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Friday, November 30, 2018

Shaggy Dog Sushi Rolls

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I didn't try sushi until I was an adult. My strong aversion to seafood played a big part in that, I think. The first time I tried it, my friend talked me through the experience, telling me there would be a wide array of flavors that would take over at different times. First was the seasoned rice and seaweed, then the cucumbers and avocado mixed with crab. She told me to pop the whole thing in my mouth and just trust her.

I did and WOW! I am so glad I did! Sushi is so good!!

ALL of my kids have tried and LOVE sushi. It is one of our most favorite things to eat. Sometimes, though, sushi can be pretty pricey. So I came up with a solution: Homemade!

I was intimidated by the process at first. But after watching this video, I felt a lot more confident in my homemade sushi skills. And friends, it is seriously as simple as they make it look.

I used:
Nori seaweed sheets
Seasoned Rice (3 cups rice, six cups water, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, salt, and pepper)
Crab Sticks
Thinly sliced cucumbers
Thinly sliced avocado
Hoisin Sauce
Yum Yum sauce
French's Fried Onions, crushed

On a bamboo rolling mat, I put a piece of plastic wrap down. I placed a piece of seaweed on top, then spread about a cup of seasoned rice toward the edges. Then I flipped it over. I then added the crab stick, avocado, and cucumbers. Next, I used the bamboo mat to roll the sushi tight. Once rolled, I sliced it using a very sharp knife and topped it with Hoisin and Yum Yum sauce, then garnished the top with crispy fried onions. Simple and SO good!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

She believed she could, so she did.

Before my 30th birthday, I sat down and made a list of thirty things I wanted to do before entering a new decade. I wanted to donate my hair to Wigs For Kids, do the BYU Y hike, and learn how to make bread, to name a few.  Also on that list was one particular goal that scared me, but was one I wanted to accomplish more than any of the others: run a half marathon.

Let me just preface this story by telling you I am not a runner. If you ever see me running, you may want to consider running, as well, because chances are, there is something big and scary chasing me.

I do not enjoy running, though I have tried. However, this goal was not about running. No, this goal was simply to prove to myself that I can do hard things. A few months before setting my 30 before 30 goals, I had gone through a very difficult trial that had almost completely obliterated my confidence. I felt weak and vulnerable. Running half marathon was a goal I set for myself to remind me how strong I am. It was about proving to myself that I am good enough. It was about doing something for myself that no one could do for me. It was the goal that meant the most and truly had the most importance to me.  If I only checked off one accomplishment on the whole list, THIS would be it.

I started working out and running at the rec center by our house. I was dedicated. I pushed my workouts and felt myself getting stronger every day, but I never pushed myself too hard. I told myself I was doing great and not to get burned out. I think that if I had given myself a little more time to work slowly toward my goal, this method would have been fine, but I only had a few months to prepare. Although I had done some, I would later wish I had done more.

The morning of the race we woke up very early to meet up with some friends who had agreed to run with us. Thank goodness for friends who are as crazy as I am, who are and are willing to participate in my insane plans. We hopped on the bus that took us from the finish line, where we had parked, to the starting line. I was so excited! I felt amazing and energized.

Then the bus began rolling.

The drive up the canyon was long. The more we drove, the more knotted my stomach became. Pretty soon, all the energy and confidence I had felt getting on that bus had melted into self-doubt and concern that my training had not been nearly enough and that getting through this race would take every ounce of willpower I could muster. I was terrified--the thought of hiding on the bus was more than a little tempting.

However, my desire to check off that goal from my 30 before 30 list was so strong. The idea of staying on that bus and riding back to the bottom was fleeting and I found myself digging deep to find the courage to line up with the other runners. I moved in the starting direction. Gathering courage and casting my fears aside, I lined up toward the back.

A loud crack filled the air, and the crowd before me started moving quickly back in the directions we had just come from. With one last courageous boost, I willed my feet to move. The race was on! I trotted along, holding on to images of crossing the finish line, just trying to keep up with the people around me.

The race was mainly downhill. Running downhill was lovely the first mile or so, having gravity pulling me forward. But soon, my shins, knees, and back strained and burned with exertion. My trot slowed to a brisk walk alternating with jogging, when that became too much I kept up the brisk walk. As I neared the end of the eighth mile, my whole body hurt. My only focus was putting one foot in front of the other.

