Thursday, January 29, 2009

How a Jam Jar Could Change Your Life

It's time for Melissa's weekly "Beautiful Life" linky fest! I love participating in this one- it's such a nice chance to slow down and appreciate.

However, no flowery words this week. We're entering busy season for tax accountants (that would be my darling husband), which means (coupled with his increased training program for upcoming triathlons, marathons, and crazy-distance bike races, as well as training for the CPA exam ad infinitum) I'm alone more that usual these days. Well, not alone, I have my two darling children...
and (Queen) Ernie

but I think that says it all!

So, here is my beautiful life offering: The Eternal Family jar.

I off-handedly mentioned it in an earlier post, and it attracted a bit more attention than I'd anticipated! It's merely a small jam jar, labeled "My Eternal Family." Ernie brought it home from a church activity, along with a handful of marbles. We added a good number of gumballs to the stash, and explained the rules:

1. Everything we do that helps us to be an eternal family is rewarded with one ball in the jar.

2. Everything we do that DOESN'T help us be an eternal family, a ball is taken away. Or several, depending on how big Mommy's scooping hand is in the middle of a tantrum (hers or mine!)

It's made an amazing difference in our family. These are now some of her favorite activities when there's "nothing to do":
  • scripture study
  • picking up toys
  • handing toys to Mimi
  • going for a walk
Other activities we reward with balls in the jar include having families over for dinner, being extra good during Mommy's piano lessons, Family Home Evening every Monday night, prayers, and other good things as the mood strikes.

When the jar is full, we do a family activity. The first time, we all went out for ice cream at Baskin Robbins (oh my- she had NO IDEA there were that many flavors in the world!), and next time we might go to the zoo if the day is nice.

And before you say (or even THINK) it, yes: she's still 3 1/2 years old. She's still my same Ernie. She just happens to be very motivated by this little jar right now! (Case in point: "ball in jar" has been a recurring phrase in EVERY PRAYER THIS WEEK.)

So that is what's been beautiful this week. And I'll leave you with this photo.

Ernie, 4 months (and just learned how to raspberry)

Does anyone else have trouble telling my two children apart? No?

How about these two?

I think I'd best make sure I label all my photos!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chocolate Box Tutorial

Now here's a fun little gift for Valentine's Day: Chocolate Boxes! You could fill them with chocolate candies, a few small cookies, sweet notes...anything you like! It's a lot of chocolate...but that sure didn't slow my husband and toddler down. I think they took it as a personal challenge- you guys are VERY lucky I got pictures before they dismantled it *grin*

Chocolate Box Tutorial

Materials and Tools Needed:
5 Chocolate Bars (I recommend Hershey's)
1 Hershey Kiss or other chocolate candy
Griddle (I used electric, but a skillet on the stove would work well too)

1. Unwrap all your chocolate and get your heat source ready. Take one bar and break or cut in half.

2. When your griddle is hot, take one chocolate bar and lay it on your work surface (a cutting board works well.) Decide now which side of the chocolate bar will be facing the inside.

3. One by one take the two whole bars and melt a bottom edge by melting on the griddle, and then quickly press onto the top of your base chocolate bar, along the edge. Don't press too hard onto the griddle, or you'll lose your square edge.

4. Take the short sides, and working quickly melt the bottom and 2 side edges. Press into place at both ends of the box. Try and measure/eyeball before you start melting to make sure they're not too big or too small. It's better to cut some off then to try and melt them down to size, as the "melted portion" will quickly grow quite large!

4. Melt the bottom of the Hershey Kiss and press onto the middle of the remaining chocolate bar- this is the lid of your box. But, let the box completely cool and harden before you put the lid on- this can take a while. If you need to, prop the sides up while it dries- cans from your cupboard would do nicely. Some time in the refrigerator can also help these set up a little quicker.

Done! You can fill these with little candies and they make dandy little Valentine gifts (or, really, they make great gifts ALL the time. Come on, it's chocolate!) I used Nestle Crunch bars, but it was a bit fiddly with all those crunch balls sliding around. I recommend sticking to Hershey bars. Also, don't let it melt too much, or this will happen:

I got the side piece so hot, that it melted the base! If your pieces are too liquid to work with, let them sit for a few minutes and then press together.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think, if you try these :) And, a big WELCOME to all our "Works for Me Wednesday" posters, from Rocks In My Dryer.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ernie's Lunch Prayer And a Jar

Ernie has started saying her own prayers, after listening to Wonder Daddy and myself for 3 1/2 years. She does a pretty good job!


