My 3 Monsters: September 2011

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Here We Go!

You know how much I love Pinterest, right?  I could sit for hours a day looking at all the pretty things and pinning them to my boards, theoretically so that I can incorporate these great ideas into my life.  Hundreds of great ideas and recipes and things I would buy if I were filthy rich.  1,920 of them, if we're being exact.  I've been pretty good about trying the recipes I've pinned because I have to cook something every night and I like to cook new meals.  But everything else . . . not so much.  So when I saw the 31 Day blog challenge over at The Nesting Place, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  31 projects chosen from my favorite pins in 31 days.  I'm going to dig into my fabric and craft stash, finally do something with those thrift shop treasures in my closet, try some new ideas around the house, and maybe get a jump on Christmas gifts and decorations.  Check back every day in October {starting tomorrow -- yikes} if you want to see what I'm working on!  {Posts will be linked below as they become available.}


The Hired Help

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Carbonite. All opinions are 100% mine.
Carbonite Online Backup

Many of you who read this blog are mothers.  And fellow bloggers.  And crafters.  At least that's what I imagine.  You're just like me, right?  If so, your computer is a beloved part of your family.  My entire life is on my computer -- precious photos of my children, digital designs I've created, recipes, things I've written for church, business documents that I'll need come tax time.  Thousands of important files that would be devastating to lose.  This computer is like my own personal assistant.  It takes care of things for me that I don't want to deal with at the moment.  I'm always asking it to hold my things for me -- "Hey computer, can you take these pictures off my camera for me?  Thanks.  You're a gem."   "Computer, my love, will you pretty please store these scanned images of my children's artwork until I get around to making that coffee table book I've been planning."  "Dearest, darlingest computer, won't you please keep my place for me in this recipe book I'm composing?"  I talk nicely to it because I love it.  And I worry that one day it's going to revolt and walk off the job with all my stuff and refuse to give it back.

Do you worry about it like I do?!  I haven't always, but lately this here computer has been acting all funky.  It's past it's prime.  I require too much of it.  It all the time is telling me it can't handle the load -- little pop-up messages that say, "Hey, I'm struggling to keep up with you!  Can you at least empty the recycle bin?!"  That is more of a paraphrase than a direct quote, really.  I worry every single time I boot this bad boy up that it'll be the last time.  My most tender feelings toward this old machine won't keep it from giving out one of these days, after too many years of fighting the good fight.  I need some help with computer backup!!

You can imagine my relief at finding out about Carbonite ,right?  Unlike occasionally backing all your files up manually and having to store CD's somewhere and try not to lose them, Carbonite unlimited online backup works automatically and continually in the background backing up files whenever your computer is connected to the internet.  It takes the worry out of backup by securely and automatically backing up the files on your PC or Mac to one of Carbonite’s fancy schmancy, highly secure, state-of-the-art data centers. How cool is that?!  Also, once your files are backed up by Carbonite, you can access them anytime, anywhere, from virtually any Internet connected device or Smartphone with their free mobile apps. Crazy cool, huh?

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Planning Ahead

I'm determined to get things done in a timely fashion this holiday season.  Determined, I tell you.  I know it's not even Halloween yet.  My husband thought I was a lunatic when he saw what I was working on the other night.  That's alright.  I really, really want to have another Christmas like we had two years ago where we gave our kids the gift of time -- among many other tangible things.  We spent the entire week before Christmas going on field trips every day.  We got free passes from the library and visited museums. We rode the Light Rail downtown and ate at our kids' favorite Thai restaurant.   We played games at home in the evening.  I got all the holiday "chores" done early so we could just relax and experience the holiday.  It. Was. Heavenly.  So I'm doing it again!  What was I working on the other night?  Our family Christmas card.  In September?!  Sheer lunacy!  I have a couple of options {because when you do things early you can do that instead of slapping something together in ten minutes -- who knew?!} I wanted to try something different this year so the first one is a trifold card.  The quote from Elf would be on the front flap and the music would be on the inside flap and wrap around to the back.  On the opposite side {the inside of the card when it's opened up}I will put a family photo on one panel and a very brief Christmas letter on the other two panels.  I think this is the one I'm going to use.  Maybe . . .
But I really love this other one, too.  I love the gray polka dots and the non-traditional shades of red and green.  It's an accordion fold design.  I'd probably put a family photo in the white square and hand-write a personal greeting in the red square.  The back side would have our family Christmas letter.

Both are sized to be printed as business flyers from UPrinting, which may seem weird, but is a super affordable option.  I wouldn't mind at all if anyone else wants to use these templates.  {I'm totally OK if you think they're ugly and would never use them, too.  :P  To each their own, right?!} Just click on the images to enlarge to full size and download.   If you're interested in the specs for ordering let me know.


Mutual Theme for 2012

Have I mentioned before just how much I adore working with the teenage girls in our church?  I have ever-so-much fun with them, going to camp, making tutus, thrift shopping and such, but we try to do some meaningful spiritual things as well.  {It is church, after all.}  Every year there is a new theme for the youth church-wide that we try to incorporate into our lessons and activities.  The theme is typically announced in August or September of the year prior so that we can have time to prepare.  I like to make a pretty little theme poster to display in our room on Sunday, but try as I might I usually don't get anything done until March or April.  Because that's just how I roll.  In 2012 I'm turning over a new leaf!  I played around in Gimp tonight and came up with a little sum'n sum'n for the 2012 theme.  I just can't decide which color scheme I like the best:


Please help me pick one to have printed!  I'm leaning toward the second one because it matches the Young Women Theme poster I made, but I'm not sure that matters so much.  Also, feel free to download and use them yourself.  They are all high-res 8x10 size.  Thanks, friends!


Everything in Moderation

Who knew this blog would become so very controversial?!  Throwing caution to the wind last week, I broached the subject of housekeeping {oh, how I love to get people's blood boiling!} and inadvertently insulted womankind with my stereotypical take on things.  OK, I really only "insulted" one person, who clearly hadn't read the post, but my family has been teasing me about it for the past couple of days.  I found the image above on Pinterest this morning, which paints a pretty accurate picture of how things would go down in our house if my husband expected me to slave over him.  
 Choosing to dote on my family = fun for me.
Being expected to slave over my family = certain peril for them.

Just so we're very clear.  Thanks!


It Will All Work Out

{click image if you would like to download full 8x10 size}

For the past month or so I've been attending a weekly scripture study class with my friend Kim.  One week we read a verse in the Book of Mormon that referred to "the furnace of affliction" and  we discussed the refining power of adversity in our lives.  It was a principle that rang so true to me -- especially in light of our current employment situation.  We are looking at the very real possibility of my husband losing his job . . . for the third time in 5 years.  I'm not gonna' lie, folks, it's scary.  But looking at where we are NOW as opposed to five years ago spiritually and emotionally, I can see how these difficulties have helped us to grow.  We can more readily acknowledge that we have been blessed, even in the midst of our troubles.  We are closer now as a couple and as a family than we have ever been.  No one is pointing the finger of blame.  We're just rolling with the punches and lifting each other up.  We have a home and great friends here in Arizona.  We have awesome friends in our siblings and parents across the country.  Aside from the itty bitty little issue of money,  life is better than  it has ever been.  And so we try not to complain.

I have been thinking about how we approach teaching this to our kids -- preparing them for a future that will certainly hold it's share of disappointments while also maintaining hope.  I was taught when I was growing up {and I still try to teach the Young Women I serve} to decide well in advance how to handle certain situations -- what I would do when someone offered me alcohol or drugs or when a dating situation became more physical than was probably good.  Deciding BEFORE the situation arises gives us strength in a moment of possible weakness.  I feel like I need to also teach my children {and myself} to decide well ahead of time how they will handle the trials that will inevitably come to each of us.  If we each make the choice to face our adversity with faith, to look for the blessings that are all around us, and to lighten the burdens of others during our hardest times, maybe, just maybe, we can avoid the despair and bitterness that are so tempting when we're in the thick of it.  Maybe then we will find it easier to trust in the Lord and to turn to Him for strength and guidance rather than turning away from Him in anger.  Maybe then we will be able to appreciate these chances we have to grow rather than resenting the struggle.  Maybe then we will be more compassionate toward those around us who are struggling, too.  I am, by no means, a perfect example.  I wish I was.  I give in to the despair and the depression as often as I rise above it, but I'm trying.  And I'm grateful.  And I'm doing my best to make the best of how things turn out and that's gotta' count for something, right?


Baking Bread, not "Baking Bread"

I'm going to share a secret with y'all, my best bloggy friends.  It's the secret to homemade whole wheat bread perfection.  I don't know why it works -- I'm sure there's some science behind it, but I prefer to think of it as magic.  I'll tell you . . . right after you listen to me ramble about something that I think is funny for a minute.  I went through a phase a year or so ago where I vowed to make ALL my family's bread from scratch.  I had just been given a super-cool wheat grinder and I was excited.  I'm over that now.  Fresh baked bread is more of a sometimes-food than a staple now days.  But at the time I was determined to do it!  Often it would get to be 9 or 10 in the evening and I would realize that I didn't have bread for the kids' lunches the next day.  Brent would beg me to let him just go to the store and buy a loaf, "just this once."  I was relentless.  Mostly because I have a fah-ah-ah-ah-ntastic recipe {given to me by my friend Sarah}that is quick and easy to make, but also because I have tunnel vision when I decide to do something.  And also because I love the smell of bread baking.  We would be up until midnight baking the bread on those nights.  I would tell Brent not to wait up, but how can you sleep when you know you're just minutes {or an hour} away from that first warm crust piece of homemade bread?!  Obviously he would be tired at work the next day.  When his co-workers asked him what he had been doing the night before that made him so tired he would say, "Baking bread with my wife."  They would look at one another knowingly and nudge Brent.  "'Baking Bread', huh?  Is that what you Mormons call it?"  Well, no.  Not really.  Most Mormons don't refer to "it" as "baking bread".  Maybe some do.  I don't know.  We sometimes do now.  I don't bake bread {literally} as often as I used to, but Brent will sometimes say, "Hey, honey, did you want to "bake some bread" tonight? {wink, wink, nudge, nudge}.

Anyway, thanks for letting me reminisce for a moment.  You've earned your bread making secret.  It's Dough Enhancer.  I didn't know what it was either.  Sarah's recipe called for it.  In Utah, where there are a lot of Mormons baking bread {literally} you can buy it in the grocery store.  Not down here.  I looked all over for it.  In one last, desperate attempt to find it I went to Whole Foods and asked in the bakery.  The girl there said, "We don't sell chemicals here.  We only sell whole foods."  And she didn't say "duh", but it was implied in her tone of voice.  So I went home with my tail between my legs and googled it.  Turns out you can make dough enhancer, and guess where I found all the ingredients?  Whole-flippin'-Foods, baby.  I refrained from going by the bakery and sticking my tongue out at snotty baker girl when I went back to buy the stuff.  It's a combination of Lecithin granules, citric acid and ginger.  It is nothing short of magic.  I put a little scoop of it in all of my yeast-bread dough -- even white bread, which may not technically need it, but better to be safe than sorry if you ask me.  Because it's NOT a chemical.  It's not.

Here's the recipe I used:

1C. lecithin granules
1 Tbsp. vitamin C powder
1Tbsp. ground ginger
Mix well and store in an air-tight container.

I bought a big canister of lecithin granules and measured out how many cups it was and added the vitamin c and ginger accordingly.  After mixing it all up. I poured it back in the lecithin canister to store it.  I think it cost me about $15 to make a big can of dough enhancer, which is only about half gone now.  Totally worth the investment.  I'll even re-post Sarah's bread recipe for you {because you did sit through two stories instead of one}:
You'd be hard-pressed to find an easier, yummier bread recipe anywhere, but you won't have to worry about finding the dough enhancer!  {And you'll find the wheat gluten in the bulk bins at whole foods or any major grocery store.}  Enjoy!


Wanna' Know What's Fun?

Seeing your projects on Pinterest. And you didn't even pin 'em there!  Someone else pinned my projects to Pinterest and then people started re-pinning them.   Unbelievable.  Why does something as dumb as that make my day?

Also, I finally passed 100,000 page views and there are currently 17 people looking at my blog.  Right now.  I've never really cared about the stats -- this blog is just my fun -- but wow.  What a day.


Such a Sap

I happened to turn to this movie on TV today while I was folding laundry because Dylan had just been talking about this story the other day. Here I sit, an hour and a half later, crying my eyes out. What is wrong with me?!

We live in a world today where loyalty seems to be almost a thing of the past. Gossip rolls off most peoples tongues without them feeling a twinge of guilt. Many marriages fail. Companies you work faithfully for will let you go at the drop of a hat -- or worse, build a case to fire you so they won't have to pay you a severance. Not that we know about that job thing . . . Things are not what they used to be.

We've been taking a vote every night at dinner about whether or not we keep Cassie. The decision would have to be unanimous, but her popularity has been slipping in the polls lately. We're the only family she has ever known . . . Perhaps tonight we'll skip the vote.

EDITED TO ADD: We watched this movie last night, the boys and Cassie and I.  We were laying in my bed all cuddled up together.  During one of the more poignant parts Dylan whispered, "Stop.  Keep it in... keep it in...".  I looked over and his eyes were welling up with tears.  He then said, "What?!  I'm not crying.  My eyes are just sweating."  I told him, "That's OK.  My eyes are sweating right now, too".  Man, I love my kids!


A Vision of My Future:

This is all over TV and the internet right now, but I love it. I love how rather than getting frustrated with his wife for not remembering how to take a picture, he tells her how pretty her hair is and encourages her there at the end. And tries to look at her boobies. Some things never change, I guess. I love the nonsense songs and the monkey faces.  He's the funnest old guy around.  He could be Brent's dad in ten or fifteen years {and then Brent a few years after that ...} except that Don knows how to use a webcam. I have a sneaking suspicion that his computer may be full of funny snippets of video of him behaving just like this, however.

On a serious note, there is something really comforting to me about older couples who are still in love and still have a sense of humor about things.  That's what I want more than anything -- more than a spotless home or even a stable career for my husband.  To love and be loved, and laugh for the rest of my days. That, and a fountain drink machine in my bedroom. 



Yesterday's post was about homemaking -- the art of creating a comforting environment for your family.  Today I want to talk a little bit about housekeeping -- the vast ocean of work that needs to be done around the house.  Never ending.  Seriously, I could do laundry all day long, every single day, to the exclusion of all else and still never find the bottom of the hamper.  That's probably not true, but it feels that way.  Lest you read yesterday's post and got the mistaken impression that my home is peaceful and smells of cinnamon apples with harp music playing quietly in the background, I feel the need for full disclosure.  Our house is loud and rowdy and smells like dog and burnt eggs much of the time.  If you dropped in unannounced before 2:00 p.m. you'd usually find me in my pajamas watching re-runs of The Hills with a 44 ounce Coke in hand.  That's probably not true, either.  Sometimes I have meetings for church. And sometimes I watch Lifetime TV movies.  I'm not good at housekeeping.

Like, REALLY not good at it.  I don't like it.  I remember a talk in our church's General Conference several years ago about a woman who prayed daily that she would learn to like housework.  {There was more of a point to the message than that, but that's the practical message I took from it.}  I went home and tried that.  It didn't stick.  I've tried to focus on how much I love serving my family while I work.  No go.  I've tried to be purely selfish and do it just for my own sanity.  I've tried waiting for someone else to do it.  I've tried paying my kids to do it.  {I mean to do MY work in addition to their own chores.} I've tried doing it first thing in the morning.  Didn't click. Saving it for the end of the day didn't work either, because I would inevitably think, "I'll do it first thing in the morning."

Surprisingly, I was much better about keeping up with the cleaning when my kids were very small.  Then, I felt like I was on the job twenty four hours a day.  Now that my kids are all in school it's tempting {and really easy} to "clock out" from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.  So when I came across a system on Pinterest the other day that claimed you could have a clean home in less than an hour a day, my interest was piqued.  You make a list of chores that need to be done on a daily basis -- doing the dishes and picking up clutter, for instance -- and you spend 30 minutes a day getting those things done.  Then you go through each room of your house and list the tasks that need to be done for deep cleaning {dusting blinds, wiping down walls and doors, etc.}and assign each room a day of the week. Spend 15-30 minutes each day working on that day's room.  This works great if you have a small house like me because you can hit every room every week.  If your house is larger, you may have to do a two-week-long rotation, hitting each room twice a month.  You don't have to do every job on your list for that day's room.  Work for 15 minutes or so, do what you can, and then stop.  Pick up where you left off the next time that room comes up in the rotation.  Easy cheesy, right?

There a couple of things I'm noticing with this system.  First, you'll find you can have a CLEAN home in less than an hour a day, not a SPOTLESS home.  I'm OK with that.  Second, I find that 30 minutes is not quite enough time for me to get my daily chores done, even with the kids' help, because I have to clean my floor every day.  But I can also break it up and do 10 minutes here and there, rather than doing it all at once so it kind-of feels like no time at all.  Third, I need to figure out how to work laundry into this system because I still can't get a handle on that. 

Overall, however, I think this may be something I can do long-term.  Yippee!  Because I'm a visual person, and everything is more fun with a pretty list, I created this list I can print out every month and cross things off as I go:
Maybe I'll laminate it so I can use dry erase markers . . . I DO love to laminate things . . .  If you like cute lists of chores, too, I created some blank images you can download and make your own lists on.  One has the days of the week and one just has the cute header.

*TO DOWNLOAD & USE FILES:  Hold down the CONTROL key while clicking on the image to open it in a new tab at full size, then right click and choose Save As or Save Image As {whatever it says that applies}.*

Happy housekeeping, friends!


I've had a copy of this article for years.  It used to be hung on the front of our refrigerator, now it resides on the cork board in my craft closet.  I came across it on Pinterest last night and some of the comments got me to thinking.  {A dangerous pass-time, I know. -- I just love that song in Beauty and the Beast!} Some women think it's quaint and humorous. I fall in with this group, mostly.   But sooooo many women were appalled at the very idea of it.  Angry, even. 

I guess it's no secret, really, that I enjoy the 50's homemaker stereotype.  I'm a stay-home wife and mother.  I bake bread.  I try to keep a clean house and dote on my family.  I wear a cute ruffly apron.  There is almost nothing that brings me more pleasure than my kids coming through the door at the end of the school day and immediately asking me what's for dinner.  Because they're excited about my cooking!  It helps that almost anything I say elicits a, "YES!  Mom, you are on a roll!"  {I've been trying to cook from-scratch meals lately, which my family is enjoying, apparently.}   

But as a REAL girl in 2011 -- one who is sitting in front of the computer in my pajamas as we speak, who is college educated, who can't keep up with the laundry, who volunteers and "works" on many projects at home and in the community --  I don't agree with everything on that list.  I, too, take offense to the idea that my man's life and opinions are more important than my own and that I should never question him about anything.  Brent and I have always been very much equals as husband and wife.  We each shoulder an equal, but different, weight of responsibility for home and family.  At times when one of us is struggling to bear the weight of our responsibility, the other happily steps up and takes a larger portion. It's the only way to make things work.  We certainly don't subscribe to a very traditional division of labor -- he has done his share of diapers and dishes while I have fixed my share of garbage disposals and leaky toilets.  The point is, the work gets done with a hefty portion of mutual respect and admiration.

