Thursday, December 30, 2010


I can't believe I'm actually going to admit what a nerd I am, but tonight after many many rounds of BANANAGRAMS, I am swept up in the rush of it and feel compelled to share...  
I am a total "word freak"
I seriously LOVE anything that has to do with words...hence the blog.  I LOVE spelling, reading, writing, journaling, editing...pretty much the whole English language (and I've only limited myself to English because that's the only language I know, although I did minor in Latin in college.)  

Spell Girl and I share that love of words (which is delightful for me, because in every other way, she's just like her dad.  It's nice to be able to take credit for something.)  She won the Spelling Bee two years in a row at her school.  She's going to this year's UIL Spelling competition next weekend. 
Spelling Bee Champion 2009 with the Grs
She reads the dictionary in her spare time, and faithfully picks a "WORD of the WEEK" when school is in session.  And for fun, in church, she likes to write random letters on the top of a piece of paper, and then write down every word she hears that starts with those letters.  By the end of the hour, she's usually filled the entire page.  There are several volumes of spiral notebooks FILLED with words!  

So the game we got Spell Girl for Christmas happens to be a perfect fit for her AND FOR ME!  
We finally had a chance to play tonight with the whole family.  We lost Daughter #1 after a brief conflict about the rules.  My husband stayed through three or four rounds and then got distracted by a bowl game.  The two younger kids played through all the rounds, but really Spell Girl was my ultimate competition.  
Spell Girl wins Round 1
I won Round 2
With most things in my life, I wouldn't say I'm typically competitive (although I can already hear some people rolling on the floor laughing at that right now). But some spelling...bring out that normally subdued competitive drive in me.  Maybe it's because Spell Girl is so darn good at this game!  Even after the rest of the family was clearly tired and ready to move on to another activity...Spell Girl and I were still going strong!  Totally fun!!  Near the end, she was coming up with bigger words than mine, in HALF THE TIME!

There really is nothing more exciting than watching your kids discover their talents and bask in their successes.   As they get older, I am thoroughly enjoying seeing their greatness emerge.     

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mamie's Blog

My awesome friend, "Mamie", (who I have known since middle school, by the way) has a very cool blog that I follow as often as she posts something.  She has been quite prolific this week since she's on vacation from her first graders, and I am thoroughly enjoying it!!  I'm copying her "Right Now" post from earlier today...and inserting my own answers...because I LOVE those dumb interview question things (like the ones on Facebook).


In My Cup...just water (it would be Diet DP if I hadn't given it up...because I still secretly LOVE that stuff!)

Outside My Window...grey, drizzly, humid,  I think it's like 60 degrees out there today, and about a million little boys playing football in the driveway.

Beside Me...piles and piles of Christmas stuff and a tree that is BEGGING me to relieve it of all the decorations and put it out of its misery already (but I'm choosing to procrastinate for a minute)

In the Fridge...what a great day to answer that question...I just went to Costco this morning!  cage free, organic eggs (no chickens were harmed in the acquisition of those eggs!), fresh tortillas (the unbaked kind that you have to cook...YUM!),  tons of fruit (blackberries, blueberries, apples, grapefruit), vanilla soy milk, and leftover salmon from Monday night's dinner

In My Ears...MUSIC!!...Just the Way You Are (Bruno Mars), but a minute ago it was Bleed to Love Her  (Fleetwood Mac), and before that When You Come Back to Me Again (Garth), and before that Love of My Life (Sammy Kershaw)...and I have to keep turning it up because unfortunately I can STILL hear the Disney channel in the background...ugh! 

On Me...Beehive Beauty Shop t-shirt, long sleeved white shirt underneath, jeans, fuzzy socks

Looking Forward To...going to dinner at Brio tonight with Chad and Stephanie, AND New Year's Eve Friday night with friends and kids (games and food...the perfect NYE)

Grateful For...oh that's too hard!  music (always), the piano, lazy vacation days in the middle of the week, a garage, January approaching, fuzzy socks, Windex, and containers   

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


There are very few things that bring me greater satisfaction than organizing stuff and putting things away.  I'm not a freak, but I do occasionally clean to blow off steam, and containers make me exceedingly happy.
I have a white board wall calendar in the laundry room, a daytimer in my purse, a planner for my 100-yr-old house renovation ideas, a tiny pocket calendar in my car, and a little notebook next to my bed for those middle of the night inspirations.  (ok, maybe I am sort of a freak) 
I love the joy and celebration of the holiday season, and I love the relaxation and ease of summer; but I'm also a huge fan of schedules, so I'm always ready for a new season to start.  January and September are my favorite months.

