Friday, November 30, 2007

O Tannenbaum

It's been a few days since I've posted, huh? Yup, a few CRAZY days. Things have settled down a bit now though, and I have a few moments for blogging.

As I've been reading some blogs out there, I've seen quite a few pictures of Christmas trees. It got me thinking about some of my own Christmas tree experiences (some might actually call them fiascoes, but I prefer the term "experiences", thank you very much)

Here are two of them--one short, and one a bit longer:

The house in which I grew up had a giant Pinon Pine right smack in the middle of the front yard. When I was in elementary school, I used to bribe my younger brothers and sister (it only took one normal-size bag of M&Ms for them all to share) to sit at a small card table with me for hours on end, coloring sheet after sheet of type paper. We'd then cut the paper and make extra long paper chains, which we would hang on the tree outside. One year we did salt dough ornaments as well. Those are good memories, although as I remember, the tree never looked all that great. Wind and snow (two elements always present in a Cedar City winter) tend to be kind of hard on paper and salt dough I guess. (Kudos to my mom for letting us put a bunch of tacky ornaments right in the middle of the front lawn year after year after year)

A few years ago, I bought my first ever live tree (we were a "go into the mountains and cut your own Christmas tree kind of family", so I didn't have any tree-buying experience). I couldn't justify spending a whole lot of money for something that I was just going to toss in a month, and I couldn't fit anything all that big on the top of my car anyway, so I ended up with a tree that would have made the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree look like the king of the forest.

My tree that year was so thin that no matter what I tried, I couldn't get it to stand upright in the the tree stand. To solve this, I put my high school yearbooks under half of the tree stand. That made the tree stand crooked, which made it so the actual tree was straight. Brilliant! Unfortunately, (as we will find out later), there was some leakage from the stand, which warped my yearbooks from my freshman and senior years at good old CHS. Luckily, the damage wasn't complete, and I can still see all the pictures. More importantly, I also still have a written record of all the people who wanted to me have a nice summer, who wanted me to K.I.T.*, and who thought I was

2 Good
2 Be
4 Gotten

What a relief!

As I lovingly took the tree down at the end of that Christmas season, I discovered that I’d accidentally bleached a nice little patch of carpet in the middle of our living room. How did that happen, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. As I remember, the nice salesman at the Christmas tree farm had told me that a solution of bleach and sugar mixed in with the water would keep my prize tree more fresh. Following his advice, for about four weeks I religiously added sugar and bleach to my tree stand. What my salesman friend neglected to mention was that I should BE SURE to check my tree stand at home and make sure that there were no cracks or holes in the base.

And this is where we get to THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE OF 2003. About a week after I discovered the bleach patch in our living room, carpet installers came to our place to replace all the carpet in the room. My then-landlord had already scheduled the replacement, (the carpet had seen its day even before the bleach stain) and so I never got busted for the bleach fiasco.

Having learned my lesson, I purchased an artificial tree at the after Christmas clearance sales that very year. Since then, I've had Christmases that were pretty much tree-fiasco** free.

Don't even get me started on gingerbread houses though . . .

*K.I.T. = Keep in Touch
**Don't think for even a moment that these two tales are the only Christmas tree-drama stories I've experienced. I didn't even get to the year that I used a Ginsu knife to make my 8-foot tree fit under my 7-foot ceiling (Hey--they cut through aluminum cans, right?). I'll save that story for next year.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Signs of the Season

Or--we could just call this one "Playing Around with the Camera during Thanksgiving Break"
(What could possibly be keeping these FIVE boys completely mesmerized? Could it be . . . a robot?)

(Remember this sweater?)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

twelve short months

Well, the pies turned out just fine, even the Lemon Meringue. Whew! As it turned out, I made a key lime pie and an apple-cranberry pie in addition to the chocolate, pecan, and lemon pies that were planned. They all turned out surprisingly well. I took pictures, but I can't find the USB cable to get them downloaded at the moment. So perhaps I'll post some later. Perhaps not though. I mean really, how exciting could these pictures be? They are just pies, after all.