I cannot say, however, that I am wholly offended by the list either.  I do feel a certain desire, if not responsibility, to make my home a haven for my family to return to after a long, hard day out in the world.  I LIKE to have dinner ready {or at least in the works} when Brent walks through the door in the evening.  I haven't always cared about that, and Brent would NEVER say that he cared either, but I'm learning now how much he appreciates it.  I also really try to straighten up the house -- and myself -- before he gets home. That's how I was raised.  My mom always had us run through the house about 15 minutes before my dad got home to put our junk away.  It's just a nice thing to do. 

Is it really so offensive that we would be expected to be happy to see our husbands when they get home from work?  Or that we greet them with smiles and sincerely want to please them, even if they're late?  I certainly expect him to do the same for me.  No matter how bad his day at work has been {and there have been plenty of pretty bad days lately} I hope I always bring a smile to his face when he comes home. And I am working on not opening the floodgates of my personal frustrations and complaints the very minute he walks through the door.  It's getting easier now that the kids are older and I can communicate with them in a meaningful way.  When they were very young I was desperate for someone to talk to. I'm sure I overwhelmed Brent every single evening.  Don't get me wrong, Brent is very much my "soft place to fall" as Dr. Phil would say.  He hears my complaints and frustrations daily and offers me comfort and advice.  Just later in the evening, after he's had a chance to unwind.  I also try to call or text him if the kids are going to have immediate wants or needs from him so that he can take the hour-long commute home to prepare a response.  Again, it's a nice thing to do.  {And he would do the same for me.  I know it.} 

A good wife SHOULD know her place -- right beside her husband, working hand in hand to build a happy family.  My goal truly is to make sure my home is a place of peace, order, and tranquility where not just my husband, but my whole family can renew themselves in body and spirit.  But he can take off his own shoes and fluff his own pillow.  He's a grown man for heaven's sake, and I've been working all day, too.  Just sayin'...


I was asked to speak in church today about President Uchtdorf's talk from the Sunday morning session of General Conference in April.  This was one of my favorite quotes from his talk.  Also, I stole some of this blog post from my little brother.  He's a pretty good kid, that Robbie. Have a great day everyone!


A Couple of Bedrooms . . .

 For my boys,

and my girl.


Won't You Come In?

Here I sit, back still aching, bored {OK, and stressed} to tears, practicing my favorite real-life-issues avoidance technique of giving my home a makeover for pretendsies. Did you really think I would stop with the outside?! I am, after all, an interior designer. Or I was in another time and place far removed from this one.Whenever people tell me they think my house is cute, I squirm a little bit, partly because I'm bad at accepting compliments, but also because in my mind I can see how great things could look given an unlimited budget.  And, let me tell ya, it's current state just doesn't measure up.  I really try to be grateful for every single thing I have.  I really do because I know it's a lot.  I have everything I need.  My life is not without luxuries, it is true.  But sometimes as I look at the threadbare upholstery on my couches and the filthy carpet up the stairs I can't help but be overcome by the demons of my wants.  The really good thing is that I'm totally OK with the idea of "someday".  Someday my dog won't chew up the living room rug.  Someday my kids will not use the arm of the couch as a napkin.  Someday my house will look something like this:

Or maybe it never will.  Just seeing it on the screen of my computer is almost as satisfying as having the real thing.  Because, let's be honest, that mirrored dresser in the first grouping would be a nightmare to keep clean.  Isn't it pretty though?  *sigh*


Phase 2

In Phase 2 of the "Great Imaginary Home Overhaul of 2011" note how we bump out the front of the house to make room for a bigger dining room and finish off the garage to make a family room. In my wildest dreams . . .

{because you and me both know the HOA isn't going to approve a plan like that. Boo HOA.}

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