Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The first gift of Christmas

Last year, at the end of November, I decided I needed a change of heart. I had been through some difficult circumstances, and I needed to re-train my mind to think positively about others and to re-teach myself to be more optimistic about life. So, I had an idea to start my "25 Days of Christmas" blog posts. For each of the 25 days, I highlighted a person on my blog. I wrote positive thoughts about each individual and good memories I'd had with each person. And it truly did my heart much good!

It has been one year since I posted THIS, the intro to last year's "25 Days". And what a difference a year makes! I'm in a much healthier place now--spiritually, mentally, and physically. I feel like I've finally worked through everything that was troubling me, and I can actually say that for the most part, I kinda like myself. And good thing too, since I'm stuck with me!

I'm going to do my 25 Days of Christmas again this year, but for a totally different reason. Last year, I did it to help myself in the process of changing my hard-heart. This year, I'm doing it to spread the love that I feel for others. At the October 2008 General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson gave a talk about Finding Joy in the Journey. His talk has inspired me for this year's "25 Days". I know that his words are full of truth, and I want to share some of them with you. In his talk, he said...

"One of the most inevitable aspects of our lives here upon the earth is change. At one time or another we’ve all heard some form of the familiar adage: "Nothing is as constant as change.” Throughout our lives, we must deal with change. Some changes are welcome; some are not. There are changes in our lives which are sudden, such as the unexpected passing of a loved one, an unforeseen illness, the loss of a possession we treasure. But most of the changes take place subtly and slowly. Day by day, minute by minute, second by second we went from where we were to where we are now. The lives of all of us, of course, go through similar alterations and changes. The difference between the changes in my life and the changes in yours is only in the details. Time never stands still; it must steadily march on, and with the marching come the changes.

This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.

Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. Wrote William Shakespeare, “They do not love that do not show their love.” We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us.

Send that note to the friend you’ve been neglecting; give your child a hug; give your parents a hug; say “I love you” more; always express your thanks. Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved. Friends move away, children grow up, loved ones pass on. It’s so easy to take others for granted, until that day when they’re gone from our lives and we are left with feelings of “what if” and “if only.” Said author Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone". Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family. One day each of us will run out of tomorrows."

Aren't those beautiful and inspiring words? I truly treasure the prophet's counsel, and I truly love this particular talk. I've read it and re-read it multiple times, and I've watched the Mormon Video about it over and over. Each time I do, I'm filled with thoughts of love. And I want to share the love that I feel for you, with you. I don't want to have my 'words left unsaid' or my 'deeds left undone'. I think this is the perfect time of year to share my love, too. Do you know what the first gift of Christmas was? It was love. Pure Love. Love is a beautiful gift. And I intend to give it, to spread it around, along with some Christmas cheer!

The people I will be featuring in my "25 Days" this year are the people who commented on my blog post "Be a friend, Be a buddy, Be a pal, Be a chum". (p.s. it's not too late to add your name--just click on the comments for that blog post and type in your name!) It's the same way I chose the people that I wrote about last year, too. Unfortunately, for those of you who were highlighted last year, and commented on my random post again this year, I won't be featuring you again--because I am trying to spread my love to as many people as possible. So, here's a list of my loved ones I featured last year. The words I wrote then are still true today. Just click on the name to read all about them!

1st day of Christmas: Josh's aunt LINETTE
2nd day of Christmas: my friend GINA
3rd day of Christmas: my friend EVE
4th day of Christmas: my friend HEATHER
5th day of Christmas: my friend CELYN
6th day of Christmas: Josh's cousin JODI
7th day of Christmas: my friend DEBRA
8th day of Christmas: my sister TAWNA
9th day of Christmas: my friend CANDISE
10th day of Christmas: my friend SARA
12th day of Christmas: my friend CHRIS
13th day of Christmas: Josh's sister TIFFANY
14th day of Christmas: my friend D'NEILL
15th day of Christmas: my friend MARIE
16th day of Christmas: my friend EMILY
17th day of Christmas: my sister-in-law JEN
18th day of Christmas: my brother MICK
19th day of Christmas: my sister-in-law BREANNE
20th day of Christmas: my sister TRINA
21st day of Christmas: Josh's brother-in-law SCOTT
22nd day of Christmas: my sister TABBI
23rd day of Christmas: my high school classmate AMY
24th day of Christmas: Josh's uncle DENNIS
25th day of Christmas: my husband JOSH

Starting tomorrow, and continuing to Christmas Day, I will be featuring one person a day on my blog. I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts and feelings about each of them with you, and I hope you enjoy reading about my loved ones, too!

Monday, November 29, 2010

be a friend, be a buddy, be a pal, be a chum

Hey, I've got a question...

Do I know you?
Do you know me?
If you answered yes, would you do me a simple favor?!

Will you please comment on this post and tell me your name?!!

