Friday, September 28, 2012

Mountaintops

Photo taken last week during a hike up behind the Bountiful Temple. The spire is just peeking from behind the hill.
"It is in the development of our testimonies, in the moving even partway up the mountain and out of our comfort zones, that I think we begin to approach our own personal, spiritual mountaintop where we can receive inspiration and truth as never before. It is there, just as I experienced in the tops of the Tetons, that we can think more clearly, see things more as they really are, and understand truth in a light that is pure and fresh. There, with the Holy Ghost to guide and influence us, we begin to understand, know how to teach, or bless the lives of others with new meaning and increased perception."  {Quote taken from a talk titled Spiritual Mountaintops by Jack H. Goaslind}

This quote from Jack H. Goaslind really hit home today and I decided to share a little bit of my experience with you. Yesterday I mentioned the winds and waves and rock climbing of life. Certainly we all have struggles to deal with, but in the end the struggles make us stronger. I've recently learned that even through what feels like the toughest climbs of life, we are not alone. When we reach the top and behold what glorious vistas are in store, we know that our struggles were worth it. And no way am I repelling back down that mountain--I will stay here and enjoy the view before the next one comes along. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Winds & The Waves

Sounds a lot like my life sometimes. A lot of winds and a lot of waves mixed in with the calm seas. And a lot of rock climbing! Sometime I will post more about that. But today, it's a book review. The one I promised a few posts back. (Yes, I read this one fast!)

This is the first of Dean Hughes' newest series, and boy, I am really looking forward to the second one! You can tell that I highly recommend it...

It starts with the story of Will Lewis, the son of an English tenant farmer. The novel is set during the early 1840s, but also the present. It's an interesting juxtaposition between Will Lewis and his fourth great grandson, Jeff Lewis.

Will seeks to better his life after being told by everyone he knows, including the girl he loves, Liz, that it isn't possible. God made poor people and he also made others better, and it's just the way it is. Liz is "better" than Will because her father is a merchant, yet Will also dreams of marrying Liz after he makes something "more" of his life. Will leaves his home of Herefordshire in hopes of finding that something more. Unfortunately, things don't turn out as he hopes, but he does learn a few important lessons. Liz also learns some lessons, and through it all, she can't forget about Will Lewis.

Contrast that with Jeff  & Abby Lewis, a young, newly married couple and recent Stanford graduates. Jeff is stuck in a job that isn't what he dreamed of either. He dreams of pursuing a different path, but a lay-off and unexpected pregnancy are the winds and waves of their world.

Ultimately, things do change for Will. He comes to America and heads for Nauvoo after being converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by Apostle Wilford Woodruff. Jeff and Abby also end up in Nauvoo, albeit 170 years later. But reaching Nauvoo isn't the end of anyone's troubles.

If you enjoy LDS historical fiction, you'll enjoy The Winds & The Waves.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jiminy grasshopper

Jake came home from work today (where he helps mow lawns) with a little buddy.

I said, "Hey. You have a baby grasshopper on your shoulder. Don't let it fall off in the house."

Jake: "Oh. This is my buddy Sam."

Me: Thinking, Sam. Hmmm. "He still belongs outside." (Jake did deliver him safely to the great outdoors, although I think there are too many grasshoppers in my yard this year already!)

I must say I think he should be called Jiminy. Especially if he can sing "And always let your conscience be your guide." Thankfully Jake doesn't have too much trouble with that, so Sam might as well remain Sam and go on his merry way. Outside!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A childhood mystery & lesson learned

My Grandpa V, who was always one of the best parts of my life, had a briefcase where he kept his most prized possessions. The other day, my mom gave me something that he had kept tucked away in this briefcase for a lot of years. The why would obviously be because he loved me, but the what is a little bit of a mystery:
I don't know what it's a drawing of, but I do know that I did it:
Yep, that's my age 6 or 7 year old autograph right there.

Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine! By the date on the front (which you can't see in the picture) I'm guessing I drew it after my family had returned from living in Texas for a year. Is it my interpretation of Texas? A cowboy boot? My grandpa's leg? haha! Who knows. It was important enough to him that he saved it among his other treasures (like old coins & some other valuables), which just reminds me that I'm important to him. You have to understand that he was technically my step-grandpa, although "step" never figured into our relationship. He was (and is) my grandpa, through and through, and I was his granddaughter. He taught me that family isn't always defined by blood. And that's a lesson I'll never forget.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Recipe Redoux: The BEST Country Style Ribs

This is a repost from over a year ago. Since this is one that has stood the test of time, and I'm making them for dinner today, I decided to repost for those who may have missed it the first time around. Enjoy!!