Christmas decorations don't linger very long at my house.  After dinner on Sunday, the dining room table decorations were cleaned and put away.  Today the garland came down off the stairs.  Tomorrow I can't guarantee that anything Christmas-y will be left in the house at all (except for the Wise Men which stay out all year long.)  

The Gr's will be here next Thursday, so January organization is starting early while I have helpers home from school.  (the work goes faster when they're here, but the results last longer when they're at school...hmmm...)  The microwave has been cleaned.  Baseboards have been scrubbed.  All dressers have been reorganized and clothes that don't fit have been purged.  I have big plans for a desk that has accumulated a LOT of piles this month.  
Hopefully by next week, it will be the organizational paradise that I've envisioned... 


Monday, December 27, 2010

Post Christmas Shopping

I love sales!  I used to be an avid after-Thanksgiving combat shopper, but it's a little too much for me to handle anymore...something about being 40, I think.  But I totally can't resist going shopping after a holiday for all the fun things that are marked down to 50% or 75% off of original prices.  This year, I took all three girls with me which was a blast!

Wanna see what we got!? 

Stop #1 Pier 1 Imports (always the BEST stuff, but way too expensive before Christmas)
I got 18 of those gits boxes for $12!  The owl ones are 6x6.  The Santa ones are the size of a mug or an ornament.  The little ones are jewelry sized.

Stop #2  Old Navy
I got a pink one just like this for Christmas, and I love it, so I got the blue one, too!  $15

Stop #3 Target 
wrapping paper (daughters picked the owl and penguin ones) 6 rolls for $6

Stop #4 Pei Wei (LUNCH!)

Stop #5 Toys R Us

Spell Girl and June needed a house for all the Chixos they got for Christmas so they pooled their money and got one for $10.  These little things are really weird, I think, but the girls LOVE them.  They come with body parts that are separate so you can mix and match to make your own individual Chixo (sort's not like they're THAT different.)  You put together the outfit and the body and head that you want, and then you spray water on them to fuse the little plastic pieces together...weird, huh? They were on SUPER sale before Christmas, so both girls got lots of them in their stockings.  And now, thankfully, they have a home, I mean a 4 bdrm Luxury Loft complete with 11 pieces of furniture and the option to glitter spray everything.  (11 yr old bliss)

Stop #6 Kohls (no purchases, we just needed to have the cashier take the little security thing off of a pair of sweats that Daughter #1 got for Christmas.  I'm not sure how we got OUT of the store with them originally because the alarms went off like crazy today when we walked INTO the store.)

Overall, the day was pretty much a success...and in a week, I can go back for the 90% off stuff! 

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Typically I write out my church talks word for word ahead of time.  I'm a planner and a detail girl, so I don't always read every word but I definitely write every word.  That's how I started planning this talk a couple of weeks ago when I received the assignment to speak.  But last night, well after midnight, my two weeks of planning weren't coming together, and I was getting tired and frustrated.  My head was definitely overloaded with way too much information.  So I stopped perfecting my talk and said a prayer for help.  i asked Heavenly Father to help me give the talk that He wanted me to give, and to help me to listen well enough to be able to hear it.  I got the distinct impression shortly afterward that it was more important for me to get some sleep instead of continuing to perfect that talk because that's not the one I was going to give anyway. (yikes!)  This morning I got up feeling uneasy about the thought of "flying blind" without a written talk in front of me, so I decided to print out my talk and bring it with me just in case I needed it.  I realized our printer was running out of ink when I saw the big white space down the center of every page.  Even if I had wanted to give that talk, I couldn't have.  So, I finally gave in and listened to the Spirit (which is what the lesson was supposed to teach me anyway, right?)  I walked up to the stand this morning with nothing written down, no notes, and no plan!  (definitely in the top 5 on the list of scariest things I've ever done!) But with the help of the Holy Ghost, I said the things that I needed to say, and when I sat down, I felt like I had done what I was supposed to do.  It was a huge confidence building experience for me.  
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths for righteousness."  (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I already knew that when I listen, I will be directed.  Today, I sealed it.