That's it! Thank you!

Oh, and have a lovely day!

Fall 2010 Top 10

Fall is my favorite time of the year! I love everything about it! I'm sad to see it go, and I can't believe it's ending--even though it felt like it lasted forever this year, and I've been so glad! Change is good, though. The snow has brought me much anticipation for winter this year, and I've already made a Winter 2010 Top 10 list--which is a first (I've only ever done my Top 10 lists for spring, summer, and fall)! But before I announce that list, I'm retiring the Fall 2010 Top Ten list with the summary below. Farewell, my dear friend Fall.

1. See the leaves change colors & play in the fallen leaves
The colors of the leaves were SO gorgeous this year!!!

2. Go camping at Painted Rocks
This was our last camping trip of the season, and our first time going to that Montana State Park.
3. Party for Jonah and Micah's birthday
This was the first year they got to have a friends party, and they loved it!
4. Watch Ammon's football games
This was the first year Ammon could play, and he enjoyed playing, so I'm sure there's many more years to come!
5. Sell pumpkins from our patch
Sales were up from last year, and the hay-bale maze addition was so much fun!
6. Carve jack-o-lanterns
Carving pumpkins makes me happy!
7. Wear Halloween costumes and go trick-or-treating
3 days of costume wearing and 3 times trick-or-treating (church, businesses, friends) equals a LOT of candy!!!
8. Burn the giant burn pile
We do this each fall, and it's always fun to light and watch it burn away!

9. Celebrate Josh's birthday
We gave him a gnome, summer sausage, and chocolate. I took him on a dinner date, and we went to the hot springs with some friends. The next day I made him pumpkin cheesecake, and we invited more friends over to join us for cheesecake and games! It was a happy birthday, indeed!
10. Eat Thanksgiving dinner
This year, we feasted with the Perkins family in Tremonton, and we had an absolutely wonderful time! More to come about it later...

Friday, November 26, 2010

The leaf doesn't fall far from the tree!

We FINALLY had the chance to play in the leaves! We waited for the leaves to fall off the big Maple tree (because they're the biggest and most abundant), but they fell so late this year, so we didn't get to play in them until the middle of November!

And we were so happy when they finally did!

So, we threw them up in the air!

We threw them at each other!

We jumped in them!

We buried each other with them!

We made angels in them!

And we played in them for hours until we were too cold to enjoy them anymore! I'm so glad that we did, too, because the very next week, dad sucked up all the leaves in the mower the day before it snowed and snowed. (p.s. Notice the green grass in the middle of November? That's absurd!)

The leaves are all gone now, but our one and only play-day in the leaves was perfect.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

For the love...

My favorite hymn is "For the Beauty of the Earth". I love, love, LOVE it!!! (Someday it will be sung at my funeral.) Right now, my blog song-playlist is entitled "November", and there's songs about pilgrims, indians, gratitude, November, and Thanksgiving on it. I've enjoyed listening to the chosen music the last few weeks. I've especially enjoyed listening to this song, to these words...

For the beauty of the earth...
For the beauty of each hour...
For the joy of human love...
...Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

in the blink of an eye...

...a snowstorm came, lots of snow fell, and the beauty of fall ended. Just. Like. That.

All good things must come to an end, and the fall of 2010 was no exception. The long and glorious, lovely and gorgeous fall of 2010 was the warmest, most colorful, most vibrant one I ever remember witnessing, and I've been so pleased that it's lasted for as long as it has!

And now that winter is inching its way in and fall is on its way out, I'm glad to say that I have no regrets from seeing it before its passing. My personal project--item number 1 on the "fall 2010 top 10" list--was to see the leaves change colors. I revelled in completing the task; I took a picture of every bold-colored, awe-inspiring, breath-taking tree that I beheld, just to make sure that I wouldn't forget its beauty so easily after the colors were gone. And although the pictures do no justice to God's real creations, I'm grateful that I actually took the time to enjoy it all.

I loved God's Masterpiece of Autumn 2010! The first installment of photos was posted HERE, and this is the last installment of my tribute to the colors of nature this fall!
Dear Fall,
I've enjoyed every minute that you shared your colors with me.
Every red, orange, yellow, and brown hue I accepted as your gift to me.
Thank you for so many splendid moments!
Your Fan,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Priorities, People!

Last night at Family Home Evening, we talked about gratitude. During the lesson, we asked the boys what they were grateful for. This is pretty much how the conversation went after the question was asked...

JONAH: "I'm grateful for this house"

MICAH: "I'm grateful for pets"

AMMON: "I'm grateful for our family, and for this house, and for clothes, and for food and water. Because of all these things, I'm taken care of"

MOM: "I love those answers! Those are all great things to be thankful for! What do you think Kanyon is thankful for?

