Friday, October 31, 2014

loved

You know how sometimes you have kind of a hard day? And then your kid picks up on your hard day and spends the evening (when she should be sleeping, but it's all good) putting together a present for you, complete with her own candy bar that she knows you like, and all the money she has been saving up, as well as a beautiful picture and message, and then presents it all to you the next morning right before she heads into school?


That kind of kindness can turn a hard yesterday into a fabulous today.

Gosh, I'm lucky to have that kid.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

a bunch of cheerful, peaceful, grateful joy

For Labor Day this year, I experienced a really marvelous treat. I traveled down to Farmington, Utah, where I sat on a barstool and sang romantic-ish folk songs for two hours while well-wishers congratulated a couple that I love dearly and deeply admire. It was a celebration of their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

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Scott and Marilyn moved into our Cedar City neighborhood while I was in middle school, bringing with them three sons. One of those boys was Jeff, a boy in my grade in school, and we became friends; attending church together, eventually running on the Cross-Country team together, going to Proms together, teasing one another, etc. Marilyn and Scott became friends with my parents, and Jeff's younger brother Jonathan became friends with my younger brother Jacob.

It was this friendship that caused me ultimate mortification when Jacob told Jonathan that I had a crush on his brother Jeff. I can't imagine what had ever possessed thirteen-year-old me to tell eight-year-old Jacob this piece of ultra-sensitive information, but knowing that Jeff knew my shameful secret that I "LIKED-liked him" (as opposed to just "liked" him) caused me an internal embarrassment that took me at least a full year to overcome. 

At any rate, since Jeff ended up floating in and out of my tween- and teen-hood, I was able to observe Scott and Marilyn a little more than might have otherwise been the case. And then, as we got older and Jeff married none other than Harmony, one of my dear girlfriends and someone I had looked up to nearly since the day I met her, I was still able to observe Scott & Marilyn, albeit from a distance.

In light of all that observing, I feel that I have a leg to stand on in saying that Scott and Marilyn are salt-of-the-earth people, which is about the highest compliment that I give. They are classy, down-to-earth, kind people. I feel blessed to know them.

At one point in the evening, as I was taking a break and talking with Harmony, I looked around the room, a room full of people I didn't even know, and remarked how happy it all felt. You know how different events and different people carry with them different feelings? How the same room can light up with excitement and electricity or flicker into gloom and despair, all dependent on the people, words, the actions that inhabit that space? Well, what was emanating from that room that night was a bunch of cheerful, peaceful, grateful joy. 

If you ask me, it was a completely fitting testament to two lives lived together well. 

(See, I told you it was a really marvelous treat!)





Thursday, October 23, 2014

Garden Plans for Next Year--again, more for my benefit than yours

So, I learned a few things this year in gardening. The first is that my backyard isn't quite as sunny as I thought it was, as evidenced by the fact that the four extra tomato plants that I gave my neighbor ended up producing four or five times the amount of tomatoes that my plants did. Ah well. We still had a satisfactory crop.

Anyway, here's the schematic:

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I planted flowers in the raised garden this year. The jury's still out on whether or not I'm going to do that again. The volunteer mint kind of took them over, but I did enjoy looking at the mix of the two, AND I like the thought of providing flowers for our world's dwindling pollinators. Along those same lines, I kind of want to plant milkweed somewhere in hopes of providing a place for the Monarch Butterflies that have been so hard to find over the years. So, we'll see, maybe I'll turn this raised garden into a little pollinator spot. I draw the line at bats though. Pollinators or no pollinators, bats freak me out, and I don't want them in my garden.


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Once again, the strawberries produced no fruit. So, I've dug up the strawberries, and next year, these pots will be all herbs. Basil (lots of basil--that pesto is fabulous), Dill, Oregano, Chives and Cilantro. Not too much Oregano, those babies kind of take over. Maybe I'll try Rosemary as well.

