Friday, March 30, 2012

Best Trip Gift - EVER

I know what you're thinking. Looks like a normal sea-shell to me.


Someone I love went the the Dominican Republic and all they brought me back was THE BEST GIFT EVER.

No stupid T-shirt that I would never wear, no silly coffee mug that I'd hardly find meaningful. But what is the significance of a sea-shell? Can I tell you? Pretty, pretty please?

I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints." Hmmm, well I know many people (including me) who go to the most exotic places and bring back sand, sea-shells, and whatever natural memorabilia they can - as long as it isn't taken away at customs. Maybe we all have the same sentiment, "There are SO many sea-shells, how is the sea ever going to miss just this one?" And seeing as there are more grains of sand than probably every other thing created in this world, surely the sand won't be missed. And the truth is, it probably won't. But it's the whole concept of entitlement that bothers me. The 'I-can-take-what-isn't-mine-because-no-one-will-miss-it' idea just doesn't sit well. So why on earth is this sea-shell the best travel gift I have ever received? Doesn't that go against my very core values? Not exactly. Why?

Because it comes with a promise.

You see, the shell isn't exactly mine. When it was given to me, I was told that I MUST take it back to the beach where it came from. I am only a temporary owner of this shell. Connecticut isn't it's real home. But it will stay with me here - and everywhere I go - until the day I can return it to that beach. And if for some reason I can't return it, I will entrust it with someone I know who can. 

So I'm pretty sure you've guessed it, this means I HAVE to go the Republica Dominicana!! Yeah Bay-bee!! Can't say I've been given a better trip gift than that! But that's not the only reason I love it. I love it because it was so thoughtful of the giver to give me such a gift. And to trust me to take it back. Maybe you're thinking, "come one Jenny, it's just a SEA-SHELL! Don't get your heart all twisted up in knots over THAT." But I think of it more than just a sea-shell. It has all sorts of symbolism tied up in it. Emotional, physical, spiritual. And it meant a lot to me when I got it. 

Plus, I don't think this is the type of gift that I would give to just anyone, you know? Like I would really have to know that they wanted to be where I had been. And would maybe even want to go where I want to go. There aren't many people I would trust with that kind of gift. 

So I don't know where my life will take me and how long I'll get to hold on to this beautiful little shell. I have no idea if and when I'll make it to the DR, but I'm super excited for the chance! 

Man... how do you top a gift like that? 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Yummy Flowers? Yes Please!

If you're like me, you get easily bored with the normal, everyday "salad"

Some nuts here, some crasins there, some ranch tucked everywhere...

So why not dress up tea time and do it like the Brits!?

Put some edible flower's on your salad!!

Here I have some beautifully colorful pansies on top of spinach for springtime. They have a mildly tart taste and go great with almonds, your favorite springtime veggies, and some raspberry vinagrette. They also work great on arugula and romaine - really any springtime lettuce. Isn't this way more inspiring than hum-drum parsley?

Well believe it or not, Pansies are not the only edible flowers in your garden. I love putting flowers on my salad throughout the season and it's a great way to wow your guests! 

Here are some more edible flowers. Check out some of the cool directions. Who knew bringing our garden into the kitchen could be this fun?

