Friday, December 27, 2013

A Christmas story

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! Time for a little recap.

At 6 am, I awoke to lights on and noises in the living room. When I went to investigate, I found the four youngest kids up and looking through all the gifts to see how many were for them. I sighed and went back to bed. :)

At 7, Jeff and I and Nicole finally had to get up. We always start with family prayer and a reading from Luke chapter 2.

When we opened gifts, Sarah and I discovered we were twinners. Turns out when Jeff took the kids shopping for my gifts, Sarah picked out this hoodie for me. A couple weeks later when Jeff and I were shopping for the kids, I picked out the identical hoodie for Sarah. Of course, they aren't the same size...but at least they are in the same league!

Sorry this pic is kinda dark, but it's the best part of our day. We got to Skype with our missionary son for awhile in the afternoon and that was the best present ever. It was really great to see him and talk with him, and then it was hard because he got teary at the end, and of course that makes a mom teary too. I just really hope that he's over it by now and not too homesick. We will get to do this again in May for Mother's Day.

Finally, a little something fun. This is my hubby about age 4 or 5. I know he's not the real Ralphie 'cause we haven't seen any royalties, but it sure does make you wonder! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Guest Post: Vermiculite, Asbetos, and You

Today's post is provided by the Mesothelioma Lawyer Center. Their objective is to educate the public on the health dangers of vermiculite and asbestos. If you live in an older home, this information is especially for you!

Is Asbestos in Your Home’s Insulation?

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral found in land sources, is made up of fine fibers, that when disrupted, can easily be ingested, which can lead to hazardous diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. Vermiculite is also a naturally-occurring mineral that was used for decades as insulation in homes, buildings, and facilities. Vermiculite is typically not dangerous on its own, but the majority of insulation made between 1910-1990 was mixed with asbestos, creating a dangerous combination. If you and your family live in a older home, it’s important to understand how to keep your family safe if your home was insulated with vermiculite.

Vermiculite in Older Homes

Vermiculite containing asbestos was manufactured for decades by a processing company in Libby, Montana. After the vermiculite was manufactured, it was shipped all the across the world, and used as insulation in millions of homes. Typically, the insulation is behind walls and in the attic, and if left undisturbed, the fibers have less of a chance of becoming airborne. Airborne asbestos fibers can be easily ingested, and most people aren’t aware that it happens. Once these fibers are ingested, it’s difficult to rid them from the body. Over time, an array of health issues can develop.

Children should always be watched closely, but especially if you own an older home that was insulated with vermiculite. Playing in an attic of an older home or roughhousing around walls is extremely dangerous. These areas should be off-limits if you suspect your home may contain vermiculite insulation. Even minor repairs, such as hammering a wall, or cleaning up the attic may cause asbestos fibers to become disturbed, so it’s a good idea to hold off all repairs and/or renovations until you’re certain as to whether your home contains vermiculite insulation or not.

How to Determine if Your Home Contains Vermiculite Insulation

It’s difficult for people who don’t specialize in asbestos to understand which vermiculite products may contain it. However, vermiculite, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is usually either silver-gold or grayish-brown in color, and it has the texture of small pebbles. In addition, the EPA suggests that all vermiculite insulation should be treated as if asbestos was mixed with it until a professional, state-certified asbestos technician can inspect your home. Do not try to remove the insulation yourself as there are no known safe levels of asbestos, and there is no way to determine if the amount you possibly ingest will be harmless or cause an asbestos-related disease.

Additional Tips to Consider

     If you live in an older home and suspect your attic, or anywhere insulation is, may contain asbestos, do not enter the area for any reason, not even to store old boxes.
     If going into your attic is necessary, try to stay as far away from your insulation as possible. Walk on the boards between the insulation, if applicable, and close the attic door firmly before leaving.
     If you have cracks or holes in the ceiling, it’s important to get help as soon as possible from a qualified asbestos professional.
     Do not hammer any walls, or do any renovations until after you’ve gotten help from an asbestos professional.
     Tell all family members of the dangers of vermiculite that contains asbestos. Animals can ingest the harmful fibers as well and should never be allowed in your attic.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies & Cinnamon Roll Day

We are having a snow day here. Make that a snow-on-top-of-freezing-rain day. Yikes! Bad combination. Bad enough that my hubby just called to tell me work is shutting down for the day at 2 pm to allow employees to beat the traffic. Niiice!!

