Friday, March 27, 2015

happy weekend

I decided to strip the paint off of my floors. For lots of reasons, but the main one being that we had a water leak and had to replace part of it. So rather than match the paint on the new section (probably a 2 hour job), I decided to strip it all off and do something different (feels like a 200 hour job). I hope it's worth it. I finished up the stripping and sanding this week. I'm not sure my hands and wrists (and knees) will ever be the same, but I am excited to try a white wash.

In other news, Oliver's car, the Blur, placed third in the Pinewood Derby. Always a fun time, that derby.

And Mabel is competing in state Geography Bee this morning. Eek! I'm so nervous for her.

This weekend is going to be a busy one, unfortunately, but I am hoping for a nap anyway.

Have fun!

Monday, March 23, 2015

spring break

Sometimes I think it would be nice to take a trip during spring break. We could go somewhere beachy or snowy. We could have an adventure! But then I remember that we are home bodies. And it would be such a shame to miss the perfect (and so very fleeting) beautiful spring weather here in the desert if we left. And Mike has to work anyway. And so instead we go to the library and load up on books. And we stay up as late as we want, reading in bed. And when we wake up in the morning we pick our books right back up again and read until we absolutely have to eat a bowl of cereal or we will perish from hunger. And maybe we go to the movies. Or the park. And really, that's all you need for one fantastic spring break. At least at our house.

Friday, March 13, 2015

happy weekend

When we first bought our house, it was winter and this wisteria vine was dormant and leafless. In my ignorance, I thought it was dead and tearing it out was top on my list of "improvements" to make to the house. Can you imagine what a mistake that would have been?! Oh man, I am so glad we kept it. I think its blooms get more and more impressive every spring.

This weekend marks the beginning of our Spring Break. Hooray! We're not going anywhere or doing anything terribly exciting, but I am looking forward to it nonetheless. I'm mostly looking forward to sleeping in. These early school mornings will be the death of me.

I was listening to an interview with Sheri Dew yesterday while I sewed. I'm pretty sure that I am turning into the world's biggest baby because I found my eyes filling with tears more than once as I listened. If you have an hour to kill, and are interested in the challenges and strengths of women, I suggest listening to Sister Dew.

One of my favorite quotes from the interview:

"This is a day when the adversary has launched an all out attack against womanhood, because he knows, he absolutely knows, that the influence of a righteous woman is enormous and that it spans generations. He would have us be disinterested in marriage and motherhood, confused by the world's view of men and women, too harried by the pace of life to really live the gospel and to let it penetrate our souls. At all costs, he wants to keep us at arm's length from Jesus christ. For if we don't come unto Christ, meaning that we never turn our lives over to Him, we will go through our probation here on our own, rather than experiencing what the savior promised when he said, 'Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'"

Oh, I hope I am not "too harried" to live the gospel. I am thankful for inspiration and for the chance to re-evaluate and start again. Spring seems like a good time to do that, doesn't it?

Have a great weekend!

Monday, March 09, 2015

family home evening

In the past, we have had a hard time holding family home evening consistently. But I was recently reminded of the blessings that have been promised to families who regularly have family home evening (wonderful things like "increased love at home and obedience to parents", "faith in the hearts of the youth and power to combat the evil influences and temptations that beset them"), and so I am re-committed to this practice. My goal for this school year has been consistency. It is easy for me to feel overwhelmed by the idea of teaching my children all of the things they need to know to make it back to our Heavenly Father in these family home evenings. And in my feelings of inadequacy, in years past, I would often skip family home evening all together. To me, consistency means that every Monday evening, we are together as a family. It's as simple as that. Sometimes that means we have a gospel lesson. Sometimes we play a game. Sometimes we just sit and talk. But we are together, that is most important. I want you to know that I have felt those promised blessings in our home this school year. And in our consistency, the responsibility to teach my children the gospel doesn't feel so heavy anymore.

Friday, March 06, 2015

happy weekend

This is something happy: My brother, Matt, and two of his boys are in town for a quick Spring Training trip. Spring Training is huge here! And my boys are in baseball/cousin heaven.

