Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

The thing I love about Thanksgiving, is hearing from others about all they are grateful for. It is a beautiful thing and I have been anxiously reading each day on Facebook all of my friend's pages as they list something that they are especially thankful for that particular day...something that we should probably do more often and not reserve just for the month of November!

Here is a great little story that I have posted before, but I feel it appropriate to re-post it on this special day of Thanks as a reminder that we are all bounteously blessed and it's all about perspective:

"One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live. They spent a couple of nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip the father asked his son, “How was the trip?” “It was great, Dad.””Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked. “Oh yeah” said the son. “So tell me, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father. His son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our yard and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have millions of stars at night. Our patio reaches to our front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.” The boy’s father was speechless. “Then the son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”

I too am so thankful for the bounteous blessings I have received over a lifetime. They are too numerous to list in this post. But here are a few of the blessings that I am so thankful for and are most sacred to me:

1. My amazing husband and all that he does for our family and me.
2. My wonderful parents who have shown through example what real love is.
3. My children who have taught me to grow in ways I could never have anticipated.
4. All of the modern conveniences that make life so much easier.
5. A warm, safe house to call home.
6. Good health!
7. Awesome extended family, friends and neighbors.
8. Plenty of food to eat and clothes to wear.
9. This magnificent country that we live in...even with all of its problems, it's still the best country in the world.
10. And most importantly, a loving Father in Heaven who sent His only begotten Son to die for us so we could find true peace and happiness on this earth and in heaven.

So today I just want to say "Thank You" for all that each of you do for me. I have grown to love my Blogger friends who post the most amazing and inspiring things that I look forward to reading each and every day.

I am a blessed woman who has all that I need and then some...who can ask for anything more??


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm A Winner???

The other day in the mail, I received 2 envelopes addressed to me with no return address. I opened them and to my great surprise, they both informed me that I had won a "Publishers Clearing House" Lump sum prize of $125,000.00...that's $250,000.00...a quarter of a million dollars! AND, included in each letter was a check, both in the amount right around $3900.00.

Now let me tell you, these were real checks. Everything was on them, drawn on legitimate banks and looked very official. We called our attorney who took a look at each letter and check and figured this was probably a scam but couldn't tell for sure. Brad and I called the numbers on each letter (2 different numbers with 2 different area codes...both happened to be in Ontario, Canada) and the same man answered each time...with a heavy accent. I played along...

I was to ask for my "account manager" whose name was Sarah (something, can't remember). Too bad, she was busy so this "nice" man would help me. I asked him what I needed to do, (Brad was on the other line) and he asked my zipcode, my last name, my "account number" (that they had assigned) and told me to simply deposit the money into my account and then send money through Western Union to a company to pay the tax portion of each winning! That's it...only one problem, it's a huge S.C.A.M.!!

We knew this before we called...we just couldn't resist. Brad asked him a question to which this man YELLED at him and said, "Sir, I will only speak with your wife!!" Then I told him that he was a fraud and this was a scam to which he yelled, "You and your husband are CRIMINALS!!"...REALLY??? We were just being responsible citizens, or so I thought...then he hung up on us!

So we called back...several times during the evening. Brad got him back on the line and this man called him a "Mother _______". So Brad called back and asked him, "what would your mother think of you?"..."what would your Heavenly Father think of you" etc. He caught on to us and when Brad called again, the line had a busy signal. Did this stop my husband? Heck No! He just used the other phones (we have a total of 4 lines in our house including our 2 cell phones) and this idiot answered each time!

Now maybe he shouldn't have harrassed him so much, but he wanted to be this scam artist's biggest nightmare. It made him feel better.

I am posting this because I know that there will be people who will fall for this. What happens is this: you deposit the check. It shows that it has cleared the next day, so you send the money through Western Union (Oh, and did I tell you that you get to keep $1000.00 for yourself?). All's well, right? Very Wrong! A few days later, the check bounces and you are responsible for it! Now you have to cover the full amount of the check plus fees...and remember, you sent most of it through Western's all gone...

So here's what tipped me off:

1. No return address on the envelopes.
2. The letter was addressed to "Dear Sir/Madam"...not "Dear Mary"
3. A few minor spelling errors in the letter.
4. The fact that I had to send them any money at all...and why didn't they send me MY winnings through Western Union??

