28 February 2008

lazy manicotti

There is such a thing! I've made it twice in the last week and everyone is begging for more! Go figure, I just threw it together without even using a recipe.

You will need:

manicotti noodles
2 cans tomato sauce
Italian seasoning
1/2 onion
1 lb. ground beef
shredded mozarella

Heat 1 can of tomato sauce on low. Add crushed garlic and Italian seasoning, a large pinch of sugar (I do all this by taste). Simmer. Meanwhile brown beef with 1/2 onion and bring pot of water to boil simultaneously. Drain beef. Add the other can of tomato sauce to the ground beef and begin simmering. Again, add spices to taste - a couple pinches of sugar should do it, a dash of salt and pepper, Italian seasoning. While this too is simmering, prepare the manicotti following the package's directions. Drain manicotti and when cool enough to handle and your sauce and beef mixture have both simmered for a good 20-30 minutes, spread the sauce along bottom of a baking dish. This will prevent the manicotti from sticking. Then, stuff the manicotti shells with the beef mixture. Top with plenty of shredded mozarella and bake at 350 until cheese melts.


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25 February 2008

Am I gonna learn this lesson?

I've been so busy lately. Crazy busy. Our house is on the market and we are fervently trying to sell the one we're in. My brothers and I are caring almost exclusively for our youngest brother, who's moved out of my father's house (haven't gone into much detail on that one). He's in high school and in need of A LOT of TLC and guidance. My own children have their needs right now, ranging from educational to behavioral.

My coping mechanism has always been to keep myself busy. It adds to the stress sometimes, but it also gives me the outlets I need to stay sane. For instance, I've got 2 performances coming up - one in Utah in just a few days and a bigger one here in town in April. I rehearse twice a week, for an hour each time. My Whimsy Wipes (see my Etsy store) have taken flight. A local baby boutique called Hey Baby recently placed an order, and a company from Singapore has made a wholesale inquiry now as well. I do children's and maternity photography. I exercise religiously 5 days a week - running and lifting weights.

Sometimes this all comes at a cost. I'd be lying if I said I am just so amazing that I never drop a ball. I may cook less or clean less (although my children's balanced nutrition never suffers, nor does my house EVER look like a sty). My kids may have to play more independently than usual. My husband may need to help more around the house. And he's great about it. I think he and I are usually on the same wavelength and he acts as an extension of me. Without even asking, I'll come home to a clean house. It's such a relief to me that he's so in tune, because I'd surely be feeling like a loser mom/wife otherwise. His support is key,and maybe that makes a huge difference in what I'm challenging here.

I realize that I feel much more in control when my housely priorities are unequivocally tops. It doesn't change all that I may have going on, but it helps me think more clearly and I also feel better about myself when I don't put off those responsibilities. But it happens. To many of us, I'm sure. And for the record,I have do have limitations to what I would put off for an opportunity to pursue my talents... someone in need, friend or family member... But I have this inner struggle going on over the general issue of a mother's role in the family.

I've read Sister Beck's talk ("Mothers Who Know") from our last bi-annual LDS Conference over and over. I've tried applying it to my life, and gradually I am understanding her counsel. But finding how her counsel fits into my life has been difficult, as it has been for many LDS women.

I've never blindly followed counsel. I've always made it a matter of prayer. I've found solace in quotes from our church leaders encouraging women to educate themselves, to use their talents for good, to remember to meet their own needs and to raise families in partnership with their spouse. But in the context of this particular talk, "Mothers who know do less" goes against that grain. It implies that our lives should be simple and that they should be focused on our families. I'm all about family and they are the most important thing to me. With that I have no misunderstanding. But I would not be happy if I didn't feel free to pursue my interests. That is what makes me a whole person. I find a lot of my value in being a mother, but not all of it.

I was raised to be involved. To do. It's so much a part of who I am. And it is the one thing, the greatest thing for which I credit my mother. That is bittersweet for me, because it is also the biggest reason why many people do not believe, or understand, that she physically and emotionally abused my siblings and I. They see 4 intelligent, talented and successful individuals and cannot comprehend how we could have come from a dysfunctional home. Or they feel we should just "get over it" because it did not have such a significant impact on our lives that we haven't been able to rise above or "turn out okay". But I digress.

I see women around me who have forgotten themselves. They've followed the counsel to put their families first to the law and they've lost a part of themselves. They "played the flute at one point" or they "used to" paint. They don't have time for a girls night out. They feel selfish if they spend time perfecting themselves in any way. They come last. I don't think that's a mother who knows. That's a sad individual.

