Sunday, September 29, 2013

getting creative with conference

I wrote this last May--about a month after the April General Conference. I've saved it until now for posting though, just because I thought it would be more timely now.

This time for General Conference, I think we ended up doing it about as well as we've ever done.

Which--let's be clear, ever since Heather learned to talk, General Conference has been kind of a difficult thing for me, a weekend fraught with moments of me being frustrated that I can't soak in all the words that I want to hear, a weekend when I promise myself that I will listen to the talks online throughout the coming six months so that I can better appreciate them (which I rarely actually do), a weekend when I try to walk the line of getting my spiritual cup filled while still trying to ingrain in my four-year-old the importance and tradition of listening to the Prophets and Apostles when we have the opportunity. It's a gloriously wonderful but more-than-a-little-bit-trying weekend.

So, saying that we did it as well as we ever have isn't saying that we did it in a stellar, marvelous, Ensign worthy manner.  Just to be clear.

It did go pretty well though.

The first and most successful thing that I did, was I took little Dixie cups, and taped pictures of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on them.  photo IMG_2976.jpg

I filled each cup with some decorative rocks that I had on hand, and put them around the room where we would be watching conference. Every time one of them spoke, Heather searched the room for the cup that matched the man. Once she found it, she got to keep the rocks, which would be traded in later for toys and prizes.

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Another thing I did was tape together four sheets of the Conference Squares game sheets that I found on Rather than playing the game as directed there though (which is basically "Conference Bingo, and a little bit over the head of my Heather), anytime Heather heard a topic discussed in conference that was pictured on her sheet, she could color that box for another colored rock.

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This activity was a big hit in the beginning, but interest definitely waned as the weekend wore on.

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After each session, Heather could count her colored rocks to decide if she wanted to use some of them to purchase goodies, or save them in hopes of getting some of the bigger ticket items.

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She had her eye on that cat the whole time.

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She ended up purchasing the cat, the stamp rings, and the candy. Just in case you were wondering.

And then of course, for the Saturday afternoon session, we followed our Heather-life-long tradition, and went out to Grandma Cantwell's to watch and listen there. I get my best listening in there, I assume because Grandma has a much bigger TV room than we do, and she has new and marvelous toys to distract our girl.

This time she took it upon herself to put together a little ranch . . .
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. . . complete with dolphin pool and roaming zebra.
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Because after all, what is a conference weekend without a good dolphin pool, huh?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Random Photo Friday - Welcome to the Jungle Edition

Last October, as we finished up our Halloween carving, we accidentally planted two pumpkins' worth of pumpkin seeds in our backyard.  In the spring, I noticed that many of those seeds had sprouted, and on a whim, I decided to just let them grow and see what happened.

Here's what's happened so far.
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Fascinating. Probably not all that effective agriculturally, but definitely fascinating.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Links to helpful sites - food preservation edition

I had this post mostly finished when a dear friend asked me on Sunday for "my" roasted tomato recipe. Kismet! Serendipity! A perfect storm of awesomeness! The blog to the rescue again!

Okay. Back to our scheduled post:

Our tomato garden has been bountiful and delicious this year. In addition, my family members have been generous in sharing their produce as well, which made it so that last Saturday, I had a little cook-fest, getting a bunch of stuff blanched, boiled, shredded, and frozen. Just for kicks, I thought I'd share some of the "helps" that I've found along the way:

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freezing corn--This link from is my go-to. The tip about putting the ears of corn in a bunt pan, and then slicing the corn that way, letting the kernels fall into the pan?  Genius.

A month or so ago, one of Eric's co-workers sent him home with a bag of shredded zucchini, and a recipe for zucchini bread. Perfect!  We tried the bread, which was Eric's favorite, and then, remembering how my roommate Emily used to make chocolate zucchini bread, I went in search of a recipe for that. I found one here at, and tweaked it a bit so that it made more, and was easier for me. This one is Heather's favorite. I can't decide what I like best. I think it's basically the one I am eating at the time.

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zucchini bread--Karen at Cantwell Lumber
1 cup oil
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
3 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp B Powder
2 cups grated zucchini
3 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts

Dump in KitchenAid in order listed.  Mix.  Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes in greased loaf pans. Makes two loaves.

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chocolate zucchini, with modifications by me
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional, but I like it)
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp B. Powder
3 cups grated zucchini
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups choc chips (or less if you like)

Dump in KitchenAid in order listed.  Mix.  Bake at 350 for 55-65 minutes in greased loaf pans. Makes two loaves.

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This is not a kitchen-aid, in case you are confused. This is a food processor, and it  relates to the next link.
Move along, move along.

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freezing zucchini--My parents sent me home from our annual Cedar City trip with four over-mature zucchini. So, I tried freezing them or the first time ever, using the method described here. With these awesome zucchini bread recipes that I discovered, I'm hoping for a winter of tasty goodness, not to mention go-to treats for neighbors, friends, preschool snack days, etc.

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frozen tomato sauce*--I've already mentioned these instructions for quick tomato sauce for freezing, but it's a staple in my freezer, and so it bears a little repeat.

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My favorite part of the whole thing is this quote from the author, Sofya:

Peeling and seeding don’t belong in my world as I consider myself above seedless tomato sauces, finding them uneconomical, lacking in body and texture, and all-around bourgeois.

Oh yeah baby, Sofya and I are living in pretty much exactly the same world there.

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oven roasted tomatoes--you know I couldn't let this one go, right? Love these. Love these so much I'll probably remind you of this link every year. Heck, maybe every quarter. No pics of this one yet, because the only time I've done it this year is in my mom's house, and I didn't feel like playing photographer. I'm making myself do 12 quarts of tomato sauce (1 for each month) before I allow myself to start on roasted tomatoes. So far I'm up to five, so hopefully soon . . .

*In case you are wondering why I freeze everything and can nearly nothing? When I take into consideration the amount of space a frozen single-meal packet (for our family) takes versus a bottle of what-not (which we may find ourselves struggling to finish before it spoils), we have WAY more freezer space than safe/accessible (read--non-crawl or attic) bottle-storage space. So, wonder no more.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Our Bi-Annual Family Portraits

This year we asked our friend and neighbor Aubrey to capture our magnificence on "film".

(Or pixels, as the case may be.)

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As a photographer (as well as in pretty much every other way),  Aubrey Rocks.
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You can see more of Aubrey's work as well as get some details on her business here.

And, as long as we're talking about photographers . . .
We're also big fans of Jennifer Bryner's work. Her facebook site is here.
And some of the photos she's taken for us are posted here and here.

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