The night before Thanksgiving, (after I had finished with most of the pies) Eric and I went to a movie. We saw the new Disney flick, Enchanted, and we both really enjoyed it. It's cute and really funny, and it made for a great evening for us. Then, the actual Thanksgiving dinner was just a lot of fun. We didn't have too much extra family this time around--just Eric's parents, Greg & Tamara (Eric's brother) and their kids, and one other family who have been long-time Cantwell friends. So, no one had to travel through the canyon to get to our holiday feast, which made it really convenient for all of us. The food was fantastic, and it was really nice to have little down time, especially for Enrique the great. Poor guy, between school and work and Young Men's, and some of his other projects, he's barely had time to breathe lately.

Yesterday Eric had to work, but I didn't, so I spent the day doing at little shopping (not at 4 a.m. though, thank you very much), doing a little cleaning, and getting our Christmas tree and other decorations all set up. Since I was by myself most of the day, I had a little bit of extra time to think. Sometimes having extra time to think can be a bad thing for me, because "think time" can turn to "worry time" within a matter of seconds, if I'm not careful. But this time, it turned out to be a very good thing for me.

You see, yesterday and today, I've been realizing what I was doing last year at this time. A year ago tomorrow, I returned home from a trip to Paris. It was a great trip, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it did have a down side in that I'd been dating this guy for a couple of months before we left, and I'd given him my heart enough that I missed him quite a bit while I was gone. I especially remember walking through the Louvre, looking at all these different paintings, and missing my Eric. So, that was kind of hard. Sometimes hard things can turn into joyful things overnight though, and that turned out to be the case with us. See, at the same time that I was moping around Paris missing my Eric, (I later discovered) Eric was moping around Cache Valley, missing his Charlotte.

And so, I don't think it was any coincidence that within a week of us getting back in the same country, we had determined that we wanted to get married. It took us a couple of weeks after that to get a ring and make it all official, but it was just under a year ago that Eric and I decided that we would marry.

As I look back over the last twelve months, I remember a year with a whole lot of excitement and a whole lot of change. It's also been a year of a lot of discoveries, and stretching, and growing, and learning. (It's also been a year of a lot of kissing! Wa-Hoo!) Actually, it's been a year of more experiences and lessons and priceless moments than I could even begin to write (lucky for you). And it's been an exceptionally good year for me.

Probably my favorite so far.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Things to Do


(Which will happen in March)

1. Perform Chopin’s Andante Spinato in a piano recital-DONE 10/12/07

2. Learn Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator

3. Finish at least one full-size afghan and one baby-size afghan DONE 11/18/07

4. Hand embroider at least 4 pillowcases

5. Learn at least one new guitar song

6. Learn the names of 10 new people

7. Be able to do Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose/Backbend) eight times for 5-10 seconds each time

8. Learn to make a new main dish-DONE 10/3/07

9. Learn to make a new salad

10. Go two months without eating one bite of deep-fried food

11. Sing in public at least one time DONE 12/9/07

12. Be able to do Vrksasana (Tree Pose) for five minutes on each leg

13. Attend the temple ten times

14. Host a theme party of some kind

15. Lose at least five pounds (preferably 10-15)

16. Go to Smith & Edwards with Eric

17. Sing with members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir DONE 12/9/07

18. Plant an indoor herb garden

19. Get caught up on reading all my back issues of Reader’s Digest

20. Give away one Book of Mormon

21. Play the piano in Primary at least once

22. Go to a town/city/place that I’ve never been in before

23. Write a poem or a song (birthday poems don't count)

24. Attend General Conference in person DONE 10/7/07

25. Complete an assignment as a "mystery shopper" DONE 10/17/07

26. See my very first Wagner Opera DONE 10/19/07

27. Shampoo our carpets all by myself for the first time ever DONE 11/8/07

28. Get a Pedicure (for the first time ever)(using a gift certificate from my wedding shower eight months ago) DONE 11/17/07

29. Make an edible Lemon Meringue Pie (preferably in my pajamas, apparently) DONE 11/22/07

I've actually done lists like this one on and off for many years now. I usually try to put at least a few things on the list that will really make me stretch, as well as having a few things on the list that are just plain random and fun. Then I always have some things on the list that I already have lined up to do. If you think that's cheating, you'll want to stop reading here, because I take it even one step further. As I go though the next six months, if I end up doing things or having experiences that I think are "list worthy", I'll come back, add them to the list, and then mark them as being complete! So, by the time March comes around, this list will probably have 30-40 items on it at least.

