Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Ideal Christmas

My husband and I were talking last night about what kind of traditions we want for our own family someday for Christmas and I wanted to share those thoughts (mostly so I have somewhere to look up all of my thoughts lol), if you happen to see something you like, feel free to steal it!

I have to say, first of all...that when you get married, it's an interesting game of colliding view points and traditions.  I feel blessed that my family has always been of the "you're always welcome but never expected" school.  Growing up, we never spent Christmas with extended family, just mom, dad, and kids.  As we came of age, the 2/3rds of us in town have usually come by for some part of the holidays, but it's never a requirement and usually scheduled around the in-laws' plans.  As for my in-laws, they're pretty chill on things as well.  They don't demand specific times or activities, but like to see us at least some time during the fun of it all (we don't mind seeing them too much either ;)  This year is a little different for us as my parents have moved to Louisiana and we can't manage to fly us all there or them here this year.  We're spending a little more time with the in-laws this year, but we're also having my brother's family over on Christmas day.  Anyway...on to our "Ideals".

Santa: We've gone over this a lot since we've been married.  Do we want Santa or not?  We agree the most important part of Christmas is CHRIST.  But we also agree that Santa is a fun tradition.  Heck, we have several movies we watch every year with Santa...both of our families did the Santa tradition.  We agreed last night that we could plan to get the best of both worlds.  My sister and her husband wanted to make sure Christmas is Christ-centered in their home and have an open line of communication with Santa and the Easter Bunny.  They have asked them (S&EB) to please only bring small items so they could focus on what matters most.  It works well for them.  If they can negotiate with fictional characters, I think we can too!  We decided we'd like to ask Santa to come on St. Nicholas Day (December 6th).  We can have our decorations up by then, do the milk and cookies, etc.  The anticipation for HIS gifts will be well done with in time to allow us to focus on the true meaning.  We would also like the Christmas season to be filled with service opportunities, so he can leave a service-oriented family gift each year i.e. paper plates and cookie cutters to make cookies and visit elderly for things we can craft and donate, etc.  A great kick-start don't you think?

Working up to the Big Day: We'd love to do caroling, various service projects, going on drives to look at the Christmas lights, and advent countdowns.  I want to make some sort of "Names of Christ" ornaments or chain deco that we can look up scriptures as we count down.  I have The Forgotten Carols book and CD that I like to read and make/bought ornaments to match the story.  I divided it into 12 days (or it can be read all at once in about 2 hours). A tradition from my in-laws that we also continued when we were married is collecting a new Christmas ornament each year. 

Christmas Eve: I loved this idea about serving a "Bethlehem Supper"-eat on a blanket on the floor, eat foods that would have been eaten in Christ's time.  Read/act out the nativity story.    Since our first Christmas together, we started a "Gift to Christ" box.  Ours is a beautifully hand-carved box I bought in Poland when I was serving my mission.  Each year we take a piece of paper and write our gifts to Christ for the next year (basically spiritual resolutions).  We fold them up and label each one with our names and the year.  In the past, we've put that box with other Christmas items in storage each year, but now we've decided to keep that box out so that we can review our goals throughout the year.

Christmas Morning/Day: Gifts of course!  This time all from family (since Santa has already come and gone).  Before opening, we'd like to have a small devotional on the meaning of giving gifts at the time of the year, how it reminds us of the gifts we have been given by our Father in Heaven.  We haven't decided on a specific breakfast.  Crepes, omelets, casserole...I don't see any reason for anything specific.  Ideally, we'd like to keep our family festivities to immediate family at this point of Christmas Day/Eve.  If we're living in the same town as other family, we'd like to get together with them later on Christmas Day.

Sibling Gifting: I heard of a great idea about how to help your kids give each other gifts.  There's a family that I know that makes a "family store".  Basically you pick enough gifts that you know each child would want or need plus a couple more and their siblings get to go into the family store and pick out which they would like to be from them.  This helps the kids get what they would actually want or need instead of siblings using a couple bucks to buy something that either 1)they themselves actually wanted instead or 2)is just junk.  I think it helps cut down on little sister getting a lego set and cheap annoying plastics littering the floor ;)

Christmas Binders: Every year since our marriage we have written Christmas cards/letters.  In honesty, it's almost more for us than others!  We're both terrible at writing journals and it's a nice way to recap our year.  I always keep a copy for us.  Each child will get their own "Christmas Binder" from birth.  In it will go a copy of the Christmas letter, their "stocking letters" and other journaling they want to do i.e. write about gifts, activities we've done.  They can include pictures of festivities or decorations as well :)  What I mean by "stocking letters" is an idea we came up with last night.  If Santa is going to come almost 3 weeks early, what are we going to do with empty stockings on Christmas Eve?  Refill them?  Keep them empty?  We want to write letters to our children individually each year and put them in their stockings Christmas Eve.  The letters will recap their year, let them know how much we love them, and share our testimonies. 

I'm glad we've sorted out what we want to do before kids have come so it's not like it's hard for them to get accustomed to what we're wanting, because that's all they'll ever know.

Feel free to share some of your beloved traditions in the comments!  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Thrifty Thursday Meets Fitness Friday~Deals on Healthy Grub

I've been a bit MIA on my blog life goes!  Especially with spring cleaning and taking on a new job.  I wanted to share some more tips to accompany these that I shared last month for healthy eating on a budget.

Fresh Express brand salads is having a challenge/reward program found at
---They've got a bunch of recipes to help shrink that waistline and are giving coupons.  For each 2 salads you buy in a 30 day period, you get a $1 off of 2 coupon (printable).  If you buy 15 or more salads in that 30 days, you get $50 worth of coupons to use for the rest of the year!  Locally, I've been buying Fresh Express brand at Albertson's and Safeway.  You can get any kind-the full kits like caesar salad kits or the cheap 99cent iceberg mixes.  I've stocked up on spinach to mix with my iceberg mixes and to throw in my smoothies (throw in a ton and you can't even taste it with all those delicious bananas and blackberries!).