But Nicole and I, we are making the best of it.

That is gingerbread dough made with a recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  While I have wrapped some gifts, Nicole has been a busy little baker. She is also making cinnamon rolls using my basic dough recipe found here.

Now, gingerbread doesn't have to be men, does it?

Definitely not. It makes adorable stars, especially when they are drizzled with white chocolate.  Yum!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Brand spanking new college graduate. Now what? ;)

This cute chick just graduated from college! That's a little unbelievable, since I am NOT that old. :)

Everyone asks her "what are you going to do now?" The answer to that is pretty simple.

Find a job. 

Good luck, Co! Go out there and kick some butt!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pinterest Test: DIY Gel Nails

If you're anything like me, you really love gel manicures, but you don't really love paying $30 a pop (plus the tip)! So when perusing Pinterest and you come across a pin for DIY Gel Nails, you pin it and take a look.

I saw a such a pin and knew I could get the required elements needed to do it myself. Here is what you need:

1. a bottle of Gelous  Advanced Nail Gel Coat.
2. a bottle of China Glaze polish in your desired color. I used Glistening Snow.
3. a bottle of Seche Vite top coat. What I have up there is Seche Plus fortifier, and I used that.

It's pretty easy to do, though there are a lot of coats. Don't let it scare you too much, because it all dries pretty darn fast, especially if you use thin coats as suggested. Here are the steps:

Apply a thin coat of Gelous to clean, dry nails.
Apply a thin coat of China Glaze.
Apply another thin coat of Gelous.
Apply another thin coat of China Glaze.
Apply another thin coat of Gelous, followed by a coat of the Seche Vite.
Finally, one last coat of Gelous!

Let each coat dry for at least 45 seconds. I just waited a couple minutes between coats and had no problems.

Now, I must say that the original pin is a little misleading. It says "DIY Nails for 5.99"  That is true if you only need to buy the Gelous--it costs $5.99 at Sally's. If you need to buy Seche Vite or China Glaze, because supposedly they work best with the Gelous, it'll cost you more. But you are still saving a lot of cash in the long run.

I did my nails today and I am going to take another pic in a week and post it so we can all see how long these DIY gel nails last. If they are still going strong, I will wait another week and do it again. Stay tuned. If it lasts 14 days under my normal cooking, cleaning, piano teaching routine, I will change the title of this post to Pinterest Success.

Source of the original pin:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Easy Thai-spiced Orange Chicken

How's the Christmas preparations going? I have one more thing to buy and then a bunch of wrapping to do, so I'm just about there. It can definitely get a little crazy!

That's why you need an easy meal. If this meal were any easier, you'd be served it by someone else who did all the work. While you sat with your feet up. Reading a great book. In complete solitude. {Que the easy button}.

This is my own recipe, sparked by my hubby requesting that I buy this bottle of Thai Kitchen Sweet Red Chili sauce at Costco. 

So, all you need is this:

And some chicken. Breasts, thighs, tenders....whatever you like or have on hand. I had some chicken tenders so that's what I used this time. I used 15 of them.

Okay, are you ready for the easiness?

Simply place your chicken in a greased baking dish. Take the orange and zest the whole thing right over the chicken. Then cut the orange in half and juice away right over the chicken with the zest. Now pour a healthy amount of Thai Kitchen Sweet Red Chili sauce over it all. Enough to have some to put over rice. You can see that I did not use the whole bottle. In fact, I'd already used that bottle for something else, so this recipe probably took about a third of it. Remember, it's a Costco-sized bottle. :)
Now bake the chicken, uncovered, in a 400 degree oven til done. For frozen chicken tenders, that was about 40 minutes. I'd plan on an hour for frozen chicken breasts. By this time, the sauce will be hot and bubbly, and a little thickened. Serve the chicken and sauce over hot cooked rice.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A little Christmas romance.

Last Christmas, Michele Ashman Bell sent me a copy of her latest release: a short story with a Christmas Eve setting titled Christmas in Bliss. I got it just in time to read it and share my review of it with you on Christmas Eve 2012. It's a great little read, so I thought I would share it again, this time earlier in the season so that you can have time to find and read it before Christmas if you like. It's short and sweet, and if you like a little clean romance, it's for you.

