If you have found me through Mother Letters, welcome to my house. Feel free to make yourself at home and look around.
Put your feet up on the coffee table, see what I have in the pantry, and enjoy our time together.
If you would like to read my entire Mother Letter, click here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Favorite Christmas Recipes

I have so many recipes that I love during the holidays. I wanted to record and share some of my favorites:
Nothing says Christmas like the smell of gingerbread! I am not a fan of rolling, cutting and decorating cookies, so as much as I like the IDEA of gingerbread boys, it just causes, stress, frustration and a big mess. It's not going to happen. This is my alternative so that I can still get my ginger fix, both taste and smell. I sent these home with cub scouts this year and within 20 min a mom called me for the recipe. Yep, they are that good!

Yummy Ginger Snaps

6 TB margarine
½ c white sugar
½ c brown sugar
2 egg whites
¼ c molasses
2 c flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp soda
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
Cream sugars and margarine. Beat in egg wites and add molasses. Stir in dry ingredients, mixing well. Spoon by tsp full onto cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 min @ 375º.

The holidays are not complete, and I am not exaggerating, without homemade Wassail. This will bring visions of old fashioned Christmases on waves of delicious aromas.

5 c sugar
4 quarts water
2 TB whole cloves
4 fresh lemons or 2c lemon juice
12 cinnamon sticks
4 quarts orange juice (prepared)
1 gallon apple cider
Boil sugar and water. Add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Boil 10 min, cool and then add juices. Let stand 1 hour. Strain. Serve hot. Keep leftovers refridgerated. WARNING: This recipe makes 3 gallons of wassail!

I could eat a whole pan of Christmas Jell-o Salad all by myself I love it that much. My mother usually makes this at Christmas time, unfortunately, she did not make it this year and I really missed it! Paul is not crazy about it and so if I make it, I would end up eating the whole thing myself!

Christmas Salad
1 sm pkg lime Jell-o
½ lb. marshmallows
½ pt whip cream
2- 3oz pkg cream cheese
½ pt mayo (or a little less)
1 med. can crushed pineapple
1c pineapple juice
1 pkg cherry Jell-o
Dissolve lime Jell-o in 1c boiling water. Add and melt marshmallows. Add 1c pineapple juice. Cool. Mix cream cheese and mayo together, then add to mixture along with whip cream adn pineapple. Set until firm. Make cherry Jell-o according to directions. When cooled, spoon carefully on top of green layer and set. Cut into squares to serve. Pretty and tasty!

Last year, we began our own tradition of decorating graham cracker houses. Although I glue the houses together ahead of time, (We don't need the kind of frustration that comes with trying to build them with real gingerbread and frosting, at least not until the kids are quite a bit older!) we still need some good old Royal frosting to stick the pounds and pounds of candy, and marshmallow santas and snowmen onto and around the houses.

Royal Frosting
3 egg whites (room temperature)
4c powdered sugar
½ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
Beat all ingredients at high speed for 5-10 min. Use immediately. Can be stored for short time covered with a damp cloth. Re-beating will not restore texture. Yield 2½ cups.

So many of our holiday memories are tied to yummy traditional tastes and smells. I love anything that brings both into my home and helps to recreate memories for me and my family as well as making new memories.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Message

A few years ago, we received our stake newsletter which had this article on the front page. It is written by a church leader who is one of the most powerful speakers I have heard. I like to read it each Christmas season. I wanted to get it down in more than one place just in case it gets misplaced like so many things do.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Wise Woman Told Me

The other day, Little One asked me why I put on make-up. I was taken back to a conversation I had with my mother as a young teenager. I asked her a similar question. I wanted to know why she would go to all the trouble of fixing her hair and make-up when she knew she wouldn't even be leaving the house that day. Her answer has stuck with me all these years. She said that in part, she did it for when my dad comes home, but more importantly she did it for herself. She told me that she always felt more ready to tackle her day, and therefore accomplished more. She also felt more confident and better about herself.
I have found this to be true for me too. If I hang out in my pajamas all day I accomplish very little. Now don't get me wrong, this in no way means that I am bright and shiny by 7 am. Today for example, I threw on some clothes and a hat over my "Pippi braids" as Paul calls them so I could drive carpool and then come home to till the garden and shovel MORE dirt. Then later I will be digging up raspberries to transplant for my huge raspberry patch that I have been dreaming of for years. But, at some point today, I will shower and do my hair (if only a pony tail), and put on some make-up because it makes me feel better! Some days it is 5pm before I get to this point but I still do it because getting there eventually is better than not getting there at all!
I am not a spa day kind of girl. I've never had a pedicure or manicure, unless you count that one fake nail I got to match the others when my nail broke 3 days before my wedding. I buy my make-up at Target or the grocery store,wherever I happen to be when I remember. I get my hair cut, etc once every 4 or 5 months. You get the idea. However, I hope to never stop making myself feel ready to tackle my world! Besides, it gives Hubby an unspoken message about the kind of day I've had. If he comes home to a make-upless face, he knows he better be on his game because it's been one of those days. :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Conversations From the Back Seat