Speaking of Safeway......
Since Fresh Express is found at Safeway, I also made sure to look up their ecoupons with their JustForU program.  They have discounts when you use their club card, personalized prices on items you purchase frequently, AND have ecoupons all attached to your club card. 

I went to the store yesterday and got this deal:
2 bags of spinach (regularly $3.98 for both)
---club card savings $.98
---Just4U personalized savings (10%) $.30
---Printed coupon $1.00
---Just4U produce coupon (10%) (This ended up being $1.30 off of all of my produce, but I'm not sure how that 10% is calculated...before or after which discounts/coupons...)
2 bags of iceberg mix (regularly $1.98 for both)
---Just4U personalized savings (10%) $.20
---Printed coupon $1.00
---Just4U produce coupon (10%) (This ended up being $1.30 off of all of my produce, but I'm not sure how that 10% is calculated...before or after which discounts/coupons...)
4 bags of salad regularly priced at $6.96 cost me less than $2.48 :)

Here's my 404 calorie lunch from today:

Open Face Salad Sandwich
-whole wheat bun (hidden under all the veggie goodness)
-iceberg mix ($ saved with deal above)
-asparagus ($ saved via SavingStar-see this blog post)
-avocado ($ saved with JustForU deal above)
-tomato ($ saved via Checkout51-see this blog post)
-imitation crab
-lemon juice
-seasoning salt

Monday, March 17, 2014

Make It Monday~Sweet Tshirt Site!

A friend posted on Facebook about making and selling a custom Tshirt design.  I decided to check it out and it seems pretty cool!  I know this isn't much of a "make it" Monday since I'm not making the tshirt personally, but it's a nice way to get custom shirts made and make money/fund-raise. 

This is the Tshirt I made:

I designed this shirt based on my English soap box, improper use of there, they're, and their drives me bonkers! 

It works like where if you don't reach the goal (i.e. in my t-shirt's case 20 shirts sold in 21 days), then no one is charged and the project is never actually made.  Consider buying one of my tshirts and I'll be buying one too?  :D

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thrifty Thursday~Doing the Math

I've got some recipes for homemade dishwasher and clothes washing detergents and was wondering if they're really worth the effort (I'll share them with you once I've had a chance to try and review them ;)  This reminded me of my culinary arts schooling when we had to bid out ingredients and do recipe costing.

I pulled my old portfolio off of the bookshelf and found these 2 forms:

Bid sheet-take ingredients and find the prices for different stores to know where you can get the best deal.

Recipe Costing sheet-helps you translate how much each ingredient costs into the recipe cost and cost per serving.

I hopped onto Word and made a simplified version of these old charts to help me cost things out.

As you can see from the sheet-each dishwasher tablet that is homemade only costs 7 cents verses the 13 cents to 20 cents each from for the store-bought!

A slightly tricky thing about this is converting weights/measurements.  When a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of epsom salt, how many cups are there in a 4 lb bag?  You may be able to find some conversions online for things such as flour.  I happen to have a postage scale so I just measured out the ingredients and then converted in to about how many cups there are per container.

This might seem like it's a little methodical and time consuming for people, but when it comes to maintaining a strict budget, a little research goes a long way!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tasty Tuesday~Knife Safety and Cutting Tips (Learned from Culinary School)

I often avoid telling people that I have an Associates in Culinary Arts.  Then they have expectations...and talk about how lucky my husband is... And then I feel guilty :P  I'm possibly the laziest and most bland-cooking culinary graduate ever...but I really loved school, I think for the same reasons I love crafting-I thrived on the creativity and learning new things.

As a church youth leader, we have activities every Wednesday night.  Some are more spiritually-minded, some are educational, some are plain fun.  Our girls wanted to cook something this last week so we did mini pizzas and I figured we could add some education to our fun. I enjoyed teaching them knife safety and how to cut some vegetables for the pizzas!

Here's a lil' video I put together for you-I'm sure there's at least 1 tip that most of you adults haven't even heard!

To watch the video, click HERE: ( 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Make It Monday~Multi-Media Temple Art

I hope you like this as much as I do!  I made it for a friend and now intend to make one for my home too, perhaps with some lettering on it like "I love to see the temple" or "Forever Families".  If you're interested in making one of your own, make a comment and I'd be willing to do a tutorial video :)

I wanted to use a variety of mediums for this so I started with decoupaging the sky-elmer's glue watered down, and torn pieces of tissue paper.  I had considered doing watercolor for the sky but I had the tissue paper out for gift wrapping and I'm frankly not very talented at watercolor (something I'd like to improve someday).

For the grass, I cut out some paper and then used a green sharpie to make my "swirl art"-one of my favorite techniques, to give it more texture and liveliness.

The temple itself is a bit more taxing.  I actually hand-carved the stamp for this myself a few years ago.  I am not good at drawing and finding a front view of our Spokane WA temple is a hard task anyway due to the stake center being so close in proximity to it.  I did take some pictures and hired someone on to turn it into an outline.  Seriously some of the best $5 I've spent!  Taking the outline, I carved and mounted a rubber stamp out of it to be used for wedding cards or other occasions.  I even used it for my own temple marriage/sealing invites!  As for having your own temple outline...maybe you're better at drawing than me?  Or can find a coloring book style picture elsewhere?

I sewed both the grass and temple onto the blue background and then hand-sewed on the heart and white buttons (pure in heart?  I love to see the temple?) Tip:use a large stitch otherwise it will shred up the paper.  Also, I used a loose needle afterward on the corner pictured and fed the loose ends of thread to the back and tied them securely.

