Friday, November 23, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 23: Time

I'm grateful for time. Time to spend with people I love. Time to do things I enjoy. Time to serve those around me. Time to work. Time to sleep. Time to play. I'm also grateful for the healing that time provides. Over the course of my life I've experienced a few heartaches due to a variety of reasons, as I'm sure you have too, but the one thing that all had in common was that as time moved on, so did I. I wasn't stuck in the hurt or the memory of that loss or pain. Time truly is a great healer and a wonderful blessing.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 22: Repentance and The Atonement

I have always been grateful to have the opportunity to repent and to be clean again, but it hasn’t been until this year that I’ve really grasped what an amazing and wonderful gift it is. As I make mistakes, and I’ve made some doozies, I’m grateful to know that a loving Heavenly Father wants me to come to Him and repent, to forever leave those sins behind. I’ve been holding on to some things I realize have been holding me back. I see now that part of the reason I’m having trouble moving forward is that I’m stuck living in the past. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. I am grateful for a loving Savior who gave His life for ME and for YOU! By choosing not to repent, of things big or small, we are not accepting the most precious gift. Accept that gift, let it work in your life (note to myself as well), move forward and experience full joy again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 21: The Book of Mormon

I am so grateful for The Book of Mormon. I'm ashamed to say that over the summer I got a little lax in my scripture study and found myself going days without even looking at it. But sometime in August something struck me that part of the reason I was having a hard time making some decisions and receiving answers to prayers was that I wasn't searching and studying the scriptures like I needed to.
I love the power I feel each time I read The Book of Mormon. The feeling I have the minute I open it's pages is incredibly peaceful, it's almost indescribable. I love the power I feel to resist temptation and sin as I consistently study. As I've delved back in and have tried to get back into a routine (and honestly I'm still working that out, but I'm making great progress), I feel more at peace - like everything in my life is on an even keel. As I posted a couple of months ago, I went through a period of time in which I felt completely out of control of my life. I was trying to make decisions that I didn't need to make, just to feel like I was in charge of something. Hindsight is 20/20 (boy, I'm learning that's true) and I realized that during this time when I needed the most help, I wasn't reading my scriptures.
I've heard over and over in my life that if you want to talk to God, pray; if you want God to talk to you, read the scriptures. I can trace to changes that have come into my life over the last couple of months to getting back on track, to spending more time studying the scriptures.
The promises and blessings that come from reading The Book of Mormon are incredible and real! As a child I relied on the testimony of others regarding this. As a teenager I had my own experiences, I prayed to know if it was true and received a spiritual confirmation that indeed, it is. As an adult, I continue to strengthen my testimony by studying the teachings therein and applying them to my life.
So, have you read The Book of Mormon? If you haven't, will you (click here to learn more)? If you have, have you prayed about it in earnest to know whether it is true? I can tell you from my experience that every time I pray with sincerity to know whether the things I've read are true, I feel the Holy Ghost confirm to my mind AND heart that it is true, that it is the word of God. I'm grateful to have this in my life!

Don't Get Burned

We had the missionaries over for dinner the other night and were sharing some experiences and memories we had. I was telling them of when we lived in Boston. Our ward there shared the church building with a Portuguese speaking branch. No one in their congregation played the piano or organ, so for special occasions they would ask me to play for them. I was asked to play at a baptism once and the missionaries there translated for me. The speaker at this particular baptism was reading the scripture that talks about being baptized with water and by fire. As this missionary translated, he told me that when we are "baptized with fire", our desire to sin is burned.
If you've ever burnt yourself (and let's face it, we've all done it one time or another), you learn quickly where those hot surfaces are and you take great care to make sure you don't touch it again. Typically you don't keep going back for more, taking the chance that this time it won't hurt you.
It made me think more about my life and the sins I've committed. I've thought about habits I've developed, not necessarily bad, but not good either. In the context of getting burned, there are things that are burning me, and I don't want to feel that pain. I want to live knowing that I'm avoiding those things that cause pain. Unlike an actual fire, you may not immediately feel the effects of those acts, but over time you will find that the damage is much more widespread and may take longer to heal.
I see that in myself. It's easier to do some things because I'm not doing other things right. And I'm done living that way. I've been working on removing those things, thoughts, actions, etc. from my life. I recognize more and more that I can always do a little better.
As time goes on, I feel those wounds healing. I feel more joy in my life, more contentment. I feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost more on a regular basis; confirmation of being on the right path.
I've been particularly focused on the media in my life. Instead of listening to the radio, I have been listening more to conference talks, hymns, and other uplifting things. Instead of some of my "favorite" TV shows that are not in line with what the gospel teaches, I've replaced them with more appropriate shows (and if you're wondering about giving up things (TV, music, friends, just to name a few) you love, or just really like, for something is SO HARD!!! But the rewards are SO GOOD).
I had a stake president  one use the acronym GIGO = Good In, Good Out. As I've changed the content of what I've been putting in, I realize that more good is coming out. I am more loving and hopefully more Christlike. My thoughts and actions feel more clean and overall more genuine, like it's who I really am, more than just someone I'm trying to be.
Back to the analogy of being burned, I feel that as I take these actions to improve my life, those wounds are healing. As I encounter the temptations to watch/listen to things I shouldn't, or to do things I shouldn't, I feel that pain and I want to step away, change the channel, get out of whatever place I am in, whatever it takes to avoid that. Does that mean I'm perfect at it, that I don't mess up? Absolutely not. I'm still very human, but I'm making great efforts to avoid the evil, or more correctly in most cases, the less than good things that surround me at times.
As I type this, a hymn keeps coming to mind and I have to share. It is hymn #256: As Zions Youth in Latter Days (specifically verse 2 with regard to what I've been thinking about here). I hope it inspires you as much as it does me.

As Zion's youth in latter days, we stand with valiant heart
With promise shining in our eyes, resolved to do our part.
Upon a noble past we build; the future fills our view.
We face the challenge of our day and pledge we will be true

The truths and values we embrace are mocked on every hand
Yet as we listen and obey we know we can withstand
The evils that would weaken us, the sin that would destroy
With faith, we hold the iron rod and find in this our joy.

Thru test and trial we'll have our fear, but we will not despair
We're here to serve a righteous cause; truth gives us strength to dare
We'll love, and learn, and overcome; we'll sing a joyful song
As Zion's youth in latter day, triumphant pure and strong.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Taking a Break

I've decided to take a break from the blog. I love to write, but I've been over thinking things and it's causing a lot of unnecessary anxiety - it's losing its therapeutic qualities. There are a few posts that are scheduled out for the next couple of days, but that will be it until the new year. So, I guess I'll see you in 2013, hopefully with a clearer head, a better plan, and a calm soul ready to actually tackle my future.

Gratitude Challenge - Day 20: Modern Medicine

I really don't enjoy taking medicine. If I could get away without it, I would. That being said, I have been in situations where I've NEEDED medicine, particularly pain meds. When I had my back surgery, meds were a life saver - pretty sure I wouldn't have made it that first week, or even month without that beautiful pill (though I was thrilled when I was able to move on without them - I stopped sleeping so much!). When I had my wisdom teeth removed, yeah, I was glad for meds then too, and every time I go to the dentist. I'm grateful to live in a time with clean medical facilities and physicians with extensive training.

The Truth of It All

So I have this blog for the world to see,
But the person I’m writing for most is me.
I vent my frustration and share my joy,
I pretend to be bold, yet I feel timid and coy.

As things happen I downplay the pain
Hoping that somehow my life it won’t stain
I try to be happy; try to hide it away,
But my heart keeps on hurting, day after day.

I beat myself up and try to make sense
Of decisions I’ve made, it makes me feel tense.
The people I thought would be part of my life
Are the people I’ve hurt, and it causes me strife.

I try to keep busy and push thoughts aside
Until I think clearly; my tears, they have dried.
One day I’ll look back and undoubtedly know,
These were the times I learned how to grow.