  • Angelica (Angelica archangelica) - May be skin allergen to some individuals. Good with fish and the stems are especially popular candied. Tastes like: celery-flavored. 
  • Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) - Tastes like: sweet, anise-like, licorice
  • Bee Balm (Monarda species) - Used in place of bergamot to make a tea with a flavor similar to Earl Grey Tea. 
  • Calendula* (Calendula officinalis) - Tastes like: poor man's saffron, spicy, tangy, peppery, adds a golden hue to foods
  • Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) - Tastes like: spicy, peppery, clove-like
  • Chrysanthemum: Garland*(Chrysanthemum coronarium) - Tastes like: slight to bitter flavor, pungent
  • Dandelion* (Taraxacum officinalis)Tastes like: very young buds fried in butter taste similar to mushrooms. Makes a potent wine.
  • English Daisy* (Bellis perennis) - Tastes like: tangy, leafy
  • Fuchsia (Fuchsia X hybrida) - Tastes like: slightly acidic
  • Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) - Tastes like: light, sweet flavor
  • Gladiolus* (Gladiolus spp) - Tastes like: similar to lettuce
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) - Tastes like: slightly acidic, boiled makes a nice beverage
  • Hollyhock  (Alcea rosea) - Tastes like: very bland, nondescript flavor
  • Honeysuckle: Japanese (Lonicera japonica) - Berries are highly poisonous. Do not eat them!
  • Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) - Tastes like: very bland, nondescript flavor
  • Lavender (Lavendula species) - Lavender oil may be poisenous. Tastes like: floral, slightly perfumey flavor
  • Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) - Tastes like: lemony, floral, pungent
  • Mallow: Common (Malva sylrestris) - Tastes like: sweet, delicate flavor
  • Marigold: Signet (Tagetes tenuifolia) - Tastes like: spicy to bitter
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) - Buds are often pickled and used like capers. Tastes like: sweet, mildly pungent, peppery flavor
  • Redbud  (Cercis canadensis) - Tastes like: mildly sweet
  • Rose (Rosa rugosa  or R. gallica officinalis) - Tastes like: sweet, aromatic flavor, stronger fragrance produces a stronger flavor. Be sure to remove the bitter white portion of the petals. Rose hips  are also edible 
  • Squash Blossom (Cucurbita pepo species (aka Zucchini Blossom)) - Tastes like: sweet, nectar flavor.
  • Sunflower* (Helianthus annus) - Tastes like: leafy, slightly bitter. Lightly steam petals to lessen bitterness. Unopened flower buds can be steamed like artichokes.
  • Tuberous Begonia (Begonia X tuberosa) - ONLY HYBRIDs are edible. The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidneystones, or rheumatism. Further, the flower should be eaten in strick moderation. Tastes like: crisp, sour, lemony
  • Violet (Viola species) - Tastes like: sweet, nectar

*Only the petals of these composite flowers are edible

Flowers to Avoid - Some flowers in particular to be avoided (but not a complete list) are: azalea, crocus, daffodil, foxglove, oleander, rhododendron, jack-in-the-pulpit, lily of the valley, and wisteria. See a more complete list.

I have only put my favorites here. Click for a more complete list.

May your seasons salading be FLOWERY and BRIGHT!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dear Google, Can You Please Translate Bon Iver?

When I listen to his songs, I can't seem to understand what he says.

It seems that neither can some lyric websites:

Here is a line from Michicant by Bon Iver translated by two different lyric websites.

verse 3 line 4

Metro Lyrics: "Hung up in the ivory, both were climbing for a finer cause" 

Lyrics Mania: "Photo could've clamped over the caution, but you were coming out"

.... ?

And google, after you translate, can you translate the translation?

Oh, and while you're at it, my Ray LaMontagne ears aren't quite tuned into his beautiful raspy voice. 

Help me out?

Thanks, you're a gem :)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

An Afternoon with Elder Holland

Did you know Jeffrey R. Holland got his 2nd Master's Degree and PhD at Yale?

I sure didn't.

Even though I recently heard his now "famous" journey!

So it took me a while to understand why he decided to come to our ward to speak to the single and student members at Yale. Of course I never uttered a word of complaint! If one is allowed to have favorite apostles, my vote would definitely be in his direction. And I know I'm not alone in that sentiment.

But last Sunday came, and so did Elder Holland with his beautiful and loving words. I figured that there are many people who are in similar situations as me (young and in need of counsel) so the least I could do is share my notes of what he said with you. It touched all of us who were there deeply at different moments and on very personal levels. He has a great way of relating to individuals. So I hope that his words can help you too.

Clearly I will not be reproducing his talk word for word. I will try to get as close to his wording as possible, but remember that these may not be direct quotes. Anything that is a direct quote (or as close as I could get it) is in quotation marks. I tried to take detailed notes, but what I wrote down may be emphasized by my own personal interpretation. In any case, I hope the spirit will touch you too. 

Notes from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk in the New Haven YSA Branch - Sunday March 18th, 2012

Sis. Patricia Holland: Elder Holland introduced his wife Patricia and gave her a few minutes to express her gratitude. She wanted to express her gratitude to her Father in Heaven for the years they spent at Yale in New Haven. She feels they received a spiritual birth while they were here. She didn't know back then what she was obtained, but she is grateful for it. She feels that she was forced to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit which gave her a sure testimony that Christ lives.

Elder Holland (EH): These moments in your life are "watershed" moments: you're never quite the same again. While EH and his wife were here at Yale, they only had one car. There were mornings there 5 year old would pray that the car would start. Their children still remember saying those prayers to this day. Those are irreplaceable memories. One thing is clear to them: they did not come to Yale for an education. That's not why he came and that's no why we (the current members) are here. They came and we came here for our faith. We came to find faith, to reinforce faith, to exercise faith, and to get an education in church government. Church service demands had them going flat. Going to Yale had nothing to do with a terrific degree (although that certainly helped with many future opportunities). It had everything to do with a congregation. Miracles happen here. EH and his wife are here to cheer us on. He wants us to know "It's all true. God Lives. If you do this right you will be prepared for marriage... If you do this right, you will get the whole package."

EH refers to 3 Nephi 17. In this chapter, it is the close of the first day that the Savior has been with the Nephites. He is telling them to go into their homes and ponder. He wants them to understand and prepare. The Savior has a couple of things to do while they are pondering. 1st He has to go to His Father. 2nd He has to go to other tribes or the lost 10 tribes of Isreal. "That's quite a bit to do in one night!" But as the Savior casts his eyes on the multitude, He sees that they are in tears and decides to tarry a little longer. The crowd was too courteous to say anything, but He perceived their desires anyway. Even with all of the demands on Deity and seeing the challenges of being God, we see that what really comes through is compassion.  "Mercy always trumps justice - if we want it to." He knew the Father would understand and the 10 tribes could wait, so the Savior stayed for a couple hours more. It was the lame that captured His attention and claimed His time. "I want you to believe that God knows your circumstance." He knows our heartaches and our struggles. "All God is asking is WANT IT." Want the things that matter. If you struggle, join the club! It happens now, in time, and out of His mercy and love. We benefit from mercy and love. But "you have to want it a lot and want it with tears... If you want it badly enough, long enough, and faithfully enough, you can have it" The irony is that in the bad times, people are tempted to jump ship - especially when they need God's help the most. When the storm is at high sea "Stay in the boat!" Do not bail out even though that is the temptation. Do not do that. Want it as much as the Nephites wanted it. God will heal you. He can do this. We have no control of when. He keeps His hand on the stop watch. It seems He has reserved that one thing to Himself. It can be Job-like if we have to, but the crisis of the moment will pass. 

EH now refers to his favorite scripture. "Today it is my favorite scripture. Do not press me tomorrow... but it is today." Mark 4:37-41.(Parts of scripture in brackets with EH's thoughts). [And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow:] Part of the reason the Savior came to the earth was to show the world what it's like to be God. He was tired. EH was glad that Mark noted, as only Mark would, that someone provided a pillow. [...and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?] Even with all of their extensive knowledge and years of training as ship-men, they were scared. This must have been quite the storm. There are times when we will be scared and we need His help, even though we may be "experts." [And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace, be still.] You see? "Everyone gets healed." The Savior rebuked the seas, but He was not through rebuking. These men had to grow up very fast, and He understood that. [...Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?] Did you really think this ship was going down with Me on it? Those are EH words, but he is sure that is what the Savior was thinking. Why are we so fearful? One thing is for sure, more faith doesn't always mean more knowledge. A lot of things will com, but "our first call is to walk by faith. Just be believing. Don't be afraid. Forever have faith... One day you will stand at this pulpit and be able to say that it's all true."

We have a great obligation. A great thing is required for the grace of God. We must have more faith. When Christ died, there was a lot of dismay and confusion. According to Peter, there were 120 people left after the Crucifiction. Or at least that is how many people came to the meeting held by Peter. What Christ taught was hard doctrine. People were unprepared. He kept saying what was going to happen, but they didn't get it. [Now refer to John Ch. 21] So at this last meeting, Peter (in effect) says, 'Well, it was a great three years. Let's go fishing." He had no idea what else to do. EH is sure he was doing his best, but Peter really had no idea of what to do. So he went fishing. In the morning there was a figure on the shore, but they didn't know who he was. When they didn't have any success fishing, the figure called out 'Try the right side of the boat.' Now this sounded a little fishy to them because that was they same thing they heard when they were first called 3 years ago. So they tried the right side of the boat, and sure enough, their nets burst as the fish came reeling in. Then John said, 'It's Him.' And loving, impetuous Peter, jumped in. EH: "Not a good analogy to make when I just told you to stay in the Boat. But, Hey Peter, if the shoe fits, wear it!" EH finds it sweet and loving that the Savior has food prepared for them when they come in. He knows they haven't had success and He knows they must be hungry. Now EH wants us to focus on this moment. [So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?] Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than the fish and the bread. Peter easily answers yes and thinks he passed the test. So they chat and Jesus asks him a second time. 'Lovest thou me?' Peter, a little hesitant this time, toe in the ground answers, 'thou knowest that I love thee.' So they talk some more. Then a third time, "And Peter is a little sensitive about threes..." Jesus asks him, 'Do you love me?' This time Peter is worried and it takes all the courage he has to answer, 'Yes I do. I do love you!' Then Jesus firmly answers (in EH's words), "Then FEED MY SHEEP . This is not over. You are in this forever. You are in this until it's over. YOU CAN NEVER GO BACK.

"Before we felt what we felt or saw what we saw, whether we liked it or not, it changed us forever." Jesus is telling Peter that if he loves Him, Peter will forget the nets and devote his life to bringing the gospel to the earth. It was then that Peter's learning curve shot straight up. Up until that time, Peter didn't get it, but after that moment, he understood. From that time on, he was a witness and an apostle of the Lord. From there he would be crucified upside down so as to never appear to be equal to the Savior. But he understood his role.

EH ends on this point. "It's not over until it's over. We are supposed to help." In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

The End

My personal thoughts: This talk touched me in many, many ways, some of which are too personal to share. But one thing that I do want to share with you is that it really helped solidify my testimony of our Savior. I know that I have a call to testify of Him. I know that I am supposed to help spread this gospel on the earth and help lift people to their true potentials. I know that reaching our highest and most divine goals is impossible without our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. I am grateful that we have such powerful witnesses oh Him on the earth today. The Prophet and Apostles are here to lead and guide us and I am so grateful for their testimonies. I know that what Elder Holland said is absolutely true, and I invite everyone to read the notes and scriptures he provided. Pray about them and ponder them. They can deeply enrich your life. 

If you would like to know more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our members, and the message we share, click here, or feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.

I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Forty-Eight Hours

Today I asked my friend Claire to send me some pictures of our four friends from her wedding. I am working on a garden project and want to use her colors and photos as inspiration. I'm super excited about the project! But as I started looking through the photos, another sort of inspiration started to creep up on me. I shall explain.

The weekend before I left for collage, a family friend reminiscently said to me, "You know, I met my best friends within the first forty-eight hours of being in the dorms. That will probably happen to you, too." It was a really nice of him to say, but I had never been the type to develop life-long friendships. High School wasn't necessarily my "thing" and I had considered myself more of a "floater" than a "groupie." Even now, I still try to meet as many people as I can. Limiting friendships, in my mind, is like limiting the best, creamiest, and most fattening ice cream... imported from France. Trust me, it's not a good idea. 

But despite my slippery view on friendships, he was right. And I'm so glad he was.

Somewhere between the freshman escapades, sophomore heartbreaks, missions, graduations, marriages, births, and life accomplishments, I have formed an unbreakable bond with these girls. Who, might I say, are much, much more than just girls anymore. The amount that these women have accomplished is staggering, and they continue to inspire me daily. 

Claire (the bride in the pictures above) is sweetest and happiest girl that everyone should know. She is now a fabulous photographer who has been featured on many popular blogs. Her creativity and talent put her in a class above the rest. She has this uncanny ability to make art wherever she points her lens. Not to mention her cute 'lil hubby Andy (the only man featured in the pictures) just won a "Spot On" campaign and bucket-load of and honor for a film me made (with her help of course). There's a super cool article about it here. And did I mention that she is a killer gardener and cook? My mom will forever thank her for being the one who convinced me to like vegetables. And I shamelessly admit that I've begged her to let me be her assistant. 

