Thursday, March 27, 2008

Vicarious Green Thumb

I love orchids. Love them. I've killed about 6 of them now and have officially stopped trying to grow them myself, just enjoy them (and photograph them of course!) I decided to go out to the Wild Animal Park today to enjoy their annual Orchid display and here are some of my favorite.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Utah Valley Shout Out

For all my fellow Utah Valleyites (either current or ex) here's two great sites for you to check out and neither of which do you need residency to enjoy!

The Daily Cool

Back in college, my friend Emilie was always the epitome of hip, and she still is. She just always seems to know what's cool. Her blog, The Daily Cool , promises a quick dose everyday. In between exposing up and coming artists, musicians and sometimes just plain cool stuff, she often highlights a few gems around Utah Valley as well as Salt Lake. Check this one out, you won't be disappointed.

Utah Adventurer

My friend Joanna pretty much has one of the coolest jobs I can think of. Her new gig puts her writing and adventure skills to the test as she explores Utah with her children and family. This site is dedicated to all the great activities the great State of Utah has to offer. Its very cool, on the home page, you can look up activites by who is in your party (families, couples, pet, or all access) The explorations range from a laidback drive up a canyon to hardcore backpacking and extreme climbing. Set up almost as travel logs, the writers (or adventurers) share with you their experience through pictures and even video--it's great! If you're in Utah or going soon and looking for a new adventure, check out this site first,
And of course, check out Joanna's story on cross country skiing with her family and see Sydney's long distance buddy, Carlitos.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


See? Now I don't feel so bad about giving my kids all those easter jelly beans. (Joking of course-well not about the amount of jelly beans, just about the guilt part.) Isn't it so funny how things change? Apparently there was a time where you were supposed to feel bad that you didn't give your kids ENOUGH sugar. Not so anymore, almost every article in Parenting magazines make it so everytime I give Sydney a sucker I plunge into a remorse induced mommy depression! This ad just puts it all back into perpective for me...moderation in all things really is an inspired concept.

Template Envy

Vanessa Contessa has been up for less than 6 months and I already felt like the shabby stepsister to all of my friends cute blogs. So I've had my first blog facelift (I'm sure it won't be the last!) Let me know what you think!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

101 Things To Do With Your Cupcake Stand--The Easter Edition

My mom got me one of those super fun cupcake stands for Christmas a few years ago and for the most part it sits in my pantry waiting for some occasion to have cupcakes. After dyeing Easter Eggs with Sydney yesterday, I have found another use for it. A little leftover Easter grass and 18 Easter Eggs later... we have the Easter Egg Tower! Syd loves it and she shows off her favorite one to me and her dad about every 5 minutes. So for all you out there with a cupcake stand you have no idea what to do with, break it out for the Easter Eggs!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reason Enough to Celebrate Easter...

I wait all year long for these bad boys....

Bad Habits

Compliments, once again, of my hilarious brother in law.

Treat of the Week #6

Bananas are funny. I always feel like its very important to buy them, but for the most part they always just go bad. They enter my house under the best on intentions, I have visions of banans slices on cereal and smoothies galore only to be left with black bananas attracting fruitflies. On Friday the 6 overripe bananas I had sitting on my counter guilted me into baking. But I guess you could say, life seems to give me forgotten bananas, so I've finally remembered to make banana bread. Here is the easiest banana bread recipe EVER and it always comes out perfect. I usually double this so I can make two loaves at a time, one simply just goes too fast in our house. There are a few variations I have tried and love that are listed at the end of the recipe for you experimenters.

Quick and Easy Banana Bread

Cream together (I just put it all in with my whipping attachement on the kitchen aid and let it go!)

3 bananas
1 c. sugar

Add to above:

1 egg
1/2 c. melted shortening, butter, or oil

Sift together and add, stirring all together, until just moistened:

2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda

Optional: Add - 1/2 cup walnuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Let cool and serve with butter or cream cheese.


Use macadamia nuts instead of walnuts
Spread with nutella instead of butter
Add to the batter a ½ tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice for a spicy bread great in the fall.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Pirate Predicament

I learned last week that there are some things you will just never be able to explain to a 4 year old--ever. Sure, your thinking, you'll never be able to explain exactly why cupcakes for dinner really is that bad (come on-- you know you've done it) or why it's important to get out of your pajamas at some point in the day regardless of whether or not you are going out eventually. Nope, I got a doozy last week. I got to try my hand at explaining human trafficking.

Looking back, the cupcake subject seems like a breeze compared to the one I was faced with at (of all places) Disneyland. There we were, enjoying our favorite ride in the park, when all of a sudden something caught Sydney's eye. For any of you familiar with the ride "Pirates of the Caribbean" you might already know the spot I am referring to. In the middle of all the plundering and pillaging, there in an auction going on, for brides. In the scene, several women of all shapes and sizes are lined up and tied together as the pirates bid for their hand. This is not the first time Sydney has noticed the ladies. Normally, she comments about the women being caught or captured, but on this trip, the smart little cookie put it together. I was struck dumb when my sweet little daughter exclaimed, "Mom, they are SELLING those ladies! WHY? Why are they selling them?!"

