Thursday, September 26, 2013

Warm Fuzzies

I haven't had a whole lot of time to post lately, but a friend just mentioned a post from my family blog that I thought might be beneficial to post here. 
It's another one from a few years ago, and the idea may be worn out by now, but at that time, I seriously felt inspired with the idea. I was surprised in the comments on my post that other parents had done the same thing! ... So, worn out idea or not, you may not have heard of it... so here you go :)



Sammy has had a really rough couple of months. It's finally happened. He has become the toddler I KNEW he wouldn't become. Despite all of my efforts, apparently tantrums, hitting, yelling, ignoring, .. you get the gist - is apparently normal and it happens to even Sammys. My perfect Sammy. hehehhe :)

If I've learned any thing this past year... and I have learned a lot..... - I have learned that I really don't knowhaha - I know, it sounds weird... and I wish I could explain it right now, but time is short and I need to get to the point before this ends up being another novel :)

Mike and I were talking after the kids went to bed a week or so ago. We were both heart broken at what was going on with Sammy. It seemed like ALL DAY LONG we were getting after him for something. My days were spent hauling him to time out, cleaning up the food he didn't want and had thrown on the floor, trying to comfort Claire after being attacked by her sometimes, not so well-meaning older brother. - We HAD to do something, it seemed the only attention Sam was getting was negative attention and with that, things were getting worse and worse. We talked about charts, puzzles, incentives, "good habit" boxes, consequence boxes.... on and on and on...

A few weeks ago, I read an article in "The Friend" about the gift that was given to President Monson for his birthday. A group of primary kids gave him a jar of "Warm Fuzzies" or pom poms. Each one represented an act of service .... they actually made a mormon message about it if you want to check it out: http://mormonlife.com/story/62219-to-the-rescue-president-monson-and-warm-fuzzies

Any way - As Mike and I were discussing, we came up with a plan! - We pulled out a quart mason jar from the pantry and gave it to Sammy. We have it in a prominent spot where he can easily reach it and see it. Mike and I carry around a pocket full of warm fuzzies every day, and when ever we see Sammy making a good choice, we get dramatically excited and hand Sammy a fuzzy and explain to him why he got it! - He gets excited and runs it to his jar. Once the jar is full, he can choose from a list of fun things he can do to trade in his fuzzies for. A late night movie and popcorn with mom and dad, a ride on the choo choo train at the mall, swimming, etc. -

He LOVES this.

I really feel like we were inspired and I am so grateful. Once the fuzzy is in the jar, it CAN NOT come out. This can't become just one more thing to threaten them with. This is ONLY positive. It's really neat to gather him up in a hug and show him the growing jar of fuzzies and say "SAMMY! Look at all of your good choices!! You are one amazing little boy!" His face lights up every time he gets one. A lot of the times we are just WAITING and WATCHING for any sign of a good choice so we can pull a fuzzy out because each time we do, his whole attitude changes. He remembers that he IS a good boy and that the good things he does are valued by us.

I hope this can help you out with your toddler 'woes' as well! :) Good luck to ya!!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pink Milk Nights

A few years ago I posted this on my family blog.... which has been severely neglected..... I was thinking about it again as the holidays are coming upon us (hooray!!) and the thoughts of childhood traditions and traditions I'd like to implement in our family adventure. What are some of your favorite traditions?



2011
When I was young, my mom made every day special. She had a way of celebrating life - whether it be driving in the car singing at the top of our lungs to Mary Had a Little Lamb and Baaa Baaa Black sheep (she's a knitter, she's always had a thing for "lambies" :)) - cooking in the kitchen, and sunsets. Every time it was a "pink night" where the sky was pink, we would pop out the milk and pink syrup and have ourselves a pink night celebration :) I LOVED this and even before I had kids of my own, pink nights would make me smile. I've continued this tradition with my kids and they LOVE it. Sammy is constantly on a search for a pink night and when they come he has a grin from ear to ear - We hurry and whip up that pink milk as fast as we can so we can enjoy it while watching the pink sky - It is so happy. ....

I just thought I'd share- Traditions are such a special part of life, don't you think? As I have reflected on my childhood and also the past 3 years of being a mama, I am convinced that traditions are the silver lining on the clouds of our memories, the florescent yellow (or in this case, pink) highlighter in our daydreams of the past. The glory of traditions is we as parents get to have control over them :) We don't have to wait for holidays, I know that every day, if we look hard enough, we can find something to celebrate. I want to teach my children that amidst all of the bad that is going on in the world, there is SO MUCH GOOD. So much to be excited about, so much to clink our pink cups filled with pink milk and shout "CHEERS" to a wonderful day. Traditions are a great reminder of the good things in the world. Especially the everyday ones!

