Friday, December 31, 2010

It's New Year's Eve...Do You Know Where Your Shoes Are?


It's New Year's Eve...and at our house, that means a visit from the New Year's Elf. It's a tradition from my childhood that my mother passed down to us from her father.

Simply put your shoes under the Christmas tree (if it is still up---a fake ficus or large plant works too, we have discovered!) and the New Year's Elf will fill the shoes with treats, money, goodies, and trinkets to ring in the New Year.

So, it's New Year's Eve...do you know where your shoes are?
Happy 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons....Sometimes They're Just Sour.


I hope that each of you has had a warm and wonderful Christmas season! I feel as though I have been in a cave for the entire month of December, and am looking forward to a new month and a new year!

Three weeks ago, I was looking forward to a month of endless hopes and wishes---crafts and goodies to make with my kids, Christmas-y places I wanted to take them, holiday parties to attend, shopping, wrapping, finding that just-right-gift, and on and on. However, I could sense that I wouldn't be able to do it all, and I wrote my post about slowing down, realizing I would have to pick and choose some things to avoid frantic overload. What I didn't realize at the time was that not only would I have to slow down a bit, but that I would be forced to come to a sudden halt.

Life handed me a big, fat, juicy lemon in the form of flu just days after that post---you know, with all the yuck that comes with it, and to make a long story, short, I didn't improve much after the first 4 or 5 days. After two different trips to the doctor, they finally took x-rays of my chest to discover that I had pneumonia. (Oh, what fun!)

So yes, crafts, cooking, parties, shopping, all the above, went out the window as we resorted to concentrating on survival to get through the holidays. Luckily, I have a husband who was willing to shop, kids who can clean (getting them to actually do it is another story!), a daughter who makes fabulous pancakes for dinner, and a six year old who simply loves me and shows me in the best ways she can. She wrote me this precious note: (I so love this little peek into her sweet and innocent heart.) Notice that "lamonya" is her phonetic-ish spelling of pneumonia.



I've decided that we don't always get to make lemonade out of lemons that life gives us, but sometimes I think that's ok. Those sour times make us appreciate the sweet, and we are filled with greater gratitude for the blessings we sometimes take for granted each day.

Dealing with lemons also humbles us and gets us on our knees in an effort to be nearer to our Savior...something that I sometimes tend to forget when all around me is sugary and blissful.

If we never experience the unpleasant or miserable on occasion, how do we possibly relate in any way to the suffering that our Savior went through to provide us with a remission of sins and to allow us eternal life? Certainly, our suffering will never come close to the agony he experienced on behalf of each of us. But in a small, human way, we can perhaps ponder upon his great love for us, with greater gratitude and humility....that He would be willing to suffer so deeply in order to save us.

And one final thought...the sourness of life's lemons helps small and simple things which follow seem especially sweet. A sweet neighbor called to check up on me after not seeing me at church for two weeks---a simple gesture, but so sweet for me to feel her concern. Another friend basically fed and raised my youngest at her home for an entire week, and made my daughter's holiday break a little brighter. Another neighbor spontaneously dropped by with a pot of soup---a true blessing for me and my family. Other sweet women offered and provided meals, even amidst my prideful objections. (We can handle it, I thought). But these women knew better, and just brought meals and freshly baked bread anyway, and I ended up so grateful that I could rest and not fret about meals for my family. And another sweet friend texted, emailed, and called from 1400 miles away to check up on me daily. All of those acts felt especially sweet to me!

So, this holiday season, as we have celebrated the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, I find I am deeply grateful for his birth and the life he gave on my behalf. I am grateful in a strange way for life's lemons and what I am learning from dealing with them. And I'm learning that it's okay when, sometimes, those lemons are just sour.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Some Crazy Christmas Glee!




"The family. We are a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together." ~Erma Bombeck

I want to introduce you to some of my family that I absolutely adore. My sister Marva Lu and her hubby have 7 kids---all are now married but one, so with children in-law, they have a posterity of 13 children so far, 19 grandkids, and 3 more on the way, I believe.

This family is crazy. But in all the right ways. They are multi-talented, outgoing, bursting with personality, and completely uninhibited. Those 13 kids are comprised of successful businessmen, doctors, nurses, dance instructors, college athletes, teachers, college students, and the baby of the family---the brains behind this production you're about to see---was a performer at Walt Disney World. (I guess you could say I'm a pretty proud aunt--It's fun to see where they have ended up, and to realize I love the in-laws just as much as my sister's kids.)