To focus on others, to learn how to love,
To enjoy life and what it consists of.
To follow the Savior, in good times and bad,
To repent and be clean, there’s no need to feel sad.

And so the journey it continues to move
My thoughts and actions I will work to improve.
The temptations I’ve given into in the past
Serve as reminders to move ahead fast.

I know who I am and I know what I want
I do not lay these goals out to flaunt.
You see what I want is to happily be
With all that I love; for eternity.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 19: Dreams

I am grateful to have dreams and ambitions! Granted, I realized that tackling all of my dreams may not be exactly feasible, but they are out there just waiting for me to turn them into a reality. I found this quote on Pinterest (surprise, surprise), and feel it sums my philosophy of dreams up pretty well.
I love the dreams I have for myself. They may be far fetched. They may be unreasonable. They may never actually happen. They may land me with a broken heart, but as a song that came out over the summer says, "Keep on dreamin' even if it breaks your heart". You never know unless you try, so dream big and get to work!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Spaghetti Squash Parmesan

I haven't spent as much time in the kitchen as I'd like - life has been busy and lately its been a matter of just eat and run, or depending on how late I get home from work, eat and sleep.
I've also recently switched from wanting to bake tons of sweets (I LOVE baking and sharing sweets - just saying!) to discovering really tasty  "healthy" food - mostly meaning more vegetables. Veggies and I just don't get along as we should, and I'm not really sure why. Probably because I'm supposed to eat them. Whatever the case, I've been trying to do better on that front.
One veggie that I'm still battling with is squash. I go through phases of loving it and hating it. I'm heading back into an "I love it" phase, but it's a slow process. On Pinterest (oh, beloved Pinterest), I found several spaghetti squash dish recipes and decided that I wanted to try one. My concern was that it made a pretty large amount and I didn't want to make something new just for the three of us at home, so I decided to make it for the ward Thanksgiving potluck last night (sorry- it's true...if you try something I've brought to a ward function, 9 times out of 10 it was the first time I made it...and I am ALWAYS crossing my fingers that it's not horrible). As I put the squash in the oven, I began dreading it. I was fairly certain that I had lost my mind and that this wasn't going to even turn out, let alone taste good.
But I followed the instructions and behold, I have a new FAVORITE dish. Seriously!! I told my mom I may never crave macaroni and cheese again (which is HUGE if you know me well)!
I've heard people say "it's just like eating spaghetti" - wrong!! DON'T expect that! Expect squash with a noodle-like shape. If you're expecting pasta, you're sure to be disappointed. I'm also planning on playing with this recipe, and of course making my own version at a later time. I'm imagining pesto for starters...
Here's the recipe...original recipe and comments can be found here:

Spaghetti Squash Parmesan
1 (1 1/2 lb) spaghetti squash
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 cup hot water
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, shredded, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper

  1. 1
    Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. 2
    Cut the squash in half lengthwise; remove and discard seeds. Place squash on a baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 1 hour. Separate the strands of squash with a fork and place in a medium bowl; discard shells. Maintain the oven temperature.
  3. 3
    Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour. Reduce heat to low. Cook mixture, stirring continually, for 5 minutes.
  4. 4
    Dissolve bouillon cubes in hot water. Stir into flour mixture. Add milk gradually, whisking continually.
    1. 5
      Cook the sauce, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan, salt and black pepper.
    2. 6
      Add squash to the sauce and mix well. Spoon into a 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake until bubbly and golden, about 30 minutes.

Me First

I can't take credit for this idea, but I want to delve a little deeper into it. I heard this from a fantastic woman in our ward in Pennsylvania. She shared that they were taking their children on their first flight to see their grandparents. They were sitting on the plane and the flight attendants were doing their little safety pep talk before the flight took off. When they started talking about the masks that would fall from the overhead compartments in case of a change in cabin pressure, they were told that each person should fasten their mask to themselves first before helping anyone else, even their children.
Now I don't know about you, but at this point in her story, I made a very quick, spiritual connection. I realized then, as I was reminded again today, that none of us can be equipped to care for anyone else unless we have taken care of ourselves first. As I type that, I'm afraid it sounds a bit selfish, but I don't mean it to be. If you are on the plane and the masks come down and you're losing oxygen, you may not be any help - or much help - to anyone else if you are about to lose consciousness. From where we stand in our lives at this very moment, we may ask ourselves, do we have our masks on, so to speak, to allow ourselves to help anyone else?
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about seeing someone in the store while I was going through a particularly hard time and she mentioned to me that she had also been struggling. At that moment, despite my desires to help her fasten her mask, I was losing oxygen for myself and was beginning to lose consciousness (just had to follow the pattern). Luckily, I realized this quickly about myself and worked to make sure I was taken care of so I could help the person "sitting next to me". That person could be the friend you run in to at the store, or someone you see in church, or a co-worker, or even a stranger you pass on the sidewalk. 
The point is, we need to take care of ourselves first, spiritually speaking, so we can care of others in the same sense. Imagine being in an emergency situation, the paramedics have been notified. Do you want someone who happened to hear the call and had no emergency training of any kind (and 911 wasn't available - trying to cover every aspect of that) to show up to help, or do you want someone who has the right kind of training, who may have even seen this situation before. Personally, I want to be aided by someone who knows what they're doing, not by well intentioned, but ill-equipped persons. And the same thing applies in a spiritual sense. 
And so I ask this question, not only for you, but for me...Are you prepared? Is your mask still dangling because you've started helping others next to you, but at a possible risk to yourself? Or do you have it securely fastened, enabling you to see the needs of others clearly because you are not losing your spiritual consciousness?

Gratitude Challenge - Day 18: Prayer

I got to spend some time with one of my favorite kids recently. This little girl has a great routine for bed which includes saying her prayers. As I tucked her into bed one night, she asked if I would say prayers with her. She looked a bit disappointed and almost embarrassed as she looked at me and stated that she only knew one prayer. I told here that it was okay and she could say her prayer, but I felt so sorry that this little angel doesn't know that she can just pray to a loving Heavenly Father at any time, over anything; that there aren't just a few prayers to memorize.
I am grateful to know that I can pray and talk directly to Heavenly Father. As of late He and I have been communicating a lot more in depth as things happen in my life. I treasure that relationship and want to do whatever I can to keep those lines of communication open. I'm so grateful that He is always there to listen to me, to comfort me, to guide me.
I hope that I have the opportunity with this child to teach her about the importance of that relationship and to help her understand the blessing of prayer in her life.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 17: Mom!!

I know I already expressed gratitude for family, but today is my dear mother's birthday and it just seems fitting to pay special tribute to her today!
My mom is amazing!! She has put up with me for 26 years (and trust me, there are days I push her patience to the absolute brink - I really need to work on that). Several of those years were good, mostly the ones before I started talking and developed my own little attitude. :) I feel like there may have been times after they taught me to speak that they wish they had waited a bit. I have been talking ever since, and my wonderful mother listens to me! She listens as I tell her about the fun I have during the day, the stupid thing(s) I did, the hurt I may be feeling at the time, everything!
My mom spent a week with me in the hospital, no breaks, when I had my back surgery. She was in a lot of pain with her hips and she slept on an uncomfortable couch in my hospital room so she could stay with me. She taught me to feel the Spirit, but more importantly how to recognize and act on it. She taught me to serve with a smile, to work hard, to love music, to cook, to value family, and to put my relationship with Heavenly Father first and to do whatever it takes to be close to Him.
I love you, Mom!! Happy Birthday!! I can NEVER even begin to repay you for all you have done for me. I hope to be able to be half as good of wife/mother to my future family as you have been to us!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 16: Friday's/Weekends

I really try not to wish my life away, but I l-o-v-e Friday's and weekends!! It really is the perfect reward for making it through 5 days of work. I remember working jobs where I had to work every Saturday. The weekend just didn't mean as much to me. Granted, I was given a day off in the middle of the week to compensate, but it just wasn't the same. So, I guess again I'm grateful for my job now that allows me to work Monday through Friday so I can have my Friday nights and weekends.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 15: Moving