Christmas in Bliss centers on Nikki Michaels, a young working woman who is trying to get home to Utah for Christmas. She works in Oregon, and the drive from Tillamook to Salt Lake has already taken a lot longer than it should. Thanks to bad weather, it's about to get worse. As a storm descends on Idaho, Nikki is forced to pull off the road and wait for snow plows. She is surprised when she learns that the nearby town is actually called "Bliss." Being stranded far from home on Christmas Eve should be anything but blissful!

There are a dozen or so others who are stranded along with Nikki in a rest stop. One of the strangers is a man driving a truck full of toys meant for children at Primary Children's Hospital. Nikki, who works for Tillamook cheese, has some cheeses and other goodies in her car. The truck driver is a man named Brian Thomas. He invites Nikki to help him make Christmas Eve more enjoyable for all the adults and children stranded with them at the rest stop by sharing a little of what they've got and spreading some Christmas spirit. Nikki and Brian learn that spreading joy at a snowed-in rest stop in Idaho can mean Christmas in "bliss."

Both my daughter Nicole and I read Christmas in Bliss, and we both enjoyed it. It was a short, feel-good story. Nicole said that she "wanted it to be longer." I'm pretty sure she meant that she would love to know what happens between Nikki and Brian after Christmas in Bliss.

Thanks to Michele for allowing me to read and review her story here!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas goodies round-up {2013 update}

Flashing back to last year's Christmas goodies round-up today. There are a couple on the list that I made and they were scrumptious: the mini German pancakes and the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge. {I know, the name itself is enough to drive chocolate chip cookie dough lovers crazy!}

Microwave Peanut Brittle
Mel's Microwave Peanut Brittle

I did not include this peanut brittle in last year's round-up, and it's worthy of adding to the list. Microwave Peanut Brittle from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. I may or may not have made it about half a dozen times--to share, of course. What could be easier? And the taste--people will never know it came out of your microwave!

There are so many yummy looking treats out there! So many that I want to make, but so many that I'm also losing track of them all and where I saw them. This round-up is mostly to help me keep track of what I want to try. Yeah, I could "pin" these all, and some I have, but then I'd have to sift through all the other pins on my boards to find them. See? It's largely selfish. But it'll also benefit anyone who hasn't seen these delicious-looking morsels already.

Okay. Here are the goodies from last year's post. 

Santa Hat Cheesecake bites from Cooking Classy. Honestly, I don't know if I'll actually make these, but they are too darn cute not to include.

Also from Cooking Classy, Peppermint Oreo Truffles. Everyone has seen Oreo Truffles by now, but I think the addition of peppermint is a festive idea. White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies Don't these cookies look AMAZING? I am really going to make these this year! White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread cookies from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

I already made this decadent stuff for an open house I hosted after Thanksgiving. Also from Mel's Kitchen Cafe, this is Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge, and lots of my girlfriends liked it.

Mini German Pancakes made in a muffin tin from Real Mom Kitchen. So yummy! My version is here.

Lastly, Peppermint Crunch Puppy Chow (or Muddy Buddies--which is what I prefer to call it!). This is from Sally's Baking Addiction. Who doesn't love Muddy Buddies?

Happy Christmas Treats!! What are you planning to make this year? Feel free to leave a comment and link back if you'd like.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sweet Corn and Black Bean Quinoa

Once upon a time, I tried to get my family to like quinoa.

It was a miserable failure.

Granted, I probably didn't rinse it well enough and it was kind of bitter.

Lately I've been seeing some really yummy-looking quinoa recipes around and I've wanted to try it again. Last week when I was at Costco, I noticed a new offering--Nature's Wild Grains organic quinoa in a four-pound bag. Upon closer inspection, I saw that this particular brand is already pre-rinsed! A boon as far as I'm concerned. I bought it.

Tonight I made this Sweet Corn and Black Bean Quinoa that I adapted from one over at Mel's Kitchen Cafe. I wanted less black beans and a little more quinoa, so I adapted accordingly. I also cut out the cayenne in Mel's recipe because I don't like it. This was pretty much a hit in comparison to the first failure. All my kids ate it, and Jared had thirds. This dish is very savory and has tons of flavor. I served it with some baked chicken tenders and pomegranate seeds.