So, the old adage, "If it's seems too good to be true..." well, you know the rest.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sometimes You Just Have To Dig In!

A couple of weeks ago, my littlest *Little* , Tage, celebrated his 1st birthday with a party at a place called "Pirate Island". It was a cold, blustery day but inside, the kids were having the time of their lives as they ran around playing arcade games, wearing pirate hats, pirate patches and eating pizza and cake.

Aja's friend, Bonnie, made the cakes.

The little one was for Tage to dig into and destroy as he wished. He looked over the cake for about 2 minutes not really sure what to do but he quickly figured things out and...well, he went for it!!

I'm kind of envious of the ability of children to just "go-for-it" with no fear or trepidation. I wonder how much more I could have accomplished if I had not worried so much about the "mess" and just grabbed that first bite. How much have I missed out on?

Sometimes we just have to "dig in"...It was a M.E.S.S...but oh so worth it!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Journals; A New Twist

This past Saturday, my ward Relief Society (ladies group) had their annual Super Saturday. To be real honest, nothing really piqued my interest and since it was held on the same day as one of my *Littles* birthday party, I wasn't planning on going. But each week before as they displayed the items that they were going to make, I noticed they had journals out.

They looked like typical journals that could be purchased at any bookstore, but when you opened them, they had been filled with index tabs of just about every subject relevant to life.

I sat by my friend, Shauna, that Sunday in Relief Society, and she had her very own journal on her lap. She brings it to church every week and she had indexed hers with these same topics. Since I wasn't able to attend the Super Saturday, she kindly took the time to write each topic down and I set out to make my very own book.
(Seriously, my pictures are horrible...I need to take a photography class...So sorry!))

Here are the topics:

(Using Colored Tabs)
My Life Mottos
Favorite Scriptures
Family Stories/Experiences

(Then, in Clear Tabs)
Christ-Like Attributes
Discovered Symbolism
Happiness & Joy
Holy Ghost
Missionary Work
Revelation & Inspiration
Second Coming
Miscellaneous (Colored Tab)

Of course, you can make up any category you want...
I picked up a few of these small journals for around $8.00 and a big one for me! (Mine was $12.00) Then I stopped by Wal-Mart and bought a couple of packages of Index Tabs...a few packages of clear and a few of colored tabs. Since my handwriting has gotten so terrible, I decided to type the topics up and cut them to fit in each tab with the small paper tab that came along with each one. This was a bit more time consuming, but for me it was better in the long run. (My friend Shauna hand wrote each of her tabs and her journal looked great.) After all of the tabs were put together, I went through the journal and temporarily placed each one where I wanted them (in alphabetical order) making sure I left a fairly equal amount of pages in each category. After a few adjustments, I simply peeled off the protective paper and stuck them on permanently.

I made a few of these for Christmas gifts...and YES, they were under $10 each!! So simple...

So now I take mine to church with me and each time I hear a story, scripture, quote or thought that I want to always remember, I have a beautiful place to write it down for all of my posterity to see.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cupcake Sophistication

I, like many of you I'm sure, have noticed the resurgence of an age-old confection...the Cupcake (that was my best Alton Brown impersonation!) Anyway, I've noticed that cupcakes were once looked down upon as too much work for just a bite-sized morsel of sweet goodness, but now it has become a chic business empire to say the least (OK, a bit more Alton...)

Since we live in such a small town, we generally go to Orem (about 25 min away) to see movies, shop or to eat out. I have noticed several times a cute little shop by the theater we usually go to that has been calling my name for several months now.

It's called "Cupcake Chic". I love their definition of what a cupcake really is: "A Stylish Individual Cake with Good Taste". Cupcake sophistication has arrived!