What are some of your favorite traditions? :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Creamy Zucchini Soup

Creamy Zucchini Soup

Yum! I LOVE this Creamy Zucchini soup... it's even fun to say! ha! ".. anyway...
 Zucchini is always plentiful this time of year and this is a great way to use it :) Like most of the recipes I post on here, it is very simple, very fast, very economical and especially VERY good!! :) My entire family LOVES this recipe. Even Ben! :) I just scoop some into our mini food processor and blend it up for him.. if it is too runny, I just had oat or rice cereal to it. It freezes well in that form.. I've never tried to freeze it whole.. just as baby food. I'd imagine it wouldn't work to well.. but baby food - fantastic! :)
I originally found this recipe on :"Hungry Hinton's" It's a recipe blog of my friend's wife's sisters and mom. It is actually a really great blog and I have found a few I use over and over again... especially this one. She couldn't remember where she found it, so if you happen to stumble upon this and it is your recipe, please let me know! I would love to give credit where credit is deserved :)


Creamy Zucchini Soup


Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 25 min

Ingredients

2 med zucchini, chopped
1 med onion, chopped
2 T minced fresh parsley (or 2 t dried parsley)
1 tsp dried basil (Or a handful of fresh)
1/3 cup butter or margarine (or use olive oil)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
3 cups water
3 chicken bouillon cubes (or 1 T better than bullion, or just use 3 cups of chicken broth and omit the water)
1 tsp lemon juice
1 can (14 ½ oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
1 package (10 oz) frozen corn
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
2 cups (8 oz) shredded Cheddar cheese
Pinch sugar, optional
Chopped parsley as garnish, optional (I didn't use)

Preparation

In a Dutch oven or soup kettle over medium heat, sauté the zucchini, onion, parsley ,and basil in butter until veggies are tender. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in water. Add the bouillon and lemon juice, mix well. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, evaporated milk, and corn; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until corn is tender. Just before serving, stir in Cheddar cheese and Parmesan until melted. Add sugar and garnish with parsley if desired.

Serve with warm crusty bread! Enjoy!! :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What am I doing?

I'm tired today.. and yesterday and a few days before that. I suppose it's because we just got back from a dream vacation and the reality of responsibility is weighing on my shoulders again. Loads and loads of laundry seem to be scattered through out my house. During this daze, my kids have felt it their duty to dissect my house of all games and toys with small pieces and have sprinkled them around each room :)
I just got a knock at my door, my neighbor's daughter just came to  let me know that Sam and his little sweet friend were threatening to throw rocks at her.... what?? Turns out he and his friend were killing bugs in her yard.... this little girl is full of life. If there was a Tall Tale about a little girl, it would be about her. She comes to my house with regular sized water bottles full of massive bumble bees she somehow got to enter in such a narrow top. She picks up spiders and bugs with her bare fingers and cries when slugs die.... One time I found one in my garden and brought it to her house knowing how sad she was when her slug died.... when I gave it to her in my little broken tupperware, she treated it as if I just gave her a pony. Her eyes were big with gratitude and and she couldn't stop saying thank you. She can tell you the name and species of every plant and insect in our area... she loves nature... so for Sam to go to her home and squish her precious creatures, man.. it sent adrenaline through her veins and she screamed at Sammy and defensively he told her he was going to throw a rock at her..... the kids came home and Sammy looked so upset. "Mom, I still want to throw a rock at her!" ... we had a talk for a bit as I tried to calm him down and help him to think straight. We had a productive chat and in the end he still wasn't in a good mood, but mostly because he had to clean his room. As he shut the door... I let myself fall into my couch and stared at the seemingly zillions of flies that are swarming in my house (okay, there are 4 of them... but they are making me nuts!) I glanced over to the bin of beautiful peaches waiting to be preserved on my counter and looked at the clock to see how much time I had left before Mikey, my sweet little (okay, not so little, 22 year old) brother came over to get help from my husband for a math class. All I wanted to do was go into my room and pull the covers over my head (perhaps with a few "Sees" chocolates) and fall asleep. Where do I begin? The laundry? The dishes? Dinner? the bathrooms? Collecting game pieces? Cleaning the toy room? The peaches? ....... crafting? .......
I found myself being so overwhelmed, and to tell you the truth I still am. But in that moment I asked myself. What am I doing?
I thought back to a lesson we had in Relief Society on Sunday. It was beautiful and profound. Exactly what I needed and I'm sure exactly why the adversary was trying so hard to keep me from going to church. For weeks it has been so hard for me to pull myself together and go... I have, but it has been uncharacteristically hard for me lately. I kept praying the help me "just get there" - I was so grateful I did as each talk in Sacrament meeting, the wonderful Sunday school lesson and the profound and beautiful Relief Society lesson seemed to be personally tailored to me. The lesson in RS was on becoming united, and our inspired instructor shifted the lesson to realizing that what we are doing is good in the eyes of the Lord. ... I, like I"m sure a lot of women, and men, have the problem of being able to see the vision of perfection. We go to church, we learn how to do things right, with exactness and we want to be exactly perfect. "If god asked me to do it, then he will prepare a way for me to do it" ... is a phrase that goes through my mind over and over again when I am met with challenging circumstances. While I believe this to be true with all of my heart  - I am learning that God does not expect us to be perfect now - he just wants us to do our best .. and our best is far from perfect. He knows that and he knows our hearts. He knows our capabilities. He knows our best changes from day to day and even from moment to moment depending on what is going on. Some days we feel we could hike Everest, while other days it's a grueling hike just to make meals for the family. A sweet sister in our ward raised her hand and shared a piece of advice that was given to her from someone she trusted.... "Perfectionism is Satan's counterfeit for the Atonement." she said. ... Think about that deeply.... I would like to explain my thoughts, but worry it would take away from the purity of the statement. Isn't that so true?
As I sit here feeling glum, feeling the imperfections of my habits .. my messy home, the dinner to be made, the weeds out in the garden, I ask myself, "What am I doing?"
The answer is not just merely "I'm taking care of kids, homemaking and exhausting myself" ... it's "I"m participating in God's work which requires and makes me eligible for the use of His everlasting Atonement. I am mothering the next generation. I am the creator of my children's environment".... and I try to not let myself be overwhelmed with this. As parents our purpose isn't to create "bliss" for our children. It is our grand responsibility to prepare them for difficulties and triumphs of life. To teach them, while we utilize the enabling power of the atonement, to UTILIZE the enabling power of the atonement. Perfection.. in the work place, in the home in our thoughts and actions is unrealistic. It is UN REAL. Life is meant to be imperfect. We are imperfect. Through imperfections we learn and grow and experience pain and sorrow and even our greatest joy. So, what am I doing? Without opposition you can't fully understand joy. So why are we so down on ourselves when the opposition arises? Don't we know that imperfection is part of our Father's perfect plan? Can we learn, somehow to embrace it and learn to know what it feels like to know when you are doing your best? And to accept that "best?" I'm not saying to accept mediocrity, what I am saying is to see our efforts in the eyes of God. If he is pleased, so should we.
.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Article worth reading.....