Sweet Corn and Black Bean Quinoa
1/4 cup dry minced onion
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 c. water
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
1 cup uncooked, pre-rinsed quinoa
1 teaspoon cumin
1 can super-sweet white or yellow corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, according to taste
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; add olive oil, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook til fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add water, chicken bouillon, cumin and quinoa. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat so quinoa simmers. Cook until all water is absorbed, approximately 20 minutes. Stir in corn, black beans and cilantro; cover and let stand 3-4 minutes to warm the corn and beans. Serve.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Missionary Christmas

I have a missionary out this Christmas (and the next, and then another missionary after that) so I get to put together Christmas packages for the foreseeable future.

A lot of ideas I saw came from other missionary moms who have done this before. They recommend sending stuff that missionaries need or would like to buy but often don't because of their limited monthly budgets. Since my son is in the states, it is easier to send packages than it would be if he were in a foreign country, so I pretty much sent whatever we thought he would need and enjoy, some of which he asked for.

His package includes:
a white shirt
a new tie
a V-neck sweater
a digital alarm clock/weather thermometer
a spiral-bound copy of the Ensign Conference issue (his idea--wish I'd thought of it myself)
a Costco-sized bag of Steak Strips (glamorized jerky)
a Costco-sized bag of Hi-Chews (his absolute favorite)
a stocking stuffed with toe warmers, candy and gum
a 3-D paper Christmas tree from the dollar store for fun
gift cards that he can use in his area

If you have a missionary out, what things do you like to send?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


This year's Christmas tree. Blue and silver! I inherited the tree skirt from my grandma.

The title of this post is a direct quote from one of Nicole's roommates. I love it!

{As if we can dictate Christmas haha}

Well, I can dictate when the Christmas decorations go up at home, and I can decide when to start listening to Christmas music. For me, that's after Thanksgiving.

This year it wasn't easy. Jared was begging to set up the tree at every turn. Mia was telling him no Christmas til after her birthday. Sarah was playing Christmas music on the computer all the time. Jeff plays it in his car. The stores decorated for Christmas at Halloween. Nope, not easy, but I held out for my favorite holiday--Thanksgiving!

Now that Thanksgiving is over, #iwillnowallowChristmas decorations and music to take over my life. My favorite Christmas album is Michael Buble's Christmas, so I thought I'd share one of my favorite songs from that album, Feliz Navidad, sung with Latin songstress Thalia. I love it!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hello, Old Man Winter. Please don't stay too long...

Here's the view out my window this morning.

Certain people are happy about this, because it means our new snow blower can be put to use. The 16-year old boy in this house has been dying to use it first--last summer he even had dreams about using the new snow blower. Craziness! haha

I'm okay with the view outside the window. Who doesn't love the white stuff at Christmas time? What I'm not so okay with is the arctic blast that's going to hit after the snow stops falling in a couple of days. We're talking 20s for the high temps, and I feel like maybe I'm getting a little old for that part. {I admit it, I'm turning into a wuss}.

That calls for staying inside and baking...pumpkin bread? Pumpkin muffins? What do you like to bake when it's frigid outside?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I'm grateful for many things today, and family is at the top of that list. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Angel Lemon Pie {a melt-in-your-mouth favorite}

It isn't Thanksgiving time without pie. Lots and lots of pies!

Here's one of my faves: Angel Lemon Pie. I've shared it before and I'm gonna share it again because it is SO good. It's different from regular pie because it has a meringue crust. Don't let the word meringue scare you, because it's really very easy to do. The pie is very light, very lemony, and literally melts in your mouth. This pie needs to chill for an entire day before you serve it, so keep that in mind if you decide to try it. Don't worry, the chilling time is worth it!

Angel Lemon Pie

adapted from a KUTV cooking segment

4 egg whites
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1 c. sugar

Beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar, and beat until stiff. Gradually add sugar, and beat until stiff and shiny. Put into a greased 9-in. pie pan. Bake at 275 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn the heat up to 300 degrees and bake for 40 minutes more. Cool.

The meringue crust before baking.

4 egg yolks
1/2 c. sugar
3 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. lemon extract
1-2 T. water
1 c. whipping cream
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla

Beat yolks until thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in sugar. Add lemon juice, grated peel (Or extract) and water. Cook over a double boiler until thick, stirring constantly. (This step doesn't take long, and I cooked it until it was the consistency of yogurt). Chill.

Whip the cream with 2 T. sugar and 1/2 t. vanilla. Spread 1/2 of whipped cream over cooled crust, then spread the lemon custard over that. Add the rest of the whipped cream on top. Refrigerate 24 hours before serving.

