Tuesday, May 31, 2011

J.A.R.V.I.S.

James and I went to see Priest yesterday. It was a movie I had been looking forward to, mostly because I was excited about the cast, namely these two:




Especially him.



The movie was about as good as I expected. Not super great - and in many ways actually terrible. Even Karl let me down. But not Paul. I decided that if I have a celebrity crush, it's Paul Bettany. Of course, James mocked me - "He's so scrawny, though!" - and fake pouted about me crushing on Paul, but I just had to remind him about his love for Kate Beckinsale, and we were even.

Anyway, I was just curious to see what else Paul Bettany has been in - maybe to add it to my Netflix queue, I'm not saying - so I browsed his filmography and discovered that he voiced J.A.R.V.I.S. in Iron Man! Now I know why I love that computer so much. :P You may recall from earlier posts that I named my sewing machine after him. Maybe I should print out a picture of Paul and tape it to Jarvis as motivation? :P

So, yeah, I was excited. What about you guys? Do you have a celebrity crush? Is he as nerdily handsome as mine? I'd love to hear, if only to justify my own girlish silliness regarding Mr. Bettany.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Left Behind?

So, I know that all the jokes about the apocalypse not coming after all are pretty old by this point. I mean, the supposed event was to have taken place on Saturday, so everyone has taken their shots, had their chuckles, and continued on with their lives.

But I still want to talk about it, so I hope you're cool with that.

On Saturday, while waiting for the Rapture, I was out weeding my garden. If that's not an apt living metaphor, I don't know what is. I couldn't help thinking as I tore knee-high weeds from the muddy ground, that I was creating my own little doomsday right there in the backyard. I was literally destroying a habitat -- in the name of creating something greater -- but causing destruction and devastation nonetheless. I watched the spiders skitter away and the worms writhe in their newly-upturned soil and I thought, I wonder if the bugs had their own little warning prophets of doom?

Side note: does anyone else feel morally qualmed while gardening? I know it's silly, but I do. I look at the weeds and I think, "How come this plant has to die? Because it's ugly? Because it has no use to me? Because I want it to?" I think that a lot about dandelions. Though the other thought I have about dandelions is "Just die already! Die, die, die."

But anyway, back to the Rapture. While I was destroying wicked weeds in my backyard, preparing fertile ground for useful vegetables, I thought a lot about Harold Camping. See, I was pretty sure that the Rapture wasn't going to happen May 21 at 6pm (Hey, I was right!). Something about "no man knoweth the day or the hour" seemed to be a strong indicator for me that either the guy was misleading or just misled. But still, I thought, maybe we shouldn't be so smug in our dismissal of the guy and his small-but-enthusiastic, van-driving following. Reports of rapture countdown clocks and flippant facebook comments got me thinking that maybe we're all missing an opportunity here.

Whatever you may believe - whether in an afterlife, a God, a resurrection, a blank and peaceful nothingness, whatever - the truth of the matter is that we all only get the one life. So when an opportunity comes along to evaluate it and ask yourself if you like who you're becoming, maybe it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. I thought a lot about that as I caked myself in mud in the backyard. I wondered, if the Second Coming were to happen that evening, or next week, or next year - would I be ready? At the end of any day, can I look back over it and feel that I am happy with what I did, how I behaved, how I treated others, how I spent my time?

So many days I feel just get wasted, mostly on this lovely computer, and I wonder what opportunities I am missing. What I will regret when it's all over. But I don't really think about it all that often: I just go with the flow and live out my habits and patterns.

And so I think a little wake up call every now and then is not a bad thing. A little Harold Camping-style pseudo-Rapture -- as misguided and eye-roll-inducing as it may be -- might just be an excellent opportunity to ask ourselves, "Am I living it right?"

Still, funniest thing I heard after the "Rapture" - a text conversation between  my sister (AJ) and my dad.

AJ: Did u guys get raptured??!?
Dad: What do you think? Of course we were taken up. Enjoy your last 5 months of torment. We'll be eating gelato here in heaven.
AJ: Well, thank God (when u see him) that there's 3G service up there!

Ah, texting from heaven. Technology sure has come a long way.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Do You Believe in Magic? Magic Shell, That Is...