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This year I planted peas in the back of the square foot garden, and I found that they shared quite well with the tomatoes--when the peas died (and dried) out, I cut them out to make room for the ready-to-produce tomatoes. Symbiotic perhaps.

Next year I want to make at least one tomato cage using wire mesh (the kind used for reinforcing concrete).  Instructions here at Mother Earth News. I'll put it in the corner by the rain pipe, and plant sun gold tomatoes in it. If it goes well, I may do it again with all the others as well next year.

Lettuce Blend from Anderson's Seed is too bitter for our taste. Ditch it.

For the second year in a row, the Kale we grew wasn't tasty. Ditch it.

For the second year in a row, the Spinach didn't do well. Ditch it.

Keep the green onions, it's probably time to plant a new batch of those--the onions that I planted one (or two?) years ago are getting pretty tough. Also, as noted above, I'm going to try my hand at summer squash and zucchini in the square foot garden. Wish me luck.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

sisters sharing spray

So, awhile back, my sister Becca came to stay with us for a few days. She was preceded by her daughter, my niece who is almost exactly one year older than my own daughter, and has long, and I do mean LONG beautiful thick brown hair.

While my niece was here, I had occasion to brush her hair a few times, and to make the job easier, I whipped out my handy bottle of homemade spray-conditioner/detangling concoction. It was a hit--so much of a hit that when Becca arrived, she asked me how I made it. So, I told her.

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This is the bottle in which I keep our spray. The actual "Healthy Sexy Hair Soy Tri-Wheat Leave In Conditioner" was gone long long ago. In fact, to tell you how long ago, I received it as a prize at a baby shower that I attended one fall. The (then unborn) child who was the recipient of that shower is now 21 months old.

We had a great time together, and then, when we'd had all the fun we could have, Becca and family hopped in the car and went home to Arizona.

A few days later, I received this very welcome text from Becca.

Made and used my own detangler on J's hair today. I will NEVER go back! No tears no yelling and it went much quicker. Knew that I would get something more out of visiting with you than just a fabulous few days in Logan!

So, would you like to know how to make your own detangling spray? Get ready--it's pretty tricky.

Step 1: Get a bottle with a sprayer. Personally, I like the trial size bottles as seen above, but any bottle that can spray will do.

Step 2: Fill the bottle about 1/4th to 1/3rd of the way with conditioner, any kind. I usually use Suave, because we're Suave people in our house.

Step 3: Fill the rest of the bottle with water.

Step 4: Shake the bottle.


Enjoy the silence of no-tear hairstying!!






To see what I got out of a visit to Becca's home 
(beyond a fabulous few days in Grand Junction), 
click here

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Yet Another Frozen Party - 'cuz the internet doesn't have enough of them yet!

So, my little girl turned six last month.

In the shock of the century (not really), she asked for a Frozen birthday party--not unlike nearly like every other little girl her age. We settled on a guest list. Since she's our only child, we let her have some kind of a friend birthday party or activity every year. We alternate, one year "big" party, where she can invite more friends than she is years old, one year "little" party, where she can only invite as many friends as she has years. This was a "big" party year.

I was able to make up some invitations using a picture that I found through Google Images. After saving it to my folders, I used Picasa to add the text as well as a side spot for the party details.

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If you want a more detailed explanation, let me know and I'll give one--it was pretty easy, even for a novice like me.  


For decor, we swapped our Autumn wreath on our door for our blue and white icy January wreath. I don't know if anyone noticed, but I liked thinking about it there, particularly since we didn't tie balloons anywhere to say "The party is here!"

I was able to score some beautifully beaded snowflakes through an Etsy trade, and I bought a $4 Frozen poster at Wal-Mart. The snowflakes will end up on our Christmas tree this year and in other years, and every time I hang them, I'll think of the year Heather had a Frozen birthday party (awww). The poster went into Heather's room after the party, because that's where we both wanted it.