DAD: "sippies of milk and binkies"

KANYON: (who was pretending to be sleeping) {giggle giggle}

MOM: And what do you think mom is thankful for?"

JONAH: "your camera"

AMMON: "your laptop"

DAD: {snicker, snicker}

MOM: "ummmmm, okay. And what do you think dad is thankful for?"


JONAH: "Clothes"

MICAH: "his golf clubs"

MOM: {snicker, snicker}

MOM: "Dad, what ARE you grateful for?"

DAD: "well, all those were things that I'm grateful for, but I'm also very grateful for a job that I like that provides for my family."

MOM: "I'm also grateful for Dad's job that allows us to live here, for this new house that we live in, for 4 healthy boys that I love, for the opportunity to make food for my family, and....for my laptop so that I can communicate with so many of my friends!"

P.S. Isn't it funny what kids think their parents' priorities are?!! SOOO glad we could let them know what our REAL priorities are, what we are MOST thankful for: to be parents, to raise our sons in a loving family, to teach them about gospel truths, for Josh's job that he loves that provides for our needs, for the opportunity to live in Salmon in a home that we love, and for having family and friends who support us and love us and help us aong the path of life. For these things, and so much more (as in TV's and laptops--wink wink), we are truly thankful!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Food, Glorious Food (final chapter)

Chapter 9: Gifts of Bountiful Harvests

We received some gifts of produce this year from other's gardens. My sister-in-law Jen gave us some zucchini and Josh's friend Ryan gave us some tomatoes and peppers.

I've never grown zucchini, but I've been given lots of it in the past. The only thing I've ever done with it is fry it. I love fried zucchini, but the rest of my family doesn't. Josh think it tastes too slimy and greasy, and the boys agree. So, this year I tried deep-frying it. And, as a result, the boys gave it much higher ratings: they all liked it! I made a large batch of it twice! I didn't think of taking a picture until after they were all set on everyone's dinner plates. The deep-fried zucchini is the middle circle on the left! (And, as a side note, the large meat on the right is a barbecued spare rib that we were trying for the first time as well! That dinner was SOOO delicious: home-grown pork ribs, home-made applesauce, home-grown zucchini, and biscuits with home-made raspberry jam!)

I've also never grown tomatoes or peppers. I don't really like the texture of tomatoes, but I knew I didn't want either of the vegetables to go to waste. The obvious solution was to make salsa! I've never made salsa before, but I found a recipe that I thought would be good. I had no idea what the two kinds of peppers were that were given to us, and I had no idea how hot they were. I just threw in all the tomatoes and peppers and some of our onions and some spices and apple vinegar, cooked it up, and bottled it. I tried a little bit of it and I wasn't pleased with the taste: it tasted bitter and very H-O-T!!! Josh agreed with me on that, too. Surprisingly, Ammon liked the taste of it! I don't know if I'll ever eat this batch of salsa or not, but it was a definite learning experience for me. I learned that: 1. Peppers are hot! I made the mistake of touching my face a few times after I'd cut up the peppers, and my eyes burned for hours. I won't be doing that again!! and 2. It's important to know the type of peppers being used, due to their varying degrees of heat! So, in the future, I will figure out the type of peppers that I'm using, and only put the recommended amount in!
I'm so glad I made the goal to make a new and different recipe with every food item I grew! It was challenging for me, and I enjoyed creating so many new edible things! And for the most part, I enjoyed eating them all, too!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Food, Glorious Food (chapter 8)

Chapter 8: Pumpkin

I'm sure you all knew this one was coming, right?!
Last November I made pumpkin puree for the first time. Using just one large pumpkin (a 40-pounder), I made enough puree to fill 10 containers, which was enough for 20 pumpkin pies. And over the last 12 months, I've made lots of pumpkin pies and pumpkin cheesecakes with my homemade puree.
I've heard that smaller pumpkins are sweeter, so this year I chose three smaller pumpkins to make the puree with. They each weighed between approximately 20-25 pounds. I processed one pumpkin a day, for 3 days. Have you ever made your own puree? It's rather simple, but time-consuming. Each pumpkin needs to be washed, cut in half, and the seeds and pulp need to be removed. Then cut the pumpkin into medium-sized chunks, put face down on a cookie sheet, and pour a 1/2 inch of standing water into the pan. Bake the chunks of pumpkin at 375* for 1 hour. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Pull the skin off (it comes off easily at this point), and put the flesh in a food processor. Puree the flesh, then pour into a wire-mesh collander for about a half hour to drain the excess liquid. Put 3 cups into a blender with 1/2 cup sugar, and blend until sugar is dissolved. Then I pour the amount in quart-size freezer ziploc bags. Each filled freezer bag is the equivalent of a 29 oz. can--but the homemade pumpkin is cheaper and yummier than the store-bought canned pumpkin!!! The three pumpkins took me about 12 hours total to process, from start to end, but the finished product was a rewarding 20 containers of puree, which is enough for 40 pumpkin pies!
With this year's puree, I'm going to do more than just make pies and cheesecakes, because I'm discovering a whole new world of recipes that include pumpkin! Since I'm on a roll of making new recipes and making new soups, I decided to try the Curried Pumpkin Soup first. I loved it! Unfortunately, the rest of my family hated it. But, at least I can say I did it (and I will never make it again)!
Everything else on my list of "new" recipes sounds delicious, though! Instead of typing out the recipes for each one (especially since I haven't tried them yet), I'm just going to link you to them! I'm looking forward to trying out all of these during the upcoming year! Seriously, who knew you could do so much with pumpkin?!!