As for the flowers-they are made by quilling.  I absolutely adore quilling and have always wanted to learn I finally got to it.  These are my first ever quilled flowers and are certainly not the best ever made, but a few youtube videos and inspirational images online, and I got the basics down.  Not wanting to buy paper or a tool specifically for it, at least not for now, I used colored cardstock, cut thin strips myself, and used a toothpick to wind it around.

Viola-a one of a kind piece of work!  I attended BYU-Idaho for my degrees, and one of the rules of eligible housing was that a picture of a temple be in each room-to remind us of our covenants and our goals.  We've got one in our living room now, maybe this one will make it into the bedroom, or hallway :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spiritual Pick-Up Sunday~What's the Price of Your Integrity?

“Jim, for 25 cents I can maintain my integrity. A dollar, questionable, but 25 cents—no, not for 25 cents.”

A friend of mine posted a Youtube video on Facebook earlier this week and it pricked me a bit, got me thinking, and I gave myself a challenge.  I'd like to do the same for you today.  It's not an easy lesson though, it requires some humility, it requires honesty, and it likely won't be easy.  As it says in 1 Nephi 16:2 "...the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center."  And who of us is not guilty?

The video my friend posted was about electronic piracy and who it hurts, why it was wrong.  I don't have the exact link and I'll be honest that I didn't watch every second of it...the fellow that made it was rather long winded.  I don't personally illegally download music or videos but I know people that do, and I know it's not uncommon.  Maybe that's not your sin of choice either.  Here's just a short list of other options...

*Do you intentionally drive over the speed limit?

*Have you knowingly used a coupon that was expired or didn't follow the rules written in the fine print?

*Do you spend time texting at work when it's against company policy?

*Have you ever taken office supplies home?

*Have you ever cheated on a test?

*Do you gossip?

*Have you ever been guilty of a "hit and run", even if it was a small offense?

*Have you ever littered?

*Have you lied to your parents, spouse, or friend?

*Have you let a sibling take the blame for something you did?

*Have you cut corners while driving (illegally using a parking lot to avoid a stop light)?

*Do you use your blinker?

*Is the weight on your driver's license truthful?

*Have you ever called in sick when you weren't sick?

*Have you ever lied to get out of a situation you didn't like?

*Did you notice a cashier forgot to scan an item they bagged and neglected to say something (or they gave you back too much change)?

And the list could go on!!! 

Let's take the first one on the list-which I will openly admit to.  I have always been of the theory of "Five is Fine"-meaning as long as I'm not more than 5 over the speed limit, I should be fine.  I have tried to live my life in such a way that I do not feel guilty, but when I've done self assessments over the years, I always come back to this.  It seems like such a small offense in the grand scheme of's not like I'm committing grand theft auto or treason...but I am still technically intentionally breaking the law, and part of my beliefs is to follow the law of the land.

Now, don't misunderstand's not like my conscience plagues me daily about this.  As humans, we're pretty good at numbing ourselves to sins.  Ol' Scratch knows what he's doing, how to whisper, so we sweep guilt under the rug and keep on keeping on.  I know people that are great liars, and show no sign of remorse, they are well practiced.  The point of this life is not to see how many calluses we can build up or how much we can numb ourselves, but to become better, to grow, to let our light shine so others can see and we can guide them to Christ.  Sometimes growth requires us to reach into our Divine Nature and Potential and do hard things, and give up our favorite vices, our most loved sins.

So why have I not changed my ways in my 13 years of being a driver?  Justification.  I've never been pulled over by a cop for speeding (I mean, it's only 5 over, not 7 or 10 or more).  And quite frankly, everyone else does it too!  Sometimes I get annoyed when my husband drives the speed limit or slightly under because it feels like 3,000 cars are behind us calling us "grandma".  I thought about this reasoning the other day and I think of 2 lessons that I learned as a child.  When I would get in trouble, my parents would sometimes ask "Are you sorry you did it, or sorry you got caught?"  Let's be honest, I was sorry they caught me, just like I'd be sorry if I got a speeding ticket.  The other lesson is from D.A.R.E.-Drug Abuse Resistance Education.  I laughed at myself when I was justifying the gag order on my conscience using the good ol' "bandwagon" approach they talked about in 5th grade...the "everyone is doing it" reason.  All those people I imagine calling me grandma from behind as I obey the speed I going to listen to them...I certainly wouldn't if it was about using drugs instead of speeding...

Richard C. Edgley gave a talk in an LDS General Conference called "Three Towels and a 25-Cent Newspaper"

He says:
"Sadly, some of the greatest missing values in today’s world are honesty and integrity. In the past few years an increasing number of business leaders have been exposed for dishonesty and other forms of bad behavior. As a result, tens of thousands of loyal, long-term employees have lost their livelihoods and pensions. For some this has resulted in loss of homes, change of education and other life plans. We read and hear of widespread cheating in our schools, with more concern about receiving a grade or degree than learning and preparation. We hear of students who have cheated their way through medical school and are now performing complicated procedures on their patients. The elderly and others are victims of scam artists, often resulting in the loss of homes or life savings. Always this dishonesty and lack of integrity are based on greed, arrogance, and disrespect.

In Proverbs we read, “Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight” (Proverbs 12:22). 

Mormon, speaking of the converted Lamanites who were known as the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi, wrote: “And they were among the people of Nephi, and also numbered among the people who were of the church of God. And they were also distinguished for their zeal towards God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end” (Alma 27:27; emphasis added).

