Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Life in Pictures

These are just a few things I've collected on my phone over the last two weeks that I think are worth sharing!
The sunlight streaming through the clouds this day was incredible! It was one of those moments that made me feel that Heaven was closer than I sometimes think.
I was driving home from work and got stopped by the train. Apparently this guy did too and his horse WASN'T happy about it! I was certain he was going to be bucked off, but he did well. Made me think of being back in Amish Country.

Mom and dad took me to dinner for my birthday. I thought this was a pretty good fortune. As it would turn out, I would get a text that would start the whole process of me moving into my own place. While I don't believe the fortune cookie has anything to do with the blessings I receive from a loving Heavenly Father, I will accept the reminder that all good gifts come from Him. 

I think I saved this from Facebook but it makes me so happy! This year I've focused on BECOMING the woman I want to be. I was really just trying to make my life better, to live in harmony, to feel worth something, but I found this happiness. When we strive to become we focus on our gifts and talents (or maybe strive to find these things within ourselves). Those come from God and in this effort we find that we come closer to Him. That wasn't necessarily the goal at the beginning of the year, but it has been a WONDEFUL byproduct! I'm far from finished, but I'm so much further down the road to BECOMING who I want to be, and who I feel the Lord needs me to be.

At the YSA conference we spent all of our time (minus sleeping time at the hotel) at a Stake Center across from the temple. When we would leave at night, this was the view! So BEAUTIFUL!

Lori sent me a cactus for my birthday! Not only will it not hurt me, I likely won't kill it as I would a live plant! She's so thoughtful (and knows me too well).

Another pic from the conference. They had a luau on Saturday night complete with hula dancers and the guy who does the fire sticks (anyone want to enlighten me on what they are actually called??). It was AWESOME!!

And because I just LOVE the temple, one more night shot. I snuck out of the dance on Saturday evening because I knew we would need gas before we came home. So, to save stopping on Sunday I went and took care of it then. Any chance to see the temple is worth it! So wonderful!

A Moment to Boast

Another INCREDIBLE milestone!
I've lost
It's the equivalent of :
I'm feeling great!
On to the next goal!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I Can't Believe I Did This!!

I took a VERY big step forward in my life! I did something that I've wanted to do for a long time. It finally made sense to do it. While I was making the decision to do this, I had this mini internal war with myself.

 Are you curious yet what I did?

I signed the lease on my very own apartment! It is SO to come. Now the fun part, packing and MOVING!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

No More Strangers

This has been a REALLY busy two weeks! Instead of writing about my life, I've been out living it (and taking LOTS of notes)! I feel so blessed having had the experiences I've had in this time and I just can't wait to share!!

On the 9th through the 11th, I got to participate in the Southeast YSA Conference! I have heard about this for months (and if you are friends with me on Facebook you were probably tired of me posting announcements and invites!) and had really high expectations for what this would be like! The incredible thing was that the same conference was happening in 5 different locations. Not only was I personally in a crowd of nearly 1,000 young single adults, but there were THOUSANDS elsewhere in 4 other locations across the southeast! There is just something about being gathered in such large numbers. And we were blessed enough to be taught by three amazing individuals: Sheri Dew, Brad Wilcox, and Elder Bednar (an apostle of the Lord).

I DO NOT love crowds. I get nervous, and even with friends feel isolated and alone. I don't know if I've just reached a different maturity level (hopefully) and have outgrown that feeling, but even as I went to different events alone I didn't feel alone. And though I spent much time by myself, I wasn't lonely...I was content, and most importantly, I was filled with the Spirit. From the first opening hymn to the final closing prayer, after 2 days of lessons, classes, and personal experiences my heart was ready to burst! I felt so blessed and felt that I had learned SOOOOO much!!

I ended up taking so many notes that I came home and retyped them to try to make some sense of them and ended up with 9 types pages! I won't put you through all of it, but I will share three things that really stood out (and just know that while I'm putting three, there are SO many more things that I learned and that have strengthened my testimony of, and my relationship with, my Savior, Jesus Christ! Here we go!!

1. This is probably the single most incredible thing I learned during the conference. It was something that Elder Bednar taught us. When we talk of agency, or the ability to choose, we generally say that Heavenly Father provided us agency to choose between good and evil. In the counsel in Heaven, Satan presented a plan that would allow all of us to come to Earth, but we would have NO choice but we would all return to the Father, and the glory would be Satan's. However, Christ presented a plan in which we would come to Earth, not remembering where we came from (the presence of God) and we would be taught and given the opportunity to choose to follow the Savior and return to the Father through the Atonement. This was the accepted plan. WE WERE THERE! We CHOSE! A third of the hosts of heaven didn't agree and they CHOSE to follow Satan. 