What's a mom to do? For those of you who don't know my daughter, let's just say that a quick, "I'll tell you later" or a "Just don't worry about it" simply would never suffice. Sydney's tenacity to stay on a subject rivals the fiercest of bulldogs and here I was, on a boat full of strangers in the middle of piratical pickle. Here's the rest of the conversation:

Me: "Well, the pirates want to have brides, so they are buying one."
Syd: "Why do they have to buy one? Can't they go on dates?"
Me: "No, they can't go on dates"
Syd: "Because pirates are too busy?"
Me: "Yes pirates are busy."
Syd: Because they sail in ships?
Me: "Yes. Hey look at those cats!" (1st attempt to divert the conversation)
Syd: "Wow, cats, do the ladies cost a lot of money?"
Me: "I don't know, probably"
Syd: "Do they buy them with treasure?"
Me: "Yes, I think so"
Syd: "Do the ladies have to live on the ships?"
Me: "I don't know Do you see the treasure?" (2nd diverson attempt)
Syd: "Why were the ladies tied up?"
Me: "Because they didn't want them to run away."
Syd: "Why would they run away?"
Me: "Not everybody likes pirates." (we are now exiting the ride)
Syd: "Yeah, I bet pirates like to give princesses a lot of smooches."
Me "They probably do."
Syd: "Can we ride it again? Right now?"
Me: "Absolutely not."

Now, let me say that yes, we will ride "Pirates" again. Heck, its our favorite ride! I mean, come on, who doesn't love pirates? I just hope next time, I won't have to explain any more about the joys of becoming a pirate bride.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Treat of the Week #5

The Spicy Maya Brownie has opened a floodgate. Now, all I want is brownies all the time. So I'm back on a quest to discover the perfect brownie recipe. If any of you have one, send it my way (it just might make treat of the week.) In the meantime, here's the first attempt at the perfect brownie. I doubled this batch and sent most of these to work with my husband for a company picnic on Friday; apparently they didn't last too long.
Triple Chocolate Brownies

1 cup sugar
½ cup butter, melted
2 eggs
½ tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup flour
½ cup baking cocoa
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup semi-sweet chips
½ diced walnuts

Mix together sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, powder and salt and sift. Add flour mixture to the sugar mixture and combine. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts until just incorporated. Spread into a greased 8x8 pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Toothpick should come out with moist crumbs, not completely clean. DO NOT OVERBAKE (brownie will come out dry-and who wants a dry brownie, YUCK!) Cool completely before cutting.

For any of you starting our with the whole brownies from scratch, not from a box endeavor; here are my three best tips:

1. Always use good vanilla. This pretty much goes for ANY baking, but just dig deep, suck it up, and buy the real vanilla extract. It's so worth it and you really can taste a difference.

2. ALWAYS sift your dry ingredients together for brownies and cookies before combining with the sugar and butter. For years I thought this was a wasted step and just a way to dirty another bowl, but then I finally started adding this once I realized pretty much every recipe asked you to. It makes a world of difference. The dry ingredients incorporate better, and since you are not mixing so much, the final product comes out more moist and tender.

3. Remember, you are not making whipped cream, you are making brownies, the ingredients do not need to be beaten into submission, just combined thoroughly. If you beat the brownie batter, they will turn out tougher and drier. Use no more than a medium speed on your kitchen aid and cranking it up faster does not mean you'll get to eat a brownie that much sooner.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

This just asking for weeks of Nightmares...

Friday, March 7, 2008

Procrastination, Thy name is Mommy...

I'm always amazed--and a bit terrified at how much we are teach our children even when we don't realize it. It’s a running joke in our house that when Sydney was two and we bought her the super cute little tykes play kitchen, she had no idea what the oven even was, but knew immediately, without any instruction, how to work the microwave.

Lately I've been trying give Sydney more ways to help around the house. She is usually eager to help and loves to keep her "big girl" room clean and help vacuum and particularly make the beds. My newest chore for her is to help unload the dishwasher (I'm sure that comes as no surprise to those of you who have read my early dishwashing post.) Her task is the silverware. Today when it was time to unload the dishwasher I let her know it was time for the silverware to go in the drawer to which she responded, "Oh mom, I"ll worry about that this weekend, so just leave it." Ahhh Grasshopper, you learn well...


Here's a little social studies lesson, Vanessa Contessa style. (This is compliments of my totally awesome brother in law, John, who's blog never ceases to crack me up.) My favorite has to be Polynesian Capitalism.

  • SOCIALISM: You have two cows. State takes one and gives it to someone else.
  • COMMUNISM: You have two cows. State takes both of them and gives you milk.
  • FASCISM: You have two cows. State takes both of them and sells you the milk.
  • NAZISM: You have two cows. State takes both of them and shoots you.
  • FEUDALISM: You have two cows. Your lord takes the milk and by his grace lets you live.
  • TOTALITARIANISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.
  • MILITARIANISM: You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you.
  • CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
  • AMERICAN CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull and open a successful local dairy. Then you have to close down cuz Wal-Mart comes to town.
  • POLYNESIAN CAPITALISM: You have 8 cows and are happy to spend them all for Mahana.
  • ENVIRONMENTALISM: You have two cows. Al Gore convinces you to pay him money because their farts increase the greenhouse effect.
  • VEGETARIANISM: Cows are people too. So if you own two cows you own two people, and that’s slavery, so you’re evil.
  • ANARCHY:You have two cows. Your neighbors kill you, spray-paint anarchy signs on the cows, and pierce themselves in various places.
  • DEMOCRACY: You have two cows and everybody votes on how to divvy up the milk.
  • REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.
  • BRITISH DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. You feed them sheep’s brains and they go mad.
  • JAPANESE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. You give the milk to gangsters so you don’t loose face. The gangsters drop the milk on the way back to the hideout and then have to cut their pinky fingers off.
  • AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: A politician from the heartland promises to give you two cows if you vote for him. After the election he is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair “Cowgate”.
  • POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: You are associated* with two differently-aged, but no less valuable to society, bovines of a non-specified gender. (* = the concept of “ownership” is a symbol of the phallo-centric, war-mongering, intolerant past.)
  • COUNTER CULTURE: Dude, you got to have some of this milk and write about it on your blog. And don’t forget to fight the power cuz it’s all our parent’s fault.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Greeting card hilarity

Before I had kids, I used to love to go into a card store and just read all the funny cards (apparently I had no life, either) Now I've found something even better. The shoebox blog is a blog run by the funny people who write shoebox cards and it has reaffirmed my faith in the American workplace now that I know there somewhere this fun to work. My favorite are the "newsdroppings" and the fun links to other sites they put up. Anyway, when you need a chuckle (or a downright laugh) check it out-- this way you can laugh at greeting card like hilarity and still be in your pajamas (which, for some of you, would probably get you detained by security if you tried to do that at the mall.)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Treat of the Week #4

The king of the Castle went out a bought a fancy shmancy ice-cream maker this weekend. I'm not too excited about the price tag, but I am looking forward to all the new cold and creamy concoctions coming our way. Instead of following the basic recipe, we went straight for experimentation. has some great ideas. We thought the recipe for honey ice cream looked interesting, so we made that, but with our own little twist. We added broken up graham cracker pieces at the very end of mixing and then topped it with a little whip cream and (thanks to girl scout cookie season) garnished with a tagalong cookie. Very yummy, very creamy and a great subtle sweet flavor.

Honey Ice Cream
1 cup cream
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh honey
2 cups milk
1 & 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Boil the milk in a saucepan, then lower heat to a simmer. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks and the honey. Add to simmering milk, stirring constantly and not allowing eggs to over-heat. Remove from heat after ingredients thicken, and strain. After the ingredients cool in bowl, add cream and vanilla. Pour into ice cream maker and follow manufacturers directions on how to freeze. ENJOY!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A weighty issue...

If only this was my problem...

Seriously though, isn't it funny how the perception of the perfect female figure has changed throughout the ages? I won't even bother putting up a current "help you look good in a swimsuit" ad from today for comparison because, if you are like me, you are bombarded with them every time you try to open a magazine. Its always crazy to me that we've gone from the sexual icon of Marilyn Monroe (who was reported to wear a size 14) to emaciated Paris Hiltons lollipops. Now, I for one, have never been a "skinny-minny." Even at my teeny tiniest I still had, shall we say, some junk in the trunk. So, I cannot empathize with the skinny girl who feels the need to put on weight. I know you are out there and I'm sure you are suffering... but I'm just here to tell you that if that is your biggest problem in life, then honey, go put on a bikini and enjoy it.
On the other side, I also have never felt the need to be a size 0... Do I want to be thinner? Of course! Could my body use some work? After two kids, I would think so. But never have I felt the desire to crash diet, starve myself, binge and purge, all for the sake of a few extra pounds.
Until I pick up a magazine...

Every other image or ad shows women they are not thin enough, not toned enough, not tan enough, not wrinkle-free enough, not (fill in your own self-esteem crushing adjective) enough!
And for what? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for being healthy and fit. But what concern is it of anyone else's but mine? Certainly not my husband who I know loves me for me (he'd have to after THOSE two pregnancies!) Certainly not my real friends who would still be seen with me at the beach in a swimsuit regardless of the size I'm wearing.
I guess my question is, what is it that is ingrained in us women that makes us care so much? Obviously we are not the only generation to care. The priorities and the ideal image change, but the need to conform certainly hasn't. Wouldn't it be nice if once you could pick up a magazine and every ad told you that you were perfect just the way you are? Sure it would, but then no one would be making any money....