Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Dessert Blogger's Restaurant Review of Z'Tejas

When it comes to food I have an unadulterated infatuation; competing textures, pairing flavors, artistic fabrications, palatable selections, ceaseless variations. Though as is obvious, dessert tops the index with an irresistible penchant.

Last week I was invited to review Z'Tejas, a Southwestern Grill located in the contemporary Gateway District of Salt Lake City, Utah. Z'Tejas possessed every component of my desired infatuations; I give it a grinning recommendation with spinach in my teeth.

Z'Tejas Salt Lake City
191 South Rio Grande
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101

The evening manager on our visit, Brandon Cluff, invited us into the ambient dining room and immediately welcomed us with a captivating personality that embodied the atmosphere of the restaurant.

Z'Tejas earned it's name by paying homage to it's 1989 starting place, in Austin, Texas-Tejas being the Spanish name for the home state (the j is silent), and has 10 locations across five states, including California, Arizona, and Washington. The Gateway location opened in 2001, just prior to the 2002 Olympics hosted right here in Salt Lake City, and was the first restaurant to open in the Gateway Shopping Center.

Cluff took us on a verbally guided tour of the restaurant beginning with the kitchen, where the restaurant houses a freezer no bigger than your average at home freezer, filled with a sparse amount of items limited to fruit puree, french fries and the kid burger. Everything at the restaurant is made fresh; skillet cornbread every 30 minutes, hand prepared fresh guacamole every three hours, and spicy flavor lent from fresh chili's, peppers and herbs.

*Photo courtesy of Z'

Our chef for the evening was Todd Gardiner, a local celebrity here in the Valley, who features Wednesday weekly highlights on Fox 13 News sharing recipes and techniques. Though I was disappointed that I did not get to meet Chef Gardiner, his execution of the menu did not disappoint.

We began our meal with: Hibiscus Zinger Tea, a combination of syrup made from the Hawaiian Hibiscus flower and seltzer water, and will soon be featured on the menu.

It's distinct flavor was poignant, alluring, and a bit sharp, satisfying my craving for variation.

We were also served our individual skillet of hot cornbread with a side of honey butter, a replacement of the bread option found in so many restaurants. The cornbread is a staple of Z'Tejas and is an expression that this restaurant is more than just another Mexican restaurant..., and this cornbread, is more than just another buffet style cube shaped yellow bread. With a crunchy brown exterior, achieved from baking in a skillet, the inside is a fluffy, moist and decadent cake like bread that warms all of your senses. The secret ingredient? yogurt.

I confess: When our cornbread arrived, the smell alone evicted a ravishing desire and upon my eagerness to delve into it, I neglected to take a picture. This picture, however, is hosted over at In Search of Dessert, with a great supplementary review of Z'Tejas.

At the behest of the manager, we opted for the most popular appetizer: Grilled Shrimp and Guacamole Tostada Bites seasoned with chipotle and cilantro, and complemented with julienned carrots, onions and red peppers. The crunch of the tostada chip competing with the soft meat of the shrimp and smooth mute flavor of the fresh guacamole was the perfect introduction to our meal. It was satisfying, flavorful, enticing and quite literally grilled with consummate perfection.

By this point in our meal, the sun had begun to set and was glaring in Gabriel's eyes. Without complaint, it took only a moment before an employee noticed and closed the blinds; now that is service!

The menu
offers a veritable selection of fabulous dishes from beef burgers to dinner salads, but when it comes to the main spread, the three top entrées served at Z'Tejas are:
  • Green Chile Barbacoa Enchiladas, a Z Signature Dish
    Slow roasted beef barbacoa wrapped in fresh tortillas served with sour cream, black beans, rice, cheese, escabèche and smothered in green chile sauce
  • Grilled Miso Salmon
    Salmon steak grilled to order and served under a blanket of fermented soy miso sauce with chopped vegetables
  • Gorgonzola NY Strip Steak
    14 oz. aged steak with a caramelized onion sauce and Gorgonzola cheese
With an introduction like that, we felt compelled to opt for two of them. Gabriel ordered: Green Chile Barbacoa Enchiladas. Upon ordering an enchilada dish at some restaurants (names excluded), you may find yourself the unfortunate recipient of the bottom rounds, dry, crusty, and overcooked. But, if this review thus far is any indication, you can suspect that nothing could have been farther from our experience.

