Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Mabel's dress

I was sort of relieved when I saw these pictures. Mabel doesn't look as old as I thought she would (or as old as she probably wanted to). Granted, this was pre-hair curling, but still. Sometimes in my head she's nearly grown and out on her own, but really, she's still our girl, even though she is headed to high school next year.

She said the dance was lots of fun. And no one had a dress exactly like hers.

p.s. I used Butterick 3350 for the bodice (in child's size 8 with the sides taken in--Mabel is teeny). I've used that pattern at least a million times. I swapped out the back zipper for a hidden side zipper. Then I used this great website to calculate the measurements for the circle skirt (one layer of jersey knit, one layer of lining, and two layers of chiffon for maximum twirling capabilities).

Friday, February 05, 2016

happy weekend

I've been working with this pretty rose gold sequin fabric this week for Mabel's eighth grade dance tonight. I have found sequins in every room in my house, including my front porch. Ah! Such a nightmare, but the dress is turning out just like she hoped it would, and that makes me really happy.

This weekend is packed to the brim with her school dance, little league tryouts for Oliver, a cousin's wedding, a long run with Mike, and a visit from my parents. Plus it's my turn to teach Sunday School on Sunday, and with the 8:30 slot at church this year, I can't put my lesson prep off till Sunday morning anymore. :) Oh well. What do they say? They best way to get the work done is to do the work, or something like that? The weather is going to be fantastic, so that makes everything easier. And really, these are all really happy things, so I am excited.

What do you have planned this weekend?

Have a good one!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

life without a smartphone, part three

It's almost a smartphone, it just doesn't fit in my pocket very well. Ha! Truth be told, my iPad mini (which does not function like a phone, in case this picture is misleading) and I are a little too close for comfort these days, and we could probably benefit from taking a little break from each other. So that's how life without a smartphone is going. Darn, that doesn't sound very impressive, does it? Here's what I miss: taking quick, candid photos of my kids, looking up maps on the go, and easy texting. Texting from my dumb phone is never worth it, it's such a pain. Mostly I miss the convenience of my trusty old iPhone 4. But even so, I'm glad I made the change. Truly. I'm happy when I pick up my real camera and snap photographs. I'm happy that I'm a little out of the loop, and a little harder to get ahold of. I'm happy that I don't always have my eyeballs glued to a teeny screen. But I know that I need to put the iPad away more often. It's amazing how quickly I can fall back into old habits. There is still much room for improvement. And so I am working on it. Little by little, I am mastering my devices. But knowing I can step away from them completely feels really really good.

If you are at all tempted to give up your smartphone, you have my full support. No change is permanent. If it is too inconvenient for you, you can always switch back.

It's been really refreshing for me to remember that my real life is so much more fulfilling than my online life. And living without a smartphone has helped me to see that.

Monday, February 01, 2016

the Family, a Proclamation

We have a humongous copy of The Family: A Proclamation to the World hanging in our house. I hung it in a really prominent place, where we walk by it a million times a day. I did this because I believe that if my family abides by its precepts, we will be happy. And because I want my children to know who they are, where they came from, and what they can do to live a successful, joyful life.

A couple weeks ago, I posted about one of my favorite scriptures, where Lehi is "swallowed up in other things" and so he doesn't notice the filth around him. And last week, I posted Elder Foster's quote that cautions us against letting society "give our family a makeover in the image of the world." If I want my children to know the things I believe about the family, I need to teach them. And The Family: A Proclamation is a great place to start.

One of my favorite parts says, "The family is ordained of God. Marriage between a man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Tonight for Family Home Evening, we'll be reading the Proclamation as a family. I think I'll print a copy for each of my children, and they can highlight their favorite parts. Then we'll talk about them. And then we'll probably eat some cookies. Happy Monday!

You can get a pdf of this large print (20x24) from Mike here.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

happy weekend

I'm checking out early this week. I have some sewing to do, and some rocks to spread in our backyard. But before I go kill my back with the wheelbarrow, here are a few links I've seen this week that made a big impact on me--all relating to parenting. I hope you'll find them as helpful as I did.