Hello! :) Long time no post! :) - I am not very good at keeping balanced. This blog to me is sort of like wearing my heart on my sleeve and it can get exhausting :) I like to think of my readers as my best friend that I am sharing the insights of my soul with.. :) Sharing my favorite recipes.... talking about my failings and my successes. I am only 28 .... typing that out looks old, but seriously, it is not. My oldest child is only 4 which means I am bran-spakin' new at this mother and homemaker thing... I have a lot to learn and am learning a lot and I feel like this blog is a place where I can process my thoughts and findings. :) It started out as a blog to live frugally, which I do love ... but now it is just about life in general... just as I would speak to a friend. :)
google images

So! As a "friend" ..I just found this article on Pinterest and I had to share it..... when I first read the title "How to talk to your daughter about her body," I kind of rolled my eyes in my mind and thought, "C'mon! Can't we think for ourselves??" I suppose I've seen one to many "How to ..... let pinterest tell you how you should live your life" articles :) ... I really do love pinterest and again, am amazed at the incredible things people do...buuuuttt.. I think we all know that so much of it is completely unreasonable. I scrolled past it and I realized that so much of what I have learned has been from articles that were like gems to me..... Soooo... I reluctantly humbled up a bit and went back to the "pin."
The post was wonderful. It was pure and it was totally "real".
I highly recommend reading it, even if you don't have a daughter... "Aren't We All Mothers?" ... We as women have such a great opportunity to be an example to the rising generation. :)  ... I love articles like this that just make sense :)

Have a great day! :)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-koppelkam/body-image_b_3678534.html

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Grandma's Chocolate Mousse

Growing up, every single summer my family and I would pack up and drive to Kansas during the summer. My grandparents lived there and we loved it! We spent almost every day at the pool down the street. Mom and Grandma would go to the mall to shop, and we'd go to "Mr Bulky's" and drool over the possibilities of an entire store of bulk candy!


We'd catch fireflies, play checkers... but a major highlight was Grandma's Mousse! :) As they got older,  they moved close to us. One day after my Grandpa had died, I made some of her mousse and brought it to her. I will never forget her face! :) She closed her eyes and said "This is divine!" .. it made me so happy :) I love making it and feeling her close to me. 
Now, I will share her specialty with you :)

Grandma's Chocolate Mousse

1/4 c water
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
12 oz semi sweet chocolate chips FROZEN
Large carton of Cool Whip 

Blend chocolate chips in blender or food processor, set aside.

Boil water and sugar. Pour into blender with chips along with the 2 eggs. Blend. Then fold into the whipped cream









DONE! It is that easy and SO good :) I hope you enjoy!


We were always there over my birthday, so! I figured since today is my birthday, I'm gonna make me some mousse! :) Now, if I could somehow pop fireflies in my backyard, my birthday will be complete! :)..... Okay, so no fireflies... but it has still been a wonderful birthday!

Monday, August 12, 2013

I said NO!

This subject is one that I have been thinking about for a long time. 
It isn't an easy subject to talk about and I think that a lot of people are so sickened by it that they push it out of their mind.
Child Molestation.
I know, this is a very heavy subject and I have a lot in my heart about it. This is a long post and not very entertaining, because - it is not an entertaining subject. It is one that makes me sick... literally sick. PLEASE hear me out. Please read to the end and also the attached article. I have been blessed to have avoided this as a child but I know way. to. many people.. personally and closely who weren't as lucky. 
When Sammy was born, it seemed I was being flooded with stories from friends, loved ones, acquaintances, news clips, etc..where small children were being taken advantage of sexually. I was outraged! My heart ached for these children and my fear for Sam and future children was overwhelming. I knew people personally who were taken advantage of and it was really really hard on them. The saddest was when I would hear stories from adults that had never told another soul until then. They had been living with grief from when they were 3 or 4 years old. 
Did you know that 1 in 3 girls and 1 and 4 boys are sexually abused at some level in the United States? Doesn't that make you your heart ache? 
I found myself not trusting anyone. 
I wanted so badly to somehow protect my precious children from this evil. I knew I needed to arm them with knowledge but I had no idea how to talk about such adult things with such innocent children. There was so much that needed to be said, how do you actually get through to such young children?
I didn't want them to live in fear or think the world was full of bad people out to get them... but I did want them to be aware. It is my job as their parent to give them the knowledge and tools....their armor necessary to be safe.
I searched for ways to talk to my kids in a way where again, I wouldn't scare them. Fear gets us no where. I want them to feel confident and in charge. I came across a few books. Some of them would be excellent if they were 8 or older, but WAY too much for a 4 year old. I found some books that were way too vague and beat around the bush too much. I found others that crossed the lines when it comes to our family values. 
A few weeks ago, I was thinking about my kids' Imagine Nation and went to the library after Mike got home to search for some fun books for them. After I had an entire basket full, I went to the cook book section and out of the corner of my eye on a different shelf I saw this book:


I seriously feel like it was an answer to my prayers. This is BY FAR the best book I have EVER read or found for teaching our children on the subject... BY FAR. I would go as far to say that EVERY single school and home should have a copy.

It is a story that a little boy and his mother wrote together after the little boy had a bad experience at a sleep over. There are several things I love about this book. For example, the book begins like this:

"My name is Zack and this is my mom. I had a not so good time at a sleepover party last year. Mom always said, "keep your privates... private!" So what are privates? (It shows a drawing of boys underwear and another drawing of a girls undershirt and underwear...no kids in them, just the clothing.)  "Private parts for boys are the parts of your body that are under your underwear. Private parts for girls are the parts of your body that are under your underwear and undershirt. There are doctor names and lots of other names for your private parts! We are sure you have heard a few of them! You might want to talk about some of those names now"  .......

This is ONE of the many reasons I love this book. As I read this to Sammy, it lead into a very good opportunity to talk about the actual terms for men and women's "private parts." This is hard for me. I know, I know... but it is. I gulped in my mind and faked being completely comfortable using the words. As we talked, his big eyes got bigger a few times, but I was proud of him when he was able to say the actual terms without sounding embarrassed. I know experts say that you shouldn't make up cutesie words like "pee pee" or things like that - but I don't care. That's just what we call it for now.. but now he knows what the actual term is.  ..... I'm going to give a few more examples from the book that I absolutely love - 

"Your body is a wonderful thing! It is important to keep it healthy, safe and clean. It is important to learn about your body. When you are a kid, learning about the world, it's natural to be curious about bodies. Say you are a boy like me, my mom says that it is natural to be a little curious about what girls bodies look like. Or if you are a girl with no brothers you might be curious about what boys look like... But Mom says that once you are not a baby anymore, privates just stay private. Mom says that this is called modesty. Maybe you are a little curious about the differences between girls and boys. You might want to talk about your curiosity now."

Again! Awesome segway into an otherwise awkward conversation. When I asked him if he had any questions, at first he said "no." .. but I knew he was VERY curious and didn't want this opportunity to pass by. It was clear he was totally confused about breasts. He is a boy through and through. So, I said something. He then poured out the questions.. "why do you have those?" ... I explained to him that Heavenly Father is so smart, he made it so when mommies had babies, they would be able to feed them... I asked him if he remembered me nursing Ben and Claire. It was so interesting to hear his response. "Mom, do you just drink a bunch of milk and then he gets it out of your tummy?" ... (I think he was thinking back to our conversation about umbilical cords while I was pregnant) ... I explained to him that my body just naturally MADE milk! He just couldn't get past the idea that I didn't have to drink a bunch of milk before I could feed milk to Ben from my body.. but he honestly thought Ben was drinking from my tummy. So I told him that babies use their mama's breasts to drink like a bottle. His eyes got huge... where do they drink from? ...SO many questions. After our girl questions were over, he had this grateful look in his eye.

The book then goes on to talk about many different things. The author, Kimberly King, Zack's mom suggests reading the book in sections if it is too much in one sitting as it goes over absolutely everything. From good touch to bad and secret touching, lies,bribes and threats versus friendliness and rewards. It gives examples of what the book calls "red flag" people and "green flag" people. All the way to the "what if's" when it is someone very close to them... it gives opportunities to pause and talk about your plan if they find themselves in dangerous, or "red flag" situations. 

There is SO much good to this book I couldn't possibly write it all out without typing out the entire book and I am totally tempted to do it, but that would be wrong I suppose. YOU NEED THIS BOOK. If I had the money I would buy a copy for everyone I knew. 

Sammy had no trouble having me read the entire book in one sitting. I had planned on taking a few nights to read it, but he was so attentive through the entire book. He had a grateful and confident look in his eye. We were able to have a conversation where I was able to tell him that if he had ANY questions about any of this kind of stuff, then I would be happy to talk about it. I told him that I wasn't embarrassed about talking about this stuff with him and that he never needed to feel embarrassed to talk to me. We talked about how these things about our bodies are private and  personal and they shouldn't be broadcasted, but that they aren't bad and he could talk to me or Mike about anything. He has already come to me with other questions and it has been very comfortable. 

I feel like I am doing a commercial for this book or something, but you really  need to own this book and read it to your children. They will be grateful and you will be doing duty to keep them safe and protected.