I finally ventured in and the sweet aromas of pure decadence permeated the air putting me into a deliciously euphoric state. It was almost too much! These precious little gems of goodness were each calling my name and the torturous task of "choosing" became almost impossible. I was completely thrown back to my childhood where one of my biggest dilemmas was my lack of ability to "decide" so my mother usually made such decisions for me...but my mother was no where to be found and I had to make a choice. Here is the list I had to choose was almost impossible, but after several heart-wrenching minutes of having to eliminate possible candidates, I ended up buying 4 regular sized cupcakes and 2 mini's for my 2 *Littles* who were with me. The flavors I bought were: Dark Chocolate w/Buttercream Frosting, Red Velvet w/Cream Cheese Frosting, Cinnamon Sugar w/Buttercream Frosting & Pumpkin w/Cream Cheese Frosting. (I got the girls Vanilla w/Strawberry Frosting.)

OK, they were good, but for $2.50 per cupcake, they weren't great. I will say that hands down, the Pumpkin was the best. I knew I could do better so I came home and created a recipe that ended up being SO GOOD!! These are incredibly moist...

If you're interested, here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Cupcakes

3 Sticks Butter, softened
1 C. packed Brown Sugar (I used my very own homemade!!)
1 1/2 C. Sugar
4 Eggs
1 Can Pumpkin (29 oz)
3 C. Flour
2 Tbs. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Ground Cloves
1 tsp. Ginger
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 1/2 tsp.Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda

Just mix it all up and fill cups 3/4 full... Bake @ 350 degrees for 20-22 min.

Then I made a Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

(My frosting came out a little soft...personally, I would keep the Cream Cheese firm). I made these with one of my *Littles* and she frosted them...Aren't they beautiful?? Not too bad for a 3 year old;)

Mine didn't turn out as visually pleasing as the ones in the specialty store, but they were definitely better. So my friends, the lesson I learned from this delectable experience? Who cares what they look like...Cupcakes are not just for kids anymore...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homemade Brown Sugar

Have you ever looked at the ingredients on your Brown Sugar bag/box? I never have until yesterday. It may surprise you to see that it simply says "Sugar, Molasses".

I saw that and thought to myself, "I can do this". I mean really, how hard can that be? So I started my internet quest on how to make this delicious confection and found a most simple recipe. Here it is:

1 C. Sugar (use more sugar to taste)
1T. Molasses (If you want Dark Brown Sugar, add 2 T. of Molasses)

That's it! Just put the sugar in a bowl and drizzle the molasses over the sugar. I used a fork in mixing the two together because you do need to be sure to get all of the little clumps blended.

 I did mix for about 3-5 minutes, but how easy is that? And guess tastes great!!

So now when you're in a pinch and need that one last ingredient but don't want to have to run to the store, Voila! You can make your own!!

I don't know why that thrilled just did...Enjoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Simple Prayers

My precious *Little* Alakina, is now 4 years old. She has been saying her prayers by herself for almost a year now and each and every time I hear one I can't help but giggle.

When she first started saying them on her own, she would begin each one by saying: " the flag..." It was so precious and innocent that after our giggles, we worked with her to begin her prayers by addressing the Lord as "Heavenly Father" and tried to help her omit the "to the flag" part. Now she begins her prayer with, "Heavenly Father the flag..." and what's even cuter is that when she tries to help her little sister say her prayers, she instructs her to say the same thing!

Oh well, maybe we need to think more of our flag when we pray...after all, our country can always use the prayers!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Sweetest Unconditional Love

A couple of days ago I went with Aja and 2 of her children to run some errands. As we were getting ready to leave, she fussed at her kids and even kind of "lost it" a bit...not a big deal, just typical frazzled mom kind of stuff. She made little Stella cry but quickly scooped her up in her arms and expressed great love, even remorse for snapping at her the way she did.

We left and she had to make a stop somewhere and run in to make a payment, I stayed in the car with my *Littles*. There was music playing softly in the car and Stella was singing along. Suddenly she saw her mommy walking back towards the car and she said to me in the sweetest little voice,"There's my sweet mommy!"

I was so touched at the way she said that! She had COMPLETELY forgiven and forgotten that just a few moments earlier, her mommy had snapped at her and made her sad...she expressed so much unconditional love and it melted my heart.

In that instant, an innocent 3 year old reminded me of the importance of moving forward and not dwelling on the past. She loves her mother and that, in and of itself, transcended anything else. It was a precious moment in time.

Why is it that we hold on? Why do we let pride and ego dominate our feelings thus ultimately causing us more grief in the long run? Anger and bitterness simply hurt US. I love the quote, "Anger is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die." I have seen people destroy their own happiness by holding on and allowing their anger to turn to hate. It's tragic and so unnecessary.

I have really come to understand, through my *Littles*, why we have been told to "become as a little child". A precious 3 year old taught me one of the sweetest lessons through her perfect actions. I will always be thankful to her for that gentle reminder.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Gift of Gratitude

I love this time of year, specifically this month of November where the attitude of gratitude seems to permeate the air. On Facebook, I have noticed that many of my friends post something they are thankful for each day as some sort of an homage to Thanksgiving. I read their posts and it reminds me of all that I have.

This is a wonderful time to be on earth! It's true that there is much wrong in the world, but there is also a lot that is good and much that we should all be thankful for. I immediately think of my parents who have had a 60 year small fete. They have worked hard, loved each other, forgiven each other over and over and have loved their 4 kids. They set a great example for me and constantly inspire me to be better.

I see my sweet neighbor lady who lost her beloved a few years ago, take in her daughter, granddaughter and great grandchildren because the ravaged economy has left them without a place to live. In her "golden years", she is making sacrifices to help out, giving up her peaceful and tranquil existence for a life of certain chaos and confusion. But she does it because she loves her family.

I have friends who care about me...really care about my well-being and that of my daughter who lives by me. They pray for us and check on us often. I watch one of my *Littles* go to school everyday and see how her teacher has prepared a meaningful lesson for those precious pre-schoolers each time. She tries to really teach them the basics of reading, writing and arithmatic, but more importantly, she tries to teach them to become responsible citizens by learning simple manners and showing random acts of kindness.

The list goes on and on and on...

I love this quote... "When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism, you walk with a spirit of Thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives..." ~Gordon B. Hinckley

This has really inspired me to stop and reflect on the many, many things that I have to be grateful for. As my husband and I have experienced a major change in our life the past 6 months, in fact a complete 180 degree turn from where we thought we would be, I can't help but be grateful for all that has transpired! Has it been easy? Absolutely NOT! In fact, it has been one of the most difficult challenges in my life...but I am SO incredibly thankful that I gone through, and more importantly, survived this experience. We, as a couple, have become even closer, more humble and incredibly thankful for all of the tender mercies handed down to us from a loving God who has constantly watched over and protected us. My relationship with my Heavenly Father has become more intimate and precious. That, in and of itself, has made it all worth it.

In General Conference, Oct 2010, Pres. Thomas S. Monson said: "We can lift ourselves and others as well if we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that 'gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.'"

Gratitude is indeed a gift! It frees us up to be more productive and to share ourselves with others.

So to all of my Facebook friends, I extend a huge and heartfelt "Thank You" for expressing your gratitude each day this month. It lifts me and compels me to focus on all that I have and not worry about all that I think I don't have! As Brad and I are now turning yet another corner and our future is looking very bright I pray that I will always have the spirit of gratitude with me. God bless us all...


Monday, November 8, 2010

Modern Technology

I am so amazed at all of the progress that has taken place in my lifetime. It seems like I was born as a Flintstone and now live as a Jetson!

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be able to communicate all around the world with a little machine that sat on my lap! I can't imagine my life without a microwave...and cell phones...?? I have lived 54 years and am so thankful to have grown up when I did.

As a child, we had 1 the house, it was Black & White with only 3 stations...when we did get a colored T.V. everything looked like a cartoon, but we didn't care, it was in Living Color! It was a real treat to watch "The Wizard of Oz" which was shown ONCE a year; same with "The Sound of Music", "Mary Poppins" and, well just about any other movie...and Saturday mornings were my favorite for watching cartoons because we had no Cartoon Network or Disney Channel.

Then at midnight, this is what came on the screen and stayed there with a really annoying sound until about 6:00 or 7:00 AM...
My hubs tells a story of how he and his daughter were "fighting" over the T.V. remote several years ago. He said, "Natalie, when I was a kid we had to get up, walk over to the T.V. and turn the dial"...she looked at him with a very puzzled look and asked, "What's a DIAL?" My how times have changed!

