Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cut the Crazy

I posted this on my blog, but I really felt like I wanted you all to see it. Things are changing, and I think it is so important we keep our perspective, what a wonderful way this is to do it.
My friend Debbie is starting her class at Big Picture Scrapbooking today. I am so excited for her and Georgana! I wish I was able to take this class, these ladies are amazing and this concept is amazing. If you can, go take the class. It's on line and it costs $30 and I'm sure it will be wonderful. Debbie also started a new blog, wow, I love it! Make sure you read the post about "Unplug the Christmas Machine" it really makes you think.
I think this Christmas is going to be different for a lot of people (you know that economy thing),but I think that makes this concept that much more important. I think we may all be realizing this very important concept; "He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!" Here's wishing you all a delightful upcoming Christmas season! Enjoy the things that are most important to you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Who wants five bucks?

Each year, the day after Halloween my children are offered $5 in exchange for their Halloween candy. I allow them to pick 10 pieces, and then they sell it to me for $5.

It is actually a win-win situation for them. You see, they get to pick a treat from our "task treats basket" each day after school. IF... and only IF... they've completed the seven tasks on their task chart before heading off to school.

Getting dressed
Putting PJ's away
Saying prayers
Eating breakfast
Making bed
Brushing teeth
Having hair done

If tasks are accomplished they get a really awesome sweet treat to go along with their Healthy after school snack. They always get the Healthy snack, regardless of what they have accomplished.

This year, their leftover Halloween candy will be used to fill up the "task treats bucket." So, they are actually getting to eat it. However, it is on my terms instead of theirs, which would be eat until they get SICK and/or my dentist bill is outrageous.

Thank Heaven for Grace!

I've seen this a couple times over the last few months, and I just love it. I love the music - I've been thinking alot about how to learn about Christ, to focus more on Christ, and become more like Him. I know we're usually our own worst critics, but I've been feeling particularly inadequate lately. I keep remembering wise words from one of the wonderful women in my congregation at church -- to paraphrase, "If you feel like you aren't enough, like you can't do enough or be enough, it's okay, because it's true. That is why we have the Savior. It is only with Him that we are enough, that we can do enough, that we can be enough." I love the words, "Oh, to Grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be. Let Thy Goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander - Lord, I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love.... Here's my heart -- oh take and seal it for thy courts above."

I love that the images in this slideshow are photographs -- so real. It reminds me that He really lived, and still lives today. It reminds me that His miracles are real, and were not just for the past, but are also for my present.

Now if I can just remember that the next time I break up a fight between my kids or the next time I have to tell them something 5 (or 10 or 20) times before they obey or the next time I have to clean up the spilled juice/milk/vegetables/soup/main dish off the floor after another unsuccessful attempt to get my three year old to EAT HIS DINNER....

Thank Heavens for GRACE!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Halloween Cookies

Every Halloween, the kids and I make sugar cookies. I have been told that my recipe is one of the best. I stumbled upon it right after Jonathan and I were married and I must say they are delicious; but I am a COOKIE LOVER!!

Sugar Cookie Recipe
1 t. soda, and 1 C. Sour cream mixed together and set aside

1 1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. shortening
1/2 C. butter
2 eggs
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla

Once the sour cream has become fluffy, add that to the mix. Then add 3 to 4 C. of flour.
Chill dough for atleast one hour. The roll it out and cut into desired shapes.

Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350.

1/4 cup of softened butter
a dab of milk
1 t. vanilla
powdered sugar to desired consistency
Secret ingredient: 1 t. almond extract


Be Bold...

About a year or so ago when we were living in Kansas City, I had a missionary tell me that we must be bold in our missionary efforts. AHHH!! It is so hard to be bold. Since that time, I have prayed for missionary opportunities and the courage to be bold.

This week I was able to be just that;BOLD!! During a conversation with some friends, I invited them to church for the 25th time. They explained that they are finally happy with the church they have just settled in to. They have been on the hunt for some time, but have not wanted to try ours. I looked at him and said,"I am here to tell you that we belong to the true church." He said, "Everyone thinks they belong to the true church." I said, "Okay, but don't come crying to me in heaven when you find out I am right, because I told you." We laughed about it, but I have to believe that my words will remain in his heart. It is all about planting those seeds, and in this day and age we must be BOLD about it.

It is so hard to explain to someone that there is nothing for me to gain in you coming to church. I don't get a percentage of the church funds, I don't get a pink cadillac, and I won't be moved to a paid position. I may receive more blessings(which is wonderful). If the people we love only knew that we just want them to KNOW what we Know, and believe what we believe, and do as we do. The gift of knowing is what brings peace and joy to our soul.