And the snow. And the plane. And not kill us.

And Mommy and Daddy and Baby Mimi happy. And me happy too. And a ball in the jar.


Ernie is grateful for the snow we got last night.
And she's grateful that no one died on the airplane that landed in the Hudson.

She wants us all to be happy. She wants to be happy.

And she wants to put a ball in her jar.

**We have a jar labeled "My Eternal Family." Every time we do something that helps us to be a happy, eternal, family (helping unload the dishwasher, putting away toys happily, reading scriptures, Family Home Evening, having people over for dinner and sharing our food) we get to put a ball in our jar. Tantrums and bad attitudes get balls taken out. When the jar is full, we're all going out for ice cream! I am amazed at how much this little jar has changed our house- she's 10 times happier than she was before. Much fewer tantrums, quicker to do what she's told, and she wants to pick up her toys and read scriptures to get extra balls in the jar. So cool! **

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How are you doing?

Hello to Melissa's Mr. Linky buddies! Welcome to my space, and thanks for stopping by! I'm happy to participate in her "Beautiful Life" series again this week.

Honestly, I haven't forgotten you guys. I have a great post written, that I'm really excited to share with everyone (new tutorial!) and I just can't get the pictures right.


Mimi's pediatrician asked me yesterday "How are you doing with post-partum depression? I look like you're doing just FINE."

How do you explain the stream of wants and needs that seem to swirl and eddy around your ankles, and get tangled up in your ears and hair like so much seaweed. The never-ending parade of dirty dishes, dirty diapers, dirty floors and faces. The vague nagging sense that at one time, you had a clear head and clean windows.

The days you just want to crawl back under the covers and the days that you do. To say nothing of the unquenchable fear clawing at your heart: I am not enough.

We're like Molly Brown, the unsinkable heroine. "I ain't down yet!"

For every dirty diaper, there's a chubby-thighed wriggle, a hoarse chuckle as she grabs her ankles and swooshes over to her belly and you're standing there realizing that your child is mooning you. Again.

For every dirty dish, there's a life that you've nurtured with good food.

For every dirty window, there's a tiny nose pressed against the glass, counting the squirrels, counting the birds, counting the seconds until Daddy gets home.

"We need to remember that the full commitment of motherhood and of putting children first can be difficult. Through my own four-generation experience in our family, and through discussions with mothers of young children throughout the Church, I know something of a mother's emotions that accompany her commitment to be at home with young children. There are moments of great joy and incredible fulfillment, but there are also moments of a sense of inadequacy, monotony, and frustration. Mothers may feel they receive little or no appreciation for the choice they have made. Sometimes even husbands seem to have no idea of the demands upon their wives. "...[W]e have enormous respect and gratitude to you mothers of young children. We want you to be happy and successful in your families and to have the validation and support you need and deserve." (M. Russell Ballard, "Daughters of God," Ensign, May 2008, 109 )

Am I doing fine? Are you doing fine? Perhaps not right now, but by golly we're GOING to be!

Life's just too good to miss.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Time's Up!

Thanks to everyone who decided to play along- watch for an e-mail later today. I need addresses!

And Teresa, if you're reading this, please leave a comment with a blog or e-mail address to be eligible.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Beautiful Corner, and a Giveaway!

Some blogs, we read just because they're so far out of our range of ability and completely inspiring. Melissa's blog, The Inspired Room is one of those blogs for me. Melissa is hosting an Mr. Linky Fest today, with the topic: A Beautiful Life. What have we done this week to make our lives or homes more beautiful? Or what makes them beautiful?Link

It set me thinking. My sweet husband knows that I just don't have an eye for decorating. Sure I can put things on a shelf, but he can rearrange things *just so* and give it that "functional but pretty" look.

Scripture tile made by my fabulous mother-in-law

However, there is one teeny spot in our house that is all my own, and I love it. Whenever the kids are crazy, and the kitchen is a mess, and I just need some space to breathe I can go to our piano. Mimi will lay on a blanket and listen quietly, Ernie will dance around the room, and I will fall in love with Kuhlau, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Kabalevsky, and even Hanon all over again.

Small music box from my grandmother's collection, meant for my little niece

I can focus on the swell of a crescendo with Haydn, the abruptness of a well placed stacatto with Clementi, and laugh along with a particularly witty passage from Schubert.

Antique pie whistle passed down from Grandpa's family

When I want to be stretched, I find Chopin. When I want to be soothed with familiar rhythms, I play with Handel. And when the kids need a pick-me-up, I pull out our Children's Songbook and play and sing all of Ernie's favorite Primary tunes.

