Monday, September 22, 2014

Roses!

So, sometime around the middle of July, I received an invitation from a floral company to order some free flowers from them and post a review here.

I know, right?? How cool is that?

However, it was the middle of July and life was crazy, and I didn't get back to them until August, and even though it took me over a month to get back to them, they were still willing to give me the flowers. Yippee!

And so it was that a few weeks ago, I found myself perusing the selection of flower bouquets over at thebouqs.com.  I chose the Desperado Bouquet, partially because they remind me of the gorgeous flower bouquet that Eric gave me back during the Valentine's Day of our engagement, and partially because I just really really liked them. I placed my order and waited for my flowers.

The website told me to expect them in six days. I received a Federal Express tracking number via e-mail and tracked my flowers as they left their home on the side of a volcano in Quito, Ecuador and arrived in Miami Florida.

And apparently that was where they stayed.

After four days of watching them sit in Miami, I sent my good friends at bouq.com an e-mail explaining that the flowers had never arrived, and did they really want me to post a review about non-existent flowers? Almost immediately I had a response, asking me to select again, which I did. Six days later, I came home to a note on my front door stating that Federal Express had a package for me that they hadn't been able to deliver without a signature. This was a surprise to me, because I had specifically checked the "let someone else like a neighbor or something sign for this package" box when I ordered, but oh well.

I waited for the time to come when the note said my package would be at the Federal Express Office and drove over there--only to find that the package wasn't there, that Fed Ex had called the Bouq Company and received permission to leave the package on the doorstep, and that the driver was now taking the flowers back to my house.

I'm not gonna lie, that whole rigmarole was kind of frustrating. However, they were free flowers, so it was hard to get too indignant about it all.

Later that evening, I returned home to a large box containing gorgeous flowers, flower food, and instructions on how to set them up and care for them. It was a glorious day in Casa de Cantwell, no question about it.


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The website promises fresh, high quality flowers, and as you can see, that this is exactly what they delivered. These flowers were beautiful on the day we received them, and they stayed beautiful for many many more days--more days than I'm accustomed to, frankly.

So, for my overall review:  The flowers are gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. At $40 per arrangement (including shipping), I feel like they provide good value for the money. Having said that, the delivery issues I encountered (while understandable--they are coming from the other side of the world, remember) would make me very wary of sending these for any special occasion for which a specific date of delivery would be important, i.e. an anniversary, birthday, show opening, etc. However, if you are the kind of person who likes to send flowers "just because", this might be the perfect company for you.



The Bouqs - Premium Farm Direct FlowersIt's fun to think of roses growing on the side of a Volcano as well, don't you think? Definitely a perk.










Friday, September 12, 2014

Zoo Lions, City Lions, International Lions. We've got it all!!




Heidi and Eden are the major contributors to this lion collection, but we do have a few cameos from by Lyn & Cherie.

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Hogle Zoo

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extra ZANY at Hogle Zoo!

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Hawaii

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Ogden (Thanks, Lyn!)

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 Ma Shan Tai Hu, the Big Buddha Statue (China)--Thanks Cherie!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Presto Pesto!!

Are any of you basil growers out there? Do you sometimes have a little more basil than you know what to do with? Have you tried your hand at pesto only to find that it's a little too sharp, a little prone to going brown before you can eat it all, a little unsatisfactory in other ways?

Have I got a recipe for you!

My mother-in-law gave this to me last year. She got it from my sister-in-law, who got it from a guy she used to date--a guy who used to be one of my neighbors at the exact time that they were dating, and yet she and I still never met (weird).

Anyway, we call it "Marks' Delight" after him, and it really is a delight.



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Mark's Delight on fried polenta--deelicious!

