Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Heir to the Kingdom

Thank you Greg Olson - I love this!

Everything you're experiencing right now is in some way preparation for the eternities. You have a divine stewardship as a child of God and that means surely He has made you equal to the task. It would serve you well to expand your ability to experience joy...because that's a significant part of that inheritance!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Last Straw

The Last Straw
By Paula McDonald

To truly share this season of love and laughter, even a little boy
Must first discover Christmas in his heart.

Everyone, unfortunately, was cooped up in the house that typical gray winter afternoon.  And, as usual, the four little McNeals were at it again; teasing each other, squabbling, bickering, always fighting over their toys.

At times like this, Ellen was almost ready to believe that her children didn’t love each other, even though she knew that wasn’t true.  All brothers and sisters fight sometimes, of course, but lately her lively little bunch had been particularly horrid to each other, especially Eric and Kelly, who were only a year apart.  The two of them seemed determined to spend the whole long winter making each other miserable.

“Give me that.  It’s mine!” Kelly screamed, her voice shrill.

“It is not!  I had it first,” Eric answered stubbornly.

Ellen sighed as she listened to the latest argument.  With Christmas only a month away, the house seemed sadly lacking in Christmas spirit.  This was supposed to be the season of sharing and love, of warm feelings and happy hearts.  A home needed more than just pretty packages and twinkling lights on a tree to fill the holidays with joy.

Ellen had only one idea.  Years ago, her grandmother had told her about an old custom that helped people discover the true meaning of Christmas.     Perhaps it would work for her family this year.  It was certainly worth a try.

She gathered the children together and lined them up on the couch, tallest to smallest – Eric, Kelly, Lisa and Mike.

“How would you kids like to start a new Christmas tradition his year?” she asked.  “It’s like a game, but it can only be played by people who can keep a secret.  Can everyone here do that?”

“I can!” shouted Eric.

“I can keep a secret better than him,” yelled Kelly.

“I can do it!” chimed in Lisa.

“Me too.  Me too,” squealed little Mike.  “I’m big enough.”

“Well then, this is how the game works,” Ellen explained.  “This year we’re going to surprise Baby Jesus when He comes on Christmas Eve by making Him the softest bed in the world.  We’re going to fill a little crib with straw to make it comfortable.  But here’s the secret part.  The straw we put in will measure the good deeds we’ve done, but we won’t tell anyone who we’re doing them for.”

The children looked confused.  “But how will Jesus know it’s His bed?” Kelly asked.

“He’ll know,” said Ellen.  “He’ll recognize it by the love we put in to make it soft.”

“But who will we do these good deeds for?” asked Eric, still a little confused. 

“We’ll do them for each other.  Once a week we’ll put all of our names in a hat, mine and Daddy’s too.  Then we’ll each pick out a different name.  Whoever’s name we draw, we’ll do kind things for that person for a whole week.  But you can’t tell anyone else whose name you’ve chosen.  We’ll each try to do as many favors for our special person as we can without getting caught.  And for every good deed we do, we’ll put another piece of straw in the crib.”

“Like being a spy!” squealed Lisa.

“But what if I pick someone’s name that I don’t like?” Kelly asked with a frown.

Ellen thought about that for a minute.  “Maybe you could use an extra fat piece of straw.  And think how much faster the fat straws will fill up our crib.  We’ll use the cradle in the attic,” she said.  “And we can go to the field behind the school for straw.”

Without a single argument, the children bundled into their warm hats and mittens, laughing and tumbling out of the house.  The field had been covered with tall grass in the summer, but now, dead and dried, the golden stalks looked just like real straw.  They carefully selected handfuls and placed them in the large box they had carried with them.

“That’s enough,” Ellen said, laughing when the box was almost overflowing.  “Remember, it’s only a small cradle.”

So home they went to spread their straw carefully on a large tray Ellen never used.  Eric, because he was the oldest, was given the responsibility of climbing into the attic and bringing down the cradle.