Friday, November 22, 2013

How to start a fire in your microwave

Besides sticking something metal or foil in there.  This is a new one. I'm betting no one thought of it before.

I don't know if you can tell, but this method will also give you a nice, black sooty film all over the entire inside of your microwave. It's a joy to clean up, it really is.

So what's this new way of almost destroying a perfectly good microwave? A hand warmer. One of those little bitty packs you just shake and then it heats up. Someone around here wanted a hand warmer during our cold, blustery wind storm yesterday, so they assumed it needed a spin in the zapper to heat it up.

It worked all right. The good news is that by some miracle our microwave still works.

Don't try this at home.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies on a pink Post-It Note.

My title is quite literal today. I'll show you in a minute.

I wrote the recipe for these cookies down on a little pink Post-It note probably two years ago, and ever since then that little gem has maintained a prized spot right on my kitchen counter where I can use it whenever I have one of those I've-got-to-have-chocolate-chip-cookies-now moments.

I know we all have those moments. Ahem.

Anyway, because of where it lives, it looks like this:

Don't judge me--I can still read it just fine. :)   In case you need a little deciphering, it's 1 1/2 sticks of butter, melted and then cooled slightly. Cream the butter and sugars for 2 minutes on medium high speed--really, beat the heck out of it, it's worth the time. When you add the egg, yolk and vanilla, do that again--2 full minutes.

Original recipe lives here: Mel's Kitchen Cafe under "Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies." I named them the BEST because I consider them to be just that. They don't disappoint!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Herbed Chicken with Parmesan Dumplings

Here's the recipe I promised yesterday. It's a good one--perfect for these cold fall-turning-into-winter days.

Herb Chicken with Parmesan Dumplings
adapted from McCormick

1/3 cup butter

1/4 cup flour 
1/4 to 1/3 cup dry minced onion
3 cups water
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 2/3 cups milk, divided
3/4 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
3/4 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2-3 cups cooked chicken thighs (or breasts), cubed
2 cups assorted frozen vegetables (peas/carrots or a California blend are both good)
1 1/4 cup Bisquick baking mix
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 t. dried parsley

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet (I use my 12"). Add dry onions and whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in water and whisk until smooth. Add 1 cup of the milk and the chicken bouillon cubes. Stir in sage, garlic salt, rosemary, thyme and black pepper. Continue whisking until smooth. Stir in cooked chicken and frozen vegetables. Bring mixture to a boil. Meanwhile, mix Bisquick, Parmesan cheese, milk and parsley in a small bowl until well blended. Drop by spoonfuls onto chicken mixture. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover the skillet and cook 10 more minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler on low. At the end of the second 10-minute cooking time, remove the lid from the skillet and place the pan under the broiler for 2 minutes, or until the dumplings are golden brown on top. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Quick and easy poached chicken {when you need cooked chicken for a recipe}

Cooked boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Lots of yummy recipes out there call for cooked chicken. If you think ahead and throw some in your crock pot for later, it works great. But what about all the times you I don't think ahead and then realize I could make something really great if I had some cooked chicken?

If you're like me, this idea is for you.

Quickly poach some chicken and you'll have the cooked chicken you need, freshly cooked, in a half hour or less. Here's what I do for quick, moist, flavorful cooked chicken.

Chicken thighs just added to the boiling seasoned and buttery broth.

Grab a 10-12" skillet, and set it over medium high heat. Throw in a couple tablespoons of butter and let it melt. Add 2 cups of hot water and two chicken bouillon cubes, and then a teaspoon of rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Turn heat up and bring to a boil. Add chicken breasts or thighs--and it's important to note that mine are always frozen when I do this. Cover and return to boiling. Once it boils, turn the heat down to a simmer. For chicken thighs, set the timer for 15 minutes. For chicken breasts, 25 minutes. At the end of cooking time, remove pan from heat and drain off the water. Keep the chicken covered and let it cool for 5 or 10 minutes before chopping or shredding.

I used the cooked chicken thighs above to make a delicious Herbed Chicken with Parmesan Dumplings. Come back tomorrow to see the results and get the recipe!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Homemade Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

Hello there!