In April, Julie B Beck gave a talk in General Conference.  In it she said, "The ability to qualify for, receive and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that we can acquire in this life."  I did not hear that talk in the Saturday morning session of Conference.  A few weeks later, I had the opportunity to attend a multi-stake RS conference.  A member of the General RS Board was the speaker and in her talk she said, "The ability to qualify for, receive and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that we can acquire in this life."  I did not know then that she was giving the same message that I had missed in conference, but her character and conviction were memorable and I knew that what she was saying was important, so I wrote it down.  About a month later, my family was in HOU for an extended period of time and we attended church two times while we were there.  The first ward we attended was having Ward Conference and the Stake RS Pres gave her lesson based on Sister Beck's talk from Conference.  So I heard again, "the ability to qualify for, receive and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that we can acquire in this life."  The next week we went to a different ward, and guess what the RS lesson was about?!  Yep, the same thing.  I heard that same message three times in three different and unexpected places.  I'm sure it was not an accident.

I was different in April.  My countenance was different. My convictions were different.  My testimony was significantly different.  But even though I was not in a place where I could hear Sister Beck's original message, I still needed to hear it.  So Heavenly Father made that possible...three different times.  

I didn't know what to do with the information at the time, but I felt the significance of it, and the events of the months following have allowed me to figure it out.  Flying under the radar in my ward for the past few months without a calling has given me time to fill with better habits than I have ever had in the past.  I spend time in the scriptures every day.  I have sincere prayers daily...more frequently, if necessary.  And I listen to the guidance of the Holy Ghost which is continual and clear lately.  

I believe that each of us has a road map for our lives, which ultimately ends with a place in the presence of our Heavenly Father with our families.  The destination is the same for each of us, but the points along the way are individual and specific.  And the only way we can recognize and prepare for the details of that road map is to "qualify for, receive and act on personal revelation."  

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Savior

I am grateful tonight for the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ.   I know that He is the greatest gift we will ever receive and I am grateful everyday for His presence in my life. 

Christmas Eve Jammies

Who doesn't get jammies on Christmas Eve?  I've talked to tons of people this week and we all have the same tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve and it's always JAMMIES!  Don't tell anyone, but it's actually my control freak tricky way of making sure that everyone is appropriately staged in new, clean jammies prior to the traditional Christmas picture the following morning. 

Christmas 2005

The kids are too old and too individual now to tolerate matching jammies anymore...
Thank you note to the Grs when they were on their mission Christmas 2006

...and we've only done actual Christmas-themed jammies once or twice...

But it's still one of my favorite traditions...This year, I've gone to great lengths to find the jammies of everyone's dreams...which is not an easy thing to do!  Hopefully they'll all love them.  (I'll post follow up pictures...)
 The weather here has gone from a clear and sunny 79 degrees earlier in the week to today's cloudy, grey, rainy-ness with an expected high of 43 degrees.  I went outside once to take out the trash, and quickly scurried back in the house!  Whew!!  It's amazing how quickly your body acclimates to warmer weather and rejects the cold.  (OK it's possible that my body has always rejected the cold, but 43 degrees felt a lot more like 20 this morning!)   
So I've decided that today is a good day to be in jammies ALL DAY.  It goes with the theme, don't you think?  I'm currently wearing last year's jammies, sitting in my bed, bundled up in flannel sheets and socks, with the heater turned up to 75! 
So if I just stay in these all day and then change into my new ones tonight, it will be an ALL JAMMIE DAY!!...maybe that should be our new tradition...Christmas Eve jammies all day long!  hmmm....

Eventually I'll have to at least shower and do my hair because the Salt Lake family is going to call us via Skype later tonight so that we can vicariously have Christmas Eve with them...(ugh...I know I'm totally going to fall apart when I see them...sniff!  already falling apart thinking about it...)  But I can still be in jammies for that, right?

Christmas 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pie (alternatively called a gob, black-and-white, bob, or "BFO" for Big Fat Oreo), an American baked good that may be considered either a cookie, pie, or cake. It is made of two round mound-shaped pieces of chocolate cake, sometimes pumpkin cake, with a sweet, creamy filling or frosting sandwiched between them.  (from Wikipedia)

I LOVE Whoopie Pies!  I didn't know that's what these things were called.  My friend, Wendy, used to make them every year for us for Christmas because they're on the "all time favorites" list.  But she called them Homemade Oreos, and I'm pretty sure she didn't make them from a box.  Typically I'm not a fan of dessert mixes in a box (cake mixes are the one exception).  And because my dad was a chef,  I have substantial guilt whenever I "cheat" and make a convenience dessert.  But a friend gave me this box for Christmas, and it was so darn cute that I had to at least try them.  