So, the important part to remember is that we ALREADY chose to follow God because we are here in these earthly bodies (this was a VERY high level description of the Plan of Salvation (also known as the Plan of Happiness)...if you want to know more, please read this).

Okay, here is the point of what I learned! As I mentioned before, we generally talk about agency being the ability to choose between good and evil. What Elder Bednar taught was that it goes just a step further. We already made the choice to follow the Savior. He simply taught us that the reason we have agency now is to CHOOSE GOD! End of story. Satan has the ability to tempt us, but we are NOT to follow him. My choice is to ALWAYS choose God! There is nothing I want more! Hearing that in such simple terms has given me a feeling of power and as I make seemingly small changes in my life to choose God consistently, I feel His love surround me even more!! 

The next two points won't take as much explanation (or rambling), but to me they were equally powerful!

2. In Relief Society that Sunday, we were taught by Sister Munns whose husband is an General Authority in this area. She taught us that we will change the kingdom of God by our willingness to keep our covenants. One thing that came up so frequently during this conference was obedience. Obedience brings happiness and joy. Strict obedience brings MIRACLES! Imagine if EVERYONE would make and keep those covenants, not because they were required to, but because they WANTED to! We need to change our attitudes so this is the case!

3. I love statements like this one and you'll know why momentarily...are you ready? Here it is:
Righteous women are God's secret weapon!
I don't know what that does for you, but that gives me such a strong desire to be even better. I want to be found on the Lord's side. I want Him to be able to use me as an instrument in His hands to bring about much good. We each have divine errands that we are assigned and expected to fulfill. It is our privilege and responsibility to find what those things are and become the righteous women (or men if you are reading this) He needs. 

I will have to share more at another time, but for now I've got work to do! I hope that in some small measure these three points have touched your heart and it sparks a desire for change for you. Only you know what those things will be for you. Start where you are, and start now!! Today is the perfect time to make changes!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ravioli Casserole

Today was the first day of school. To me, it doesn't mean that much. But to mom, it means the first day back to work. Around 11:45, just before my lunch break, I realized I should have made dinner for her so she didn't have to worry about anything when she got home, at least not on day one.

So what is a person to do? I found a recipe on Pinterest for this crock pot (are there any better words than that??) casserole. I may be a little slow, but there is NO ravioli in this casserole. But then I got to thinking and I think it gets it's name from the fact that the ingredients are all IN ravioli. Regardless, it was delicious!!!

The recipe comes from Katherine in the Kitchen and is a definite keeper and new addition to my recipe stash!!

I'm also being lazy and am snagging the photo of the dish directly from her blog. Seriously, go make this!!


  • 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef (today I used 1 lb ground turkey)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Salt & pepper to taste (I also added in some crushed red pepper to taste)
  • 10 oz. spinach
  • 16 oz. bowtie pasta, cooked
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded

  1. Brown ground beef (or turkey) with onion and garlic.
  2. Put in crock-pot and add sauce, tomatoes, and seasonings
  3. Cook for 6-7 hours on low.
  4. Add the last 4 ingredients during the last 30 minutes of cooking and turn crock-pot to high.
  5. Add the fresh spinach, pasta, Parmesan, and 1 cup of the mozzarella and mix.
  6. Add the last 1/2 cup of mozzarella to melt on the top.
***Back to me***
I realize now I didn't follow ALL of the directions (surprise, surprise). After the meat and sauce had cooked, I just threw EVERYTHING else in for the last 30 minutes. It would appear that this is a very forgiving dish! And did I mention that it is DELICIOUS??? Why are you still sitting here?? Go find your crock pot...STAT! 

For those of you keeping score at home, this makes 10 servings and with the substitution of the turkey comes out to 6 WWPP (7 if you use ground beef)! 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Blueberry Muffin Tops

Here is part 2 of my Sunday afternoon baking adventure. Unlike so many of my baking adventures, this one was totally planned. So unlike me...what is happening?? :) This is another recipe from the Josi Kilpack culinary mystery series. I present "Blueberry Muffin Tops"

1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest (can use 1 teaspoon lemon juice instead)
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries, or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the shortening, butter, egg, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and milk. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add to shortening mixture until just mixed. Fold in blueberries, careful not to crush the berries. The batter might be a little crumbly.

Drop by teaspoonfuls (or 1-inch scoops) onto parchment or silicone-mat baking sheet (blueberries stick like crazy).

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until muffin tops are golden brown. Cool on cookie sheet for two minutes before moving to a rack to cool. Makes 3 dozen.