So I am conflicted. Is there a difference between being a fulfilled mother and being a faithful mother? I don't mean to simplify this topic, but the black and white of it is what I am concerned with. I'd really love to start a dialogue over this, so feel free to comment regardless of your viewpoint or religion. I'm putting on my suit of armor right now!

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Random Product Review

Have you tried the new orange 3 Musketeers? Oh my heaven-- at only 24 calories a pop,no less. I'm not kidding! The cherry flavor they marketed for Valentine's Day was a total flop. But these? I'm stocking up!
I have something brewing blog-wise. A monster post. Lol. It's consumed my thoughts the last few days, which is in part why I haven't posted anything new.
Hope you're all having a fabulous day!

19 February 2008

I choose to be a mom

*This post was adapted for entry into Scribbit's Write-away contest. Original is here.

Everyday, I choose to be a mom... I choose to devote my time. I choose to set me aside. I choose to bite my tongue when I am angry. I choose to give us all a time out when I feel like I am losing it. I choose to play hide and seek. I choose to sing the same 3 songs every night at bedtime. I choose to push through my fatigue and smile and give hugs. I choose to listen to my children's little concerns.

I choose to give them hope. I choose to teach them acceptance. I choose to let them explore. I choose to let them learn.

I choose to protect them. I choose to worry about them. I choose to check on them in the wee hours of the night. I choose to get teary when they accomplish their firsts. I choose to submit to them. I choose to take charge. I choose to relish the things in their little world.

I choose to empower them.

I choose to be an example. I choose to say I'm sorry. I choose to teach them responsibility. I choose to challenge them.

I choose to care for myself. I choose to share my passions with them. I choose to let them be part of my life. I choose to be part of theirs. I choose to receive heavenly guidance. I choose to show them my weaknesses. I choose to give myself a break. I choose to give my husband experience. I choose to give them independence. I choose to give them dependence.

I choose not to give up, I choose to love them.

18 February 2008

On swearing

Having been raised in the South, "damn it" was never considered a curse word. So I say it pretty casually and pretty often. You're shocked, I know. Well, I have to stop it. Because my 2 youngest children are now repeating it (so much for just knowing deep down that it is WRONG to say it). I was able to sneak it by the 2 oldest, so I'm a little miffed that my one vice (not including diet coke) has to come to an end.

The other day while playing video games with his father, my son fell behind in a race and said "Damn!" My husband and I looked at each other, appalled of course. Seeing our expressions our son corrected himself and said, "Oops, I MEANT to say damn IT. Sorry." Wow. We've taught him well.

And then there is Sasha. Sweet little thing. I just bought her this darling little book from Costco called "Mommy's Tote". It's got all sorts of flaps and puzzle pieces and things to tuck into pockets. Well, of course, one of the damn pieces ripped. And then another. And another (oh why do I buy these things?). So I said it. Out loud. And she picked up on it, immediately. Off she ran, squealing and grinning wildly and yelling "damn it" (3 times in a row, as per my habit)!

I've heard that there comes a time in every parent's life when their children magnify (and manifest) their weaknesses. I guess I'm glad that I lasted as long as I did. 2 outta 4 ain't bad. But damn, I'm ticked.

14 February 2008

Feelin' the love!

Happy V-Day to all! I had a ton of fun this morning making my kids' lunch as well as a special breakfast. Even my husband got the royal treatment this year, with a foot long sandwich and heart o' chocolates (and some love coupons ;))! Cupid came last night and got each child a small treasure to play with after school (board games). And now I will run from classroom to classroom all day being the dedicated mom. Lol!

Yvonne,at the The Life and Travels of Me gave me this award last week. Thank you Yvonne! Yvonne is one of the sweetest women I've met in blogland and I really appreciate the compliment from her. :)

The rules for being A Roar For Powerful Words recipient are that I share 3 writing tips and pass the award on to 5 more bloggers worthy of recognition and esteem. So here goes my unsolicited advice!

1. Chances are, you began blogging for fun. After a while you get more and more commenters and before long you think you're "all that" and have to become more and more impressive. Don't let blogging take away from your life. It is too easy to get hung up over the number of comments you receive and your stat numbers and your ranking. And if you're really in it for the writing, then you probably already know this. If you don't have time to comment on your 30 commenters blogs each and every day, don't sweat it. Those bloggers who really enjoy what you have to say and are genuine friends will stick around. Trust me.

2. When you get an idea for a post, save it with the rest of your published posts. I usually have about 10 drafts going for ideas for future blogging topics. I used to jot them down on a piece of paper, but then I had random blogging ideas stashed all over my house. Not the easiest way to go. Just remember, when you finally do post your idea, that it will be published with the date you saved it. You need to adjust that using Post Options (for Blogger) for it to appear as your top post.

