Friday, January 31, 2014

To My Future Sons-in-Law

These are my beautiful daughters. I love them all so much, and like any mother, I want the best for them.

I've thought a lot about them growing up, finding a great guy, becoming mothers. I'm certainly not the best mother out there, but I've tried to teach them what to look for, how to love, how to be a committed wife and how to mother their children.

Their dad is, quite simply, one of the best men there is. Nicole is marrying age now and I've told her more than once to "find someone like your dad." By that I mean someone who puts his God, wife and family first. Someone who works hard. Someone who is committed. Someone who has 100% integrity in all he does. Someone who will love them and let them be who they are, but also won't let them walk all over him. (Because I didn't raise marshmallows. Each of these girls has a stubborn streak--some a mile wide!)

There's one thing I want to say to my future sons-in-law (my sons have heard this too), and that is, please protect yourself from things that will destroy your ability to really connect with and care for a beautiful young woman. I think the most horrible of  destroyers is pornography. It has been referred to as "a plague," and I believe it to be true. Here's what I tell my own sons (and daughters need to be careful too): Please don't fall victim to its clutches! It will entrap you and burrow itself deep into your psyche where it is tough to get it out.  I know that getting rid of it can be done, but it is easier to not have to root it out in the first place. Please keep yourself clean and fully able to commit to a beautiful young woman who will give herself to you for safekeeping. If you've been challenged in the past, break free. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, it can be done, and you can be as clean as pure water once again. This I know is true! 

Here are some excellent resources for anyone interested in learning more about the pornography plague and how you can fight against it:

The Washington Times: The Plague of Porn

How One Couple Overcame the Plague of Pornography

Freedom From the Plague of Pornography

Overcoming Pornography Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bathroom Renovation: Closet Update

The ugly cabinet that looked like this: looks MUCH, MUCH improved. (And it isn't even quite done yet). But I'm already so happy about the change I just had to show you.

Instead of a cabinet with those double Brady Bunch-esque cabinet doors, it's now going to be an actual closet with adjustable shelving and a white bi-fold door. The paint is called Urban Sunrise, which is pretty much a straight gray. It doesn't have the taupe look that my bedroom has (Montpelier Ashlar Gray).

We're getting close on this renovation, so a finished update is coming soon!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tilapia Parmesan--even if you're not a fish lover, it's a must-try recipe

Not a fish lover? Please don't let the name "tilapia" scare you. If you've never tried it, tilapia is a very mild, white fish that takes on other flavors well. In this case, a parmesan sauce. It's fast and easy and cooks under the broiler in 16-18 minutes, and that is using frozen tilapia fillets. What could be easier?

Broiled Tilapia Parmesan
adapted from Our Family Treat

2 pounds of tilapia fillets, frozen
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/4 c. softened butter
3 T. mayonnaise
2 T. lemon juice
1/4 t. dried basil (heaping)
1/8 t. garlic salt
1/8 t. onion powder
1/4 t. black pepper

Preheat the broiler to low. Place the tilapia fillets on a large baking sheet. Broil the fillets for 6-7 minutes. Remove from the broiler and flip the tilapia over. Broil again 6-7 minutes. Meanwhile, mix remaining ingredients well and let sit while fish broils. After the second broiling, remove fish from the oven and cover with the parmesan sauce. Broil again 3-4 minutes, or until dark golden brown and bubbly. Fish should flake easily with a fork. Serve.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bathroom Renovation: What a difference grout makes

So a few days ago, I updated the bathroom progress to show that we had tile. Tile, but no grout.

Today, we have grout! And what a difference it makes. First, another look with no grout:

Now with SpectraLock epoxy grout (another splurge that we feel is worth it) in Silver Shadow:
Much more finished looking. I was a little nervous about the color we chose for the grout. I didn't want white because I thought it would be too bright. Didn't like antique white because it just looks dirty to me. We didn't want dark grout because it would make the room look smaller. We decided to go with Silver Shadow because we wanted to enhance the gray tones in all the tiles but we also wanted it to sort of "melt" into the tiles and make the space look bigger. I think we were successful. I'm really happy with how it looks!

Here's a close up shot of the shower:
I love what the grout does for the look of the mosaic.

We are using the same grout & color for the floor to help tie everything together.
Again, it has the desired effect and I'm really happy with it.

Here is an interesting little study in lighting. This is the mosaic in the floor, with flash and then without:

I love how lighting and color play off each other. The mosaic goes from predominantly green to more earthy while the tiles look almost pink without the flash.

The next update will probably be at the end of the week or the beginning of next, when everything is finished!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Happy Birthday, Nicole!