Honesty is the basis of a true Christian life. For Latter-day Saints, honesty is an important requirement for entering the Lord’s holy temple. Honesty is embedded in the covenants that we make in the temple. Each Sunday as we partake of the holy emblems of the Savior’s flesh and blood, we again renew our basic and sacred covenants—which encompass honesty...Honesty should be among the most fundamental values that govern our everyday living.

When we are true to the sacred principles of honesty and integrity, we are true to our faith, and we are true to ourselves."

(To read the full talk or view it, go HERE.)

So what's to be done?  We're never going to be perfect in this life, but that doesn't mean we give up trying to be better.  I would be proud to be numbered in the group described as "perfectly honest and upright in all things, firm in the faith of Christ, even unto the end"!  To start, it takes admitting the truth.  Prayer and scripture study can help with this, and pondering.  Make a list.  Make a plan.  Maybe just take one of these problems at a time, take baby steps if needed, quit cold turkey if you can.  Those we've lived with for a long time will be harder to overcome.  Whether a new habit or old, remember repentance-you have help, and you have hope to finally rid yourself of the guilt that comes with it (guilt which may even be mostly suppressed).

I've mentioned before that I'm a Young Women's leader at church and we have a Personal Progress program.  One of the required experiences associated with the value Integrity reads as follows:

"Conduct a self-assessment of your personal integrity. Ask yourself the following questions: Do I avoid gossip, inappropriate jokes, swearing and profanity, and being light-minded about sacred subjects? Am I completely truthful, morally clean, honest, dependable, and trustworthy in my schoolwork and other activities? Pray daily for strength and for the guidance of the Holy Ghost to help you live with integrity. Write in your journal the things you can do to improve your personal integrity and at least one new habit you want to develop."

Like I said before, the first step is to make a list, make a plan.  The last thing I would stress, is to be an example.  Maybe you have they hear you lie when you give an untrue excuse to someone over the phone?  Have you gossiped about one friend to another...if so, what message does that send to the friend you gossiped to?  Are you showing what you think is ok.  Is it ok then to gossip about you?  Or does that mean you gossip about them behind their back as well?

Lastly, my favorite part of Richard C. Edgley's talk:

"Some 30 years ago, while working in the corporate world, some business associates and I were passing through O’Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois. One of these men had just sold his company for tens of millions of dollars—in other words, he was not poor.

As we were passing a newspaper vending machine, this individual put a quarter in the machine, opened the door to the stack of papers inside the machine, and began dispensing unpaid-for newspapers to each of us. When he handed me a newspaper, I put a quarter in the machine and, trying not to offend but to make a point, jokingly said, “Jim, for 25 cents I can maintain my integrity. A dollar, questionable, but 25 cents—no, not for 25 cents.” You see, I remembered well (a previous experience he shared-the 3 towels). A few minutes later we passed the same newspaper vending machine. I noticed that Jim had broken away from our group and was stuffing quarters in the vending machine. I tell you this incident not to portray myself as an unusual example of honesty, but only to emphasize the lessons of three towels and a 25-cent newspaper.

There will never be honesty in the business world, in the schools, in the home, or anyplace else until there is honesty in the heart.

I wonder how the world would be if simple lessons of honesty were taught in the home at an early age, simple lessons such as “Love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31) and “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you” (see Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31)."

Make a list.  Make a plan.  Be an example.  What is the price of your integrity?  25 cents?  The $15.99 it costs to buy that dvd legally?  The peace of mind you could wake up with and go to sleep with each and every day?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Stock Up Saturday~Honey Food Storage

A friend of mine was nice enough to give me her breadmaker that she doesn't use anymore.  The recipes associated with the breadmaker have honey in them which is crucial to keeping homemade bread moist but we don't keep a ton of honey at our house because I've never been a huge fan of PB & honey sandwiches. Now that I'm making my own bread, I run out much quicker!  While at the store, I decided to make this my weekly Food Storage/Emergency Prep item.

We looked at all of the plastic honey containers (i.e. the "bears") and based our purchase by the price per ounce.  Since we were at winco, we decided to look at their bulk honey as well and lucky for us-it was on sale and the best price! 

Storing honey is extremely easy...put it in an airtight container...keep it out of the sun...and you're good to go.  For about a million years.  Honey doesn't expire, the worst it really does is crystallize.  To get honey back in its liquid form you can put the container of honey in warm water and it will "melt" it back to how it originally was.  You don't need to can it or give it special treatment. 

4 little containers certainly isn't "long-term" food storage, it likely won't last us long enough to crystallize, but it's a start.  You can look up local beekeepers as well as other sources to find bulk honey and get a better price.  A big tip I would give is to repackage the honey.  No one wants an entire 5 gallon bucket to crystallize and then have to get it back to liquid consistency... Even these little containers from Winco aren't the best for long term food storage-I plan to pour them out into glass jars-probably pint size or smaller, quart at the absolute largest. 

As for other options in sweeteners for food storage, there is always the standby of granulated white sugar (which will also last forever if kept in an airtight container with no moisture) and I've seen dehydrated honey powders...which I frankly don't know much about.  Honey tents to be pricy but it does have more vitamins and minerals than plain sugar, it also has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, and can soothe a sore throat.  Ultimately what you decide to stock up on is your choice, if you've read my other posts, you know I recommend variety.  If, per chance, you needed to substitute honey for granulated white sugar in a recipe, here is a great "how-to":

If you have any input regarding using honey or alternatives like honey powder I'd love to hear it!  Feel free to comment below!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Fitness Friday~Go to Bed Ready

I am a night owl, and thus...not a morning person.  BUT, I know I'm much more likely to get exercise in my routine if I get it in first thing in the morning.  It may seem like a small and silly tip-but it can help to actually sleep in your workout clothes-replace those PJs with your gym shorts and tshirt!  That way you're 1 huge step closer to moving that body as soon as you get up!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thrifty Thursday~Save Cashola by Bartering!