It's probably not really fair to do it this way, but what do I care? As my friend Pedro has been known to say, "It's totally up to us (or in this case, me)!"

*(this post was originally posted on 9/26/07, but I've been moving it forward as I've completed some of the different tasks.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve

Before we get into the real meat of today's post, I have two "I'm-in-charge-of-buying-groceries-for-a-(really small)-family-now-instead-of-just-running-into-the grocery-store-when-I'm-out-of -milk-or-yogurt-or-chocolate-chips-and-(now that it's more than just me) I-want-to-save-money-AND-be-healthy" questions.

(With statements like that, I'm extraordinarily lucky that anyone even tries to read this blog. Don't think I don't know that.)

Question one:
How lean does ground beef need to be to be considered "extra lean"?

Question two:
What's a good price for extra lean ground beef?

(Did you notice that I said "before we get into the real MEAT of the post", and then asked two questions about beef? Amazing. I'm simply amazing.)

Okay, so all is well with me and Eric. Today is my last day of work until Monday, and I'm thrilled about it. Actually, Sunday night I started getting a little bit of the "Sunday night blues", until I realized that since I would only work three days this week, that the next day would be more like a Wednesday than a Monday. Then I felt much better.

Monday turned out to be nice, but yesterday wasn't exactly my favorite day. I got some bad-ish news at work and some bad-ish news from the doctor (nothing to worry about though--but since when do I need something to actually worry about before I start worrying? I'll tell you since when--since never!), and it was just a hectic run-around-like-crazy-day on top of all of that.

But, today is a new day, and it's turning out to be a much more relaxed day, and I've figured out a plan as to how I'm going to deal with the work stuff, and I've realized that I had over-reacted (for a change) to the health stuff, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. So, what's not to like about all of that?

Tonight I'll be making pies. That's my Thanksgiving assignment, pies. I'm making chocolate cream (my favorite), pecan, and lemon. Eric wants me to try lemon meringue, and I've agreed to give it a shot. I've never made it before though, so we'll see how it goes. Perhaps in a few days I'll be blogging about my meringue catastrophe, or perhaps it will be a meringue triumph. Is the suspense killing you? It sure is killing me.

And with all that rambling, I leave you for a few days. Happy Thanksgiving Eve.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Makin' it to the Shire

Conceivably, Eric and I could live out the rest of our lives within a mile of where we live now.

For about 7 years, I lived in a town home/condo with Heidi on the other side of the valley from where I live now. After a while, Heidi got the hankering to move, and after about a year, I agreed to go with her. (I'm lucky Heidi was so patient with me) Heidi found a great apartment in a brand new complex on the other side of the valley. We moved in, and lived there for a year.

As we were living there, I started getting the itch to become a homeowner. There was a townhome community that I would run through during my morning exercise at times, and to make a long story short, I eventually purchased one of those homes. That's where Eric and I live now.

Eventually, Eric and I are hoping to have a few children (and no, this is NOT an announcement). When that happens, we will probably outgrow our three-bedroom townhome, and we'll need to find another place to live. Fortunately, there are a few regular-sized homes within a few blocks of where we live, and it seems that at least three to five of them are up for sale at any given time.

But, what I'm really looking forward to is when we get old enough that our family-sized home seems way too big for just the two of us oldies, and we can't stomach the thought of mowing another lawn or shoveling another walk, ever again. Because, within about a five minute walk from where we live now, there is a whole plethora of hobbit homes, disguised as a retirement community!