My sister, Leslie, has always spoken very highly of Dr. Leonard Sax. He has written a few books about parenting. He talks about his latest, "The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups", in the pod cast on KERA's Think, called "Your Friend, Your Kid." I highly recommend listening to this podcast. I agreed with everything Dr. Sax said. A few of my favorite points: parents shouldn't negotiate with their kids, cancel the playdates and schedule time with family instead, and children should not have cell phones. Thank you, Dr. Sax! I can't wait to read his book.

My friend, Sarah, writes at Memories on Cloverlane. I loved her most recent post. She is so wise. In reference to being focused at home, she said, "I have learned I must keep my world very small right now to feel settled and happy." Yes! I totally agree. Keeping the outside world at bay, and far away from the walls of my living room, helps me to keep my focus here at home, where my attention can make a great difference in four very important lives--the lives of my children.

Sarah linked to this article, about a mother, now 90, who raised her nine children (four sets of twins!) back in the 60s. Dr. Sax talked about this idea a bit, too, but I loved that the mother, Vivian, said, "My husband and I had similar values -- we talked a lot about what was best for our children and the decisions we made, we made together. It was never about what we read, what the new research showed, or what other parents were doing. It was about our children and what we thought was best."

And finally, Elder Bradley D. Foster's talk from our last General Conference, entitled, "It's Never Too Early and It's Never Too Late". He said, "In the past, the world competed for our children's energy and time. Today, it fights for their identity and mind. Many loud and prominent voices are trying to define who our children are and what they should believe. We cannot let society give our family a makeover in the image of the world." He then gives counsel on how it is never too late or too early to teach our children--to lead, guide, and walk beside them. I loved his talk and hope you'll take a few minutes to read it.

Mike and I joined with so many wonderful people from our neighborhood this week with candles to light the way home for the Eagar family, as they returned from the viewing of their little girl who passed away last week. It was a really special experience, one that made me really happy to live where we live, and really grateful to know that families can be forever. Then we squished on his bike and rode home.

Have a happy weekend!

Friday, January 22, 2016

happy weekend

My heart has been really heavy this week. A young family in my neighborhood lost their little girl in an accident just two blocks away from our house and then the very next morning welcomed a brand new baby boy. I can't even imagine the difficulty of their situation. I don't know why some of us are called to endure such tremendous things. But I know that peace can come, even in those hardest moments. We can find comfort through our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is there to buoy us up, always.

I love this quote from Joseph B. Wirthlin: "I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross. But the doom of that Friday did not endure. The despair did not linger, because on Sunday the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. Each of us will have our own Fridays, those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death, Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come. No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come."

The Eager family and the driver of the car have been in our prayers non-stop. If you feel so inclined, please add them to your prayers as well, or you can donate to their relief here.

I can't help but soak up the sights and sounds of my children a little more and squeeze them a little tighter. I feel fortunate to have this life, this family, this neighborhood, and my faith. It has been incredible to see everyone rally around this young family (and the driver, too!). It has given me a greater love for mankind. We are all in this together, you see, and despite our differences we can love and support and pray for each other.

It has made me want to freeze time a bit, too, and has definitely helped me recognize what is most important. We spent some time as a family at the tennis courts last night, breaking in our new ball machine. It was relaxing and easy and happy. I love this photo because it is an accurate description of our Stella. If she is near Mike, she is leaning on him or hugging him. I hope it's something she never outgrows and I was happy to capture it last night.

Let's all have a good weekend! Let's love each other better and be grateful for our happiness (and maybe drive a little slower, too). I know I will.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

energy balls

I guess in the spirit of getting things done, I thought I'd share a recipe for energy balls. I'm probably super late to the energy ball game, but Mabel has been making them for the past few months and they are the best quick little bite! I stick them in lunches, eat them to hold me over til dinner, or just as a snack as I am running out the door. They are easy and healthy and just a little bit sweet.

Energy Balls

1 cup dry oats
2/3 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Start with a spoon, but eventually you'll use your hands. Roll into balls about one inch in diameter. Store in the fridge. Snack as necessary.

One good thing about these is that you can put pretty much whatever you want in them. Don't have flax seed? Swap it for hemp. Hate having chia seeds stuck in your teeth? Leave them out. Just make sure you have enough sticky stuff (peanut butter and honey) to hold it all together.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

getting stuff done

Three things combined this week to help me get some things done around the house.