“We’ll pick names as soon as Daddy comes home for dinner,” Ellen said, unable to hide a smile at the thought of Mark’s pleased reaction to the children’s transformed faces and their voices, filled now with excited anticipation rather than annoyance.

At the supper table that night, six pieces of paper were folded, shuffled and shaken around in mark’s furry winter hat, and the drawing began.  Kelly picked a name first and immediately started to giggle.  Lisa reached into the hat next, trying hard to look like a serious spy.  Mike couldn’t read yet, so Mark whispered the name in his ear.  Then Mike quickly ate his little wad of paper so no one would ever learn the identity of his secret person.  Eric was the next to choose, and as he unfolded his scrap of paper, a frown creased his forehead.  But he stuffed the name quickly into his pocket and said nothing.  Ellen and Mark selected names and the family was ready to begin.

The week that followed was filled with surprises, it seemed the McNeal house had suddenly been invaded by an army of invisible elves.  Kelly would walk into her room at bedtime to find her nightgown neatly laid out and her bed turned down.  Someone cleaned up the sawdust under the workbench without being asked.  The jelly blobs magically disappeared from the kitchen counter after lunch one day while Ellen was out getting the mail.  And every morning, when Eric was brushing his teeth, someone crept quietly into his room and made the bed.  It wasn’t made perfectly, but it was made.  That particular little elf must have had short arms because he couldn’t seem to reach the middle.

“Where are my shoes?” Mark asked one morning.  No one seemed to know, but suddenly, before he left for work, they were back in the closet again, freshly shined. 

Ellen noticed other changes that week too.  The children weren’t teasing or fighting as much.  An argument would start, and then suddenly stop right in the middle for no apparent reason.  Even Eric and Kelly seemed to be getting along better and bickering less.  In fact, there were times when all the children could be seen smiling secret smiles and giggling to themselves.  And slowly, one by one, the first straws began to appear in the little crib.  Just a few, then a few more each day.  By the end of the first week, a little pile had accumulated.

Everyone was anxious to pick new names and this time there was more laughter and merriment than there had been the first time.  Except for Eric.  Once again, he unfolded his scrap of paper, glanced at it, and stuffed it in his pocket without a word.

The second week brought more astonishing events, and the little pile of straw in the manger grew higher and softer.  There was more laughter, less teasing, and hardly any arguments could be heard around the house.  Only Eric had been unusually quiet, and sometimes Ellen would catch him looking a little sad.  But the straws in the manger continued to pile up.

At last it was almost Christmas.  They chose names for the final time on the night before Christmas Eve.  As they sat around the table waiting for the last set of names to be shaken in the hat, the children smiled as they looked at their hefty pile of straw.  They all knew it was comfortable and soft, but there was one day left and they could still make it a little deeper, a little softer, and they were going to try.

For the last time the hat was passed around the table.  Mike picked out a name, and again quickly ate the paper as he had done each week.  Lisa unfolded hers carefully under the table, peeked at it and hunched up her little shoulders, smiling.  Kelly reached into the hat and grinned from ear to ear when she saw the name.  Ellen and Mark each took their turn and handed the hat with the last name to Eric.  As he unfolded the scrap of paper and glanced at it, his face crumpled and he seemed about to cry.  Without a word, he turned and ran from the room.

Everyone immediately jumped up from the table, but Ellen stopped them.  “No!  Stay where you are,” she said firmly.  “I’ll go.”

In his room, Eric was trying to pull on his coat with one hand while he picked up a small cardboard suitcase with the other.

“I’ll have to leave,” he said quietly through his tears.  “If I don’t, I’ll spoil Christmas.”

“But why?   And where are you going?”

“I can sleep in my snow fort for a couple of days.  I’ll come home right after Christmas.  I promise.”

