slices bacon (You can use bacon bits here, and it will save you some time, but it's not quite as yummy that way.)
3 pounds (about 2 small) butternut squash
3 Tbs butter
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 small carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 small celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
¾ tsp salt
3 ¾ cups chicken broth
2 tsp sage
¼ tsp pepper

1. (This step can be omitted if you use bacon bits)  In a large heavy pot, cook bacon over medium-low heat, stirring until golden brown and crisp.  Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, then crumble and set aside.  Pour off fat from pot and set pot aside

2.  (If you’ve skipped step one, skip to step three here, and then come back to this step while the other vegetables are cooking) Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  Cut each half lengthwise in half again, and using a sharp paring knife, peel the squash.  Cut the squash into ¾-inch chunks.

3.  Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and ¼ tsp salt and cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, 10-12 minutes.  Add the squash and broth and bring to a simmer.  Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is very tender, about 15 minutes.

4.  In batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth and return to the pot.  Stir in the sage, and season with the remaining ½ tsp salt and the pepper.  Reheat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle some of the crumbled bacon in the center of each serving.

Serves 8

Can be made as much as two days ahead.  When reheating, thin the soup with a little broth or water.

Friday, December 19, 2014

random photo friday--His and Hers

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These two. Oh, how I love them.

Random Photo Friday - Christmases past edition

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This is my dad.

My uncle (his older brother, mentor, buddy, you name it) gave us a copy of this picture for Christmas last year. It was taken many years ago, on a Christmas Eve when my father was just a young young boy. During the Christmas Eve activities he apparently got too tired and fell asleep. My grandparents wanted a picture, and not having flash bulbs on hand (since they hadn't been invented yet), they leaned a lamp over so that he was directly in the light, and took this picture.

I love it.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Temples by Tourists

Long ago, a friend of mine suggested that whenever I see a temple, I take a picture of it (or more than one picture of it), so that if I wanted, I could have a temple gallery wall in my home with pictures that I'd taken.

As it turns out, I do have a small gallery of about five temple pictures that I hang at the top of our staircase. The temples rotate in and out a little bit, though there are some that are always there, either because I just think they are really pretty (The Salt Lake Temple) or because they hold extra special meaning to our family (The Logan Temple).

So, although not all the temple pictures that I take get a spot in my home, I'm in the habit of taking temple pictures whenever I see a temple. And, lucky for me, in the past two months, I've chanced to see three new (to me) temples. What a treat.

Here are a few of the photos that I've taken in my recent travels:

Rexburg Idaho Temple
(taken during our Yellowstone Adventure)

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Idaho Falls Temple
(Taken on our way home from our Yellowstone Adventure)

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Newport Beach Temple
(Taken in connection with a trip we took to Disneyland last month)

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Friday, November 28, 2014

salt dough--a couple of stories, a couple of links, and a how-to

Note: I wrote this post earlier in the year, like in January. But, I've been saving it for now, because it's a little more timely at this point in the year.

The older I get, the more impressed I am with my mom. One of my aunts once said that Barbara (my mom) has always had four great loves: children, reading, music, and singing, and that her life reflected those great loves in a very positive way.  I absolutely agree.

My mom has always taken mothering (and now takes grandmothering) very seriously. Not that she was a serious, no-fun mother, but that (as I now see it), she made her mothering responsibilities a priority, and dedicated the lion's share of her time and energy towards those responsibilities.

One way that this was manifested was that every Christmas for as long as I was interested, she would let me have a little "Christmas Craft Party". What that meant was that sometime in December, I could invite two or three friends to come over to my house and do something Christmasy. We did it many times, and I remember doing salt dough ornaments, ornaments made out of alphabet blocks and pom poms (kind of like these), peanut butter bars, and homemade suckers. I also remember letting each of my friends take a candy cane off our Christmas tree to go home.

It's a fond Christmas memory for me, so last year I decided to offer Heather the opportunity to do the same. I gave her a few options for activities, and she chose the old favorite of salt dough ornaments.

Wanting things to be streamlined as much as possible, I made up a half-batch of dough before the big day, cut out some ornaments, and baked them up. My thought was that when the girls came over, we could have some dough for them to roll out, shape, and create, and then while their shapes where baking, they could have some ready-made shapes to paint and decorate.

I used a recipe that I found at, and modified to my liking:


  • 3 cups flour, plus a little for dusting rolling surface
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 TBSP cream o’ tarter
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil 
  • 2 cups boiling water
Mix dry ingredients.  Add oil to water, then add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix to incorporate.  Work the dough with your hands. 
Roll your dough out quite thin, and cut out your ornaments, being sure to make a hole in the top for ornament hanging. We used a drinking straw, cut into three or four pieces for added usability. 

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If you want to use that same drinking straw to make eyes for your snowman or whatnot, go right ahead.

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If you want to experiment with pressing random beads into your ornaments, then go ahead.  (We got the idea here.)

A word to the wise, a large number of our beads fell out once they were all baked (though none of them melted). The smallest beads (like the small green seed beads in the pictures below) fared the best. None of them ended up falling out while baking.

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Bake at 170 degrees for several hours, until they are set. I think it took us overnight.
(Technically, you can bake them faster at a higher temperature, say 200 or 250, but you run more of a risk of them bubbling or changing shapes, and we weren't in a hurry, so we took the slow-but-safer route)

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Once they're ready, go ahead and paint them. We like using acrylic paints--the colors are brighter and more permanent than the washable paints that we generally use for our craftiness.

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As it turned out, Heather was diagnosed with Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease the day before the big party, and so the "friend" Christmas Craft Party turned into a "mother-daughter" Christmas Craft Party. Not as fun, but better than nothing.  A whole lot better than nothing, actually.

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Because it was just the two of us, Heather and I had a hard time making it through the salt dough that I had made for four little girls. So we saved some and two months later, we made Valentine necklaces.

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Equally satisfying.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

lions- out of China and back to little 'ole me

From China to Cache Valley--here's a pair of lions I took in a gated community near my own home.

This first picture is a bit blurry because while I don't mind marching up to within inches of lions when they belong to people I don't know, I'm a little more circumspect when I'm in my own neighborhood among people who I may or may not know in real life. So, I had to use the zoom feature for these guys.

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Here they are un-zoomed.

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