They have more fun together than any family I've seen. It's just a party anytime any of them are around, and their enthusiasm is contagious. I love spending time with them. So here is a taste of their crazy Christmas Glee that they are spreading this holiday season. Enjoy!!!

And just in case that wasn't enough glee for you...here's one more video they put together at a family reunion earlier this summer. I told you they were crazy. And I love 'em.



Friday, December 3, 2010

Slowing Down Through Turbulence


"When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be."

Have you ever felt this way? I do almost daily...with the rigors of raising a family, being a supportive spouse, trying to earn extra income, keeping up with all the home duties, helping with homework, running kids to and fro, keeping appointments...(SIGH). It makes us tired just thinking of it all, doesn't it?

I have had gobs and gobs that I have wanted to share on my blog, just in the last week! I have stacks of designs in their infant stages waiting in folders and boxes to emerge and become something beautiful. I have half-finished projects galore. But when to get to all of that? I'm not sure! As I have pondered this issue of mine, I have been reminded of what a very wise man has said recently:


"It's remarkable how much we can learn about life by studying nature. For example, scientists can look at the rings of trees and make educated guesses about climate and growing conditions hundreds and even thousands of years ago. One of the things we learn from studying the growth of trees is that during seasons when conditions are ideal, trees grow at a normal rate. However, during seasons when growing conditions are not ideal, trees slow down their growth and devote their energy to the basic elements necessary for survival.

Have you ever been in an airplane and experienced turbulence? The most common cause of turbulence is a sudden change in air movement causing the aircraft to pitch, yaw, and roll. While planes are built to withstand far greater turbulence than anything you would encounter on a regular flight, it still may be disconcerting to passengers.

What do you suppose pilots do when they encounter turbulence? A student pilot may think that increasing speed is a good strategy because it will get them through the turbulence faster. But that may be the wrong thing to do. Professional pilots understand that there is an optimum turbulence penetration speed that will minimize the negative effects of turbulence. And most of the time that would mean to reduce your speed. The same principle applies also to speed bumps on a road.

Therefore, it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions." -Dieter F. Uchtdorf

So, I guess as I post this today, I just want you all to know how much I truly appreciate you bothering to read and follow my little blog. I truly value you and am grateful for your support!! I also want you to know that if it goes a week or so and you haven't heard from me...I'm not ignoring you, or quitting, or being irresponsible in my blogging (is there such a thing? lol) or some other crazy thing. I'm just...well, being forced to slow down and take care of the essentials for survival in my little home. And at this time of year, especially, I want to focus on my family and making this a meaningful time full of warm memories.

So please forgive me if I slow down through the turbulence of everyday living now and then. I need to read to my kids. Or hang out with my hubby. Or mop my floor. Or head over to my son's last basketball game of the season. Or fold that mountain of laundry. Or decorate our tree with the kiddos. Or just ponder on my many blessings at this glorious time of year.

Hugs and Christmas Kisses to all!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Two of My Favorite Holiday Dishes!


I think I've officially made it official...I am in love with November. I imagine in great part my thoughts of November are laced with happy memories and occasions: My dad's birthday, my parent's anniversary, my husband and son's birthday, and of course, Thanksgiving. I love the simplicity of the holiday---no expected gifts to give, no costumes to conjure up, no massive amounts of candy to buy. Just a beautiful meal intertwined with notions of gratitude and thanks, shared with the ones we love the most. I truly love it.

We recently shared a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with a dear family in our neighborhood who is moving the day before the holiday and will likely be spending Thanksgiving Day traveling. We had all the traditional yummy foods, and I shared two of our family's favorite holiday dishes: My sister's "Raspberry Pretzel Salad" and my dear friend Lara's "Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls". They are both fabulous recipes and I would love to share them with all of you. I promise you won't be disappointed!


Raspberry Pretzel Salad


2 c. smashed but chunky pretzels
3 T. sugar
1/2 c. melted butter

8 oz. cream cheese
1 c. sugar
1 small can (or half of a large one) crushed pineapple
8 oz. Cool Whip Topping

2 small or one large package raspberry Jello
2 c. boiling water
1 package frozen raspberries

Directions:
1. Mix pretzels, 3 T. sugar and melted butter. Bake in a 9 x 13 oblong casserole dish for 5 minutes at 400 degrees.
2. Blend together cream cheese, 1 c. sugar, pineapple, and Cool Whip. Pour mixture over cooled pretzels and refrigerate.
3. Mix Jello with 2 c. boiling water until dissolved and add frozen raspberries. Mix until syrupy.
4. Refrigerate Jello mixture until it is no longer runny, then pour on top of cream cheese mixture and chill until completely set up.
5. Slice into squares and serve. Yummy!!!


Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls (this recipe is actually doubled for feeding a larger crowd. You can half it for a smaller amount of rolls if desired.)


2 c. hot water
1 c. sugar
4 pkgs. active dry yeast (equivalent to 9 teaspoons or approx. 3 tablespoons)

1 29 oz. can Cut Sweet Potatoes, drained and mashed
1 c. butter
2 eggs

3 tsp. salt
9 1/2-10 cups flour

1/2 c. melted butter

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, dissolve sugar in hot water. When water has cooled to a warm temperature, add yeast and allow to foam up a bit.
2. While yeast mixture is sitting, beat together the potatoes, butter, and egg in a mixer.
3. Add the yeast mixture when ready, followed by the salt.
4. Add the flour a few cups at a time to form a stiff dough.
5. Knead until smooth.
6. Place dough in a greased bowl and let rise about an hour until doubled. Punch down and divide into six sections.
7. Roll each section into a circle and slice into several wedges.



8. Brush with butter and roll into a crescent shape starting at the wide end.


9. Place on greased baking sheet and let rise.
10. Bake at 375 degrees for 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown, depending on your oven.

I hope you enjoy planning your meal for the upcoming holiday!! What are your favorite holiday dishes?? I'd love to hear!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Blanket Stitch Tutorial


The Blanket Stitch is an embroidery stitch that provides a nice edging for blankets, table runners, bibs, burpies, table cloths, appliqued items, and anything else that needs a finished border. It can be embroidered with large stitches, or petite ones, depending on the area that you are edging, making it very versatile for a number of projects.

To Blanket Stitch around the edges of an appliqued section of fabric, simply do the following:

1. Bring the threaded needle up from underneath the fabric (be sure the floss is knotted) to the immediate left of the appliqu├ęd fabric at point A. Pull taut, and hold floss down with your left thumb.


2. With the needle, go back down at point B, and come up again at point C, making sure the needle passes over the top of the floss you are holding with your thumb. Pull taut once again. Repeat.


To Blanket Stitch around the edges of a runner or table cloth, follow the same basic instructions above, but when coming up for the first time, simply bring your needle up at the edge of the fabric (point A). Go back down at point B, then come up from under the fabric at the edge but without catching the fabric in the needle (point C). Again, make sure your needle passes over the top of the extended floss and pull taut. Repeat.



I have a table runner that I stitched and sewed 9 years ago, designed by an incredible embroidery designer, Sandra Workman of Pine Mountain Designs. She is also the owner of Pine Needles of Gardner Village in Utah. She is extremely creative and has a myriad of darling designs that I see everywhere. Anyway...the instructions call for a blanket stitch around the edges of the runner to finish it off (at least as I remember it way back then). Well, for 9 years, I've just displayed this runner without the blanket stitch edging because I've simply not taken the time to finish it, but it has nagged at me all these years.


As I pulled out the runner just the other day to display in my entry way, I decided that this was the year to finish it off. I was tired of being reminded yearly of tasks left unfinished!

My two gals were scheduled for back-to-back haircuts yesterday, and since I can't sit still and be empty-handed for that long anyway, I figured I would make use of the hour I would be waiting there. I grabbed the runner, some floss, a needle, scissors, and away we went!

I finished most of the edging as we all chatted through the haircuts, and I finished the rest of it during my daughter's dance class. What a great feeling to accomplish something in those minutes that could have been wasted by just sitting.


Finally! A finished project just for myself--nothing to sell or give away, and after 9 years, it's finished at last! (Eleventh hour, anyone?)


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Merry Un-Halloween...


Yes, I breathe a sigh of relief every time November rolls around. The Halloween festivities, parties, costumes, and trick-or-treating are all great fun, yet most of the time stressful too. I must say, I am one happy chick when it is all over. Does that make me a Halloween Scrooge? Hmmm...Perhaps a tiny one. With that said, I leave you some images of our Halloween festivities and gleefully say farewell to Halloween, and give a hearty welcome to November! A Merry Un-Halloween to you!!