Fresh Basil/pesto sauce (Mark’s Delight)

½ bunch or bag of spinach
5-6 stems of basil—leaves only (discard stems)
1-2 cloves garlic
½ cup almonds
½ cup grated pecorino or romano cheese (parmesan works great as well)
1/3 cup olive oil (I usually just use 1/4 cup here and it works fine)
Juice of one lime or ½ lemon juiced
Salt to taste

Cook spinach in a little salted water-set aside to cool. Blend almonds in food processor to desired consistency—leave a little chunky-set aside

In a blender or food processor, blend until smooth:
Spinach with water
Basil
Garlic
Olive oil
Lemon juice

Add grated cheese blend a little, taste, add a little salt if needed.
Add almonds and just stir in
If it’s too thick add a little water



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This pesto is quite versatile, you can have it on rice, pasta, bread, eggs, all kinds of things. My personal favorite though is to spread it on fresh crusty bread, top with fresh mozzarella, and then toast (or even microwave if you're in a hurry) just to get the cheese a little melty. Then top with sliced garden tomatoes. Put a dash of salt over the top and prepare yourself for something amazing. Seriously, out of this world amazing.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe--and a major tangent that turned out to not even be tangentially related after all

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I read a little blog called "Clover Lane". I like to think that Sarah and I would be friends if we knew each other in real life, for although our lives don't mirror each other all that closely (she has six children, is Catholic, lives on the east coast, and is a stay-at-home mom), we are around the same age and share common values, similar upbringings (as nearly as I can tell), and when she writes her opinions on life, family, raising kids, and even frustrations with the world today, I catch myself nodding enthusiastically. Sometimes I even add an "Amen, Sister!"

(Not really--I don't say "Amen, Sister!" nearly as often as I write "Amen, Sister!" But I do agree with her a vast majority of the time.)

Soo, when Sarah provided a link to this cookie recipe, I couldn't help myself.

UPDATE:
So, I can't find where Sarah provided a link to these cookies, which makes me think that she probably didn't give the link, so I have no idea where I read the link, since this is not a blog that I frequent all that frequently.

But, I do like Clover Lane, so I'm not going to delete all that I wrote above, even if it is completely irrelevant now.

* * *

Anyway--I tried a new cookie recipe, and they turned out delightfully, with the perfect crispy/chewy texture that I love, and now I may never try another recipe again. But, I've said that before, so who knows.

Here it is (I halved the original recipe because we don't need a full batch around these parts usually):

Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup plus 2 TBS brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 plus 1/3 cup flour
1 TBS corn starch
1/2 heapingish tsp baking soda (half of 1 and 1/4 tsp)
1/2 heapingish tsp of baking powder (see above)
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips, maybe 1 1/2 cups if you're feeling chocolatey

Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla, then dry ingredients, the chocolate chips. Heat the oven to 350, and while you do that, chill the dough in the fridge. Bake for 12 minutes or so.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Matilda

So, this is a little embarrassing (okay- a LOT embarrassing), but also a little fun.

Every once in a while, say once or twice a month, at bedtime as Heather is waiting for her mom to come up and sing her bedtime songs, someone else comes up the stairs instead.

Friends, this is Matilda:

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"Oh, well Heh-ther, it's-a so nice-a to be-a seeing you once again on this-a fair night-yaknow?"

Matilda bears an uncanny resemblance to someone else you might know, but she is quite different in that 1)she always wears a head scarf, 2)she has some weird swedish/dutch/russian/who-the-heck-knows accent,  and, 3)she tells stories about "the old country" which is her home, and where she lives with her brother when she isn't visiting this land where Heather lives.

Matilda told Heather that she used to visit Heather's mother when she (the mother) was a little girl. This isn't exactly true. In fact, this is an outright lie. But, when we're in the land of make-believe, sometimes outright lies can be forgiven.

Wondering how Matilda started coming to our home? Well, it was quite simple really. A month or two ago, as I was getting ready to go up and sing Heather the bedtime songs, I was in the mood for a bit of fun. So, I pulled on a headscarf, and entered Heather's room as Matilda. She was delighted, and honestly for a bit I think she really was puzzled as to how this could all be happening. We had a lovely chat in which Matilda told Heather all about "the old country" (making it all up as she went along of course--which actually led to troubles down the road as Heather was able to pick out inconsistencies in the story at a faster rate than I was able to remember the story--but that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes) and Heather told Matilda all about her parents and her friends and her cat. Then after a bit, Matilda left, and I came in for songs, apologizing for being so slow to get there. Heather (as you might imagine) told me with great excitement and shining eyes all the details regarding her visit with Matilda.