The tortillas were freshly fired, thin, and crisp. The peppers were full of flavor, temperate and accented the barbacoa and chile sauce excellently, while the visual presentation was artistically inspired.

I chose the pan seared: Grilled Miso Salmon, medium, under a mildly sweet miso sauce with a bit of kick, nestled with chopped zucchini, summer squash, red onions and a mashed potato cake. It arrived palatably pink from outside in, and the vegetables marinated in a reduction sauce, offered just a slight crunch. The potatoes were less thrilling, as they arrived half mashed, half one large chunk of whole potato.

Finally, it was time for dessert! Z'Tejas offers four nightly desserts, three of which change depending on the Chef's mood, season, or inspiration, and though we felt comfortably full, Gabriel couldn't pass up a chance to eat his favorite dessert, and I was very determined to get my hands on the Chef's Dessert.

The Chef's Dessert: Très Leche, a pecan crusted sponge milk cake. It was an exquisite texture with a browned pecan topping. It was appetizing, but didn't stand on its own compared to the other desserts.

Gabriel's favorite dessert is always, will always, has always been cheesecake. But, as I said, all but one of Z'Tejas desserts fluctuate, and the house cheesecake for this particular evening: Strawberry infused Cheesecake. This dessert strikes a delicate balance between thick New York cheesecake, and the subtle enchanting essence of my favorite fruit, to create an extremely dense and delightful cheesecake.

Well, then of course we couldn't pass on the Z'Tejas famous: Ancho Pie.

The Ancho Pie held the ticket to fulfilling my final requirement for food infatuation, the pairing of ancho chilies and chocolate, a warm walnut fudge dessert served with vanilla bean ice cream laced with cinnamon. I can easily say that this pie is a remarkable culinary achievement. The ancho chilies react with the chocolate in a tempestuous manner, teasing the cocoa and allowing it to take full reign.

As if you weren't completely satisfied with that, Z'Tejas is holding a 20th anniversary dessert contest calling for your best recipe. The contest runs until August 16, and requires that you send in a creative and delicious dessert created with chilies! The winner will receive dinner for 10, at their home, and their dessert featured on the menu throughout September. Click here for official rules.

Z'Tejas lays hold on it's claim that it is fresh, flavorful and innovative. The restaurant offers a vegetarian menu, a gluten free menu and on Monday nights, a free child's meal with the purchase of an entrée that includes a free drink and ice cream. Not to mention the restaurant hosts a quarterly Tequila night, partnering with X96 Radio From Hell, which offers a full meal including appetizer, entrée, dessert and five specialty tequila drinks fashioned by Chef Gardiner specifically for the event priced at $75, or without drinks for $50.

Prices range from $4.50-$10 for appetizers, $9.50-$25 for entrées, and around $5 for dessert.

Have you visited Z'Tejas? Share your opinions here, and check back in a few weeks for a fun Z giveaway!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pie in the Sky

Though I don't ever remember actually consuming a Moon Pie, for some obscure reason this months Daring Bakers Challenge reminded me of the Official Cybersnack of the 21st century.

The July Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies, and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

We had the option of choosing one or the other, or both. I opted to save the Milano cookies for a later date... watch for it!

Does Nicole sound familiar? That's because this darling daring bakestress was also the host of July's Sugar High Friday; this ambitious beauty deserves high praise!

Caramel Moon Pie
3 cups flour
½ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Blend together until sifted

With mixer on low speed, add 16 tablespoons butter (the recipe calls for 12, but I made a wonderful mistake) and mix until combined

Whisk 3 eggs, and add to mixture
Mix to incorporate
Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to ¼ inch
Cut with desired cutter and bake for 7-10 minutes at 375F° on greased cookie sheet, until edges begin to brown
Cool on wire rack
*If desired trim cookies with cookie cutter after baked and cooled

1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
Sprinkle gelatin over water and set aside

¼ cup water
¼ cup light Karo syrup
¾ cup sugar
In a small saucepan, bring to a boil and cook to soft-ball stage (235°)
Remove from heat

Add gelatin mixture, to syrup and let dissolve

Beat 2 egg whites until soft, add syrup and ¼ teaspoon vanilla and continue to beat until firm
Pour into high edge pan lined with foil, and greased with butter to set|
*For the amount of cookie in the above recipe, I recommend doubling the marshmallow recipe

Oh? Did you think I was going to give you my grandmother's recipe for caramel? No, that's as precious as my sweet bread recipe, and I keep it tucked away in the vault. So... prepare your own recipe for chewy caramel as desired, and let cool. Food and Paper has a great recipe posted at their site.