I remember the old dial phones and when we FINALLY got a "push button" phone, we thought we were the coolest! There were 4 kids in our household and when the phone rang, we all raced to answer it because we had no idea who was on the other line. After all, if we missed the call, there was no voice mail and for a long time, no message you remember "busy signals"? I rarely hear them anymore. And if we needed anything, we dialed "0" and asked the operator...(do they still have operators?)
and if you had a pink "Princess" phone, you were pretty priviledged!
I remember taking a quarter, walking with my friend ALONE to the store about 1 mile away and coming home with a bag full of Penny Candy...and that was a treat. We had no 7/11's or other convenient type stores. We bought candy cigarettes and thought we were so cool when we pretended to smoke them (if you blew when they were in your mouth, a powder came out and it looked like smoke!)

And this is how we dried our hair:
and then we slept on these:
And they hurt!

We listened to music in the living room on REALLY BIG discs...AND, we had no headphones so whatever we listened to, everyone in the house heard! We had to be careful because vinyl records got scratched easily and if we wanted to create a "playlist", we stacked disc upon disc and set it to "auto". They came in 2 sizes; 33 1/3 (we called them LP's or Albums) and 45's....Actually, there were still 78's around when I was really small, but generally they were a thing of the past. (Walkman's came in my adult life...)

All right, you get the point...

I am always amazed at how much we take for granted the modern conveniences we all enjoy. I am guilty as charged! But I do remember the sweet times of my youth. The times when we woke up, went outside and played HARD until it was dark...we played childhood games, Hide-and-Go-Seek, Mother May I, Red Rover, and on and on and on...we had so much fun and none of it was in front of the Television! We played with our toys and used our imaginations all the was a sweet time and I'm so thankful to have lived in that era. I watch my *Littles* and they want to play outside, but they have to have an adult with them at all times. It makes me sad.

Saturday, a cousin of mine contacted me on Facebook. I never really knew her very well as we always lived several states away from each other (her dad was my dad's step-brother and her grandmother was married to my grandfather.) I do remember meeting her on several occasions and her grandmother talked about she and her brother and sister all the time. So imagine my surprise when I get a message on Facebook from her! It was wonderful to reconnect with her and her family. It kind of makes me sad that we have spent so many years not knowing each other. She seems like such a lovely lady who has lived a good life. But now we have a second chance to stay in touch...All because of a little machine called a "laptop". Something that I get on every single day and use to keep in touch with the world!

I hope and pray that I never forget the simpler times in life when we had what we thought were the most modern conveniences...and they were, we had enought and it was good! Life was fun, happy and fulfilling. Now we have so much literally at our fingertips...I never want to take what I have for granted...Isn't modern technology a great blessing?

So today I am so very thankful for all of the conveniences of life. I think we tend to take them for granted and forget that there was a time, not so long ago, where none of them existed. What great blessings we all have!

Friday, November 5, 2010

And The Birthdays Continue...

This sweet little boy is 1 year old today!! It seems like just yesterday that we terrified that Aja wouldn't survive this labor. She had to deliver him in an Operating Room with Crash Carts standing by because the pregnancy put too much strain on her heart. No one was allowed in the room during the delivery (except her husband) because of the severity of the situation. She delivered him in less than 30 minutes from the time her labor began and she didn't see him  until much later that day. It was terrifying to say the least. Then the daily vigil began...we watched this precious new little angel fight for his life for 36 days in the hospital. He was a preemie with several life-threatening complications, but fight he did! He's a survivor and he's strong!
Now he is a C.H.U.N.K....he's super active, extremely loud, always happy, the wiggliest baby I have ever seen and absolutely wears me out...and I LOVE it!! It is so refreshing to see him grow into a healthy little boy after his rough start in life.
I adore this child! Everytime I walk into a room he flashes me the BIGGEST smile and when I walk out, he cries (not gonna lie...I love that!) His eyes light up and he melts my heart. He's rough and tough, busy and active and how his tiny little mommy lugs him around, I will never know!

I thank the Lord for this precious child everyday. He's a miracle. He defied all odds before he was even born! He's determined, tenacious, strong and tender. He's a gift from God and he's one of my 5 most precious *Littles*

Happy 1st Birthday, Tage! I LOVE you!!