Friday, April 22, 2016

happy weekend


On school mornings, I wake Stella and Elliot up extra early so that we can read scriptures together before Mabel and Oliver leave for their bus. It is hard to wake them up when I know that they could easily sleep for another hour, but this is why I do it: Elder Richard G. Scott said, "Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media." I have to repeat this to myself almost every morning as I hear Stella's alarm beeping downstairs.

Before I started waking them up early, our mornings were hectic. I was always hurrying slow-moving Stella along, and very often she got out the door nearly late to school, and not on the best foot. Now our mornings are easy and slow. There is plenty of time to finish up last night's homework, or jump on the trampoline, or spend half an hour in the bathroom if they need to. Waking up early to read scriptures together completely changed the dynamic of our mornings. Our mornings are mostly peaceful and calm now. They are happy.

Anyway, I have a testimony of early morning scripture study. Right now I read to them while they eat their breakfast, but I know eventually I need to get them more involved. How does it work at your house?

My kids are headed to my in-law's cabin this weekend. Mike and I have an overnight retreat for his new MBA class. Even though we're local, they're putting us up at a hotel. I'm hoping to skip out on some of the meetings and take a nap. It's going to be fun, but I already miss the kids!

What do you have planned?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

teamwork


Mike and I are making slow and steady progress on our yard. On Monday we built a new gate. I wish I'd taken a before picture. Our old gate was in sorry shape, dragging on the ground, still scratched up from when we had a dog a million years ago, painted a faded red, and just generally completely worn out.

We worked together all day long and finished our new gate with just enough time to hurry to Elliot's baseball game. Mike and I do a lot of things together, but this day just felt really good, for some reason. I think it must have been our matching shirts. Nothing says "team" like matching shirts. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

less sugar buttermilk syrup


It's funny how what I think of as healthy has changed over the years. I used to think that no matter what was in a food, as long as I made it at home, it was healthy. For example: my first go at buttermilk syrup. I would never in a million years put corn syrup into something nowadays!

Once I started making most things from scratch, I realized that maybe I could choose better ingredients, or things with fewer ingredients. And definitely things with less added sugar. It doesn't matter if it's corn syrup or white sugar or organic honey, in my opinion. The less of those things in my family's diet, the better.

Who knows how I'll feel about that in a few years, but I suspect that I am on to something.

The fact remains that our family eats lots of pancakes and waffles and french toast. And those foods, as whole wheat and healthy as I make them, taste best when drizzled with sweet syrup. For a long time, this homemade maple syrup was my go-to. But even that has a full cup of sugar in it!

I found this recipe for buttermilk syrup and liked that it only has a few ingredients, but I didn't love all the sugar. So I cut the sugar in half. And you know what? It's completely delicious and totally sweet enough. My kids love it.

Less Sugar Buttermilk Syrup

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the buttermilk and sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and add the baking soda and vanilla. It will foam up a bit, so make sure your pot is large enough.

Best when served warm. Store the leftovers in the fridge and pop in the microwave to warm it up before the next use. Since it's mostly butter, it will separate and solidify a little. Warming it up and giving it a stir is the solution.

Friday, April 15, 2016

happy weekend


Do you have a pet? We have a cat. Her name is Inez. As far as cats go, she is really great. She stays off most of the furniture, she goes outside to use the bathroom, and I've never seen a hairball. Aside from the occasional lizard or bird parts I find on the stairs, I'd say she's the best pet we could have. Which actually isn't saying much, because to be honest, I'm not a pet person. And so why she has chosen me, the only person in our house who ignores her, to be her favorite is a total mystery. I laid down the other day to take a nap and she crawled right up on my chest. Mike will be petting her, and she will be completely content, and then I will walk into the room and she'll leave him to come to me. I don't ever intentionally touch her because then I will start sneezing, so why, why does she love me the best?

In other news, tonight Oliver has a campout, Mabel is babysitting, and Stella is having a late night with her cousins. Phew! What are Mike and Elliot and I going to do?

I just finished reading Brooklyn and The Nightingale. I'd easily recommend both.

I just can't get behind the high-waisted denim look.

And here's a super cool little video about my talented surfboard-making brother, Matt.

Have a happy weekend!

Monday, April 11, 2016

choose the harder right


Howard W. Hunter, a previous prophet said, "Conference time is a season of spiritual revival when knowledge and testimony are increased and solidified that God lives and blesses those who are faithful. It is a time when an understanding that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is burned into the hearts of those who have the determination to serve him and keep his commandments. Conference is the time when our leaders give us inspired direction in the conduct of our lives--a time when souls are stirred and resolutions are made to be better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, more obedient sons and daughters, better friends and neighbors. . ."

That is exactly how I feel about general conference, and why I look forward to it each April and October. I am excited to study the talks further, and I'll probably post my thoughts here, if you don't mind.

I wanted to start with the words of our current prophet, Thomas S. Monson. He didn't speak much at this conference, but what he said was powerful and rang true in my heart.

He said, "May we maintain the courage to defy the consensus. May we ever choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong. As we contemplate the decisions we make in our lives each day--whether to make this choice or that choice--if we choose Christ, we will have made the correct choice."