3. Just be real. Be yourself. Let your blog represent who you are. If you'd like a good tutorial on how to make a personalized header for yourself, read this tutorial posted at Design Mom. Also, blogrounds are fun to play around with, and you can find a nice selection here and here. And for even more unique ideas check out this site.

I feel this award should be passed on to 5 women who I have thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly, enjoyed reading. I'd like to thank them all for their way with well written words, and I encourage you strongly to visit them and see for yourself what I mean.

Lords of the Manor
Bells on Their Toes
Life is a spasm who flow
Tongue in Cheek

Hope you all have a lovely day!

11 February 2008

photo shoot!

Meet Shay... you may remember her son Kavi from this shoot. I'm really trying to improve my photo skillz, and experimented a bit with the overlighted/overexposed look (sorry I don't know the proper term - lol), which I love. Oh and don't you love my new watermarks - taught myself that this morning thank you very much.

Constructive criticism is welcome from all you photography gurus - Lee, Lara, anyone! :)

07 February 2008

On inner beauty

Last night the young women in our ward had a glamour night. We had a make-up artist and a hair dresser come and fix them up, and then myself and another photgrpaher in the ward took pictures of them. I was also asked to speak to them about inner beauty.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the LDS church once said in a talk (To Young Women), “I plead with you young women to please be more accepting of yourselves, including your body shape and style, with a little less longing to look like someone else… almost everyone at some time or other wants to be something they are not! But as one adviser to teenage girls said (in Teen People): “You can’t live your life worrying that the world is staring at you. When you let people’s opinions make you self-conscious you give away your power. … The key to feeling [confident] is to always listen to your inner self—[the real you.]” And in the kingdom of God, the real you is as the proverb says, “more precious than rubies.” The world has been brutal with you in this regard. You are bombarded in movies, television, fashion magazines, and advertisements with the message that looks are everything! The pitch is, “If your looks are good enough, your life will be glamorous and you will be happy and popular.” That kind of pressure is immense in the teenage years, to say nothing of later womanhood. In too many cases too much is being done to the human body to meet just such a fictional (to say nothing of superficial) standard. As one Hollywood actress is reported to have said recently (Halle Berry): “We’ve become obsessed with beauty and the fountain of youth. … I’m really saddened by the way women mutilate [themselves] in search of that. I see women [including young women] … pulling this up and tucking that back. It’s like a slippery slope. [You can’t get off of it.] … It’s really insane … what society is doing to women.”

I think it is so important for us to reiterate to our daughters and our daughters' friends that
this ideal image does not even exist… it’s a fabrication, the perfection we see illustrated on the screen and in magazines. Besides that, it is not a good source of self esteem. It is spiritually destructive for them and is exactly what has lead most of us as women to be unhappy with our noses, or our hair, or our bodies.

I found another great talk that targets this issues, given by Susan W. Tanner entitled "The Sanctity of the Body". She says "In the premortal realm we learned that the body was part of God’s great plan of happiness, by which we could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection. We “shouted for joy” (see Job 38:7) to be part of this plan. Why were we so excited? We understood eternal truths about our bodies. We knew that our bodies would be in the image of God. We knew that our bodies would house our spirits. We also understood that our bodies would be subject to pain, illness, disabilities, and temptation. But we were willing, even eager, to accept these challenges because we knew that only with spirit and element inseparably connected could we progress to become like our Heavenly Father (see D&C 130:22) and “receive a fulness of joy” (see D&C 93:33)."

Have you ever thought that our bodies are meant to protect our spirits? And boy do they take a beating... mothers get stretch marks, we all become wrinkled at some point, our bodies literally wear down and become worn over time. We break bones and our immune systems weaken. At the end of our lives we may not be much to look at. But if we’ve treated our bodies as temples - and we know that it is what is inside the temple that makes it a sacred, beautiful place - they (our bodies) will have protected the very most important, the most beautiful part of ourselves, and that is our spirit. 1 Peter 3:4 says "But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."

Joseph Smith taught: “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom.” The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment” (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 60).

Think what it must be like to be the only one of God's sons/daughters to be formally rebuked and denied the opportunity to come down, receive and body, return again clean and receive eternal life. Satan will do whatever he can to ruin that opportunity for the rest of us. He'll make some of us feel ugly our whole lives through and he'll tempt others of us to flaunt our assets premiscuously. He'll make more appealing the use of addictions and self-indulgence as coping mechanisms. Anything to defile this great gift which we've been given.

And on the specific idea of inner beauty, Sister Tanner goes on to share, “I remember well the insecurities I felt as a teenager with a bad case of acne. I tried to care for my skin properly. My parents helped me get medical attention. For years I even went without eating chocolate and all the greasy fast foods around which teens often socialize, but with no obvious healing consequences. It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body which was giving me so much grief. But my good mother taught me a higher law. Over and over she said to me, “You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.”

What a difference we'd make in the lives of the young women around us if we told them this, and often. I love to look nice as much as msot any other woman does, but we are their real role models. We are the ones they watch on a daily basis. We are close enough for them to touch and hear. If we're busy obsessing over our appearance, they are going to notice.

I love to exercise, every day if I can. I place great emphasis on the fact that if I don't I just don't feel as healthy. I am slower to stay on task during the day and besides that, I'm just not as happy. I talk to my daughter about why I focus on being healthy, and what that really means. We enjoy eating, but we're thoughtful of how we treat our bodies. It's tough achieving a healthy balance of how much focus we put on this kind of thing. I've answered a lot of questions from her about being thin and eating fattening foods and working out. She's 8 and has obviosuly already noticed the wordly obsession over this. But I hope she remembers what I've taught her, that Heavenly Father made us the way he made us and that healthy people come in all different shapes and sizes. Our only responsibility is to respect our bodies, and we can't do that when we're gluttonous or idle.

Sister Tanner's mother taught her daughter the Christlike principle of selflessness. "Charity, or the pure love of Christ, “envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own” (Moroni 7:45). When we become other-oriented, or selfless, we develop an inner beauty of spirit that glows in our outward appearance. This is how we make ourselves in the Lord’s image rather than the world’s and receive His image in our countenances.

Our late President Hinckley spoke of this very kind of beauty that comes as we learn to respect body, mind, and spirit when he said: “Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth” (“Understanding Our Divine Nature,” Liahona, Feb. 2002, 24; “Our Responsibility to Our Young Women,” Ensign, Sept. 1988)

I hope more young girls see the potential they have to be beautiful inside and out. And that the effort they put into nourishing what is inside will show on the outside. The possibilities are endless for our girls, there are few limitations before them and we've worked hard to make it that way.

One of the sweet older sisters that attended our activity last night leaned over to me during the make-iup demonstration and said, "You know, the best make-up you can wear is a smile." And she is so right. One can hardly fail to notice true happiness, and vibrance and surety. That is where the true beauty lies in each of us.

04 February 2008

still at it

The pictures are not good... we have dreary weather today taking away all my natural light. :( But I had to share as my crafting frenzy continues...
My kids have today through Wednesday off,so we dug out a Valentine kit they received last year and made some cute pop-up cards. It was a lot of fun and will tie into FHE tonight nicely. I got some miniature mail boxes from the $1 aisle at Target for us to decorate and we're going to be leaving love notes for each other between now and Valentine's Day. I just know the kids will love checking their mailboxes for unexpected treats and notes!

Don't you just love this little hair clip? I cut down some handkerchief scraps (thanks again, Les) and tied them on to a small single prong clip. Here's a tip for that extra fine hair: a tiny sliver of craft foam glued inside the clip gives it a better grip.

Ah, the t-shirt with the ridiculously large corsage on it. I just love it. Hey, if babies can wear huge bows on their heads, then why not a big yoyo on their chest? ;)

I found some simple hangers in the $1 aisle at Target ages ago and finally figured out what to do with them - personalize them!

To go beside those file folders in the new planning center... a miniature magnet board. Materials are a piece of galvanized sheeting, wood cut bases (2 sizes - glued together), paint, sandpaper (for edges - after painting), scrapbooking embellishments (for mounted corners and/or magnets), and my flat glass marble magnets. This board is the perfect size for small photos or sticky notes.

Question: Should I open an Etsy shop?

01 February 2008

creative therapy

I've had to keep my hands busy the past few days in order to prevent my mind from blowing. You know the feeling. The frenzy started with an idea for my niece's birthday, then led to Valentine's Day, and ended with some fun organizational ideas for my new house.

For my niece, a shabby vintage-looking drawing book. I received one similar to it from Zoe at
Fresh Preserves for one of my boys:



For Valentine's Day, a pint-sized purse filled with band-aids (see
Family Fun) and treats that are sure to temper the tears:


We're building what's called a family planning center in the new house. I'm so excited to use it, but even more excited to accessorize it. And for such I made these file folders. I could make them all day long. I loved experimenting with various pattern on patterns. Ah, the many uses for scrapbook paper not related at all to scrapbooking. Love it! I've seen similar items sell for $$$ at places like
See Jane Work, but it's ridiculous how cheaply you can make these for yourself. Too bad I am not a lawyer or something... I need an excuse to make about 100 more! Instead I'll probably think of other things to cover.


Oh yeah, here's a picture of my not-so-baby-anymore, er, baby. ;)