Place one moon shaped cookie face up
Use cookie cutter to cut out same shape in caramel and place on top of cookie, lining up with bottom shape
Use cookie cutter to cut out same shape in marshmallow and place on top of caramel, lining up with bottom two layers
Top with another cookie
Drape melted chocolate over tops and sides of cookie, smoothing as needed
*Use a wire rack with wax paper to catch chocolate
Let set

The faint cinnamon flavor lends extremely well to the combination of caramel and marshmallow and together make a wonderful treat! In the words of my sister, "Oh yeah, that's good."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Right as Rain

This months Sugar High Friday's, #53, is hosted by Sweet Tooth; Theme: All Time Favorite Desserts, or in other words, something that you cannot live without.

The moment that I read the string of words that make up that sentence, I knew my one thing would be cookies. Not specifically any one type of cookies, but any type of cookies will fulfill the thing I can't live without.

Cookies are a simple pleasure. They are a concise creation, deliberate in their purpose and oh so fulfilling. Regardless of what events have transpired in your day, cookies will make it better-after all, they can make a tall glass of milk magically taste like chocolate, sugar, or peanut butter!

Even in The Matrix, when Neo goes to visit the Oracle and she gives him the chilling prophecy that he will have to choose between his own life, and Morpheus'? what does she do to make that horrific situation better, but offer Neo a cookie:
"Here, take a cookie. I promise, by the time you're done eating it, you'll feel right as rain."

This gesture, though sweet, provided more than lacing an unfortunate circumstance with a bit of sugar... the cookie gave Neo literal insight, part of the Oracle's code via a wireless connection to the source.

Indeed, cookies may just be the conduit to saving mankind.

Vanessa, at I Never Grew Up generously let me borrow her Farm Chicks Cookbook, and I was so excited to make Serena's son's favorite cookies!

Big and Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies by the Farm Chicks

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup crunchy peanut butter (I opted for creamy, with the addition of peanuts)
½ cup honey
½ cup peanuts
Cream together until smooth

2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
Whip together until light and fluffy

Stir in:
2 cups flour
1 cup wheat flour (I opted for wheat germ)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
The Farm Chicks suggest dropping ¼ cup sized spoonfuls and baking for 12-15 minutes, however I opted for .8 oz balls
Use a fork to press a cross hatch pattern on tops of cookies
Bake at F350°, 7-9 minutes, cool on wire rack
What can't you live without?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Weekend Plans

What are you doing this weekend?
This is where I'll be... and you are invited!*click image for larger text

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Family Favorite

Have I mentioned yet that I love living near my sisters? I've been having so much fun just simply walking up the street and seeing them out in the yard!

A few days ago, Pamela and I went to Costco together and both came home with handfuls of plump, blue, blueberries. Naturally, I felt inspired to make muffins. Growing up, my mom made the most incredible blueberry muffins. They were smooth, sweet and tempting, and were always a family favorite. The only thing better than those muffins,... are these muffins:

Banana Blueberry Muffins

These muffins are courtesy of my sister Pamela, at French Knots; be sure to surf over there for the complete recipe and instructions.

As if these muffins could get any better, I decided to made a slight addition. Since I was thinking of how much I love living near my sisters, I opted to add some of the crumble topping from my Sister Envy dessert-it added just an extra hint of spice, and since my muffins lacked a few to many blueberries, it was a nice addition.

Even better, last night, my cute little nephew (of the same family) visited us for a slumber party! We played Mario Kart Wii and Webkinz, enjoyed Licorice and Laffy Taffy, played with the Furries and watched Chicken Run with a freshly popped bag of buttered popcorn!

I also learned about his secret birthday wish! He turns 8 years old in November, and the one thing he really, really, really wants is D-Rex: "If you master D-Rex..., you rule the House"! The D-Rex is an amazing robotic interactive dinosaur that protects your room, charges at intruders, and only likes the people that you command it to like! Of course, we made sure to call Grandma to make sure she knew about this incredible toy pet.