Not only were they TOTALLY easy, but they were SUPER yummy, too!  Daughters #1 and #2 helped make them.  The little cookies are like Devil's Food cake.  They scooped perfectly and baked into these perfectly round, 3" dark chocolate cake circles.  We made 45 of them, and since they have to be assembled into sandwiches requiring an EVEN number of tops and bottoms, we had to eat cookie #45.  (sometimes sacrifices are unavoidable)

We let them cool and mixed the frosting.  You add your own butter, powdered sugar, and milk to a little mystery packet of something. (????).  I'm not sure what that something is or what it added to the frosting because all those other ingredients would have turned into frosting without it, but the box said to add it, so I did.  The only part of the cookie that was "peppermint-y" were the little crushed-up peppermints that are supposed to be added after the cookies are assembled, but that didn't seem like enough to me, so I added 1/2 teas of peppermint extract to the frosting....PERFECTION!  

Then we set up our assembly line frosting, assembling, and rolling the cookies in sprinkles and peppermint crumbles until we ended up with 22 of the most perfect cookies ever made...
Seriously yummy stuff!  I split one with one of the girls, but then when they left the kitchen I ate another entire cookie all by myself!  These may even be as good as Wendy's.

Since I was so impressed with this "boxed dessert," I thought I'd go back to Target (that's where the box said it was from) and buy whatever remaining Whoopie Pie mixes there were (just to have around in case we had a craving sometime in the middle of March or something), but guess what??  
They were GONE!!!!...ugh! HUGE disappointment!   
It's a good thing there are still 15 of those things downstairs in the kitchen.  I may have to have one for breakfast tomorrow!  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Snow Removal

I don't love snow.  I may have mentioned that in previous posts.   And fortunately we don't have much, if any, in Dallas.  But my husband has taken my three daughters out to see Harry Potter tonight, so Mac and I are at home wrapping presents and watching Mighty Machines Winter Blast.  (He informed me right after they left, that he had NEVER picked a RedBox movie in his whole life, so this is the best day EVER!)
Watching this movie is reminding me that snow removal really is an amazing thing.  It looks like one of those supremely satisfying activities, like mowing the lawn (with a riding lawn mower) or vacuuming!  When we lived in Snow Country (aka Mendon, UT), I always wanted to drive a snow plow.  Unfortunately, even working for the City and being friends with the Mayor didn't allow me that privilege.  I always thought that if I had unlimited time and resources, I would want to own a giant truck with a plow, and happily drive it around the city, moving snow all day (as long as I didn't have to get out and walk around in it...and as long as the thing had a heater.) 

I'm officially adding that to my Bucket List:

1.   Sing in the MoTab. see
2.   Renovate a 100 yr old house. see
3.   Drive a snow plow.

Oh, there's a LOT more on that list, but I'll reveal it gradually, so as not to overwhelm anyone...
For now, I'm just going to imagine the blissful satisfaction of clearing an entire city of snow and making the roads safe for travel (like a superhero!)

Bridger and M'Gwire

I had a lighter post in my head this morning, but then I looked at the time and realized that half of Mendon and Mountainside Elementary are attending a funeral right now, and I just couldn't bring myself to post about Christmas cookies and presents.  Instead, I think I'm going to go up and hug my kids (again) and say a prayer for the Ferguson's that they'll be able to get through this Christmas season and the ones to come.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Beauty and the Beast

I can never pick a favorite Disney movie.  (OK I can never pick a favorite anything.  It's too hard.)

I love The Little Mermaid because I can totally relate to that whole ocean thing.  (Best Song: Kiss the Girl)
I love The Princess and the Frog because the music is awesome! (Best Song:  Dig a Little Deeper)
I love Aladdin because Jasmine is independent and feisty. (Best Song:  A Whole New World)
And I love Mulan because Donny Osmond is the voice of Shang (Best Song:  I'll Make a Man Out of You)
But if I HAD to pick a favorite, it would be Beauty and the Beast.  That's definitely the best story EVER!

My husband and Mac are out Christmas shopping tonight, so the girls and I are watching Belle's Enchanted Christmas.  It's the entire Christmas scene that was "left out" of the original movie.  It's the part of the movie where it's all snowy and the Beast is endearingly goofy with all those birds all over him.  And Belle is in that gorgeous pink wrap singing "Something There" (which is on the short list of BEST DISNEY SONGS EVER, by the way).  
She's totally falling in love with him, but she's a little nervous about it because...well, he's a BEAST.