This cute gal made me a momma 23 years ago today. {After 19 1/2 hours of in-hospital labor.}

Funny story: it was a Sunday, and the last NFL game before the Superbowl. I was getting close to delivery, and the doctor, the anesthesiologist, and my hubby were all watching the game in my room. I have no memory of who was even playing. It finally got to where the nurse cleared her throat and calmly said, "I think it's time for her to push....." And then suddenly the focus was back where it should be. I'm sure I did not laugh about it then, but it's a fun story to tell now!

This little gal may have interrupted a big game, but she loves football now. :)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bathroom Renovation: Progress

Well, progress has been made on our main bathroom. What looked like this last week:

Now looks like this:

This is a tile called White Sands, with a mosaic strip called Cool Springs. It's got a mixture of glass and stone tiles in dark gray, light gray, white and a little gold thrown in. It comes in 12" x 12" squares that we are cutting into four 3" strips. Relatively speaking, it's probably the most expensive part of this remodel at $10.98 per square, but we love it so much we are splurging. (Every remodeling job we do, there is always one thing that we end up splurging on. This time it's Cool Springs Mosaic).

The tile surround, which used to look like this:

Now looks like this:

It is thisclose to being done, and will be completed today. There will be another full row of what we are calling "jumbo subway tiles" above the top row of mosaic. There was going to be one row of mosaic, but we liked it so well with a second that we are buying one more square to finish it off. And to think we considered buying a plain white tub surround. We love this SO much better!

Both the floor and the shower will be grouted with SpectraLock epoxy grout in Silver Shadow, which is a very light gray. I think that's going to be started today.

I think my kids are a little nervous about losing the rights to this bathroom--mom and dad just may claim it when it's done! 

The renovation will supposedly be finished in a week from now. It's gonna be close....

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Inexpensive doesn't always equal cheap.

**This is a product review, done of my own accord, with no sponsorship by Revlon.**

My name is Christine and I am going gray.

If I didn't choose to keep my hair in a pixie, it wouldn't be as noticeable, because it's mostly all around my ears and the back of my neck. But I happen to prefer short hair on myself so the gray really shows. And Sarah is happy to notify me when my grays are showing. She just keeps me informed. :)

Several months back, I bought this:

I had used L'Oreal's Champagne Blonde in the Excellence line and I liked it okay. So in the store I picked up this one, thinking I'd try it. But it was so inexpensive ($3) that I doubted it. So it sat in my cupboard while I continued to use mostly L'Oreal, with one try of Clairol (which made my scalp burn so no more of that).

Well, it was time to color again--Sarah had told me a few times that my grays AND my roots were showing! I'd read some positive reviews about Colorsilk--how their colors are pretty true to the box, it's not as harsh, it covers all the grays--so I decided to pull out my #73 Champagne Blonde and give it a go.

I'm happy that I did.

I took this shot in the currently-being-remodeled bath. It has the best light.
No more grays around the ears--and I mean NO more. L'Oreal Excellence always covered about 90% of them, but Colorsilk got them all. I love the color and it seems to have turned out just as promised. If you're like me, you can't use any color that is warm or golden, because it pulls red. I can't even use a neutral shade without pulling at least a little bit of red. I like red, but it doesn't work very well with my skin tone. I like that the beige tones in Champagne Blonde warm up my ashy look (which is getting more so every year) without pulling any red.

My one complaint about Colorsilk? There is only enough of the awesome conditioner for one use. L'Oreal includes a whole tube of conditioner, which usually gets me 4 uses. It would be great if Revlon would increase the amount of conditioner in the package. I'd pay a couple more bucks for it. :)

All-in-all, I think Colorsilk is a great way to color your hair at home, and I will be using it again.

**I should note that my natural color is about a level 7-8 ash blonde (medium-dark). I had previously lightened it with L'Oreal Supreme Blonde in Extra-light Ash Blonde but I wasn't happy with the maintenance (roots & brassiness).**

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Triple Chocolate Walnut Brownies

My love of brownies is established on my blog.

Today's brownie recipe is the best one yet. So good, that I have made them two Sundays in a row--in spite of my own rule of enjoying brownies on Fast Sundays. (The day Mormons skip two meals and donate to humanitarian efforts. Extra hunger in my book justifies brownies for dessert).

Enjoy these, and don't skimp on the Hershey's white chocolate chips. :)

Triple Chocolate Walnut Brownies

2 cubes salted butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3/4 c. Hershey's white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and semi-sweet chips on high for 60 secs. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Stir in cocoa powder. Add sugar and whisk until combined. Add eggs one at a time, and whisk until well-combined. Stir in vanilla and salt. Add flour and stir until all flour is incorporated. Fold in walnuts and white chocolate chips.

Spread batter in a greased 8x11 pan. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a pick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: My Name Used to Be Muhammad

I recently read My Name Used to Be Muhammad: The True Story of a Muslim Who Became a Christian, written by Tito Momen with Jeff Benedict. I found it to be a very fascinating story.