It wasn't until 1 am that we finally crashed!

In the morning, our little guest applied his best french accent to extend an invitation to Pamela and his little brother, for reservations at La Maison du Chef J.

We worked furiously to open on time, featuring his Mom's favorite breakfast:
German Pancakes

This recipe is also a family favorite, and although it is Pamela's personal favorite, I remember enjoying it most frequently at my sister Candi's. This recipe is also hosted over at French Knots; while the cutest photo tutorial, with the cutest little boy ever, is hosted right here.

Just for mom, he revised the menu to allow for the pancakes to be served with strawberries and cream. Plus, he selected the best strawberry in the bunch to carve out a Little P on the side, and filled it with cream for an adornment on Mom's plate.

Despite how much fun we had all night and day, the best part of the whole adventure, hands down, was when my nephew asked as they were headed home: "Aunt Cathy? When can I come over again?"

Friday, July 17, 2009

Our Love Story

My ceiling still faintly read, "Boys Suck" in faded red lipstick, at the time Gabriel came into my life for an extended stay.

He and I had actually met about six months prior, and though he likes to scoff at this part of the story, he wasn't exactly Mr. Perfect... actually he was a lot like Mr. Darcy, pre-Elizabeth crush. And like Darcy's Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, the memory of our first encounter sustained me long throughout his deliberate attempts to dissuade my belief that he was anything but a gentleman.

Depending on who you hear the story from, the details of our courtship have a propensity to change from time to time.

The way I tell it: I was a young, cute, outgoing 19 year old, dating without commitment.
The way he tells it: I was infatuated with a certain boy, his cowboy boots and horses.

The way I tell it: I was in the only place in the world where you can have a different date every night of the week, Provo, Utah, and I was living in BYU housing.
The way he tells it: See above, about a cowboy.

The way I tell it: He was jealous, and wanted me to himself without having to wear his heart on his sleeve, or bruise his ego.
The way he tells it: See above, about a cowboy.

The way I tell it: Karma; six months earlier he didn't want to stop dating and commit, six months later I didn't want to.
The way he tells it: See above, about a cowboy.

Well, one night, Gabriel and were cozying up at my apartment watching a movie when the "cowboy" walked in unannounced... and then upon seeing Gabriel and I, walked right back out-slamming the door behind him. I made some ridiculous excuse to Gabriel, and then hurriedly followed after the cowboy. Trying to talk my way out of the situation, I suddenly realized-I didn't even like this boy, not at all, and all I could think about was Gabriel.

It was too late to salvage anything that evening, but the next day I somehow convinced Gabriel, with balloons, cookies and tickets to the midnight showing of the 1st Harry Potter movie, to believe me that from thenceforth it was just me and him. I waited outside his apartment, reading a book until he got home, begged for forgiveness and batted my eyelashes.

Ergo, our first official date was November 14, 2001 at 12:01 AM to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Since then, we have seen every Harry Potter movie at midnight, including Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince this past Wednesday, July 15, 2009 (plus quite a few book release parties as well).

Cheesecake Marble Brownies
Chocolate Cream Ganache Frosting

I shared these brownies with all the new friends we made while waiting in line 10 hours at this years festivities. Really, waiting in line is part of all the fun! Whilst mounting anticipation builds, quizzes regarding Potter trivia ensue, costumes entertain, and these soft brownies almost make you believe you were in the Three Broomsticks.

Whip up your favorite brownies - set aside

8oz. cream cheese
½ cup sugar
½ cup cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream together until smooth and fluffy

Pour ½ brownie batter into long rectangular greased pan, drop spoonfuls of cream cheese batter over brownie batter, top with remaining brownie batter, swirl together
Bake at F350°, 22-28 minutes until set
Let cool, then frost

½ cup chocolate
¼ cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sugar
Melt over medium heat in a small saucepan until smooth, let cool
When cool, whip 4oz. of cream cheese into chocolate mixture
Smooth over cooled brownies
What is your love story? I can't wait to hear it!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Part of the Hive

For those of you from Utah, you know this...
but for those of you who aren't:
the blogging community in Utah is extreme!
From the sheer number of bloggers, to events,
and sponsors, and conferences -
it's wild!... and I love it!