I am grateful for the experiences I have had in my life from moving. I imagine what life would have been like if my parents hadn't moved from Georgia when I was 4 years old. For one thing, I'd have a strong southern accent. I wouldn't have gotten to experience life in Utah, Florida, Pennsylvania, Idaho, and Massachusetts. I wouldn't have met all of the AMAZING people that I have. I wouldn't be the person I am now if we hadn't moved. I love the person that associating with so many people and places has made me and I look forward to other moves I may make in my lifetime.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 14: Food

I am grateful for food!! I am grateful to have food to eat. I am grateful to be able to cook/bake! Seriously, I love to be in the kitchen creating things. I love that food brings people's easy to share and brings me joy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 13: My Body

I really am grateful for my body. I have a metal rod in my back, so that causes a few minor issues, but overall I can do just about anything I want (gymnastics, horseback riding, etc aside). I don't have major medical issues, I don't spend a ton of time in pain or sick. I am truly blessed in that respect. I'm trying harder to take better care of this body-after all, I only get one.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 12: Airplanes

I am grateful for airplanes!! Actually, I'm grateful for all forms of transportation. I love that I can get from one coast to another in just a few hours time. It really is something miraculous! I am also grateful that I was born in modern times as I really don't think I would have made it as a pioneer. And, while I'm on the subject, I'm grateful for the sacrifices they made and the legacy they left behind. It gives me a bit more encouragement to think of them and want to do better so their sacrifices weren't in vain. I have things so easy in comparison - the least I can do is what I'm "supposed" to do.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Who I Really Am

I was watching "Once Upon a Time" last night and loved the line that said "Sometimes we need someone to remind us of who we REALLY are." I have had times in life when someone has snapped me back to reality. Tonight, the person I was a year ago gave me that push. As I've shared here recently, I am making great strides to get my life where it should be. It has meant sacrificing some things from my life; some big, some small. In all of that there is some major opposition. I know I have a loving Heavenly Father who is aware of me and knows the details of my life, but Satan also knows me. He knows my weaknesses. For me, he knows if he can make me feel depressed or discouraged, I may back down, I may look back and want things to be the way they were. Tonight was one of those nights.
The great news is that I didn't give in. I read my scriptures and "discovered" two verses that had specific application in my life, RIGHT NOW! I wanted to remember those things, so I broke out my study journal. This is the same journal I started when I moved to Utah.
The thing about the time I spent in Utah is that I learned who I wanted to be, but more importantly, I was moving down that path. Tonight I found some notes I had taken on this very subject. It was just what I needed. I'm sad to say that I am not the person I was a year ago, but I am doing everything I possibly can to get back to her and then move forward. Turns out it is really easy to become lazy, complacent, and even just content to stay where you're at. I've been reminded from my notes of the goals I have for myself, of the person I want to be, and what it is going to take to get there. Sure, going back to the way things were would be the comfortable thing, it would make the pain I feel go away to some extent, but the decisions I was making versus the decisions I am making now (and in the future) are different...better (for lack of a better term). I am making the right choices for the future me. And for that I am grateful.

Gratitude Challenge - Day 11: Kids

I LOVE kids!! I really do. I tell people that and I think they think I'm joking. I love their energy, their wild imaginations, their love of life, their honesty (it's sometimes a little too honest), and their love. I spent the weekend with three of my favorite kids - a niece and two nephews of mine. They are so fun.
I also get to spend an hour each Sunday with the children at church. We spend time learning the gospel together and learning through music. But mostly, I'm learning from them. I am so impressed with the children who come ready to learn. Children really are like little sponges, especially when it comes to things of the Spirit and of eternal significance. They are open and receptive to learning the teachings of Jesus and are eager to follow His example. I'm grateful to have a very small part in that learning process (and hope that overall I'm doing more good than bad).
I am so grateful for all of these experiences and for all of the children in my life.
I also have to share a funny kid story from church today. One of the 5 year old boys raised his hands between songs and I called on him. He so sweetly asked if I was wearing any buttons. I thought it odd and told him that I was not wearing buttons. He asked again where my buttons were. I stopped for a second and looked at him and asked a couple of followup questions, finally remembering a conversation we had last week. Last Sunday the kids were a little wild and loud (we chalked it up to the Halloween candy still in their systems). They kept talking and wouldn't listen and I was getting frustrated. In my pleas to get them to cooperate, I told them that they were pushing my buttons. I guess to a 5 years old, there should be an actual button if you're going to use that kind of phrase.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 10: Fall

I love the change in seasons. For the last 12+ years I've lived in places that have VERY distinct seasons - 4 of them. Here in Georgia I've only really seen one - summer. I'm seeing another, and it's some sort of fall/winter version. And it's beautiful here now as far as the temperature goes. I'm breaking out my sweatshirts and cozy blankets and I'm loving it. However, I missed the bright and beautiful colors of changing leaves, though thankfully leaves have fallen here.
I remember my last fall in Boston (I didn't know at the time that it would be my last fall there) struggling with something at the time and was feeling depressed about whatever it was. As I drove to work this one particular day, I felt all of this emotion building inside me that I didn't know what to do with. I drove down this cute little street lined with trees. The wind had just picked up and the leaves were falling like snowflakes. There was something so freeing, it was almost as if the trees held my emotion and as I watched the leaves fall down, it was like nature was telling me to just let go. Each fall since, this year included, as I watch the leaves fall to the ground I feel this need to let go just a little more. Some years it's been ideas, other times; plans. This year it is emotion that I need to let go. As I watch each leaf fall, I take a deep breath and let another piece fall, and I feel just a little bit more free. I love FALL!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 9: Technology

I am grateful for the many advances in technology. The things that I waste time on, the things I spend all day working with, the things that keep me connected to the people I love. I often complain about the issues technology cause, but in all honesty, I am so grateful. Technology can be used for so many great things!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cake Monster

I spent the night going through all of my pictures from the last two and a half years (since I moved to Utah to present) and relived some great memories. Lots of CAKE pictures...and a video! Oh, the good ol' days!

Gratitude Challenge - Day 8: Ward Families

I've moved around quite a bit in my life, but every place I go I immediately join another family - a wonderful ward family. The ward I'm currently in is just as wonderful as any other I've lived in. As I continue to settle in here and really make myself at home, the more blessed I feel to have such a great support system and hope that I can contribute to that.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We Have Work To Do

Since I've been on this quest to clean up my life, I've turned off many of the shows I watched on a regular basis as I felt I could spend my time doing something better, or at least watching something better. I usually listen to something as I fall asleep. I used to turn an episode of something on Netflix, but have changed to listening to a conference talk. Last night I started listening to the Priesthood session of the October 2012 General Conference. I clicked on the first talk of that session, given by Elder D. Todd Christofferson entitled "Brethren, We Have Work To Do".

I actually managed to hear the entire talk before I fell asleep and two quotes struck me and I thought I'd share. Though it was directed to the men of the church, I feel it applicable to women (myself) as well.

"You adult men - fathers, single adults, leaders, home teachers - be worthy models and help the rising generation of boys become men. Teach them social and other skills: how to participate in a conversation, how to get acquainted and interact with others, how to relate to women and girls, how to serve, how to be active and enjoy recreation, how to pursue hobbies without becoming addicted, how to correct mistakes and make better choices."

"The Church and the world and women are crying for men, men who are developing their capacity and talents, who are willing to work and make sacrifices, who will help others achieve happiness and salvation. They are crying, "Rise up, O men of God!" God help us to do it."

Love this talk! Can't wait to hear the next.

