Monday, May 30, 2011

Celebrating Our Freedom

video

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a "Patriotic Program" put on by my son and the rest of the first graders in his school. Listening to those sweet voices sing about the blessings of living in a free country just really touched my heart and I wanted to share it with you on this Memorial Day.

I hope you have a blessed and safe Memorial Day!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spiritual Sundays: Staying with the Light



I had the fun opportunity on Friday night to go camping with my family and members of our church. We enjoyed a nice potluck dinner and we built a campfire and socialized into the night. As the night went on I realized something- I needed to use the bathroom! There was a port-a-potty nearby, and I knew of its general location, but it was so dark out that I couldn't tell exactly where it was located. I took my lantern and headed off through the woods into the night.

It was very difficult to tell, with the short beam of light provided by my lantern, exactly which way to go. After walking in the right general direction, eventually my lantern caught the blue plastic exterior of the outhouse in its glow, and I could then correct my course to the way I needed to go. Those first few moments, however, were very disconcerting as I made my way into the darkness without really knowing where I was going.

When I was finished, I came out and I could see the campfire in the distance and the many lanterns of my friends gathered around it. I used my lantern to light the path of my feet, but I knew exactly where I was headed, and the light of the campfire illuminated any large obstacles, such as trees, that blocked my path. After my trip out to the restroom, it was such a difference walking toward something I could clearly see, and to know that there was safety there in the gathering of lights. I didn't feel anxious or lost- I knew exactly where I was going and even though my path wasn't entirely illuminated, it was still clear.

I couldn't help but compare this to our spiritual selves. In the book of John, the Savior invoked this beautiful prayer upon his apostles:

“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
“I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (John 17:11, 14–15.)

Christ prayed that His believers "may be one" and that the Lord "shouldest keep [us] from the evil." I believe that the Lord is asking us to, quite simply, stick together. There is darkness all around us, and if we venture off on our own, like I did, and leave the light of the other followers of Christ, we put ourselves in a place of anxiety, confusion, and possibly danger.

This is not to say that we shouldn't associate with those of different faiths, or that we should avoid missionary opportunities. I think we should reach out as much as possible, but we should always be sure to keep the light of others close by us.

D&C 87:8 reads, "Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come." Sharon G. Larsen said of this scripture,

"Standing in holy places is all about being in good company, whether you are alone or with others. It’s being where the Holy Ghost is our companion—alone or in a crowd. When we determine within ourselves that we will control our thoughts and our actions and be the best we can possibly be, the best of life will come to us."

The key to "staying with the light", as I titled this post, is to always keep the Holy Ghost as our companion, and to be with others who will do the same. As soon as you find yourself in a certain place or with certain people that are making it difficult to keep the good feelings of the Holy Spirit, you have strayed from the warmth and safety of the light, and it's time to turn around and look for the campfire again.

For me, my campfire is my home, my family, my church congregation, and my friends in the gospel who are wonderful examples to me. I know that when I nurture these relationships that I am building up my campfire to be a beacon to me and to others who might be wandering in the dark.

I encourage you to not rely solely on the light of your own lantern, but to find others and build up your own campfire of safety. There is strength and safety in numbers, along with the peace and joy of having a home in the gospel. Come out of the dark and into the light!

To find out more about what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please visit www.mormon.org.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Anniversary At Home



It seems the more kids you have, the harder it is to get out of the house on a real date! I knew that my husband and I would have that problem this year on our 9th anniversary (especially since it fell on a Tuesday night) so I decided to plan a special "date night" at home for us.
I made an early dinner of mac-n-cheese for the kids and had them eating while I worked on a special dinner of steak, roasted red potatoes, and broccoli for my husband and me. I also made a strawberry cheesecake for dessert.

After I had fed the kids, I sent my husband upstairs with them to get them ready for bed (that's usually his job anyway) and I started prepping the kitchen table for our date. I brought in a lamp from our hall table, various flowers (real and faux), faux rose petals, candles, and our wedding photo. I set the table with silver chargers, our nice china, cloth napkins and crystal wine glasses.


Before he came down, I turned out all the lights except for the lamp, I lit the candles, and I turned on "At Last" by Etta James. The result was perfect!

It was weird, despite the fact that we were sitting in our kitchen, it still felt almost just like a real night out. I think that the lighting and table transformation really helped. After we ate we slow danced for awhile, and then he helped me clean up and we watched a movie together. It was wonderful!

So next time you can't go out, stay in. It can be just as special. ;-)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Someone Had a Birthday...


I can't believe my little Monkey turned 7 this week!!!! Here's a photo of him at the Washington D.C. LDS Temple from my sister-in-law's wedding last week. What a cutie. :-)

We had several celebrations and several cakes for him (he thinks it's very important to include everybody...and get lots of presents...and of course eat lots of cake!) and last night we celebrated with my dad, stepmom and grandparents. Here are a few shots of the cake I made for him:


I just made a simple chocolate cake recipe (that link is to my other blog, The Silly Mom) that I chose because it was vegan- no eggs or dairy (we have a nephew with allergies)- and because it's incredibly delicious and very convenient because I pretty much always have the ingredients for it on hand.

I decorated it with well-washed dinosaur toys from my son's room and some leftover easter egg candy. I used cream cheese frosting, which I added green food coloring to, for the lettering and some viney decoration.

I think that decorating cakes with toys is a great easy way to make them look really fun and fabulous, and the kids love that they can keep the toys! (okay, not much excitement there in this case since the toys were already his, but you know what I mean!)

And incidentally, my kids are just so stinkin' cute.




I know it's been quieter than usual around here lately, but I have a bunch of new crafty ideas I'm dying to get to, and I will be sure to post again soon! :-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Photo Party? Okay!