First, the weather changed. All of a sudden our days are sunny and bright and warm. Hooray for winter in Arizona! A change in the weather always seems to light a spark under me and get me moving. And not feeling frozen all the time sure feels good (don't remind me that I said that come July).

Second, I made a list. I am a big believer in lists. I was feeling really overwhelmed by the things I wanted to get done this month, but writing them all on one master "Winter To-Do" list made them seem more manageable.

And third, I just decided to get started. That's always the hardest part, isn't it?

On Monday, I wanted to see how many things I could cross off of my list. I was surprised to see that most of the things I've been worrying about getting done could be accomplished pretty quickly. I can spend lots of time thinking about doing something, but if I just knuckle down and do it, I'll be finished before I know it. Something that really helps me is setting a time limit for myself. For example, this morning I had 15 minutes before I had to meet my sister-in-law. Could I clean the kids' bathroom in that time? It turns out that I could!

Hopefully writing this down will help me remember how to break out of my funk next time it hits and all I want to do is lay on the couch and read a book for days and days on end.

Here's to doing stuff!

Monday, January 18, 2016

swallowed up in other things

detail from Tree of Life by Kazuto Uota

Last week I talked about Lehi's vision of the tree of life. I read an article in this month's Ensign that really struck a chord with me, and when I came across the scripture mentioned in the article during my own reading this week, I knew I needed to explore this idea further.

Lehi's son, Nephi, wanted to know the meaning behind his father's dream, so he prayed to God and asked for understanding. Because of his faith, Nephi was able to see for himself what his father's vision meant. And luckily for us, he recorded it in the Book of Mormon. In 1 Nephi 15:27, Nephi is recounting the meaning of the vision to his brothers. He tells them that the river of water their father saw was "filthiness". But because Lehi's mind was "swallowed up in other things", i.e. getting his family to the tree of life to partake of the fruit, he "beheld not the filthiness of the water". He was so focused on something really good and important that he didn't even notice the filthiness!

Now, I can liken that "filthiness" to lots of things in the world today. The author of the article likened it to pornography. But it could be anything that weakens my spirit or distracts me and my family from our goal of making it to the tree.

Instead of worrying about shielding my family from harmful things (which, of course I should still do as best I can, and which is quite a heavy responsibility), I could focus on filling our time with other, better things. Things like learning the gospel. I know that if I am busy with good things, like reading my scriptures, or visiting a friend in need, or working on a family home evening lesson, I don't have much time to spend on instagram feeling bad about myself. If my son is busy helping others, or spending time with our family, or working in the yard, he won't have much time to surf the internet and perhaps come across something yucky. If I can help my family focus their minds on the gospel, then maybe they won't notice all of the filthiness out there, either.

The author of the article mentioned three areas where her family could improve. I liked her suggestions, so I'll share them here.

First, she wanted her family to increase their own personal scripture study and decrease the "noise" around them. She said, "Like Lehi, our minds must be filled with positive things in order to hear the promptings of the Spirit and to keep us focused on anchoring our family in the gospel."

Second, she wanted to make family scripture study more meaningful. I agree with this one. We are in a good habit of reading our scriptures together every morning, but I think it'd be helpful if we discussed what we were reading more.

Third, she wanted her family to focus more on missionary work. She says, "When we bear testimony, the Spirit testifies that what we are saying is true, and our testimonies grow." This is one reason why I talk about church so much on my blog these days. It helps strengthen my testimony and gives me a deeper conviction that these things are true. And because my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings me so much joy, I want to share that joy with as many people as I can.

I know that if I make a better effort to teach my children the gospel, then I can help them better avoid the filthiness. At least that is my hope.

Read the entire article here (it's really short).

Friday, January 15, 2016

happy weekend

Great news. The Winter Sea has a sequel! It's called The Firebird, and it continues the story of Anna, Sophia's daughter. I'm about a third of the way into it and I am really liking it so far. The bad news is that all I want to do is sit under a warm blanket and read that book. My to-do list is really suffering.

On that note: Dear 2015, give me my motivation back! Please! I had some grand plans this new year to take another stab at minimalism, but I haven't seemed able to follow through yet. I know the urge will come, and with it the energy to get it done. Until then, I am biding my time. Sometimes it can be forced, but sometimes it's better to wait until it happens naturally. Also, what do minimalists do with teenaged daughters who really really love clothes? I don't know, but I'll tell you what this minimalist-wannabe is doing about it -- letting it go. I need to stop holding my daughter to the standard I've set for myself and let her have a million t-shirts, if that's what she wants. What's the big deal, anyway?