Ellen started to say something about freezing and snow and no mittens or boots, but Mark, who had come up behind her, gently laid his hand on her arm and shook his head.  The front door closed, and together they watched from the window as the little figure with the sadly slumped shoulders trudged across the street and sat down on a snow-bank near the corner.   It was dark outside, and cold, and a few flurries drifted down on the small boy and his suitcase.

“Give him a few minutes alone,” said Mark quietly.  “I think he needs that.  Then you can talk to him.”

The huddled figure was already dusted with white when Ellen walked across the street and sat down beside him on the snow bank.

“What is it Eric?  You’ve been so good these last weeks, but I know something’s been bothering you since we first started the crib.  Can you tell me, honey?”

“Ah, mom. . . don’t you see?”  He sniffed.  “I tried so hard, but I can’t do it anymore, and now I’m going to wreck Christmas for everybody.”  With that, he burst into sobs and threw himself into his mother’s arms.

“Mom.”  The little boy choked.  “You just don’t know.  I got Kelly’s name every time!  And I hate Kelly!  I tried mom, I really did.  I snuck in her room every night and fixed her bed.  I even laid out her crummy nightgown.  I let her use my race car one day, but she smashed it right into the wall like always!  Every week when we picked new names, I thought it would be over.  Tonight, when I got her name again, I knew I couldn’t do it any more.  If I try, I’ll probably punch her instead.  If I stay home and beat Kelly up, I’ll spoil Christmas for everyone.”

The two of them sat there together quietly for a few minutes, and then Ellen spoke softly to him.  “Eric, I’m so proud of you.  Every good deed you did should count double because it was hard for you to be ice to Kelly for so long.  But did those good deeds anyway, one straw at a time.  You gave your love when it wasn’t easy to give.  And maybe that’s what the spirit of Christmas is really all about.  And maybe it’s the hard, good deeds and the difficult straws that make that little crib so special.  You’re the one who’s probably added the most important straws this year.”  Ellen paused, stroking the head pressed tightly against her shoulder.  “Now, how would you like a chance to earn a few easy straws like the rest of us?  I still have the name I picked in my pocket, and I haven’t looked at it yet.  Why don’t we switch, for the last day?  And it will be our secret.”

Eric lifted his head and looked into her face, his eyes wide.  “That’s not cheating?”

“It’s not cheating.”  And together they dried the tears, brushed off the snow, and walked back to the house.

The next day, the whole family was busy cooking and straightening up the house for Christmas Day, wrapping last minute presents and trying hard to keep from bursting with excitement.  But even with all the activity and eagerness, a flurry of new straws piled up in the crib, and by nightfall the little manger was almost overflowing.  At different times while passing by, each member of the family, big and small, would pause and look at the wondrous pile for a moment, then smile before going on.  But … who could really know?  One more straw might make all the difference.

For that reason, just before bedtime, Ellen tiptoes quietly to Kelly’s room to lay out the little blue nightgown and turn down the bed.  But she stopped in the doorway surprised.  Someone had already been there.  The nightgown was laid across the bed, and a small red race car had been placed next to it on the pillow.

The last straw was Eric’s after all!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Silent Night

This is such a sweet video depicting the birth of our Savior.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Merry Christmas!

At this magical time of year we find ourselves in the thick of Christmas!  I love sitting in a room with just the Christmas lights on.  I love soft fluffy snowflakes falling outside my window.  I love the smells of Christmas!  I love Christmas music playing in the background.  On a cold night – add a cup of hot chocolate.  I love having my family all together – but those times when that isn’t possible – I remember.  I remember things we’ve done together that have become traditions.  I cherish the evenings of taking plates of goodies to friends and visiting with people that we don’t see often.  I look forward to Christmas Eve and reading the Christmas Story from Luke and considering the implications of one newborn baby on each of our lives. 