Today we're talking bread. Specifically, Rosemary Olive Oil Bread. I love me some Rosemary Olive Oil Bread, and my local Smith's sells some La Brea variety. It is good. The only problem? It's $3 a loaf, and the loaves are small so I have to buy two if I want my family to be satisfied--i.e. enjoy any leftovers. I decided there must be a good recipe out there to make it myself. So I went looking.

I looked at several, and the only problem I saw with them was that they only called for 2 measly tablespoons of olive oil. That's how much I put in my French Bread recipe--not enough to earn the name Olive Oil in the title.

Then I found one at Cuisinart. There is 1/3 cup of olive oil in this recipe. Now we're talking!! The recipe calls for rolling the dough into a rope and forming a circle. As you can see from the pic, it makes a huge loaf that looks kind of like a bagel, although there's really not a hole in the middle, just an indentation. You could shape the dough any way you want, and I would recommend making it into two separate loaves. My loaf above is almost a foot in diameter--no joke!

The hardest part of this recipe is just the time. The dough rises three different times, so don't be in a hurry when you make it. Other than that, it's easy-peasy, especially if you hire your bread machine to help.

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread
adapted slightly from Cuisinart

1/3 cup Extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 t. dried rosemary

Combine olive oil and rosemary in bread machine bowl and let stand for at least 10 minutes. (I let it stand for 20.)
1 T. active dry yeast
2 1/2 t. salt
1 1/3 cup warm water
4 1/3 cup all purpose flour

Let the bread machine mix and knead the dough (or mix and knead by hand). Allow dough to rise for one hour. At this point, I removed the dough from my bread machine and transferred it to a large, oiled bowl. Punch the dough down and then cover and rise for another hour. Remove dough from bowl, punch it down and let it rest for 10 minutes. After it rests, roll the dough into a long, thick rope. Shape into a circle and firmly press the ends together to seal. Transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet (or use cornmeal if you have it). Cover the dough and let it rise until double, approximately 45-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Bake the bread for 10 minutes, and then turn the heat down to 375 degrees F and continue to bake for about 20-25 more minutes, or until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing.  I buttered my loaf while it was still warm, and sprinkled it with extra rosemary. That made for a softer crust, so don't butter yours if you want it crustier.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Meet Boston

cutie of the month!
Photo of Boston from PS I Adore You
Boston is a cute little guy, the nephew of one of my daughter Nicole's roommates. Nicole asked me to do a post about him, and I am hoping that sharing this story with you will help Boston and his family.

Unfortunately, Boston was recently diagnosed with leukemia. He is only 3 years old.

This month, Boston is the cancer cutie of the month over at P.S. I Adore You!

P.S. I Adore You is a blog written by three moms who are passionate about bringing more awareness of childhood cancers. As a mom who would like to up awareness of Type 1 Diabetes, I can totally relate to their cause.

Please visit their blog to meet Boston, read his story and find out how you can help meet the needs of Boston and other kids who are fighting cancer. P.S. I Adore You is teamed up with Millie' Princess Foundation to raise money to help Boston's family. Millie's Princess will match every donation made for Boston this month.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Great Reads: The Rent Collector

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright is an excellent read and I absolutely loved it! If you like stories of courage and hope, you should definitely read The Rent Collector.

Wright's story is based on fact. The setting is Cambodia, in the garbage dump known as Stung Meanchey. Yes, there are people, approximately 600 families to be exact, who LIVE IN THE DUMP. They make their living scavenging through others' refuse for anything of value, and they actually have to pay rent to live there. It's unbelievable, yet perfectly true.

The Rent Collector is the story of Sang Ly and her husband, Ki Lim, and their infant son, Nisay, who live in a shack at Stung Meanchey. Sang Ly, Ki Lim and Nisay are real people, and they are shown in the video above. They struggle each month to raise enough money to feed themselves and pay the rent collector on time. On top of that, Nisay is unwell and has been since birth. Sang Ly is matter-of-fact about why she thinks Nisay is not well, saying "We do live in a dump." But her biggest desire is to find a way for Nisay to be healed.

Sang Ly is a hero in my book. She manages to find the humor in life and this humor is interspersed through the book. She also has very thought-provoking ideas. A clock in their home that doesn't even work is still correct "two times a day," and Sang Ly keeps it because one day she hopes to have it repaired. One of my favorite quotes from the book is this: "Sometimes broken things deserve to be repaired."