Jemima Puddleduck Music box that belonged to my grandmother, purchased by the kids in the family decades ago

Over the past few years I received a few things from my grandmother and grandfather, items were gifts to them, or passed down from parents or even grandparents. A handful of them have made their way to the piano, to make my favorite tableau in the house.

Piano player music box from my grandmother's collection

And now, the giveaway! I've been wanting to host one for a while, but honestly...I'm a little nervous? What if nobody plays? This is my first giveaway, and it's an idea that my sister, Aunt LoLo, posted about today. So here's the dea, with my moderations: first commenter, and two more commenters picked at random, will receive a handmade surprise in the mail...Aunt LoLo is having winners host giveaways too, but I know that lots of my readers don't have blogs, or time, or possibly even any inclination to "make things." (Hey, it's just a bug that not everyone carries!)

So, comment away, and I'll post the winners on Monday! (Comment cut-off will be Sunday night, midnight on the West Coast.)

Sweater Re-Born

I recently found myself with a thrifted sweater, just begging to be made into something. Heidi, over at Perched on a Whim, suggested turning old sweaters into totes. How neat is that? As someone who loves knitted things -- but doesn't even know how to hold the needles -- making things out of sweaters is a nice alternative.

My sleeves set in at a slant, so I punted and just did one wide strap in the middle. It's a little shapeless, a little funky, and a lot of sweet thriftiness! I tell you what, I felt like the queen bee when I left the house with bag, diaper envelope, and scarf all made by me, my shirt from the thrift store, and and even a self-cut hair do. Take THAT, big box chain stores *grin*

Oh, and before you ask about the scarf: Admiring a friend's scarf during the holidays, I asked her where she found it (the Gap.) Folks, it was a quarter yard of un-hemmed jersey. When I found a quarter yard piece of gorgeous green organic cotton jersey in the remnant bin at Joann's for $4, do you think I snapped it up? You better believe it, and I wear it all over town!

Sweet sassafrass, do I love a quick, cheap, project.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

From the Workshop: Earring Re-Build

My little sister called this afternoon, just as I was finishing my last piano lesson: I had offered to look at some broken jewelry, did I have time this afternoon? OF COURSE! I love when my little sister comes over!

We clipped broken bits, replaced jump rings with shiny new ones, and generally jerry-rigged some snazzy jewelry. The only items that required complete re-build were these earrings- they were originally on silver-colored "fish hook" style ear wires. We have no idea what kind of metal they were, but were nasty and corroded. The wire was an uncoated metal, and one earring had crimped pretty badly. She'd been trying to re-form the, let's just cut the whole thing apart and rebuild it!

So here they are, with new gold-plated earrings (umm..why is EVERYONE sold out of silver earrings right now? Seriously, I've tried 4 stores), nylon-coated Beadalon beading wire, and new pinch-caps too. I offered to put new beads on too, but she likes these just fine, thanks-very-much *grin*

Thanks for a fun afternoon, sweety!

There's a Party on My Head

My sister has cut my hair for years. My sister moved to the East Coast last year. See where I'm going with this?

I got crazy, one pregnant, Summer, day last year and cut it myself. I know, crazy right? It sure looked crazy. Anyway, it was time for another trim and I was BOUND AND DETERMINED that my husband was going to do it. Hadn't I been cutting his hair for 5 years? I just needed it cut straight, all the way around, just below my shoulders. Easy-peasy, rice-n-cheezy.

So, we got all set up. I pinned back the top sections of hair, and showed him where to make the first cut on the bottom layer. Just below my shoulders.

Me: "That's not much below my shoulders."

Him: "Uh-oh."

OK. It's fine, just keep going, pick up a part of the hair you just cut and make the next section match it. All the way around.

*snip snip around to the other side of my head*

Me: "That's a little higher, isn't it?"

Him: *waving the scissors in an increasingly distraught and pleading state* "I don't know what I'm doing! I'm stomach hurts...I'm woozy..."

I ended up finished the job myself, and got ready to cut his hair.

*Pulling the clipppers out*
Me: "I'm trying to decide how daring I want to be."
Him: "What do you mean?"

*I hand him the clippers*

Him: "Uh uh. No way. I won't do it."

I wanted him to cut his own hair. He thought I was getting ready to have mine buzzed off.

I guess he really felt bad about the hair cut!