One resolution I have managed to keep so far is journaling while I read my scriptures. I'd never done it before, but I am loving what it adds to my study. I just write one line that stood out to me, or a thought that I had while reading. It only takes a minute, but it's made such a difference! What I am reading all of a sudden applies directly to my life, every single time. It's amazing.

In other news, Mike is neck deep in his marathon training, and for the most part, I've been training right along beside him. It feels good to stretch myself and run farther than I am used to. But I've drawn the line at 14 miles. After 14 miles, he's on his own.

This week, I found this pretty blog, wore these comfortable jeans (in petite -- life changing!), and drank this chocolate smoothie for breakfast.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

tomato soup and french bread

It seems like Tuesday is turning into soup day around here. This week I made Design Mom's Crock Pot Tomato. It's a major favorite at our house. I love that unlike most canned tomato soups, it doesn't have any sweeteners and I really love that it simmers away in the crock pot on a busy day. My crock pot isn't big enough for the full recipe, so I always halve it, which is plenty for our family of six.

This time I served it with fresh french bread. It was my first time baking this recipe and I really loved how it turned out. It could be because I never eat white flour anymore, but warm from the oven, this bread was the best thing I've eaten in weeks. It was chewy and soft, with a nice, crunchy crust. The two loaves I made disappeared in a snap. I need to work on my shaping skills, so I'll be making it again for sure.

Bread Machine French Bread

2 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups water

4 cups (19 oz) flour
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons gluten
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 1/4 teaspoons SAF yeast (or 2 3/4 tsp bread machine yeast)

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed. Add them to your bread machine with the water. Add the rest of the ingredients and use the Dough cycle.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Once the Dough cycle is complete, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide it in two. Flatten each portion into a thin 10x6 inch rectangle. I used my hands, but next time I might try a rolling pin. Starting on a long side, roll the dough tightly to form a cylinder. Place it on your baking sheet with the seam side down. Cover them loosely with plastic and let them rise until doubled in size (about 30 minutes, depending on the temperature in your kitchen).

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, with a pizza stone on the middle rack.

Beat 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon of water with a fork until foamy. Brush the tops of your risen loaves with the egg. Using a small, sharp knife, cut three or four diagonal slashes on the tops, going no more than 1/4 inch deep.

Place the baking sheet on the hot pizza stone and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown. Makes two medium sized loaves.

From my most favorite bread cookbook, The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook.

Monday, January 11, 2016

continually holding fast

In one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi has a dream or a vision. He describes a landscape of mists of darkness, a dreary wilderness, and rushing water. There is a large field, a great and spacious building, and a narrow path with a rod of iron that leads to a beautiful tree -- the tree of life, whose fruit can bring happiness and peace. Many people filled the landscape. Some were wandering, aimless in the wilderness. Some were in the great building laughing and mocking those down below. And some were holding tight to the rod of iron and pressing forward towards the tree of life. There are great parallels that can be drawn from Lehi's vision to help us in our life here on earth, as we strive for truth, happiness, and peace, or as we hold to our own "rod of iron". But I want to talk just briefly about verse 30. It says, ". . . and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree of life."

Am I "continually holding fast"? What does that even look like? In my life, I think it means keeping the commandments, or striving to life the life I know that I should, every single day.

President Thomas S. Monson said in our most recent General Conference, "God's commandments are not given to frustrate us or to become obstacles to our happiness. Just the opposite is true. He who created us and loves us perfectly knows just how we need to live our lives in order to obtain the greatest happiness possible. He has provided us with guidelines which, if we follow them, will see us safely through this often treacherous mortal journey. . . We know the commandments. He understands that when we keep the commandments, our lives will be happier, more fulfilling, and less complicated. Our challenges and problems will be easier to bear, and we will receive His promised blessings."

I know that when I keep the commandments, or when I live my life the way God wants me to, I am happier. I feel more peace, more stability, and a greater sense of well-being.

