Friday, February 24, 2017
There were lots of tears at our house this week, as Stella's sweet little gray kitten, Pedro, passed away. I think he'd been sick for a long time, and he just got weaker and weaker and was no longer eating. We buried him underneath our pretty lilac vine and now every year when it blooms, we'll remember him. It was hard watching my kids mourn, but I think it brought us all a little bit closer together, which was a happy blessing.
Mike and I didn't have any big plans for our anniversary yesterday. We lifted weights together and grabbed Cafe Rio for lunch before he went to class. But we're not big celebrators, anyway, so it felt just right. I got him a pretty brass tie bar with M + S engraved on it. He made me ring once, long before we were married (and even before his mission) that had our initials engraved on the inside like that. And then he did the same on my wedding ring, too.
Almost everything I made for dinner this week was a big flop. Some weeks are like that, aren't they? Mabel and I liked this Broccoli and Cheddar Gratin, but we were the only ones who did. Next week I'll save myself some grief and make fish sticks and pancakes every night instead. Ha!
I'm trying to muster up the energy to go for a run this morning. Wish me luck and have a happy weekend!
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Today is our 16th anniversary! I've been thinking about how crazy it is to make such a life-determining decision at a young age. Mike and I were only 21 when we married, and somehow we managed to make the very best decision. Well, I know how we did that actually. It was through prayer. I prayed to know if I should marry Mike and the Spirit confirmed to me that it would be a good choice. And boy was it ever! Mike still makes me laugh everyday. I am so proud of how hard he is working at school right now, and so thankful for the happy life he has created for our family for the past 16 years.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
I read this talk by Bishop Dean M. Davies before church on Sunday, and it made the time I spent at church that day more meaningful. I've been meaning to share it here ever since, but you know, life.
Bishop Davies said, "Sometimes our attendance at meetings and our service in the kingdom may lack the holy element of worship. And without that, we are missing an incomparable spiritual encounter with the infinite--one we are entitled to as children of a loving Heavenly Father. Far from being an accidental, happy occurrence, worship is essential and central to our spiritual life. It is something we should yearn for, seek out, and strive to experience."
And this, "I learned that even if we are exceptional managers of our time, callings, and assignments--even if we check all the boxes on our list of the 'perfect' individual, family, or leader--if we fail to worship our merciful Deliverer, heavenly King, and glorious God, we are missing much of the hoy and peace of the gospel."
His words sank deep into my heart. Has my attendance at church become too normal--a habit that hardly takes my attention? If so, I am missing out some really wonderful feelings and it is time to be more deliberate about my worship.
Bishop Davies then gave some good ideas on how we can improve our worship. He said, "When we worship God, we acknowledge and receive Him with the same reverence as those ancient people of the Americas. We approach Him with incomprehensible feelings of wonder and awe. We marvel in gratitude at the goodness of God. And thus, we acquire hope. We ponder God's word, and that fills our souls with light and truth. We comprehend spiritual vistas that can be seen only through the light of the Holy Ghost. And thus, we acquire faith. As we worship, our souls are refined and we commit to walk in the footsteps of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. And from this resolve, we acquire charity. When we worship, our hearts are drawn out in praise to our blessed God morning, noon, and night. When we worship, we open our hearts to the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Our lives become the token and expression of our worship."
And the kicker, "Spiritual experiences have less to do with what is happening around us and everything to do with what is happening within our hearts. It is my witness that true worship will transform ordinary Church meetings into extraordinary spiritual feasts. It will enrich our lives, broaden our understanding, and strengthen our testimonies."
I want that. I am going to try harder.
posted by stephanie at 3:01 PM
Friday, February 17, 2017
My friend and I took advantage of our terrific weather and hiked Camelback Mountain yesterday. I am not really a hiker, but I love hiking Camelback. It is steep and difficult and it just feels really good to climb those boulders all the way to the top. During Spring Break I want to try some of the hikes Kayla listed on her blog with my kids. I know there are a lot of beautiful things to see in this desert, and we're going to find them.
For dinner this week, we tried these Little Quinoa Patties and some really great pasta. I'll share the pasta recipe below. We ate the quinoa patties like hamburgers with a side of roasted sweet and regular potatoes.