It’s Christmas time, so we make goodies to share.  We make plans for parties.  We make time for loved ones.  We make gifts.  We make memories!   In all of the ‘making’ that happens this season, be sure to make time for Him in your heart and in all that you do.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 23, 2012

I'm thankful

I love November/Thanksgiving time.  It gives me an opportunity to reflect on those things in my life that I am truly grateful for.  When our daughters were young we had a 'Thankful Box' with blank cards by it - and we would write down those things we were grateful for and in the box they would go.  On Thanksgiving day we would open the box and read them all out loud.  It was always nice to hear what other family members had written.  I could tell the ones that were written at the end of the month because they became more thoughtful.  

This year I have a 'clicker' and have used it in several different ways.  For November - and counting the things I am most grateful for - I clicked them.  When my husband picked it up one day and started clicking - I told him he could only click if he associated the clicks with something he was grateful for.  At the table before Thanksgiving dinner - I passed the clicker around the table and let others share what they were grateful for and click away.  This is what we ended up with at the close of the day yesterday.   There would have been more clicks if I had started on November 1 instead of several days later when I thought of 'clicking'. 

I bought my clicker here.

I hope you enjoyed a fabulous day with family or friends and were able to reflect on those things in life for which you are grateful. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Turkey With the Terrible Temper

This was one of our favorite stories/lessons for Family Home Evening!  I'm linking you to a post where you can download the story! 

The Turkey With the Terrible Temper can be found here.  Thank you Sugardoodle.net for posting this! 

Gather your family sometime this week and enjoy this fun little story.  In our church, Mondays are designated times to do this - but whenever you can get your family together - go for it!  It doesn't matter so much when you spend time together, it's just so, so important that you do.

I see children every day whose parents don't spend time with them.  They get themselves up for school.  They try to find food to eat.  They do their best at school.  But learning is thwarted without parent involvement.  Love on your kids.  Read with them.  Laugh with them.  Play with them.  Love them.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Coconut Bread

We have this fabulous bread at our house.  It's another one of those 'old family recipes' that we just love.  Coconut bread.  I've always made it in a bundt pan - but it can also be made in regular loaf pans....it just looks so pretty when it comes out of the bundt pan!  I'm making some for Thanksgiving.  I think you should too!


4 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable or canola oil
2 tsp. coconut flavoring
3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. flaked coconut
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
2 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. coconut flavoring
In a large mixing bowl beat the 4 eggs till frothy.  Add the sugar, oil and coconut flavoring and blend well.  Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Mix well, then slowly pour in the buttermilk and mix on slow speed until all ingredients are combined.  Fold in the coconut and nuts.  Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 1 1/4 hours.

Topping:  When you remove the cake from the oven, combine the first three topping ingredients together in a small saucepan and boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut oil.  Slowly drizzle over the entire cake - allowing it to soak in before drizzling more on it.  Allow to set in the pan for 4 hours before removing from pan.  (tip - if you let it sit much longer than that - it becomes difficult to remove it from the pan.)

It's fabulous!  If you try it - let me know what you think!  We love it at our house.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Photo Card

I've had a special 'Thank You' deal from Shutterfly for quite a while....$30 to spend on anything I want.  We've never had a fun photo Christmas card - so I thought this was the year to do it, you know, to show off the cute grand-daughter and all!  I love Shutterfly.  I've made calendars and photobooks.  I also had return address labels made to match the photo card.  Can't wait to get these in the mail and get them ready to send out.

They do a nice job - the quality is good - and their program is easy enough that even I can figure out how to use it!   So here's an early 'Merry Christmas'!

We're looking forward to Thanksgiving and having some of our family here.  We'll miss those that can't be here - but I promise I'll eat a piece of the apple pie for you!

Cheer All Around Christmas
Click here to browse our Christmas card designs.
View the entire collection of cards.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween kisses.....

I made these for the kids at school who help me with a special project each week.  I never have to remind them - they are always on time and they perform their assignment quickly and correctly!  I hope they appreciate the chocolate and how cute it is!  I would have loved getting something like this as a kid.  They include some of my favorite things:  chocolate, cute printables and washi tape!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shame on you.....