for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, click HERE

for Pumpkin Pancakes, click HERE

for Pumpkin Poptarts, click HERE

for Pumpkin Bread, click HERE

for Pumpkin Pie Bars, click HERE

for Pumpkin Butter, click HERE

for Maple Pumpkin Custard, click HERE

for 4-Layer Pumpkin Cake, click HERE

for Pumpkin Roll, click HERE

Happy Pumpkin Eating!! I know we will!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Food, Glorious Food (chapter 7)

Chapter 7: PEARS

There's a pear tree in our backyard that Josh's grandma planted many years ago. It's produced a fair amount of fruit for probably the past 5 years.

This year, I picked the pears off the tree in the middle of October. And there was only about 35, enough to fill just one large bowl.

I'm actually not a big fan of pears. In years past, I've made a spiced apple/pear jam that I really like with the pears and apples off our trees, but this year there wasn't enough apples to make the jam. I didn't want to just can the pears, because I don't like the taste and texture of canned pears. So I looked for a new recipe to try that I would actually eat. I found one called "Pear Cranberry Crisp". It looked delicious, and it actually was.

There was enough pears to make 2 of the desserts. I made one to share with Josh's family when Gideon and Alyssa were in town, and I made another one to share with some friends. Everybody who tried it, liked it (well, at least they said they did!). It had the perfect combination of sweet and tart tastes in a dessert, and the perfect texture mixture of soft and chewy with flaky and crunchy. It was wonderful!

And just in case you ever want to make this yummy dessert (I know I will again), here's the recipe:

Pear Cranberry Crisp

1. Combine: 6 cups of sliced, peeled pears, 1 cup frozen cranberries, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 TB flour, 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t. ginger, 1/4 t. nutmeg, 1/8 t. cloves. Mix well. Pour into a greased 9 in. square pan.

2. Combine: 1 cup flour, 2/3 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats, 1/4 t. salt. Cut in 1/2 cup cold butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over fruit.

3. Bake at 350* for 50-60 minutes or until pears are tender. Garnish with whipped cream if desired (we used vanilla ice cream). Makes 8 servings.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Season Confusion

October was so warm. And so was the beginning of November, too.

It was weird to have pumpkins on my porch at the same time as blooming flowers.
And it's weird that we are still mowing the lawn.

And it's weird that all the leaves have just barely fallen off the trees.

Usually, by October the leaves are all fallen, the grass is mowed for the last time, and the flowers have died.
It's felt like an Indian summer.
Don't get me wrong--I love the sunshine! And I've loved the extra time we've spent outdoors this fall! But I also love the seasons, and the different aspects of each one. This year, it's just been so different. This spring was super cold, this summer was super rainy, and this fall was super warm. I'm wondering if Mother Earth is aging and is experiencing some Alzheimers or something!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This is the Halloween that doesn't end...

On the 1st DAY OF HALLOWEEN, (Thursday the 28th)...

Jonah and Micah walked through their school for the Costume Parade,

Jonah and Micah ate and played at their school Class Party,
All four boys scooped out their pumpkins, and I carved 2 of them,
And the whole family attended our Ward Halloween party with carnival games, a chili feed, and trick-door-treating inside the church!

On the 2nd DAY OF HALLOWEEN (Friday the 29th)...

We took the boys down main street in the afternoon for the Salmon Merchant's Trick-or-Treating,

I carved 2 more of the boys' pumpkins,

and then I took the three older boys to the School Halloween Carnival.

On the 3rd DAY OF HALLOWEEN (Saturday the 30th)...

Josh and I carved the final 2 pumpkins, lit them all up, and set them on the porch,

And I took the boys Trick-or-Treating to friends and neighbors, while dad stayed home to hand-out candy. And since no kids stopped by our house this year, it meant more chocolate for Josh and I to eat!

On the 4th DAY OF HALLOWEEN (Sunday, October 31st--the REAL Holiday)

We did nothing. Well, okay--that's not completely accurate. After church, the boys ate loads of Halloween candy and we picked up wrappers all day long!

I LOVE Halloween!!! It was fun to have it last SO long this year!