I recently joined a group called:
The Hive, a conglomeration of Utah food bloggers.
Go check it out, and read my bio/introduction,
and be the first to learn about an upcoming, ultra hot giveaway!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Idyllic Raspberry Breakfast

I'm stingy when it comes to food I can't reproduce, like raspberries for instance.

My parents have a idyllic tower of raspberry bushes in their garden which produces beautiful berries throughout the months of June and July. Fortunately, last year they were on vacation during the apropos months leaving me to reap all the rewards!

Coming from Oregon, where store purchased raspberries run at $4.99 a pint, I was stoked to see Sunflower Markets was having an incredible sale on raspberries last week: 1 pint for $0.88! We bought the limit: 8, four for Gabriel and four for me - even though I've primarily been hoarding them. Not to mention, I let them sit in the fridge almost too long, because I hated to see them go (even if it was in my belly)!

Raspberry Honey Buns

With such an adorable name, you are sure to melt over these delicious rolls. I got the bread recipe from a cookbook comprised of recipes from the 1983 editions of Southern Living Magazine, and incorporated my own filling concoction and added a couple of extras...
The bread is exceptionally heavy, but sweet and comforting, as it should be!
Substitute water for sour cream is you want a less dense bread.

Melt 8 oz sour cream & 2 tablespoons raspberry juice over low heat until warmed

3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 package yeast (2 ½ teaspoons)
Stir into sour cream mixture until dissolved and smooth

Pour mixture into mixing bowl, add:
1 teaspoon salt
teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1 egg
Knead together until smooth

Add 1-2 cups additional flour until dough is slightly tacky

1 cup raspberries + 2 tablespoons sugar
Let germinate for 1 hour, then add 2 tablespoons creamed honey
Stir to incorporate

Roll dough out to ½ inch, spread filling over dough
Roll dough up lengthwise, pinch ends together, cut into whirlpools and press into prepared pans
Will make 12 rolls when using a standard sized muffin tin
*I used a muffin tin greased with vegetable oil and butter

Bake at 375°F, 15-20 minutes, release from pan

1 tablespoon creamed honey
1 teaspoon whipping cream
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
Whisk together and smooth, drape over rolls while hot

Stay tuned: Orange Raspberry Muffins!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sister Envy

Our first Sunday here in Utah, in our new home and in our new ward, my sister Pamela was introducing me to her friends and people she knew, when one of her friends said, "I'm so jealous - I totally have sister envy!"

Being away for seven years, I totally had sister envy too! but now I'm happy to announce that for the most part that craving has been fulfilled now that I get to be just a few blocks from my sister Pamela, and just a few miles from my sister Jill.

I have so many fond memories of Jill and her family. Even though Jill is 16 years older than me, and we, in large part, did not grow up together, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit her during the summers of my middle and high school years. One trip I remember in particular was when we went to Southern Utah, sailed on a river boat to learn the history of the town and hiked through the arches. I love the feeling of belonging I have whenever I am with Jill, and she never ceases to impress me with her inviting and captivating spirit. (I would include pictures, but we don't have a scanner yet!)

On the drive home from that trip, her eldest Whitney, (she and I are only seven years apart) and I were sitting in the back seat while the twins, Darrian and Danica, and the youngest, Connor, were in the seat in front of us. Whitney and I were in possession of the Oreo's and were doling them out to the rest of the kiddos as follows: Seperate Oreo chocolate cookie ends, lick off frosting entirely, stick chocolate cookies back together, then... hand them off. We were halfway into the package before anyone noticed!

On Monday, we invited Jill and her family over for dessert and Family Home Evening. Naturally, our theme was Independence Day. Aside from sharing our admiration and love for this beautiful country and for those who have fought and defended it, Gabriel and I regaled them with tales of our spectacular evening with the Jonas Brothers. Of which, by the way, I'm a complete fan of now!!

I just have to tell you, the girls with these signs were sitting right next to us, and they were just the most darling little girls you have ever seen. They were so excited to be seeing the Jonas Brothers, and screamed and laughed and cried through the whole concert. They also helped me understand all the pertinent details which make up the Jonas Brothers trio, such as, which brother is which, who the bodyguard was, which song came from which album or movie, why Nick is the favorite, etc. etc.