We decided with sick kiddos, cold nights, and plenty to do around here, that we would forgo our planned camping trip in favor of a stay-cation.

On the way home today, these were some of the things heard from the back seat. Keep in mind that these are overlapping conversations. No one actually takes turns talking.

Sunshine: "Watch out Mom, the brave squirrel is coming!"
Mom: "What will the brave squirrel do? Why do I have to 'watch out'?"
Sunshine: "He will kill us" (I attribute this to having older brothers??!!)
Mom: "Why would he do that?"
Sunshine: "Ummm"

Then Little One pipes up: "Mom, my top lip is spicy."
Uncontrolled laughter from Hubby.

In the meantime, from the back seat, #1 chanting: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, antidisestablishmentarianism, qugzuang..... (he is fascinated by long words)

Sunshine: "It's okay Mom, the nice squirrel is coming."
Mom: "Oh good, what is the nice squirrel going to do?"
Sunshine: "He's going to kill us."
Mom: "That's not very nice."

This does not include the "Oww", "Ooch", and "Ahh"s coming from the back seat in a never ending game of how many subtle (and not so subtle) ways can I torture my brother, which resulted in our "hands up" consequence which we find very effective! If they work their way through "keep your hands to yourself" warnings, we then say, "hands up!" Which means they must hold their hands up above their heads until they are told they can lower them, or we reach our destination.

Hubby just informed me of some riddles I missed while dozing (I tend to do that in the car) on the way up the mountain.  #1 was telling riddles to which Freckles would answer something to do with farting. Every. Single. One. (That's fluffing for some of you, we used to try... some days I still do) For example,
#1: "...so, how did he get the handcuffs off?" 
Freckles: "uhh, he farted?"
This was then accompanied by raucous laughter. I'm glad I wasn't coherent for that part. But hey, they are 8 and 10 year old boys, and no matter what their mother says, anything to do with bodily functions is hilarious. I just hope with coaching and some maturity, they will eventually grow out of this genre of humor... Or maybe not.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Teachers and Student

Last night Hubby and I stayed up late to finish my homework assignment that I forgot was due yesterday. I signed up for Freckles' "star of the week" week at back to school night, the first week of school. Unfortunately, I forgot to write it on the calendar. My little boy tried to tell me when he got home from school but I was busy cleaning up my 8th potty training incident of the day. He tried to remind me as I frantically tried to throw dinner together because the aforementioned incident set me back a precious 20 minutes. He tried to tell us as we sang a primary song to which we couldn't remember the words as we fought the frustration of having 10 minutes before bedtime to pull off Family Home Evening. When we finally got to the family business portion of Family Night, he took his time to inform us that he was supposed to have a "cool" poster with tons of pictures and a treat. He should have had it yesterday but "that's okay, I can take it tomorrow". I was a humbled mother. He was forgiving, flexible, understanding, and positive. If that wasn't enough, he was trusting and showed confidence that I would mother up* to the task and not let him down. This was his chance to shine in front of his classmates and enjoy the spotlight. He had confidence that even though I had not lived up to my responsibilities, I would make everything right.

*Mother up: derived from the saying "man up" but referring to the expectations and responsibilities a mother must live up to. Though I've never been a man or been expected to "man up" I believe to "mother up" is more difficult with more lasting consequences. Think about it.
This morning, when Freckles saw the Rice Krispie treats Hubby had made and the poster I made complete with stars I luckily happened to have on hand and poor quality photos printed on my printer at 10:30 pm, he exclaimed “This is so cool, thanks Mom!” My heart leaped with gratitude for my pack rat tendencies which vomit supplies at urgent moments.
And then my heart softened again with humility. As the kids all ran off to school, I flashed back to yesterday afternoon, when I ranted at my other child who had forgotten to turn in the homework that he had finally completed a week late. This was after countless (not so patient) reminders, and being grounded for 3 days. I mentally replayed the last strand of my patience slipping through my fingertips. As I reflected on all of the positive attributes Freckles had displayed with all of his 8 years of earthly experience, I found myself in awe of the spirit of Christ evident in my little boy. I was ashamed. As a mother I should be the example. I should be the one showing Christ-like love, mercy, patience, forgiveness. How can my child’s feeling of self worth and knowledge of his mother’s love, trust, and confidence compare with missing math worksheets? I am reminded of a better way to motivate. Unfortunately, in the frustration, exasperation, and anger of a moment I forget what I know.