I 'might' have listened to some Christmas music today.  And I may have actually purchased a new Christmas CD, to which my hubby said: "Don't we have enough Christmas music already?"  And yes - we do!  We have a lot.  But.  We don't have any by Lady Antebellum!  I've not listened to the whole thing yet - but what I've heard I really like.

And now you'll hear the 'rest of the story.'  I was picking up a few things in WalMart and as I walked past the music aisle, saw this.  Yes - it was an impulse buy.  In the cart it went.  I picked up my cereal (Cracklin' Oat Bran --- it's fabulous by the way --- and I had to elicit the help of a tall man to reach to the back of the top shelf to get the last box) and fruit and was able to score a place in the quick check-out line.  While I was swiping my card, the cashier put the bags in my cart.  That was nice, don't you think?  I did my quick look at the carousel to make sure a stray bag wasn't still there and headed out the door.  Once inside the car I started looking through the sacks to pull out the CD - I wanted to listen to it RIGHT NOW!  There was no CD.  So back into the store I went.  I headed to the check-out line I had been in and the cashier was gone.  Went to another checker and told her I was missing the CD - she went to check around the register area to see if it had been left.  When we weren't able to find anything she sent me to customer service.  I really do love WM customer service.  I told them what had happened and was told to go get another CD and they would make it right.

Fast forward an hour.  I'm home and unpacking the groceries.  Yes - it did take almost an hour - I get easily distracted.  And I realized that two more things that I needed tonight that had probably been in the same bag as the CD didn't make it home either.  We had dinner and back to the store I went.  (Good thing it's only .5 miles away!)  Back to customer service and the same person was there who had helped me earlier.  Turns out a bag with the last two items had been brought to customer service, but there was no CD in it.  Guess my cashier or the people behind me really wanted some new Christmas music too.  SHAME ON YOU!

Nonetheless - I plan to enjoy my Christmas music on the way to work tomorrow....and whoever you are that has the original CD that I purchased - I'm sure I'll enjoy mine much more than you will yours.  I would like to think that every time that CD is played you'll have a little twinge of guilt.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A favorite quote

“On those days when we're not ready to stop being offended, not ready to forgive, still determined to dish out the silent treatment, what we're actually saying is, "Thanks, but I don't want to become more like the Savior today. Maybe tomorrow, but not today." Perhaps those are the times when we need to pray the hardest, the times it becomes clear that a change in behavior is not enough--that we must have a change in nature.”
Sheri L. Dew, Saying It Like It Is

I love Sheri Dew.  She is a powerful speaker and able to say succinctly what I muddle around in my heart and mind and am not able to find the words for.  I revisited this thought tonight and just wanted to share it with you.   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Busy Day Soup

Today was a perfect soup day!  The temperature this morning at 6:30 am was 38 degrees.  It warmed up to the 70's today and was really quite a perfect day!  Again - I pulled out an 'old' recipe for dinner tonight.  I used to fix this a lot when the girls were little.  It was easy to fix (the girls could do most of it themselves, even when they were quite young), it's inexpensive, and it's filling!  Gotta love that!

Busy Day Soup

1/2 - 1 lb. hamburger                    1 sm. onion, chopped
1 can bean w/bacon soup        1 can vegetable soup
2 cans water                            1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. chili powder

Cook the hamburger and chopped onion in a medium skillet until the hamburger is well done.  Pour off the grease.  Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat until heated through.  

(Old Weight Watchers points - 3.75 points/serving - don't know what it is with points plus).

Chicken Ranch Pasta Dinner

I've been pulling out some of the 'old' recipes lately and cooking them again.  You know how after you've cooked something for a while - even though you love it - you stop cooking it and try new things.  I'm going to share a couple of our family 'classics'.  This one didn't really come on the scene until after the girls went away to school, but hubby and I have sure enjoyed it over the years!