Shortly after I posted my last posting about creating the Dorothy costume, my sweet neighbor and friend Dana called to let me know she had a Dorothy dress my little gal could use. (Hooray!!) I hadn't gotten too far on the dress I had started making, so I decided to revamp it a little and make it into an actual dress, rather than a costume to give her for Christmas. (Hopefully, I won't put that off until the eleventh hour!)

And my other little gal (yes she's a SHE) dug through our box of wigs and found my hubby's old football jersey for a completely cost-free costume as well. Gotta love that! (And don't you just love that mullet? It's the best.) I was a bit melancholy however, as my boys were too old and of course too cool for dressing up this year---sad for me to realize that those days of Woody/Puppy/Nerd/Hobo/Goldilocks (yes, your read it right) costumes are now simply memories...


On the Saturday before Halloween, our church had a "Trunk or Treat"---a unique tradition of parking our cars in a parking lot and trick-or-treating at each other's car trunks...(crazy, I know). Anyhoo, my little gal had gotten her fill of candy and as it was cold and rainy that night, she opted to stay home and hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters. She sat perched here on this chair by the door, waiting for the door bell to ring. Each time she'd shut the door after handing out candy, she'd exclaim, "Yes!! This is sooooo much fun!!" Can't argue with that kind of glee.


And our Crazy Halloween Dinner turned out to be great fun once again. Here you can see my son eating his "Wrapped Raven Remains" (chicken enchiladas) and "Goopy Grave Markers" (brownies, ice cream, and topping) with his "Vampire Vengeance" (knife). Ah, good times.

Merry Un-Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mod Podge and a Little Glitter to the Rescue: Ruby Slippers in a Flash...and Cheap!


For those of you who know me well, you may recognize the trait in me that quite often, some of my best work is done in the 11th hour...It's not that I try to procrastinate. Rather, I stew or ponder on things, am busy with a plethora of additional priorities, but finally, when the hour of accountability is here, quick decisions must be made, and I am thrown into action.

My Halloween costumes are no exception! My littlest one wants to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz this year. Like many people I know, my budget for costumes that might be worn twice EVER is pretty slim. Okay, really slim. I looked for used ruby slippers on Ebay, but even then after shipping, the costs were near $15 to $20. Not sure of how to spend as little as possible and still meet her desires, I put it on the back burner of my brain and let the notion stew...

As I was cleaning out my daughter's closet the other day, I came across this pair of old Sunday shoes with the toes worn out. I was about to toss them into the garbage when the light went off in my head! These were just the Ugly Duckling version of Ruby Slippers!!!



A trip to the store for red glitter and a little digging in my craft closet for Mod Podge and a foam brush, and I was set. Now mind you, glitter is not for the faint of heart...It was easy as pie, although my house is glittering from end to end with sprinkles of red glitter. Ah, well....it vacuums, right?

Just in case you happen to be needing a last-minute costume like me, I've got your back! The first step of "Ruby Slipper Transformation" is to stuff the shoes with newspaper and paint the shoes with a layer of Mod Podge. Sprinkle the red glitter and let dry. Repeat those steps to add a depth of glittery-ness if desired.



When both layers are dry, clap the shoes together outside to shake off the loose glitter, then spray with a coat of polyurethane if you feel up to it. (Not sure that step is necessary, but I had hopes that it would seal the glitter together, preventing excess glitter from getting more-everywhere than it already was.)

Now, these ruby slippers are more for functionality than fashion. The glitter is chipping away in a few spots, and the bottoms got a little goopy with the Mod Podge, but I figure that they are going to be one-time-wonders for my little gal, and they only cost me the price of glitter: $2.99. Bargain.



Today, my challenge is to put together the Dorothy dress...Again, the Ebay prices and store prices were just way more than I was willing to pay. I thought about just figuring out a dress pattern myself, but here in the eleventh hour, thought better of that notion.



So....I did spend a little on this pattern, BUT, I'm considering this an investment, as the pattern is adorable and will be used again and again. I love the work from this gal, Carla C. I have collaborated with her in the past on various projects through You Can Make This, and her work is always top-notch and so very easy to follow and professional.

I'm banking on whipping it up in a flash. I have three hours until my kiddos are home from school to get it done. My Little Missy is very stressed out about this, and keeps reminding me that she doesn't think it will be done in time because "Halloween is only 3 days away!" She just doesn't know me very well yet, does she? ;)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Crazy Halloween Dinner Tradition...Revisited


Last fall, I posted about our family's tradition of the Crazy Halloween Dinner. I had several people contact me for more details, so I thought I'd revisit this post again, but a little earlier in the season. It is such great fun! But BEWARE: After doing it once with your family, you just may be coerced into doing it again and again! Your kiddos and any guestswill love it.