So.. I challenge you to be BOLD. Our missionary efforts are so important right now at this time.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Budgeting 101

As I watch the news everyday, I am blown away by the economic situation our country is in right now. I found myself asking, "How did we get here?" I guess we can blame the mortgage giants, or Barney Frank, or the congress, or President Bush...but the truth is that the problem started with everyday Americans. Our country has lived beyond our means for decades. Had we not bought homes that were too expensive, purchased cars that we couldn't afford, and charged oodles of things to credit cards that we didn't have the money to pay for, this situation would not be happening.

This post is depressing, I know. But, I believe that it is something we need to talk about. We can't change the bad decisions that have been made in the past...but we CAN change the decisions we make in the future. We need to start living within our means...starting TODAY. The first step to living within our means, I believe, is to make a budget. I know, I hear the word "budget" and tune me out. Who wants to live with restrictions like that? Well...ME for one. I actually LOVE budgeting. Crazy, I know. I absolutely adore it! I was lucky enough to take a "Family Finance" course while at BYU. It seriously changed my life! If I were to go back and choose a different career, I think I would have become a financial advisor. Figuring out money situations is almost a game for me. It's me versus the Benjamins...and I WILL win! (That's my competitive side coming out) I think EVERY family, whether you make 25K or 250K a year, needs to live within a budget! It really is the key to financial freedom & achieving the goals that you want for your family.

My husband & I used to teach the "Marriage & Family Relations" class in church up until a few months ago. One of the lessons is about managing family finances and is based around Elder Tanners's talk, "Constancy Amid Change". It's an awesome talk. If you want to read it, the link is here. Anyway, everytime I got done teaching this lesson, I would have at least 2 or 3 couples come up to me & ask me to teach them how to budget. I was amazed at how many people did not have a budget and had no clue how to even start setting one up. Because of this, I made up a simple step-by-step form (based on the college course I took) of how to set up a budget. Considering the situation our country is in right now, I thought I would share it with all of you. Here you go...

Steps to Creating a Successful Budget

Step 1:
Make a goal. Something you want that you don’t have now (i.e. more savings, family vacation, build up your food storage, finish your basement, get out of debt, etc.) This is probably the most important step. If you have a goal that both partners want & are willing to work toward, living within a budget becomes easy & almost kind of fun.

Step 2:
Track your expenses for at least two weeks. Write down EVERYTHING (even if it’s just 50 cents in the pop machine). You'll be surprised by how much money you waste on things you really don't need.

Step 3:
Decide what you can live without. At the end of two weeks, sit down and look at the money you’ve spent. Go through the list of expenditures and decide what can go. Can you pack a lunch to take to work instead of eating out? Can you go without that soft drink everyday? Can you eat out a little less than you are now? Do you really need that pair of new shoes every month? Do your children really need to be dressed in Baby Gap clothes every day of their life? Etc.

Step 4:
Divide your expenses into three groups: bills, needs, wants

Tithing (Yes, this is a bill...the first one you pay)
Fast Offerings (This too)
Car Payment
Car Insurance
Needs (These are things your family CAN NOT live without...nothing more)
Home Improvements
Misc. Stuff

Step 5:
Add up the amount of money you spend on all bills & needs (not wants) each month. Then figure out how much money you bring home after taxes each month. Do you bring home more or less than you spend on bills/needs each month? If you bring home more than you spend, you’re in good shape. If you’re bringing home less, figure out what can go or what you can get for cheaper. Example: Can you sell your car and get one with a lower monthly payment? Can you get other quotes on insurance to see if there is another company that is cheaper? Do you really need a cell phone or can you live without? Can you live with fewer TV channels in order to get a cheaper monthly rate? Do you need to sell your house for something smaller and less expensive? (These things are good to ask yourself even if you still have money left after paying bills/needs. Every dollar you save here is a dollar you can put toward a goal you want to achieve.)

Step 6:
If you have money left over after paying all bills/needs, then you can move on to your wants. You should rank your wants by importance. For example, savings should probably be more important than going on vacation. Give each want a $$ value. For example, a family finds that they have $500 left over each month after paying all bills/needs. By tracking their expenses, they figure out that most that money is going to eating out ($125 a month), miscellaneous expenses ($75) & hobbies ($300). However, they would like to save more money for an emergency savings fund, start saving for retirement & save money for a family vacation in a few years. They decide to put $100 a month in their emergency savings fund, $200 a month in a company 401K, & $50 a month in a vacation fund. To compensate, they decide to only spend $50 a month on eating out (rather than the $125 they were spending before), $50 on miscellaneous expenses (instead of $75), & only $50 a month on their hobbies (a BIG sacrifice from the $300 they were spending before. But, they decide that sacrifice is worthwhile because they would rather be able to build up their savings & eventually go on a vacation). This is just an example that came out of one of my text books, it in no way tells you how YOU should allocate your money.

Step 7:
Write your budget down and then continue to keep track of your expenses. Example: Every time you go out to dinner, write it down. Once you hit your limit, discipline yourself and don’t eat out for the rest of the month.