I absolutely love to barter.  Of course there's no such thing as getting something for nothing, but it can feel like it sometimes for me.  Take something you're good at and see if it's a skill you can recommend for trade. 
I have traded various crafts on with other sellers that do things that I do not.  My current established bartering is with my chiropractor.  It started out that he was willing to do adjustments for my husband doing yard work for him (when we met, my husband was playing with the idea of setting up his own lawn care/landscaping business).  Finding out that it wasn't my husband's passion, we thought we'd see if there was something else we could do to keep up our bargain.  Now we trade printer paper for adjustments...random right?  Well, it's one of my skills-couponing ;)  Staples often has promotions for printer paper that will make it free with a coupon and rebate, so essentially, all I really pay in the end, is tax.  These 30 reams got me 10 adjustments! 

When the sales are dry on paper and we need to pay up on our agreement, he has also told me he'll accept gift cards.  While you can't just get a $25 gift card for free like I can the paper, drug stores and grocery stores will often have deals that give you $5 back in store rewards, or $5 off $25 gift cards.  This week, Rite Aid has an in-ad coupon (just grab an ad at the front of the store) for $5 off $25 gift cards to Applebee's, Chili's, Gap, and Old-Navy.  So I grabbed one for $20 ($25 value) and if needed, I can pay with that-giving me a discount vs. paying the full price in cash.

So what are your skills?  Doing taxes, fixing cars, cutting hair?  My mother-in-law is a great cook and she cooks/bakes as a trade for piano lessons for herself and kids-pretty neat!

Of course not everyone will barter-most likely your Eye Dr doesn't accept bartering, but it doesn't hurt to ask.  I'd especially think that business owners/sole proprietors have more say over that issue.  Maybe you just want your oil changed and you'll exchange babysitting the neighbors kids a couple times?  Look for creative ways to make it work for you!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tasty Tuesday~Oreo Peanut Butter

My mother-in-law made this one time when we were over, this is my first time making it :)  I originally bought the oreos for the individual no-bake cheesecakes I made before and amazingly had the self control to not gobble all of the leftovers with milk because I knew I wanted to make this.

It's a simple recipe...2 ingredients: Peanuts and Oreos!

I happened to have fresh ground peanut butter (no sugar added) from Winco's bulk section, so I skipped the peanuts, but it doesn't matter much since you'll be using the food processor anyway.  I don't recommend using other pre-made peanut butter that has been sweetened, since the cookies will help with that.

I added about 1.5-2 cups of ground peanuts and 12 oreos.  More or less oreos to your taste (I think next time I may add more).

Easy peasy!  I like to enjoy it smothered on homemade rye and sunflower bread or a banana!
If you opt to make it with pre-ground peanut butter like me, you can re-use the container from Winco, but make sure it's not full from the start, because you'll have to make room for the oreos.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Make It Monday~Personal Progress Boards

At church, we have a program for the Young Women (ages 12-18) called "Personal Progress", in ways, its a counterpart is the scouts that the boys do.  More info can be found HERE about it-I recommend it for ANY young woman!  The core values are: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, Integrity, and Virtue.  They have a variety of challenges and projects they have to do to pass off and complete the program. 

The other leader that I work with has taken the challenge with me to go through the program again (I did when I was a youth).  A lot of the challenges include a time period with goals i.e. "make a goal to improve X about yourself and after 3 weeks write in your journal about your experiences".  I'm the kind of person that needs reminders so I had thought of making signs to put up but then thought about decorating up a white board specifically for the purpose.  I ended up making several and giving them to the girls to use for their Personal Progress. 

I went to the $ Store and found these white boards with attached dry erase markers/erasers.  They're obviously only $1 quality, but it does the job. 

I hot glued a ribbon to hang the boards up (They come with magnets on the back but I figure it's easier to put a pushpin somewhere than to find a magnetic surface).  I took different colors of sharpies and wrote the values around the board with a little embellishment.

And viola :)

You could of course use this to track other goals-maybe a fitness board and use sharpies to draw water and dumbell? 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Spiritual Pick-Up Sunday~Trials and God's Recipe for Us

Last week one of the other youth leaders at church told me about the lesson she taught to her girls.  I'm sure I won't get it all right, but it goes something like this:

A girl is frustrated and goes to her mom in the kitchen and asks for a sweet treat.  The mom, in return hands her a box of baking soda.  The girl gets a scowl on her face and comments on how that's not a dessert.  The mom then hands her a package of flour, and then salt.  The girl is still unimpressed by her mother's helpfulness.  The mother lays out a few more ingredients...sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla... and tells her daughter about God's recipe for us.  Like I mentioned in last week's post, I believe we are here on earth to learn, grow, and be happy.  Of course we need opposition in all things as well-without the hard times, we don't appreciate the good.  And without struggle, we don't learn and grow.  Trees that grow up in strong winds have the deepest roots, diamonds go through immense pressure and heat, and waiting. 

And so it is, that God has a recipe for each of us.  We don't get to see the recipe, but he hands us trials (ingredients), as he knows will work best, to make a perfectly well rounded dessert in the end.  Once we come to see our trials, and appreciate them for what they are-ingredients to make us better, we can put things in better perspective. 

I was talking about this concept with my husband and took the analogy a littler further.  Each recipe is unique, as are we, as are our trials.  I might have to experience the raisins of struggling with infertility and the oatmeal of struggling with obesity to make a wonderful oatmeal raisin cookie, while a peanut butter cookie will never have to endure that or understand the struggle.  On the same token, I have never experienced the chocolate chip cookie's struggle-chocolate chips of being born with a physical handicap, or the snickerdoodle's struggle-the cinnamon of growing up in an impoverished 3rd world country.  Sometimes I may look at the no-bake cookies and think of how easy they have it, not having to deal with the all-purpose flour of depression I deal with.  But I don't understand how the baking process that I and so many others go through is different than the boiling process they do.  Is the boiling abuse?  Abandonment?  Never knowing a loving family? 