We both had so much fun with it that I've continued the tradition. It's been great fun, to say the least. I get vast enjoyment out of seeing Heather through the eyes of a "stranger", because even though we both know deep down that Matilda and Mom are the same person, we both pretend that we don't know, and so Heather talks to Matilda as if she were a magical (old) woman and friend, visiting from far away. Seeing that side of Heather is pure delight for me, and I've gained insight into her personality, what is most important to her, what isn't all that interesting to her, what she loves, what she doesn't care for. It's all been very entertaining, enlightening, and quite helpful in my quest to mother her in the best way.

Most of all though, it's a whole lot of fun.


Friday, July 25, 2014

China and Germany

Here's some more lions for our viewing pleasure:

First from China:
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Funny story--that lady on the right is an aunt to my friend Kami. The lady in the middle is my friend Cherie. The two of them have been palling around in China for awhile now, and neither Kami nor I made the connection until a picture featuring the two of them showed up on this blog. Fun times.

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Kinda makes me want to get a picture of me and Kami in front of a stone lion and send it to them!

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And Germany:
(Berlin, to be exact)
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Danke (to Harmony)

谢谢
(to Cherie) 


And Thank you to Google for giving me 
the Chinese Characters for "Thank 
You"
And don't ask me why this formatting is this way. I have no idea.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Random thoughts for a Monday night

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Oh, hello there. How's it going?

For me, good. Here's a bit of the latest:

My company opened our shows last week, to rave reviews. That's always a nice result.

Sunday I taught my first lesson to adults in about seven and a half years. We had a Primary inservice meeting-the first (and probably last) of my Primary Presidency tenure. Good times.

I've been working on dishcloths lately crochet-wise. I think of all the items that I crochet, the dishcloths are probably the most useful, and arguably the most appreciated. At least by adults, at any rate.

Our experimental garden this year has been a bit of a trip. The herbs are growing like gangbusters. I planted a lettuce blend mix this year, and it is growing well also. Unfortunately, we had a salad of said lettuce about two weeks ago, and the three of us unanimously agreed that this particular lettuce mix was much too bitter for our consumption. So now we use that lettuce mix for doll salads, roly poly food, etc. On a brighter note, the tomato crop is coming along nicely, and that's really all I care about when it comes to gardening anyway.

I've been following the Kate Kelly/Ordain Women situation on and off lately. I don't really want to get into a whole treatment of it all here, but I find it all interesting and heartbreaking and fascinating and disturbing. Mostly I'm saddened by how polarizing the issue has been, and how it seems like neither the pro-OW group or the anti-OW group have anything good to say about each other, despite the fact that both groups have good people in them who are earnestly trying to do what they think is right. (I also imagine that both groups have not-so-good people in them who are perhaps not quite so earnest, but the optimist in me believes that there are more of the former than the latter in both camps). I'm not in agreement with OW's goals or methods personally (big shocker there, I know), but even so, I'm unhappy with the schism that this issue is causing with my fellow Mormon sisters.

Heather's calling to me for her bedtime songs, so this will be the last item. About a month ago I sang in a flute/vocal duet of the hymn Be Still My Soul at the Saturday night session of our Stake Conference. I had sung the song in our ward earlier this year, and our stake music chairperson happens to be in our ward and heard us, and asked us to do it again for the stake. So we did. I felt like it went well, really well in fact. Most meaningfully to me, I felt an unusual amount of peace and as I was singing the last verse:

Be still my soul: The hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Isn't it nice to think of a time when change and tears are past, and when we are safe and blessed and meeting the Lord? I doubt that it gets any better.