The longer I have been a mother, the more I realize I have to learn and apply. There is so much my children can teach me. I hope I can be a good student in the short time I have them as teachers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Snickerdoodles and playdoh

A couple of weeks ago at a gathering, I was asked for the following two recipes. They are some of our favorites. So here they are:

Hubby's Favorite Snickerdoodles
½ c butter
½ c shortening
1½ c sugar
2 eggs
2¼ c flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp soda
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1½ Tbsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400º. Cream butter, shortening and sugar together. Add eggs. Blend in dry ingredients except 2 T sugar and 1T cinnamon. Roll dough into balls. Roll balls in mixture of 2 T sugar and cinnamon. Place 2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 min. They are done when they crack on top but are not browned. If overcooked they will not be soft. However, placing them in an air tight container with a slice of bread can sometimes restore moisture and softness.
#1 loves to make these! Kids love to roll them into balls and roll them in the cinnamon and sugar.

My favorite Soft playdoh
1 c flour
1 c water
1 Tbsp cream of tartar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
½ c salt
food coloring

Mix all ingredients and cook over med-low heat. Cool. Knead. Store in a sealed container or bag. Kids love to help add and mix ingredients before cooking. This stuff lasts an amazingly long time in the refrigerator. I recommend making a batch for each child so they can choose their own color and have plenty to play with.

My kids love to help me make both of these recipes. In fact, I think we will be making playdoh tomorrow afternoon! We love to do bubbles in the summer too. Be sure to check out our recipe for those here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mother's Day

For me Mother's day is a love/hate relationship. I love that my sweet hubby works hard to make me breakfast in bed, my kids make cards and pick dandelions and other wildflowers and smother me in "I love you"s and kisses and hugs. Hubby is also a master at picking just the right card to make me cry and manages to find the perfect gift for me. Some years it's jewelry, some times it's a carpet cleaner or miter saw (hint, hint), but whatever he gets it's always just perfect. I know without a doubt I am loved. Who wouldn't want to celebrate that?
I guess the hate part comes in when I reflect on my idea of the kind of mother I wanted to become. The Norman Rockwell picture of warm chocolate chip cookies in a tidy house. The listening, sympathetic ear and hugging arms readily available at all times. Fun educational crafts and projects always waiting in the wings, ready at a moments notice. Infinite patience and good advice for every heart break. Knowing just what to do in any given situation. Enabling them to participate and experience every sport, every instrument, educational opportunity while still managing to find balance to play and have a carefree childhood. To have an unending source of energy, and never be "too tired". Somewhere deep inside, past all logic, my guilt says I am less of a mother than I could be, not the mother I should be, not the mother my kids need to help them reach their full potential. As Hubby and I discussed this, he told me to think of it this way... I am the perfect grandma in training. I think being a grandparent would be great! Have them when you want them and when your patience or energy runs out, or they have a dirty diaper, send them home.

I think the most amazing thing about motherhood is when you realize why the Savior asked us to be like little children. By design, they are forgiving and offer unconditional love. A child looks for reasons to smile and laugh. They choose to be happy. When I ask my girls if they are happy they always say yes. When asked why the answers are always, in my mind, small and simple things like "It's sunshiney outside" or "I'm drawing a picture" or "Cause I'm with my mom". It is only as we reach adulthood that we put on the blinders of drudgery, focusing on the "have to"s and losing sight of the "get to"s. Inately, children don't feel guilt but as a mother, sometimes I let it consume my life.

Oh, to be more childlike. To want to dance even when there isn't any music. To laugh because I can't hold it in any longer. To blow dandelion seeds without the guilt of unfinished chores. To find shapes in the clouds. To not only forgive but forget so completely. To love without judgement or expectations. And to play, to really play.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Family Favorite Recipes

I thought I would post a couple of our family's favorite dinner recipes. The first recipe, I adapted from one I found on a blog that I have since lost track of. If anyone knows which it came from I would love to find it again. It is quick, it's simple, it's healthy, and (drum roll.....) we ALL like it! It is rare that dinner gets a cheer from every member of the family. Usually there is at least one family member rolling their eyes, moaning, gagging or some combination thereof.