Katie (the happy one with the camera) is full of plentiful and equal amounts of grace and ambition. Can I tell you that she has accomplished more in 23 years than most of us can hope to achieve in our lives? She is one heck of a beautiful, empowered woman. And in addition to having one heck of a beautiful, empowered husband, she is getting her Master's degree... and decided to write and publish a book, Downburst. I have mentioned Downburst before, and you should definitely read it. It is amazing, just like Katie. She was even featured in a news article. What has always amazed me about Katie, is that when she wants something, she just goes and gets it. I'm not kidding! You should have seen the way she could get guys to follow her around like puppy dogs. And I see why, I couldn't resist myself!

Linda (the adorable mug-faced belle standing next to me in the fedora shot) is a strong-willed friend with a ginormously soft heart. She quickly created herself a beautiful little family, and I quickly created a small Facebook stalking problem. Seriously, her son Luke's eyes are spell-biding. But what I really love about Linda is her knowledge of who she is as a woman and what she wants in her life. Her ability to recognize and address truth in things that matter touches me every time. She is always spot on with her observations and can engage anyone in a meaningful conversation (don't believe me? Check out her blog). And guess what? She loves all the good things in life, like Nacho Libre and Science. She told me once that she wants to write children's books about amoebas. Nothing - I say nothing, is cuter than that. 

I didn't really intend on this being a "brag about my friends" post. And even if it was, I would need a loooot more eh-space. Mostly I wanted to share how inspired I am by these amazing women in my life. In a world that has objectified and belittled women in horrifying ways, it brings me hope to have mentors and women to look up to. And I guess my point is that we don't always have to look to those who have gone before us. Don't get me wrong, there are many women who have laid very important ground work, but it is the women who are here now that are shaping our current world. To have bonds with these intelligent and beautiful women is rare and precious to me. They have had a profound influence on my life and my choices, as have many other virtuous and lovely women. 

So if you are looking for a friend, find someone who will inspire you to be a better you. Your memories will be sweeter, your bonds will be stronger, and your life will be richer. Find those who will increase your self confidence, who value education, and who can make you laugh hard - the kind that makes your belly hurt. Be your most vulnerable in those friendships. They have the biggest pay off. 

So thank you to all of the amazing women in my life. You've lead me into womanhood with love and grace. I will never again underestimate the power of forty-eight hours. 

And if and when I ever finish that photo-inspired garden, I'll let you know. Hopefully it will get me up on that list of accomplishments! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hooray for Hooray

Hooray for Hooray

A shout out to Miss Ashlee Edens, who always makes me smile. So Hip, So Happy, So Hopeful, So Hooray!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


image: Denver Botanic Gardens

The time has come for the sun to shine brighter and wee little plants to start poking their heads from their wintery graves. Which also means it's time to get DIRTY! 

As I left my driveway this morning I saw the sweet little starts of daffodils and thought to myself, "it's finally here." I love the start of a new season. This year is particularly great because 'ol Jack Frost decided not to visit New England with any snowstorms. I can't say I'm exceptionally sad about it. But we were left with quite a bleak view for all winter. Needless to say I am ready for the world to give me some GREEN!

I thought about all of the wonderful things I could post about to get you ready for spring. And then I got dizzy because I didn't know where to start. SO I decided to write up my personal plan of action AND let you in on some of my favorite websites. These sites are tried and true - whether you're gearing up to plant your own veggie mart or splash your house with some color. 

Let's get started! 


You have no idea how much this simple little task can make or break your garden. Plants are just as complicated as humans. We require more than to eat, poop, and sleep, right? So plants need more than soil, water, and sun. The soil pH and nutrient balance is an important part of your garden. Every state should have a university agricultural extension and can typically analyze your soil for a small fee. Just type in "[your state] agricultural extension" into Google and BAM. You're on your way


Now that you know what your soil is lacking (or has too much off), take some time to amend the soil. This is especially important for long term plants (perennials, shrubs, trees) and veggie gardens. Do you expect to get nutrients from your veggies? Well they have to get it from the ground first. So don't skip this step! Areas with annuals don't need as much prep because you will be pulling them out after the season is over. If you don't have enough in the budget to amend all your soil (which I don't recommend anyway), then do small spaces at a time. That takes me to my next point