For Sunday dinner a couple of days ago, I tried out a new technique with country style ribs. If you've made them before, you know it's easy to have them turn out dry, which is how they have turned out for me pretty much every time I've made them in the past. This time was different! They were falling-apart tender and they weren't dry. SO delicious.
No surprise, I got the original recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe (is there a recipe on that site that isn't good? I don't think so!) I changed it up and made it my own. The family loved them, and even I, NOT your average meat lover, loved them, and that makes them a hit. Here's what I did:
Buy McCormick Grill Mates marinade in Steak flavor.
Mix it up according to the directions.
Put the ribs (I used 3 1/2 lbs) in the slow cooker.
Pour the marinade over the ribs. Do this in layers if needed 
in order to cover all the ribs well.
Cook on LOW for 8 hours.
Remove the ribs from the slow cooker.
Cover with your favorite BBQ sauce. Ours happens to be Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet & Spicy.
Grill for 10-15 minutes, just long enough to caramelize the BBQ sauce
and get good grilled flavor on the ribs.
Remove to a plate and let the meat rest for about 10 minutes.
(This is important for any meat, including steaks, roasts, and chicken).
Dig in and enjoy the flavor of BBQ ribs that were really cooked in the slow cooker.

Friday, September 21, 2012

When it rains, it pours. And it's pouring books.

I just had a birthday, and that always means one thing for certain: I have some new books to read, because books are my #1 gift. Always. :)



First of all, those are my reading glasses. Yes, I do need them. Badly! Second, that's actually a library book I've had on hold that came in right after I bought several other books with birthday money. Since I don't get to keep it more than two weeks (high demand on that one!) I have to get it read first.

This is actually killing me. In a good way.

Because I REALLY want to be reading the books I bought too! And I noticed something about that...I seem to be really into dystopian thrillers/novels. Here are the books I bought:

Pure by Joanna Baggott.  A dystopian thriller.
Divergent by Veronica Roth. A dsytopian novel.
Insurgent by Veronica Roth. The follow-up to Divergent. And you guessed it, it's dystopian.
Legend by Marie Lu. Yep, also dystopian themed.

So there you have it. Either I will be totally freaked out after I read all those, or I'll want more. I will confess that Pure so far is a little freaky, although definitely a page turner. Divergent, Insurgent & Legend all came highly recommended by book loving friends of mine.

The Winds & The Waves? It's by Dean Hughes who also wrote the awesome Children of the Promise series that was set in World War II. (I also love history!) I'm hurrying to finish it but it's not hard. It is a good book, and when I finish I'll do a review of it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A bottle of Fall

That's what I want to call this bottle of Rich in Heart by Sinful Colors. Isn't it pretty? I love it!

I decided I needed some sort of deep, dark, lovely color on my nails to welcome Fall. BTW, is there such a thing as Fall Fever? Because I don't wear dark colors on my nails--I usually don't wear anything but clear polish on my fingernails. (My toenails, however, are a different story. A dark/funky/bright color on your toenails is like a fun little secret and can brighten up an otherwise dull day.)

Anyway, I love Fall--and this polish looks like Fall in a bottle to me. I had to have it as soon as I saw it. It's like dark chocolate, with hints of deep scarlet and even purple.It looks different in different lights. One of the best parts? Sinful Colors polishes are $1.99, so they won't break the bank.

The only downside here is that dark colors never last long enough before they get chipped and look horrid...that's probably why I don't usually go dark. Bu it's painted on my toes too, where it will last a lot longer.

How are you welcoming Fall this year?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I feel like a writer. Today anyway.

{from Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson}
I had that big 'ol block sitting right on my laptop keyboard the last couple of days. It was a struggle to get ONE. MEASLY. ARTICLE. out each of those days. When you get paid by the article, it goes without saying. Not good.

Today I think the block is gone. Maybe not for good (all writers know this), but at least for now. It's a good sign when you submit an article and 10 minutes later the boss responds with "GOOD ONE!"

So today, I feel like a writer. And a happy one at that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Life--is there a point?


You bet there is! But if you've ever wondered, watch this short video. It just makes perfect sense to me--perfect sense.

In my personal life, this knowledge is and has been so comforting. And I know it's true.

Monday, September 17, 2012

One adult, and one "adult."

Yesterday, Jake turned 18.

I can't believe it.

But he can. He's overjoyed to be "an adult" now. And yesterday afternoon, Nicole even had to remind me that now I have two adults, two teenagers, and two children. (Of course, they are all still my children and always will be!)

I, however, use the word adult loosely when it comes to an 18 year old. Nicole, being 21, a senior in college, responsible, living on her own 8 months of the year has earned the right to be a full-fledged adult. Jake is still in high school and hasn't lived on his own, so he may be 18, but he's an "adult" until a little bit later. Like it or not. :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bedtime stories

Now, doesn't this look like a very unique reading spot? I don't know how or why Libby thought to lie there to read. I just know I that's how I found her!

A year or two ago, I started reading to Mia and Libby every night after they get in bed. We're not talking picture books, we're talking chapter books, so that every night Mia and Libby can't wait for the next night to find out what happens. Sometimes they beg me to read the next chapter right then. They know that if they get into bed late, we might not have time to read all of one chapter, so it's also an incentive to get to bed on time. We have read quite a number of books, and we've enjoyed them all. Sometimes I think I enjoy them even more than the girls do!

We have read:

*Matilda by Roald Dahl
*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory also by Roald Dahl
*The entire Little House on the Prairie series, including Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (which  I received as a little girl from my Grandma H. and still own & love to read!)
*The Penderwicks & The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
*A Little Princess & The Secret Garden, both by Frances Hodgson Burnett
*The Ivy + Bean series by Annie Barrows
*Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

I would say that Mia's favorites have been A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Libby loved The Penderwicks, especially the character of Batty. (Because Batty's real name is Elizabeth--which is also Libby's real name, only spelled with an s instead of a z). Both girls love Ivy + Bean and the Little House books...maybe as much as I do!

What are your favorite chapter books for kids? Or girls especially? Please leave a comment and share. I love book suggestions!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

So I'm 45. Now what?



There it is, all spelled out in fresh raspberries atop the best buttercream ever. I was actually happy with a plain white cake, but Sarah did not agree. She went out, picked some raspberries and spiffed it up for me. It does match the raspberry filling I put inside the cake. And it was yummy.

How did I end up celebrating my big day? Well, I did have my hot apple cider...but just one cup. I used it to wash down the advil and tylenol for the headache I woke up with.

Went for a run. First one in like 6 weeks, because I had to let my heel pain go away. I felt good & had fun reminding myself that I could. Today, however, my quads are telling me it had been 6 weeks!

Went to the grocery store. Fun, fun.

Took care of sick dogs. More fun.

Used a "get your first 5 oz free" coupon at Yogurtland. That was yummy fun. Try the White Chocolate Macademia. :d

Shopped for some cream for my face...something that will lighten up those pesky brown age spots around my eyes. (Truth in blogging moment here). I didn't find anything. Does anyone out there use one that really works? I would LOVE some real life suggestions. There are just too many to choose from!

I made that birthday cake pictured up there. White cake, raspberry filling, white buttercream. Delectable, if I do say so myself. Even hubby liked that frosting, and he doesn't like frosting. You'll find it over at CookingClassy.blogspot.com. "The Ultimate ButterCream Frosting."

The morning headache came back with a vengeance. Took my migraine medication. It didn't work. More fun!

Because of my headache, I stayed in and hung out with Jeff. We watched some 9/11 remembrances on the History channel. Sad. Not a good thing to do on my birthday. Then we watched Chopped. Love that show!

All in all, it was a good birthday, mixed in with a few reality checks. Gotta love reality.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Happy Birthday to me



Tomorrow is my birthday.

It's also 9/11. I will spend a little a lot of time thinking about that and remembering those who died that day, but I'm also going to celebrate the fact that I'm turning 45. FORTY FIVE. Since I hope to live to see 90 (and it's in the genes so I just might do it) I've lived half my life. (But only half!)  I oughta celebrate at least a little. And if the genes don't win out and I have less time than I hope for, then I really ought to celebrate. We all really ought to celebrate Every. Single. Day. Because they are all a gift. I can't forget that a lot of people lost that gift on 9/11, the year I turned 34. So every birthday I have now, I'm a little more grateful for it and for those who have fought every day since to keep America a little safer.

Back to celebrating.