Step 8:
Sit back and enjoy the reward of watching your money go further than you thought it could ever go…and achieving the goal you made in Step 1!

There you go...8 simple steps. Take them or leave them, but I know that they have helped my family to track our money & make sure it's going to things that are important to us.

Ironically, our church leaders warned us during both General Conferences in 2005 that this situation would be coming & that we needed to get our homes & finances in order. (Get out your old Ensigns and read through will shock you how much it was talked about). Hopefully, if we didn't listen to them then, we will listen to them now. Living within our means is the key to financial freedom & temporal preparedness. If every family in America started living within their means TODAY, we could prevent a financial crisis like this from happening again.

(Sorry this was such a depressing post, I promise something a little more upbeat next time!) :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Here is what we are doing for our next "Get R' Done" Enrichment group. I still have quite a list of crafts I want to do, but think this is a fun, cheap, easy one and a great gift idea for Christmas! They were easy and fun to make. You could make them to say.."Faith, Hope, Charity", or "Eat, Play, Sleep", or "Splish, Splash, (picture of a bathtub)", or anything else you can come up with.
With a Cricut Machine and a little vinyl, the possibilities are endless!

Halloween Costume

Last year my son was a "Hot Red Chili Pepper" for Halloween. I found the costume at a 2nd hand children's store for $4. Great money saving tip! $4 vs. $15 for a costume they'll use once or twice!

This year he'll be a dinosaur! I made the costume from some pajamas and some felt I already had on hand. I also already had a green ear muff hat so I just sewed some triangles and stuffed them onto the pajamas and hat and tail (that I also stiched) and voila! Easy, cheap and so cute! I used light stitches so I can take them out when he's done and he can still use the hat and pajamas all winter! The greens don't match perfectly, but they are good enough for 1 night costume anyway!

Monday, October 20, 2008


In our Enrichment Food Group this week, a couple of our sisters taught us how to cook using Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah). Have you heard of it? It is an amazing little "Super Grain". The Incas called it the "Mother Grain"

Our information says it is "packed full of protein (9 amino acids - making it a complete protein), calcium (more than milk), Omega 3 Fatty acids, a good source of manganese (necessary for metabolizing calcium), Vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and copper and Fiber (1/4 cup has between 5-6.5 grams of fiber).

The sisters bore their testimonies about following the Word of Wisdom more fully and the blessings that come by eating meat sparingly and adding more grains into our diets.

"Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

"And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.

"All grain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth" (Doctrine and Covenants 89:12-14)

You can use Quinoa for substitutes... meat substitute in ground meat recipes, grains in rice recipes, and for beans in Mexican recipes. You can add it to soups, salads, salsas, breads, cookies, pilafs, and more. Cook it at a 1:2 ratio Quinoa:Water..(like rice) but it cooks a little faster.

She showed us how to cook it and let us taste test a bunch of different dishes. I am sharing a recipe that she gave us. I made it for dinner last night and my husband LOVED it!

Thai-Style Lettuce Wraps

1 chopped onion
3 chicken thighs, or 2 large breasts finely sliced
1 TB oil
2 garlic cloves, minced

In a large saute pan, combine all ingredients and cook over med-high heat until chicken is no longer pink. Add into the pan:

1 C water
2 TB soy sauce
2 square inches worth of grated fresh ginger root
1 chicken bullion cube
1/4 tsp Thai red curry paste (to taste)
1 tsp. curry powder
3 TB peanut butter (+/-)
1 tsp basil
Dash of nutmeg

Bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring continuously. Cook until a thick consistency is reached. If it gets too thick, just add more water. Now add in:

1 C cooked white quinoa

Stir to combine, remove from heat. Serve in lettuce leaves with lime juice.
Great toppings:
shredded:cucumber, carrots, red cabbage
Flaked coconut
Chopped peanuts
Cilantro, sweet peppers
Anything that you think would be great

You can also choose to leave out the chicken and just do a vegetarian wrap!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Smarty Pants Me

I know some of you out there depend on my vast knowledge of shopping malls. Because of this, I thought I would pass along a valuable nugget of mall information regarding Halloween.

Did you know you can Trick or Treat at the mall? Because you can. And zillions of kids turn out every year to go Trick or Treating to stores instead of houses. I looked forward to working Halloween every year to see all the cute little kids that made it into our store for treats.

You can Trick or Treat at any time of the day (well, you might want to contact your local mall to find out for sure, but the malls I worked at had kids coming in at 10:00 AM) ALL DAY LONG.

Why is this great? Well, what if your kid secretly goes to bed kind of early and you want them to score some great candy for you? What if you want to take your kid in the afternoon? What if you don’t know or like your neighbors? What if it is too cold outside? What if your kid looks impossibly cute and you want as many people as possible to see them? These are just a few questions to think about when considering going to the mall instead of the alternative; going DOOR TO DOOR in the DARK when it may be FREEZING COLD.

