Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Button Ornament

I decided that I wanted my Christmas tree to be MY Christmas tree. No run of the mill, bought it in a box, ornaments on my tree. I decided I wanted to only add ornaments that had special meaning, or that I personally made for my tree. This year I made my very own button ball ornament. I made a couple a few years ago, but I wanted one for my tree.

I spent 2-3 hours on this and had a bit of time to think. What I ended up thinking about was what the finished product was going to look like but realizing that to make the finished product I was going to have to add one button and one pin at a time. There were no shortcuts here.

I thought about my life. I know ultimately how I want my finished life to be (though I know God has an even grander finish than I can comprehend) but there aren't any shortcuts to get there. I'm going to have to go through every pain, happiness, sorrow, joy, etc., one at a time. As I do this, though, I will start to see myself take shape.

The beauty when making this ornament is that if you don't like the way something is placed you pull it out and try again. Thanks to the gift of the Savior's Atonement, I can repent of things that aren't right and try again.

As we think of celebrating Christmas, I think of it as Christ "mas", or the Spanish equivalent of more. I want more Christ in my life. I want to be more like Him. I want to live and do as He would. I want to create my own finished work of

Monday, December 15, 2014

Recognizing God's Hand

It's finals week. 13 weeks of hard work and the time has finally come!! I'm really excited, and nervous, and probably unprepared. This morning as I said my prayers I asked for help to know how to best prepare for this week and the exams, essays, and other assignments that are required. When I checked my email about an hour later I discovered a note from my professor to our class with his suggestions of how to tackle this week, in detail! Answer to prayer? Absolutely!

Yesterday I prayed for strength to make it through a certain event, and to do so without having a meltdown (which has been happening a lot lately). I made it through, and I really didn't have to fight it too much. I truly felt the Lord blessing me to make it through that. Added strength in answer to prayer? Check

A couple of days ago I prayed for help to make effectively write my portion of a group paper in a fairly short amount of time. I needed it to be coherent, accurate, and mostly finished before finals week started. I said a prayer and started to type and in less than an hour had the information I needed to submit. I'm certain that wasn't me. Another answer? Definitely!

Three days, three answers. Does God hear and answer every single prayer? Yes. Does every prayer return the answer we sought? Simply put, no. But just because a prayer isn't answered in the way we hope or expect doesn't mean it isn't answered in another way. Sometimes I feel like I got the exact opposite of what I asked for. Other times, like in the examples I've had over the last three days, I've received exactly what I prayed for and mostly in the manner I expected. And other times still I am blessed with what I haven't even thought to request.

I'm posting this today because amid the many answers I've received in the affirmative, there are other prayers that have been said and I'm still waiting to see and understand the answer the Lord has or will provide. I'm posting this because I want to remember that while some blessings do take time, others do come IMMEDIATELY, and in a miraculous state that is what I've experienced lately. If the Lord can grant me immediately strength, information, and added ability, then He can certainly take care of every other concern or worry that I have. This is sweet assurance to me that God is guiding me along, reassuring me that He really is in control, and that I can trust that I am in His loving hands.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Banana Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

I was first introduced to baked oatmeal when we lived in Amish country Pennsylvania. Mmm, good stuff. I haven't thought much about it until today...8 years later. I had a bunch of bananas that looked okay when I left for work but were way past ready when I got home. I didn't want banana bread, cookies, or smoothies. Out of NOWHERE I thought of baked oatmeal and wondered..."Can I put bananas in that?" The answer is yes! I followed (mostly) this recipe for Baked Blueberry Oatmeal from Nutmeg Nanny (sweet name!!).
Courtesy of Nutmeg Nanny
Here's the scoop:

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal

Yield: 8x8 pan
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes


2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 cups milk
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter - melted (or not)
2 teaspoons vanilla paste (or extract) (definitely extract)
1/3 cup maple syrup (I used what I had left...maybe a tablespoon or so)
2 ripe bananas - cut into 1/2 slices (ummm...alternate method below)
1 1/2 cup blueberries
Source: Slightly adapted from Epicurious