So, my life just got that much better. How? Well, we ran out of Magic Shell topping. I know, I know, that does not sound like a good thing. But you know I'm gonna elaborate.

See, I belong in the "ice cream is just an excuse to eat toppings" camp. I like ice cream, it's ok. But ice cream with toppings, now that's what I'm talking about. A few weeks ago, as I was huffing along with my month's worth of groceries in the cart, I decided, heck I'm saving so much money this way, I can afford to splurge a little here and there. So, I threw in the Magic Shell topping and a bucket o' ice cream and went along my merry way.

James, Isaac, and I have been very much enjoying said bucket with said topping for quite a while.


Only one problem: the bucket lasts a loooot longer than that little bottle of Magic Shell. I was quite surprised to see how fast it went. So, then I was sad. But then the Amazing Internet came to the rescue. It's like a superhero. Really. 

Anyway, the long and the short of it is, did you know you can make your own Magic Shell? And it isn't difficult, and it isn't expensive, and you probably have all the ingredients right now in your very own linen closet pantry? Exciting. I know. So here it is, the great, the stunning, the amazing, Magic Shell recipe:



Ingredients:
4 oz (2/3 cup) chocolate chips
3 tbsp butter

Melt the butter and chocolate chips over low heat on the stovetop, stirring constantly. Allow to cool, but not harden. (We weren't really that patient, so I just waited until steam was no longer coming off the chocolate.) Pour over ice cream and watch the magic happen.

You could try all kinds of crazy things with this - we added some peanut butter for a little Reeses' style Magic. You could skip that and just melt Reeses peanut butter cups. You could melt a Heath bar, or any other chocolate of your choice.

I can't tell you how awesome (and dangerous) it is that I can have Magic Shell whenever I want to. But it sure does make me happy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

FYI: UtahCountyMom Now Has an Etsy Shop

The title says it all, but I thought I'd go ahead and elaborate anyway. Jessica of Utah County Mom has opened up an Etsy shop full of really gorgeous prints, as well as other creations.

If you're looking for a great gift for a baby shower, or maybe something to adorn your own nursery, I'd highly recommend one of these adorable prints:




I especially love the little alphabet one. So sweet.

So, go check out Utah County Mom's shop!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Opportunities

In about the last ten minutes I came across two somethings amazing that I got so excited about I had to share. Plus, I have to tell you about something my very cool sister is doing. I'll explain. But you guys know I'm a bit long-winded, so bear with me. (If you started humming "What a Good Boy" by BNL, I love you.)

Sometimes I feel like, as a mostly stay-at-home mom, I don't get that many opportunities to serve. I was watching Deserving Design on Hulu the other day, and while it mostly inspired me, it also got me a little down on myself. I started to feel like I just wasn't doing enough, and then I went through the littany of reasons why I wasn't doing enough, which mostly read: baby, baby, baby, oh and husband a little bit too, but mostly baby. But the more I think about it, the more I think that I am using my inability to do anything huge as an excuse not to do anything at all. You know, you get that idea in your head - go big or go home. Or at least I do. And I think, well, if I can't spend every weekend building houses for Habitat for Humanity or if I can't move to Mexico and teach people to read, then what's the point? But that's ridiculous. I'm reminded of a motto I thought up for myself as a missionary: Look for opportunities, not excuses.

Sure, maybe I won't be as cool as the woman who moved to Laos to work as a nurse and adopted two daughters or the woman who overcame near blindness and cancer only to turn around and dedicate herself to becoming a medical researcher with a quest to eradicate AIDS, but the fact is I can serve in my sphere. And maybe it's not as grand, and maybe (ok, most likely) Vern Yip will never show up at my door with a team of designers and carpenters, but I can serve those around me and I can make a difference. 

Anyway, so here are those awesome things I was telling you about:

First, one of my favorite decor bloggers, Centsational Girl, decided to reach out to her community and found COTS (Committee on the Shelterless). She and her husband ended up working on Project Alma - they are helping three single mothers and their children fix up and beautify their home. You can read all about it here. The opportunity here is one to donate and help Kate and her husband help women and their families turn their lives around. They've already done some awesome things. Check out this beautiful and functional entryway makeover:


And the incredible media center they built using the original old TV stand that was in the house and two used bookshelves. 