Gratitude Challenge - Day 7: Music

Music to me is AMAZING. Everyone learns differently, and music is the most meaningful to me. Once I hear something to a song, more than likely I'll have it forever. I can still remember songs we learned in elementary school. I remember our school elementary song (at least once I get it going); I remember the song that taught me to "cough on my cuff, and sneeze on my sleeve"; I remember the songs I learned the New Testament scripture mastery verses to. For me, music has the power to instantly affect the Spirit. There are certain tones, chords, and overall songs that instantly make me feel "dark", that I don't feel the Spirit as strongly. Conversely, there are some songs that instantly bring the Spirit, they bring joy and make me feel happy. I've been focusing on ensuring that I'm only listening to music that does bring the Spirit as part of my endeavor to become the person I want to be. I have noticed a change in myself in a short time of doing this. My thoughts and ideas have changed, my desires have become better. Music has an eternal, familiar sound.
I also love playing music. There is this incredible feeling of sitting down at a beautiful piano with a piece of music you've been practicing for weeks or months and when you play it, it sounds right. You hit that one note that always seemed out of reach; or that one part that where the timing was off and you nail it. There comes with this accomplishment a "high" of sorts - it makes me want to keep playing.

A Few Thoughts about the Election

It’s November 7 and the election is over. Life goes back to how it’s been, sans campaigns, which in my opinion isn’t a good thing. The person I voted for didn’t take office, but I still live in and love AMERICA! I feel privileged to live in this great nation. While the change I was hoping to see won’t happen in this 4 years, as a nation, and as latter-day saints in particular, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law”. Our force for good and our commitment to this belief can still be our quest.

To all the people who have started posting “it’s the last days” statements because of the outcome of the election, I mean no disrespect when I say, “duh”! I couldn’t agree more, but it isn’t because of this outcome that I believe it. We’ve been told for quite a while that we are living in the last days. We see signs and prophecies being fulfilled all the time, and at an increased pace. This isn’t new…it’s just becoming more pronounced.

And lastly, the point that I’ve heard multiple times this week and think holds great value to us at this time is something President Thomas S. Monson (I think – I really need to check my sources before I speak) said: “Your future is as bright as your faith”. This shouldn’t shake our faith – this should cause us to bolster our faith and continue to do the things that we NEED to do. The Lord needs valiant servants, regardless of who sits in the president’s chair. It’s time to step up!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 6: Freedom

I am grateful to live in such a great nation where I enjoy my freedom. I know I take it for granted all too often, but I am grateful for the men who founded this country seeking freedom, and for the men and women who continue to fight to protect those rights.
I am also grateful for the freedom to be able to vote!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 5: Our Savior, Jesus Christ

If I were going in an order, this should have been absolutely first. As I continue to study and grow in the gospel, the more grateful I am for the teaching and example of our Savior. I am so grateful for the gift of His atonement. As I face both good and bad times in life, I find fewer words to express the love and appreciation I feel. I am grateful that he died for me, but even more so that he lives for me! It is Him who I follow and pattern my life after.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Three posts in one day...I know - OBNOXIOUS, RIDICULOUS, whatever! But this is what we call a tender mercy...or really good Pinterest timing - take your pick.

Gratitude Challenge - Day 4: Challenges

As odd as it may sound, I'm grateful for the challenges in my life; the one's that I've brought on myself, and others that have happened to me; the one's I've already overcome, and the one's I'm going through or that are ahead of me. Without them, I wouldn't be who I am today. These challenges have taught me much of life. I've seen through these times how fortunate I really am. In recent history, the challenges I've faced are specifically helping me become the woman I want to become. I've accepted that challenge head on and am making changes in my life now, right this minute. In the last 14 days, I've already become better than I've been, and I'm only going up from here. And while I don't enjoy going through these struggles (sometimes they REALLY hurt), I appreciate the lessons they bring me.

Deciding Who I Am

I've been doing a lot of thinking (in case you haven't heard) lately. I've been putting together THE definition of who I am, but more importantly, who I want to be. Today, all of the pieces of that puzzle came together as I sat in our Sunday School lesson. About two weeks ago I had conversation with someone who knows me pretty well; someone I truly respect. He mentioned to me that it seemed that I hadn't decided in my life where I was/wasn't willing to compromise my standards. In my head I had this idea of who I wanted to be and what it would take to get there (I know, none of this is new...I promise, it's coming), but I wasn't really living the standards I claimed to hold. I would say one thing, and then do something similar, but not quite in line with that idea. What I decided at that time was that I needed to be consistent in what I say and what I do. I needed to uphold those standards.
In General Conference a few weeks ago, President Monson announced that the age for missionaries to apply for missionary service had been lowered from 19 to 18 for guys, and from 21 to 19 for girls. Someone stated today a stat that I had heard already this week, but that the number of applications for missionary service had increased from an average of 1,000 to 4,000. That is HUGE! This person also brought out the point that has been on my mind since conference weekend, and that is that the Lord is hastening His work on the earth. There isn't time to be lax, or to settle, or to permit myself to lower my standards. Hearing this statement from the mouth of someone else helped me see that I wasn't being too strict on myself. Somehow I've let myself think that by wanting to live at a higher standard makes me a "bad" person (I don't actually mean "bad" - I just can't come up with a word at this moment, maybe snobbish or something??). My expectations for my future may be high, specifically in terms of thinking about marriage and family, but the thing that gives be some sort of comfort and encouragement to continue on this path is that I'm not expecting anything I'm not already willing to do, and I'm doing those things now. If you play basketball, or know anything about basketball (I talk like I do, ha ha), it is called the basketball standard. It isn't lowered because someone may not like the height. No, the players see where it stands and they rise to the challenge. That is our challenge, our opportunity.
I have to echo what I heard today. The Lord is hastening His work. He needs us to step up our game...He needs ME to step up MY game.
In case you're wondering, it's not an easy path. If it were easy, everybody would be doing. But I do know that, as cliche as it sounds, it is completely worth it. Don't believe me? Give it a try.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 3: Fabulous Family

Where would I be without my family?? (Hopefully you've assumed these aren't in any particular order) I have  an AMAZING family! I have parents who have taught me how I should live my life, they've given me great examples to follow. I have amazing siblings. I didn't get to know my older siblings well until the last couple of years just because we lived far apart, and as being younger I didn't feel we had a lot in common. But as I've gotten older, I've gotten a bit wiser and I now know I was wrong. We have quite a bit in common, and I'm loving being in closer proximity to them to get to know them. I'm soooooo looking forward to the day that we all coordinate our schedules and have all 5 of us and their families all together. Who knows? By the time that happens I may have a family of my own, haha.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Gratitude Challenge - Day 2: Amazing Friends

Life surely couldn't be complete without having great friends. I am so grateful for the friends I have. The ones who call/text to see how I'm doing, the ones I have great memories with, and most especially...the one's who know too much...about me. :) I love the game nights, midnight Denny's runs, trips to the canyon, road trips on multiple occasions, late night chats, early morning breakfasts...everything! These are some of my most treasured memories...and they happened with great friends!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Gratitude Challenge -Day 1:The Best Job Ever

November is HERE! I can almost smell (and taste) the holiday season. In an effort to live in the moment and not wish my days away, I'm starting my own gratitude challenge. Each day in November I'm going to pay particular attention to something that I'm grateful for. Besides, I think it's a healthy thing to do. So, to start us off, I'm grateful for my job!
I'm pretty sure I say that about every job I have, but this one seriously may be the best! Sure, it is a little crazy sometimes, but I get to work with people, run an office, plan events and meet people from all over the world. What's not to love? I work with wonderful people who I'm learning a LOT from. I'm challenged to be my best on a daily basis. Who could ask for more?!?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Being There

This week as I've been processing some thoughts and feelings, I found myself at the grocery store picking up some things for work when I ran into a woman from church. I know it was obvious to her that I had recently been crying (sorry, sometimes that's just how it is). She asked how I was and told her that, despite how I looked, I was fine. I quickly changed the subject and asked how she was doing. She said that she was having a rough time also. She didn't go into any detail, I mean, neither of us did, but it was a wake up call to me. If she had wanted to open up and talk, at that moment I couldn't have done anything to help, not even effectively listen. It was in that moment that I decided that no matter what I was feeling, I needed to get beyond myself. I realized that as long as I was harboring the pain I was feeling, the longer I would go without being able to truly be there for people, and that's what I need to do.
That doesn't mean that the pain disappears, or that somehow it doesn't matter (it also doesn't mean to hide it away- those feelings still have to be dealt with). Everything we go through is for our benefit and learning, good or bad. I've learned that I still have a lot of learning left to do in my life. I am so far from perfect, but luckily our Heavenly Father loves imperfect things. He can, but most importantly WILL, take the broken pieces of our lives and make a new and wonderful creation, if we allow Him to do so.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Right now

Thought of the day: Know who you are, know what you want, and live accordingly.