I know as I write this that I'm really preaching to myself...I know we need to appreciate what our trials do for us.  I know that I am a strong woman in several ways due to the trials I have experienced.  I also need to remember to be considerate of others in their struggles, because they are just as real.  And a beautiful thing is that you might have an oatmeal raisin cookie recipe similar to mine, but it has slightly less raisins, or more sugar...but we share something in common.  We're not alone.

And I can say with 100% surety that never, NEVER, has God written arsenic on someone's recipe.  He will never give us more than we can handle.  All things are for our good.  We can take that bag of flour he hands us and throw a fit that it wasn't a cookie by tossing it on the ground and smashing it-covering the room in it.  Or we can take a moment to measure it out, mix it into our list of ingredients, and look into how it makes part of the whole we can become.  Sometimes I still accept those ingredients with a scowl and a whine, I'm not perfect.  But I know that He is the master baker, and He knows what He's doing.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fitness Friday~Portion Size and New Nutrition Labels

Companies can be so darn sneaky when it comes to portion sizes.  A can of pop should be a portion size, because...really....are you going to drink it over a couple of different days?  Here are a couple shots of a cookie package I got a while ago. 

3 Servings, but only 2 cookies.  Really?!  Sometimes I just have to shake my head.  I ate both of those cookies in 1 sitting if I remember right...but even if I split it or saved one for later, a more realistic serving size is 1 cookie.  Who eats 2/3 of a cookie?  No one.  It's a sneaky little nasty way they have of making you think you're not eating as many calories as you really are-you take a quick glance (hey, 120 isn't bad....) but in reality, it's 360 per package or 180 per cookie.  Tsk tsk.

I read an article explaining a new proposed FDA food nutrition label (the kind you see on all packaged food in the US).  Serving size changes is just one of the proposed changes.  A couple of the changes I don't care much for, but I like what they're saying for the most part. 

To read the article about the proposed changes and the reason behind them, read it HERE.  What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tasty Tuesday~Homemade Healthy Granola

I love me some granola-it's just so filling, and seems so healthy.  Of course most granolas are not actually that healthy, when you consider all of the fat and sugar added to make it good.  I searched high and low for some recipes that would be healthier and decided to try one.  Unfortunately I don't remember which site I found this on, but I made some changes anyway to make it my own, which of course you can do too :)

4 cups oats
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1-2 Tbsp honey
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
1 cup nuts/seeds of choice
2/3 cup dried fruit of choice

Preheat the oven to 275 F.

Mix the honey, syrup, coconut oil, water, and vanilla together in a small bowl.  To make the coconut oil a  liquid, I popped the bowl in the microwave for a few seconds at a time.  I chose to just use 1 Tbsp each maple syrup and honey to keep the calories down, but might use the full 2 Tbsp each next time.

 In a large bowl mix together the oats, flaxseed meal, and salt.  I had an open package of flax seeds so I just ran them though our coffee grinder turned spice grinder.

Drizzle the wet ingredients over the oats mixture and stir thoroughly.  If you want chunks, you can try adding more water and making clumps by hand. 

Spread mixture on a large baking plan and cook in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring at the 10 minute mark.

After the 20 minutes, stir again and add the nuts/seeds.  The recipe called for almonds but I had these pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds I wanted to use.  Cook with the seeds/nuts for another 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and stir in the dried fruit while the granola is still warm.

Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container.  I've eaten it with yogurt and in a bowl with good ol' milk :)  Go HERE for my post on how to make homemade yogurt. 

As you can see, this here granola has little fat and sugar added, but still comes to about 218 calories per half cup.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spiritual Pick-Up Sunday~Loving Where You Are In Life

Today was a little crazy during the last hour of church when I was supposed to be teaching my 12-13 year old girls.  We had talked last week about what happens after death and I wanted to make a couple more comments on that and segue into how that helps us get a bigger picture and what our purpose in life is.  Not as prepared as I could be, but knowing some basics I wanted to say, I realized that because of  some factors out of my control, my 60 minutes to talk about this amazingly important lesson would be widdled down to 15 minutes.  We didn't have time to read the scriptures I wanted, or the quotes that fit.  Really, we could have spent hours if we had the time.  But God's plan, while it has many intricasies, is also very plain and simple. 

I can sum up, in very few words, why we are here on earth: To learn, grow, and be happy!

I expressed to the girls how we are given families and guidelines (i.e. commandments) as well as other help (scriptures, prophets) to help us do just that-learn, grow, be happy. 

Happiness, that's something that we all want right?  But when will we be truly happy?  I like the quote (possibly by Ralph Waldo Emerson?) that "Life is a journey, not a destination".  I also love this talk about finding joy in the journey.

I hate to say that a lot of my life has been spent in the destination mentality.  Once x happens, I'll be so much happier.  X represented getting married, finishing school, being a certain dress size... I spent too many years single and bitter that Mr. Right was waiting so long to make his appearance.  It wasn't until shortly after I was married, I was at church at a friend's baby blessing for their newborn.  One of my single friends was there and I knew how her heart aches so much to be married to, to have a best friend to start the next chapter of her life with.  We chatted a little bit and the subject came up.  I can pinpoint that few minutes at the moment I had a real shift in the way I think.  My friend has the beautiful baby while I don't, my other friend wishes she were married, while I finally am.  Inspiration came to me and I told her something that I've never been able to forget.  Learn to love where you are at in life.  Don't waste a minute.