And here's the best thing: you don't have to donate a lot. The girl doesn't call herself C.entsational Girl for nothing. She really knows how to stretch a buck. That media center cost a grand total of $60 to make. So a donation of $5 could go really far to helping these families. Just follow this link to get information on donating.

On to opportunity #2. 

Facebook is incredible for learning about new things. A friend posted a link recently to the Coupon Connections blog. Amber posted a really great idea for helping the homeless. If you don't want to hop over to that link, I'll explain it here. The idea is basically to use excess you have (for these people, it is excess of items acquired for cheap or free through couponing. Really gotta get into that.) to make gift bags for homeless people. You can gather items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, non-perishable food items, sanitary products, etc., place them in a gift bag and keep them in your car to give to people you see on the street. 

I know I hate it when I see someone and am not carrying any cash. That passage from Mosiah 4 in the Book of Mormon, where King Benjamin says that if we have tasted of the goodness of the love of Christ we will "succor those that stand in need": and "administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need" and "not suffer that the bbeggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish." I hate feeling like I have let someone put up his petition to me in vain.

So what an awesome idea, huh? When you see a really incredible sale, but you think - "I'll never use 8 packages of bandaids" - grab a few extra for someone who could really use it. Keep 'em in your car and you'll never have to leave someone empty handed.

Last little cool thing I wanted to tell you about: my way amazing sister Adrienne is participating in the March of Dimes March for Babies this weekend. The March of Dimes is an organization dedicated to helping prevent birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. I am so proud of my big sis. If you want to help her out with a donation, you can visit her site here

Ok, that's it for me. What about you guys? Any awesome opportunities to serve that you know of?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Reorganization: My New Dining Room Craft Space

So, when we walked through our house for the first time, I knew exactly what I was going to do with it. The office/craft room and the play room were going to be upstairs - that way, you know, I would be closer to the kitchen when I was working and crafting.

Well, it turned out that being upstairs didn't make me quite close enough to the kitchen for my happiness. I kept finding myself dragging my sewing machine out of the craft room out to the dining room table to do all my happy crafting. Now, this wasn't only for the sake of proximity to the oreos and milk (though I admit that is a factor). I had a lot of reasons. Here are the main ones:

1.) I can't actually craft in the craft room with Isaac around, since he is quite the climber and has a penchant for scaling James's desk with a Sharpie in hand. Yeah, the Sharpie made contact with both computer monitors. It was a bad day. So, that door has to stay closed at all times. The dining room, however, has less intrigue for the little scamp, so I find it a bit easier to get him to play nearby without destroying anything.



2.) The dining room table is just bigger. I have a pretty large desk in my craft room, but it is not big enough to have my sewing machine and my cutting mat on it at the same time. The dining table is, so it wins.


3.) I just like it out here better for some reason. Maybe because I just can't seem to keep the craft room clean to save my life and all that clutter stamps out my creative instinct like a heard of elephants. I don't know why it's easier to keep the dining room table clean, but it is.

4.) Did I mention oreos?


5.) We are actually planning on moving our bedroom upstairs to where the office/craft room is today. My reasoning behind this is simply that when I have my next baby I'll want to be sleeping on the same floor as I eat. No I'm not pregnant, I'm just planning ahead. And yeah, I'm planning the most important things. 


So, anyway, I had some good reasons for crafting in the dining room, but pulling everything out all the time was getting a little tiresome. So, one night last week I got a crazy idea, and before I let myself think about the ramifications, I put it into action.

You see, we have a tiny (I mean tiny) kitchen. No pantry. 4 cabinets. 6 drawers. So, I had to get creative with how I used the space. The hall linen closet became the pantry and I bought a hutch to store dishes and silverware in the dining room. Behold:



Sorry, this post is taking a lot of explanations. Back to my plan: take everything out of the hutch and fill it instead with my most-used craft supplies. I pulled all the dishes and random appliances (waffle maker, chocolate melter) out and stacked them haphazardly on all the kitchen surfaces. Yes, including the floor. The next day when I was explaining things to James, he asked me "So, what are you going to do with all this stuff?" I shrugged and said, "I'll figure it out." Then my saint of a husband cracked up and said, "Wow, you really leap before you look!" And laughed his merry way to go play Portal 2.