Chicken Ranch Pasta Dinner

2 1/2 c. uncooked penne or medium tube pasta  
6-8 TBS butter
1 envelope Ranch salad dressing mix                 
2 c. frozen peas & carrots, thawed
3 c. cubed, cooked chicken or turkey

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt the butter.  Sprinkle the dry salad dressing mix over the butter and beat until smooth; heat through.  Slowly add peas and carrots and mix well, stirring constantly.  Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes, making sure the vegetables are heated through.  Drain pasta and add to the mixture in the skillet...toss well.  Stir in meat and heat through.  Serve hot.    
Serves 4.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wedding Cake

I went to a wedding reception this weekend and LOVED the cake!  I need to learn how to use fondant....this is way. too. cute!  They had their reception at a Carousel Museum, and everything was themed 'carnival'. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Dear Issac...

 Issac - Welcome to Northwest Missouri!  We welcome your rain.  We need your rain.  We are glad we won't be getting LOTS of rain like you have dumped on other locations.  We are praying for those people.  But as you can see from our front lawn, we can really use the moisture and we are SO GRATEFUL for the cooler temperatures.  We hope you stay for a while and give the ground the moisture it needs - but please don't overstay your welcome.
NW Missouri!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chicken Cordon Blue Casserole

Chicken Cordon Blue Casserole

4 c. cooked chicken, cubed            3 c. cooked ham, cubed
2 TBS butter                                   1 sm. onion, chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped            3 TBS flour
1 1/2 -1 3/4 c. milk                         1/4-1/2 tsp. salt, to taste
1/4 tsp. pepper                                1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. parsley                                2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
8 oz penne pasta - cooked according to pkg. directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a 3 qt. casserole dish.  Place chicken & ham in a large bowl; set aside.  In a large saucepan on medium heat, melt butter.  Add onion & celery and saute 5-6 minutes or until soft.  In a small bowl, whisk together milk and flour until smooth; pour into saucepan.  Add seasonings, stir well and heat through.  Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in shredded cheese.  Stir continuously until cheese is melted.  Pour sauce mixture over meat and toss to coat.  Add pasta and stir lightly until coated with sauce and pour into the prepared casserole dish.  Bake uncovered  at 350 for 30-35 minutes or 'til bubbly and just beginning to brown on top.  May sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes.

I did not have a nice thick piece of ham on hand tonight - so I substituted some bacon bits in for the ham.  I did NOT sprinkle with the mozzarella at the end.   So good - so yummy!

Baby - it's hot outside - and inside!

Whew!  Working in a school building that is 103 years old, with no AC and mid 90 degree days with a little humidity thrown in there = HOT!  It's ridiculous!  Seriously.  The classes are taking turns going to the library which is air conditioned just to give the kids (and the teacher) a cool break.  But really - how conducive is it to teaching/learning when you are sitting on the floor, trying not to listen to the other 1 or 2 classes that are also trying to cool off, knowing that your time there is short-lived?  Or - when you are sitting in a classroom with fans blowing all around you and it's still stifling? 

I guess our hope is knowing that these days won't last forever.  Cooler weather will come.  The building will cool down, and we'll continue to do our best to make it a good situation.  We have an awesome staff and I love working with them. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Lately we've been spending a LOT of time with family --- and I have loved every minute of it.  Granted - I enjoyed it all a little more after our responsibilities for the Yellowstone trip were taken care of and I could just ENJOY!  Life has been hectic since returning home.  So much so that I don't have time to add a lot of pictures.  So...... to get to Millie's blog to see more pictures, go here and here.  Millie is a better photographer than I am and has a fancy schmancy camera - so her pictures are awesome.  I'm waiting for some from Amanda - but here are some favorites from my camera.

Isn't she just a bug?!  Love her so much!

I could have sat on the edge of this bridge for a long time and just enjoyed
the scenery.... the sound of the water and the cool, crisp, mountain air.  I MISS IT!