The reality: Tonight there's a hole where my heart used to be. I know it will heal, but in the meantime I wonder what I should have done differently.

As I struggle with this, I know who I want to become and feel quite an urgent need to get on the ball. So I know some of the doubt and pain I feel is Satan trying to make me falter, and I won't, I can't. But some of it, maybe a lot of it, I did to myself. But all of it can be used to help me help myself. I'm reminded of the verse in the Doctrine & Covenants that says that all of these things shall give thee experience and shall be for your good. All I can say is I sure hope so.

The fix: I took a few minutes and listened to an excerpt from Jeffrey R Hollands talk "Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence". While the reality doesn't change, I have confidence in the future.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fun on the Fire

My brother and his family came to visit tonight. They had a nice fire built by the time I finally managed to get off work (once you hit a good stride you don't just quit). We roasted hot dogs and sausages, so good! But let's face it, it's all about the dessert. Two things we did tonight that I HIGHLY recommend...when assembling your s'more, put peanut butter on one side of your graham cracker before you add everything else. If you like peanut butter, you won't be disappointed. If you don't like peanut butter, you may make an exception.
The second thing you should do is buy a bag of Starburst candies. Put them on your skewers and roast over the fie. Watch them, the will just melt if you don't keep them moving. Let them cool just a bit, it will blister you if you're not careful (trust me, voice of experience on this one). Enjoy!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What I Learned From TV

I was watching tv last night and I honestly can't tell you if it was on a show or a commercial, but this is what I learned. Life is short; you had better get to living it. So there you go.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Parables of Packing

I've been working on this analogy for a couple of weeks now (since general conference basically) and I feel like its time to put it out there and try it out. So, here it goes.
I've been dying to travel lately (I always get that bug when the seasons change) and have been thinking about the steps of preparing to travel. I'm not talking about deciding when/where to travel, I'm thinking specifically of the days just before you leave. If you're anything like me, you spend time thinking about what you need to take with you; things you want, things you need, things you think you need, etc. You start gathering things and perhaps you organize them neatly according to how you will pack them, or maybe things are just thrown into a big, messy pile. However you do it, I refer to it as the gathering stage.
The next stage is the actual packing of the bags. You have your pile of things, and one by one, each item makes its way into the suitcase. During this time you put EVERYTHING into it. Most times you find that the suitcase is too full and won't close. So you look at the things you've packed and start weeding out things you don't really need, the things that are taking up valuable space, and you repack. If you're like me, you'll get everything to fit, but then you'll weigh it make sure you meet the baggage weight weight requirements, and then you'll make some final adjustments, typically as you're walking out the door, which brings me to the third and final stage, the handoff.
You're being let off at the curb and you hand your bags to the polite and ever so careful baggage handler (don't forget to tip them). At this point you hand them your bag and whatever you put in there, or forgot to grab, it doesn't matter. The deed is done.
Preparing for Christ's second coming is much like packing for a trip. We have been warned for years that we need to be prepared, we need to gather the things we need, and do/become what we need to do/become. If you've noticed, many of those warnings have ceased. We've been warned, our time of gathering has passed and we should now be packing our bags. What do we have in our suitcase that is keeping it from closing, what is taking up valuable space from the things we actually need? What is going to cost us extra to try to take on the plane (or what will you find at security that you should have left behind)?
Now is the time to be making those changes. Now is the time to declutter our lives and make sure we are packing the appropriate things. When He returns, we're not going to have time to sort things out. That is the handoff. That will be the moment when what we have in our bag will be what we're taking with us (all figuratively, of course).
As I've thought about this over the last few weeks, I see need for improvement in myself. I want to have a perfectly packed bag, and it starts today (it probably should have started sooner, but you know, better late than never). I will be ready to hand over my bags and I won't worry if I forgot something. I'm taking this trip, will you come too?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Sign

On the way home from work, I pass a church that currently has a great sign. It says, "Choice, not chance, determines destiny". When I read that the first time, and every time since, it was a lightbulb moment. Our future is up to us. A full life isn't a passive experience. The decisions we make are individual strokes on the canvas of our lives. If we want to see the masterpiece, we have to make the choices; hopefully the correct choices, though we all know that isn't always the case. Luckily, we can repent (or repaint, as the analogy goes) and make better decisions and fulfill our destinies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I am just a happy person-end of story. I drive some of my coworkers nuts because I am in such a good mood most of the time, and especially in the mornings. I'm not necessarily a morning person, but I figure if I'm up, I might as well be happy and share the joy.
I have one employee in particular that isn't terribly fond of my chipper self first thing in the morning. When I go in to the break room to make my boss's coffee, I cheerfully greet whoever may be sitting there. This man has commented more than once that I am simply in too good of a mood.
Today, I was at the copier and I hear someone at the cabinet behind me say "Good morning, Sunshine". I turned around to find this guy standing there. I asked him if he was talking to me and he gave the best response I've heard in quite a while. He confirmed that he was indeed talking to me; after all, I am the one in an "ever good mood". And then I laughed and went about my day, on a mission to spread my good mood.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Small Things

We received another letter from Hermana Crawford (more commonly known in these parts as Lori). She told of how she and her companion were walking in an area after not being able to make contact with the person they had an appointment with. They saw a gentleman pushing a stroller and stopped and introduced themselves as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The man said that his wife ha met the missionaries a couple of weeks before at the store and had gotten their number but it was the number for the English speaking missionaries, so she hung up and wasn't able to get in touch with anyone because she spoke Spanish. Lori shared how even though she had "slipped through the cracks" and no one knew how to contact her, Heavenly Father knew where she was. He knows each of us and where we are. He knows what we need, and He knows who to send to fill those needs.
Today as I was driving home from work, I had a very clear impression to take a certain road home. I've been trying to listen, realize, and act on inspiration, so instead of turning on the road I have been taking, I went down to the next one. Our down-the-road neighbors were out by the ditch near the road gathering pecans and I got to stop and visit with them. I haven't made time to go and visit them like I should, and while there didn't appear to be any great need or "real" importance to the visit we had on the side of the road, it meant a lot to me to see them, and I feel it may have brightened their day as well. Sometimes a quick chat is just what someone needs. Don't ignore a prompting. Just do it (it seems Nike was on to something when they came up with that).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Eulogy: An Ode to PeeWee and the Rest of the Flock

We have a lot of chickens, but they can be classified in three categories: the big ones(Goldie is the only one worth knowing really, the rest are, well - they're birds (and I don't really love birds)), the little ones (this is about them), and the babies (Goldie hatched three babies several weeks ago - but really, I don't have strong feelings for them one way or the other).

The little ones are my favorite! With the exception of Frisky (the evil one - he tried to attack me every time I went in the pen), these are the best chickens ever - very personable and so much fun. There is Buffy (the brown one), Cory (the black and brown one - combination of the names Lori and Cristy), NaeNae, the snowy, white one (Lori's middle name is Renae - get it??), and my absolute favorite, PeeWee, the black little fluff ball.