Here's what I may or may not do. It all depends on what I feel like. :)

1. Stay in my pajamas for a long time.
2. Drink how ever many cups of hot apple cider I want. I LOVE apple cider.
3. Write a few articles. Or not.
4. Get my hair done.
5. Thinkin' about having my nails done with shellac.
6. Cafe Rio for lunch. With EXTRA Creamy Tomatillo dressing.
7. Get frozen yogurt. Oh yeah, I will probably maybe definitely do that one.
8. Do absolutely no laundry. Or just one load, but I refuse to fold it AND put it away too.
9. Cook what I want for dinner for a change.Tricky question...what do I want?
10. Run. Because I'm FORTY-FREAKIN-FIVE and I can!! (And I also should).

Okay, there you have it.  If you have any other suggestions, by all means. Divulge.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

24 Years and the BEST tribute ever!

I married the best guy around 24 years ago today, or should I say that the best guy around married me. But the greatest thing I could say about it was actually posted by Nicole on her FB page today. It brought a tear to my eye and made our day! Thank you, Nicole. All I can say is that it does take work, but we have also been very blessed!! And I would definitely do it all over again.
"Happy 24th Anniversary to the best parents ever!! They are the best examples to me of real love and how to make a marriage work. Love them!"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Advice from Miss Sarah

This is pretty good advice for anyone:


It's a little hard to see, but right in the middle of her white board, Sarah wrote "Smile Be happy."

I do believe that happiness is a choice. At any rate, Sarah gave me a smile when I saw that. Thanks, Miss Sarah!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Project Abacus Complete!!



In case you didn't know (and I didn't before this project) the plural of abacus can be either abaci...or abacuses. We prefer abacuses. Namely, 100 of them. In the picture above, Jared is holding a box of 75 of them that went to an elementary school in our district. Another school got the other 25. For his Eagle Scout project, he chose to help out 100 first graders by making abacuses for them to learn math. The district is rolling out a new program for math learning in first grade, and what Jared did was a HUGE help.

Here's Jared and the cute 1st grade teacher who requested the project. Jared is holding the version of the abacus that the kids will use, and the teacher is holding the giant teacher version, which I think is awesome! A big one that size will be so easy for every child in the room to see as she explains how they work.

Here is Jared with all of the first grade teachers at that school. They were all THRILLED to get those abacuses...I can't tell you how much. They fawned over Jared and made him feel like a million bucks, which was great. They took our address so that all the first graders can write a thank you note to Jared. That will be fun to get!

**A big thank you to Jared's troop who helped put them together one evening. It was a big help. But the biggest shout out goes to Jared, who literally spent days getting them ready for that point. Awesome job, Joj!!**

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Exophoria & Reading

 Last school year was not without its struggles for my little Mia. She's such a social person and has many talents, including athleticism and performance. But parts of school just weren't easy for her. Reading and math were both a struggle, and reading in particular just seemed to be getting harder instead of easier.

Mia had a great teacher last year who recommended that the school do some testing. We agreed, since we felt that something had to be hindering her. All kinds of tests were run for different learning disabilities. Fortunately Mia was not found to have a learning disability in reading, and in math they couldn't nail anything down, only that there seemed to be a disconnect somewhere between her eyes and her brain. She was able to start receiving extra help in math and that was good, but we still had no answers for why she couldn't read without stumbling over words.

Summer came and no change. Then one day, Mia put on my reading glasses for fun during scripture time and was still wearing them when her turn came to read. Lo and behold, we were amazed at the difference in her reading! And then Mia said, "I can read easier with your reading glasses!" That was the first time that it occurred to me that there could be a vision problem.

A few weeks ago, I took Mia to the eye doctor. I expected something like farsightedness, but was surprised when the doctor said, "She has a condition called Exophoria" after he had performed some interesting tests. As he explained it, Mia's eyes don't focus together at the same point for near work--reading, math, computer, etc.--they want to focus beyond whatever she is trying to look at. So words, numbers, etc., are unclear and can seem to jump around on the page. No wonder she was having such a struggle! It was such a relief to FINALLY have an answer.

So Mia now wears glasses for anything within 2-3 feet of her face. The lenses have prisms in them that force her eyes to focus correctly together. She is reading easier and better, but still needs practice to catch up. Hopefully the glasses will do the trick, but if they don't, she will need vision therapy.

In the meantime, Mia LOVES her purple glasses and is excited to start school in them next week. I have spoken with the principal at her school, and we will all be watching to see what happens with her reading and math skills.

For more info on Exophoria, check out this link: http://www.children-special-needs.org/vision_therapy/esophoria_reading.html