At West Thumb --- almost always elk there in the evenings.

Four of my most favorite people.

'Almost' a True Aggie!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Yellowstone or Bust!

 I can hardly stand it!  Not only do we get to go to Yellowstone (or Jellystone as my sweet husband says) - but we get to go with my very most favorite people --- my family!  This has become somewhat of a family tradition.  My husband's family went every year after they were done harvesting beans.  I had never been until we got married.  I fell in love with the place.  The extended family has tried to go every three years for a number of years now - although the time between those trips is getting further apart it seems and the number of family that can attend is less and less.

And as a special treat this year, consider this: the temperatures in Missouri have been 99-103+ for weeks now.  The temperatures in Yellowstone are mid 70's in the day time and mid 40's over night!  I have the cozy sleeping bags packed and I'm ready to go!

Don't you just love these mountains?  My heart always leaps a little with that first glance at the Teton Range.

And these fun designs will be on our t-shirts this year thanks to Millie!

Yellowstone - Here We Come!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Millie!

Has anyone ever been loved so much as someone with an older sister?!
Happy Birthday Baby Girl!  What a blessing you've been to our family.  We are so grateful to have you be part of our lives.    Love you!   Miss you!   See you soon!  :) 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I've been studying a lot lately about trials and enduring as I've been asked on several occasions lately to make a presentation about such.  As I read this post today from Emily Freeman - it touched my heart and I wanted to share it with you.  Read her post: "Herein Is A Marvelous Thing" and reflect on this wonderful painting by Simon Dewey.

In your darkest hours - may you be blessed with the hope that will bring light to your eyes and a vision of where your path will take you.  Trust in His words:  "I will be your light in the wilderness." (1 Nephi 17:13).  Believe that He will not forsake you or leave you alone.  Continue on, in faith, seeking for the blessings that you desire. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Homemade Granola

A very good friend shared this recipe with me several years ago and I make it all the time now.  Because there are so many whole grains in this - and some natural sugars - it really does a wonderful job of stabilizing my blood sugar levels.  I have a tendency to be a little hypo-glycemic, but have found that if I have this for breakfast with some fresh blueberries, I don't have any trouble with my blood sugar dropping before lunch time.

--combine the following ingredients in a sauce pan.  Heat only till well blended - don't boil!

1 1/2 c. oil
1 1/2 c. honey
1 1/2 c. peanut butter
1 1/2 - 2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 - 2 tsp. almond flavoring
1 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
5 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 TBS poppy seeds

---mix the following together in a LARGE bowl:
6 c. oatmeal
1 1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1 1/2 c. wheat germ
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. Bran Flakes
1 c. milled flax seed
1 c. sliced almonds

Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir together until well mixed.  Pour onto a large cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.   Turn oven off and remove granola from oven.  Pour mixture back into your large bowl.  Add:

1 box Grape Nuts cereal
1 -2 cups raisins (if desired)

Mix well and divide the mixture onto two cookie sheets.  There will be too much for just one.  Return to the oven that has been turned off and let dry for 1-2 hours.  (I usually make mine in the afternoon or evening and leave it in the oven overnight.)   Remove from the oven and store in airtight containers.  Make sure it is completely cool before storing.

The wonderful thing about this recipe is how versatile it is.  I typically leave the liquid ingredients as they are and up the amount of the dry ingredients - usually to 2 cups for the flour and the cereals.  It makes the granola a little more dry, but it still has amazing flavor.  The flax seed and almonds were not on the original recipe.  And I used all generic ingredients.  It's fabulous!

I would suggest when you make it the first time, follow the directions as given and then adjust the amounts to fit your personal likes.

All of the dry ingredients except that last box of cereal!

The liquid ingredients and spices - yum!