And with that I leave you to go upstairs and sing Heather her four bedtime songs. I get to choose two and she chooses two. I think I'll choose L-O-V-E and The Skunk Song tonight. We can't get too predictable around here, you know?


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

on dolls and grandmothers

When my grandmother Iris passed away, my father and his siblings had a few different formal and informal get togethers for the purpose of divvying up the belongings. At one point towards the end of the process, my father asked me if there was anything that I particularly wanted. I told him that there was a small china doll--Spanish in nature, with a big tiered skirt that I was fond of, and that if it hadn't been spoken for, I'd love for him to get it for me.

So, he did.


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The doll isn't anything amazingly special--especially not compared to some of the other treasures that my grandmother had collected in her travels. For me though, it's more beautiful and precious than anything else that she had in her home. I keep it in my (our) bedroom, on a shelf where I can see it each day if I want to. Sometimes Heather will join me there for a little bit of cuddling or calming down or whatnot, and sometimes she'll ask me to tell her the story of the Spanish Doll.

So, I do.

When I was young, probably elementary school age, my parents went on a grown-ups only vacation, and my brother and I spent a week at Grandma & Grandpa's house while they were away. At some point during that vacation, I found this doll and was enchanted by her dainty hands, painted nails, and voluminous skirt. Not realizing that she was fragile, I took her from the shelf where she had been placed, and began dancing around the room with her, singing and imagining that she was at a magnificent ball, twirling away, being the envy of all around her, having the time of her life. Truth be told, I was having the time of my life as well.

It was just around this time that my grandmother came into the room and saw what I was doing. Kindly (in retrospect, more kindly than I might have done, were our positions reversed), she took the doll from me, explaining that it was quite fragile, and was more of a doll to be looked at rather than a doll to be played with.

I was mortified, embarrassed beyond measure. I ran upstairs to the room that was mine for the week, lay on the bed and sobbed and sobbed, crying to myself over how stupid I had been, how I should have known that this doll wasn't a plaything, how unbelievable it was that I could make such a foolish mistake.

My grandmother heard me, and mistaking my tears of remorse (at my error) for tears of frustration (that I wasn't able to continue to play), came up to the room and offered to take me on a tour of the house, looking at all her treasures. Sniffling and trying to get my breathing under control, I nodded. We then spent the next hour going through her home, taking down each doll, each piece of china, each curio one by one. She would explain to me where she got each piece, point out the distinct characteristics of each one, tell me any stories that were associated with each figure. I was riveted, and soon forgot my sorrows, lost in the fascination of each new item.

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The older that I get, the more meaning that hour has to me, and the more grateful I am to my grandmother for the service she gave me that day. She could have been angry, but instead she was compassionate. She could have been frustrated, but instead she was understanding. She could have brushed me off, let me "cool off" on my own, but instead she reached out to me, taking the time (her most precious resource) to make sure that I was okay. I don't think I'll ever forget it.

When I was a little girl, a youth and a young adult, the lesson my grandma taught me from this experience was that sometimes we do stupid things, and make errors because we don't really think things through, but mistakes are only mistakes, and we don't need to agonize over them unduly.

Now that I'm older and have children filling my life, I take a different lesson from it all, a lesson in how I can treat other people when they do things that impact me in unexpected and undesired ways. Rather than getting angry, I can be like my grandma, explaining the problem, and then showing love afterwards, even if the showing of that love inconveniences me or my plans at any given time.



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Both lessons are worth learning, in my opinion.

Thanks, Grandma.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Random Photo Friday--Ummm, no it doesn't edition

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You've got to be kidding me. Reliable Internet? I can think of about a million things that start a great summer before I'll think about reliable internet.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

My Snack Success Secret--SHARED!!!

So, in case you didn't remember, I tend to have a little collection of kids (generally girls) at my house for a bit on (almost) any given day.

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It's absolutely wonderful.