I plan to take my kids to the mall to score some good sugar. That night, I’ll even let my two year old daughter, Hannah, stay up to see some of the Trick or Treaters that come to the door.

What a treat that will be for her.

I know what you’re all thinking right now . . . I’m such a smarty pants.

Simple Halloween Costume...

If you are still stewing over Halloween Costumes this year, I have a great, easy and inexpensive little girl costume.

My little girl wants to be Fancy Nancy for Halloween. I decided to make her a tutu as part of the costume. You could use this idea to make a beautiful Ballerina costume.

I found the instructions here. And this is how it turned out.It was so cheap,(well free, my Mother-in-Law had the fabric)but you could do it for about $5. It took me about 1 hour to make it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Return to Virtue

(A few random thoughts tonight)

I LOVED Sis. Elaine S. Dalton's talk in conference.
'A Return to Virtue'
A few of the points
~"I can do hard things" vs. "In the strength of the Lord, I can do all things."
~" the one to stand for right, even when it means to stand alone"
~"There is no friendship more valuable than your own clear conscience."
~"..slowly desensitized" >Lahonti - poisoned by degrees (tolerate - accept - embrace)
~change the world through our virtuous influence.
~"Never underestimate the power of your righteous influence"

Listen to the Conference Talks
I am so thankful for General Conference, I NEED and look forward to it every 6 months.

another thought-
We are strong, and our testimonies are grounded, but I just want to cry all day when I see how wicked the world is. My heart aches at the disobedience of Heavenly Father's children.

I received the video in an e-mail today about Proposition 8. It amazes me that this is an issue. The video is to the people of California but it could affect us all. I am so thankful for my beliefs and the things I was taught about on the importance of the nature of the family. I am grateful to the Prophets, SEERS, and Revelators of the Church for publishing, "The Family: A Proclamation to the World", when they did. They know what is to come and it is an amazing document.

some of what it says:
(click on the picture to view the whole proclamation)

"All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

"The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife.
"Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.

"The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."

It says so many times MAN and WOMAN, HUSBAND and WIFE. I know marriage is ordained of God. That 'Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.' (1 Corinthians 11:11) I am so sad for the people who feel otherwise, that same sex marriages are okay or even good. I wish I could help them understand the beauty of marriage and family, the importance of husband and wife. The Proclamation says:

"We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets."

I guess all we can do is to be a good example. To declare in word and deed, to do our duty and vote. We need to do all we can.

"For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—(Doctrine and Covenants 123:12)

"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." (Doctrine & Covenants 123:17)

Children are so vulnerable and moldable, so innocent and trusting. If we don't act now, they could be the ones that are blinded by the 'subtle craftiness of men'. I pray that Heavenly Father will give me the wisdom and the words by the spirit when this subject comes up in our home. I am thankful to be a member of the church and have the Gospel in my life, and that I can teach it to my children. I am thankful for my testimony. I know that Heavenly Father loves us and that "In the strength of the Lord, I can do all things." I am thankful for my husband, and that together we can honor these sacred marital vows. That we can raise a family in righteousness, and that Heavenly Father has and will continue to show us the way to do that in a changing world.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My favorite fall pleasure is....


I enjoy baking so much in the fall. I don't know what it is. I even enjoy cooking more. Many of my posts over the next few months will probably be food related, just because that is what I find myself doing this time of year. A few of you asked for my Cinnamon Roll recipe from my Traditions post, so here is is:

Sweet Dough

2 C. Hot Milk
1 Cube margarine
1/2 C. sugar
2 1. salt

Combine and let the margarine cool.

2 T. yeast
4 eggs
7 C. of flour and NO MORE!!! (dough will be sticky, add more flour when you roll them out, as needed)

Let it rise until double in size then roll them out. If I am making them for just my family, I split the dough in half. I make one half cinnamon rolls, and the other half yeast rolls. They are delicious both ways. For the cinnamon rolls:

Roll the dough out in a square shape about 1/2 inch thick. Spread with melted butter, and then sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top. Then roll it up from the long side. Once you have it all rolled up nicely, then I use a piece of string to cut them. Slide the string under the roll about an
1 1/4 inches in then cross the string and pull it down. It cuts the dough so nicely. Lay down on a greased cookie sheet, and let them rise until double in size. Bake at 350 for 14-18 minutes, until starting to brown on the edges.

Glaze: You want this to be runny.
milk, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Mix together to the consistency of a runny glaze. Spread on the rolls as soon as they come out of the oven.

For the Yeast Rolls:

I roll the dough out in to a big circle about 1/4 of an inch thick. Then spread with melted butter. Cut the dough like a pizza, into 16 slices. Roll the dough up from the biggest. side. They will look like crescent rolls. Lay down on a greased cookie sheet, and let them rise until double in size. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

A whole batch of Cinnamon rolls will make about 24.
A whole batch of rolls will make about 30.
Half and half will be 12 cinnamon rolls, and 16 yeast rolls.