What have you done to help your children to understand these things? This is a serious topic that NEEDS to be addressed. If you have any good ideas, please please post them. We could all use ideas.

I read an article on CNN's website on this subject - I would HIGHLY recommend reading this.. every word. As I read it, it just made sense. Whether you are a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, neighbor, friend.. EVERYONE should read this. :)  I just read through it trying to capture a few quotes, but really, the entire thing should be read.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/20/living/give-grandma-hug-child/index.html

The article is basically about letting our children know that they are in charge of their bodies. Although many many many loved ones are well meaning in wanting hugs and kisses from these little cuties, it gives them the perception that they need to be physically there for someone to make them feel happy and if you don't, it will hurt their feelings. Interesting hu? But doesn't it totally make sense? It talks about the problem with people in authority tell them need or have to hug and kiss someone.  I will be teaching my children this week that they never have to give a hug or kiss to anyone if they don't feel like it. Again, I will definitely teach them that kindness and respect is a must, but touching is not. I like that the article talks about high fives or handshakes as alternatives - You may read this and think "oh brother, it's just a kiss from a 4 year old!" .... but you do see what the article is saying right? Our kids need to know that they have ownership, and that if their little instincts say not to hug someone, then allow them to follow through. I'm willing to bet that MOST of the time, it's not necessarily instincts, but that they are just not in the mood to hand out hugs or even possibly just wanting to win at a power struggle.... but isn't that what we want? Don't we want them to know that they have the power to tell someone NO? As innocent as these interactions may be, they are learning that what they say matters and that they are in control. It's an excellent training ground. If relatives could read this, maybe instead of feeling offended when this happens, they could be proud that their little family member or friend is learning to keep themselves safe, then give them a high five or pat on the back instead without making the child feel like they have hurt their feelings. - We can't put so much emotion around what they decide to do, children are inherent pleasers... they want people to be happy and so many are taken advantage of because of this.

Again, what are some insights, advice and ideas that you have?

We as parents and loved ones to these children need to be their advocates. In some small way, I hope that the information that I have found is a step in the right direction. This is my way of being that advocate - this is a sick epidemic, seriously, think about it, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 4 boys. That number blows my mind. I don't write all of this to put fear into hearts, I have felt fear for my kids for the past 4 years now and it got me nowhere. Hopefully these resources will cast out the fear and help our kids to feel confident and secure.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

You NEED this recipe. Tomato Basil Chicken.

(Google Images)

Tomato and basil.... yum - a perfect combination. Who ever discovered how well these two foods work together ought to be Knighted. 
With the Fall Harvest rolling in, I was happy to have found this recipe on Pinterest. ... It seems people have tomatoes and basil running out of their ears! 

(Ha! That reminds me of Sammy. Last year I was bottling peaches and I told him, "We have peaches running out of our ears!!" .... His eyes went big, he looked on both sides of my head examining my ears and informed me that I do not, in fact have peaches running out of my ears.... "You were really worried about that, hu, Mom?" ..... I seriously L.O.V.E that little man.)

Anyway! - You know how there are a few good things that get WAY over done? Like owls and the chevron design?... This is not an over used chevron design! :) This Tomato and Basil recipe will leave you wondering when you can possibly make it again. .... I just made it for the 2nd time in  two weeks and the "MMmmMMms" and "Yummmm!s" were plentiful :)



This recipe is excellent as is - So in effort to not waste time and to avoid redundancy, I will direct you to the recipe rather then taking my own pictures and typing it out. I was just looking over it and clicked on the recipe the blogger adapted it from- and I was so impressed with how well she "upgraded" this recipe. I have made this with regular tomatoes on the vine and it was great. The grape tomatoes are recommended, but definitely don't go buy them if you already have some other tomatoes on hand :) I served this over whole wheat linguine with my rosemary bread and dipping oil.
I hope you click and take a look!

Tomato Basil Chicken

Rosemary Bread with Dipping Oil

Rosemary Bread 
 (2 Loaves)

Seriously, it doesn't get better then this :) This was a recipe I found about 4 years ago. It was originally called "Macaroni Grill" bread, but I don't think it really tastes like that... to be honest, this is better!
Don't bother slicing bread, just tear and enjoy :).
Below this recipe I will post the dipping oil we use with this bread. It was originally called "Jonny Carino's dipping oil" ... It is SO so delicious. You really are going to LOVE this recipe.

1 T Yeast
1 T sugar
1 c warm water
2 ½ c flour
1 t salt
2 T rosemary
2 T butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Combine sugar water and yeast and allow mixture to bubble
Mix 1 T butter (melted or room temperature), salt and 2 c flour 
Add Rosemary
Continue to add the flour until it forms a ball and almost (but not completely) cleaning the bowl as it mixes.
Knead for about 10 minutes by hand, or in food processor about 3-5 minutes until smooth and elastic. ( I use my Kitchen Aid for this recipe, and have also made it by hand, either way works) 
Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled
Divide dough in half
Spray baking pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray.
Shape the dough into 2 small rounded loaves
Let loaves rise again until doubled
Bake until lightly browned (10-15 minutes)
Carefully remove from oven, brush with remaining butter. (I just do this step like pictured above :))

Dipping Oil
1 t. Rosemary
1 t Oregeno
1 t. Parsley
1/2 t Crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 t Black pepper
1/2 t Salt

Olive Oil
Crushed roasted garlic (optional)
2 t. Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Blend first 6 ingredients in a food processor. Store this mixture in tupperware or other container. When ready to use, crush roasted garlic (you can get this for really cheap at Costco in the spice and baking isle) into a shallow dish. Sprinkle desired amount of spice mixture then pour olive oil on top..... voila! So easy and SO delicious.




Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Body Image: For real!

Body Image:

Blah... I think from the moment in 7th grade when my crush looked up at me and said "Wow Cara, only in 7th grade and already have a double chin hu?" I have had a poor view of my body image. ... I shouldn't have let it affect me like that, but I did. It was just the beginning of realizing I didn't fit the "mold"
This is a hard post for me to write about... BUT- I know that we as women and even men struggle with this, So, I'll just put myself out there! "Take one for the team!" :)
The other day, I was getting ready to go to the store and I was frustrated with the way my clothes were fitting. Ben will be 7 months old soon and I still felt huge. I sucked in a bit and smoothed out my shirt as I did my usual subconscious nip and tuck in my mind.. when I realized what I was doing! I was staring at my body while comparing it to my body I had in high school! Now, I'm not saying it's not possible to loose the weight... but I'm certain that in high school, I did the same thing- looking in the mirror feeling huge and unattractive.
"What's the deal with that?  Why do I do this to myself??" I thought. I reminded myself that I have had 3 babies and that I hadn't been exercising, so this is what it is. It wasn't that I was trying to justify, it was just me being REAL with myself. I don't think I've been "REAL" to myself while looking in the mirror since age 12. (I know, sounds ridiculous, but true). Then I did something. It's simple and I'm pretty sure nothing novel, but I looked at myself in the mirror as if I was seeing someone else. I looked at myself as I would look at a stranger, and you know what? All of a sudden I didn't look so bad!
It was so L I B E R A T I N G!
I saw myself in a whole new light. I saw who I was instead of what I needed to do to get where I thought I needed to be. This may sound really strange, or  maybe you can relate.... but it was if I was looking at a different person! I hadn't seen ME in so long, I actually felt like someone else was in the mirror. It was a really eye opening experience... literally! I looked at my eyes, the ones that I always wished were larger and more catching... but I saw my small eyes with barely any sight of eyelid... and I actually liked them. I went through my features and I felt "OK" with myself for the first time in a really really long time! I vowed right then and there to accept myself for who I was. I didn't want to "hide" anymore. From myself, or anyone else. This was my body! I needed to love it, I needed to show my kids that so they wouldn't acquire my complexes. I felt so good.
Thennnnn..... I went to Saint George.
I love that place. It is like a 2nd home to me. My parents own a condo there and we have visited almost my entire life. It has a very retro feel to it, and thankfully for the condo, mirrors and coral colored everything seems to be back! :) The condo has an INSANE amount of  mirrors.
(This isn't the condo, but imagine this in every room, in the hallway, in the entry way and bathrooms.) 
Mirror closets, full mirror walls in the bathrooms and showers, mirrors for the door for the laundry room.. MIRRORS everywhere.
I quickly regressed and was sick with the way I looked.
I felt like hiding.
I quickly had a little pep talk with myself and I decided I obviously needed to loose weight and that I was not going to allow the goal to only be to "look good"... Appearances are important, but there was so much more to me then being pleasing to look at.
 I thought back to an experience my SIL shared with me about her 7 year old daughter who already started having body image issues....What she had said to her daughter turned on a light switch for me. It was a tender moment I didn't want to slaughter with trying to re-tell, so I asked her to type out the experience so I could share it here......

"A while back my super confident and bubbly daughter was having a rough day. After talking for a while, I finally got to the root of her problem. My beautiful, tall, gorgeous 7-year old daughter was worried that her thighs were too big. The moment I had been dreading as a mother of 3 girls had come...the moment when my girl started doubting herself and comparing herself to the worlds standard of beautiful. The worst part was...I could completely relate to what she was saying. I remember in kindergarten being teased about being fat...those things always stay with you. Even when I was fresh out of high school and wearing a size 0, I still always thought of myself as a "bigger" girl. Now my daughter was beginning to think about these things and compare herself to other girls, it nearly made me sick to my stomach. Thank goodness...I have learned a few things since those kindergarten days, and I felt impressed to
to share a few things that have helped me in my quest to appreciate this body that I have been blessed with. I told her to take a good look at my thighs. "Do you think I have really skinny legs?" I asked her. The answer was OBVIOUSLY no   Then I went on to say, "You are right! I do NOT have skinny legs. But you know what? These legs are STRONG. They are getting stronger every time that I go running, and my muscles are getting bigger, and I am getting closer and closer to achieving a goal that I have worked really hard towards. That is what I see when I look at these legs." Then we talked about my tummy. It's not a perfectly flat stomach...and lets face it, after 5 babies it probably never will be  But it is a stomach that safely carried 5 beautiful children until they were strong enough to come into this world. I am grateful now that we had that experience. It was not only a wonderful teaching moment for me and my daughter, but a wonderful reminder to ME of how blessed I am to have the body that I do. Throughout 4 of my 5 pregnancies I have spent significant amounts of time on bedrest, unable to do even the smallest of tasks for myself. Each time it happens, I am always reminded of what a tremendous blessing this jiggly, saggy body of mine is. I may not fit into those skinny jeans (YET!;) but I can play duck, duck goose with my kids. I may not be ready for swimsuit season, but I am getting closer and closer to running a half marathon in September. I may fall short of the worlds definition of beauty or skinny, but I want my kids to know every single pound, stretch mark and dimple was worth it!"