I believe that our Heavenly Father loves us and wants to guide us, and so he has sent prophets to proclaim his word, even today. Just like the prophets in ancient times, these wise men hold the priesthood and speak with authority. They teach and defend the gospel. And most importantly, they bear witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ. I know that if I follow the counsel that comes from our prophet, I will be blessed.

Read, watch, or listen to President Monson's full talk here.

Friday, April 08, 2016

happy weekend


I feel like I've spent all week recovering from general conference. Every day I find myself looking over my notes from last weekend, trying to soak it all in again. I am excited to start studying some of the talks in greater detail. What's the point of listening if I don't try to incorporate the teachings into my life, you know?

Here's something neat: Mike was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal! Well, not by name, but there's a whole paragraph talking about a "qualified applicant-- an Arizona entrepreneur and married father of four" in this article about his MBA school. I'm so proud of him.

We are all getting pretty trunky over here. Is it summer vacation yet? It's hot outside and we are tired of brushing hair and packing lunches and getting out the door before the bell is going to ring. I'm regretting that we didn't get away for spring break now. Maybe that would have held us over til summer. I'll have to remember that next year.

Have a happy weekend!

Friday, April 01, 2016

happy weekend


Hip hip hooray! It's the weekend! And it's one of my favorite weekends of the whole year--general conference. Plus, our weather has been really fantastic and my house is full of fresh, crisp air, so we are on a roll.

I love this quote from Elder Eyring: "In our day, living prophets and apostles are authorized to speak, teach, and direct with authority from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. . . In general conference twice a year, we are blessed with the opportunity to hear the word of the Lord for us from His servants. That is a privilege beyond price."

You can read Elder Eyring's entire message here.

I love general conference because I find answers to questions, I learn ways to improve my life, and because I hear counsel from a living prophet who speaks for God. But mostly I love general conference because of the peace I feel as I listen. All is right in the world when I am snuggled up with my little family in our basement, eating cinnamon rolls and listening the word of God.

You can watch general conference, too, if you'd like. Find out how here.


Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

a white bedroom


When I went to paint my bedroom, I didn't even test paint swatches. Sometimes I can't be bothered and I just hope for the best. Most of the time that's not a good idea. I picked Swiss Coffee from Behr for my bedroom, because I knew it was a regular, warm white, and I liked that I could just pick up a gallon from the Home Depot without needing any mixing. I don't know if it's because I was painting over a really bright green, but it ended up feeling sort of silvery, which was a happy surprise. Our room feels so much brighter now. I left most of the walls bare, because a bare wall feels quiet and clean, and that makes my brain feel good. But I couldn't resist the "Let's Stay Home" banner. Mike and I are such homebodies. There's no where else we'd rather be together.

And if you had told me 5 years ago that I would happily let a cat sleep on my bed, I would have said you were crazy. Alas.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

short hair


Here's something funny/sad: When I got home from the hairstylist last Saturday, Elliot said, "Mom, why did you cut your hair? It looks terrible."

I've forgiven him.

I've had short hair for most of my life. So going back to short hair wasn't scary. I was ready for a change. Mike totally misses my long hair, and someday I'll grow it out again for him. But for now, I'll happily sport this easy bob. I like to think of it as french gamine short, not middle aged mother short. It's all in the perception. Ha!

Speaking of hair, this article was really funny: Why Everyone on TV Has the Same Hair

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

baseball


It's my most favorite season of the whole year--little league season! We'll be at the baseball fields every night this week, and I don't even mind. Oliver took last year off, but he's back this year and I am so glad.

He pitched for the first time on Saturday, and I was a nervous wreck! Man alive, the pressure of the entire game is on the shoulders of those pitchers. I know Oliver was feeling it, but he bore it well.


I stole this picture from my friend because it is adorable and shows exactly how little league should be-- lots of friends and lots of smiles. Elliot even has his two best cousins on his team. Oh, it's so fun!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter, in a few pictures and one really great quote


Mike rushed home between his meetings yesterday so that we could set the camera on the piano and use the self-timer to snap a family photo all dressed up in our Easter best. I shared this one on instagram, along with this really great quote from Elder Holland:

"One of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so."

I believe that with all my heart. We don't ever need to feel alone in this life, because Jesus Christ is always there. He has felt our pain and suffered for our sins. All He asks is that we follow Him. I am so glad we have a holiday dedicated to celebrating this extraordinary gift.


The girls and I wore our peach and blush and cream dresses, all made by me. I used the same pattern for the girls' dresses (Butterick 3350), and you can see that it lends itself to customization well. Mabel's was made for a school dance and Stella's for her baptism. I used Simplicity 2180 for my dress, which I've made a few times before for myself (seen here at my sister's wedding) and clients. This time I used a blush chiffon, and swapped out the sleeve band for some soft, gathered ruffles. I wanted something feminine and flowy. My favorite part of this pattern is the v-neck back, snapped accidentally by photographer Oliver:




We went to Mike's parents' house that night for dinner and an egg hunt. So many cousins!

It was a really great day. I hope yours was, too.