Over the last several weeks, he and I have created a very unique bond. I can call him from almost anywhere in the back field, and he will come running when I call his name (also done in a very unique way). The other three were never far behind and as of late, Cory would come running/flying to me when I called PeeWee. We decided that we needed to get it on video before something terrible happened. As you know, life with animals, especially farm animals, is uncertain. So, two days ago mom and dad had "the littles" out of their pen and were letting them roam. We went out, I called, and here they come...

The next day, not even 24 hours later, I came home to find out that in the middle of the night, something (dog, coyote, bear, wolverine...) had somehow gotten into their pen and killed all five of them as they slept. I cannot tell a lie...I cried (and may or may not be crying now as I type this). Who knew that you could actually bond with, and become so attached to, chickens. A little piece of my heart died with them.

Luckily, we were able to catch this memory before their untimely passing. Our little part of the world definitely won't be the same without them (boy, it sounds dumb in writing...). Farewell my feathery friends...  :(

Saturday, September 29, 2012

An Amazing Sister

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about some things in my life. I've been struggling to feel in control of my life. Some parts I have little to no control over due to circumstance, while other areas I've essentially given away control in an attempt to be accommodating, or to allow myself time to figure things out. Anyway, I have done a lot of talking and thinking and praying and I realized just how much I miss having my sister and best friend around, or at least to be able to pick up the phone and call her and have her set me straight.
Since she is on her mission, I don't tell her every little thing that is going on, and try to keep on the positive and stay focused on the important stuff, but I gave her the highlights version of everything and that girl, well, she wrote back the most wonderful letter! It's incredible how even though time and great distance separate us, she still gets me, and loves me, and gives amazing advice.
She reminds me that I'm worth it...all of it, not just bits and pieces; I kind of lose sight of that occasionally and don't expect much for myself. She reminds me that there is always good to be had in the world and anything worth having is worth working for. And my favorite part of her letter was my "homework assignment" (in almost every letter I am tasked to do something)...she told me to stand in front of the mirror and say "I see pride. I see power. I see a southern, white girl that won't take no crap from nobody." (points to you if you know where that reference was adapted from)!
Love that girl and miss her like crazy!
Also, we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner tonight and my fortune was perfect for everything I've been feeling. It said that people in my surroundings would be very cooperative (and something else...i just can't remember it now-blast) in the coming week. Hopefully I use my power for good. :)
Here's to a peaceful nights rest, a spiritually rejuvenating day at church tomorrow, and a reminder that I am ALWAYS worth it (and that goes for you, too!!!).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Launching Mobile Post

I'm a little slow in figuring this out, but there's an app for that! Now I can blog wherever I am instead of being tied to my computer at home, though it likely won't increase my amount if posts, I just feel like one of the cool kids now.
My dear friend, Shelly, posted on Facebook something her grandmother said. It goes like this..."Feel the pain, feel the fear, and then do it anyway." I can't even explain how it inspired me when I saw that yesterday, and in so many ways! At work, I may or may not have a small, but growing pile of "things to do" that I've been putting off for a variety of reasons, but mostly I was nervous about them or didn't know what to do with them. Today, however, with this new motto in my life (and quite handily written and hanging on my desk) I came to work and tackled EVERY LAST THING in that stack, and I did so by 9:00. Just think, weeks of worrying about this stuff and it was over and done in less than 2 hours. That leaves me contemplating other areas of my life that I'm avoiding or ignoring because of fear or pain.
So, my words to you today (and always), "Feel the pain, feel the fear, and then do it anyway".

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Realizations and Ramblings

I'm struggling this weekend and haven't got a lot to I'll just ramble. Believe me, I'll understand when you stop here and click away. :)

Things I've realized this week...and other random thoughts:

  • Things always seem worse when you're tired.
  • When you don't sleep, things don't seem to get better.
  • Sometimes life is hard (regardless of the amount of sleep).
  • Sometimes other people make life hard.
  • Sometimes I make life hard.
  • Most times other people make life so much better!
  • Chickens kind of "pop" if you run over them.
  • Chickens kind of "flop" when you put them in their grave.
  • There is inexplicable joy when your favorite little fluff-ball of a chicken comes running to you when called (can we say new best friend??).
  • There is only so much emotion you can feel, good or bad, before you get a headache (I've had a headache for three days now).
  • Balance in life is so important.
  • Hugs always make me feel better...I could use a hug (or several).
  • I'm really missing being able to go to the temple every week. 
  • I know some of the most amazing people on earth. I am loving the time with the ones I'm with now, but am really missing everyone else that I don't get to see.
  • I'm pretty sure I slept with a spider or some other creepy-crawly last night...I woke up with bites I didn't go to bed with.
  • Sometimes the only thing you can control is your attitude.
  • I just realized the only reason I got my computer out was to find a recipe...and then I started rambling.
  • Cooking/baking is therapeutic..I'm off to the kitchen.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Read a Book!

Actually, I read two!! I'm so used to having the book in my hand that I struggled getting into it with them on my iTouch, but after I adjusted I loved it! I got to take them everywhere I went, and when I had a few minutes I pulled it out and kept reading!

I read what was at the time the latest of Josi Kilpack's Culinary entitled Banana Split. It had been so long since I'd read the last one that I'd sort of forgotten the story line, but it was pretty good. Unlike some of her other books in this series, I felt a little lost at some parts and didn't quite get how different things played into the story, but that very well could have been me being a little distracted.

The second book was from my other favorite author, Traci Hunter Abramson. Her book is called Royal Secrets. I flew through that one - it really kept my attention. It has a little bit of everything...romance, action, suspense...what's not to love!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls Recipe Attempt

There is a problem I have with this doesn't currently exist. I sort of made it up as I went along, but figured I should make an attempt to get it in writing. So, I'm going to piece it together the best I can.

For the bread, I used my favorite Basic Roll Dough:
3 - 3 1/4 cups unsifted flour
1 pkg or T of dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
3 T butter (melted)
1 egg

In large mixing bow, combine 1 cup of the flour with dry yeast, salt, and sugar. Heat milk and butter until very warm (I don't have a temperature...I just dip my *clean* finger in it and as long as it doesn't make me cry in pain, it's usually pretty good); add to the flour mixture along with the egg. Beat two minutes. By hand (until I moved home I did this all by hand, but this time I borrowed mom's bread machine and let it do the mixing/kneading for me...heaven!!), stir in the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Cover and let rise until doubled in size - approximately 1 hour.

Turn out onto a floured surface. Toss to coat well with flour. Knead a few times or until no longer sticky. Make into rolls or whatever (seriously...that's what it says on my recipe card).

Place on a greased baking sheet. Let rise about 30 minutes and bake 15-20 minutes in a hot, 400 degree oven. (For this recipe, I baked it at 350 degrees, so if you cook it hotter, just keep an eye on it).

For the Caramel Sauce (can someone please explain to me why "carmel" isn't recognize by my spell checker - I don't actually say "caramel", but I just can't handle the red squiggly line telling me I spelled it incorrectly):
I didn't measure anything...just sort of played with it until it was what I wanted. It was a combination of butter, brown sugar, cream cheese (just a little bit), heavy cream, and vanilla. I boiled it until it was at soft ball stage or there about. Set aside - or you can go ahead and just put a layer of caramel in the bottom of your baking pan - I used a 9x13 dish.

For the Apples:
I used three Granny Smith apples, sliced thin. In a frying pan, I put a little butter in the bottom and melted it - to that, I added all of the apples. I then sprinkled them with a some cinnamon and added just a bit of brown sugar. Again, no measurements. (As I type this, I realize what a miracle it is that these even turned out!!) I let these cool before I used them in the dough. It also let some of the water from the apples escape so I could drain them before they went in. Keep in mind that if they're too wet, your rolls will get VERY soggy, and no one wants that. Cook the apples until they are tender - but not mushy. They should old their shape but should wiggle if you picked it up.