-Tonii Johnson "Blue Skies Ahead"  ptskjohnson.blogspot.com

Isn't that wonderful? I love the concept of ability rather then looks. Being grateful for what our bodies have the capacity to DO rather then how we can appear to ourselves and others.
Outward beauty is just that - BEAUTIFUL. But beauty is a broad word because we are all different. Beautiful doesn't have to mean the same thing for everyone. I feel like focusing more on developing ourselves to our capacity will bring a confidence that will scream beauty.

This is a hard subject for me, but I don't want it to be. What are your thoughts and observations? How do we get our minds out of the habits of insecurity in our image? How do we allow ourselves to look how we REALLY look without always having a "project" for our various features to make them look they way "beautiful" has been defined in our culture? I want us all to get out of this never reaching mindset. I'd really love to know your thoughts on this! :)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pork Chops with Raspberry Sauce

Pork Chops with Raspberry Sauce

 Allrecipes.com



You are going to L.O.V.E this recipe... Here is another "tried and true" recipe! It is absolutely delicious and again, it does not take very long to make at all. Every time I make this my kids devour it.  (And really, that is the true mark of success right? :) ) 


1 t dried thyme, crushed
1 t dried sage, crushed
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
4 (4 oz) boneless pork loin chops
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1/2 c seedless raspberry jam
4 T orange juice
4 T white wine vinegar
4 sprigs of fresh thyme (OPTIONAL .. it's just for garnish)


  • Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. In a small bowl combine first 4 ingredients. 
    I totally would not have added the above picture if I didn't just discover the smile in the spices! Ha! ... I just stirred it together and took the picture! ... anyway... 
  • Rub generously on both sides of each porkchop.
  • In a skillet, melt butter and olive oil, then add pork chops. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until cooked all the way through.
  • Remove pork chops and place in different dish in the oven to keep them warm while sauce is made.
  • In the same skillet you cooked the pork, (DO NOT REMOVE OIL AND SPICES from the pan.. this will be used with the sauce!) :)  add the jam, orange juice and white wine vinegar. Let heat through and boil  until reduced to the desired consistency. Make sure to whisk occasionally ...                                                                      (Or if you are Claire.. constantly :)
  •   The sauce will thicken as it cools. 
  • Spoon sauce into a pool on your plate and place pork chop on top. Add fresh sprig to each chop if you have it. :) ENJOY!!! :)


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Imagine Nation

One of my very favorite lines from the movies is this one from the 1947 "Miracle on 34th Street"

This is Suzie talking to Kris Kringle about why she doesn't play with the other children her age:

Suzie: I don't play much with them. They play silly games.

Kris: They do?

Suzie: Like today, they were in the basement playing "zoo".... and all of them were animals. When I came down.. Homer, he was the zookeeper....he said, "What animal are you?" and I said, "I'm not an animal, I'm a girl." And he said "Only animals allowed."  SO I came upstairs.

Kris: Why didn't you tell them you were a lion or a bear?

Suzie: Because I'm not a lion or a bear.

Kris: But the other children were only children... and they were pretending to be animals.

Suzie: That's what makes the game so silly.

Kris: I don't think so, sounds like a wonderful game to me. Of course, in order to play it, you need an imagination. Do you know what an imagination is?

Suzie: Oh sure. That's when you see things, but they're not really there. That can be caused by other things too.

Kris: No, to me, 
the imagination is a place all by itself..... a separate country.....
You've heard of the French or British nation. 
Well this is the
Imagine nation.
It's a wonderful place.
How would you like to make snowballs in summertime? Or drive a big bus right down the Avenue? How would you like to have a ship all to yourself.....that makes daily trips to China and Australia?  How would you like to be the Statue of Liberty... in the morning, and in the afternoon.... fly south with a flock of geese?
It's very simple.
Of course it takes practice.
  The first thing you've got to learn is how to pretend. 

Isn't that beautiful? It wasn't until last Christmas that that scene really stood out to me. What a fantastic way to explain the glory of our imaginations. An entirely separate place, it's own "nation"




Those are truly profound statements. 

Since my discovery of Pinterest
(Otherwise known as www.ididn'tknowhowbelowaverageiam.com -Our Best Bites) 
I have had a love hate relationship with it. I've been absolutely AMAZED at the brilliant things that teachers and moms have come up with for their children!! It's incredible how much talent and creativity is out there! 
I have spent hours upon hours recreating, and cutting and gluing to try and give my kids the opportunity to experience some of these great ideas.
While there have been some real gems that my children have loved and I'm sure I will find even more great ideas... I have come to the conclusion that 
kids are simple. 
They would rather you just let them play with that branch that fell off the tree, or use Easter baskets as marching drums. They are happy to use mixing bowls as top hats

 and chopsticks as wands. 
And, of course.....
sneaking baby wipes for costumes
 Claire being a princess getting married.