Here is how it works:

As the hostess, begin by planning your menu for the evening. For us it generally consists of regular meal items such as chicken and potatoes, barbecued beef sandwiches, or some type of casserole. But as you can see in the photo above, my niece planned her menu using some unique food choices for the occasion. Either way works great...just don't feel pressure to fix anything out of the ordinary. The food itself is not necessarily the entertaining part of this meal...it is how it's presented that makes it such fun!

So, begin listing your menu items so that you have 12 things on your menu, but these will also include a drink, each of your utensils, and a perhaps a napkin. Here is an example:

1. Spaghetti and Meatballs
2. Green salad and dressing
3. Buttered peas
4. Garlic bread
5. Fresh fruit
6. Jello salad
7. Punch to drink
8. Pumpkin cheesecake for dessert
9. Napkin
10.Fork
11.Knife
12.Spoon

The next step is to get creative and assign a spooky and crazy name that provides a subtle hint as to what each menu item might be. For example, the garlic bread could be called "Tombstones"; the punch could be "Witches Brew"; and the spaghetti and meatballs...well, I'm sure you could come up with something that sounds totally disgusting!

Now create a menu that lists each of the crazy names on them, and a space in which to write the numbers 1, 2, or 3, which will designate which course that item will be served in. You will be serving 3 courses of four food items. (You could also serve 4 courses of three food items if desired.) Be sure to make a master "key" so you can easily remember what each food items are called!

The following is menu and key from a few years ago that you can use if you'd like. Just click to enlarge, and print.

When your guests arrive, give each person a menu and have them choose their food items for each course by numbering them 1, 2, or 3. The fun of this is that your guests won't know exactly what they are ordering, and little will they know that they are ordering their utensils as well! Be sure that each guest's name is on his or her menu, then collect them before you begin serving.

I line up all the menus on my counter, then dish up each person's plate according to what they ordered, then serve one at a time. After everyone is finished with their first course, I take their plates back (and any utensils they had for that course) and serve them their second course and so on. My hubby usually helps, so it goes quite quickly, and everyone is happy to chat for a bit between courses. And, the family who first introduced this tradition to us gave us this tip...that once a person's drink is served, he can keep his cup for refills throughout the rest of dinner. That is usually very appreciated!

Every year, someone inevitably orders their spoon, a knife, a side dish, and a roll for one course, and in the next they have their dessert, a main dish, a napkin, a drink, and no silverware. Yep, a little crazy, but lots of fun! It's especially entertaining when we have another family over to share the surprises with.

Last year, my niece and her husband hosted our dinner, so it was entertaining for me as well, as I didn't have a clue what I was ordering either! They were great hosts and came up with unique new dishes that our family hadn't tried before, which made it extra fun for us all!

The most popular and talked about dish of the night? The "Kitty Litter!" It consisted of vanilla pudding topped with crushed graham crackers and an occasional melted tootsie roll that looked like...well, you know what. Rather disgusting, but delightful for the youngsters at the same time!

Here is Blondie determining which menu items she wanted for each course:



A.W. had to eat his "Ogre Buttocks" (ham) and "Sliced Snail" (pumpkin roll) with a knife:



And by the time Blondie got to this course, she had no silverware!



It was a great night, and filled with some entertaining memories! The Crazy Halloween Dinner is a now a standard tradition in our home. If you give it a try, I would love to hear about your menus and how you made it special for your family.





Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ode to Summer....

Goodbye, Summer. We shall miss your warmth and the happy experiences you provided for us:

S'mores...




Ladder-ball tournaments...



King of the hill... (Let me explain this one. My son back-packed a golf club and 20 balls on a trek to the highest peak in Utah with his scout troop so he could hit them off the peak. Notice his buddy holding onto his belt loop as he swings so he doesn't have a mishap and fly right off the mountain along with his golf balls. Yeah...it's best that mom's don't know these details until they're home again.)



Ice cream treats from Aunti Em's and Uncle Kel's store...



The Pioneer Trek Experience...




Geode treasures...



Hiking Bryce Canyon...



A little jail time...



Target practice at Bryce Canyon...



Broken arms...(okay, not so much)



Father's Day and homemade ties...



The beginning of football season...

Militia men in training...




Thanks for the memories, Summer...

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