Pie: Chocolate Crumble
This recipe is adapted from The Chocolate Box cookbook, page 32.
The crust in this pie is delicate and flaky, adding just the perfect complement to the chocolate, which tastes like a baked version of your favorite mug of hot chocolate. The crumble topping will delight you with it's comparative taste to crushed Butterfinger... yet of course, beyond much better.

1 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ powdered sugar
Whisk together and rub in ½ cup butter

Make a well in the center, add 1 egg yolk and enough water to help the dough come together

Knead for a minute or two, and place in fridge for 30 minutes

Roll out to ¼ inch on lightly floured surface and line 9" tart pan
Blind bake at 375°F for 10-15 minutes, weighing the crust down with wax paper and baking beads

cup cream
cup milk
Bring to a boil, and immediately remove from heat

Add 8 oz. chocolate and gently stir in chocolate until smooth and melted

Add 2 eggs and mix thoroughly until combined
Pour into crust
Bake at F350°, 15 minutes
Remove from oven and let sit for 1 hour

Crumble Topping:
1 package graham crackers
1 cup pecans
½ cup chocolate, or chocolate chips
½ cup brown sugar
Chop in blender or food processor until mixture resembles super fine bread crumbs

When ready to serve, spoon a heaving serving of crumble topping over each slice individually and serve. I also opted to include a layer of sliced strawberries between the chocolate pie and the crumble topping.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sparkle Patriotic

Happy 4th of July my Fellow Patriots!

Gabriel and I are getting ready to head out to commemorate this Independence Day with an annual tradition of attending a colossal fireworks show, this year to the Stadium of Fire. In years past we have viewed the Fort Vancouver Fireworks Show in Vancouver, Washington boasting the largest fireworks show this side of the Mississippi; the Lake Union Fireworks Show, in Seattle, Washington, hailed as one of the largest shows in the nation; from the rooftop of our downtown apartment building the PGE Park Fireworks Display, in Portland, Oregon, and a few years we were delighted to share the holiday with my parents whose neighbor puts on a show every year to rival the most glamorous of them all! And... every year we celebrate the holiday with America's favorite chicken: Kentucky Fried.

This year is no exception, except instead of camping outside the forum - this year we get to go inside!!! I grew up visiting my sister Jill and her family over the 4th, and their tradition was to sit outside the BYU baseball fields and watch the fireworks for free outside the stadium. Actually, we would begin the morning by attending the Hot Air Balloon show in Provo, followed by watching the Freedom Festival Parade, and then spend all day outside the stadium waiting for the show to start. It was my favorite day out of the whole summer. I've always, always wanted to watch the show from inside, and this year Gabriel scored a couple of tickets off Craigslist for half price, so tonight we will be swaying to the smooth sounds of the Jonas Brothers (I listened to my first Jonas Bros. song today in preparation!) and oohing and awing at the fireworks from point blank range!

Of course, we are also celebrating with a special holiday treat... edible sparklers!

Cookies: Sugar Sparkler
Before baking, slide a skewer through the center of the cookie, remove from baking sheet, cool and frost as desired
*I have to give full credit for this idea to my mother!

Even though we are keeping with our family traditions, and the festivities have thus far have been engaging and delightsome, this Independence Day feels a little different somehow. So many of our friends have either lost their jobs or taken a significant paycut, thousands of homes are being foreclosed on, and even the Fort Vancouver show was cancelled this year due to the economy. This morning Gabriel and I attended the Orem Tea Party, and paid our solemn respects to the sacrifice this nation has incurred as an answer to our freedom.

At the event, an 84 year old Veteran serenaded the crowd with God Bless America, and hung his head and wept as he expressed his love for this Great Nation! He said, "I'll be damned if I stand here helpless, and and let this country be drug down to hell!"

John Adams wrote this to his wife on July 3, 1776, regarding the Declaration of Independence:

"I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."

To celebrate our freedom, and to honor those who have paid the price that we might enjoy things as simple as blogging as a result of freedom of speech, this year we are adding a new family tradition to the docket. We are adopting a marine from This week S Sgt Dominique Giles and his section will be receiving Starbursts, Tootsie Rolls Pops, Febreeze, Neosporin, Tampons, Body Powder, and Kool-Aid as requested plus our love, support, prayers and encouraging letters!

Thank you to our devoted soldiers who dedicate their lives to this country and its citizens!

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