Once I had the thing empty, I started transporting all the things I use the most into the hutch. Sewing machine. Box of sewing machine accessories. Fabric, Thread. Scissors. Iron. Scrapbook paper. Supplies for camera critters. Bags of scraps. Cutting mat. Cutting rulers. I just kept getting more and more pleasantly surprised as I was able to fit so many of my most-used supplies into the small hutch. And here it is today, ladies and gentlemen:



 What I discovered was I had not been using space very efficiently. The same stuff that was crammed into the cubbies of my Ikea bookshelf and strewn all over the floor in the craft room actually fit nicely and compactly into the dining hutch when I took the time to plan and think things out. Of course, there's still stuff in the craft room, but I have a plan for tackling that, too: I'll keep crafting in the dining room and as I need things from the craft room I will pull them out and find places for them. If I didn't go back for them after a month or two, they probably weren't all that necessary and I will find new homes for them. Hopefully in other people's homes. I bought a dresser today at Savers to use as a sideboard in the dining room, and it will hopefully house some of that stuff that I do find to be necessary.

Oh, and if you're wondering what happened to all that stuff in the kitchen - turns out I wasn't using that space all that efficiently either. I was able to fit everything that had been in the hutch in one cabinet, or I decided it really didn't belong in the kitchen at all. The stuff that had been in that cabinet (chemicals, cookbooks, and empty jars - yeah, great use of cabinet space there, Char) made its way to either the garage, the cleaning closet, or the food storage cabinet downstairs. Oh, the cookbooks are on the counter, but seeing as I use them every day, I think they earned that spot.


Anyway, thanks for reading my long-winded post about organization. Basically, what I learned was that using a small space efficiently is almost better than having more space. More space (for me at least) means more mess, while small spaces inspire my creativity and challenge me to be a little neater.



The end.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Family Shoot w/ Kristal of KP Photography

My friend Kristal is just amazing. She took some photos for us this past Friday, and boy do I love them. I love how she captured all the wonder that is Isaac...

 Don't you just love his little stinker face?


...the joy of being a mom...

... and the little moments that make up family life. 

I adore this shot of Isaac and his loving Daddy.


So, besides bragging about how incredibly cute my family is, I guess what I'm trying to say is get ahold of Kristal and schedule your own session. You won't regret it. :)



Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gratia

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Women's Conference. This is an annual gathering of a ton of women on BYU campus, where speakers from all different backgrounds come to speak on a wide variety of topics. It's pretty much a chance to fill your lamp with oil, refresh your spirit, learn something, and be strengthened. I really loved it.

At one point during the conference, I took a little break from scribbling down notes and wrote in the margins "Everything is being distilled." I later had to go check the dictionary to make sure I really meant what I wanted to mean, and yep there it is, what I was trying to say. Distill: to extract the essence of. That's what happened to me over those two days. I was being reminded of the essence of life. The most important. What is beautiful and what is good and what is difficult but worth doing. It was like a physical feeling - everything coming together into one and having such clarity in my brain. Ah, if only that feeling could last. But at least I have my notes!

One of the sessions I attended centered around the topic "Believe in Christ." The first speaker directed her words toward the relationship between grace, the Atonement, and believing in Christ. One of the things she said really interested me. She said the Latin word for grace is gratia, and it means both favor and thanks. (Hence the word gracias in Spanish.) She said that it is appropriate that the same word is used to describe both the gift and the appropriate response to the gift.

I've been thinking about that a lot. It reminded me of a phrase I had heard in scripture, which I later found was John 1:16, "And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." In that moment that meant to me that I should return grace (thanks) for the grace (favor) I have been given.

And now that I am thinking about it, it seems like this is what it was all distilling into. I attended sessions on understanding our worth, teaching children through stories, not being ashamed of the gospel of Christ,  facing grief and disappointments, and delighting in the scriptures, and everything I learned in these sessions can be distilled into one word: gratitude. If I can maintain a feeling of gratitude in my heart, I feel like I can pretty much manage all of the other things I learned and was inspired to do during that conference.

If I remember who Christ is, and what he did, and am grateful for it, I will remember who I am and what I am worth.

If I am grateful for the Atonement and I love it in my heart, it will be easy to share it with my children and everyone else I know.

If I feel gratitude for the grace of Christ, I will be buoyed up in times of grief, and I will be better able to act as He would act when those around me are suffering.

If I am grateful for what Christ did, I will treasure his words he has given us through prophets and recorded in the scriptures. I will desire to read them and study them and love them.

And I think If I always remember Christ, I will have that feeling of gratitude, and I will be happier.

So there it is. The secret to happiness and success in life. Gratia. Grace given, and grace returned.

Tutorial Tuesday: Mailing Envelopes

I have a lot of scrapbook paper lying around, since I used to think I might actually do some scrapbooking, but now I've resigned myself to the fact that it simply isn't my craft. I'll stick with photo albums and just admire the beautiful scrapbooks of others. I don't have to do everything, right?

Anyway, I also have a ton of bubble wrap leftover from our move. Are you sensing a pattern here? If it can possibly be useful, I really don't like throwing it away.

So, with these powers combined I'm now able to save a buck or two when it comes to mailing out my creations to the lovely people who buy them. :)



Here's how to make 'em.

You'll need:
2 sheets of scrapbook paper, paper grocery bags, book pages - any sturdy paper will do

bubble wrap
glue (I used a glue stick)
sewing machine and thread
this tutorial by Swirly Thoughts


Steps:

Follow Swirly Thoughts' tutorial, except use glue to stick everything together rather than double-sided tape.

When everything is put together, bring it all over to the sewing machine and sew a straight stitch along the three closed sides.

And there you have it! When you're ready to mail something, just place your contents inside, and glue down the flap. I also use tape to secure everything. Then send it off!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hello, Again! + A Tasty Recipe

Bad blogger! A whole week and no posts - and I was on such a roll there. Well, I hope you didn't miss me too much (ok, I'll admit, I hope you did, but it's ok if you didn't). The reason for my little hiatus was pretty predictable - life got busy!

Some really cool things happened - I made some sales in my little shop, so I was busy sewing and glueing and creating away. I have to admit it was super thrilling - I sent my little camera critters off to Australia, England, and Alabama! I hope they make it ok. It's really cool to think that somewhere out there (under the pale moonlight...) someone's got something I created. Happy!


Also, my mother-in-law was in town for my awesome sis-in-law Allison's graduation. Congratulations Allison! There really should be a better term for the family you gained through marriage, don't you think? Maybe sister-in-heart is a better term. It definitely describes a little better how I feel about wonderful Allison. And Jennifer, and Buffy, and Melanie, and Heidi. Oh, and all those boys I inherited, too, I guess. :)


Then there was another lovely thing going on this week:  BYU Women's Conference. Thanks to my awesome mother-in-heart who bought me tickets and my wonderful friend Alayna and my kind husband who watched Isaac for me, I was able to attend 8 hours (over 2 days) of lectures given on various topics by some incredibly smart, spiritual, educated, strong, and valiant women. I'll probably be sharing some thoughts about the things I learned throughout this week.

Anyway, just wanted to say hi, I'm back, and will try to be better about blogging. And just to make it worth your time for stopping by, I'm going to give you something that is precious to me: my dad's recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara. There are many reasons why I love my Daddy. Amazing pasta is one of them.


Is this recipe healthy? Not exactly. Is it delicious? Oh yeah. Here you go, please enjoy:

Dad's Spaghetti Carbonara

1 small box Barilla thin spaghetti
1 lb bacon, cooked to taste (Dad likes it crispy)
1 cup freshly grated Parmeggiano-Reggiano cheese
2 egg yolks
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
Cook the bacon and save the grease (you will use 1/4 cup later). (I told you this wasn't healthy.)

Cook the spaghetti in lots of water with about a tsp of salt

While the spaghetti is cooking, grate the cheese, separate the yolks, and break/cut the bacon into bite-size pieces.

When the spaghetti is done, remove from heat and drain but do not rinse it. White it is still hot, stir in the egg yolks, bacon grease, and cheese, in that order. Add the bacon.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and some additional fresh parmeggiano.

Dad also recommends adding a teaspoon of hickory smoke seasoning.

There you have it! Happy Monday.


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