Eric was talking to one of the residents of said community a few weeks ago, and was told that the development was planned to look like a Thomas Kinkaide painting. They are really charming houses, and I can see why they are so popular (The picture below doesn't really capture the quirky charm of the area). Overall though, their appeal to me comes down to the fact that I like to think of myself living within a short walk of my friends, Bilbo, Frodo, and of course Sam.

(although, if we're going to be technical, I guess only Sam would still be there, right?)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Birthday to Captain Magnifico

Today is the birthday of my Enrique, also known as Eric, Elijah, Snook-a-roo, Sparky, the Captain of the Geek Patrol, and Mr. C.

And, since I haven't quite gotten through my birthday poetry phase quite yet, I present you with yet another bit of poetry perfection.

Here it is:

Ode to Eric

By Charlotte C. Cantwell

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

You have got to be the most handsome, talented, good-natured, considerate, patient, kind, tolerant, easy-going, twinkly-eyed, forgiving, magic-ly-full-of-fun-and-good-times man that I have ever met,

And I love you.

Easily my most creative and innovative poem so far, don't you think? Yeah, but what does it matter? Eric checks this blog maybe once per month. It could be Christmas before he sees this post.

May you all have great weekends.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Limericks for Sisters

What is it about November?

It was my sister's birthday last Sunday (Veteran's Day), and the birthday of one of my sisters-in-law yesterday. Yet another sister-in-law has a birthday on Saturday. So, in honor of all these auspicious women and their auspicious birthdays, I present to you:

The Three Sister Birthday Limericks

-by Charlotte C. Cantwell

Limerick #1

For Becca
We were two daughters mixed among boy after boy,
We shared a room, but very rarely a toy.
But now we laugh on the phone,
And we might laugh over this poem.
And over the memories that time won't destroy.

(Talking with Becca on the phone rates right up there with singing and eating chocolate cake for me. There really aren't many things that I like more. )

Limerick #2

For Maegan
I met this girl when she was quite young,
On my father's track teams she did run.
She is fleet on her feet,
But even better, she's sweet.
And she sure adds to our family fun.

(Four out of my five siblings married people they became close to while running on the Cedar High School Cross-Country and Track & Field Teams. Maegan is an especially talented runner, but even more importantly (to me), she's terribly friendly and quick to laugh)

Limerick #3

For Tamara

And now we're to the sister I (more often) see,
Since she lives within a few miles of me.
We play "Acquire" too late,
And at times double-date,

And in many ways, my hero is she.

(Tamara is the mother to two boys and three girls, with the oldest being only six or seven years old. I have no idea how I would manage that. Now, I'm sure Tamara has her hard days, but I get the distinct impression that she has far many more happy & content days than otherwise.)

In other news, things are mostly fine with us. For no really discernible reason, I got pretty grumpy last night, which led to me feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, and sad, and those bad feelings carried over into this morning. I hate it when I let myself do that. Anyway, I'm feeling quite a bit better now. There's nothing like writing a cheesy limerick or two (or three) to really lighten your spirits, you know?

And with that, I'll end today's ramblings. Tune in tomorrow. It's Eric's birthday and I've got yet another birthday poem in the works. You won't want to miss it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Smattering of Gratitude

Just a few recent (or at least somewhat-recent) entries in "the gratitude book":

  • Today I had a lovely time with some friends. We talked and laughed so hard and so long that my face hurt. it's been awhile since I laughed like that, and it felt GREAT! (March 18, 2006)

  • Today I'm grateful to have handwriting that is (usually) legible (April 26, 2006)

  • Today I'm grateful that I was able to just go out and buy a new digital camera when mine broke. (May 16, 2006)

  • I have so many blessings, it is hard for me to choose one to write about here. I'm grateful for THAT. (July 5, 2006)

  • Yesterday I was working on the depreciation schedule for the audit (at work). As I was doing that, I felt really smart. I love it when that happens. (October 13, 2006)

  • Everyone at work has new cell phones now, so our ring tones are not the same anymore. I'm grateful for that. (February 10, 2007)

  • I'm grateful that Krista (my very very musical sister-in-law) has kind of taken over the responsibility of putting together a musical number for grandma's funeral (March 12, 2007)