Tito Momen was not just any Muslim, he was raised in a very traditional Muslim family compound in Nigeria. From the age of 5, he was raised to become a Muslim cleric by his exceedingly strict father. On his fifth birthday, he began with his first visit to the mosque for 5:00 am prayers (just one of several daily prayers), a ritual that would continue daily for the rest of his growing years.

What I found most fascinating about this book were Tito's firsthand insights into the Muslim religion--indeed, the very life strict Muslims live. Everything is dictated by the Qur'an and/or the Imam, the compound's religious authority. Women are second-class citizens. Tito, then Muhammad, is not allowed to explore his love of art in any fashion--no painting, no drawing, no photography. At times he defies his father's wishes and sneaks art supplies into his home, only to be caught and severely punished.

As Muhammad grows, he knows his father wants him to become a cleric. In preparation, beginning once again at the young age of 5, he is told to copy the Qur'an word for word--the entire thing. While young, Tito tells of copying the Qur'an into piles of notebooks his father brings home for that purpose. As a result, Tito has extensive knowledge of the Qur'an and uses that knowledge to get into a college for Islamic Studies in Egypt.

While in Egypt, Tito is exposed to a few Christians, Westerners, and other Muslims who are not as strict in their Muslim practice as he has been raised to be. Tito makes lots of friends, begins to enjoy Western music (something strictly forbidden by his father) and takes up such things as photography and art that he truly enjoys. He also tries alcohol and cigarettes, something never seen at home in the family compound.

As a few years go by, Tito reconnects with a friend from his first year of studies, and this friend has mysteriously changed. He no longer drinks alcohol, coffee or tea, and attends a church called the Mormon church. Tito is fascinated by his friend's new beliefs, and begins to study the Bible, and then later, the Book of Mormon. I enjoyed his story of how he came to believe completely in both and to accept Christ as his Savior.

My Name Used to Be Muhammad is a fascinating story of love, betrayal, redemption and conversion. I highly recommend this book.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bathroom Renovation: Products for the new bath

A little sneak peek of products going in the new bathroom space.

Manhattan 72” Double Sink Vanity by Mission Hills® We finalized our vanity plans yesterday. We're going for the "piece of furniture" look with a 72" vanity. This is it: the Mission Hills Manhattan.  It's even sitting in my living room as we speak, and it's gorgeous. Even better? We got a screaming deal on this thing! I'll tell more about that later on. (Pic from )

8" Widespread Faucet This is the bath faucet from the Pfister Pasadena collection. We are also using the tub/shower combo. See Pfister Faucets for more information.

This brushed nickle vanity light from Hampton Bay has great reviews for its awesome look and even more awesome price. We're talking $24.98 at Home Depot. We're putting one over each sink. I consider these a definite frugal find.

A few other touches include tile flooring with a mosaic design around the outside of the room (when your contractor is expert in installing tile, you take advantage!) and new adjustable shelves in the old closet that formerly had dark brown doors, with a roll-out hamper for kids' dirty clothes and towels that were constantly being left on the floor after showers. 

Come back Monday for a book review on the true story of a strict Nigerian Muslim man who converted to Christianity in Egypt and was imprisoned for 15 years for his beliefs. An awesome read!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Adventures in remodeling: Bathroom renovation, part 2

I could also title this post "The good, the bad and the ugly." On Tuesday our bathroom renovation officially began. Again, here is a shot from before.

 There were some problems we were expecting before demolition even began. One is that the floor in front of the tub had a big hump in it.

Yep, it not only looks nasty, it smelled nasty. And literally crumbled.
But, we were saved from any real sub-floor damage by a surprise. Underneath the rotten floor, there was another layer of linoleum and particle board that was not rotten. See the gold honeycomb pattern stuff in the pic above (right side)? That only covered a square that basically ran in front of the tub. Carpet or something must have been everywhere else. That must have looked awesome...not.

This is a shot after the first day. Most everything was gone except for some of that surprise layer of flooring.

Well the good news is we now have a white tub--though it's not usable quite yet. The bad news is that we are unable to move the toilet over like we hoped. Something about a little old floor joist being in the way and having to cut it too much for comfort. The toilet would have been out 4 inches from the wall in order to make it work, and that would look stupid. So we're leaving it as is.

That just causes a shift in our hoped-for plans. Since we don't need to shorten the 89-inch vanity, we now need to locate a new 89-inch vanity that we both like, and they are proving to be scarce or take weeks to be custom made. We have to make a decision on that today so work can continue. It's just the focal point of the room....but I also don't want to spend an arm and a leg. We like to strike a balance between a quality product and reasonable price. 