I thought this was a cute illustration that I'll be sharing with my kids for FHE tonight:


Friday, January 08, 2016

happy weekend

Oh man, I'm glad this week is over. It's been sort of a wash. Mike and I have gone back and forth all week, taking turns feeling yucky. Luckily none of the kids have gotten it, but it's like the stomach bug that won't quit. So hopefully this weekend will bring better health and more energy to our house. And maybe some sunshine, too! It's been rainy and gray everyday, which is a nice change for these parts, but I miss the sun. I can't believe I just said that.

One highlight from the week: I met my friend, Julie, for lunch at my favorite antique store/cafe and found that pretty floral oil painting (and got some chocolate croissants, too, of course). When I go to thrift or antique stores, I always look for three things: white dishes, real paintings, and small tables/stools. Otherwise, I can feel really overwhelmed. If I stick to those three things, I have a really fun time poking through all of the other junk to find what I'm looking for.

I guess another good thing about feeling sick all week is that I've been making great headway in my book. I'm reading The Winter Sea for the second time and loving it just as much as the first. It is romantic and historic and clean and just a really fun read. I had gotten a big load of books from the library, but they all felt heavy, so I sent them back and picked this from my shelf to read instead. Sometimes I just want something easy, you know? Have you read anything good lately?

Here's to a good weekend!

Teeny painting of baby Jesus that is too pretty to display only at Christmastime by Beth Allen.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

potato soup

It has been rainy and cold all week here in the desert. That means soup is on the menu. Tuesday evenings are our busiest, so I made a pot of our favorite (and easiest) potato soup for dinner last night.

Potato Soup

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
3 cups chicken broth
3 or so potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 onion, diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
salt & pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the flour and cook on low for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add liquids and vegetables and bring to a boil. Boil until the veggies are soft, about 15 minutes, stirring lots so it doesn't burn. Blend to liquify. Add salt and pepper to taste.

We ate our soup with our favorite rolls (the virginia light rolls posted here, but made with mostly whole wheat flour).

The sun is out this morning, but it's still colder than usual. What's the winter weather like at your house today?

Monday, January 04, 2016

kindness begins with me

I always choose a theme for my children at the beginning of a new school year, but I had never chosen one for myself as a New Year's resolution before. As I was washing dishes the other day, thinking about what I need to do differently this new year, a theme entered my mind and I knew at once that it came from God for me personally. "Kindness Begins with Me" will be my mantra.

I know that when I am kind, I feel happy. When I serve others or when a kindness is required of me that is not convenient, that burden can feel light or it can feel heavy. It can bring me joy or it can bring me bitterness. It is up to me. When I let my natural tendencies take over and I allow myself to feel burdened by opportunities to serve, I am unhappy. So why do I let myself feel that way?! This year I am going to focus on being kind, and on being kind with the right attitude. I want more of those sweet, loving feelings that come when I serve willingly in my life this year.

I found this talk by Sister Mary N. Cook that expresses my desires well. Sister Cook says, "Our Savior taught us about and lived a benevolent life. Jesus loved all and He served all. Centering our lives on Jesus Christ will help us acquire this attribute of benevolence." About benevolence, she says, "Benevolent is a lovely word that we don't hear very often. It's roots are latin, and it means 'to wish someone well'. To be benevolent is to be kind, well-meaning, and charitable." Another way to express my theme is to choose this one word, benevolence, to focus on this year.

Sister Cook then relates the parable of the Good Samaritan, found in the New Testament, a parable with which most of us are familiar, I think. This video is a good refresher (and is what we'll be watching for Family Home Evening tonight):

Sister Cook says, "Unlike the Jewish priest and Levite who passed by the wounded man, one of their own, the Samaritan was kind regardless of differences. He demonstrated the Christ-like attribute of benevolence. Jesus taught us through this story that everyone is our neighbor."

She continues, "I promise that if you will extend yourself beyond what is easy to do, you will feel so good inside that kindness will start to become a part of your everyday life. You'll see that benevolence can bring joy and unity to your home, your class, your ward, and your school. 'Remember this: kindness begins with me'."

So what can I do in my life to increase my kindness or benevolence? Well, for starters, I can give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I can assume the best and refrain from passing judgement. I can be more liberal with my smiles. I can speak with a sweet voice, even when I'm tired or overwhelmed. I can be more generous with my time. I can send more thank you notes, for goodness sake! These are small things, but I think they can yield great results. I'll keep you posted.

Happy New Year!