I passed the sign indicating I was on my ninth mile and suddenly I felt a little better. I could hardly believe there were only four more miles to go! I had almost done it! I picked up my pace again, jogging at a steady cadence. I focussed on the sound of my sneakers slapping the pavement as I moved ahead toward the finish line. My mind was focused on those three little babies of mine who would be waiting for me there. I could hardly wait to see them!  I picked up my pace some more, as thoughts of sitting in the hot tub entered my mind. Oh, how wonderful that sounded!

Just then, my toe hooked on a loose piece of asphalt and I crashed to the ground, rolling my ankle and hyperextending my hip on the way down. I scrambled to my feet as quickly as I could, but the pain was so intense, I immediately fell back to the ground. My mind filled with thoughts of quitting. There was no way I could finish...

I sat there on the side of the road and rested for a few minutes. I knew the longer I sat, the harder it would be to get going again. I also knew if I quit, I would probably not try to run another half marathon. Fighting back the tears that threatened to spill over, I tried again. This time I managed to stay up.

Small Victory.

I gingerly stepped forward, trying to assess the damage. It hurt, but I was ok.

Another small victory.

I found a pace that worked. It was slow, but it was progress in the right direction. People passed me left and right. Some asked if I was okay, others stuck with me and rested for a minute before moving ahead. I was doing all I could do, whether it was enough for someone else didn't matter. I was doing what was best for me. Slow and steady.

I celebrated a little when I limped through miles ten, eleven, and twelve. Mile thirteen I could hardly walk.  I knew I was almost done. I knew the end was just around the corner. I just didn't know if I could endure anymore.

Finally, I reached that last tenth of a mile. The 0.1 that meant I completed my goal. I rounded the corner toward the finish line. There were so many people lining the sides of the path. They clapped and cheered as I painstakingly finished the last few steps. Tears rolled freely down my cheeks. Then, the most glorious sight I had ever seen: My kids were running toward me, their arms outstretched, their eyes sparkled and they were smiling from ear to ear. My heart about burst!

Crossing the finish line at 4 hours and 7 minutes, dead last is where I finished. But those last two words are the most important: I FINISHED!!! It was the BEST feeling ever.

I think about that experience often. There are times in life when we feel prepared only to realize our best efforts aren't quite enough. Times when we life knocks us to our knees and it is all we can do to stand up and take things one step at a time. Times when life gets so hard we don't know how we will make it through. This experience taught me it is important to recognize when we are tired and to rest... but not to rest so long that we give up. Just keep moving. Just keep trying. Keep stepping forward. Don't give up. The end result will be so worth it. Nothing feels quite as wonderful as checking off a goal that was really hard to accomplish.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Shredded Beef Tacos

Do you have a crockpot and about 3 minutes to start dinner before work? Good! Then this is going to be the best day ever!

Now, all you will need is a pot roast and a packet of taco seasoning.

Throw that in the crockpot. Set it to low and when you get home from work tonight you will have the most delicious, shredded beef ready for tacos, nachos, taco salad, or even a taco rice bowl. Friend, this recipe (if you can even call TWO ingredients a recipe!) is so simple and so versatile. The leftovers, if you have any, are fantastic on a quesadilla.

The first time I made this recipe I was so nervous. I didn't know if it would work. Beef pot rosts are kind of pricey and I was worried that if it turned out nasty I would be out all that money. I had never done anything out of the realm of a traditional pot roast. To my absolute JOY, they are wonderful! You're going to love them!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Classic Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies always reminds me of Christmas time. Maybe it's the Hershey's Kiss, which Santa always left in abundance in our stockings. Maybe it is the cookie design, which kind of reminds me of a wreath. It could also be that these peanut buttery treats would almost always be a part of Christmas Cookie Exchanges each year. No matter the reason, these cookies are wonderful at Christmas or ANY time.

I'm a huge fan of this recipe. Sometimes peanut butter cookies end up too oily or too dry. Not this cookie! I love how the cookie part is soft and pillowy, and the Hershey's Kiss is the exactly right amount of chocolate for the cookie. I love the crispy outside and how the sugar is kind of sparkly. I mean, if you're a peanut butter fan, this recipe is practically perfect.  If you're not a fan of peanut butter or maybe you or a loved one has a peanut allergy, you can substitute the peanut butter with almond or cashew butter, school-safe soy butter, sunflower seed butter, or Biscoff Cookie butter with fantastic results.