My friend (and everyone's friend), Ellen, sent me this pasta recipe and I am totally going to add it to our favorites:
Farfalle Alle Erbe e Panna Rosa, from Lisa Ure
1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta
4 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of fresh basil, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of fresh sage, finely chopped (I didn't have sage, so I skipped it.)
1/2 beef bouillon cube (I used a teaspoon of chicken Better Than Bouillon.)
2 pounds fresh ripe plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon of salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of heavy cream
Peel, seed, and cut the tomatoes into a 1/4 inch dice.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the herbs and bouillon and stir with a wooden spoon for one minute or until the bullion has dissolved completely. Don't let the butter burn. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5-10 minutes or until the tomatoes have reduced and separated from the butter. Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in the cream. Cook, stirring frequently, until it has reduced by about half. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
While the sauce is cooking, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and cook your pasta al dente. Then drain it and toss it with the sauce.
This weekend Oliver will be off on a scout campout while the rest of us recover from this long, tiresome week. Hopefully there's some good food in there somewhere, too.
Have a happy weekend!
posted by stephanie at 7:53 AM
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Mabel had a school dance last weekend. It was a "Blast from the Past" theme or something like that, so we pulled this vintage stunner out of the closet. I found this amazing, handmade and very old dress at a thrift store in Salt Lake City, Utah when I was 18 years old. I almost didn't buy it because I don't usually buy things, but my friend convinced me to get it and I am so glad. It fit me like a glove and I wore it to a dance with Mike my first winter at BYU. Funny thing, Mike had moved home after the fall semester, and I thought I was going to the dance with a blind date. But it turned out to be Mike! He had driven all night to surprise me.
And now, 19 years later, our daughter is wearing the same dress. Life is good like that. She finished her makeup at a friend's house before the dance and had such a good time! And now the dress is back safe and sound in the closet til next time.
posted by stephanie at 9:46 AM
Friday, February 10, 2017
It seems like most of the country is being blanketed by snow right now, but here in Arizona it is 85 degrees! My kids came home from school yesterday with pink, sunburned noses. Ah! I'm not ready for the heat, but I sure love an Arizona spring. Our lilac vine is about to go crazy with blossoms and I can't wait.
I never wanted to be the mom who was constantly in the car, shuttling kids to a million different places, but I was totally that mom this week. Man alive, I'm exhausted! It was my week to drive the carpool to high school plus it seems like I was going back and forth to Oliver's school (about 15 minutes away) a million times. Add in the usual piano lessons and choir practice and mutual and scouts and I'll tell you what, I am ready for the weekend.
Mabel joined the tennis team at school, so our big plans this weekend include buying active wear (please tell me you've seen this video!) and looking at tennis rackets.
Recipes I tried this week: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burritos (Loved these! I added chicken and avocado.), Turkey and Swiss Sloppy Joes (a surprise hit), and Brazilian Style Black Beans and Rice (My first time successfully cooking dried beans! I used our instant pot. Not as good as my favorite beans from Tucanos, but pretty all right.)
Are your kids passing out valentines? Stella doesn't want to, but Elliot does. Maybe these heart pom pom bookmarks will change Stella's mind?
Have a happy weekend!
posted by stephanie at 8:44 AM
Monday, February 06, 2017
I'm putting my house back together one room at a time today. I got an early start on the kitchen. While I was steaming the floor, I listened to the third chapter of Teachings of Presidents of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley. I had to share this quote:
"There is a terrible ailment of pessimism in the land. It's almost endemic. We're constantly fed a steady and sour diet of character assassination, faultfinding, evil speaking of one another. ...
"I come with a plea that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I'm suggesting that we accentuate the positive. I'm asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort.
"I am not asking that all criticism be silent. Growth comes with correction. Strength comes with repentance. Wise is the man or woman who, committing mistakes pointed out by others, changes his or her course. I am not suggesting that our conversation be all honey. Clever expression that is sincere and honest is a skill to be sought and cultivated. What I am suggesting and asking is that we turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good in the land and times in which we live, that we speak of one another's virtues more than we speak of one another's faults, that optimism replace pessimism. Let our faith replace our fears.
"We have every reason to be optimistic in this world. Tragedy is around, yes. Problems everywhere, yes. But ... you can't, you don't, build out of pessimism or cynicism. You look with optimism, work with faith, and things happen.
"Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to you. Do not let the prophets of gloom endanger your possibilities."
What a great way to start a new week! I hope your Monday is a happy one.
posted by stephanie at 8:57 AM
Friday, February 03, 2017
It's the time of year when the citrus is ready to be picked and juiced. Yesterday I juiced a few bags of oranges and my house smelled so fresh for the rest of the day. We got so many lemons this year! I used to freeze the juice to make lemonade all year long, but do you know what's in lemonade? Lots and lots of sugar, so I don't make it as often anymore, and now our main use of the lemons is to squeeze them on top of our Sunday morning german pancakes. Must research how to use more lemons (outside of my favorite lemon deserts: warm lemon pudding cake, lemon cake, lemon squares, and lemon poppy seed muffins).
Thanks to your comments, I tried a few new recipes this week. Rollup Blender Pancakes from Mel's Kitchen Cafe were probably the biggest hit (even though they were for breakfast and not dinner). We also tried Mel's 30-Minute Quinoa Enchilada Skillet (Mabel and I loved it), Our Best Bite's Black Bean Soup and Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos. I would make them all again. Thank you! Oh, and we brought these Healthy Applesauce Oat Muffins to Sunday dinner and they were gone in a flash.
I printed out lots more recipes from those sites to try next week, too. Hurray!
This is the best time of year to be in Arizona, so we are going to do our best to soak it up this weekend. Yard work is on our to-do list, and hopefully we'll actually do it instead of loafing around like we usually do on Saturdays. Ha!
Have a happy one!
posted by stephanie at 6:43 AM
Wednesday, February 01, 2017
Friday night's meeting was broadcast from a chapel in Queen Creek, about 35 minutes from me. But Saturday night's meeting, which was for teenagers and their youth leaders, was live right here in Mesa! Since I was recently asked to serve in the Young Women's organization in my ward, I got to attend Saturday night, too.
Just like Friday night's meeting, Saturday night was very casual and candid, but this one was geared toward teenagers. Here are my notes:
Elder Ballard started the meeting by sharing one word that would change the teens' lives: desire. If they desire to know the mysteries of God, or if they desire to follow Jesus Christ, then like Nephi and like Joseph Smith, they can have their own "sacred grove" experience, which will help them remain true to the teachings of the gospel.
On the proper use of media: Elder Rasband urged the youth to be connected to the church's media sites. He cautioned them to police themselves. The adversary has entered into our personal space through our devices. If we dedicate time to the word of God each day, we will be able to better withstand the offerings of the adversary.
On preparing for a mission: Elder Ballard said that if desire is focused in the right place, it will be easy to stay morally clean and serve a mission. He said that they should do all that they can to prepare, but leave some time for fun, too. Learn to be a hard worker, make prayer more meaningful. For girls (who are not expected to serve missions) listen to the Spirit when deciding whether or not to go. Focus instead on living the way Heavenly Father wants you to live. Don't be nervous to share the gospel, just stand tall. Anxiety can become a problem when we are too anchored in the internet. Learn to talk to people face to face. When you have a question, seek the answer from the Lord before seeking it elsewhere.
On being happy: Elder Robbins said that the more we become like Jesus Christ, the happier we will be. Because He was always serving others, he was always happy, and so can we be. Pray for happiness and for the opportunity to use our talents to serve others. Smile more. It is a choice.
On opposition and peer pressure: Elder Costa said "It is better to prevent than to fix." Choose good friends. If you are with friends and they make bad choices, leave. Don't stay to be a good example. Just leave.
On dating and marriage: Elder Ballard reminded that kids that one date with someone does not make you a couple! Keep yourself pure and clean. Don't let the world dictate how we live. Stay close to your parents. Have fun. Don't do anything to mar the beauty of your spirit. And never, never ask someone on a date through a text message. :)
The overall feeling that I got from both of these meetings was that the answers are always simple. Live the gospel. Be happy. Serve others. If our desire is in the right place, we will already be doing the right things. Don't worry too much, everything will will be ok in the end.
posted by stephanie at 8:34 AM
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Sometimes the responsibility of parenting these children feels really heavy and I wonder if I am teaching them everything they need to know. Well, on Friday night, Mike and I attended a special meeting just for parents, held here in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. Elder Ballard and Elder Rasband were in attendance, as well as other general authorities from our church. It was a casual, candid setting and I really enjoyed learning from these men. I promised to share my notes here. I hope you find them as helpful as I did.