I wanted so much to be married when I was single that I didn't look around me and appreciate my friends and ease of finances as much as I could.  Now that I'm married it's hard to find time to see friends nearly as often, and putting my husband through school is no picnic on the pocketbook.  We've wanted to start a little family of our own for about 2 years now, with no success.  For a while I was a little bitter, sad, frustrated.  I've come to accept that it will happen when it happens...and possibly when we have more finances to figure out why it's not happening, but that's not the phase of life that God intends for us right now.  Maybe it's a blessing for me to step back and love where I am, unlike how my single adult decade of life went.  Because you know what?  I get to sleep when I want, at the drop of the hat run to the store, and enjoy my hobbies.  While I don't have an adorable cooing baby to snuggle with, I also don't have to stress about it choking on small toys, or changing those diapers, or the sleepless nights.

If you're single, you'll wish you were married.  If you're married, you'll wish you had kids.  If you're a parent, you'll wish you got more sleep.  If they're sleeping through the night, you'll wish for the days that they cuddled more or the days they'll make you proud as they become adults.  When you're an empty nester, you'll wish the house wasn't so quiet. 

I was reminded of this last week when talking to a friend of mine who is out of work right now.  I can sympathize sooo much!  I know that any time I have been unemployed have been the darkest and hardest times of my life so far.  But you can love any time of your life.  She has the blessing now of taking time to learn new things and having more free time, whereas when she finds a job...she'll have office politics and a rigid schedule. 

Don't focus on what you want, don't stress about what you wish you had.  Open your eyes and count your blessings.  See what you have now!  Developing an attitude of gratitude and seeing the big picture has truly helped me be happier in life.  I've had times when I honestly find it hard to sleep because I'm just smiling and happy.  I don't have children, I don't have a nice house, I don't have a lot of things I want.  But I have a wonderful husband, great family, and superb friends, and I won't dare let the joy that brings me be lessened by wants and dreams.  I will enjoy those wants and dreams as they come in the future or reflect warmly on them in the past.  But for now I will enjoy my present, that's what they say you should do with presents anyway right?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Stock Up Saturday~Winter Warmth

I know it's a little late to think about it since we're on the home stretch of winter, finally heading to spring, but there is still some coldness to go through.  When thinking about what I would research and post about this week on the topic of emergency preparedness, I couldn't help thinking I was a little chilly...and thus today's post was born!

It's all fine and dandy if you have food and water in an emergency, but what about if the emergency is because of a nasty winter storm that leaves you without power to your home for days?  Would you be prepared?

Here's a little list of some basic recommendations of things to make sure are around the house:
*extra winter gear i.e. gloves, scarves, coats, hats
*blankets, blankets, blankets...the warmer the better
*generator (if possible)
*firewood (if you have a fireplace)
*fire extinguisher

As well as preparing warm gear for an emergency, consider how you could insulate your home.  It's worth it, irregardless of whether or not there is an emergency to make sure your home isn't drafty, but an emergency (especially of an unknown duration) might necessitate extra steps.  If it looks like you might be in it for the long haul, close off certain rooms and have everyone congregate into 1 room.  Body heat, sharing blankets, and not having to think about heating extra space will be a huge help.  Stack boxes or find some other way to make a barrier to large windows and drafty areas to provide extra insulation.  Packing up snow around the place from the outside may provide help as well, as snow is a great insulator and keeps out drafts.

Beware of the silent danger: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
While you might be tempted to cook indoors or use alternate heating methods, it can be very dangerous.  Make sure you have carbon monoxide alarms and that they are working properly.  Lighting up more than candles puts you in serious danger.  If you want to use your gas or charcoal grill for cooking or to assist with warmth, it's best to layer up and do it outside.  If you have some bricks around, warm them up while you are cooking your food on the grill and bring the bricks inside, they will emit heat for a long time, sometimes days.  Unless the disaster includes broken gas lines, gas stoves will still work but will need to be manually lit with a match.  The longer the match, the safer, and you'll need to make sure the room is ventilated to prevent gas buildup.

Candles, flashlights, and fire extinguishers-
Candles are a good source of light when the power is out as well as providing heat.  Flashlights and fresh batteries are also obviously important, especially if you don't want to carry a candle around with you.  Make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy in case those candles or other heating methods get out of control.  I know it's something I hadn't thought of, but like carbon monoxide, fire can be a real danger.  

Last but not least, always make sure to have a small duffle bag or some other method of preparation in your car, especially for road trips.  Warm blankets and flashlights may be all you can manage, but it's better than nothing.

Here are a couple of sources I used in my research:
And for a couple of options on DIY candle heaters:

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fitness Friday~Refining Your Palette

I started my weight loss journey almost 7 months ago with my focus being "lose weight, be healthy" though I didn't have hard and fast rules above counting calories and exercising more.  I've found myself slowly moving in the direction of less processed foods, more natural and healthy habits, and it feels great :)  I wanted to mention a key tip I've noticed for a healthier lifestyle:

Try New Foods!!!  I am not a picky person myself when it comes to food (part of my problem with weight control).  I dislike blue cheese and about half of the tropical fruits I have tried.  Other than that, I like food!  But some people are not as open as I am, there are a lot of picky eaters out there.  My new weight loss/healthier living journey has encouraged me to try new foods or to re-try foods.  And if you don't find you like something (maybe the way it was cooked when you were a kid), try it a different way!  Search for recipes, be open. 

Taking my own advice, I have found that I actually enjoy brussel sprouts (somehow my mom cooks them now so they aren't bitter, I remember them being so bitter growing up!) and I even enjoy starfruit, which I hesitantly tried again the other day.

Along with finding that I like foods now that I didn't before, I have re-kindled a passion for foods that I had enjoyed before but forgot about in the fast-food/pre-packaged lifestyle, like spaghetti squash!

