Sunday, July 16, 2017

Vikings in the City of Rocks

While Brooklyn was off playing tourist in London and Paris, we tried to have some fun of our own around Salt Lake.  The Natural History Museum opened a new exhibit about Vikings.

Only thing missing was a toothless dragon.

On guard!  I spy a viking lurking in the parking lot.

 With the city cemetery just a block from our home, it was special to see all the graves decorated for Memorial Day.

We are so grateful to all who have served.

On Memorial Day itself, we headed to Idaho for some hiking at the City of Rocks with Grandma Susie.



Annika, expressing her billy goat side.



Talia looks deep in thought.

The bestest of friends.

Speaking of friends, Annika found a fuzzy one to hang out with.



We tried to do a bit of climbing/top roping, but the route was more challenging than we realized and we didn't make it much farther off the ground than this.

In the end, our hike was much more successful.


Annika wasn't very excited about walking until Grandma Susie sweetened the deal with some Starburst jelly beans.

Such stunning nooks and crannies!



All went well until Annika fell and landed with both hands on a cactus.

Poor girl!  She must have had at least fifty spines in her palms.


She was a trooper and withstood the pricklies for the long drive back to Grandma's house where a soak in Epsom salts helped her hands feel much better.

Way to be brave, little viking!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Brooklyn's Tale of Two Cities with Really Great Food: London and Paris 2017

A couple days after the Ogden Marathon, we took a leap of faith and sent Brooklyn off to Europe with her ever-so-very-generous aunt and uncle, Christy and Ben Spackman.  While we trust them completely, it was still hard to let our little girl go, especially since her trip was bookended by terrorism.  Their plane was delayed until 2:00 am because of the bombings in Manchester while the London Bridge attack happened the day following her return.  It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the hate and brutality in this world, but acts of love like Ben's and Christy's give me hope.

The highlight of Brooklyn's adventure was visiting Harry Potter studios.  Our little gal loves Harry Potter more than anyone I've ever met, with the possible exception of her cousin Alesia.  She wrote in her journal about the experience, "It was pretty much the best thing we've done yet and quite possibly the best thing I will see the entire time."

Wizard's chess

Platform 9 3/4

The Great Hall

Dueling with her Aunt Christy...


...and riding in a side car with her Uncle Ben.

Last but not least, a refreshing mug of butterbeer.  She brought the mug home and got a refill last week while at our library's O.W.L. camp.


After all this excitement, jet lag definitely set in.  Compounding the time change were her decisions to watch movies the entire way there (Hidden Figures and Fantastic Beasts) and stay up for hours the following night reading the Divergent series.  Apparently even my night owl doesn't function well on that little sleep.

Other fun places they visited: Little Venice.  (I've never been here but now it's on my bucket list.)


Buckingham Palace

Big Ben (making Uncle Ben comparatively little.)

And her favorite, Hampton Court.

Brooklyn was quite shocked to learn of Henry VIII and the fates of his six wives.



They shopped for a hat at Pocatello Market...

...settling on this pink beauty.


They took two trips to the British Museum...

...and gleaned Ben's expertise on the the Assyrian invasion of Lachish.

Love Christy with this Moai!


There was the Tower of London, Evensong at Westminster, Kensington Gardens, Shakespeare at the Globe, the Victoria and Albert, and play time in Hyde Park.

Then there was a train ride through the chunnel, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triumph, Sacre Coeur, the Louvre, the catacombs, a bike ride along the canal, and a boat tour through Paris.




A selfie from the Eiffel Tower--life doesn't get much better.


In the end though, the defining lens of Brooklyn's experience was the food.  In foodie heaven with her culinary aunt and uncle, her journal entries are dominated by reflections on all these tasty morsels.  I'll just quote her directly to give you an idea.

"After picking up our food we went to Tea and Tattle, a classic London tea parlor. It smelled so good. You could just tell there were scones baking. We walked in to this petite little tea room where I ordered: a smoothie called heavenly twist with pineapple, mango, kiwi, and orange, a egg salad tea sandwich with chives, two scones with vanilla and raspberry jam and clotted cream, lemonade, and another scone in exchange for cake since we were going to eat carrot later. 