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About a month before we were to have the party, I was strolling through Kohls with $10 of Kohl's cash in my hot little hand. Not really needing anything, I wandered to the toy department, and what should I find but a 3-foot floor puzzle featuring our favorite Disney characters for $12.99 Score!! $2.99 plus tax later, I walked out of the store with a ready-made gathering activity.

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As each girl arrived, they took their place on the floor and worked out the puzzle together.
It worked like a charm--much better than I had imagined, actually.
(If you're local and wanna borrow our Frozen puzzle for your own Frozen party, just ask. The answer will be yes.)

After puzzle time, we made snowflake wands using Elmer's glue, die cuts (also an Etsy trade), ribbon, and Popsicle sticks that Heather and I had previously painted with blue acrylic paint and glitter glue. While not exactly sturdy, they turned out cute, and the girls enjoyed making them, which was the point of it all anyway.


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Heather and I made these two before the party so that the other girls could have an example of what we were going for.

At that point, we were planning to head outside and play a little "Pin the Nose on Olaf", but we forestalled that with a little impromptu dance party to the greatest Frozen hits that I could get on Spotify. Hilarious and awesome. You've never lived until you've seen a roomful of girls dancing around and singing "Let it Go".

When that was done, we went outside for our Olaf game.

Eric had been willing and able to freehand an Olaf onto some butcher paper for the cause. Living with an artist is truly the bees knees.

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Olaf pinning was followed by the old standby of freeze tag--which we thought would take awhile, but (in a case that was mirrored by the last time we had a big birthday party) it was a little too hot outside for anyone to be interested in running around for too long, and so once we noticed that girls were dropping out like flies, we served the cake and ice cream.

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And now for the cake tangent . . . 

I had made the cake over a few days, primarily because life that weekend was hectic and I knew I wouldn't have a couple of hours at once on the day of the party. So, a few days before the party I mixed up a chocolate cake mix, adding another egg, substituting butter for the oil and half-and-half for the milk, and baked it all up into two round cake pans. After they were cool and I had leveled off the tops for easier decorating, I wrapped them up in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer.

About a week earlier, Heather and I mixed up a half-batch of these ice candy decorations to use as decor, so they were already on hand. The "photos" of Olaf, Elsa, and Anna were leftovers from the goodie bags that we made, which I'll get to later.

The morning of the party, I pulled out my handy Spiff-E-Whip, and mixed up some chocolate mousse (for the filling) and white frosting. It took about 10 minutes total. Then I pulled the cakes out of the freezer and started frosting.

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At this point, Heather wandered into the kitchen and wanted to help decorate. Since it was her party after all, and since all the guests were going to be seven or younger, I didn't see anything wrong with having a cake that looked like it was decorated like a six-year old. So, away she went.

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Obviously, she was quite pleased with her work.

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We put it on a platter that Eric and I got for our wedding, which was an added bonus for Heather. She loves looking at "wedding treasures". I was the same way at her age (and at my age as well).

After cake and ice cream, we plopped the kids down and opened presents, which was then followed by more games and fun. I taught the kids "Here Comes the Jolly Butcher Boy", a simple but ultra fun game that I learned from one of my brothers a few years ago. Again, if you want to know the rules, I'm happy to share. It was a big hit.

As the kids left, we pressed one of these goodie bags into each of their hands--small cellophane bags that were filled with yogurt-covered pretzels and Hershey's hugs, as well as little cards of Elsa (with Anna or Olaf on the back) that I had printed out on my computer and then had laminated at Watkins, a local printer.
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As parties go, I feel like this one went really well. Of course, that mainly has to do with the fact that we have great kids in our neighborhood and circle of friends, and everyone knows that great people generally make for great times. In addition to that though, I feel like the activities and accouterments we chose worked out really well-both from an appreciation-of-participants standpoint and from an expenditure-of-labor-and-funds standpoint.


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All in all, it could have been much much worse, and probably not a whole lot better. Love it when that happens.


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.  

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