Informal poll (just out of curiosity): Do you put in another 89" vanity and fill the entire space, or do you put in a 72" vanity and have about 8-9" of space on each side (as if it's a piece of furniture)? Both are viable options, but there are drawbacks to the space.  Please leave a comment and tell me what you think. Thanks!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bathroom renovation: Starting point

Hey there! As promised, I'm going to blog about the renovation of our main bathroom. Today's post will show you exactly what we are dealing with--so far as we know--before demolition starts tomorrow.

The first bit of renovating was done five years ago. This bathroom was a dark cave because there are no windows. When we had our roof redone, our contractor (same one is going to do the bathroom) suggested putting in some solar tubes because that's a convenient time to do it. We had one put in this bathroom and another in our kitchen to up the brightness factor in there. Best decision ever, and I wish we had done some more! Here's a shot of the solar tube:
It really makes it as bright as day in there. If you ever consider solar tubes, my advice is to go with it. You won't regret them for a second.

Here's a shot of our Brady Bunch-esque vanity. It's not only dark and plain, it's falling apart. We had the same cabinets in our original kitchen, and I was never so glad to see anything go away. The sinks are also a lovely brown.

More dark wood doors close off this built-in cabinet that sits behind the door and next to the tub. These are going away too. I'm thinking that I want some white doors that are set in to the opening instead of on top of it as they are now, maximizing the space behind the door as much as possible. I'm also considering leaving some of them open, because they go up to the ceiling. Also up for consideration are white doors with plexiglass insets, in a rainfall pattern like the new shower doors are going to be.

Above you can see the lovely brown tub that matches the brown sinks. Ugh. We haven't decided for sure what to do with the tub....epoxy it white? Or get rid of it and get a new one? It's redeeming point is that it's cast iron and solidly built, but the lasting quality of "painting" it white is in question. Anybody got experience with this? Please tell me in the comments. I'd love your input!

Here is the vanity close up. It's awful. I haven't bothered cleaning it recently because I know it's just going to the dump. What's the point?

The new vanity is going to be custom-built by a friend. Jeff and I agree on this, with one change: brushed nickle hardware.
So here's what is going to change in here:

1. The floor has some water damage and has to go. Vinyl will become tile.
2. Some of the wall around the tub/shower has water damage so the whole thing has to be replaced.
3. New vanity.
4. New tile--possibly new tub.
5. New lighting.
6. New hardware--faucets, shower head, etc.
7. The walls will be gray.
8. The toilet may move to the right a couple feet, depending on what the floor joists look like after the floor is torn up. If they allow, the toilet will move from right in front of the tub. The vanity will be shortened from almost 90 inches to about 60 in that case so the toilet can be on the same wall.
9. If the toilet can be moved, a garden tub (are they still called that? haha) might fit in there, with a shower next to it if we remove the built in cabinet.
10. Basically everything. :)

Demolition pics tomorrow or the next day. We aren't going to be surprised by anything, because experience with previous renovation has taught us that this house was built a little crazy. So stay could definitely (and probably will) get interesting.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The top three recipe posts of 2013

I have three recipe posts, posted as long as 2 years ago, which seem to have a life of their own.

They are:

The Pineapple Coconut Bundt cake I made up and posted back in 2011. This one gets hits every single day. Find the recipe here.

The delicious recipe, adapted from Pinterest, for Broccoli Cheese Rice Casserole. This one gets daily hits as well. Thank you, Pinterest!

And the Creamy Chicken Noodle soup you can make on your stove top or in your slow cooker. You'll find it here.

Thanks for the love! Come back Monday, when I will begin chronicling the renovation of our main bath. We're talking back to the studs in some parts of the room. It's gonna be fun--and a pain temporarily--but mostly fun. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A happy snowman for a Happy New Year

Every New Year (provided there's enough snow....and there usually is), my kids build a big snowman up on the ridge east of our house.

Look smack in the middle of the pic above: that's how the snowman appears from our front porch.

Here's the snowman with his creators. They very affectionately named him "Olaf," after their favorite character in Disney's Frozen. Wish our Olaf could sing like the original. We are in love with this song:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ringing in 2014

Happy New Year!!

We have a few fun New Year's Eve traditions at our house.

Numero Uno: I absolutely have to make clam chowder, Lil' Smokies wrapped in crescent dough, and get some cheesecake or we're talking mutiny. But that's okay, because this stuff is yummy and it's definitely New Year-worthy.

After that, we watch a movie or two. (Last night was Man of Steel, which I must say I enjoyed although it was a different take on Superman than the Christopher Reeve versions I'm used to).

Then we might play some games or finish putting together our holiday puzzle.

This is a shot of this year's puzzle, which we did finish last night--only to discover that there is a piece missing that refuses to be found! Aaarrrggghhh. #annoying

After that, we wait for midnight and then drink a little sparkling cider. Then it's nighty-night!!

Here's hoping 2014 brings you all the things you hope for!