Preheat oven 375 degrees.
Butter 8x8 dish and cover bottom with banana slices. Then sprinkle 3/4 cup blueberries over top bananas and set aside. (I basically disregarded this whole section. I mixed my bananas in with my wet ingredients (see below), and saved the blueberries for the top. I know, rebel).
In medium bowl mix together oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir to combines.
In another bowl beat together milk, egg, butter, vanilla paste and maple syrup.(Add the bananas now and make them part of the "batter")
Add oats to dish and gently pour milk mixture over oats (or pour oats in bowl, stir, then dump). Gently rap pan on the counter to make sure the milk has gone all the way through the oats. (Yeah, didn't do that either)
Sprinkle the top with blueberries and cook in oven for 35 to 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the oatmeal is set. If desired, drizzle the top with more maple syrup. (Definitely, YES!!)

I feel like I hardly followed her directions at all, but I still turned out some AMAZING baked oatmeal!! I have a feeling baked oatmeal is one of those forgiving dishes that would allow me to test all sorts of delicious, if not a bit iffy, flavors! Only time will tell!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pumpkin Chili Recipe

Let's get one thing straight. I would LOVE to be one of those bloggers who tries new recipes, takes awesome pictures, has great witty insights about life and is crafty out the wa-zoo. I channel my inner blogger/crafter occasionally, but lets face it...with my schedule right now, I'm lucky to be keeping myself alive AND eating three healthy, balanced meals per day (we don't talk about the occasional, outrageous chocolate consumption that may or may not occur).

I DO find time to cook at least one really good meal per week. It is generally a recipe that makes several servings. I'll usually eat 2-3 servings throughout the week so I don't have to cook in my few precious minutes between work and school.

Instead of lamenting what I'm not able to do, I'm going to try what I CAN do. I'm going to start posting my favorite meal recipes here. No, they are not my pictures. Yes, I will link to another person's page. No, I have no shame in doing this. You know the saying "you do what you can do". Right now at this time in my life, this might be as good as it gets. :)

Let's kick things off right with a really good hot and hearty chili recipe. I made pumpkin pies the other night and had a LOT of canned pumpkin left over. I wanted to do something different with it and so I went to my favorite place, Pinterest, and located what I'm deeming my new favorite chili recipe. It happens to be vegetarian, but if you're not into that kind of thing, add some meat. :) I didn't feel the need to complicate the situation and found it to be completely tasty and satisfying sans meat. I have already had two servings in a 24 hour period; it's just that good. Julia knew what she was doing with this one. :)
Pumpkin Chili - Julia's Album
Total time: 40 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (from the can or homemade)
  • 1 cup canned tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or water
  • 1 can black beans (15 oz, 425 g)
  • 1/2 can garbanzo beans (7.5 oz, 212 g) or white beans
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder (start with half the amount, and add more, to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (start with 1 tablespoon, reduce or add more, depending on your tastes and also on how spicy your chili powder is)
  • salt and pepper

    makes 4 lunch-size servings. You can (and should!) double this recipe, if you plan to serve this for dinner (larger portions) for 4-6 people!
    1) In a large pot or skillet, cook chopped onion and minced garlic (I didn't have fresh garlic and used garlic powder instead) in olive oil for about 5 minutes on medium heat until soft.
    2) Add pumpkin, canned tomatoes (chop them up into smaller chunks) (I used diced tomatoes with chili less thing for me to think about), vegetable stock (or water) (or chicken stock, just to keep things interesting), black beans and garbanzo beans. Add half the cumin and half the chili powder (or don't if your seasonings were included in your tomatoes), stir everything well, and season with salt and pepper. Taste your chili, season some more with salt and pepper if needed (I also recommend a smidgen of chipotle pepper powder). Add the remaining cumin (or more) and remaining chili powder (or more), if desired. Bring to boil, make sure to stir all ingredients well together to combine flavors and spices. Reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes on simmer.
    3) Serve in soup bowls, garnished with chopped green onion.

    This made 5 servings for me. One for the night I made it and 4 mason jars that are ready to be packed for lunch or reheated at home before the studying begins.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Knowledge vs. Wisdom

Sometimes my mom and I have deep, meaningful conversations. Some days it's pure silliness. Every once in a while we unearth a true gem of wisdom. As it turns out, we think this is REALLY wise (it had to be divine inspiration).