This is my other fall favorite:

The summer that we moved home from Saba, we stayed with Jonathan's parents for about a month. Jonathan's mom had made homemade granola, and I couldn't wait to get up in the morning and eat it. Since that time, she taught me how, and I make my own.

I love to make it in the fall. It seems like such a fall food. The smell of it baking is such a pleasure to the senses. I enjoy eating this plain, just like a bowl of cereal. It is also great on yogurt, or on your favorite cereal to give it a little crunch. I want to share this favorite with you.

Nutty Berry Granola
4 C. regular rolled oats
2 Cups puffed brown rice
3/4 C. Bran Flakes
3/4 C. wheat germ
3 Tbs. raw sunflower seeds
3 Tbs. chopped nuts
1/4 C. dry milk
Combine this together in a big bowl, and stir well.
3/4 C. honey
1/3 C. olive oil
together and stir until well-blended. Do not boil; stir in:
1/2 tsp. Almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla

Spread onto a large non-stick baking sheet. Bake 1 hour @ 225. Stir every 20 minutes.
Add: 1/2 C. dried cranberries
1/2 C. dried blueberries the last 10 minutes, and toss gently.I double this recipe, and then store it the #10 cans that food storage comes in. It is so delicious. I hope you enjoy it too.

Friday, October 10, 2008

More FHE lessons from {Preach My Gospel}

Hello, sisters! I am so sorry about getting behind on posting these. It's a little trickier when I'm not the one preparing the lesson that week! (Not everyone writes down what they plan. . . :)

Here are two of the missing lessons. I'll post the other one ("The Great Apostasy") soon!


The Savior's Earthly Ministry and Atonement - Lesson 1, Heading 4 - Google Doc

The Savior's Earthly Ministry and Atonement - Lesson 1, Heading 4 - pdf








The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith - Lesson 1, Heading 6 - Google doc

The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith - Lesson 1, Heading 6 - pdf

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

This time of year... just the beginning of much holiday decorating. Which is a lot of fun, but it can bring on the headaches too! Last week I pulled out my fall box and got my house decorated. I realized that I didn't have as much as I remembered having. (I think I got rid of a lot before I moved). So I kept it simple. I did a lot with the mini real pumpkins. I like this because I can have it out in October through Halloween and still keep it out in November. (I don't like to put things out and take them down over and over again through the holidays). Here are a couple pictures of some of the things I did.

The piece above, usually has greenery in it. I wanted to switch it out for fall, so I went on a walk and gathered some twigs for my house (free). What's more fallish than twigs? I thought it could use a little color so I went to Hobby Lobby and got two stems of these berries. They just happened to be on sale. I got them for $1.00 each.

When I was in Arkansas, Andrea had found this (below) on clearance at Target. I had to run on over and get one for myself! Then I just filled it with gords and a little pumpkin Once I put my fall wreath up outside, my summer flowers were seriously clashing next to it, so I planted a fall version. I did this same arrangement in a couple of my other pots in the front yard. I don't usually do too much as far as Halloween decorating goes. But I decided I wanted some touches of Halloween in my house, just for fun (my kids like it).

This wreath is hanging on my pantry door in my kitchen. I was at Walmart one day and grabbed a plain wreath, and some spider web and little spiders. I had extra black spray paint outside and my husband was nice enough to spray it for me. It only cost me about $4.oo to do this. Here is where I got the idea from.

Sometime in the next couple of days I'm going to do this while Drew does this. Mine is going to say BOO. I have all of my supplies sitting out on my counter right now, ready to go. I have to do serious talking to myself before I start a craft. I enjoy it, once it's done and I have found just the right spot for it. It's the "doing it" that is sometimes hard for me.

Lots of linking in this post, but I have to give credit to the blogs that bring me inspiration!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Simple Christmas-my way!

Although I wouldn't classify cleaning and organizing as an actual hobby of mine, I do appreciate a simple, uncluttered home. I've always been a simple person-my dress, words, home and interests are all simple. I love the word simplify; less is truly more. So, I've made a decision to keep Christmas simple in my own way.