Time to assemble! If you haven't already done it, put your caramel sauce in your baking dish. Use as little or as much as you want. Roll your dough out in a rectangle (or as close as you can get to it...I still don't know what shape I had!) on a lightly floured surface. Spread a little butter (don't go crazy...please...just enough so your sugar will stick) on the dough. Sprinkle a little brown sugar to cover the dough (again...use some moderation here - you don't want these to be too sweet). Then, sprinkle with just a bit of cinnamon. Now to the fun part! Take your apples and arrange them on your dough. Remember, you're going to be rolling and then cutting these, so you may want to lay them the direction you'll be rolling the dough. 

Once you're satisfied that you have enough apples, roll your dough as you normally would for cinnamon rolls.   Cut into approximately 1-inch sliced and lay directly into caramel layer. Your caramel should be cool so your dough will rest and rise equally before baking. I let mine rise until all of the rolls were touching - probably about 30 mins or so. Place into hot oven and bake until golden brown - about 20 - 30 mins. Once they're done baking, flip the pan over and dump the rolls onto a tray, serving dish, or plate...whatever you've got. 

Grab a glass of milk, a napkin, and a fork (it's too hot to touch and the caramel will scald careful!!). Dish one up for yourself and if you feel so inclined, for the person sitting next to you.

Daily Affirmations

Today at work, one of my coworkers came out with a happy face 8 ball (you know the 8 balls you shake and it gives you an answer?? Same thing, except it is a bright yellow happy face and has only positive messages). She told me that when she's having a bad day and people are dragging her down, she grabs her happy ball (I seriously need to come up with a better name for that) and reads positive thoughts for or about her. As the conversation went, we ended up thinking of this video and I couldn't help posting it here tonight. I LOVE this video. I think this is such a great habit to get into. I used to be better about doing this (though I was older and not as energetic...and thankfully not on camera) and have gotten out of the routine, but I feel like I'm going to get back to realizing all of the great things I have in my life and the things I like about myself. So, please excuse me while I talk to myself in the car...(or anywhere else for that matter). :)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls

A year or so ago I wanted to make cinnamon rolls, but was feeling a bit creative and made caramel apple cinnamon rolls. They weren't perfect then - bread didn't rise properly, the apples were too wet, the caramel not sticky enough (maybe my expectations were too high??), but the flavor was good. Well, my mom told my aunt about them once and she's requested them a time or two, but I've never made them. Well, yesterday was her birthday and I decided to finally grant her request. I give you the new and improved version of Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls. Please excuse the small picture - not sure what it's problem is today. 

These were DIVINE! I try not to eat before bed, or if I do I try to make it something healthy, but when these came out of the oven at 11:30 last night, I just had to have a bite...which became five, and it was worth it! After I filled the pan with the rolls, I still had the a portion of the "log" created from rolling the dough up for cinnamon rolls so I put it on a pan and baked it just how it was. That's what I tasted and it was heavenly. However, I recommend making this earlier in the day so you can enjoy them - and share them...and also have a glass of milk.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dad and the Case of the Invisible Ketchup (and Other Tales from the Recovery Room)

Last Monday, my dad had shoulder surgery.  If you’ve ever been with anyone coming out of anesthesia, you are likely aware of what a great time it can be. For the record, this man is HILARIOUS!! Let’s start with my favorite…shall we?

Before he went into surgery, dad told mom that he wanted a hamburger and French fries waiting for him once he got to his room. So, being the wonderful woman she is (and the hungry people we were), we went and picked up his request (and dinner for ourselves). When we got back to the hospital, he was already there waiting for us. He was clearly still under the influence of the anesthesia, but was alert and hungry (the poor guy told everyone that came in the room that he hadn’t been able to eat anything since about 9 pm the day before – about 7 pm at this point…almost 24 hours). We got his dinner set up on the tray; hamburger wrapped for easy one handed eating; fries in a convenient little box, and ketchup in small container to eliminate some of the mess.  He made it through the burger just fine, but was getting really tired by the time he really tried to concentrate on the fries.
He would grab a couple of fries and then fall asleep before they made it to his mouth. I was concerned about him getting ketchup everywhere, so trying to be responsible, I threw the container away and told mom that we would open another one when we woke up again, or so we planned…
(Please tell me I don't sound like this in person...please??)
And in case you're wondering, he did this for about 30 minutes!

After he finished his dinner, the nurse brought in his dinner plate. He was concerned about appearing ungrateful or too picky, so he insisted that he eat some. We fed him a bit of the cabbage and some of the rice and gravy. Mom asked him if he wanted the pears that were on the tray. There were only two pieces (somewhere between thirds and halves) in the cup and mom started feeding them to him. He finished them off in about 4 or 5 bites, but on his last bite, he started fussing and asking where all the pears were coming from; that he had already eaten a gallon of them and asking what we were trying to do to him.
Another point during the evening, he fell asleep and mom and I were just sitting there talking. Without any warning, the man opened his eyes and “sang” a couple of the words to the song “Pontoon” by Little Big Town. The song says “on the pontoon”. Well, under the effects of anesthesia, dad sang “I’m a pontoon”. I had to bury my face in his bed to keep from laughing out loud and eventually had to excuse myself for a moment. He did this twice during the evening. When we got him home the next day, he told us he heard that song shortly before he went into surgery. I guess he just had it on his mind.
The last really good story (at least to me) was trying to find him something to watch on TV. Monday and Thursday nights are his nights to watch wrestling. So, in the hospital, we located the TV guide and determined which channel would provide his entertainment for the evening. Would you believe that out of all the available channels, the one channel he wanted wasn’t enabled? I broke news that there would be no wrestling for him that night. He was soooo disappointed and very unhappy, but fell asleep mid conversation, so we put something else on while he slept. Not even five minutes later he woke up again and asked me to put wrestling on. I reminded him (or so I thought) that the channel was unavailable. There is a good possibility he was more disappointed the second time hearing the news than the first. It was almost pathetic and I felt like I should have had some alternative solution, but alas I had none.
In case you’re wondering, he is doing very well. He’s going a little stir crazy having his arm strapped to his side and doing everything one handed, but he’s a trooper. Depending on his recovery, he’ll likely have the other shoulder done in about three months. You had better believe I’m taking the day off and charging the batteries in my camera…we’re not missing anything next time. J

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pinterest Attack

The last couple of days I've attacked some of my Pinterest pins and have made several things. I made...
Peanut Butter Topped Cupcakes (I stuffed them with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups too!). This very well may be the BEST frosting I've ever had. Not too sweet and super fluffy. Totally makes me happy!
Chocolate Chip Cookie dough and pudding layered dessert (I haven't got a clue what it's actually called, but it was pretty good - I would definitely made it again).
Mississippi Sin dip - haven't got a clue where the name comes from, but it was delicious. You really don't have to bake it in a loaf of bread, but I liked it that way (even though I didn't get to eat the crunchy bread, I'm sure it would have been amazing).
And because I love having kids around and doing fun things with them, indoors especially when it's super hot outside. Today, we made slime! It was so much fun. I'm pretty sure the kids enjoyed it, but it ended up that my sister-in-law and I sat at the table together playing with it long after they were done. Just mix equal parts of liquid starch and clear glue and mix together. Way too much fun!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Reality Check

Have you had those moments that you just get slapped with a healthy dose of reality and an understanding of your weaknesses need of improvement? I've been having several doses over the last two weeks or so, culminating with our sacrament meeting today and a poor reaction on my part due to a different situation after that meeting. The meeting was wonderful and incredibly uplifting. It made me aware of some things I need to do, some things I need to do better, and probably most importantly, some things I need to not do.
The poor reaction was the low point of the day. Someone I love made a decision with the right goal in mind, but at a high cost, not taking into consideration the risks and how it ultimately affected other people. I didn't respond well at all. In fact, there were some incredibly harsh words and angry feelings. Trying to make someone understand that you only want whats best for them is difficult when they don't recognize the issues, or understand cause/effect and that it isn't just them. Luckily, I have wonderful people in my life who show me how I should be - more understanding, more patient, more loving. I recognized quickly that there was an apology in my future. I really don't enjoy apologizing - I try to avoid the need for it if at all possible. But I was in the wrong and I knew it, and I love this person. After some time and an excellent dose of Primary music (I love my calling - being the music leader is the BEST!! Don't believe me? Come hang with us for a week.), I was mentally, spiritually, and emotionally in a much better place. And when done with love, apologizing is a much easier and actually, a pleasant experience. There have been obligatory apologies in my past (mostly between my sister and I - lets face it, sometimes that how being a sibling is) where the apology was the "right thing" to do and was required (generally by a parent) before something else could be done. Today wasn't like that. Today I wanted to repair a relationship - I didn't want to the problem. I love this person and really do only want the best. But I realized, finally, that my love for this person needs to supersede my need for being heard. This quote by President Thomas S. Monson keeps coming to mind: "Never let a problem to be solved, become more important than a person to be loved".
So, today was a fail in some respects, but a success in others. I'd say reality check success!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Industrial Park

This week I got to start my new job. I work for this great company here in town. It's a total miracle (story of my life) how I got this job and am so grateful to be here. 