I love that there's a's a sequel that fits in the MIDDLE of a movie? a mid-quel??  Anyway, I LOVE that there's more to the story because I never want that movie to end.  And the best part of The Enchanted Christmas is that the whole theme is HOPE.  Which seems to be the recurring theme of my week as well. 

"As long as there's Christmas, I truly believe...that hope is the greatest of the gifts we'll receive." 

Monday, December 20, 2010


This was supposed to be yesterday's post, but I couldn't quite make it work.  I'm trying again...

We had our Christmas program in church yesterday.  The choir sang two beautiful arrangements of Silent Night and The First Noel.  There was a violin solo and a piano solo which were both incredible.  I'm amazed at the talent in this ward.  There is talent everywhere, but we seem to be abundantly blessed in this particular place.  The entire Bishopric spoke in between musical numbers.  The talk that I loved was about HOPE...I thought it was especially appropriate given the events of the weekend and the Christmas season.  

"The adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward.
Hope, on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn. It encourages and inspires us to place our trust in the loving care of an eternal Heavenly Father, who has prepared a way for those who seek for eternal truth in a world of relativism, confusion, and of fear."
"Hope is not knowledge,17 but rather the abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promise to us. It is confidence that if we live according to God’s laws and the words of His prophets now, we will receive desired blessings in the future.18 It is believing and expecting that our prayers will be answered. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance."
"We hope in Jesus the Christ, in the goodness of God, in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, in the knowledge that prayers are heard and answered. Because God has been faithful and kept His promises in the past, we can hope with confidence that God will keep His promises to us in the present and in the future."

I love that.  I know that hope pushes us forward.  It motivates us to do more than we think we're capable of.  I have felt the driving power of hope in my life.  I am grateful that hope makes tomorrow look brighter than today.  And I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who provided a Savior so that we can all fully experience the reality of that hope.    



Today was not a great day.  I've been edgy and impatient and feeling the pressure of not quite finishing everything I wanted to be finished with by this point in December.  By 1:00 this afternoon, I felt comfortable just putting a big giant black X on the day and looking forward to tomorrow.  But I managed to drag myself out of bed and get it together to make it to the family Christmas caroling that we had planned for tonight.  And I'm so glad I did! 
I love to sing.  I mostly do it in the privacy of my car, or in the middle of a very large choir, so tonight was perfect!  There were about 6 families, which translates to about 40 people if you count all the kids we had with us.  We walked up and down a few streets in the neighborhood near the church where we met.  We let the little kids ring the doorbells and we just stood out on the sidewalk (so as not to completely intimidate the people) and sang our hearts out.  Deck the Halls, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells.  We even attempted Feliz Navidad, but that wasn't as big a hit as the others.  The neighbors loved it.  The kids loved it!  And mostly I LOVED it!  
After we sang, we met back at the church pavilion for hot chocolate and treats.  (Yep, the pavilion is outside...which you can totally do in 60 degree non-snowy, Dallas, December weather.) 
It was a wonderful night and I'm grateful to have ended the day so much better than I started it.   

Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Kids

Received unbelievably sad news tonight that two little boys from Mendon were killed in a car accident this afternoon.  They were 7 and 10.  My children went to school with them.  Their elementary school teachers are two of my closest friends.  I am sad for their parents and their brothers and sisters, and for everyone who knew and loved them.  I'm sure the entire town will be affected by this loss for a very long time. 
I have a 7 yr old and a 10 yr old.  I can't imagine what it would be like to lose either of them, and certainly not BOTH....especially at this time of year.  
Tonight I'm grateful for my children.  I'm grateful that there is a mess in their rooms from the chaos of the day and that there will probably be another one tomorrow.  I'm grateful that they are right here, sleeping safely and comfortably in their beds.  I'm grateful that they will still be here on Christmas morning to open the presents we've already gotten for them.  And I'm especially grateful for the knowledge that we have (our family AND the other family) of a loving Heavenly Father who has a specific plan for all of us.  Even in tragedy, (probably ESPECIALLY in tragedy), I know that He will pour out blessings in abundance on everyone involved.  He has a vested interest in our lives and in our happiness and well being.  And I know that those little boys will be reunited with their parents in the next life.
I'm going to go hug my children tonight and try to remember tomorrow that the arguing and noise and grades and dirty laundry are not as big a deal as I sometimes think they are.     


Not the actual SNOWBALLS made of snow, silly!  Everyone knows that snow would not be on my list of "stuff I love".   These snowballs are cookies from the heirloom recipes handed down from my great grandmother to my great aunt to my dad and now to me.  Eventually my kids will hopefully love these so much that they won't be able to have Christmas without them either.  
Here's the recipe...translated directly from Nanny.

1 lb          Imperial or Blue Bonnet
1 C          powdered sugar
4 1/2 C    flour
1/2 t        salt
1/2 t        baking powder
1 t           vanilla
2 C          chopped walnuts 
Cream butter and powdered sugar in the yellow Pyrex bowl.  Sift 3 C flour, salt, baking powder and add to creamed mixture.  Mix remaining flour and nuts together.  Add to creamed butter/flour mixture.  This is a very stiff dough and may be worked with CLEAN hands.  Form walnut size balls from dough and bake 30 minutes at 300 degrees.  Remove from oven and drop into brown paper bag of powdered sugar while still warm.  Remove and place on rack to complete cooling process.  This dough should be worked at the time of preparation and not stored overnight in the refrigerator.

OK here are my personal changes...There are some things you can mess with, and some that I've found out the hard just can't.  I don't use Imperial OR Blue Bonnet.  I use regular butter.  (And I have a funny story about butter, but I'll save that for later...)  I leave out the walnuts because Daughter #2 has a severe tree nut allergy.  And no one seems to mind because they don't love nuts anyway.  But I can tell you that both my dad AND my great grandmother would be horrified by that change in their recipe.  
I ALWAYS use the Yellow Pyrex bowl, though...I'm afraid there would be some serious force in the universe that would be displeased if I tried to use anything else...not taking chances with that one. 
You can use a plastic ziploc type bag for the powdered sugar application, but be careful because sometimes the hot cookies or the HOT cookie sheet will melt the bag and then you'll have a giant mess everywhere.  (don't ask me how I know that)
And as far as substituting Agave nectar for the sugar in this recipe, it totally wouldn't work.  The dough has to be like pie crust, so adding any more liquid would ruin the consistency.  And no wheat flour either.  They have to be shortbread.  So much for my efforts to make healthy Christmas cookies.  It's an exercise in futility.  And who wants healthy Christmas cookies anyway?  That's what New Year's resolutions are for.
This recipe makes about a million cookies, but they don't last long

...especially if you make them on a Saturday and your 4 kids have 4 friends over.  

They've been eating them as quickly as they come out of the oven, so now after hours of baking, I have exactly 20 cookies on my counter.  I didn't even have time to transfer them to a container yet! 

Here's the butter story...

YEARS ago when I was first married, I thought I'd make ALL the traditional Christmas cookies in my very small, less than adequate kitchen.  Seriously, all I had in my favor was the Mojo of the Yellow Pyrex bowl and even that wasn't helping much.  I took the eggs and butter out ahead of time and got them to room temperature.  I had the oven at the right temperature.  I carefully sifted all the flour.  I even had an apron on!  And then I started trying to form the snowballs to go into the oven.  After the first 6 came out as a crumbly mess, I finally broke down and called my dad.  If you knew my dad, you would have been hesitant to make that phone call, too.  He was the rescuing type.  If he had lived closer at the time (he lived in HOU and we lived in ATL), he would've just hung up the phone and come over to make the cookies for me.  But because I knew a "rescue visit" would be physically impossible, I went ahead and made the phone call and confessed that I had done something wrong.  We went through the ENTIRE recipe...twice!  By Time #3, I was beyond frustrated and ready to just give up.  And then he said, "Did you put in a WHOLE POUND of butter?"  (ugh!  of course I had put in a WHOLE POUND!)  I relented and said, "yes...two whole sticks!"  And then he started laughing...for a really long really laughing so hard that my mom had to get on the phone and ask me what the joke was.  (I still wasn't sure.)    Apparently, the joke was that two sticks of butter does not = a WHOLE POUND.  (hmmmppff!  does it say that anywhere on the butter package?  yep, actually it does...)

Needless to say, that was not the last time my butter measuring capability came under scrutiny.   I thought about him when I made these with 4 whole sticks of butter today.  Actually, now I don't leave myself any room for error and I just by the ONE POUND block of butter from Costco (which is clearly marked in both POUNDS and CUPS.) 