  • I get to start out every morning by snuggling with the man I love. Wahoo! (May 13, 2007)

  • Yesterday Eric and I went to church at a different ward than usual. While we were there, a woman made a comment that helped me see that my best is good enough for the Lord, even if the level of "my best" turns out to be different from day to day. What a blessing her words were to me. (June 4, 2007)
  • Yesterday I called [my aunt] to ask her about [a dinner we were hosting]. I also told her about my bad experience in church. We laughed and laughed together. It was wonderful (July 3, 2007)
  • Yesterday Eric and I went out to dinner. Because of some mistakes in the kitchen, we ended up being able to eat for $8.58. What a deal! (September 21, 2007)
  • Yesterday my mom called me. It was the second time I'd spoken with her in a week. I'm grateful that I live in a time when I'm able to have super frequent contact with my mother. (October 18, 2007)

(I usually write in the gratitude book within 15 minutes of being awake for the day. That's why there are so many entries that begin with the word "yesterday")

Saturday, November 10, 2007

To be re-read (by me) in 2009

Well, I rented a Rug Doctor from our neighborhood grocery store last Thursday, and that evening I deep-cleaned our carpets. I am AMAZED at how much better I feel about our home now. The thing that I'm most amazed about though, is how long it took for that "good feeling" to kick in. As I was running the machine, I got really discouraged, because it seemed like it was a lot of work, and I couldn't see that it was doing any good at all. I mean, there I was, dumping tank after tank of filthy water down the drain, and still the floors looked brown and dingy (well, our carpet IS brown, but still). As I was trying to get the motivation to finish the job, Eric informed me that the carpets looked much better to him (I may never be certain about whether he was telling the truth or just trying to cheer me up). After surveying the cleaned part of the room, I couldn't see that it looked better at all, but I decided to trust him, and I finished the job.

Well, yesterday morning I came downstairs, and was AMAZED at how much better the carpets looked. I had the same experience yesterday when I came home from work. They look sooo much better, and they feel sooo much better on my bare feet, and I feel sooo much better about the whole experience. Now, I'll just have to remember to come back and read this little entry in a year or year-and-a-half, when it's time to do it all again.

To celebrate the successful cleaning experience, (and because it's Eric's birthday next Friday, and I'm all about celebrating birthdays for as long as is humanly possible), we went out for Chinese food last night. I ordered Kung Pao Tofu, and Eric ordered Kung Pao Shrimp. It was delicious. Then we came home and watched season one episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender on DVD. You wouldn't think that eating chinese food and watching cartoons would be very fun would you? But, it was. Maybe we're just overly immature, but I'm telling you, it was GREAT. Last night was the perfect way to end a hectic week and start a hopefully-more-relaxed weekend.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

a day in the life . . .

Well, everything is going well here these days. Today is the day that Eric should be able to register for the one class that he needs so that he can qualify for all the graphic design classes that he needs to take so that he can (eventually) graduate (Wa-Hoo!). This morning as I left, he was on-line, trying to get registered, and encountering some technical difficulties. I hate technical difficulties.

Tonight we have a thrilling evening planned. Eric is meeting with as many of the 14-18 year-old boys in our ward as he can get to come over, and they're going to plan out some of the service projects, scouting work, and recreation activities that they're going to be doing for the next few months. As for me, I'm going to attempt to price carpet shampoo rentals. Our carpet hasn't been deep cleaned in several years now, and it's probably time.

My biggest accomplishment of the day is that I voted. I'll admit that this is one election day that I won't be sorry to see end. In addition to all the controversy and noise about vouchers, the town that Eric and I live in (a bedroom community really) has been embroiled in what appears to be a dispute about growth, which is coming to a head as a dispute about water (as nearly as I can tell, anyway). There's probably no need to go into details, so I'll just say that the discussion has gotten quite ugly and unhappy from time to time.