After mixing it all together - ready to bake for 15 minutes.
This is out of the oven, with that last box of cereal added in (and the raisins if you must at this time), and divided to go back into the oven for a couple of hours to dry out a bit.  See how it looks golden and yummy!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Celebrating the 4th

Last year on the 4th of July we were with family!  This year our family is scattered; Utah, Colorado and Missouri.  I miss them.  Lots.  This was last year - don't we look like a fun crew?!
How could you NOT have fun with this group?

This year we were on our own.  We gathered with a few friends and did the normal things...eat, talk and blow things up!  But it just wasn't the same.  I found myself feeling a little melancholy - missing our family - and missing this little bug!
I mean, seriously - who WOULDN'T miss this?  Isn't she just the cutest?!  :)

 The neighborhood we were in had a LOT of people doing their own fireworks.  The air was heavy with smoke and the smell of sulpher.  It was stinkin' hot - but we didn't have to worry about mosquitoes! 
Sorry - couldn't get this picture to flip.  Yummy rice krispie treats with peanut butter M&M's!

Oreos.  Dipped in chocolate.  White chocolate.  White chocolate with blue chocolate disks in it.  More white chocolate with red chocolate disks in it for coloring.  Oreos and chocolate.  Quite fabulous if I do say so myself!

Besides our family - we were missing our friend Sandi.  We had the party at her house.  She wasn't there.  We didn't totally hijack her home while she was away - her husband was there.  We love them.  They are our family too - we just aren't related by blood.

Hope you had a fabulous day.  And if you couldn't be with family - I hope you were with friends.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pizza Dough

It's not always convenient to make your own pizza dough - but this is pretty darn easy!  I love making our own and this recipe is so yummy!  It's easy to change up the ingredients just a bit too and make it just the way you want.  Here's the recipe:

Pizza Dough
2+ cups flour (I usually use 1 1/2 cups white flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat)
1 cup very warm water
1 pkg. (1 TBS) yeast
2 TBS olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS brown sugar

Combine 2 cups flour, yeast, salt and sugars.  Stir water and olive oil into dry ingredients.  Add enough flour to make a soft dough.  Knead until smooth and elastic.  Cover and let rest on counter for 10 minutes.  (This is the perfect time to slice and chop all those yummy toppings you'll be using!)  Spray pizza pan with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle with  cornmeal - shake off any excess.
This is what it looks like with the cornmeal sprinkled on - keeps the pizza from sticking to the pan.

Roll and stretch dough to fit pans.
 Top with sauce and toppings and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.  If you are feeling extra industrious - here's an easy recipe for your own pizza sauce:

Pizza Sauce
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregeno
1 clove garlic, smashed or minced
Mix all ingredients together.  May add a little water if needed to get the consistency that you like.  You can also add a little Parmesan cheese to the sauce.  This makes enough for 2 pizzas.

Doesn't that look yummy?   It was!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mini Chocolate Cheesecake Pies!

Since it's just my husband and I at home - and we are both trying to lose a little weight (ok, a lot of weight!) - but since we still enjoy a treat now and then, it doesn't make a lot of sense to make a full Chocolate Cheesecake Pie and have all those extra pieces sitting around screaming: "Eat Me!"  So - I cut the recipe in half and used my cute little ramekins to make individual servings.  I made these for Father's Day and we had a couple of guests join us - so it was perfect!  An individual 'pie' for each of us!  

Crumb Crust
3/4 cup crushed graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 cup butter or margarine, melted
Combine all ingredients until crumbly.  
I divided the mixture between the 4 ramekins and used a measuring cup to mold it in the dish.


Chocolate Cheesecake Pie
4 oz. cream cheese - softened
1/8 c. butter - softened
little less than 1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 - 1 cup milk chocolate chips - melted
4 oz (1/2 carton) whipped topping - thawed

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth.  Add the melted chocolate and mix well.  Fold in the whipped topping.  Spoon into crust.  Cover and chill until serving.  May garnish with shaved chocolate or drizzle with chocolate or raspberry sauce.

Isn't that just the cutest thing ever?!

Double the recipe for a full pie.