First came the sandwiches and drinks. My smoothie looked so elegant in its tall glass, although that might just have been me with a slightly sore throat. As good as it looked, it tasted way better. It was cold and smooth and in that moment I did not envy in the slightest anybody drinking a cup of hot tea. 

My sandwich was quite dainty, although it was stuffed to the max with eggs and chives. Pieces of egg kept falling off its crust-less edges, making me quite glad I had a napkin in my lap. I tried a piece of Aunt Christy's  roast beef sandwich. I tell you, it felt like it had more horseradish then roast beef. Well I was feeling quite satisfied until they brought out the scones and lemonade. I tell you scones with clotted cream and raspberry and vanilla jam are the best thing in the world. The clotted cream is just like butter except better, and they put a lot more clotted cream on scones then they would put butter on toast. After eating the scones the lemonade had no sweetness whatsoever. 

After teatime we headed to the British Museum where I got to see the Rosetta Stone and a bunch of other really cool things. "


"We ate at an Indian restaurant for lunch where I got a thali that was delicious but kind of spicy.  We got dessert at a pastry shop called Ottolenghi where we shared rhubarb tart and a variation on a chocolate cupcake."

"We then headed back to the borough market for gelato because we were really hot and got 3 gourmet cheeses.  We finished off with fish and chips.  I got lemon basic seasoned fish.  After dinner, we went and got more sticky toffee pudding,"


"In Hyde Park we ate fancy bread with cheese and meat.  My favorite combination was salami with, surprisingly, goat cheese.  I never thought I would like goat cheese, but it's grown on me.  I don't like how chalky some goat cheese is, but this was just smooth and good."

"After Notre Dame we went and sat in a park for a little bit and then went to get a crepe for lunch. That is, one crepe. They were huge! Think paella pan sized. We got ours topped with cheese, bitter greens, and meat. I probably ate about six bites, but that was all I needed. They are so filling."

"After viewing the Arc de Triumph we took the subway back to our hotel for a rest before dinner. It felt really nice to lay down for a few minutes. Then we headed over to a nice restaurant where we were meeting aunt Christy and three of her friends. I ordered a chicken quenelle. But before dinner, the appetizers came. Uncle. Ben ordered a foie gras for us to share but he wouldn't tell me what it was. I was quite nervous until I saw that it was bread, a soft cheese, and a mango chutney. Uncle Ben served me a piece. I tried it. The cheese tasted a little interesting so I asked Uncle Ben what kind it was. He responded that it wasn't cheese. I went pale and asked him what it was. He made sure I had tried it before telling me. MY AUNT AND UNCLE TRICKED ME INTO EATING DUCK LIVER!!!!! When I heard, I threw back my head and groaned. Everyone at the table laughed. 

When my main course came, I was a little surprised. While everybody else's came on a plate, mine was in a pot. Aunt Christy assured me that my plate was coming.  Being polite, everybody at the table waited for me to get my food before they started. Everybody watched as our waitress brought me a plate and dished a giant bread egg onto my plate and surrounded it with mushrooms and sauce. I tell you, it was quite the arrangement. With a "Bon Appetites" everybody dug in. I really liked my quenelle. 

When we were all finished and content, we left the restaurant and started walking home with two of Aunt Christy's friends. One of them stopped by a shop on the way home and bought us chocolate-covered ice cream pops. Mine had raspberry jam too."


There are many more examples (almost every meal is chronicled), but I think you get the idea.  She had a positively delightful experience.  I think Ben summed it up best:

"I believe in exposing my niece to the full range of the rich cultural heritage France has to offer.  So the answer to your question is, yes, we'll take the chausson aux pommes AND a viennoise."

Christy and Ben, thank you so much for taking Brooklyn on such a memorable, educational, and delectable journey.

It was the experience of a lifetime, and one she will cherish forever.