I've been sewing a lot lately. While I sew, I like to watch or listen to something. I made it through a whole season of Project Runway, which was fun, but then I started to feel like I could maybe use my time more wisely. So I started listening to Conversations on the Mormon Channel. They are informal radio interviews with members of the church who have interesting stories or points of view. This is going to sound crazy, but I was getting really discouraged about the sewing projects I was working on. But listening to these uplifting conversations took my discouragement away and filled me with inspiration instead. If I wasn't sure how to proceed on my sewing project, as I listened, the answer would come. And I didn't end the day feeling stressed and impatient and bogged down. Oh! It has made such a difference.

I have particularly enjoyed Elder and Sister Bednar, Elder and Sister Perry, and Elder and Sister Holland.

I think my brother is going to make us pancakes this morning, and he makes the world's best pancakes! So our weekend is off to a good start. I hope yours is, too. Have a happy one!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

banana blueberry muffins

I know I've mentioned this already, but we are trying to eat less sugar at our house. I have done this on my own before, but Mike and I both felt that our whole family could benefit from this change. My children get so much junk at school and church and everywhere else, that we don't need to have it at home, too. It has been a few weeks now, and we have been very pleased with how our children have adapted, and we are excited to continue this habit (hopefully for the rest of our lives). We are eating lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and protein, of course. But I still like to have something on hand for an after school snack. Something fresh from the oven, like a muffin. I've tried a few recipes in the past few weeks, but this one has been my favorite so far:

Better Banana Muffins

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup or so blueberries (optional)

Mix the mashed bananas and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the melted butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla. Then add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

makes 12 muffins

Friday, February 27, 2015

happy weekend

The orange blossoms are here! Hooray! I wish I could send a whiff of the warm, sweet air from my backyard to yours. There is nothing better than the smell of orange blossoms. Nothing!

This weekend is full of happy, busy things. Things like school carnivals, soccer games, and neighborhood fiestas. February was good to us this year and I will be sad to see it end.

The best thing I saw this week? My two favorite Pauls, singing my most favorite song. (The whole thing is good, but you can skip to 5:42 if you want.)

What's the best thing you saw this week?

Have a happy weekend!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In which I conquer my fear of Medjool dates.

I guess it's more of an intimidation, really. I've seen lots of whole food recipes featuring dates, and since we are trying to decrease the amount of added sugar in our family's diet, I thought it was time for me to give them a try.

Granola Bars, take two

1 package (usually 1 lb) fancy Medjool dates, pitted and smooshed in a food processor
1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter
1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup crisp brown rice cereal
1/4 cup unsweetened flake coconut
1 tablespoon flax seed
1 tablespoon chia seed
2 tablespoons hemp seed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
some chocolate chips (mini are better)

After pitting and smooshing the dates, add them to the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together. It becomes quite thick, so this is easiest to do by hand, I've found.

Press the mixture onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I put another piece of parchment paper over the top and used a roller to get them nice and compact and smooth. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, then cut, wrap in individual servings, and store in the fridge.

Homemade granola bars are great because you can add whatever you like. Dried fruit, nuts, seeds - just so long as you don't add too many things to overpower the stickiness of the dates. Otherwise you might end up with a crumbly mess.

I found some great recipes and ideas here, here, here, and here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

We were together. I forget the rest.

Quote above by my favorite Walt Whitman. It very accurately describes of the past fourteen years of my life.

You see, fourteen years ago this morning, Mike and I were married in the Los Angeles LDS temple. It was a quiet, easy day. He arrived with his parents. I arrived with mine. And when the short ceremony was over, we left together, sealed as husband and wife.

The ensuing years have been good. I don't really remember many of the details, but I don't need to. Mike and I were together, and that is enough. Mike is my best friend, my partner, my everything. There is no life for me without him in it. And this life that we have built together exceeds all of my dreams.

Friday, February 20, 2015

happy weekend

Stella stayed home from school for a couple of days this week because she said her throat felt "wet". I don't even know what that means. In her defense, she had a runny nose and a pretty awful cough, too. We both enjoyed not having to rush her out the door in the morning. And Elliot really liked having a playmate. We're counting down until spring break next month, and then summer will come soon after that. We're getting trunky over here!