I follow a fun little blog called "Tracy's Trinkets and Treasures" and recently she's been hosting some great photography link parties. This week the theme is "Sunset, Sunrise, and Sun Flare". I thought I'd post this lovely photo, but I actually can't take credit for it, other than being the subject (well, me and Chase). My husband took this shot of us back when we were visiting my parents at Thanksgiving. It was close to sunset and I just love this photo because it really takes me back to that chilly November eve, quietly sitting atop a warm horse as he blew steam out his nose. :-)

For another favorite sun-related photo of mine check out my Spiritual Sundays post, "Help From the Source". :-)

Check out Tracy's site for more great sun photos!! She is a talented photographer!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Good Clean Fun



I was inspired by yet another fabulous idea from Martha Stewart when I saw her make these Fruit & Herb Soaps. She has a fabulous video tutorial on her blog (and step-by-step instructions) so I won't go into a ton of detail here, but I'll give you a basic idea of how it's done! I thought these would be a perfect gift for Mothers Day for my many moms (3!) and alllll of my many sisters-in-law (10!).


I started out with a giganto tub of glycerine soap, which I purchased at Michael's using one of my 40% off coupons. So it was only $24 instead of $40. I popped the whole block out of the tub and started chopping it up. I found that the easiest way to do this was to use a loooong knife and hold the handle in one hand, and then cover the end of the blade with a pot holder, so as not to stab myself, and then just gently rock the blade back and forth until it made it all the way through. I then cut it into cubes for easy melting.

As per Martha's instructions, I used a heat-resistant glass measuring cup to melt my glycerine in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between.

Meanwhile, I gathered my fruits and herbs:


Some fresh lavender from my very own garden (feeling very Martha Stewart-y about that).


An orange and a lemon and my Ultimate Chopper. It is SO ULTIMATE! And it needs to be cleaned on the outside. Yick.

I peeled the orange and lemon and tossed the peels into the chopper, pulverizing them into teeny little bits. Then I added them to my melted glycerine.


I stirred it around for a little while, letting it cool some before pouring it into the greased molds so that the citrus bits would be evenly distributed.


I used applesauce cups as my soap molds.


Then I did the same thing with my lavender, only I had to add water to get the leaves to chop up correctly. Then I just placed a paper towel over a cup and poured the lavender-water out onto it, using the paper towel as a filter. I carefully removed the paper towel, squeezed out the excess water, and left it out to dry some so that the lavender wouldn't stick to it too much. I was then able to sprinkle it into the glycerine. Here I'm using yogurt cups as molds. I also decided to do some strawberry soaps at the last minute.

I let the soap sit in the molds for about 20 minutes before sending them to the freezer (freezing helps release them from the molds).


After 2 hours in the freezer I popped them out and they looked great! One warning though- allow the soap to sit out at room temperature before you try packaging it. Because they've been frozen, they'll develop a layer of condensation. The moisture along with the thin layer of oil (I used olive oil to grease my containers) gives the soaps a slippery coating. Once they were at room temperature (and all done sweating) I just wiped them off with a paper towel and they were fine.


I thought the soaps were so pretty, I didn't really want to hide them with wrapping paper so I wrapped them in cellophane instead. I took a jar that was about the same size around as my soaps and wrapped the cellophane around it, taping it at the seams, then slid the jar out so that I was left with a bag that was just the right size for my soaps. I added the soap and tied it up with a ribbon and tag, and I think they turned out nicely! I love how colorful they are without any food coloring or dyes.

Happy Mothers Day, ladies!!

This week I am linking up to...

Keeping It Simple

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Weeks of Weddings...



It has been a CRAZY weekend for me, but I wanted to check in and share a few of my latest beautiful thrifty projects with you! Did you totally love the royal wedding? It was so inspirational to me as I helped throw a bridal shower for my sister-in-law this weekend (remember those invitations?)! Above and below are the "cake balls" (though I'd really like to come up with a fancier name for them!) that I made. Her wedding colors are dusty rose, green, cream and brown, so I used strawberry cake mix for these and then added some green food coloring to my white chocolate before piping it on the top.


Some simple paper doilies arranged on this silver charger plate make it extra fancy! I found the recipe for the cake balls on a blog (as usual, can't remember which one!) but it's super simple- use a cake mix to bake a cake 13"x9", then dump the cake into a bowl and mix it with half a container of frosting (I used cream cheese frosting). You will end up with a cookie-dough-like consistency; roll the "dough" into 1" balls, then dip in melted white chocolate. Easy and tasty!!!

My pretty paper doilies also came in handy for this project...

Just fold them in half and hang them along the string and you get a lovely bunting that's just perfect for an afternoon tea party! (and yes, in case you were wondering, this is yet ANOTHER idea I borrowed from another blogger who has since become lost somewhere out in the blogosphere! *sigh*) I glued mine also to help them stay put. (sorry it's not a great photo- I forgot to take one of them so I had to crop another photo!)


Last but not least were these pretty little party favors! I picked up several packets of flower seeds from the store ($0.20 each) and wrapped them using scrap paper from my stash. Then I wrote this poem:

Just as these garden seeds you sow,
Each day our friendship grows and grows.
May the beautiful blooms from these tiny seeds
Be as lovely to you as you are to me.
Thank you for attending my bridal shower! Love, (the bride)

And I printed it up and used my Quickutz to punch out a little star burst shape.


Next weekend is the actual wedding which, thankfully, I'm just supposed to show up for!
Hope everyone else had a great weekend too! :-)
Linking up to...

Keeping It Simple

Transformation Thursday
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