Get inspired. Take your ideas from pinterest to reality! Look at websites, check out books, find your favorite color schemes, and have fun with it. Then, check your plant hardiness ZONE. An important point to note is that most plants do NOT grow the way they say they grow on those 'lil tags that accompany them. Remember, these plants are grown in California so they probably aren't going to grow the same way in your state. See what grows well in your soil type, in the shade, in the sun, with lots of water, without any water. Then do the research around your house. Where is there a lot of sun? Where is there a lot of shade? Where does the water pile up? Where is there a lot of wind? These will all help shape where and what you plant.


Now let me make myself clear: Don't get ahead of yourself! It's easy to do when we feeble ones gain ambition. But if we take on too much, we will soon be swimming in a sea of un-cared for planties. If this is your first year, do a small area of annuals and see what works for you. If your whole house needs to be landscaped, I recommend hiring a landscape designer or architect to help. That way you can have an entire plan and attack small chunks as your budget permits. Also remember that the more you put in, the more maintenance will be required. Later I will do a post on maintenance, but for now just remember that there is no such thing as a "no-maintenance" landscape. For those of you making your own plan, plan what colors and what plant will go where. Take some time to write it or draw it out. Make sure to take full grown sizes into account. This will be very helpful so you don't buy too many plants.

For vegetable gardens: I just found this lovely site that will make a plan for you. It takes into account where you live, what and when you should plant, and then sends you lovely reminders. Check it out here!


You don't have to buy from the most expensive nursery, but that might be a good place to start your looking. They often have the most unique plants available. Home Depot and Lowes will have mass annuals for a waaay better price, so save the petunias for a later trip. Use this time to pick the sales associates' brain and see what you like best. If you are doing a small garden, gather inspiration from the pre-planted pots. If you are doing veggies, the nursery will give you all of the information you need of varieties and fertilizer. And remember, when you buy plants you pay for what you get. Quality is pretty much stated on the price tag. If you want to save money, buy a smaller version of the plant. It will be stronger in the long run because it has grown up in your landscape, not a foreign one. 


The right tools need not be the most expensive ones, but make sure you have what you need. Gardening gloves, a great looking hat, and a hand trowel will be a great start! But eventually you will find that additional tools will help you be more efficient. I guarantee that you will have more satisfaction if you find the tools that make it easier on you. Heck, I need one of those little padded knee things to lean on. Haters can hate! I'm lovin' me my gard'nin time!


If you don't want to spend your whole life outside in the weeds, make sure to put down two things. 1 - a pre emergent herbicides and 2 - a weed barrier. I personally HATE that black junk they sell in the nurseries, so I always recommend that you put down old newspaper. This is great for two reasons: 1 - You can dig into it easily if you need to do additional planting or re-planting and 2 - you don't have to dig it up at the end of the year. It is completely organic and will decompose into the soil. 


Now that you have made a plan, start planting! Have fun! Invite your friends to plant with you! I have found gardening is a great way to dig deep into someone's soul. Pun definitely intended. Also, make sure you plant correctly. Especially with your more expensive plants. Check the tag and follow the guidelines. Do not suffocate your plants!! Most of us bury our shrubs and trees too deep. They don't get oxygen this way. Check the tag to be sure of depth AND width.


There are two types of water people. Those who neglect and those who kill with love. Don't be either of these.  Make sure you know the water requirements for your plants and FOLLOW IT. Believe it or not, killing with love is more common - ESPECIALLY FOR YOUR LAWN. A general rule of (green) thumb (tee hee) is that your plants need more in the beginning, and less as time goes on. Later in life let them get a little thirsty (only a little). This will help their roots grow deep and strong. Except for annuals. Water the heck out of 'em.


As the years go on you will learn more and more about your garden... You will also forget more and more about your garden. I'm not kidding people! Keep a journal, you will be glad you did. Write down what you planted and where. Talk about how many veggies you got from one plant. What you did one year to the next. And when you find the plant of your dreams, you will be soooo glad that you wrote down the botanical and common and variety names so you could order ten thousand more 5 years later. Plus, it's a great way to see your growth as a gardener.