On overcoming spiritual apathy: Elder Ballard suggested making prayer, scripture study, family home evening, and family councils a priority. Never allow our love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to be secondary to other things. Don't give ourselves or our children time to become apathetic. Be anxiously engaged in the gospel together.
On social media: Elder Rasband said that we need to strategize. We need to be prayerful and come up with a plan to protect our children from the negative effects of social media. We need to create an environment where our children can come to us with questions. As we answer their questions, we should try to use the Savior's words. We need to set boundaries together on internet/social media use as a family council.
Elder Robbins talked about how unfortunately our children sometimes seek their self worth in the internet. They compare themselves to the perfection they see portrayed there and can feel diminished. He says youth are looking for their identity on the internet, so point them toward family history work. This will help them find their true identity. The more time they spend on the internet, the lower their self worth will be. As parents, we need to help them to not be idle, and to retire early and arise early. Revelation comes best in the early morning hours. Also, Heavenly Father often publicly praised His Son. How often do we do that? We need to catch our children doing good and praise them for it. If we observe them, we can give them a true reflection of who they really are. Make a conscious effort to notice the good. We are their best mirror and can help them recognize their worth. Also, use For the Strength of Youth to plan family home evening lessons.
On pornography: Elder Costa made four good points. 1- Assume they have been exposed to it already. 2- Hold frequent father interviews. Guided by the spirit, ask questions to determine if it is a pattern or just a single incident. 3- Turn on our devices only once our intention is clear. Once you have accomplished your purpose, turn them off again. Don't idly scroll. 4- Have hope. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, anything can be overcome, including pornography.
On preparing for missions: Elder Ballard had some great advice. He said preparation should start early. Make sure our children know our expectations. Know your child's friends. Help them get a job and earn some money so that they know how to work. Help them be responsible for their own things. Teach them to pick up after themselves. Help them to read the Book of Mormon on their own and gain a testimony of it. Sit with your children and have them bear their testimony of Jesus Christ to you. If they can't, or aren't sure of His role in their life, help them to learn about Him. Read Preach My Gospel together. Teach them the value of one soul. Help them to understand what Christ did in Gethsemane for each of us.
I don't remember who said this, but we need to respect our child's agency. We teach them the doctrine, but we have to leave them at the crossroads of decision, trusting that the Holy Ghost will guide them and that they will listen.
posted by stephanie at 7:37 AM
Friday, January 27, 2017
How in the world is it Friday already?! This is one of those weeks where the days really flew by, which makes the weekend even more exciting, doesn't it? We are all ready for a break.
Tonight Mike and I get to go to a large, regional meeting at church for parents of teenagers. And then tomorrow night I get to bring my class of 14-16 year old girls to another meeting just for the teens. I will take copious notes and share them next week. I am really looking forward to hearing the wisdom from some leaders in our church on the issues parents of teens face these days. I think it's going to be good.
I talked about this on instagram the other day, but I'll share it here, too. Elliot's reading has really improved since we started taking turns reading the scriptures out loud during dinner. I used to read the scriptures to the kids in the morning while they ate their breakfast, and that worked fine. But this school year our schedules have changed and dinner time reading is a better fit for our family. We keep a set of inexpensive scriptures on a cake stand in the middle of our table at all times, so they are easily accessible and easily replaceable, since we pass them around while we are eating and greasy fingers are inevitable. It is a nice break from the evening rush.
I'm in a major dinner rut. We've been eating too many potatoes and eggs at our house lately. What is your go-to dinner recipe? I'd love to try something new.
I hope the sun is shining wherever you are this weekend!
posted by stephanie at 7:43 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Leslie flew into my town and then drove with me to California to see my other sister, Julianne, who was visiting with her kids (including brand new darling Helena). The three of us span the distance of the United States and it's not very often that we are all together.
There is just something about the ocean breeze and the sound of the waves pounding the sand. I don't get to the beach nearly often enough, and it felt so good. Especially because I was there with my sisters and my mom!