The consumerism associated with Christmas has always bothered me because (for me) it detracts from the simple reason we celebrate this holiday in the first place. Superfluous STUFF makes me hyperventilate. When I'm bombarded with lots of STUFF on Christmas morning, I hardly enjoy it in the midst of my thoughts of, "Where am I going to put all this STUFF? I don't NEED this STUFF." So, here are a few things I do to keep Christmas simple in my own way:
(1) I keep Christmas paraphernalia contained to one storage container. Sounds crazy, I know. But, for simplicity's sake, I must be able to 'take down' Christmas in an hour or two instead of a day or two. I love holiday decorations and I love my home to be filled with the Christmas spirit, so instead of the same decorations year after year, I have my children make new and wonderful things each year that we enjoy during the season and toss when it's over. Gingerbread ornaments, fresh cranberry and pinecone garlands, sweet 3 year old drawings of the nativity (this one I may keep!).
(2) To keep our traditions simple, we try to do 3 things each holiday season: attend a Christmas concert of some sort, decorate a family gingerbread house, and enjoy an evening looking at Christmas lights in our community. I can manage that! (3) I try to stay simple in my gift giving as well by keeping presents practical, useful, and often consumable. I've given jars of homemade jam or bags of simmering wassail scent (oranges, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and cranberries to be simmered on the stove top) to friends. Gifts that offer an experience rather than more STUFF are also something to consider. How about tickets to a musical, movie, or a gift certificate for a message? A year's membership to a museum or $ to spend on a family outing have been some of our favorite gifts.

I hope my ideas for a simple Christmas are useful to someone! I know there are many definitions of simple, so may we all celebrate Christmas in the way that best helps us remember our Lord and Savior's humble beginnings here on earth. Happy Celebrating!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Family Journal

A couple of years ago, I was reading in my Family Fun magazine about a tradition one family had. They would gather their kids together one night a month and ask a couple of questions and write them down in their Family Journal. Sometimes they were silly questions to make the kids laugh and sometimes they were serious ones to get them to think. Then they would curl up together and read some favorite books. I loved this idea and decided to start doing this with my family. We do ours every first Monday of the month for Family Home Evening. After we are done asking our questions and writing down every ones responses, we set individual goals for the month. We write these down in our family journal too, but I also type them up and hang them on our fridge as a reminder. After that, we pick out a scrapbook and reminisce about all the fun we've had together. This has been a great way for us to look through pictures, instead of forgetting about them. Then we have a treat. This is what you would find us doing tonight and this is what our treat is going to be.

What did you learn?...

I learn so much every time I listen to our leaders speak. This time, I learned....

1. To Enjoy the Journey!! (Pres. Thomas S. Monson) He reminded us of just how fast these precious years go, so enjoy them!! One day we will look back, and long to have sticky fingerprints on all of our things.

2. That our morning and evening prayers should be a continuation of each other. Our prayers should be continuous. (Brother Bednar)

I am thankful for these two poignant thoughts, that I need to reflect on.

What are you reflecting on?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Traditions... and Conference Weekend

It is raining outside, and the weather seems just a little cooler. This always seems to happen on Conference Weekend. I love this weekend, and look forward to it every six months. As a my kids get older, I have tried to make it a special weekend. I have tried to make it a weekend of tradition. I want it to be full of great things for my children to remember. I wanted to share with you some of the fun things that we do:
On Saturday morning, we make "Skinny Pancakes." We always make Skinnies(crepes), but on Conference weekend in the fall they are special because we make them look like pumpkins. My kids love this for breakfast.
Here is the recipe:
1 C. flour
1/2 C. milk

1/2 C. water

1/4 C. butter

1 t. salt
1 egg
Mix all the ingredients together, and then pour 1/4 of a cup on a warm skillet. Roll the skillet around until it fills the pan, and is a skinny circle. Cook on both sides. Fill with fruit, whipped cream, and powdered sugar;or syrup and powdered sugar
.( I add orange food coloring to the batter to make them orange.)

On Sunday morning, we make my favorite Pumpkin Pancakes with Apple Cider Syrup. I got the recipe from my sister-in-law, Lorinda, and angel blogger. I don't think she will mind if I share it.

Beat 2 eggs, and stir in 3/4 C. Pumpkin
2 T. Sugar
1/2 t. each ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, soda , salt
1 1/4t. Baking powder
1/4 C. oil
1 1/2 C. Flour( I use Whole Wheat)
Stir in 1 1/2 Cups of milk
Cook on the griddle

Mix in a saucepan:
1 C. sugar
2 T. Corn Starch
2 C. Apple cider or juice
2 T. Lemon Juice
Boil one minute, serve over pancakes

After breakfast, we get dressed in our Comfy clothes. We spend the whole weekend wearing something that is comfortable. It helps make the weekend relaxing for all of us.

Then we prepare for conference by talking with the kids about the activities that they can do while they listen. I usually have worksheets ready. I always explain them all before hand, and then I prepare in the most valuable way; I always have M&M's on hand.

Among the activities for the kids, I usually have a little stack of projects for myself. I try to have a few things that will not distract me. I am putting pictures in albums and pictures frames this weekend. Then I take notes of important topics.

Our last tradition... is my husbands favorite by far. Tomorrow I will make Homemade cinnamon rolls. We will enjoy these after Conference. Each family member is responsible to share their favorite talk as we savor the yummy rolls.

Preparation and Tradition help our family enjoy and get the most we can out of such and important and special weekend.