And that's the story today. As I look over this post, it sounds a little on the discouraging side. I guess technical difficulties, carpet shampooing, and community discord don't make for rosy blog posts do they? All that notwithstanding, I stand by the first sentence I wrote. Everything is going well here these days. The sun is out, and there's not a cloud in the sky. I'm employed at a job that I enjoy, surrounded by friends and family that I love, and when I woke up this morning, I didn't have a single ache or pain anywhere in my marvelously efficient body. Not bad for a little girl from southern Utah.

Until next time,

Friday, November 02, 2007

Lessons From My Tree

This started out as a "random picture post", but I ended up writing so much about two of the photos that I've decided to just have those this time, and save the rest for a post in the future.

These are photos of a tree that I used to walk/run by at least once a week on my morning run/walk. The second photo is actually a close-up of the first. Now, from a distance, this tree looks kind of like a great big giant (like 12-14 feet tall) bush, and for several months, that's what I thought it was. Then one day, I got a little closer, and I realized that it was in fact not a bush at all, but a tree. To be more specific, it was a tree that had suffered some incredible trauma (I'm guessing it was struck by lightening), trauma that had caused its trunk to crack nearly in two.
I would have thought that the kind of trauma that this tree would have experienced would have done it in, but I'd be wrong. The tree continued to live, and even thrive, in spite of the difficulty associated with this injury.
After seeing this tree so often during that time period, I began to take a little bit from what I imagined its experience to be and apply it to my own life. Now, Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables notwithstanding, I'm not one who believes that trees think or feel or anything along those lines. But, for purposes of my thoughts, I imagined how the tree might have felt when it was struck by lightening. I imagined that it had probably been growing quite tall, and had some big plans for its future. Perhaps it wanted to be the tallest tree in the area. Perhaps it wanted to provide shade for people as they ate picnic lunches. Perhaps it wanted to provide really tall branches, where birds could build their nests and keep their little ones safe from predators. Or, perhaps it just wanted to be absolutely beautiful and to be seen from miles around.
Well, if it did have any of those plans, they were completely derailed when its trunk was damaged so violently. I would think that as that happened, the tree must have become very very discouraged. Add that discouragement to the pain that the damage must have caused, and I'm surprised that the tree survived.
But, it did. It not only survived, but it thrived. You can't really tell from the picture, but the fact is, that tree is huge! It's huge and it's absolutely beautiful. It was one of the first things I noticed about my surroundings when I moved to its neighborhood, and even now, when I'm back on that side of the valley, I'll often plan my route so that I can drive past it. That tree took tragedy and turned it into triumph. That tree took a bad situation, and turned it into something good. It turned itself into something that taught me a lesson that I hope I never forget.
I know some people who remind me of my tree. I don't think I'll write too many details about them, because many of them read this blog, and if I got into too many specifics, I'm sure it would embarrass them, and I don't want to do that. But there are people in my circle of friends, people in my family, and people in my world at large who bear an uncanny resemblance to the best things about my tree.
As for me, when I was growing up, I made some plans for what my life would be like in the future. For some of those plans, I am right on track. Others I've abandoned, deciding at some point along the way that they weren't things that I really wanted after all. Still others I've sacrificed because my decisions have made it unlikely that these things will turn out as I had wanted. But there are still a few other plans that I made that are probably not going to turn out as I hoped, for reasons that are completely out of my control.
And that's okay. Because just like those people, I can be like my tree too. I can take my disappointments and set-backs and waylaid plans and I can work around them. Maybe I can't be or have or experience all that I had originally wanted to be or have or experience. But the fact is, I can be and have and experience an awful lot. And, I can take all that I have and all that I'm given, and I can make something beautiful and lovely and helpful.
Just like my tree.

(p.s. For those of you who are trying to speculate about what my mysterious unfulfilled plans are, and why I chose to write about this today, save your energy, because there is nothing to figure out. Honestly, I just happened to stumble on these pictures as I was looking for some random ones, and so I decided to write about the tree. That's the absolute truth. There has been no recent tragedy in my life, there's been nothing that I've needed to process through, there's been nothing out of the ordinary. Trust me. This is just another random post. Next week I'll probably write about how I've learned life lessons from the electrical outlet in my kitchen. Won't THAT be interesting?)

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