It is a joy and an honor to remember my family at Christmas every year.  I have made these cookies (with assistance and without) for 30 years and in my adult life, I have shared them with neighbors, friends and co-workers.  I have shared the recipe more times than I can remember.  I have taught my daughters how to make these (AND how to measure butter).  

Nothing would have made Nanny and my dad happier than to know that people were enjoying their cookies.  They cooked because they loved it and they shared everything they made.  And it always makes me happy to know that my ancestors' legacy is very much alive in our hearts (and our tummies) at Christmas.   
Nanny, Aunt Mary, Uncle Lee, Grandad



Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Surprises

So the COOLEST thing happened today.  
After I dropped my 8th grader off at school, I had a few minutes before the Post Office opened (mailing "out of town-er" gifts was the TOP priority for today), so I went through the Starbucks drive thru.  My all time favorite indulgence is their Chai Tea Latte (with nonfat milk, so all the deliciousness without all the calories.)  By the way, the ICED CHAI is AWESOME in the summer...just in case you were wondering.  :)

So today, I sat in an endlessly long line (but I didn't mind because I didn't have anything better to do at 8:30am and it just gave me more time alone with the MP3.)  And then I placed my order...and waited some more (just enough time to get through almost all of The Eagles Take It Easy.)
When I got up to the window...guess what the guy said!!??
....what do they call those coffee guys?...baristas?? or are those just girls?? anyway...

He said, "Your order was taken care of by the car in front of you."  And no, it's not because I'm so cute and the guy was trying to pick me up.  (That's actually what the Starbucks guy said, too...)  He said, "I'd like to tell you it's because you're really special, but his name is Chris and he actually does that everyday."  He said that sometimes "Chris" comes through twice a day, and he'll pick up TWO someone's orders.  And a couple of times he's come during lunch and he's paid for a whole lunch for someone.  But he doesn't ever ask how much and he doesn't mind if it's big or small.  (The hot chocolate I ordered for my husband took a little long to make, so I had some time to talk to Window Guy.)

EVERYDAY!  He drives through Starbucks EVERY morning and just pays for whoever is behind him.  That is the most awesome thing ever, don't you think? 
So all morning, I've been in the "pay it forward" mood.  I considered giving the hot chocolate to the Post Office lady this morning, but it was SO crowded in there that I felt a little "showy" doing that.  Something more discreet would be better, I think.  And I certainly couldn't do something DAILY, but I'm sure I could think of some unexpected little thing to do for someone.  

What a happy surprise this morning and a nice confirmation that there are some very thoughtful, generous people in the world...and not just at Christmas either!  
Thanks, Chris!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taking the Long Way Home

I had such a busy day today...totally overloaded with the whole cookie baking/decorating thing...

8:30-12:30          helped Karla get ready for her Cookie Exchange
12:30-3:30          finished packaging my cookies for the party and made a couple of appetizers
3:30                    picked up kids from school
4:00                    dropped more stuff off at Karla's
5:30-7:30            PARTY

The party was lovely.  I met tons of really nice people and came home with more treats than I left with.  But it's been several months since I've been in the socializing mode, and you know what?  I kinda missed my alone time.  (weird, huh?)  I like hanging out with people and I loved helping get ready for this giant event, but I definitely needed to desensitize a little after such a crazy, hectic day. 

So guess what I do when I desensitize?...I drive around with no particular destination in mind and I listen to music...not Christmas music, because there was kind of a lot of that today, too.  I just plug in my MP3 and listen to whatever happens to come up.  (ok I MIGHT skip a couple of songs, but only because my time alone in the car is limited and I mostly like to sing when I'm alone.  And not all of my tunes are singable.)  Wanna know what was on the "not so random" playlist tonight??
Swept Away (MCC)
American Woman (Lenny Kravitz)
Stay (Alison Krauss)
Lovin Arms (Dixie Chicks)
All I Ever Wanted (Kelly Clarkson)
Closer and Closer Apart (MCC)
Whiskey Lullaby (Alison/Brad)
Yesterday Once More (Carpenters)
Almost Home (MCC)
Baby Hold On (Dixie Chicks)
What Faith Can Do (Kutless)
The Hard Way (MCC)
(hmmm...I think there might be a a future MCC post swimming around in my head, but I'll need to work it a little before I dare to put it out there in the blogosphere.)
So after all that listening and driving, my head was clear and I felt tons better.
...and I still made it home in time for family prayer and the tucking in of all the little cuties.  ...bliss...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Cookies