For the record, I think he did a great job. It got a little short on the other side, but nothing a few snips and some layering couldn't fix. We just made it business in the front and party in the back! As I've gotten older, my hair has gotten stiffer and straighter, so the shorter it is, the more I look like a puff ball. (You should see it shoulder length- instant helmet head, with no beauty parlor required!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mimi vs. the Hat

My hat's too small.

But I like it!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Are you ready?

I also posted this on our cooking blog, The Chow Review, but it's way too good to not share with you guys, too! It's a great recipe for a Sunday afternoon- pick up groceries Saturday afternoon, chop up a few things after church, and let it cook on low for the afternoon. Just throw in a few extra pieces just before dinner, grill up some naan while it finishes cooking, and serve with rice!
Just a few reviews of this dish before I share the recipe:

"This is better than my favorite restaurant!" (Mom)

"Hard to beat the prawns you fixed on Sunday, that was amazing. I just boil them, but yours take work and were AMAZING!" (Dad)

"Wow. What's in this?" (Uncle R)

OK, so are you ready for the recipe? I found this in the comment section of Serious Eats- the poster said it was copied from, but that's just anecdotal.

I didn't take any pictures- the entire family was seated and ready to eat their forks, with or without food. (And since forks are in short supply, I preferred them to eat food.) Plus...really, have you ever seen a GOOD picture of a golden brown curry, studded with soft tomatoes and tiny chunks of cashews, onions, garlic, and ginger? Creamy with juices and coconut milk? Flecked with shards of cilantro?

I haven't. But this suuuure tasted good!

The original recipe calls for a 4 pound chicken, and for 3/4 cup whole milk yogurt to be stirred in with the cashews just before serving. Due to current household dietary restrictions (no land meat, no dairy) I used 2 pounds tigertail prawns and 3/4 cup coconut milk, both stirred in with the cashews just before serving, and simmered long enough to cook the prawns. The cashews I chopped fine in my "push chopper". I also cooked the whole thing in one of my Christmas presents: a cast-iron dutch oven from Ikea (Gosh, I love the "as-is" section. Seriously, half off because someone used the pan and returned it?)

Chicken Curry with Cashews

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped (2 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 (3 1/2- to 4-lb) chicken, cut into 10 serving pieces
1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup cashews (1/4 lb)
3/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
Accompaniment: cooked basmati or jasmine rice
Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro

Heat butter in a 5- to 6-quart wide heavy pot over moderately low heat until foam subsides, then cook onions, garlic, and ginger, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add curry powder, salt, cumin, and cayenne and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add chicken and cook, stirring to coat, 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, including juice, and cilantro and bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes. (If making ahead, see cooks' note, below.)
Just before serving:
Pulse cashews in a food processor or electric coffee/spice grinder until very finely ground, then add to curry along with yogurt and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring, until sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.

Cooks' note:
Curry, without yogurt and cashews, can be made 5 days ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Reheat over low heat before stirring in yogurt and ground cashews.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Guess Who?

So...who's who?

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Green Machine

A few people have asked about various "recipes" we use around the house for cleaning and such, I thought it might be a good idea to put them all in one spot! If you have any tips to add, go ahead and leave a comment for the benefit of all :) I'll come back and add your tips to the end of the post, so it's easy to see.

I've only included recipes that I actually use on a daily/weekly basis- what do YOU use?

Laundry Detergent (low-sudsing, great for HE machines)

1 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated fine
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax

I use 1/2 Tbsp in my front loader, plus a Tbsp of Oxy-Clean. I also fill the "fabric softener" cup with white vinegar. Works like a charm, and so inexpensive!

Dishwasher Detergent

1 packet Lemonade Kool-Aid
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup baking soda

I use 1 Tbsp per load, plus fill the rinse aid cup with white vinegar. (I've actually stopped using the Kool-Aid part, and I don't even need to rinse my dishes. And no, I don't have a new, fancy dishwasher!)

Aphid Spray
Courtesy of Mama Papaya

1 teaspoon Dr. Bronnor's Peppermint Castile Soap
1 cup water

Put in a spray bottle, and spray if you see aphids. Kills them, and they don't come back! This past summer was the first summer aphids didn't destroy my fuchsias. Thanks, Mama Papaya!

Chrome Cleaner

Make your bathroom faucets shine like the morning- clean them with a spray of white vinegar.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Clean and deodorize your toilet bowl- pour in a cup of white vinegar, let sit, and scrub away. You can also throw a cup of vinegar into a toilet you won't use for awhile, and avoid the "ring."