I have two brothers still in Southern California. Lincoln is a dentist. Elliot and Lincoln's son, David, are best buddies. And Stella and cousin Sadie pick up right where they left off every single time. Cousin friends are the best kinds of friends.
My other Southern California brother is Matt, of Album Surf. We visited his shop in San Clemente and loaded up on Album stickers (which now cover everything in my house) and Album shirts and baby Helena smiles, too.
We spent a really nice morning with my grandparents, who live in Orange. I grew up just a minute away from them and their house still feels like home.
And of course, Ruby's! My cute sister-in-law, Mimi, snapped this photo of our crew. Fun times. Yummy veggie burgers.
Can't wait to go back.
posted by stephanie at 9:11 AM
Monday, January 23, 2017
There are so many really wonderful promises in that little paragraph. We try to read the Book of Mormon together as a family during dinner, but hearing this quote again yesterday made me want to make sure we don't miss a night. I want the blessings that Elder Romney promised for my family, and I know that we can have them if we are faithful and diligent in our reading.
Something else that I loved that Elder Romney said in his talk: "If we would avoid adopting the evils of the world, we must pursue a course which will daily feed our minds with and call them back to the things of the Spirit. I know of no better way to do this than by daily reading the Book of Mormon."
I have read the Book of Mormon lots of times in my life, but I have really grown to love it the past few years (not coincidentally because I've made studying it, not just reading it, a higher priority in my life). I find answers to my questions on how to parent my children, how to love my neighbor, and how to follow Jesus Christ in its pages. I find strength to stay true to my religion, and most of all, I find peace.
I'd love to share a copy of it with you, if you'd like. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll pop one in the mail to you!
posted by stephanie at 8:52 AM
Friday, January 20, 2017
Happy weekend, indeed! My kids and I had a really fun trip to California this week, but we are happy to be back at home with Mike. We have nothing at all planned for the next few days except sushi with friends and a whole lot of laundry and homework catch-up. It sounds really nice, actually.
If you read anything on the internet today, I hope it is this: In Defense of the Ordinary. And then have your kids read it, too.
A few excerpts: "Why isn't it enough to just be a kind person? Why can't we spend our time doing service hours because we love the Savior, not because we are trying to achieve the perfect college essay? Why can't we choose an extra-curricular or a class because we want to try it, not because it's going to help us reach some high goal or prove our worth? Not everyone is going to be the best at everything. In fact, very VERY few of us will be the best at anything. And that's ok.
"We are special because we are HIS. We are worthy because we were born. That is all that matters. And yes, that may make us average, in the sense that everyone qualifies for such a designation, but since when was that not enough?
"We should all strive for greatness, but we should expand its meaning and do it for ourselves, not society's expectations. It's about who we want to become, not who we want people to think we are. And it should be rooted in God's desires for us."
YES! Yes! Yes. I love this and I want my children to know it. Being kind and being good at loving others are far superior to maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
It's supposed to be rainy here this weekend. I always feel like baking when it's rainy. I made these whole wheat carrot muffins yesterday for the kids' afternoon snack. We are trying to get back to some good habits after our vacation and they really hit the spot.
Have a good weekend!
posted by stephanie at 6:15 AM
Friday, January 13, 2017
We have the eleven o'clock time slot at church this year, which makes walking to church much more appealing than the eight thirty slot. Plus the weather has been really fantastic. I love January. I hope it never ends.
Here's something exciting: Dandee is back to blogging! I have loved her blog for years and I am so happy that she is writing there again. I know blogging isn't as popular as it once was, but I will love it forever and ever.
I keep thinking I am going to get back on my no added sugar routine, but I have had the hardest time since the new year started. But! Every day is a new day and a fresh start and maybe today is the day. (But it's probably not.)
I've been working on lots of sewing projects lately, which means I have been watching quite a few shows. I made it through all of the seasons of the Great British Sewing Bee, and now I'm half way through Victoria. Great Britain makes the best tv. That's all there is to it.
Something I'm looking forward to this weekend: My sister is flying in to town and then we're driving to California together to see our other sister who is visiting there for a few days. Hooray!
I hope you have a fun weekend!
posted by stephanie at 7:51 AM