You will Need:
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup peanut butter (I use smooth)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups sugar
1 package Hershey's Kisses, unwrapped
granulated sugar (for rolling)

Mix together shortening and peanut butter until smooth. Add sugars. Beat in eggs, vanilla, and milk.  Next, slowly add baking soda and flour. Mix, scraping the sides of your bowl, until well incorporated. Roll dough into one inch balls then coat in sugar. Arrange on cookie sheet. Bake for 8-11 minutes. Press Hershey's Kiss in the center of each cookie immediately after removing from the oven.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Some of My Favorite Things at Christmas:

It's here! It is FINALLY here! I love Christmas time most of all. I love everything about it. I love the sights and sounds. I love the music. I love the warmth of family and friends. I love the giving and thinking of others. I especially love these things:

1. Names of  Christ Christmas Ornaments

I love these names of Christ Christmas ornaments because they remind me of the real reason for this special time of year. I love that every time I look at my Christmas tree, I am reminded of the tiny babe born in a lowly stable.

2. Willow Tree Nativity Set

This nativity is the very first thing I put out at the start of the Christmas season. I love the simplicity of the figurines and how well it captures the spirit of the birth of our Savior.

3. Pine Scented Candles

I'm not usually a candle enthusiast... but at Christmas time, I love a good smelling candle. This one is my favorite right now. They also have another candle I am alternating with-- it's Clementine and Mango scented. I mopped my floor with Pinesol this morning and had this other candle burning and my house smelled incredible!! I love these candles because the wick is a stick of wood.

4. Arm Knitted Blanket

I am kind of a blanket snob. Blankets need to be just so, and this beauty fits the bill. It is plush and soft. Everything you could possibly want for snuggling up by the fireplace with a good book and a mug of hot cocoa.

5.Stephens Hot Cocoa

There is no substitution for the best hot cocoa out there. Stephens is the best.

6. The Forgotten Carols

Growing up, we went to The Forgotten Carols play many times. It was a Christmas tradition I loved so much. I wish Michael McLean would come to Georgia... but since I am pretty sure he is all booked up with shows in Utah, I am grateful for the next best thing. This book and CD will be a fun way to carry on the tradition with my own kids.

7. Home Alone & Miracle on 34th Street

Christmas movies are my a huge part of our Christmas traditions. I love them all! But these two are my most favorite.

8. Snowball Fights

Now that we live in the South, we are learning to improvise. These snowballs have a crunchy texture, just like actual snowballs.

9. Christmas Lights

I almost didn't add this one because it is my husband's least favorite part of the Holiday season. Luckily, it won't be snowing much in Georgia and the ladder won't be slick when he strings them up for me.

10. Christmas Baking

With my KitchenAid stand mixer, Christmas baking is a breeze.

**This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and/or make a purchase, I may receive compensation at no additional cost to you, You can find my full disclosure statement HERE**

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

 I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving full of good food, good health, good company, and lots of fun.
 Here's to making happy memories!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Hearty Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

This soup is a staple at our house. Friends, It is easy. It is delicious. It's budget-friendly, and chances are, the ingredients are already in your freezer and pantry. My family loves this warm, creamy chicken noodle soup and yours will too! It is perfect for busy evenings because it only takes about 30 minutes to make. It's an excellent quick dinner idea. So, let's get cooking!

When my husband and I were newlyweds, we created this recipe from ingredients we had on hand. It surprised both of us how such simple ingredients came together to make such a wonderful soup. Over the years, not much has changed with the recipe. It's become a tried and true classic. 

For this Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup you will need:
2 large chicken breasts,
3 cups chicken stock (or 3 cups water and 1 TBL chicken bullion)
2 cups water
1 bag frozen corn
1 bag frozen mixed peas and carrots
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 bag egg noodles
1 tsp Poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 large (26 oz.) cans Cream of Chicken Soup

Boil chicken in water and chicken stock. When it's fully cooked, remove, shred into bite-size pieces (not too small) and return to boiling pot. Add seasoning, garlic, celery, egg noodles and return to boil until noodles are close to done. Then add your frozen veggies and cream of chicken soup. If too thick, add more chicken stock, too thin, add another small can of cream of chicken or thicken with a bit of cornstarch and water.

**This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and/or make a purchase, I may receive compensation at no additional cost to you, You can find my full disclosure statement HERE**

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Double Chocolate Mint Cookies

Mint and chocolate are soooo good together. Especially in winter. I love how the cool mint and sweet chocolate always remind me of snow days. This yummy cookie recipe is a hit wherever I take it. People always ask for the recipe. With upcoming cookie exchanges, you'll want to keep this one. 

You will need:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package Nestle Dark and Mint baking chips
1/2 package vanilla baking chips

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together butter, shortening, and sugars until light and airy. Add eggs and beat until well incorporated. Add dry ingredients into a separate bowl, whisk. Then gradually mix into other mixture. Fold in chocolate baking chips. Drop on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 11-13 minutes. 

Monday, November 19, 2018

I wish I had known before having kids.

If you could go back to the time right before you had children, what would you say to yourself? What advice would you share with the younger, inexperienced you? What gems of wisdom would you bestow upon yourself about parenthood...and life in general? I was a hot mess as a new mom... I know just what I would say.

Waaayy back in 2002, while my husband and I were in the love bubble of the honeymoon phase, we planned out our perfect little life together. [cue 50's sitcom music] We'd have 6 beautiful children (three boys and three girls), in a suburban neighborhood, we'd live in a house big enough for all 8 of us, The Husband would climb that corporate ladder at the company he worked for, and I would be the picture-perfect housewife (house: spotless, children: well-behaved, well-dressed, well-spoken. Dinner: on the table by five, healthy and delicious, every night).

Whose horrible idea was it to buy green colored bubbles?? 
Ahem...Let's just say that life has not panned out the way we'd envisioned.

Not. At. All.

If I could go back to the days before I had kids, I'd tell myself to let go of silly expectations and just love life one day, one hour, one moment at a time. I would tell that new mommy me that there is no such thing as a perfect parenting style and although you expect your kids to be little carbon copies of each other, nothing will be farther from the truth.

Each of your kids will be different. Very Different. What works for one will most definitely NOT work for the others... Your kids will be noisy, messy, loud, and imperfect ...and that is okay! NO, not just okay... WONDERFUL! One of my sons has the kind of personality that requires a lot of attention. He loves to be silly, wild, and he doesn't usually think of consequences before he does things.  He'll do just about anything to get a laugh. I once read a little saying in a friend's home that said, "Boy-a noise with dirt on it." This is the perfect definition for my boy. Discipline with him is difficult; techniques that work GREAT for him, are useless with the other two.

I would tell the younger me to be adaptable. Be teachable. Be humble. Parenting is about love. Be the best mom you can be for these beautiful souls you have been entrusted with. There will be times when you have to be strict, but be strict with love. The closest thing to perfect parenting is working toward finding that magic balance between teaching your children to be good people through example and discipline and allowing them to learn and grow on their own and in their own time. It's more a journey than a destination.

I wish I could go back and tell myself not to sweat the small stuff. Let them play in the mud, pull out all their toys and make a mess. Because messes clean up--and you cannot get back the time when they were little. Make the most of every day to make it count. I love this quote:

After the birth of our daughter, we received the heartbreaking news that we would not be able to have more children. I thought I would be okay with it, as we already had already been so blessed with our boys and our daughter. But, it has been a lot harder than I ever could have imagined. As I have watched my babies grow, and my friends and family members have had babies, it has surprised me how much I long to be a part of that new-parent group. To have just one more new baby. One more chance to soak up that new baby smell. Kiss those itsy bitsy newborn feet. Listen to the sweet newborn sounds, the coos and grunts and yes, even the cries.

If I could go back and talk to myself, I would tell myself not to blink. Babies grow, change and learn so fast. Enjoy every moment (even the 2 AM crying/feedings). Because those moments turn into days...days turn into years and in the blink of an eye you're face to face with a child who has opinions and dreams and a will of his/her own and you'll wonder where your baby went -- and where that short, precious time with your baby has disappeared to so quickly. Your heart will hurt longing to have the time back. Once the time is gone, you can't get it back. You will never have this day with your child again. Make the memories; Relish in the gift you've been given! Enjoy today...because it will be gone before you know it.

I would tell myself to enjoy that two-year-old who wants to sleep in your bed. Allow the four-year-old to choose her own outfit (even if it is straight up cat-lady). Let them help you with whatever you're doing, even if it means it will take three times as long. Always look for opportunities to teach. But most importantly, let everything you do be done in love. Because at the end of the day, they won't remember all the things you did with or for them... but they will always remember how you made them feel.