In a conversation with a friend I was asked if I felt "older and wiser" on my birthday to which I commented on the fact that I was studying in school and felt I was doing pretty well. He retorted with something like "it's interesting that people who gain knowledge think they have become wise". It was sort of a new thought for me (not that I ever considered myself wise, but rather I always used those words synonymously).

Driving together one day I shared this with mom and we started a discussion on knowledge verses wisdom. Here is the ultimate piece of WISDOM we discovered (though I personally think I must still be at "knowledge" with this one).
Knowledge is recognition of a need to change or improve. Wisdom is the implementation of said change or improvement.

So, are you knowledgeable or wise, or both? I want to hear your thoughts. Ready? Go!

Keeping This One Short

Rough day.
Prayed for chocolate.
Received chocolate.
Should have prayed for self-control instead.

Eh, I live and learn. And yes, it was AMAZINGLY good chocolate! :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Grateful - No Matter What

Dear Blog,

You poor, neglected thing, you. So much has happened. There have been really high highs, and really low lows. There have been classes taken, a sister married, depression experienced, both positive and negative changes at work, friendships renewed, relationships strengthened, guilt that has become overwhelming, panic attacks, holidays, bonfires, and so much more.
Joseph and Lori's wedding - October 18, 2014
I won't even attempt to try to cover all of this lost time (shameful). I must say, first and foremost, that as hard as some of these lows have been and continue to be, life is so wonderful! These trials and struggles are not a bad thing, it's part of the package deal we call life.

To that end, I have been writing more notes and thoughts to cope with a variety of situations. In the past I've coined the term "undiagnosed depression". I'm still going to use that phrase because, as of yet, I've not sought medical treatment (I'm more scared of the doctor than the disease, if that makes any sense). I was close to making an appointment but I heard one voice above all the others supporting me in that path that told me I had no reason to be depressed and that somehow I was using this "depression" (his phrasing, not mine) as an excuse. Naturally, my defiant and rebellious side now has a point to prove. Please understand that for anyone else dealing with depression, if you feel you need medical help, do it!! Do not delay! (I know, great hypocritical advice). I will tell you that I'm keeping much closer tabs on myself and have been dealing better with life as a whole. I will also tell you that at the next severe dip that lasts longer than a "bad day" or two, the appointment is being made. I'll share a bit more behind that thought another time.

Today is all about gratitude in our trials. I suffered for several weeks with what I'm sure was my undiagnosed depression and possibly anxiety. I couldn't shake the dark clouds over me, I cried for hours on end (very unlike me) and had what I'm certain now (hindsight is 20/20, you know) were panic attacks sitting huddled on my bedroom floor. If I were an artist to any degree, I would draw a picture of heavenly angels trying to buoy me up during these times, but evil, dark cloth literally smothering me and putting out the light.

The world has flipped again, and the dark side is back where it belongs; beneath me. The light I know and love is once again above and around me. There is a song in my heart again. There is a smile behind the smile again.

Those weeks were hard. Really hard. I don't share this lightly or jokingly. It's not easy for me to admit that I struggle this way. For being as independent as I like to think I am, dealing with depression has shaken me to the core. During those times I didn't want to go to work, or exercise, or study, or craft. I didn't want to be around people, but I was scared to be alone. Really, I just wanted to run away and hide. I ignored my phone and emails for days on end, only feeling more guilty every time I looked at it and realizing there were messages awaiting my response. But I just couldn't do it. I was in a pit and I couldn't get out.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago. A good friend of mine was over and we were catching up on life over several months. He told me about the depression he had been facing regarding school and life and how hard it was for him. I looked at him and felt something I'd never felt before. I felt this overwhelming sense of GRATITUDE for my own struggles. While we have had different experiences and situations, at the core of it all we'd been experiencing the same thing. How amazing and comforting it was to me to look at him and be able to say, "I KNOW what you're feeling". It wasn't a trite comment to try to provide support. It wasn't any sort of competition. It wasn't attention seeking. I was grateful to have had these experiences that we could share together and encourage one another.

It was in that moment that I realized that there is someone else that KNOWS exactly what I feel. Jesus Christ suffered not only for my sins, but for all my pains, afflictions, sorrows...everything!! He knows my deepest lows, and He rejoices in my highest highs! I KNOW that He KNOWS me!

One final thought: