We Seek After
These Things
Recently returned from serving the people of Honduras for 3 years

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Here's to you my Sweetheart Girl!

It was with great anticipation that we gathered the family together for one more big event in my Sweetheart Girls life. It was the night she's been working so hard towards for the last many years. Of course, at high school graduation, the world is just beginning to open up. But for her it was quite an event to be celebrated. And I'm so pleased with her for all her hard work, diligence, perseverance and dedication. I'm also very grateful for the many experiences, teachers, classes, friendships that have brought her to this point.

Yes, Sweetheart Girl - we're all so proud of you!

(Lone Peak High School Graduation Class of 2009 - Marriott Center BYU)

As just the mom, I want to thank you! Thank you for not giving up the year you had mono for an entire year and had to miss many classes and make special arrangements with all your teachers over and over again.

Thank you for staying so on top of things and checking with all your teachers so responsibly to make up work and do extra projects.

Thank you for being such an independent student, for studying diligently, for completing assignments on time, for communicating regularly with your teachers. I had so much faith in you that you could do ALL these things, and you always did.

Thank you for being confident and mature when you experienced adversity at a time when many a teenage girls self esteem could really take a beating. Thank you for having faith and always looking for the "open windows".

And thank you for along the way, always managing to be thoughtful of others and doing what you could every day to love and serve those around you. You are a wonderful example to me. Thank you!

And so my Sweetheart Girl - this blogs for you . . .

(Sephie - you two go way back in so many ways)

Hard to believe you looked like this almost 18 years ago. And still so adored by all.

With a birthday in July, you're birthdays were always a big celebration complete with fireworks. When you were tiny you always thought ALL the fireworks were just for you.

Look! I did find a picture of you at Disneyland. You HAVE been there! (Even if you don't remember it - one of these days we'll have to go back:)

Thank you for being wise and making wise choices.

Congratulations on your high school graduation! We're so pleased with all you've been able to accomplish and were looking forward to all your many adventures you have planned from here on out, from summer experiences with friends to starting college in the fall.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Announcement for Mom's Everywhere . . .

Attention everyone!

I have an announcement for Mom's everywhere. I just want to clear up any confusion or misconceptions about how clean and tidy your home will be once the kids start leaving home.

I certainly always thought that once the kids were living away from home, it was be domestic bliss personified. I mean, after all, if the kids are gone, who is there to make a mess, leave papers, backpacks and shoes laying around, track dirt in from outside, spill cookie crumbs and soda on the carpets?

Surely, once you tidied things all up, did all the dishes, made up the beds (what beds would even need to be made up you would wonder?) things would stay pristine, and one could just bask in the enjoyment and cleanliness.

Wow, was I mistaken all these years. I blamed all the clutter, dirty dishes, laundry piles, dirty carpets on the fact that I had four kids living at home, running in and out and messing everything up. But what to my wondering brain should appear - it must be me and the husband who are making this mess after all! Because it's all still here, shoes, backpacks, sinks full of dishes, piles of laundry waiting to be folded. The only thing that's missing is 8 little helping hands. It's amazing what can be accomplished with 8 little helping hands.

I remember our family work days on Saturday. Everyone received assignments for 45 minutes worth of jobs and the house was sparkling from top to bottom. Now days, my 45 minutes worth on Saturday doesn't even get the master bathroom scrubbed. You know I think those same kids (minus one) are still running in and out just about as frequently. They just don't stay long enough for the weekly job assignments to be handed out. And I know they are doing their jobs in their own homes. Which brings up an entirely different question? How is it that their house is so much cleaner than mine?

What parenting stage is this? And how long does it last?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Favorite FREE stuff - Part II

If you enjoy taking pictures and all things having to do with, come on, here's the "rest of the story". Otherwise, so sorry, not much else here today:)

I'm such a photography fan, when I find something that is free that helps produce great photos, edit photos, share photos, store photos etc, I get really excited. You have to be careful - warning warning warning . . . you COULD spend ALL your free time, and not so free time in pursuit of this topic! But it can be a lot of fun, and we're all for preserving those special moments and memories right?

Let's say you've had time to examine some of the digitial photography articles and tutorials I shared previously. Now you want to be able to touch up those photos, edit them a bit, share them with friends and family. Once again, this will be the tip of an iceberg. But you gotta start someplace . . .

Here is one of my big FREE discoveries. This is a somewhat new website for editing photos online that is so much fun. It's called PICNIK. And it's almost as fun as the name implies. You open your photos up online and can edit them to your hearts content. You can crop, resize, rotate, add special effects with lighting and color, insert cute phrases or other text on the photos. All this and more. One of my favorite things to use is the collage tool. You can create some really fun photo collages. Best of all you can do all of the above for FREE. Go try it right now! You can pull up a photo right off of your hard drive or access photos you have stored online through Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket or Facebook. (Caution: you might fall in love with it like I did and want a gazillion more fonts and effects for the $24.95 annual expense to upgrade)

(Picnik's Cute Memorial Day Creation)

My next thought to share is only half free. It does require either Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Elements. (Elements is a great investment by the way if you're looking for some almost professional photo editing software that doesn't require internet access - if you've been thinking about it for a while, Costco usually has the best price and occasionally does a sale or coupon for it). The FREE part are the actions that are available online for FREE that will add some really beautiful and cool looking special effects to your photo.

Actions are a set of instructions programmed into the software that automate the editing process so that you only push a button, occasionally make a few adjustments, and the software does the rest and you end up with a really cool effect. Here's an example of one below.

(here is my SOOC image or straight out of the camera)


(Here is the same image with Pioneer Womans Lovely & Ethereal Action applied)

(And here is the image again with Pioneer Womans Soft & Faded action added)

My two favorite sites for FREE actions are Pioneer Woman Photography and Coffeeshop. Visit Pioneer woman here to see some of the special effects available and to find links to download the actions. Pioneer Woman actions are not compatible with Elements currently, but she say's she is working on that. The actions at Coffeeshop are compatible with Elements. You can also find instructions on how to install actions from either Pioneer Woman or Coffeeshop here.

Actions are addicting and a lot of fun but do require a basic knowledge of Photoshop or Elements. If you are just getting into that sort of thing, both Pioneer Woman and Coffeeshop offer some wonderful FREE tutorials if you click here and here.

(The Pioneer Woman - Ree Drummond)

My last big FREE hint of the day - and then onto the LARGE photo info!

Digital Scrapbook Place is my favorite place for FREE downloads of backgrounds, accessories for dressing up blogs, photos, or digital scrapbooks. You do have to register and sign in to their site in order to access their freebies. But they have a wonderful selection that changes all the time. (If you can't see the freebies gallery, it's because you haven't signed in.) (Hint - these are mostly useful if you do digital scrapbooking or are a big fan of Photoshop. This site also has my very favorite Photoshop Tutorials for learning basic Photoshop principles!! This is a great one for just getting started with Photoshop.)

Okay, this is how I get really high quality, lovely images posted to my blog. I don't do this for EVERY photo because it does require more effort. But for those photos that you want to be REALLY sharp - this is what I do.

You need to create a FREE photo account with Photobucket. (I tried uploading the exact same photo to Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket, and Photobucket was the winner for producing the most crisp, high quality photo). Then you want to be sure you're starting with a good high resolution image (taken with a digital camera with the resolution set on large - you all know how to make that adjustment on your digital camera right?) It can be cropped, I usually crop many of my photos, and if your camera is at least 7 megapixels you can crop and still get a great image if it's clear and well focused to begin with.

Okay, so you're signed into your new Photobucket account, look for the blue "choose files" button. Wait, don't click on it just yet. Right below it be sure to select either 800 x 600 or 640 x 480 from the drop down menu. That will ensure that you upload a nice large file. Then go ahead and click on "choose files" and select the photos you want to upload. Once your photos have finished uploading, click on the photo of your choice. It will bring up a large picture of your photo, look for the "share image" box to the left of the photo and click on the text box to the right of "HTML code". That will copy your photos HTML online storage address into your computer clipboard (like doing a ctrl C keyboard shortcut).

Now you're going to go to your blog site to insert the photo. In your Blogger program with the new post editor open, click on the tab on the top right that says "edit HTML". Find the exact part of your post where you want the photo to appear, then do a ctrl V (or file paste) to paste the HTML address of the photo from your clipboard into the blog post. Now click on the "compose" tab and you'll be able to see your photo in your blog post. If you click on your photo the enlarging tags will appear on your photos corners. I usually drag the lower right corner until I get an image that is about 700 or sometimes 800 pixels on the longest side of the photo. The pixels will appear as you drag so you can see the size.

(Some important information - if you click on your photo and the enlargement tags don't appear, try using a different browser. I've noticed with Windows the Google Chrome browser doesn't have that option currently as well as the Mac Safari browser. I usually stick to Firefox most of the time myself. Also important, if you have a 3 column blog, you won't be able to insert these large photos because you don't have that much room in your blog, but you probably can size them much large than Blogger currently makes them if you experiment a little bit. But the GOOD thing is you will have a much sharper and clearer photo than if you just upload it through the Blogger tool).

Whew! Are you all about tired out now, that was a lot of thinking. Hope this is helpful. Like I said, once you get started there's no end to it all, just the tip of an iceberg, and plan on never cleaning your house again - editing photos is always MORE fun. So I have learned to just accept a little dust on top of the furniture . . . well, maybe more than a little, you could probably write your name in it today:)

If you have time, take a look at my photography blogs:
Pickled Pepper Photography
and Just ME, the Picture Taker

Monday, May 25, 2009

Best Things in Life are Free . . .

I frequently get questions about my photography and how I get such vivid colors and large photos posted on the blog. It really is a passion of mine and is so much fun besides. It does help to have a wonderful camera that I love. But it's not really necessary. You can take such outstanding photos with almost every digital camera these days. And I have learned a lot over the years. The good news is almost all my favorite resources ARE FREE! I am truly amazed at what you can get for FREE these days.

Here are some of my favorite tutorial photography sites and insights. I try to participate in their weekly assignments and really try to understand the principles they are trying to encourage with the assignment.

Digital Photography School should probably be the first stop for anyone who is trying to improve their photography skills. Or even if you aren't, it's a great place to visit, has wonderful tutorials and articles all about taking better photos, how to use all those setting on your digital camera, and how to touch up the photos if necessary after you take the photos. Register for free and they will send you their newsletter which is ACTUALLY a very helpful newsletter. I look forward to it every week and go through all
their articles. DPS also has a really helpful forum where one can ask questions, share photos for critique and participate in fun assignments and see other photographers interpretations, which really spurs the creativity. Here's a great one for beginners, "11 Tips for Beginner Photographers". And many more here also for just about everyone!

The next stop on the photography
circuit is I Faces. You can't help but have a good time participating in their weekly photo challenge and visiting other participants blogs, leaving encouraging comments and seeing their frequently zany interpretations. The best part is they have a renowned guest photography judge each week who shares their best advice and frequently wonderfully helpful resources. This weeks judge is Lyndzee Ellsworth and you will want to read all about her.

If you're still with me, let's go visit Shutter Sisters, pretty much a "Women Only" club for photography. There is a certain comfort level sharing thoughts and photos with other women, and somehow we relate together in such similar ways. I think that is why I enjoy this sight so much. They have events where everyone can share and participate on their site, such as, One Word Project where everyone submits their visual interpretation of THE ONE WORD. Or perhaps you all would enjoy One Sweet Shot, a celebration of photography images all by women.

Wow! That is like the tip of the iceberg! Tomorrow I'll share another great and FREE discovery that I really have had so much fun with. And I didn't actually get to the point of how to post the large photos - soooooo, come back tomorrow!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Cat and a Test


Why do I get these blog remodeling ideas in my head?

Maybe it's a repressed desire to attack my kitchen with a paintbrush, or just my was of avoiding the actual, in real life, repainting job I have waiting for me at my front door. I'm sure I could have painted the whole entry during the time I spent doing a little remodeling here . . .

I'll have to share photos of the before and afters once I get it completed. But until then . . .

(Shush! Don't tell Greg, he got me all fixed up with the paint, brushes, everything including instructions before he left to go to Ohio. It really should be finished by now but I haven't actually even started it - I think I can get to it tomorrow, I have to hurry before he and Karianne get back from Ohio on Wednesday)

Anyway, just wanted to post one photo as a test photo. I really like the BIG photos and wanted to be sure they would fit.

This is Kia
the spoiled.

She likes to sleep on my bed and she loves to tease Conan (the black lab) by running and hiding under the bed. I think she secretly like to be chased!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Only 103 Days To Go . . .

Well, I counted today, and officially Norm and I have 103 days until we are REALLY empty nestors. Geez! That sounds so old, I'm not really sure I want to be an official member of THAT group - ha!

I mean I look at my kids and all the experiences they are having everyday, my oldest Dustin and his wife, Cami, across the country making their own new home, learning their way around a new city. The next one, Cory, finishing a college degree, living away from home with a pack of roommates, serving in his single's ward as a temple activities co-chair. Now, Karianne, with her fiance, Greg, making wedding plans and experiencing that unusual excitement that goes along with planning a future with that one special person. Then, there's Kelsie, my youngest, graduating from high school, excited about college and living away from home, experiencing those last wonderful memories with all her high school friends.

I think I was JUST there. I feel like I'm still there. I look like I still belong there don't you think ;) (definite wink on that one . . . . except I just found out I have arthritis in my back . . . and that sounds sooooo old).

I'm having a lot of flashback moments these days wanting to be sure I can still remember all those precious memories that have flown by so quickly. You young moms with little ones - PAY ATTENTION! Because I'm telling you it will go by in a heartbeat or two.

So I felt inspired to share these two photos with you all. It seems like overnight we went from one to the other.

1993 - Kelsie (3), Karianne (6), Cory (9), Dustin (12)
Star Valley Wyoming - Thanksgiving with the Aullmans

Our new family photo for 2009 - Alpine, UT

Everyone give your little ones a big hug from me.

I think I know what my problem is . . . I haven't yet discovered the secret for getting grandbabies. Could someone clue me in . . . they would really fit in about now :)

Friday, May 22, 2009


As an RN working two nights a week in the womens center doing Labor & delivery, you're bound to have some REALLY BAD NIGHTS.

As was the case today, I came home kind of a basket case . . .

Or maybe Train wreck might be a better expression . . .

Imagine all the horror stories you've experienced or ever had told to you about women's delivery experiences. While usually they are the far extreme, as a nurse you get to experience almost all of them at some time or another.

From time to time it can be really difficult and sometimes I ask myself . . .
WHY do I do this?

Then I got a phone call.
My neighbor's frantically getting ready for a big reception in her yard.
She has hundreds of guests arriving soon for her daughters wedding reception which is in their backyard this evening.

She needed help doing this . . .

And this . . .

And guess what?

I feel better now.

So now, I can go back again tonight - to deliver more babies!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Oh What a Beautiful Morning . . .

Good morning world . . .

I wake up every day at the crack of dawn (I always have for some reason, and it's not quite so lovely most days in the wintertime believe me . . .) and I can actually hear the birds singing loudly just outside my window. I love to just lay there an' listen to them for a few minutes every morning before I get out of bed.

Then I have to gaze out my bedroom window for a few minutes. I can't believe the beautiful sight; every morning it takes my breath away - I love it, my grass is now green and lush, the trees have leaves on them, and my flowers are blooming madly!

Spring in Utah, I think it's absolutely my favorite time of year.

I just had to make a photographic journey around my yard today to record my favorite colors, blossoms and textures.

Picnik collagegarden

You can visit the whole set on my FLICKR account if you'd like to see the complete collection.

Yep, it's a beautiful morning . . .

There are sooooo many Blissfully Domestic blogs - I love this place!

Cafe Rio Salads

If you live in Utah or have visited Utah in the past five years, and have been outside the house; you have probably been the beneficiary of Steve & Tricia Stanley, who started the first Cafe Rio restaurant in 1997 in St. George, Utah. (Really!? In St. George, who would have guessed?) (Also, their website is really fun to visit if you get a chance, and has all kinds of really fun and interesting information)

And they are certainly still a HUGE hit today here in Utah and their copy cat recipes are becoming famous across the world. Over the years I've received many recipes that seem to approximate the REAL thing at our local CAFE RIO restaurants. But just recently I discovered a cooking blog who has THE BEST Cafe Rio recipes of all, that I've been able to try. In fact, take a minute right now to go on over to Favorite Family Recipes and see all their yummy offerings.

My family has gathered together a couple times in the last couple months and assembled these DELICIOUS salads using these recipes. With a little searching and preparation of ingredients, one can make a REALLY close approximation to the real thing.

They were voted by my extended family the number one requested item for our get together this week to celebrate Mother's Day. Yum! Can you smell the fresh cilantro? Or maybe it's those delicious fresh limes, hmmmm . . . it's making me hungry again just posting these photos.

Our assignment was to bring the creamy cilantro salad dressing (which seriously is to die for if you haven't ever tried it!) and also the cilantro lime rice. The ingredients for the dressing are pretty easy and you should probably have most of them on hand.

One tip on the dressing; if you don't want to mess with the fresh tomatillos, buy Salsa Verde which is made from tomatillos and substitute 6 heaping tablespoons for the fresh tomatillos and the jalapenos.

We always use brown rice to make the Cilantro Lime Rice. Don't think you an take a shortcut and skip making the rice - it's super easy and is DELICIOUS! You just add a little freshly squeezed lime, a bit of sugar and just chopped cilantro (smells so good!) It totally makes the rice!

Here we are finishing up the final ingredients and assembling the masterpieces.

Ahhh! Dig in - they're the best!

Hints & Tips: be sure to buy the cute little foil pans to assemble and serve the salads in. We have tried the tortillas you cook yourself from Costco, and also the regular already cooked tortillas. Both are great, just brown in a frying pan with a little Olive oil Pam and a sprinkle of grated cheddar/Monterrey jack cheese on top. Then place in the foil pans while hot and toasty. Also, you can buy the traditional Cafe Rio mini tortilla strips and are so popular at Smith's in the produce section with the croutons. Or check any large well stocked grocery and hope you can find them because they really add a lot also.