I am thankful for the blessing of Conference. I know that it is a gift. I also believe that listening to our leaders and following their counsel is as valuable to us as the scriptures. They both have great purpose and meaning.

I hope you have a wonderful Conference Weekend also.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Love It

Hello to all. My name is Stephanie and I'm a new contributor to this blog. I am also Jennifer's little sister. She told me about your blog and after a couple of times of oohing and awing over it, I asked to join. Lately I've been feeling like my spirituality is lacking and this has been so uplifting for me to read every one's posts and help me "focus" on the important things in life. So with that a BIG thank you to all. I'm so excited to be apart of this blog.

I've been wanting to make a post all week but for some reason, I get so nervous when I think about it. So today I just told myself I must do it!! I'm a Christmas FANATIC!! Jenn can back me up on that one. Christmas music is played in my house ALL YEAR. I was thinking all week of our Christmas traditions and realizing that we are still in the "beginning stages" with our traditions since our kids are so little. One that I have carried over to my children from my childhood is a new ornament every year. I LOVE the post below about having a picture/story book to go along with them. Every year when I was growing up, we'd have a new ornament in our stocking. I was always so excited to see which one I got and when I moved out, I was able to take all them with me and now my kids enjoy seeing "mommies" ornaments. I loved that my first Christmas as a young married and BROKE gal, that my tree had some pretty cool ornaments on it. So, I decided when we started having kids to carry on that tradition but I changed it up a little. Each year, once I put the tree up (I'd have it up now if I could) I'd take them to the store and they got to pick which ornaments they wanted. I get the biggest kick out of what each of my children pick and they LOVE being able to see their ornament all Christmas season. Any one who walks through our door, my daughter makes sure to take them over to the Christmas tree and show them her ornaments. I also buy one for me and my husband because when the day comes that my kids are grown up and have taken their ornaments with them, we still have ours.

Well I guess I got over my nerves because that was a pretty long post. Thanks for letting me be apart of this and sharing just a bit of my life.

Spotlight - Krysta Moes

It is past due for my turn to take the Spotlight - unfortunately! :) I have to say thank you to Laura for taking my place while I was trying to get things back to normal after Hurricane Ike. Thank you also to Andrea for being so patient with me and letting me get this done on my own time frame, which sometimes can be a little bit of a wait!

Where to start??? I'm really not that interesting, but we'll see what I come up with! I grew up in California. A place called Clovis, it's right outside of Fresno. After graduating high school, my parents and siblings moved to Dallas, Texas and I moved away to school. I started out in Rexburg at Ricks College and after a semester of that, I decided it was way too cold for my California blood and headed to Texas to spend a little bit of time with my family, then ventured on to Utah. Which is still a very cold place, but I fell in love with Utah! I knew that I wanted to be there for a long time. Shortly after moving there I also fell in love with my husband. We got married in the Salt Lake Temple and headed up to Logan to go to Utah State. He graduated from Utah State and I graduated from beauty school and became a cosmetologist. I worked in a salon for several years and even worked at home after having my kids. We had three kids there and were absolutely loving life in Cache Valley, when all of the sudden we decided that we needed to change things up a bit. We didn't want to leave Cache Valley, but we felt the need for a new job. Since there wasn't much to choose from in my favorite little town, we had to look outside and chose a job offer in the Houston area. This has been a blessing for us to stretch ourselves out of our comfort zone. There are so many wonderful missionary opportunities all around us. I need to keep stretching myself even more in that department! We have been here now for a year and we really love where we are in life right now.

Casey and I have been married for 10 years. He is a consultant for a small software company just about 8 miles from where we live, which is a blessing all in it's own. The Houston commute is AWFUL! We have 3 adorable, spirited children. Kaylee is 7 and in second grade. Jake is 5 and in Kindergarten and Drew is 3 and stays at home with me. I am blessed to be able to have "retired" from doing hair and now stay at home with my kids and take care of them, without having to squeeze in time for work. Somedays I wish I had somewhere to hurry off to... BUT there are always little moments in my day that make me realize, with absolute certainty, that I am doing what I know I should be doing right now. My family is my life. Everything I do, I do with them in mind. Even my hobbies are linked back to my did that happen??? :) They are just so cute, I guess I can't help it!

In addition to my family, I have 3 passions in life that I just can't seem to escape.

SCRAPBOOKING - I have been an avid scrapbooker for as long as I can remember. Even in my years of growing up I remember putting albums together and adding extra things to make them special, instead of slapping just a picture on a page. I didn't realize what I was doing until I moved to Utah after high school and was opened to the scrapbooking world. A world of bringing pictures to life, making friends and treasuring family memories. I have since been converted to digital scrapbooking about a year ago and now I am trying to soak up as much information as possible about this new passion!