One day Sang Ly discovers that the rent collector, an unlikeable old woman who seems to like no one, can read! This is a rare thing in the dump. Sang Ly manages to convince the rent collector, Sopeap Sin, to teach her to read in hopes of finding a better life for Nisay. An unlikely friendship develops and some amazing secrets are revealed about Sopeap Sin that change both of their lives.

The Rent Collector reminds the reader that hope springs eternal, great stories change lives and that you can never judge a book, or a person, by its cover. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

What's it like to be Sean Busby, Pro Backcountry Snowboarder?

Like my son Jared, Sean Busby is one of millions of amazing individuals who live with Type 1 diabetes {T1D}.

This year, Sean Busby is going to show you what it's like to be T1D for a Day.

This year's T1D4ADAY challenge is brought to you by Lilly Diabetes in partnership with JDRF.

Take the T1D for a Day challenge by texting T1D4ADAY to 63566. You will receive multiple text messages over a 24-hour period from Sean Busby. These messages will show you what it is like to have to stop what you're doing to test your blood sugar, administer insulin and count carbs before you can eat.

If you take the challenge, the JDRF asks that you use the hashtag #T1D4aDay on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to help spread awareness of the disease.

As a mom, I say THANK YOU!! Raising awareness of this difficult disease is exactly what is needed to help find a cure.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Week Odds n' Ends

Happy Halloween!! How do you say "Halloween?" HAL-oween? or Haul-o-ween? I find myself saying Haul-o-ween this year. Don't know why, other than it sounds kinda cool.

When your missionary son emails you and says, "I could really use some homemade pumpkin cookies," what do you do? Make them. And then you ship them off in a hurry before transfers hit next week.

These are your basic 1-spice cake mix, 1-15 oz. can of pumpkin, and chocolate chips recipe. Pretty easy. If you have a better one, leave me a link or something because I'd love to try it out!

We have a Van Gogh in the family. If you've read much of my blog, you know about Jared's love of working with his hands, so we shouldn't be surprised. This is Jared's completed assignment for his painting class at the high school. The assignment was to paint a picture in the style of Van Gogh, and then add a crazy element. I LOVE that he added Superman, and he did a dang good job of it, too! Oh yeah, he earned an A!

Last, but certainly not least, is the sweet little note Libby wrote and stuck in with her brother's cookies. She stuck a creepy clown pen in, too, because she swears that Jake doesn't like clowns. As you can see, the clown pen doesn't even work, but that didn't stop her.

Stay safe tonight in your tricking and treating!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pumpkin Muffins

Muffin tops are the best, right?!

When I was younger, I never just pulled the whole top off in one piece. I would drive my mom crazy by "picking" at it and tearing off little bits of the top and eating them one by one. She would say, "Stop picking at your muffin and just eat it!" Well, I was eating it. In my own little way. :)

Here's a good muffin recipe for these cool, autumn, all-things-pumpkin days.

Pumpkin Muffins
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 2/3 c. all purpose flour (or 1 c. all purpose & 2/3 c. whole wheat)
1 c. sugar
2 t. cinnamon
3/4 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cloves
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
3 eggs
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 cube of butter, almost fully melted

Preheat oven to 350 and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk together all dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, and butter. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until all the flour is blended in. Fill muffin cups (these are large muffins). Bake in preheated oven for 22-25 minutes or until the tops just spring back when touched lightly with your finger. Careful not to overbake! Remove from oven and let cool in the muffin tin for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Diamond Candles--a ring in every candle!

One day I got an email about Diamond Candles, a product I'd never heard of before.

If you haven't heard of them, then trust me. It's your lucky day. Especially if you love all-natural soy candles in a variety of great scents! Not to mention rings!

Yes, there really is a ring in every candle, worth at least $10 and up to $5000.00 dollars. That's not a typo. 5k dolares, peeps. (Did I ever tell you I could have minored in Spanish in college? Well, I still remember a few words haha).
So last week I got a Cranberry Chutney candle in the mail. Smells soo yummy. I burned it for about two hours and then I was able to get the ring out. Your ring will be near the top, double-wrapped in a tiny ziploc bag and then gold foil. (No wax gets in there). This is the ring I found in mine. It's probably a $10 ring, but I don't care. It's pretty and I like it.

Diamond Candles are good-sized at 21 ounces, so it's going to last a while. At $24.95 with at least a $10 ring inside, it seems like a pretty reasonable deal to me. Plus, it's so much more fun than a regular candle! If you're going to burn scented candles anyway, they might as well have a surprise ring inside!