Veggie Sausage Skillet

1lb pasta (we like penne or bowtie)
1 package sausage (we used Hillshire Farms smoked, the oval one)
1 pint grape tomatoes (cut in half)
minced garlic
olive oil
grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

any add ins, we enjoy broccoli, cauliflower, squash, zucchini, mushrooms etc.
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pasta and veggies

1. Start by cooking pasta according to the directions. I am lazy so I add my veggies about half way through so I only use one pot.

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sausage, garlic, tomatoes

2. Meanwhile, slice sausage into discs and brown in a large skillet

3. Slice grape tomatoes in half and add them to the skillet with minced garlic.

4. When pasta is finished cooking, drain and then add to skillet. Pour in some extra virgin olive oil and stir well.
5. Serve with grated cheese on top. This recipe is different everytime I make it depending on the ingredients I have on hand. The only thing that has to be constant is the sausage and some kind of pasta for it to be a hit.  Hubby likes to season his with Tony's seasoning to add a little kick.

The second recipe comes from my good friend Alaina. She is an amazing cook that just makes things up as she goes along. As a result she doesn't deal with many exact measurements, so my stuff never turns out quite as good as hers. I think, just maybe, she likes it that way. ;) I want to be like her when I grow up! (Even though I happen to be older than she is).
Chicken Penne Pasta
Penne pasta
Rotelli's Alfredo sauce
1-2 c Italian cheese blend
enough chicken to feed your family
I add veggies as well. Some of our favorites are chopped asparagus, mushrooms, and spinach.
1. Marinate chicken over night or all day (don't cut short, the marinating time really makes it tender and flavorful) in:
virgin olive oil, teriyaki sauce, Italian dressing, black pepper, Cajun seasoning (we use Tony's) and a little meat tenderizer.
2. Cook pasta according to the directions. I add veggies to the pasta for the last half of cooking time.
3. Grill chicken and cube.
4. Drain pasta and veggies. Add chicken and stir in Alfredo sauce and cheese. Warm and serve. You can also add a little chopped cilantro too.
This recipe is also met with "Yummm, we're having that chicken pasta stuff again." As I mentioned before, I much prefer this response to "Ewwww, how much do I HAVE to eat?"
Here's hoping your dinner menu receives rave reviews from your family. I know mine are my most difficult critics.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's Been HOW MANY Years?!

Well, come June it will have been 20 years since Hubby and I graduated from High School. If you can't read that number you must be as old as we are. In an effort to.... um.... uh.... honestly, I'm sitting here and can't think of a reason why, Hubby and I have looked up our Alma maters and determined when our reunions are. I was relieved to know I have until August to shed 20 lbs. and 20 years, minus the big hair. No seriously, they posted our graduation pictures on the website and I almost reverted to the fetal position. Wowza! The only consolation I have is that there are plenty of photos on there of people with bigger hair than mine.
Anyway, I didn't go to my 5th because I was in Guatemala on a mission. I didn't go to my 10th because I had a 5 month old baby, the baby fat to go with it, and a husband and that was MIA because he was in Puerto Rico. Yeah, that wasn't happening. So, this is it. Time to overcome those high school insecurities that still I carry somewhere deep inside the grown-up I've become. Tee hee hee (Sorry, can't help it, I don't think I'll ever be truly grown up!)
I wouldn't describe my self as being shy, I just didn't think anyone knew who I was. This was confirmed in college when I went to a Halloween dance and, forgive the arrogance, I looked good. It was an Elvira type costume without quite so much cleavage. Anyway, a guy I knew from junior high and high school who incidentally, I had a crush on at one point, came up and started hitting on me. He gave me a fake name and when I called him on it and told him a little of what I knew about him, I could see in his eyes that he still didn't quite remember me. I really felt forgetable then! His friend remembered me though, he even knew my name. Nice guy.
Since returning to my old stomping grounds, after 12 years or so, I have run into many people from high school, some of whom I didn't remember or recognize. This has caused me to realize that all those people who seemed so "all that" and confident were just trying to get through the best they could. Just like the rest of us.
I've often thought that I would like to go back to high school with the knowledge I have now. Just for a little while, I certainly wouldn't want to go through it ALL over again. Ugggh! For a little while though, I could have a lot of fun!
For what it's worth, in August I will be facing my misconceptions and biases. I think it will be interesting and enlightening. Eliptical, don't fail me now! Six and a half months and counting!