Well not that I've talked your ear off, here are some more great resources and websites.

Not having a green thumb is a myth. The only trick is knowing the tricks. So get out there, get some sun, and have some fun!

In later posts I will talk about some of my favorite design techniques and how to get the most "bang outta your buck." I look forward to sharing more with you!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Daddy Daughter Date

I'm pretty sure Dad's were made for Daddy Daughter Dates. That's my dad. Isn't he soooo cute!?

This lovely Father of mine called me a couple of weeks ago and said he would be stopping in New York for a couple of days to see me. EEEEE! I was so excited! And rightfully so, we had such a great time. We practically spent the whole time in New York and exhausted ourselves with fun.

We went to go see Godspell - a musical based on the gospel of Matthew. It was fun and energizing! During intermission they invited everyone to come down to the stage to enjoy a small glass of wine. We don't drink so we didn't go, but I loved the intimate feeling they created. The Circle in the Square theater is definitely my new favorite! 

And if you're going to see a show, it must be followed by Ellen's Stardust Diner.

All the waiters at this diner are aspiring to be on Broadway. And most of them make it. Last year they sent 13 artists on their way! Our waiter, Stevo, sang us a great rendition of "New York, New York." We had such a great time! Here, I'll put in a video so you can watch some of it :)

Luckily my dad loves New York just as much as I do. Hopefully he can come back again when he as more time so I can show him more of what this great city has to offer.

In my opinion, it was one of our best dates ever. We talked and laughed literally the entire weekend. But what really got me was being reminded how wonderful it is to have a loving and supportive father. We had some discussions that really gave me confidence in the direction I'm going in my life. He helped me in a way that only a father can. I know not everyone has a father figure, but I hope all of us can have those male and female mentors that help guide us through life. I also believe strongly in the love and support of a Heavenly Father. And those relationships (including the one I have with my mother) have taught me how to become a loving, confident, and happy young woman. We all need them and we all have the opportunity to become them - no matter what our circumstances are in life. So that is my goal, to be as supportive as those who have supported me, and to have a dang good time along the way!

So why not? Go tell someone who has supported you how much you love and appreciate them! I promise you won't regret it. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dolls for Haiti

Remember my friend Rachel? Well she and her big heart have moved to Haiti for 6 months to help a country still in despair. Most of her time is spent in orphanages. Did you know that many Haitian parents willingly put their children in orphanages because they can't provide for them? With limited resources, everyone is scraping to get by. And unfortunately these children have little to nothing. So our Relief Society decided to try and help. Rachel had the idea that if the children had dolls to comfort them, then they might not feel so alone. And that is where we come in. 

We are making dolls!

Don't you love bonding over needles and cute fabric? 

We purchased the patterns from this fantastic website. A lamb, a dinosaur, and an adorable squid. Tell me that isn't the best modern family you could ever imagine.

Unfortunately, we are few... and our completed dolls were fewer. 

MVP of the night goes to Sarah. Not only did she finish a squid, but she also wore the cutest and most situation appropriate t-shirt. Gotta get me one of those!

We only had three sewing machines, so those who couldn't sew contributed in others ways. 

And here is the end result!

One lamb, one squid, and one almost dinosaur. I guess we have some more work to do... But worry you not, those children will get those dolls! We have currently enlisted the help of the older, more experienced, and more plentiful stake relief society. We are hoping to have 100 dolls by April. I can't wait to see what the end result will be.

Make sure to check out Rachel's blog. It's full of beautiful insights to the world of Haiti. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Mush and Melt

Alright, I admit it, I love puppies. Show me a chubby puppy in any form and I melt. I draw the line at puppy calenders... but just barely. This season the winner for cutest puppy EVER is the Siberian Husky Pup. 

Lyman Orchards, an apple orchard in Middlefield, CT hosted a winter fest this February. I was thrilled to find out there were winter activities here since I absolutely adore going during fall harvest. And guess what?  This year they invited REAL LIVE MUSHING PUPS to put a smile on our chilly little faces. 

There wasn't much snow, but the dogs were ready, ready, ready to run.

...And so were Ashlee and Sarah. Mush girls Mush!!