Sammy being the superhero of the day.... I'm going to go with either Iron Man or Spider Man on this one :)

What they really need is 
ideas.
But where do they get these ideas? How do we cultivate a creative mind, how do we help them find their very own Imagine nation?




 This is a picture that my sister got at a read-a-thon. It hung in our bedroom until we we moved, after that it hung in my Dad's office... Recently they gave it to me and I love it. I haven't quite found the place to put it yet- but I love the message.

READ
That is the answer to our question. 

I remember when I was younger my mom would organize "book clubs" for my friends and I. One night a week, she would read from a chapter book, we even had treats sometimes :) It wasn't something that was too practical as she was in the process of raising 7 children, so it didn't last long - but honestly, that didn't matter - it is a cherished memory of mine. She did this with my siblings and I as well. My parents really tried to instill a love of reading in our minds.I have pictures in my mind of my brothers on my mom's lap reading I SPY books and other stories. It was not an uncommon thing.


The glory of a book is that you can take your children anywhere on any day.... These next pictures make me particlarly happy because this was on a really bad day for me and I came in and found them like this.... 


The song from Reading Rainbow pops in my mind

Now, tell you me you can't watch that video with out feeling a like a child again... WHY didn't they keep that show going? Oh! I just love that.

In my home, bed time is bed time. They have to be in BED. But if they want to read books, they can stay up as late as they want. Sammy will pile up a dozen books and turn through every page ... it's fun to find them like this:



Yesterday, after they woke up from their naps they made this while I was taking care of Ben and talking to Mike on the phone:
 They made a "bookshelf" out of the legs of the chair.


It was so inspiring to me.. they did this all on their own and spent a long time in their little book cove. :)
They LOVE books and it seriously makes me so happy! 

Moments like this get me motivated to read to them more regularly.

I'm just barely getting back into the groove of things and this post is a reminder to me of all of the reasons to read to my children. Sure, they have looked at plenty on their own, but writing this out is to remind myself to continue to give them options by going to the library or book store and also to actually read to them more often...

 I'd LOVE to hear what your kids' favorite children's books are. 
What you do to foster that love for reading?
I'd love some new ideas
Because sometimes, kids just need to escape, just like us... only they don't have car keys or freedom. But books give them that freedom. Their own little place, their
"Imagine Nation."


I will post a few of mine later, but I'd really love to hear from you! :) I need some new ideas :)..... Please share! :)


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Holy Guacamole!



Holy Guacamole~


You are going to love this recipe :)
 It is simple and only has a few ingredients.
(We LOVE simple, right?) 
It is super healthy ......annnnddd....
When you eat it, you get the "Remy Effect" 
Fireworks! Guaranteed. :)

This is a recipe I adapted from my mom's version of Ina Garden's Chunky Guacamole. . :) This time of year is perfect for fresh dips like this....... ONE day,  I will get some of these ingredients from my garden... as for right now.....

I will have to get mine from the store :)
(For the full effect, don't forget to imagine that western dry wind and of course, the 
tumbleweed blowing by... one day, one day.

The Best Guacamole

5 ripe avocados, diced
4-5 ripe tomatoes, diced (I used roma because it was what was on sale and they dice easily)
1/2 c red onion diced small
1 bunch of cilantro chopped
1/4 c fresh or bottled lemon juice
About a teaspoon of salt
Tapatio sauce to taste.

I forgot to add the lemon juice... so don't forget it! It's important :)

Dice and chop tomatoes, onion and cilantro and add to the bowl


 Dice your avocado last to avoid browning while working with the other vegetables. This is how I dice them:


Then just scoop them out with the knife you are using. Don't worry about it being perfect, Avocados are mushy and will mush a bit when you are stirring the ingredients together.... :)  
Mike is an engineer and so mathematical. If he were making this, each chunk of avocado would be a perfect 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch squares..... buuuttt.... I paused from my cooking for a second to take a few pictures of what was going on while I was dicing my avocados......


Claire's "stinker face" while being caught with a black pen on the couch.... that stinker

Sam climbing in the pantry 
.. I'm not kidding you... these pictures were taken in between avocado dicing :) 
Please tell me I'm not the only one who is constantly putting out fires with their kids! :) I'm going to tell myself that they are just very... curious.... and have a strong desire to "explore" the world around them......This isn't an abnormal moment, I just go around taking the pens, and helping them down from dangerous places, ... who has time for perfectly diced vegetables? They all get eaten in the end anyways right? :)

 And this kid was in need of some smooching... so........

 This is what it is :)

At this point, pour the lemon juice over the vegetables.
Add the salt
Add the Tapatio
And gently stir. 
Try to keep from mushing the avocados, but a little mush is inevitable! :) 

Now for my favorite part...


Taste Testing!! :)
This part is ESSENTIAL. We all have different tastes. I like putting a LOT of tapatio in... mmm! .. some like it more or less salty, you may want to add more onion....
. Never forget to taste test along the way!! :)



 We, of course love to eat this with chips, but it is also yummy smothered over quesidillas and burritos :) It is pretty similar to the guacamole they use at Cafe' Rio, so you can use it your salads as well :) MmMm.

I hope you enjoy this! You will never go back to buying it again! :)