Every Christmas i find a new cookie recipe to try.  Some have been great, and others not so much...
The great ones get added to the OFFICIAL COOKIE LIST along with my dad's heirloom cookie recipes.  About 5 years ago, I found this recipe in Parents magazine and it was a HUGE hit so it now has a permanent residence on the COOKIE LIST.  In fact, sometimes we sneak it out in the middle of July and make them...they're THAT good!
Chocolate Malt Crinkles
The baking season has officially commenced in our house.  And now my biggest challenge is to find a way to share all these cookies so that I don't gain 50 pounds between now and January.  

Luckily for me, I have a new friend, Karla, who happens to also be the local QUEEN of PARTIES! (well, she's actually a reacquainted old friend, who happens to live just 5 minutes away from me, who I found totally and completely by accident shortly after we moved here, but you know how I feel about accidents...and that story has nothing to do with cookies, so I'll save it for another post.)  

Karla has an ANNUAL COOKIE EXCHANGE, and guess what!...I am invited this year!!
Now this is NOT just a handful of girls getting together to trade a few dozen cookies.  This party has evolved over the years and has become so widely acclaimed that she has TWO SHIFTS of 14 people each, coming to her house tomorrow night!  I'm going to the first party (from 5:30 - 7:15)  And then she will somehow have to clear us all out so that she has the FULL 15 MINUTES to reset for the next party at 7:30!  I LOVE parties and I have attempted a few big ones in the past, but the thought of herding 30 people in and out of my house within 15 minutes makes my head spin!!  I'm so glad I'm ATTENDING this party and not HOSTING it.  All I have to do is make 85 of those yummy Chocolate Malt Crinkles and divide them up into 14 little bags...easy peasy, huh?  And then when I come home, I'll have 85 cookies (which doesn't exactly solve my original challenge, but Christmas cookies = BLISS, right, so I guess I'll just plan to exercise in January.)

I offered to go over to Karla's early tomorrow to help her decorate.  She thinks it's because I'm so nice, but actually it's because I'm hoping to "osmose" some of her "amazing-ness."  Mostly when I've been there in the past, I just stand there in her living room or in her kitchen or in her hallway and marvel at her clever ideas and gorgeous decorations.  Hopefully some of that talent is contagious.  Tomorrow we're hanging lanterns and snowflakes and little lights in her dining room.  Again, head spinning...  I never would have thought of that.  I would have just turned on the chandelier.  

I'm SO excited to go tomorrow night!  And I plan to take my camera so I can add pictures to my follow up post.  I'm sure it will be SPECTACULAR!!
Pictures from the party...(posted 12/16)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Temple

Atlanta, GA

Salt Lake City, UT
Dallas, TX

Logan, UT


My typical morning routine has been preempted because the heating guy showed up unexpectedly to do his seasonal check.  But having him here, reminded me of another heating story...

Last February, something on our heater died.  I'm not sure what it was.  The heating guys came and couldn't figure it out, so they pondered it for awhile, and eventually had to order a part from some remote location.  The whole fixing process took about a week.  I'm sure I don't have to remind anyone where we lived last year.  A week without heat here, in Dallas, TX, would be mildly uncomfortable, especially on a day like today when it's 29 degrees outside, but we could manage.  A week without heat in MENDON, UT in FEBRUARY is an entirely different story. 
February in Mendon, UT...gorgeous, but FRIGID!
A few friends offered to let us stay with them, but we opted to send the younger kids to the Gr's at night, and the rest of us stuck it out at home.  We had portable space heaters that we transported from room to room as needed, and plenty of fleece clothing.  And fortunately, we could all go to work and school to thaw during the day.  But HOLY COW! was it COLD when we came back home.  I think the temperature in our house hovered between 40-45 throughout that week (slightly colder than my 70 degree preference.)  Eventually, the heating guys came back, apologized profusely and installed the new part.  (In fact I don't even think they charged us for the work.)  Heat returned, children were able to sleep at home, and life went back to it's fully functional 70 degrees (at least inside the house).  

So this morning, instead of being impatient and frustrated because this heating guy showed up unannounced at 8:30am, and reeks of smoke, and is taking his time...
I'm choosing to be grateful for a working heater and life in a place where we barely need to use it.