This one confused me a bit. Lyman Orchard's is an apple orchard... not a dairy. So why the cow mascot? Oh well, Ashlee almost pooped her pants when she saw him. Her exact words were, "WOAH COW!!" And then I was reminded that you don't need relevance to entertain us children. I mean just look at the excitement on Ashlee's face.

Siberian Huskies were not only only attraction at this winter extravaganza. In the next tent over, there was an ice sculpting contest. 

Sad news: Tasting the ice from the other side does not prevent one from being seen. Sad news part 2: The apple still tastes like ice.

We didn't actually stay for the end results, but we did support and document the journey of Poseidon - King of the Sea. I was amazed at this guys ability to convert a block of ice into a masterpiece. He had three hours and was the only sculptor without an assistant. I'd say he did a pre-tty dang good job, wouldn't you?   

Take it away Ashlee... 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Costa Rica 7: Tamarindo - the Final Chapter

The end of my two week adventure was by far my favorite leg of the trip. Rachel and I made our way back to Tamarindo and stayed at the Blue Trailz hostel. I think the reason I loved it so much was because we finally had the chance to meet some new people and get to know their stories. Have you ever noticed how interesting people are? Well mix that with a foreign country and close living quarters. Then it get's extremely interesting! And don't worry, I don't mean that in "The Bachelor" sort of way. 

Basically traveling produces a certain kind of person, someone who wants to see the world and all it has to offer. And in turn, every person offers what they have to the world. If I could take a basket and collect everything I learned about the people I encountered, I would take away much much more than a tacky souvenir (although I took away plenty of those too!). I can't really tell you what I learned, because I don't think there was a "take home" lesson. But I do know that by the end I felt rejuvenated and completely fulfilled. Originally I thought that the only way to have that feeling would be through a major service project or something akin to that, but isn't service all about forming relationships? Well, not only did I form new relationships, but in certain ways I strengthened the ones I already had. So in the end, I received all I came for and more.

Plus, we couldn't leave Costa Rica without one more trip to the beach! Who would I be if I came back from Central America without a tan? Here are some beachy pictures we took first thing in Tamarindo.

Can't get enough JUMPING PICTURES

I love the colors here! These are some of the areas where we went shopping. Tamarindo was full local-made nick-knacks and artwork.

PURA VIDA. What a wonderful phrase! It means "Pure Life," and is basically the Tico way way to say "Hello," or "It's all good," or "Fancy a drink"? It all depends on the intonation. I figure every country has a phrase like this, so I'm going to start a collection of them starting with "hakuna matata." (I think we can consider Disney a country, right?)

And check out this ocean water artwork. A true beauty in itself.

Here are some more fun things we found in Tamarindo.

Bunk Bed quotes. Everyone wants to make their mark.

TINY BANANAS! Don't let these little guys fool you. They pack a real punch.

This was in our van on the way to a surf trip. On, off, or Mood lighting. I must say, this is something I could use in my car.

Rachel and I also tried to make our meals as much as possible. It was cheaper than eating out, and easier on our bellies. One can only handle so much beans and rice. So what did we make? French toast and fried plantains. Who needs healthy on vay-cay!?

Check it - I learned how to SURF!!

We had our own little surf instructor from Blue Trailz. The world renowned Giovanny. His fame is known by women of every land. Rachel and I dubbed him the Tico Zac Efron.

For the most part, I became a super expert at paddling on a surfboard. But eventually I defeated my demon and stood up.

Rachel also reached vertical victory. Unfortunately, the only action shot we got was this ultimate wipe out. But I think we all agree, it wins MVP for best picture of the trip. Ultimate Bail!

After surfing, we enjoyed our last Costa Rica sunset. 

Group shot of part of the Blue Trailz dream team. I wish I had captured everyone we were there with! Love 'em. Miss 'em. And I would repeat it all in a heartbeat. 

I'm really grateful that I had the chance to take this trip. I'm glad I got to go with Rachel, too. I can't think of a more perfect way to transition from one phase of my life into the next. And now that I've caught the travel bug, I don't know that I'll be able to sit still for too long. But everything comes in good time, so for now I'll just enjoy the fact that this trip was everything I needed and more. Thanks for enjoying it with me.