And in case you didn't know, one thing that pretty much every little kid I know likes is snacks. They walk in the door, wondering if we have any snacks. They color pictures and make paper-and-scotch-tape creations while dreaming about their next snack. They can interrupt intricate detailed games of imaginations, full of ponies who take care of baby kittens who live in jungles of licorice swamps while watching over helpless infants and simultaneously taming leopards and unicorns -- ask for a snack-- and then pick up right where they left off when the asking is done.

As they leave our house (often to go home to dinner), they will ask for a "snack for the road" (it takes them approximately fourteen seconds to go from our home to their home--not a whole lot of "road" there, but everyone knows that it's better to ask than not to ask, you know?)

And of course, the permanent resident around here is not above asking for snacks from the moment she wakes up (literally) until the moment she brushes her teeth in her pajamas.

I remember being the same way at their age. There's just something about the word "snack" that sounds more exciting, more adventurous, more delicious that the words lunch, dinner, or supper, you know? I mean, "dessert" is a pretty great word, as is "feast", and even "breakfast" and "brunch" conjure up images of deliciousness. But, it's hard to come by a feast or a brunch, and generally you aren't going to get breakfast at the house of a friend on a regular basis, and so getting a snack is about as good as it's going to get (unless you can score a dessert of course).

As a first-time mom, getting used to the "snack train" was a bit of a learning curve for me. At first I bought fruit snacks. But, those little packets are spendy. Also, I'm suspicious of items that say "fruit" on them, but have the consistency of gumdrops. How healthy can they really be? They're like the mystery meat of the vegetarian world, right? For awhile I did crackers, but they are also spendy, and they're small enough that my little patrons think they should be carried through the home, munched on at will, which leaves crumbs all over my only-vacuumed-once-weekly-if-I-can-get-away-with-it-carpet.

I do try to buy apples and baby carrots pretty consistently. They aren't the snack of choice for most of the gang (not exotic enough I suppose), but they're healthy and pretty economical, and I feel good about offering them.

(And I've found that a boring healthy snack is generally preferred to no snack at all. So, there's that.)

But, last fall, I happened upon a recipe that saved all my snack issues forever--or at least for the past ten months.

Friends, I give you:

Easy Homemade Artisan/Peasant Bread

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It's delicious, it's delightful, it's easy and about the cheapest most economical thing you can make, and the kids go wild, absolutely wild for it.

You want the recipe? Of course you do. Here you go:

(This recipe is so easy and I make this bread so much that I'm writing this down out of my own head. Can you believe it? That's a testimony in and of itself!)

Put two cups warm water in a bowl (I use my Kitchenaid)

Add 1 TBS of yeast, 3 TBS of sugar, and 2 tsp of salt. Take a spoon (I usually use the Tablespoon I've just used for the yeast and the sugar) and stir the mixture together until you don't hear any granules. That will tell you that everything is dissolved.

Add 4 cups of flour, and mix it all together. The dough will be quite sticky--unless you are like me and use 2 cups white flour and 2 cups wheat flour--then it will only be kind of sticky.

Once everything is incorporated, let it rise for about 30 minutes.

After that, put a bunch of oil on your hands ('cuz your dough is sticky--remember), and using your hand as a "knife", cut the dough in the bowl into two sections. Put the sections on your baking sheet (be sure to spray it first or use parchment paper or a Silpat) and let them rise another 20 minutes. When they have about 10 minutes to go, go ahead and start preheating your oven to 425.

Bake the bread for 10 minutes at 425, then move the temperature down to 375 and let it go an additional 15-20 minutes.

Take out your bread and enjoy it! It's nice a crusty on the outside and chewy and soft on the inside. When it's warm, there's nothing better. When it's cold, there's nothing better except for when it's warm.

(If you want a whole tutorial on the bread, complete with pictures of each step, and witty commentary from Eric's awesome sister, go here.  It is her recipe, after all.)



If you happen to have some homemade jam to go with your bread, so much the better!
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Those are some happy snackers there folks. Take it from me.
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Aw heck, you don't even have to take it from me, do you? You can tell just by looking at them!

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