There is just one little thing that I find completely ironic. I have worked in several business/industrial parks (picture it - big, lots of buildings and plenty of traffic) and not one of them looks like this. See, wide open spaces...On my way to work the first morning I burst up laughing in the car. 

Even better is the commute home. Quiet roads, not a lot of traffic - very peaceful. Yep, totally spoiled...just the way I like it. :)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cinnamon Twists

This past Sunday I was into baking again. I've undertaken a new personal weekly challenge so I can bake new things on a regular basis, so this was today's contribution. Another recipe from the Culinary Mystery Series by Josi Kilpack. I have seen other recipes for cinnamon twists that have turned out as a crispy pastry. Don't expect that from these. Instead, think of a cinnamon roll that wasn't rolled up in the traditional fashion. 

I didn't check the pantry before I started and didn't realize until I was into it that I didn't have brown sugar, so I substituted raw sugar. 

Cinnamon Twists
4 cups flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
11/4 cups warm milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 egg

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/3 cup butter, softened
For the dough, mix 2 cups of flour with the remaining dry ingredients. Stir to combine. Add all liquid ingredients and mix well. Add remaining flour until dough is tacky to the touch, but not sticky. Knead 6 to 8 minutes or until dough is smooth. Grease a bowl and let dough raise, covered, until double (about 40 minutes). 
For filling, mix together brown sugar and spices. Set aside.
Sprinkle flour on the countertop and roll out dough into a 16x12-inch rectangle. Spread with 1/3 cup soft butter. Sprinkle butter with sugar-spice topping all the way to the edges. Let dough sit for 10 minutes. 
Use a pizza cutter to cut dough lengthwise into four 3x16 inch strips. Then cut every inch vertically so that you have sixteen 1x3-inch strips. Lift each strip from the counter and twist 360 degrees before placing it on a greased cookie sheet. (Twists should look like a bow tie with the spice mixture facing up at both ends.) Place twists about 3/4-inch apart. Cover shaped dough and let raise until double (about 30 minutes). Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 4 dozen twists.

Optional Icing*
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup evaporated milk (regular milk works too)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Mix softened cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add evaporated milk and vanilla; mix until smooth. Add more milk or powdered sugar until icing is slightly runny.
*Pretty much any leftover frosting could also work as the icing. Simply warm frosting to room temperature and add milk until “dippable.”

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Magic of an Ordinary Day

I was flipping through channels the other day and saw this movie title. I didn’t even read the description or watch the movie, but the title struck me! Sometimes I think I get stuck in this mode of living for the next moment or the next big thing, something like living off a checklist or schedule.
I love life…I mean, I REALLY love life. If you know me at all, you know that I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of person. I truly feel that life has so much to offer; there is so much good to be had – why would you NOT want to enjoy it? That’s where this movie title comes into play. Sometimes, our daily lives are that checklist, or we’re tied to a schedule, or we feel we’re trapped in a routine. Maybe we feel that if big things aren’t happening on a regular basis that we’re stuck.  I’m learning that there is a sort of magic to this type of day. It’s an opportunity to MAKE your own magic.
Last Wednesday was the last day of my last job. It’s been an interesting experience to get to this point, but it’s finally over. Thursday and Friday I kept myself busy pressure washing our house (please add this to this list of things I’m good at...look for my ad in this Sunday’s paper, haha), and was treated to a wonderful visit from my brother and sister-in-law and their kids, and then a wonderful date (can life get any better??). Saturday, I determined that I wanted to have a free day…I wanted do whatever I wanted to. The problem with that is that I woke up that morning and didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t do anything (for a little while). Living in a small town provides a limited array of activities (and I’d already been to WalMart the day before). So, I realized then that I had to get creative and just do something. I made dinner – a semi-fancy dinner that I’ve wanted to do for a while now. I took myself back-to-work shopping and just got moving. It wasn’t super creative or adventurous, but it was what I needed.
Maybe that’s the magic. It’s not that something big happened to change the way I felt, or that something big happened to alter my ideas…I just did something! So, I’m creating a new challenge for myself, to see the magic of an ordinary day. On that day, it was just to get out and realize that, though it is a small town, it is still wonderful and I love it. There is NOWHERE else I would rather be. Tomorrow, perhaps it will just be the joy of seeing the sunrise (though in all honesty I have no intention of actually seeing the sunrise tomorrow – maybe this weekend). What will your magic moment be?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

High Tea Lemon Cookies

Another recipe for the Josi Kilpack Culinary Mystery Series...High Tea Lemon Cookies. These were absolutely amazing! So incredibly rich, you only need about two to satisfy; three will likely make you ill. The lemon makes them fresh, and if you are patient, I'm told they are even better the next day. Of course, I made these the day before I went out of town so I only had them on day one (and I had four, so I wasn't interested in any more). I will definitely make these again (and I commit myself to only eat a time). If you're looking for a slightly different cookie, try a batch of these.

High Tea Lemon Cookies

2 cups butter (room temperature)
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cups flour
11/2 cups cornstarch (this is not a typo)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add lemon zest and vanilla. Beat well. Add flour and cornstarch and beat until well combined. Do NOT refrigerate.
Roll by hand into 1-inch balls or use a well-packed scoop, placing cookies about an inch apart as they do not spread much while baking.
Bake 15 minutes on ungreased cookie sheets until bottom edges are light brown. Cool on wire racks before frosting with lemon glaze (below).
Makes about 5 dozen small, delicate cookies.

Lemon Glaze
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest (get zest from lemon before juicing)
1/4 to 1/3 cup lemon juice*
21/2 cups powdered sugar
In a medium bowl combine butter, zest, juice, and sugar. Stir until well mixed. Place a piece of wax paper beneath the wire racks where the cookies have been cooling and drizzle glaze over cookies.
* For best results when using lemons, choose the largest lemon you can find and roll it on the counter for about a minute before juicing in order to get as much juice as possible. Zest only the yellow part of the lemon peel; the white portion leaves a bitter taste.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

7 in Seven Challenge Progress

It’s been two and half weeks since I set myself up for my 7 in seven challenge. I’m happy to report that 2 things are done! Thanks to a long trip to Utah, I was able to read a book…an entire book!! I haven’t sat down to read like I used to since I moved back to Georgia…turns out I keep myself really busy. I read the most recent book in my favorite culinary book series by Josi Kilpack, Banana Split. This was also the first book I read on my iPod. I still like holding a real book in my hand when I read, but it was a great alternative and major space saver while traveling.
The second thing was a scavenger. My sister-in-law and I put together a scavenger hunt for the kids on Friday while they were here visiting. We were so excited about it, and would you believe they didn’t enjoy it?!? We were way more into it than they were. But in their defense, the heat index yesterday was between 110 and 115 and it was full sun. Still a little disappointed, but I’m totally crossing it off the list. J
Five things to go…4 weeks to do it!