PHOTOGRAPHY - This also goes way back in my childhood. I remember wondering why my mom didn't love taking pictures. How could you not like to take a picture??? I would go and find my parents camera and snap shots all the time. I always felt the need to document important events and highlight the fun things that were going on. This passion has never gone away, it's only gotten more passionate! I love looking at good, quality pictures. I find myself on photography blogs all the time, staring at their pictures and wondering how they get them to be so...perfect! I have recently bought my first SLR camera and I am enjoying every second of it. I am also trying to learn everything I can about this, as well!

DECORATING/ORGANIZING/CLEANING - I love to decorate. Anyone who knows me already knows this. BUT, I also love to organize and clean. Sounds CRAZY, I know, but it's true. There is something soothing and so calming about it to me. I am not a very calm or soothing person when my house isn't organized or clean, so that's motivation enough for me. These 3 things: decorating, organizing and cleaning are great tools for me as a mother that I am constantly using to better myself and my family. I love to do anything that makes my house a home and a special place for my family to be.

The very most important tool I have as a mother, wife, friend and all the other titles I carry, is the gospel in my life. I am so thankful for the gospel to teach me what my purpose is in life: where I came from, what I'm to do here and where I'm going after this. I can't imagine not knowing this and that makes me want to be a better missionary. I also have a testimony of prayer. I absolutely know that every single one of our prayers are answered, no matter how big or small they might be. The power of prayer is real and it is there for us to use...daily. I am thankful for the scriptures and for the infinite amount of knowledge that is available for us through the words of our prophets. I know that the scriptures are here for us to search and ponder about...daily. (so hard to do sometimes), but every time I take advantage of this blessing, my day turns out so much better which makes it worth the daily sacrifice.

Thanks for reading about me. I can't wait to get to know all the other girls contributing to this blog even better!!

Edit: I forgot to choose someone to go next on the spotlight. Steph Austin...I pick you!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Christmas Ornament Books

We have been sharing our favorite Christmas traditions lately and I wanted to take a quick second and share mine with you. This is one of those I have remembered as a child and am passing on to my children, actually my mom is passing it on to my children and I am helping with it. Here is how it started:

When I was growing up my grandma started a tradition for all of her grandkids. She loved to shop for Christmas ornaments, so each year she would buy each of us a really nice ornament to hang on the Christmas tree. Some years we would each get the same one and other years she would shop individually and get one that reminded her of us. We absolutely loved this! We always knew what to expect from her and we knew it would come in the mail a couple of weeks before Christmas so we could hang it on the tree that year. They were really nice ones and the whole family would ooh and awe over them. We knew that one day, when we were all grown up and married, that they would hang on our very own Christmas trees. My mom was sad when the day came that each one of us packed up our ornaments and she had to start over with her tree. This tradition also helped my grandma because she didn't have to keep up with all of the things we did like and all of the things we didn't like growing up (since it was always changing and their were so many grandkids). It was so much more personal than money and they get to stay with us forever. I love, to this day, pulling out my ornament box and hanging them on our tree. My grandma was going to stop this tradition once we got married, but I sweetly convinced her that I loved it way too much and she couldn't just STOP! So, we still get an ornamnet each year.

My mother has continued this tradition with my children. I am proud to say that my kids love this tradition just as much as I did growing up.

Here is where the helping from me comes in. There is always a picture involved in anything I do. So I had to turn this tradition into a picture book. I started this when my oldest got her first ornament. There was a little story of why my mom picked each one and I wanted them to remember it, plus between the three kids, I wanted to keep the ornaments belonging to the right person. So I take a picture of each ornament every year and put it in a book and then journal the story. Here are some pictures of the books:

Two of them are the same because I bought two at the same time. The third one is different because I didn' t think of getting three of the same book. The two that are the same are just normal flip photo books with two different types of ribbon on them to hide the "normalcy" of the book. Here's what the inside of it looks like:
It's just a 4x6 picture on the left side and the page on the right is the story typed up on some cardstalk. I usually add a little something scrappy to the journaling page. The other book is a paper book I found one Christmas at Michael's in the dollar isle. I had to get creative with this one because their wasn't anywhere to put pictures in it. It just had plain white cardstalk paper inside with out any sleeves or pockets to hold anything. I decided to use my scrapbook scraps to put the pages together. I cover the white cardstalk with paper and then cut out another scrap (smaller) and staple it to the page. That serves as my envelope to hold the picture. Then I cut out tags and use my 2 in. square punch to size the picture and stick that on the tag. I flip the tag over and type up the story. It's a fun little book that I have been happy with.

These books will go with my kids when they leave the house, along with their ornaments. They will know the story behind each ornament and I will be able to remember which ornament belongs to who. It's so nice to have a meaningful Christmas tradition. I enjoy looking back on each Christmas and having a gift to remember. I also love that this gift will never get tired of and eventually end up in the garbage, like toys and other things do. Instead, we are creating a family keepsake that my children will inherit and their children will inherit. I hope my kids love putting their ornaments on their own tree someday just as much as I do.