Scents include such yummies as Vanilla Lime, Pumpkin Chai, Cinnamon Tea, Birthday Cake, Pomegranate Lemonade, Misty Dawn and Lavender Lemon. And these are just a few. 

Right now, you can order a Candy Corn candle for a special deal--$14.95! Go to to order yours.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Review: My Story by Elizabeth Smart {with Chris Stewart}

Okay, I read Elizabeth Smart's new book.

Part of me wasn't sure about doing so. After all, some terrible things happened to her during her 9-month captivity by Mitchell and Barzee. I reasoned that most of what happened to her has already been in the news, and I was right. There weren't too many more details about what Mitchell and Barzee did to her, but there are more details about how she survived. It's not an easy read but it's a quick read because it sucks you in! It's a remarkable story, and the good in it made it easier.

There are more details about the first hours of Elizabeth's captivity--how she was thisclose to being spotted by a policeman just minutes after leaving her backyard, and the hours-long, arduous climb into the mountains to reach the remote camp her captors had set up to hide her. There are more details about what Elizabeth's daily life was like--constant threats, the mind-numbing boredom and the thirst and starvation she experienced.

To counteract all this, there are the little things Elizabeth did to survive it all. There are also all the many, many ways in which God helped her to keep going--the tender mercies, outright miracles, and the presence of her recently deceased grandfather, whose spirit she could definitely feel watching over her.

What I really wanted to know more about was how Elizabeth managed to heal after such a hellish experience? She gives the reader insights into the process of her recovery in the decade since her return--including her Mormon faith, her love of horses and the advice of her mother, Lois.

This is nothing short of a remarkable look at a very admirable young woman.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall break: A beautiful world, sisterly love and Apple Pie

Apples from my tree and a leaf from my Silver Maple. #nofilter

Fall is the favorite season of so many of us. For good reason! We live in such a beautiful world.

I think one reason my kids love fall is because they get Fall Break.

This means that we have Nicole home from college for the weekend. This is such a cute shot of my oldest and my youngest, who was extremely excited to have her big sister come home. They camped out on the sofa like this, talking and laughing, for quite awhile. Love.

Fall is also birthday time! First for me (in September) and then Jeff yesterday. He prefers pie over cake, so part of my day yesterday was spent making apple pies, his fave.

I don't think I've posted my apple pie recipe before, so here you go!

Apple Pie
prepared pie crust for a 9-in double-crust pie
8 medium to large Golden Delicious apples
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. flour
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 t. salt
2 T. butter, in small peices

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
Peel, core and slice apples into a large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent browning. Add flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Using a large spatula or wooden spoon, toss apple slices to evenly coat with flour, sugar and spices. Let stand 10 minutes.

Pour apples into a prepared 9-inch pie crust. Dot evenly with butter pieces. Cover with top crust and seal edges well. Cut vents in top crust. Rub crust with a little milk and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes. If your oven has any hot spots, rotate the pie halfway through cooking time to reduce uneven browning of the crust.  Cool before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Happy Birthday to the Hubs

Pic taken by me after the Ogden Marathon, May 2013
Happy Birthday to the best person I know. 

{For real.}

I'm not going to bore you with the details, but just know that he's my favorite person in the world, for lots of reasons, and I hope he has the best birthday ever!  

I'll also point out that we're 11 months apart in age, so he's older than me once again. :)

It also means that I have some pie making ahead of me today. See this link for the pie I made last year, the Swiss Apple pie we love. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Love. Want. NEED!

Gotta keep my wants and needs straight, you know.

I went shopping at Costco today. I needed a sweater for Elder Jake and a wedding gift for a young man from our neighborhood. I found a couple things that I could just DIE over.

Too bad it's not my wedding, but that already happened.

First, these darling mugs. I DID die when I saw these.

Who doesn't want to have hot cocoa or soup or whatever out of one of these mugs in the morning?! (Probably a guy, that's who. So I didn't buy these for the happy couple). But seriously, they are happiness to me just looking at them.

This is what I did buy:

This 3-piece baking set also comes in red and mustard colors! I need this for Thanksgiving.

Thanks to my practical side, I did not buy anything for myself. I'm pretty boring that way. Watch, though. I'll get told by the hubs to go get them if I'd like to, and when I do they will all be gone. You'd think I'd learn by now....