I just finished remaking a wedding dress for a bride. It was sort of a big job, so to reward myself, I ordered a little print from artist Emily Jeffords. I have long admired her work and I am excited to have some of it hanging in my home.

Also, are you a cat person? I'm not, but the other five people who live in my house most definitely are. They thought this video of cats welcoming soldiers home was really funny. Cats can be so mean.

I am looking forward to going out with Mike tonight, but other than that our weekend, as usual, is wide, wide open. Have a good one!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

better bread

I love our bread maker. Like, really really love it. I use it a few times each week, and for the past four years I have made nearly all of the bread, buns, pizza dough, and rolls our family has eaten with it. I can't imagine running my house without it, actually. But, I made a mistake on Sunday. I threw some dough in the machine to make a loaf of bread, but I accidentally set the dough cycle, instead of the bread cycle. I had no choice but to transfer the dough to a bread pan and bake it in my oven! And that's when I realized that no matter how amazing my bread maker is, bread baked in my own oven tastes a thousand times better. The crust was soft and chewy, not hard and crispy. The entire loaf was light and fluffy. My kids ate the whole thing, crusts included, for lunch that day. I'm not sure I'll ever use the bread machine for baking again.

Irish Potato Brown Bread is my favorite everyday bread recipe. Except I skip the bread flour and only use whole wheat flour.

From now on, when I need a loaf of bread, I will use the dough cycle on my machine. Once the dough cycle is complete, I will knead the dough a few times and put it in a lightly greased pan to rise for 45 minutes or so. Then I will bake it in my 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. Once it's out of the oven, I will rub the top with butter to make it glisten. And then we will try really hard to make it last for a few days, at least.

Friday, February 13, 2015

happy weekend

It's Friday already? Are we sure about that? Man alive, this week was a blur. A big blur of early mornings and homework and sewing and my aching, aching old lady back. (Those last two are most likely related.) It took 35 years, but I think my back has finally turned against me.

Also, I just realized that tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Slow down, February! Mike and I have dinner plans, but I told him not to get me a gift. Not even flowers. Just a hand written note where he tells me how pretty I am and how much he appreciates everything I do for him and the kids. Easy, right?

I hope your weekend is full of love, friends. Have a good one.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

roses are red

Stella's valentines contain all of the best things about Valentine's Day: roses, candy, and original poetry. We had lots of fun making these crepe paper roses to give to her classmates. They were a little difficult for her seven year old fingers, but after wrapping a few, she got the hang of it. She penned the poem, which we printed on card stock and tied to the stem of the lollipop.

p.s. Those teeth!

Monday, February 09, 2015

February is my favorite.

I was sitting at the park behind my house the other afternoon, surrounded by good friends and neighbors, watching Elliot play soccer in our neighborhood soccer league that is run completely by volunteers. Stella was on the playground nearby with her best cousins. I could see Oliver across the street at the elementary school, playing a pick up game of baseball. The sun was shining, and the breeze in the shade was just right.

I am thankful for this happy, simple life that I lead. I've always known that it is in the recognition of small things that contentment and happiness grow, but I was glad to be reminded of it that day in the park.

It is easy to be happy in February in Arizona, when the sky is blue and the flowers are blooming and the sun is bright but not too hot yet. I wish I could send a little sunshine your way.

Happy Monday!

Friday, February 06, 2015

happy weekend

I took Elliot in for his Kindergarten check up this week. I think his least favorite part was having to take his clothes off. Good news is that he's healthy as can be. He's all set for the start of school in August. I am so happy that our neighborhood elementary will start offering half day kindergarten again. I know August is months and months away, but I still can't stand the idea of him going to school all day every day. Half day will ease us both into it, I think.

This weekend Stella is hoping to craft her valentines. Oliver is probably looking forward to staying in his pjs all day. I am sure Mabel is planning on spending time with friends. I would like to make some headway on a big sewing project I'm working on. Mike is most likely scheming up some family weed-pulling and citrus picking. And I don't think Elliot can tell the difference between the weekdays and the weekend yet, so I have a feeling that he'll be happy with anything.

What are you hoping for?

Have a happy weekend!