If you take on this challenge of exploring the fruits/veggies section of the grocery store more often (or sign up for bountiful baskets and have a fun and surprising menu challenge each week!), you'll find a change in your palette like I have. 

What changes have I noticed?  I've noticed that a fast food burger doesn't bring me as much joy as it used to.  I find I'm craving my spaghetti squash lasagna and raw fruit/nut bars.  I've learned to turn down cheap store bakery birthday cake...because it tastes like sugared cardboard and crisco compared to the high quality dark chocolate treats I've turned to.  I didn't have to force myself to eat salad every day (I rarely eat salad), but by trying new things, I have found how much there is to enjoy out there that is actually good for me!

It absolutely takes more time to cook your own food instead of ordering it or microwaving a meal.  But the cost savings alone should make you reconsider, and then add the health benefits!  Not everyone needs to lose weight like I do, but everyone could benefit from the God-given nutrients that are abundant around us if we make it a priority. 

For some tips on how to buy healthy on a budget, take a look at my Thrifty Thursday blog post yesterday on that very topic!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thrifty Thursday~Healthy on a Budget

I've heard 3 main excuses for people not taking advantage of coupons.  1-lack of knowledge 2-lack of time, and 3-lack of healthy food coupons.  Perhaps I'll counter the first 2 excuses another time, but today we're going to take on #3. 

I will admit myself, I can find some pretty awesome sale/couponing deals on chips, candy, pop, and all sorts of unhealthy foods.  It is actually a rarity to find fresh produce coupons, and when you do, they are not of much value or not necessarily for brands that you might want or can easily find.  Here are a couple of tips that have helped me buy healthier and save some coins.

*Write a letter- If you can't find coupons for items you regularly get, consider writing a letter or email to the company that produces the item you're looking for.  I've written and received coupons in the mail for produce with a little success before (pre-bagged salad.)

**Mobile coupons- I personally don't have a smart phone, but I know that there are some nice deals to be had out there.  I've heard a lot about Ibotta as well as Target's Cartwheel apps.

***Online coupons/rebates- I have been signed up with for some time. has you input your store reward cards and offers online coupons.  The coupons work in the form of rebate-after you have accumulated at least $5 worth, you can request a check be cut to you.  I haven't used them a ton, partially because the stores that are associated locally with SavingStar are slim pickings (Rite Aid, Albertson's, and Fred Meyer here) and because I've been trying to eat healthier, they hadn't had much selection before.  They have recently added Freebee Fridays and Healthy Tuesdays.  This week, they have a deal on bananas :) is another system that I'm newer to but really loving.  You have to wait until $20 to get a payout, but it's much more versatile.  Last week I bought milk, bread, and broccoli-any brand I wanted, any store I wanted, took a picture of my receipt and earned $1.25 credit.  This week it looks like I'll be taking advantage of their banana deal.  And if I choose to buy those bananas following the SavingStar guidelines as well, I'll get credit from both programs!

And last but not least, never discount a couple of minutes of "legwork"-looking at ads to find the sales on healthier items and possibly even price matching at stores that allow it (Walmart, Target).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tasty Tuesday~Pina Colada Panna Cotta

I absolutely love panna cotta-I learned about it and developed a taste for it in culinary school.  It's extremely easy to make, in's basically milk jello.  Panna cotta is very versatile, you can blend bananas into the mix and top it with chocolate syrup, you can mix in vanilla bean and top it with berries, or, as I'm showing you today, you can make it a little more tropical ;)

I mentioned in this post about needing to use up some rice milk (and canned pineapple) that was coming up on expiration in our food storage.  I came up with the idea to try making a pina colada panna cotta since I also have some coconut milk powder that I bought a while back and have never used.


4 C milk (Traditional recipes call for milk and cream, I tend to just use milk to keep the calories down, or in this case, I'm going with the rice milk)
1-2 packets of unflavored gelatin (depends on the type of milk you are using.  If you go for whole milk/cream, you won't need as much.  Skim milk and rice milk need the most since they are naturally thinner.)
1/2 C white sugar (my husband thought this could have used more than this)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Coconut flavoring to taste (we used the coconut milk powder, though not nearly enough so I don't have an exact amount to quote you)
crushed pineapple
Take 1/2 cup of the milk and put it in a small bowl, pour the gelatin evenly on it and let it set for several minutes.  This is called "softening" or "blooming" the gelatin.  If you skip this step, you'll end up with a nasty hot mess, it's worth the time.

With the other 3.5 cups of milk, get it on the stove with the sugar and coconut milk powder.  The milk powder I have doesn't really come with instructions...and I haven't been able to find a way to dissolve it well for other uses, so I used an immersion blender and made sure it incorporated well into the mix-no clumps!  Get this mix to boiling and add in the gelatin mixture.  Once the gelatin and sugar are completely dissolved, take it off of the heat and add the vanilla.  Foodie Fact: When possible, add vanilla to recipes last-boiling/cooking extracts such as vanilla weakens their flavor.

Pour the hot mixture into individual ramekins, bowls, or whatever dish you would like.
This recipe made 9 little dishes and a small mason jar that held about a double serving (that went in my hubby's lunch, packed the pineapple in a separate small container :) )

As with all food, let it cool down a bit before throwing it straight into the fridge, you don't want it to warm up all of your other food.  Once it's not steaming, pop it in the fridge for a few hours. 

For the topping, I went pretty plain-jane with just putting the crushed pineapple on top.  I might have been able to come up with something more enticing...but I'm a pretty simple gal.  I also am not a fan of other tropical fruits like mango or papaya.
All-in-all, not my fanciest or best tasting, I know with some more tweaks it could have been awesome.  I'd LOVE to hear other variations of panna cotta to try if you have any!