Option glaze:
1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together. Drizzle over cookies while cookies are still warm.

Note: A streusel topping might taste really good too!

***Now, my notes!!
I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk in place of regular milk based on my personal preference. Also, the part that says "In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients...", yeah, I ignore that and just put all the dry ingredients right in the bowl, but don't over mix.

When it said the batter might be a little crumbly. Um, yeah, that was NOT my problem. Mine was very smooth. Almost a cross between a muffin dough and a cookie dough...delicious (not that I know...).

On the glaze, I skipped the butter and just used the 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and a little less than a cup of powdered sugar (I think...that's what I get for not measuring!).

This recipe makes 3 dozen. Each muffin top is 2 WWPP!! Yum!!

Mom' s Lemon Tart

I have have an ever-growing collection of recipes from the culinary mystery series I love by Josi Kilpack. I've been putting off making these recipes, mostly out of fear. This is a daunting goal. But I figure that like every other goal I have set this year, I can't get anywhere near finishing if I don't take a step and start. I've made a couple over the last year or two, but I outdid myself tonight and made two recipes. The first I made was "Mom's Lemon Tart".

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter (cut into smaller pieces)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor or mixer, combine ingredients for crust. Pulse together until a dough starts to form in clumps. Press into tart pan, making sure to cover bottom and sides evenly. Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork and place in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Place tart pan on a cookie sheet and back until crust is a golden-brown color, approximately 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

5 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar (Breanna likes an extra 1/4 cup sugar in the filling)
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons - DO NOT use concentrated lemon juice)
2 large eggs
Zest from one lemon (get zest from lemon before juicing)

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Mix cream cheese with electric beaters until smooth. Add sugar. Mix until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each egg. Stop and scrape bowl halfway through. Add the lemon juice and zest and mix until smooth.

Pour filling into tart crust and bake on cookie sheet for 20 to 30 minutes or until filling is set. Let tart cool on wire cooling rack. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

Use whipped cream as an optional topping. It can be piped on in stars or served on top with each piece. For extra flavor in the whipped cream, add a teaspoon of lemon zest.

**Quick note: I didn't added the extra sugar mentioned in the filling, but if I did it again, I probably would. It was pretty tart, but oh so rich and delicious. As my father would say, "that'll make your tongue slap your brains out".

Serves 20.

As the recipe is written (without the extra 1/2 cup of sugar, a serving is only 3 PP!! Not too shabby!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Monthly Recap - July

Good grief!! It's August! As much as I'm looking forward to the end of this year (or more accurately the beginning of next year), this is going just a bit too quickly! I'm only a couple of days late this time, so let's not waste time - let's get to work!!

Read the Standard Works cover to cover: I got behind toward the middle of the month, but I really got excited about reading again and I'm doing much better about staying on track. My desire to read has increased, and as that desire increases, so does the personal growth, revelation, and inspiration! Have I mentioned how much I LOVE the scriptures?? More on that another time. To stay on track for July I needed to make it to 2 Corinthians 13...SUCCESS!!

Walk 500 miles: Okay, here is the best thing!! I "only" completed 33 miles this month, but I think that isn't too shabby, all things considered. I'm still working on healing my foot, and I had some quirky back thing happen, so there were a LOT of bad days, but I still made 33 miles. And, even better than that?? I completed 300 MILES!! This is so much fun!!

Grow my hair for donation: I'm still hanging in there...sort of. I got a trim (I can't remember if I did that before or after my last monthly recap, so it may not be news...), but I'm really trying to tough it out. I want to do this to help someone. I want to do it to prove to myself that I can.

This has been an incredible journey, and continues to be! I'm down to the last five months...only five pages left on my wall. I could NEVER have predicted the outcomes that this year of goals has brought. But I'm so grateful!! I want to inspire others to make BIG goals and then work to make them happen. In all seriousness, if I can do it, ANYONE can do it!! Here we go with August!!

I Know the Scriptures Are True

This post was going to go a lot differently than it's about to. Earlier I was hurt, frustrated, agitated, and disappointed. I was upset with myself for still accepting these feelings. I was trying to get over them. But Then I went and exercised, and the endorphins kicked in and everything that was bothering me all of a sudden seemed irrelevant.

Then, to make it even better, I went and read my scriptures. Tonight I read several chapters in the New Testament, specifically Phillipians 4 and the verse that says "I can do all things through Christ, Jesus who strengthens me". And I needed that reminder.

There will ALWAYS be things that I can't handle, that cause some of the feelings I mentioned above. Some of those will be short term, some will be a bit longer lasting. But with His help and strengthening, I can do this.

I LOVE the scriptures! I know that they are true.