Friday, March 25, 2016

happy weekend


The kids are off of school on this beautiful Good Friday. After a late night at the Easter Pageant last night, they are sleeping in. I am skipping my run to save my knees, which have been making really weird crunching noises when I bend them, and will spend the morning fighting the losing battle against the weeds in our yard instead.

I am adding The Gift of Grace by President Uchtdorf to my Easter prep reading this weekend. The older I get, the more I realize that if I want a holiday to feel special, or meaningful, it is up to me. I don't want this Eater Sunday to pass me by in a blur of jelly beans and chocolate bunnies. It is so much more than that!

I hope you will feel the peace that Easter can bring this weekend. I know that because Jesus Christ suffered for me (and you), we can be redeemed. We can be forgiven. And we can live with our family again once this life is over. All He requires is that we follow Him.

Here's a great little animated video about what can happen when we choose to follow Him.


Have a peaceful, happy weekend!

Oh, and one little word of advice: if you have a young girl living in your house who likes to receive letters in the mail, find her a pen pal. Stella's pen pal, Audrey, sent her the sweetest Easter package the other day. It was the highlight of Stella's week. She has carried that little bunny tote around with her everywhere!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

hallelujah


I am trying to focus more on Jesus Christ this week, turning my thoughts more often to Him, as we celebrate this week leading up to Easter. Here is a quick video that is helping me this morning, as I get ready for another busy day.

Hallelujah!

p.s. If you are local, this is the last week to view the Easter Pageant at the Mesa Temple. It starts at 8pm, but get there early to grab a seat. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

a bathroom refresh


Alternate title: How to Love Your Bathroom, Even if it Doesn't Have Subway Tile.
Secondary alternate tile: No-one Cares What Your Bathroom Looks Like, Stephanie.

Our master bathroom is a teeny little space right off our bedroom. It was furnished when our home was built, in the dark ages of home decor, 1979. I have hated it since the day we moved in. And for some reason that I can't quite understand, in an effort to "improve" it, I had painted it the worst, most unflattering shade of green.

Ten years later, I finally realized that the remodel of my dreams wasn't going to happen any time soon and that I needed to learn to love this little room--shell-shaped sink, beige shower tiles, and gold linoleum floor and all. (Well, the gold linoleum floor will soon be painted a nice, warm gray, I think. Paint can cure all sorts of ails, I've learned.)

I've always heard that if there is something in your room you don't love, but can't change, try to make it look deliberate. So I chose a pretty, pinkish-peach paint color to blend with the beige shower tiles that even after 36 years are in really great condition. I had always wanted to install paneling or white tile (to match the new tile in the shower that I had dreamed about) on the lower two-thirds of the walls, but decided to make it easy on myself and just paint it a bright white to match the vanity and trim instead. This room gets really great light first thing in the morning, and now it beams. The break in the paint colors makes the ceiling seem ten feet tall, and I really don't mind the lack of paneling or tile.

Another thing that made a big difference: decluttering. I threw everything away that we don't use everyday and stuck in the cabinet instead of on top of the vanity.

I think I can live with it now. And I might even love it a little bit.



Prettiest little cactus painting by Beth Allen. Should I wash my hair today? print by chipper things, can be purchased here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

redemption


In a talk given in General Conference a few years ago entitled "Redemption", Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave insight to what it means to have Jesus Christ as our Redeemer. But to understand that idea, we must first understand the term "redeem".

He says, "In colonial times, labor was in great demand in America. During the 18th and early 19th centuries, potential immigrant laborers were recruited in Great Britain, Germany, and other European countries, but many who were willing to go could not afford the cost of travel. It was not uncommon for these to travel under an indenture or contract, promising to work after their arrival for a certain period of time without wages as payment for their passage. Others came with the promise that family members already in America would pay their fare upon arrival, but if that didn't happen, the newcomers were obliged to pay their own costs through indentured service. The term used to describe these indentured immigrants was 'redemptioners.' They had to redeem the cost of their passage--in a sense, purchase their freedom--by their labor."

And this is where it gets good. He continues, "Among the most significant of Jesus Christ's descriptive titles is Redeemer. As indicated in my brief account of immigrant 'redemptioners,' the word redeem means to pay off an obligation or a debt. Redeem can also mean to rescue or set free as by paying a ransom. If someone commits a mistake and then corrects it or makes amends, we say he has redeemed himself. Each of these meanings suggests different facets of the great Redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ through His Atonement, which includes, in the words of the dictionary, 'to deliver from sin and its penalties, as by a sacrifice made by the sinner.'"

Because I am not perfect, through my sins and mistakes, I have incurred a debt. Justice demands that the debt be paid, but I am not able to do it on my own. Through the mercy of Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice, I can be forgiven and my debt can be cleared. He has redeemed me, and everyone who will come to Him. He has freed me from my sins and given me another chance, and He will continue to do so, as long as I have the desire to follow Him. This gift is available to all, and this is why Easter is so special. I can be forgiven, and healed, and made new.


I watched this video with my Sunday school class yesterday. I thought it was a really good illustration of the Atonement. I think we'll watch it for Family Home Evening this week: