Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kitchen Gadgets and Merry Cranberry Cookies

Recipe for Merry Cranberry Cookies from Very Best Baking.
Those of you who know me are probably already aware of the fact that I absolutely LOVE to bake. I don't know what it is about conjuring up a delicious batch of yummy, mouthwatering cookies - or a batch of moist, delicious muffins - that completely brings me happiness and peace, but baking has always been an incredible stress reliever for me. Maybe it's the smile of satisfaction that the fruits of my labor bring to the partaker's face that allows me to enjoy the process so wholeheartedly. :)

Well, since today is Thankful Thursday, I want to express my gratitude for the little kitchen gadgets that make my love for baking all the more enjoyable. I know I mentioned recently that I have been baking a plethora of Christmas goodies - and today, I've finally finished the last set of cookies. Whew! I tell ya, I was a little baking machine today. Among the goodies that I made today are one of my family's holiday favorites: Merry Cranberry Cookies. Anyway, I usually just use a large spoon to scoop out dough in estimated amounts to roll into balls when I make these cookies, but I recently discovered a fun, new gadget that has changed my life completely.

Okay, so don't laugh at me, but the gadget I am referring to is a cookie dough scooper. I know that they have been around for forever, but I just bucked down a few days ago and made the decision to spend the whole $10 (at Walmart) to buy one - and can I just say that it was the best $10 I've EVER spent! I know that using a regular tablespoon for the dough-scooping process is not rocket science, but man, did the scooper make it SO much easier! And, all of the balls came out darn near identical. It was so much fun to scoop the little dough balls out too.

I {heart} my new cookie dough scooper! :)

Anyway, I know that talking about these yummy treats has made you all hungry. Hehe. So, here is the recipe that I procured a few years ago for these mouth-watering, little cookies:

Merry Cranberry Cookies

  1. 1 1/4 cups (about 1/3 tub) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Refrigerated Sugar Cookie Tub Dough, slightly softened (I actually made the sugar cookie dough myself).
  2. 1/3 to 1/2 cup NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Premier White Morsels (I used Ghiradelli and they were delish)
  3. 1/3 to 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
PREHEAT oven to 325º F. 

STIR morsels and cranberries into cookie dough. Refrigerate for 15 minutes for easier handling. Roll dough into 18, 1 1/4-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. 

BAKE for 14 to 16 minutes or until edges are set but centers are still soft. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. 

• Drizzle Merry Cranberry Cookies with melted NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Premier White Morsels. 
• Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a larger batch. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cake Balls!

I started my Christmas baking about a week ago and had a batch of chocolate pecan fudge and a batch of vanilla nut fudge finished and chillin' like villains in the freezer. They didn't make it through the week though. Haha. I swear, keeping yummy treats in my house is like keeping an open flame and expecting a moth not to be drawn to it. ((shrugs)) Oh well. I guess that is just a reflection of how good they were. ;)

So, a few days ago, I made chocolate pecan fudge batch #2 and threatened my husband and children with their lives. Hehe. Then yesterday, during F.H.E., my 12-year-old and I started cake balls. Now, I don't know if you know what these delectable, little bites of heaven are, but OH MY GOODNESS! They are like my favorite things in the whole world right now ((winks at The Purple Lady. I've made them for her a few times and she too has become a fiend. Hehe. I can't help but think of her every time I make them now)). A family friend introduced me to them a few years ago, and I am officially hooked. Basically, they are made from cake that you bake and mix with frosting to roll into small bite-sized balls, then you roll said balls around in dipping chocolate. They taste like little truffles, and are absolutely amazing!

Peppermint red velvet cake balls with white dipping chocolate. YUM!

Trust me - they are absolutely sinful! :P

I also made some german chocolate cake balls, but forgot to take a picture of them before packing them away in Ziploc bags in the freezer...oops. It's all good, though. The red velvet ones are prettier. ;)

Anyway, these succulent, little balls of yummy goodness are just too delicious to keep to myself, so being the giving person that I am, I thought I'd share the love - in recipe form, of course. ;)

Cake Balls 

Prepare and cook 1 cake mix as directed on box

Let FULLY cool for several hours

Mix cake and about ½ of a 12oz. container of frosting (about ¾ cup - 1 cup) with your hands in a large bowl until it holds form when squished together (don’t put in too much frosting or the balls will be too wet and won’t set up properly). Form into bite sized balls and freeze to set (about 15 to 30 minutes – this step is optional, but makes the balls easier to dip). Dip in desired chocolate (recipes below) and freeze to set again (about 10 minutes). Serve immediately or freeze in gallon sized Ziploc bags.

Dipping Chocolate
Equal parts Chocolate Almond Bark and semi-sweet chocolate chips melted in the microwave for a minute or so until melted.

White Dipping Chocolate
Equal parts Vanilla Almond Bark and white chocolate chips melted in the microwave for a minute or so until melted.

Variation Ideas
1) German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting in dipping chocolate 
2) Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting in white dipping chocolate 
3) Chocolate Cake with 

-1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping 

-1/3 cup condensed milk 

-1 bag of Heath bits o’ brickle 

-Dip in dipping chocolate 

4) Chocolate Cake with 2/3 cup Nutella dipped in dipping chocolate (can be made with a vanilla cake as well) 
5) Chocolate Cake with chocolate frosting in mint dipping chocolate (substitute Andes mints for semi-sweet choc chips) 
6) Orange Cream Cake with Vanilla Frosting in white dipping chocolate 
7) Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese

Shannon’s favorite variation: carrot cake with cream cheese frosting dipped in white dipping chocolate. 

Note: For the red velvet ones I just did, I made a peppermint white chocolate cream cheese frosting to mix in with the baked cake. I also crushed up some candy canes (nearly to powder) and sprinkled them over the balls after dipping them in the white chocolate. You have to do this immediately after rolling them; though, as the chocolate dries really quickly. Combined with the peppermint in the frosting, this adds a perfectly subtle peppermint flavor. Delish!

Anyway, hope you enjoy. :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I {heart} Christmas!

Can I just say that I LOVE Christmas time! Everything about the season makes me absolutely giddy; from decorating the Christmas tree to shopping for Christmas presents, listening to Christmas music, sending and receiving Christmas cards, driving around and scoping out all of the Christmas lights, decorating gingerbread houses, watching the classic Christmas movies (some of my favorites include Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, One Magic Christmas, Elf - there are really too many to name), drinking egg nog, singing Christmas songs, etc. I mean, it's barely the first week of December and I almost have all of my Christmas shopping done - and tonight, I actually got most of my Christmas presents wrapped AND started my Christmas baking. :)

Now, I don't know if you guys know this or not, but since my husband and I got married, he has gotten both {M} and me into collecting Christmas ornaments. He usually only collects the really nice ones (swarovski, waterford, etc.), but we've procured some fun, cheaper-end ones too. He has one with Goofy playing the tuba, one of Jack Skellington (The Nightmare before Christmas), and many many more. This year, {L} even has his own little collection going. He has his beautiful "Baby's First Christmas" ornament from two years ago - courtesy of The Purple Lady, and here is the newest addition:

Not bad for a two-year-old, eh? Hehe. Anyone who knows him knows how appropriate this really is. He has been obsessed - and I mean OBSESSED - with Spiderman pretty much since his second birthday. ;)

Anyway, hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season. <3

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 30: Family Time

Photo by The Purple Lady
Today is Day 30 of The Purple Lady's Thirty Days of Gratitude challenge, and I can honestly say that it has been a truly humbling, eye-opening experience. I honestly have so much to be thankful for, and reflecting on all of my many blessings over the course of this past month has really changed my thinking. I could probably participate in a 365 days of gratitude challenge, and I'd still be able to come up with new things every day for which I am grateful. Being that today is the 30th (and final) day of the challenge, I wanted to focus on something that is really significant to me; you know, saving the best for last: my family.

So, for those of you who don't know, my husband's schedule is absolutely ridiculous. He works full time, goes to school, plays tuba for The Las Vegas Philharmonic, and gives private instruction to middle school and high school low brass students. He is stretched extremely thin, so it's not often that we get to spend a lot of time together as a family. Friday is the ONE day of the week when he doesn't have work or school (although he usually has a lesson in the late afternoon), so Friday is usually family day. We often have day-dates while our daughter is at school (lunch and a movie, etc.), and then try to do something as a family in the evening.

Being that today is Friday, we took advantage of the time we were allotted to be together and spent a good part of the afternoon...wait for the doctor's office. Haha. Yes, we've all been sick, so my husband and I went in to get checked out. Afterward, we did a little shopping (got a few more Christmas presents checked off the list. Woot), indulged in some yummy egg nog milk shakes from McDonalds, picked up some elderberries to make elderberry syrup, and then ended out the night with stromboli from The Tap House...YUM! When we got home, we FINALLY finished decorating the Christmas tree, which has been standing bare since Wednesday. It was awesome; too, because  my 2-year-old really showed interest in participating for the first time. :)

His first time hanging ornaments. He was so excited. :)
It may seem silly to get excited about the things we did today, but I am grateful for the time that I am blessed to spend with my family - in any capacity. My family is truly the center of my life - my reason for living - and I genuinely thank Heavenly Father for them every day, for I know that I am so abundantly blessed to have them in my life. <3

Related link:

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 29: My Babies

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 17: My Daughter

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 15: My Husband

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 11: Food That Heals

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 29: My Babies

Photo by The Purple Lady
Seeing as how the baby turns 7 month old today, I thought it would be appropriate to express my gratitude for my two babies. They are both such an enormous blessing in my life, and I thank Heavenly Father eternally for the opportunity to be their mother.

My two-year-old is such a little character. Our journey to bring him into our family was truly an amazing gift. It strengthened my testimony of prayer tremendously, and taught me that through faith in the Lord, anything is possible. It also strengthened my individual relationship with our Heavenly Father. There were so many times when I literally felt his comforting arms around me, letting me know that my prayers would soon be answered - that a beautiful, little bundle of joy would be headed our way soon. And boy...did we get what we asked for. Haha. Though he definitely has an independent spirit and a temper that would make The Birthday Girl (from Word Girl) blush, he has an equally big heart, and loves genuinely and unconditionally. Every day with him is an adventure, and he adds such incredible depth (and spice. hehe) to our lives.

Baby Cakes (our 7-month-old), on the other hand, was a complete surprise. I think Heavenly Father just knew that she was ready to come into our family, even though we were completely unaware of how much we really needed her. Her sweet disposition is the perfect complement to our family dynamic; though, and she has a smile that can melt any ounce of worry or heartache away. She hardly ever cries (only when she legitimately needs something; a diaper change, food, etc.), is pretty easy going (my mom and I are constantly being blown away by what an incredibly well-behaved baby she is. She literally always just chills and entertains herself), she has the most infectious laugh, and has the uncanny ability to make everyone fall in love with her. Our two-year-old is even wrapped around her finger. She has only been a part of our lives for a short while, but it is honestly hard to imagine a time when she wasn't a part of this family.

I could seriously go on for hours about what a blessing it is to be a mother and to have both of these sweet "babies" in our lives. I am just grateful that Heavenly Father found me worthy to be their mother, and I pray that he continues to bless me with the wisdom and patience to do "the job" justice. ;)

Love these two! <3

P.S. The Purple Lady's Thirty Days of Gratitude challenge has completely changed my thinking. I feel like I am constantly in a state of gratitude, trying to think each day of all the things I am grateful for. As a result, I am dedicating a #ThankfulThursdays section on my blog to continue the spirit of gratitude throughout the year. Please feel free to participate here on the blog - and on Twitter and Facebook too. :)

Related link:

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 17: My Daughter

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 28: My Vacuum

Photo by The Purple Lady
While re-arranging some things in the living room to put up Christmas decorations today, I had to use my awesome new-ish (we've had it for a few months now) vacuum cleaner to vacuum the carpet under the furniture I was moving. Suddenly, I was reminded of what a luxury it truly is to have a vacuum cleaner. This past summer, our vacuum cleaner broke and we went for a period of several months without one. The only method by which I had to clean the living room carpet was to sweep up any visible dirt/debris with the broom and dust pan - and let me just tell you, that is NOT fun in the heat of the summer in a house with no central air conditioning. It's amazing; too, how quickly you realize how often you used to vacuum once you no longer can, and you suddenly notice how quickly the carpet gets dirty again.

Well, when the baby was blessed back in July, we had some family coming into town and I wanted to shampoo the carpets before they got here. I didn't wanted to shampoo carpets that hadn't been vacuumed in several months; though, and we still weren't in a position to buy a vacuum, so I ended up borrowing one from a friend. What a silly thing to have to borrow, right? I sure felt silly calling her and asking to borrow it, that's for sure.

Anyway, being able to vacuum the living room today was such a blessing, and I am so grateful to have a vacuum again - especially with a toddler who is going through a food-spitting stage, and a 6-month-old baby that is now a pro crawler and has the eyes of a a hawk. She can spot the tiniest speck of food or dirt anywhere on the floor. And wouldn't you know - her fine-motor skills are getting quite proficient as well. She puts anything and EVERYTHING in her mouth these days. I vacuum the floor practically every day now, and I can't imagine how stressful life would be if I couldn't. :)

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 27: Grandparents

Photo by The Purple Lady
Okay, so yesterday was absolutely insane, and I had every intention of posting Day 27 last night after putting the babies to bed, but I was so exhausted. I straight up passed out in bed with them and didn't wake up until well after midnight to nurse the baby for the first time. So, I apologize for the late post, but today's #DailyGratitude is an important one, so I didn't want to just skip it. ;)

Today, I am grateful for grandparents. Ya see, when I was a kid, my Grandma Ruby was seriously the coolest. I used to have sleepovers at her house and she was always letting me help her cook (maybe she is part of the reason that I love to cook and bake so much today). Whenever we went to Grandma's house, she was always stocked up with our favorite cookies, and  any time that my "horrible, mean, parents - who just did not understand me, and were on a mission to ruin my life" (bahahaha...funny how kids think that. I guess if they don't, then we're not doing our job as parents. Hehe) would do something incomprehensible (you know, like send me to my room for talking back, etc...), I would call my Granny and she would be so understanding - so loving - and the tears would just melt away. Her home was always a place where you felt welcome, comfortable, and loved - a sort of home away from home. I loved spending time with her and I loved being at her house. 

Now that I am a mother, and I happen to have children who think that I am the meanest mom in the whole world (hehe), I appreciate the value of grandparents even more. I see my mom stepping into the role of "the loving savior of the grandchildren" and it warms my heart. ;) My mom always says that being a grandparent is the best because you can spoil the child and love on him/her profusely, without having to ever be the bad guy. And, you get to give the child back to Mom when he/she needs a diaper change. Hehe. My mom's favorite line (in referencing one of my children) is, "You know that he (or she) can do no wrong in my eyes." ;)

I am seriously so grateful for my grandparents and for the grandparents that my children have. I am grateful for all that my parents do for my children, and for the relationship that they have with them. Grandparents truly are the best! I only wish that my husband's parents were still alive so that my children could reap the rewards of a relationship with them as well. I guess that is just one more reason to look forward to eternity. ;)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 26: Patience

I don't necessarily pride myself on being someone who comes by patience easily. It's something I pray for on a daily basis. But I grateful for the patience that I was able to muster tonight after finding my 2-year-old on the living room floor with a black, permanent Sharpie marker. Not only did he take it upon himself to cover his lips, hands, legs, and arms, but there are now giant squiggle marks all over a huge section of the carpet in our living room and on the area rug. It was all over his building blocks, on one of The Drama Queen (my 12-year-old)'s sweaters, and as I walked into the kitchen with my jaw on the floor, I discovered that it was all over the tile AND on the kitchen wall as well. The most annoying part is that I was in the room with him while he created his masterpiece. I had just been preoccupied with Christmas shopping on my lap top. Doh!

Let's just say that the boy is lucky to be alive. He IS alive though - and it is only due to the patience, which I had to harness with every ounce of energy I could muster. He is lucky that I love him so much. For real. Oh, the joys of motherhood!

Photo by The Purple Lady

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 25: Forgiveness

Photo by The Purple Lady
One of my most favorite quotes of all time is when Mark Twain said, "Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it." How beautiful, right? To think that we, as human beings, are capable of such wonderful, Christ-like love for others, that we could be able to forgive them for their trespasses against us.

Christ himself stood on the cross as he was being crucified and prayed to the Lord asking him to forgive the men who were actively in the process of persecuting him, saying, "Forgive them for they know not what they do." I can't think of a better example of someone who loves more freely and forgives more effortlessly than the Savior.

I know that none of us is the Savior, but I do believe that we should try to emulate His example - and one of the most amazing gifts in the world is the human heart's ability to forgive. It gives us the power to heal broken hearts, mend relationships, put an end to feuds, and vanquish grudges.

The scriptures tell us of the Lord's commandment to forgive all men, and I know that there are some circumstances in this life when others transgress against us and their actions seem unforgivable, but I think that the Lord requires us to forgive not only because we are in no position to judge others, but also because the Lord wants us to be free of the burden and bitterness of holding a grudge. I can't tell you how many times I have literally felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders when I made the decision to forgive another for some offense they committed against me. To truly forgive another is to find peace; Not only with others, but with yourself.

Now, I know that I am not perfect. And though I never aim to injure others intentionally, there may have been times that I've offended others in ignorance. If you find yourself in this category of people, I ask in all sincerity for your forgiveness, and pray that these experiences will allow us to grow in our friendship, creating stronger bonds and a deeper appreciation for each other. <3

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 24: The 2nd Amendment

My husband took me on a date to a gun range tonight, and it was seriously the best fun I've had in a long time. It was the first time I've ever shot a firearm, so I was really nervous at first, but in a giddy, school girl kind of way. The experience was so amazing though. By the time we left, I felt so empowered, so strong. I know I still have a lot to learn when it comes to holding my own on that front, but today, I am grateful for the 2nd Amendment, - the right to bear arms. I am a firm believer that we should be able to maintain this right - to have the ability to protect ourselves and our families from those who would mean to cause us harm, and I am grateful that my husband loves me enough and cares about his family enough to arm me with this form of confidence and protection, should the need to apply it ever arise in his absence.

I truly hope that the occasion to actually have to utilize this skill (one that I know will only increase with continued practice) will never be necessary, but I am looking forward to the fun that we'll have in the learning process. Personally, I am already ready for round two (pun intended. hehe). ;)

Photo by The Purple Lady

Related link:

All Things Purple: Thirty Days of Gratitude

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 23: Sleep

Photo by The Purple Lady
Being that I am the mom of three children (two of which are under three), opportunities to get a good night's sleep are few and far between. I try to take naps with the babies during the day when I can, but that doesn't always work out, as random, unexpected factors usually prevent me from doing so.

Today was a rare occurrence, though. After taking part in some casual black Friday shopping, lunch with my family, and an outing to the movies, we all came home and crashed. I personally was so exhausted after hosting Thanksgiving dinner for 20+ people at my house yesterday. I think all of the physical and mental effort that was exerted over the last few days in preparation for the festivities, plus the fact that I've been so sick, finally took it's toll. I was so tired on the car-ride home from the movies that I literally could not keep my eyes open. It's a good thing my husband was driving. ;)

I cannot tell you how great I felt when I woke up. I was so rested and refreshed - I actually went out and did some more Christmas shopping. :-D

For real though, I am grateful for days like today when the stars align and I am able to get caught up on some precious, much-needed sleep. With the unpredictability of life, you have to seize every opportunity like this that is afforded to you. Heaven knows that the next one probably won't be for a while. :-/

Hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving. Happy Holidays!

Related link:

All Things Purple: Thirty Days of Gratitude

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 22: Life

On this beautiful Thanksgiving Day, I have so much to be thankful for. In addition to the list of things that I have already mentioned over the past several weeks, I am grateful for my life and the opportunity that I had to come to this earth, to gain a body, to be a wife and mother, to experience pain, failure and heartache - but then to find the strength through the Savior to get back up again and continue "swimming." I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from my mistakes, for the chance to strengthen my testimony through the things I experience in this life, and for the peace and comfort that are exemplified by the Savior through His grace. Most of all, I am grateful that I had the agency to choose the Savior's Plan and that I did choose to be apart of His great work.

Photo by The Queen of Purple

Related link:

I Can Do Hard Things!

All Things Purple: Thirty Days of Gratitude

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 21: Callings

Photo by The Purple Lady
Callings are a constant reminder that the Lord is omniscient. He sees the big, eternal picture in all things and knows the challenges and blessings that each of us needs to experience at any given point in our lives - those that will test our faith and inevitably make us stronger - and accepting a calling is such an incredible example of faith in the Lord's Plan for us.

Oftentimes, we don't understand the magnitude of the blessing in a particular calling until after we have served in it for a time. And I don't know about you guys, but in my experience as a member of the Church, the person who has benefited most from any calling I have held has been myself.

My husband and I served as Sunday school teachers for the 16-17-year-olds in our ward for four years, and I absolutely loved that calling. When we were first called to serve in that facet; however, I couldn't have felt more unqualified. But through study and prayer, and attempting to magnify my calling in faith, I grew not only to love the youth in our ward, but also to love the scriptures and the prophets of old whose lives we studied. My testimony was constantly being strengthened, as was my faith in the youth of the Church. Their testimonies are so incredibly pure and powerful, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that they were preserved for these last days because of their strength.

Upon being released from that calling, I felt really sad because of how much I would miss that one-on-one time with the youth in our ward. I was soon called to be a nursery worker; though, and I am excited about this new chapter in my life as well as the many life-lessons that I know I will learn from this experience.

I am so grateful for callings and for the faith that our Heavenly Father has in us when he calls us to serve. :)

Related link:

I Can Do Hard Things!

All Things Purple: Thirty Days of Gratitude

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 20: Temples

Photo by The Purple Lady
Words cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for the temples on this earth, especially for the beautiful temple that we are so fortunate to have in our midst. I think of all the people in the world that have to invest their life savings to make one trip to the temple - just to have their own work done, and here I am - five minutes away from the Las Vegas temple, and I recognize what an amazing gift that truly is.

I am grateful for temple ordinances, and I know that the work performed there is ordained of God. I am grateful for the ability that I have to be sealed to my family for time and all eternity, a blessing which we would not be able to partake of without the presence of a temple. I am also grateful for the opportunity that we have as members of the Church to return to the temple often. When I am in the temple, I feel the presence of the Lord so profoundly, and it is impossible not to feel His love for us as we receive blessings through performing temple ordinances.

The temple is such an amazing place to be - a place where you can find true comfort and peace in a world that is otherwise filled with chaos and confusion, and I am grateful for that little piece of Heaven on earth. :)

Related link:

All Things Purple: Thirty Days of Gratitude

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 19: My Health

Photo by The Purple Lady
Today, I am grateful for my health. All of my life, I have been lucky enough to have had a pretty healthy constitution. Though I do get the occasional cold (once or twice a year), I've never had any real health concerns. Each of my pregnancies has been pretty healthy, and I've never had to take medication for anything for a prolonged period of time. I count my blessings on this score daily, and pray that Heavenly Father will continue to bless me where my health is concerned. :)

Related link:

All Things Purple: Thirty Days of Gratitude

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 18: SAHM

Photo by The Purple Lady
While cuddling with my 2-year-old today, I had a moment where I started to feel almost sad in reflection of how fast he is growing. It seems like just yesterday he was learning how to sit up on his own, how to crawl. And now, he has a baby sister that is making all of those mile stones. Now, he is the big brother that is learning to talk and communicate like a big boy. It just blows my mind how fast time flies when you have little ones.

Then, I think about Miss [M], my 12-year-old daughter. I mean, it feels absolutely unreal to even say that I have a 12-year-old. How did that happen? I remember her first day of kindergarten like it was yesterday. And when I stop to think that I only have six short years left until she is an adult - old enough to vote, old enough to go off to college and leave home - it's unbelievable. I mean, what is six years? It's the beat of a heart, the snap of a finger. And in the blink of an eye, that time will be gone.

Sometimes, thinking about it and realizing how fast it all flew by makes me feel almost desperate to hang onto every single fleeting moment I have with my children. So today, I am grateful for the ability that I have to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), that I am able to be around for all of the milestones my children experience - their first steps, their first words, their first day of school (I was working when [M] started kindergarten, and would have had to miss it, had I not had an extremely understanding boss that let me come in late that day); to just be able to be here when they get home from school in the afternoon, and ask them how their day went.

I am grateful for a husband who works hard so that I can have the opportunity to stay home with my children, and for his income that affords us all the things necessary to provide for our children's physical needs. I am also thankful for all of the other factors that make being a SAHM possible.

I know that what I do is significant. I love my job and wouldn't trade it for the world. :)

Related link:

All Things Purple: Thirty Days of Gratitude

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 17: My Daughter

My 12-year-old daughter came into this world at a time when I was facing some serious challenges, and she continues to bless my life each and every day. This poem is for you, Munch Munch. :)

Beautiful Child

Beautiful child, remarkable child
From Heav’n you descended, a mom I became.
Beloved child, celestial child
I feel of God’s love when I but speak your name.

Beautiful child, radiant child
Your spirit so eager, your smile so bright.
Glorious child, innocent child
You sing to the heavens and bless us with light.

Beautiful child, intuitive child
Bestowed with your wisdom, your intelligent mind.
Courageous child, faithful child
Our friendship eternal, our souls intertwined.

Curious child, creative child
With a book in your hand, and ideas running wild.
Artistic child, inspired child
Enchanting, romancing, an essence beguiled.

Beautiful child, benevolent child
Your heart so forgiving, compassion aflame.
Beautiful child, significant child
Without you, our family would not be the same.

Photo by The Purple Lady

Related link:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 16: Prayer

Photo by The Purple Lady
Throughout my life, I have been blessed with so many experiences that have solidified my testimony of the power of prayer. I know that Heavenly Father loves each of His children, and that he hears and answers our prayers.

I was reading the scriptures with my family this morning and read in 2 Nephi 4 where Nephi is praying to the Lord after his father, Lehi, passed away. 2 Nephi 4:33-35 says:

33 O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thyarighteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine benemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy. 
 34 O Lord, I have atrusted in thee, and I will btrust in thee forever. I will not put my ctrust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his dtrust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. 
 35 Yea, I know that God will give aliberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I bask cnot amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the drock of myerighteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

I have been feeling a little overwhelmed lately by fears and doubts regarding certain aspects of the world, and how those aspects will affect my family; specifically my children, but in reading Nephi's prayer to the Lord, and realizing that his prayer was not all that different from words that I speak in my own personal conversations with Him on a daily basis, I felt comfort and peace, for I knew that Heavenly Father had heard my prayers and was answering them through the words of the prophet, Nephi.

I am so grateful for the gift of prayer and for the ability that we have to communicate with our Heavenly Father directly on a daily basis, and I know that if we put our trust in the Lord and pray to Him in faith, our prayers will be heard and we will be blessed. :)

Related link:

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All Things Purple: Thirty Days of Gratitude

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 15: My Husband

My husband and I were texting back and forth this morning as he was sitting outside at UNLV, waiting for his class to start after a grueling graveyard shift at work. I asked him how work had gone the night before, and we proceeded to discuss the events of the night. As you can imagine, the casino nightlife can get pretty...let's just say "interesting," for lack of a better word. ;)

As we sat there texting, I started to feel really bad for him because he was getting ready to go into class after he had been up all night, and was going on like 20 hours at that point with no sleep. Then, I realized that after his class, he'd be coming home, but would only be getting about three hours of sleep before he'd have to get up again and head right back out for a lesson and then rehearsal with The LV Phil (they have a concert this weekend).

My poor husband is stretched so thin and he sacrifices so much for our family on a daily basis. He rarely ever calls in sick and he never complains. He even humors me and does what he can to be involved and help me out with the kids and stuff when he is home.

Every Sunday, no matter how tired he is (he is lucky if he gets a 2-hour nap on Sunday mornings), he gets up and attends church with us. He magnifies his callings and honors his priesthood - and truly inspires me to be the most Christ-like version of myself.

I do try to tell him on a regular basis how much he is appreciated and loved, but I felt it was appropriate to devote an entire day to show my gratitude for him. :)

So, to my amazing, tubalicious hubby: you are such an enormous blessing in my life. You are an awesome dad, a loving, faithful husband, an incredibly talented musician and teacher, and I love you with all my heart. I honestly thank Heavenly Father for you every day, and I don't know how I would ever live without you! xoxo! <3

Photo by The Purple Lady

Related link:

All Things Purple: Thirty Days of Gratitude

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 14: Photographs

Photo by The Purple Lady
I was uploading photos from my husband's and my combined birthday dinner last week, and I couldn't help but laugh at some of the photos that we took. One was with little Mr. L (my 2-year-old monster-in-training) picking his nose. Haha. One with Crazy Grandpa (my dad) making funny faces at one of the kids. And then, there were the super cute ones that I got of the baby smiling - among many others that I took of family members that were there.

Looking over these photos made me realize how blessed we are to have the technology that makes capturing these precious moments possible. I can't tell you how many times I have gone back and looked at old photos from events like this one - moments I had completely forgotten about, but was instantly brought back by the magic of a photo.

Photographs allow us to see pictures of family members we may have never known who passed on from this world before we were born, or before we were "adopted" (by marriage, etc.) into their family. Then there are those photos of deceased family members that we did know and miss terribly. They allow us the precious opportunity to once again gaze upon that person's face and smile in loving memory of them. Photos also help us to rewind time and look back on our children when they were younger - to see how much they have grown.

History books show us photographs of historical figures that lived long before our time, giving us the opportunity to truly grasp that person's appearance. I mean, imagine if we didn't know what Abraham Lincoln looked like, or Elvis Presley (who died before I was born) for that matter. That'd just be weird. ;)

So, today I am grateful for photographs. They are truly amazing things. :)

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Thirty Days of Gratitude: Family

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 13: Shelter

Photo by The Purple Lady

I've always considered myself to be the kind of person that preferred the cooler temps of the Las Vegas winters to the heat of our summers (if you recall, I usually run on the warm side as it is, and summers here are not very forgiving), but due to the recent weather change and the drastic drop in temperatures, I am quickly reminded of how cold it gets in the house during the winter (no central heating in our house), and I can safely say that I despise the cold as much as I do the heat.

We occasionally use floor heaters in the rooms to take the edge off the chill in the air, but with kids (and the old electrical in this house), I always worry that a floor heater could cause a fire.

When Z and I first got married, we had an alpaca that we threw over the top of our comforter to give us an extra layer of warmth, but that old thing bit the dust a few winters ago, and so we finally had to throw it out. We started using an unzipped sub zero sleeping bag over our comforter, and it really seems to do the trick.

Last night, as I was cuddling in bed with the babies - under these layers of warming protection - I sat for a moment realizing how extremely fortunate I am to have the luxury of a roof over my head, a comfortable bed to sleep in, and warm blankets to shield us from the cold.

I know that I complain a lot about the old house we live in, and the fact that there is no central heating, but so many people in the world are even less fortunate than I, and putting this into perspective made me think of those who are sleeping on the streets in this horrible, cold weather.

So, today I am grateful for a roof over my head and the comfort of a warm bed. I just pray that those people who don't share these comforts will be blessed throughout this winter, that their needs will be met, and that they too will be able to find shelter from the cold.

Related Link:

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All Things Purple: Thirty Days of Gratitude

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 12: Breastfeeding

Photo by The Purple Lady
Today, I am grateful for the ability that I have to breastfeed my baby. I know what you are thinking: "Did she just say, "Breast?" Haha. Well, yes I did. And, if talking about female reproductive organs - and the most natural way to feed a beautiful, precious baby - is uncomfortable for you, then this post may not be your cup of tea. ;)

So many mothers that I know; though, have had a difficult time nursing their child(ren) and weren't able to do so for long, if at all, because of complications or certain health issues. I know that the desire to breastfeed one's child and having difficulty in doing so has been the source of stress and heartache for so many mothers.

I simply recognize today that I am very fortunate to have always been blessed in that area - that breastfeeding my children has always come as a natural, unchallenging thing, and has always been the source of overwhelming joy; a beautiful bonding experience from the day each child was born. It is a gift that I would not trade for the world.

Nothing can replace the amazing bond that is shared between a mother and child through the beautiful blessing of breastfeeding. I personally am filled with so much love and gratitude each time that I hold my beautiful baby girl in my arms, and knowing that I am able to provide her with a form of nourishment and comfort that no one else can give brings me such pride and happiness.

These moments are beautiful beyond words or description - and as she looks up at me intently while she nurses, studying me with those big, beautiful, steel blue eyes, I can't help but be grateful for a Heavenly Father who loved me enough to send her to me - and for being so wise as to think of such an amazing gift to bestow upon His daughters. :)

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All Things Purple: Thirty days of Gratitude

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 11: Food that heals

Photo by The Purple Lady
For the past few days, my hubby, my kids and I have all been feeling a bit under the weather, so last night I started a big batch of homemade bone stock, which I left to simmer over night.

When I woke up this morning, not only was the house filled with the amazing aroma of the brewing broth, but Z and I were also able to enjoy a tasty cup-full of its delicious, beneficial goodness - and almost immediately, I could feel the awesome healing properties working their magic. :)

Later, I used a portion of the stock to make some yummy homemade chicken soup, which we pretty much have been munching on all day long. So, today I am grateful for foods that have amazing healing properties. It's just incredible how something as simple as homemade soup can seem to make the aches and pains of an illness go away.

You are probably telling yourself that the vitamin D from the bone stock is responsible for these feelings of improving health. But I swear, it is the extra dose of love that I sprinkle in the soup when I make it - works every time. ;)

Homemade bone stock...yum! :)

Some other foods with awesome healing properties, for which I am grateful today are lemons, honey, garlic, and herbal tea. Here's to a speedy recovery!

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 10: Family

Photo by The Purple Lady
Last night, my immediate family (Grandma, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, etc...) all got together at Memphis BBQ (Yum!) to celebrate Z's and my birthdays, and as the 15 of us (adults and children, included) sat around the table grubbing on some yummy bbq, my 2-year-old was running amok in the small dining room where our party was converging, driving me absolutely insane - but amongst the chaos and the jumble of conversation that was transpiring,  I had an "aha moment."

I couldn't help but think how lucky I am to have such an awesome family - most of which live right here in Las Vegas. We don't always get along, and sometimes we drive each other insane (haha), but I am grateful for every single member of my family. I am grateful for the memories we share - the ones we are constantly creating, the laughter, the support given, and the joy that each member brings.

To my family: Thank you for always being there for me - for overlooking my weaknesses and accepting me for who I am. Thank you for being there for me through the good times and the bad, for all the times you have watched my children, or lent a shoulder to cry on. I love you all, and thank Heavenly Father for the blessing that each of you is in my life. :)

Related Link:

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 9: Laughter

Photo by The Purple Lady
Today is Friday - and in honor of all things frivolous, I feel inclined to express how grateful I am today for laughter. It has the power to cure sickness, mend relationships, conquer fears, heal a broken heart, and can actually prevent aging (it can make you feel younger anyway). ;)

Have you ever tried to stay mad at someone after they've said something funny? You try to hold it in and stay mad - to keep a straight face - but you finally concede, because let's face it - laughter is infectious and impossible to disregard.

Now, I don't know if you guys have seen the "How It Should Have Ended" videos on YouTube, but this one literally had my 12-year-old and me in tears, we were laughing so hysterically.

So, in honor of the upcoming release of Breaking Dawn: Part 2, I bring you laughter - in the form of the most epic HISHE video ever. :-P

Happy Friday! :)

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 7: Technology

Photo by The Purple Lady
Earlier today, I was sitting on my phone checking my e-mail. After a few minutes, I switched over to my Facebook app to check on some things, then finally pulled up my map app to look up the phone number to a local business - and suddenly, it got me thinking: how crazy is it that we are capable of possessing such a plethora of information in the palm of our hands! Call me spoiled, but I honestly don't think I could live without my iPhone. ;)

To think; though, that we can access the scriptures, general conference talks, track calories and exercise, watch movies, play video games, look up directions, make phone calls, check movie times, AND take pictures on one tiny, little device!

Can you imagine when your grandma was a child - If someone had told her that one day her grandchildren would be walking around with a magical, little device that could do all of these things, she'd probably think they were crazy. Yet here we are. :)

So today, I am grateful for technology. Not just the technology of the cell phones these days, but I am grateful for computers, the internet (and the ability to quickly look up new recipes. hehe), ultrasound machines (to think that you can see inside the uterus of a woman to view her unborn child - phenomenal), Netflix (and the fact that you can stream it directly to your tv - my new fave), airplanes, automobiles (and the technology there increases dramatically by the year), and so on. I could literally sit here adding to the list all night.

There are just so many incredible forms of technology that improve our quality of life on a daily basis, and I am grateful for the brilliant minds that invested the time and effort that go into bringing these creative visions to life. :)

But for the record, someone needs to get on the ball with that whole "flying cars" thing. Don't you remember? According to Back to the Future II, they are supposed to be "the norm" come 2015. We are running out of time, ya know. ;)

Related link:

All Things Purple: Thirty Days of Gratitude

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 6: Election Day

Photo by The Purple Lady
In honor of election day today, I felt inclined to focus my thoughts on how extremely grateful I am to live in a country where we have the freedom to choose which religion to practice, which career we will pursue, how many children we will have, and who we want to lead our country.

This election will go down in history as one of the most memorable, I am sure. It's definitely been the most controversial of my life experience, thus far. The issues this election are extremely important though; and they affect each of us as individuals. And because we have the ability to protect our rights and have our voices heard, it is so important that we get out there and vote.

Too often, the people of this country choose to surrender their right to vote because they allow themselves to remain ignorant of the issues, or because they don't want to get caught up in the confusion of the political hype. Well, it wasn't all that long ago that women were not even able to vote - and as a female citizen of this amazing country, I feel it is my duty to myself, my family, and my country to get out there and make my vote count.

I am grateful for the freedoms that we possess here in the United States - freedoms that we will lose if we are not careful. I just hope that others understand the importance of this election and make the decision to get out there and vote as well.

And for the record, Z and I voted during early voting. Go Team! :)

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Thirty Days of Gratitude - Day 5: Home

Photo by The Purple Lady

For the past three years, I have either been pregnant or nursing in the heat of the Las Vegas summer and have found myself wishing that I lived elsewhere. Those who have ever had to endure a summer here know that 115 degree temperatures (and I don't care what they say about dry heat. 115+ degrees is stinkin' hot!) are not cool - pun intended.

Now, add on the fact that I run a little on the warm side as it is (you'll usually find me running around in a t-shirt and flip flops during the winter), and the fact that being pregnant and/or nursing make me feel even warmer, and yeah...summers make me feel a little uncomfortable.

Most of my husband's family lives in the Salt Lake City, Utah area, and I have often thought of how much nicer the summers would be if we lived there - but the Thirty Days of Gratitude challenge has me thinking today that I need to change my stinking thinking and focus on all the reasons I am grateful for living in Las Vegas. :)

First of all, living in the desert means that we have milder winters. It snows very rarely, so you really don't have to deal with that mess unless you want to make a quick get-away to Mt. Charleston. And when it does snow, it is a super special event - kids often get a day off from school for such an occasion. ;) We also don't usually have any major weather-related events like hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, etc. For that, I am extremely grateful, especially considering the fact that Hurricane Sandy has caused so much devastation on the other side of the country.

In addition, nearly my entire family is here (minus my older brother, and he is only a 7-ish hour drive to Reno), so I have the privilege of seeing my mom, siblings, grandma, cousins, nieces and nephews (etc...) on a pretty regular basis. Holidays are a blast because we all cram together in some "lucky" family member's house (hehe) to take part in the festivities - creating memories and enjoying each others' company. It's awesome. And with the holidays right around the corner, I am already getting so excited. If we lived somewhere else; though, we wouldn't be able to be as involved with our family and would miss out on a lot of these experiences.

Because I have lived here for so long, I know the roads like the back of my hand, and can usually get anywhere in town pretty effortlessly. We have some awesome forms of entertainment here as well if we ever want to indulge in a night on the town, or if family comes in for a visit. The strip is only about 20 minutes from where we live and there are some incredible shows, not to mention the awesome Las Vegas Philharmonic (a shout out to the extremely talented, oh-so-handsome Principal Tuba. Hehe), which performs pretty regularly at The Smith Center. AND Las Vegas has some seriously awesome Hawaiian BBQ ((winks at The Purple Lady)). hehe.

In a nutshell, Las Vegas is the only place I have ever lived and I am grateful to have a place that I can call my own - a place that reminds me of my childhood and provides me with a sense of comfort and belonging. A place that I call home. :)