I just had to include one more photo - aren't they so cute! Some day I'm going to blog about all our wedding plans! Now that is another adventure . . .

So many great ideas HERE!
I could hang out all day

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

What a fun day!  Anytime my kids get together for any reason is a fun day for me.  Isn't that the way with Mothers?  I know we are gathering with my siblings later in the day to celebrate with MY MOTHER.  And she will be so excited!  

 I sent her this Mother's day greeting through Hallmark E-cards.  It's just a fun little thing!  We have something more special planned for later this afternoon.  (shush - don't tell her, but we're all getting together at my sister's condo in Park City Utah, having homemade CAFE RIO SALADS, and sharing mother's day gifts and creations)

Click to play this Smilebox greeting: Mother's Day Greetings
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We have a favorite Mother's Day tradition at our home.  Ever since my kids were little, we all gather together, hit my favorite nursery, load up on flowers then come home and plant MOTHER'S DAY POTS.  They turn out gorgeous, and the kids love to watch them grow and blossom throughout the summer.  It's wonderful!  With so many helping hands they all get planted soooo quickly!  

It started out with me telling the kids what to plant where, now that they are bigger they like to design their own pots.  (I do give them little clues about where to put the TALL flowers so they don't HIDE everything else:)

Just thought I'd share MY mother's day flowers 
with all of you!

Have a very happy

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What is a Buckeye?

What on earth is a buckeye?

Because we have several friends with ties to Ohio, who are big Ohio State Football fans, we have become acquainted somewhat and are aware that of course, they ARE the Ohio State Buckeyes.

But what on earth is a buckeye?

Last Christmas, my Ohio State friends gave us a plate of homemade buckeyes for a Christmas Treat . . . they were soooo yummy. Kind of peanut buttery and creamy with chocolate . . . hmmmmmm - yummy!

But I still don't know what the heck a buckeye is!

My daughter, Karianne, is marrying a fine young man from Columbus, Ohio. Karianne and Greg came by the other night for an evening with family, food, games and visiting. Surprisingly, I asked Greg what a buckeye is, he doesn't know.

So we got online and here is what we found out:

A small, shiny, dark brown nut with a light tan patch that comes from the official state tree of Ohio, the buckeye tree.

Oh!  You MEAN a HORSE CHESTNUT?  That's what we call 'em here in UTAH.  

Interestingly enough, I'm quite fond of horse chestnuts, my grandparents had two beautiful trees at their home that I remember with so many fond memories as I was growing up.  I love playing in the shade of those beautiful trees.  Also, my favorite place in the world; Paris, France has an abundance of beautiful horse chestnut trees, and I always bring home a pocket full of chestnuts whenever I have the opportunity to visit there.

(my pocket full of horse chestnuts directly from Paris)

Now that we officially know what on earth a buckeye is,
Karianne and Greg set out to make us a batch.  

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Buckeyes
makes about 13 dozen

2 lbs. powdered sugar
3 cups peanut butter (smooth and not the all-natural kind)
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 lb. chocolate chips, semi-sweet (24 oz.)
1/2 bar edible paraffin wax*

Whip the first three ingredients with an electric mixer and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. After it's chilled, settle down in front of a good movie or with some friends to roll it into small, 1-inch balls. Put these back into the fridge or freezer on parchment-covered baking sheets.

Melt the chocolate and wax in a double boiler, over, not in, boiling water, stirring mixture until smooth. Keep warm.

Dip balls using toothpick, leaving uncovered spot on top. You may fill in toothpick marks with little bits of peanut butter mixture. Dry on waxed paper. Chill covered in refrigerator or freezer. When completely hard, store in the refrigerator or freezer. If well-wrapped they can stay in the freezer for months, if you can stay away from them. Like I said, really good right out of the freezer!

*The wax makes these a little more stable and less prone to melt. But if you don't want to ingest wax and leave it out, that's fine. You'll just have to be more careful about not letting them get too warm.

Well, I know the original nut from the horse chestnut tree is supposedly poisonous.  But these homemade treats are really delicious.   If you're looking for a fun treat that's easy to make, something the kids can really get their hands into - look no further than the infamous Ohio State Buckeye.  

And who knows, with a daughter marrying someone from Ohio, I just may find myself one of these days at an Ohio State Football game.  At least I'll be well prepared.

(ha ha - just for the record Greg is a Michigan fan!)
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