Friday, May 30, 2014

Freebie Friday: She is Fierce

When we put together Punkito's nursery, we didn't know she would be a she so we went with all gender neutral. It's mostly tan and teal/aqua (hey! I should do a blog post about that...) and has a hot air balloon theme.

But I have already started looking at Pinterest for ideas for her "big girl" room. I want it to be girly without being.... girly. Cuz that makes sense, right?

Anyway, I'm working on a series of "little girl room" prints featuring my favorite quotes for sweet girls. *Someday* these will go in her room. Here's the first, a much-Pinterested quote from William Shakespeare (who I don't actually like, for what it's worth...)

I'm rambling. It's late. Download this freebie and have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Love List: Tasty things and funny baby

1. Hopdoddy's Nutella & Chocolate Pretzel Shake
A couple weeks ago I was telling my sister-in-law about this awesome burger place we have in Austin called Hopdoddy's. And ever since then I haven't been able to stop thinking about their Nutella & Chocolate Pretzel Shake. So we went and got one on Monday. Oh. My. Gosh. Best thing ever. My stomach can't handle dairy but this is sooooo worth it. You better believe I drank the whole thing.

2. Ridiculously silly faces
Every month I take a photo of Punkito. It's getting increasingly difficult - she just refuses to hold still. But it's hard to be upset with her. She has so much sass and attitude it cracks me up. The last one is my fav...
3. Elephants
Add elephants to the list of animal sounds in Punkito's repertoire. Today the hubs was wearing a polo with a elephant logo on it and Em started waving her arm (like a trunk) and ... bellowing? Honking? What do we call that noise elephants make? And then she'd lean over and give the elephant kisses. She continued making elephant noises all through bath time...

4. The Fault in Our Stars
I'm continuing my YA book trend because I wanted to read this before I saw the movie. At first it really bugged me because it sounds the way a 15-year-old girl would talk. Which I suppose means John Green is a brilliant writer. Once I adjusted to it, I really enjoyed the book. Sure, it was sad. How can you have a book about cancer patients without it being sad? But it wasn't "Nicholas-Sparks-sad-just-for-the-sake-of-being-sad" gratuitously sad. Sad was "a symptom" of the topic (see what I did there, John Green fans? eh, eh?) It's well-written, has strong characters, and full of beautiful, simple little nuggets of truth. Unlike other young adult fiction books I can think of (*cough cough twilight cough cough*) there's nothing silly or superficial about it. It's worth the read and now I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. (Side note: Hazel and Gus played by the Divergent brother/sister duo? Weird).

5. Buttermilk chicken cornbread sliders
One a week or every other week I try and attempt a recipe I pinned on Pinterest. Sometimes I blows up in my face, but sometimes we get a really, really good one. These buttermilk baked chicken and corn biscuits from How Sweet It Is aren't difficult to make, though it does have several steps. I've tried oven baked chicken before and it's always a mess. This recipe offered some tips that really helped and it turned out perfect - soak in buttermilk (overnight!), bake on a cooling rack on top of a foil-covered tray, spray breading with nonstick spray. It's the first time I didn't have my breading slide off the chicken in chunks! I was thrilled. I also made this with chicken from Trader Joe's because they have slim cut chicken breasts that made for better sliders. The only thing I did differently from the recipe was add green chiles to the cornmeal biscuits, a definite improvement! We've added this recipe to the keeper file aaaaannnnd I think you should try it. Now.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

TFOT: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee

May's TFOT lesson was based on "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" from Pres. Thomas S. Monson last October. It was a bit of a rough topic (have a tissue box ready at hand) just because everyone had some very personal experiences to share.

I took this whole outline but had to cut out a whole chunk in the middle. I'd say prepare a very sketchy outline and leave plenty of time for comments on this one. Good luck

I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee

This is the first talk Pres. Monson gave after the death of his beloved wife Frances. He calls her loss “profound” and says “She was the love of my life, my trusted confidant, and my closest friend. To say that I miss her does not begin to convey the depth of my feelings.”

He goes on to say: “Of utmost comfort to me during this tender time of parting have been my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the knowledge I have that my dear Frances lives still. I know that our separation is temporary. We were sealed in the house of God by one having authority to bind on earth and in heaven. I know that we will be reunited one day and will never again be separated. This is the knowledge that sustains me.”

Pres. Monson, as you might expect, turns to the Gospel during difficult times for strength. He points out “Brothers and sisters, it may be safely assumed that no person has ever lived entirely free of suffering and sorrow, nor has there ever been a period in human history that did not have its full share of turmoil and misery.”

Why must we experience suffering and sorrow?

Quote #1: “When the pathway of life takes a cruel turn, there is the temptation to ask the question “Why me?” At times there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, no sunrise to end the night’s darkness. We feel encompassed by the disappointment of shattered dreams and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We become impatient for a solution to our problems, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.”

President Monson says that each of these test our ability to endure and poses the fundamental question: “Shall I falter, or shall I finish?”

What does this mean? He says that to finish means to endure to the very end of life.
What does that statement mean to you? Is it discouraging or encouraging? 
Interesting point: The statement seems to put it back on each individual. You choose. Will you stumble or will you press on? We cannot control the things that happen to us, but we can control how we deal with them.

Pres. Monson points to Job, who was perfect and upright but faced unthinkable difficulties and yet declared “Behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high. I know that my redeemer liveth.” Job, as well as countless other examples from the scriptures and church history, have remained steadfast and of good cheer.

Quote #2: “Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass. We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before.”

We are promised “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” What does that statement mean to you?

What is President Monson’s counsel about how to see our afflictions?
  • Afflictions are the real test of our ability to endure.
  • Difficulties allow us to change for the better, rebuild our lives in the way Heavenly Father wants, become more understanding, become more empathetic, become stronger, root our testimonies deeper.
  • Afflictions help us progress toward the goal of eternal life.
What does it mean to endure? Just to get through, or does it matter how we get through?

Quote #3: “This should be our purpose—to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow. Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life. The poet expressed much the same thought in these words:
Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees.
The further sky, the greater length.
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow. “

What is President Monson’s counsel of specific things to do when going through affliction?
  • Don’t ask “Why me?”
  • Be patient about solutions.
  • Ask, “Shall I falter or shall I finish?”
  • Consider (and read) the story of Job. (Implied)
  • Remember others have passed the same way, endured, and overcame. Search out those stories.
  • Draw inspiration from stories in the history of the church.
  • Make the gospel of Jesus Christ the center of your life.
  • Face the challenges; meet them head-on.
  • Seek priesthood blessings (implied in the story of Brother Brems).
  • Don’t dwell on what you lack, but be grateful for your blessings.
  • Remember all the things you delight in that Heavenly Father gives.
  • Change for the better.
  • Rebuild your life the way Heavenly Father wants.
  • Persevere and endure.
  • Come to Christ when heavy-laden and ask for rest.
  • Cultivate commitment that does not ebb or flow with the circumstances of life.
  • Strive to be close to Heavenly Father by praying and listening to Him every day.
  • Remember God won’t forsake us.
  • Special scriptures, encouraging us to press on, can be placed in locations we will easily read to remind us of our Saviors desire for us to succeed.
  • Our faith in knowing the Savior loves us can be a reminder to us when we feel alone.
  • Visual pictures of our Saviors embrace can remind us that he is always near if we seek his help through prayer.
  • Looking to the future and not dwelling on the past can help us get out of a rut.
Quote #4: “My brothers and sisters, may we have a commitment to our Heavenly Father that does not ebb and flow with the years or the crises of our lives. We should not need to experience difficulties for us to remember Him, and we should not be driven to humility before giving Him our faith and trust.”

Any thoughts on this? What does it bring to your mind?
  • Cyclical patterns that we see in the scriptures, particularly the Nephites. As they are obedient and prosper in the Gospel, they are also blessed temporally. As there is peace and prosperity in the land, they become forgetful and lax in their spiritual responsibilities. As they stray, things become more difficult. Thus there are humbled and remember their lord.
It doesn’t always follow that pattern, does it? Sometimes we can still be doing everything right and things go wrong. Trials and difficulties should not be seen as PUNISHMENT. I think one of the most important lessons I have learned in the Gospel is that the Lord doesn’t promise the faithful that he will remove their burdens, but he does promise that he will always help to bear them.

Closing quote: "May we ever strive to be close to our Heavenly Father. To do so, we must pray to Him and listen to Him every day. We truly need Him every hour, whether they be hours of sunshine or of rain. May His promise ever be our watchword: “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”"

**I looked at this outline and used parts of it for help with mine. Her comments are really helpful!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day: Photo Not Found

Three day weekends are heaven-sent.

And usually we try to "take advantage" of long weekends to get a bunch of stuff done that we've been putting off. Not this weekend. We didn't do anything on our to-do list - we just played. And it was wonderful! And we also didn't pull our phones out much, which means I pretty much don't have any photos of our fun weekend. Oops! But I take that as a good sign. We were busy making memories :)

I do have a few, though. We went on a little date night Friday to our favorite bakery, Crema. They put in a kid table and Em loves it - she loves feeling like a big girl.
Saturday morning we continued our goal of finding and taking pictures at all of Austin's murals/street art. This one was close to the new Toms flagship store/cafe so we had a lovely breakfast there.
Oh, just in a rocking chair at Cracker Barrel at the outlets. I'm surprised we didn't have to bring this home with us.

And this. 'Cuz bath time is so cute.
404 image not found: Monday we attended our ward's Memorial Day Breakfast. They had a "parade" for the kiddos and we took Em's cozy coupe. She was in heaven cruising along with the big kids. We then went to a "swim party" but thanks to a rainy day, it turned into sitting around the living room watching the kids play together. Still fun. And then we met some good friends for dinner at Hopdoddy's. These sweet girls had fun climbing all over things.
A perfect weekend. I love doing nothing and everything with my little family. Hope you all had a wonderful three-day weekend and great Memorial Day.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mama Monday: Easy peasy chicken curry

Oh, hi.

We are out having fun on this wonderful Memorial Day and I hope you are, too.

But it's still Mama Monday, so here's a quick meal idea. I love easy meals, especially the crockpot kind. Toss it in, set the timer, and go. Enjoy!

Chicken breasts
White onion
Potatoes (3-4)
Carrots (5-6)
Coconut milk (I like the lite one)
Trader joe's yellow thai curry

Cut the onion into wedges, the potatoes into cubes, and the carrots into slices. Put the chicken breasts in the crockpot and then arrange the vegetables on top. Pour in the coconut milk and curry sauce. Cook on low 5-6 hours. Serve over rice.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Freebie Friday: Stay Foolish

Oh, hey, hubby, remember that time you told me you really like this quote and could I do something fun with it? I didn't forget. We just have a crazy one-year-old.

But really, it's a pretty great quote. I have witnessed among family and friends that often the craziest ideas result in the most amazing experiences. I'm definitely not one to preach on taking chances, but I do know there can be great reward with great risk.

So heed the very wise Steve Jobs and Stay Hungry and Stay Foolish.

Download (pdf)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Love List: Princess dress up and pretty/yummy things

1. Princess Dress-Up
My sweet little cousin Madi came over today to play with Em and me. It was the perfect excuse to play dress-up with this amazing dress that Madi made for Emma's birthday. Isn't it darling? She is so talented and we had such a fun morning.
2. Tiny Toms
I'm kind of obsessed with tiny Toms.  Em's very first pair of shoes (and the ones she wears almost every day) are these little pink Toms. They've sure taken a beating, but she loves them and we get so many compliments when she wears them. Sadly, she is getting awfully close to growing out of them. We've already gotten two new pairs in the next size - pink mary janes and teal glitter ones. But I think she could probably still use a few more, yes? Just look at all the cute ones they have available for the summer! How will I ever choose?


3. Milk sharing
Last week my buddy Jess opened my freezer and about had a heart attack when she saw how much breastmilk I had stored in there. "What are you going to do with it?!?!" she asked. I shrugged. I looked into donation but didn't qualify as a donor and I could probably sell it on craigslist but that sounded potentially weird and difficult. The next day, Jess had found (through her midwives network) a woman who recently adopted and really wanted to feed her new son breastmilk as much as possible. The woman (and her cute son!) came over the next day to collect all of mine - just under 400 ounces! It felt so good to be able to help that sweet boy out. I'm grateful that I have never had any production problems and have always had enough for my own, and a few others as well!

4. Chocolate Covered Katie
When you're with family, it seems like all you do is eat. And eat, we did. So I'm trying to take it easy this week and eat a little better, but I can't seem to kick an awful sweet tooth! That's why I'm so glad I found Chocolate Covered Katie. I've been using her recipes for a couple years and I don't think I've ever had one I don't like. And they have much less guilt! Tonight I made the cake batter dip and ate it with graham crackers and it was soooo tasty. It's made mostly from garbanzo beans (weird, but good!), oats, applesauce, and almond butter. I also recommend the brownie batter dip and both the chocolate chip and mocha mug cakes. You know you want one right now...

5. Peonies
After our trip to Houston, I came home to find my beautiful Mother's Day flowers dead. It made me sad enough to have a Phoebe Buffay-style funeral for them. So today when I saw these beautiful peonies at Trader Joe's, I knew they would help me get through the mourning process.  And I LOVE peonies and you don't see them much at HEB. Aren't they a pretty color? Guess I'll just have to get new flowers each week - they make me so happy!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

TFOT: Strengthen your weaknesses

A). I am still too tired to do much thinking.

B). This TFOT outline has been sitting in my drafts for a couple months. Perfect! Way to go, Past Me.

March's Teaching for Our Times topic was from last October's conference, Elder Richard G. Scott's “Personal Strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
For me, this talk is an excellent representation of the "Line Upon Line" concept. We are introduced to the concept of the Atonement in connection with Christ's suffering for our sins so that we might be redeemed. But as we grow in our understanding of the Gospel, we learn how the Atonement affects us in some way, however "small," on a day-to-day basis.

My outline for this one may seem a bit smaller than others, but that's because I felt it relied heavily on comments from the sisters. They were more than happy to oblige and once again I felt less like I was teaching, and more that I was being taught.

The main take-away from this talk is that yes, Atonement = Repentance, but it's also service. Elder Scott says:
  • Make covenants and receive ordinances for yourself. Then steadily and consistently work to provide ordinances in the temple for your own ancestors.
  • Share the gospel with nonmember or less-active family members or friends. Sharing these truths can bring a renewed enthusiasm into your life.
  • Serve faithfully in all Church callings, especially home teaching and visiting teaching assignments. Don’t be just a 15-minutes-a-month home or visiting teacher. Rather, reach out to each individual member of the family. Get to know them personally. Be a real friend. Through acts of kindness, show them how very much you care for each of them.
  • Most important, serve the members of your own family. Make the spiritual development of your spouse and children a very high priority. Be attentive to the things you can do to help each one. Give freely of your time and attention.
If you're a TFOT teacher and would like to swap lesson outlines, please email

Personal Strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ

Elder Scott says:  “Recently I was blessed to meet with a most impressive group of youth from the state of Idaho. One virtuous young woman asked me that I feel is the most important thing they should be doing in their lives right now. I suggested they learn to recognize the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in their lives. Today I expound on one aspect of that power, which is the personal strength we can receive through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

Basic understanding of the Atonement often focuses on repentance. How does the Atonement works in our lives each day in less grandiose, but still important ways? That’s kind of the point of Elder Scott’s talk. He focuses on the Book of Mormon story about the Ammonites who repented and buried their weapons deep in the ground.

Quote #1: “In the Book of Mormon we read of Ammon and his brethren teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to a people who were “a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people.” Many of the people were converted and chose to leave behind their sinful behavior. So complete was their conversion that they buried their weapons and covenanted with the Lord that they would never use them again.”

Quote #2: “Later, many of their unconverted brethren came upon them and began to slay them. The now-faithful people chose to succumb to the sword rather than risk their spiritual lives by taking up arms. Their righteous example helped even more people to be converted and to lay down their weapons of rebellion.”

Quote #3: “Through Ammon, the Lord guided them to refuge among the Nephites, and they became known as the people of Ammon. The Nephites protected them for many years, but eventually the Nephite army began to wear down, and reinforcements were gravely needed. The people of Ammon were at a critical moment of their spiritual lives. They had been true to their covenant never to take up arms. But they understood that fathers are responsible to provide protection to their families. That need seemed great enough to merit consideration of breaking their covenant”

Why do you think it is so important for them to keep this covenant? Their priesthood leader cautioned them against retrieving their weapons “lest they should lose their souls.” Elder Scott asks “These faithful fathers had long since repented of their sins and become clean through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, so why were they counseled not to defend their families?” What do you think?

Quote #4: “It is a fundamental truth that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed. We can become virtuous and pure. However, sometimes our poor choices leave us with long-term consequences. One of the vital steps to complete repentance is to bear the short- and long-term consequences of our past sins. Their past choices had exposed these Ammonite fathers to a carnal appetite that could again become a point of vulnerability that Satan would attempt to exploit.”

He goes on to say “Satan will try to use our memory of any previous guilt to lure us back into his influence.” He doesn’t explicitly say so, but I think there’s a bit of a pride issue here. Sometimes when we repent and get on the straight and narrow and live virtuous lives, we can be overconfident about how well we’re doing. This first example that came to my mind is how recovering alcoholics must forgo alcohol entirely. They can’t have an occasional drink. They have to just stop. Some don’t even go in bars. They could be 20 years sober but there is no guarantee that just one drink wouldn’t send them back in. I think that’s what Elder Scott is talking about here. These Ammonite fathers were addicted to war, in a way. And to plunge back in, however noble the cause, was to risk returning to their old ways.

So what was the solution to this problem? How did the story end? The Ammonite sons fought for their fathers. They did not have the same history of weakness that their fathers did. It wasn’t the fighting that was objectionable, it was that it was the weakness of the fathers.

That’s the question that I pose to all of you today: What are our weaknesses? And How does the Atonement daily help strengthen and protect us against them?

Quote #5: “The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy.”

He talks about how between battles, Captain Moroni focused on fortifying the weaker cities. “He caused that they should build a breastwork of timbers upon the inner bank of the ditch; and they cast up dirt out of the ditch against the breastwork of timbers until they had encircled the city with a strong wall of timbers and earth to exceeding height.”

Using that as a metaphor for ourselves, how can we build up great height around our weak areas?

Make covenants and receive ordinances for yourself. Then steadily and consistently work to provide ordinances in the temple for your own ancestors.

Share the gospel with nonmember or less-active family members or friends. Sharing these truths can bring a renewed enthusiasm into your life.

Serve faithfully in all Church callings, especially home teaching and visiting teaching assignments. Don’t be just a 15-minutes-a-month home or visiting teacher. Rather, reach out to each individual member of the family. Get to know them personally. Be a real friend. Through acts of kindness, show them how very much you care for each of them.

Most important, serve the members of your own family. Make the spiritual development of your spouse and children a very high priority. Be attentive to the things you can do to help each one. Give freely of your time and attention.

Elder Scott concludes: “In each of these suggestions, there is a common theme: fill your life with service to others. As you lose your life in the service of Father in Heaven’s children,23 Satan’s temptations lose power in your life.”

To our initial definition of Atonement = Repentance, we can add Atonement = Service. By serving others, we allow the Atonement to fortify our weaknesses and help us to become stronger.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Crazy busy week with family

We spent the past week in Houston with family and whew, I am tired. My dad had a business meeting in Houston so Em and I drove out there to spend some time with him for a few days. He left us Friday and Hans took a bus from Houston to join us for my godbrother's law school graduation.

And while it was so much fun and we love seeing family, it was also a very rough week. We learned that Emma cannot sleep in hotel rooms or in the same room as us. Or, we think, anywhere that is not her own crib in her own room. Good gracious, I think I slept more her first week home. Poor girl screamed her heart out all night, every night. It was so rough.

That being said, I'm not going to go into much detail about our trip. Sentences seem unnecessary. So the pictures will do most of the talking.

Fun with Grandpa. He's her very best friend. When we got to the hotel, he was waiting for her in the lobby, and she got a big smile and shouted "Ba-Pa!" They just played and played. We were so sad to have him leave.
This is what no sleep looks like
Pickle tug-of-war
And congrats to Aaron on his huge accomplishment! We are so proud of him and so glad that he's done.
She wanted to kiss him so bad!
And then we had a little mini-photo shoot in the backyard with our high energy girl who was hamming it up for the camera. Good thing she's this cute - totally makes up for the lack of sleep!