Thursday, December 30, 2010

Confessions of a Blogging Mom

In lieu of the year coming to an end... and Amy's awesome blog over at The Idea Room... here are some fun nuggets of information about ME!

1) I stay in my jamas until after lunch. Yes! My blog obsession, book obsession and Levothyroxine keep me close to the sheets for a long time! (my house gets pretty destroyed while I "rest")
Ice cream in the family room
2) I like to dance and I'm on a clogging team. That said, know that I am somewhat clumsy and just broke one of my very favorite stoneware bowls.

3) I always enjoy a good word challenge game. This might be because it took me much longer than the average child to learn to say the word "world" (I said "wield" instead). My best friend was the American Ambassador's daughter in Uruguay and sat with me and practiced over and over again- thanks Jackie (wherever you are...).

4) I was raised in Guatemala where everyone called me "gorda" until I left for college. Apparently, my medium frame and a healthy weight was enough to make me look very fat in their ultra-petite eyes. I really thought I must be a cow until I got to college and realized that I was quite normal after all! haha!
Gardens in Antigua, Guatemala - yes this is an old picture!
5) I love going for walks with my husband. Fresh air, good company and increased heart rate...what's not to like. Maybe that's why I enjoy other unmentionables in the outdoors!

6) I try to be green- my family supports me with a smile (and sometimes a roll of the eyes) and I love them for it.
Recycled gift wrapping for my birthday
7) I am Very. Very. OCD! I stay up half the night doing what needs done and the other half thinking and dreaming about what needs done. However, this OCD also gives me the drive to be an Energizer Bunny while others are falling like flies!

8) I was once going to be a pilot but got derailed as college got harder. Although I don't miss my somewhat boring instructor... I do miss those days in the sky.
My baby girl and her daddy on one of her first small flights
Well. Now I think you may have enough ideas about me to wonder how I ever survive in this world. 

Now let's hear your confessions! Leave me a comment or blog about it and share the link with me. I would love to hear your secrets too!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Bookmark to Remember By

Over the past year I have been making these bookmarks for the recently widowed. I wasn't going to blog about this because it just seems so simple. However, it has been very special to the receivers.

I usually use the picture from the funeral program along with any quotes or their name and date of birth and death. I figure that whatever is on the program must be something they really like, so I use the same colors too. Then I take some scrapbook paper and a pressed seasonal item (ie: leaf, flower, sprig of grass) and laminate them together.

Here's my most recent one- although I didn't have a funeral program to work with.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tamales- or Guatemalan chuchitos

Today is T-Day...which means that I'll be making tamales all day. This is one of our favorite Christmas traditions. We pile them high with sour cream, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, and whatever else we fancy at the moment. And of course...we drink Rosa de Jamaica (Jesse can't stand the stuff, but I think it is sooo refreshing!).

Tamales Recipe

2 lbs roast
1 large onion, quartered
1 clove garlic
1-2 dried California chile pod
2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin

Cook the roast in a crockpot overnight.  Pour broth into a cup and save for masa. Shred beef and leave in the crockpot on warm.

Boil remaing ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour over shredded beef and let simmer in the crockpot until ready to use.

1 package dried corn husks
Soak corn husks for 1 hour. Prepare the masa and a steamer or stockpot while they are soaking.

3 cups oil or lard
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp salt
6 cups masa harina
Broth from beef

Beat oil, salt, chili powder and harina. Add broth (and water) until you have dough the consistency of peanut butter or soft cookie dough.

*Remove a corn husk from the water and place in front of you with the narrow end near your body and the wide end stretching away from you. Spread 2 Tablespoons of the masa over of the husk, leaving a half inch at the sides and 2 inches at each end. Place 1 Tablespoon of the meat in the center of the masa. Fold the ends together and then reopen the husk so that your masa is folded like a sandwich in the middle of the husk. Fold sides in and then fold husk in half again. Secure with some twine or a piece of husk.

Place in large steamer or stockpot with a few inches of water at the bottom.

Steam tamales over boiling water for 1 hour. Make sure that there is still water in the bottom of your pot. They should be firm and hold their shape when they are ready.

*Step by Step pictures to putting your tamale together

Spread masa on the husk and put meat in the center...

Fold the ends together, reopen the husk so that your masa is folded in half...

Fold sides in and then fold husk in half again...

Secure with some twine or a piece of husk...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Fruitcake

After my angry crafting moment this week, I decided that I need to embrace the fact that my place is in the kitchen and not the craft room. haha!! I've been fighting this battle for years!

In lieu of that... last night I really got into the Christmas Spirit and made fruitcake.

Last year I was reading about all the world famous fruitcakes. The one that got raved about the most is made by a bakery in San Francisco (another great reason to have our Anniversary there, right?). Well, apparently they soak the fruit for 3 months in wine which results in a moist delicious fruitcake that doesn't need aging. So after Christmas dinner I dumped the left over wine over my jar of fruit and there it has sat and aged for...yes, eleven and a half months!

Seriously! The best fruitcake I have EVER tasted.

Sorry that I didn't post this recipe 3 months ago so that you could all start aging your fruit, but here it is anyway.

Justice Family Fruitcake

5 cups of fruit*
3 cups of nuts*
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs, beaten

Coat fruit and nuts with the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and mix well (you may want to use your hands to mix).

Put into a 9 inch springform pan that has been lined with well buttered parchment paper.

Bake at 300 for 90 minutes. Cool 15 minutes before cutting.

If your fruit wasn't aged first then you may want to let the cake age for a week or two.
To age with wine: wrap in a towel that has been wetted down with wine. Place in a bag and store in a cool place.

*These are my fruit and nut portions but you can use whatever you have on hand:
1 cup dates
1 cup coconut
1 cup raisins
2 cups candied pineapple and cherries
2 cups pecans, lightly chopped
1 cup almond slivers

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Martha Stewart? Not me!!

I am having a severe Martha-Stewart-is-a-dork moment!

That being said... know that I own several of her books and love her tips, but they rarely work for me.

So tonight after 24 hours of freezing a fancy cranberry and pine cone wreath, tying a red ribbon around it, and taking it outside to hang I stormed back into the house screaming, "Martha Stewart is a dork!". Really, it isn't her fault that I CANNOT figure out how to hang the darn thing. But why in the world does she have to make it look so easy?

For those of you wondering what my crazy craft looks like...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Old Fashioned BBQ Sandwiches

It is true! I am finally going to share my BBQ sauce recipe- right down to the secret ingredient!!

mmm...BBQ pork piled high
BBQ Pork Recipe
Serves 8

2 lb. pork loin or shoulder (you can substitute a chuck roast if you prefer beef)

1 onion, chopped
4 garlic gloves, pressed or chopped
2 Tbsp. mustard
24 oz. bottle ketchup
1/2 cup worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. liquid smoke or smoked salt
1 tsp. salt (omit if using smoked salt)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (1/4 tsp if serving just adults)

Place all ingredients in a crockpot or dutchoven. Cook on low heat for 8 hours. Add water if needed to keep it from drying out.

Pile high on a bun with mayo or coleslaw.

mmmm.... ENJOY!!

*you can simmer the sauce for 30 minutes if you want a good dipping BBQ sauce.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My thoughts on the Nie Nie Dialogues

I have been reading the Nie Nie Dialogues. For those of you who don't know her, she and her husband were flying a small plane and both suffered burns in an accident. Her burns were quite severe. She writes on her blog about the joy of being alive and with her family.

Go Here to read more about her.

As I read her blog I am taken back 21 years. Back to the days after my accident. Those days where I would walk through the mall with my arm in a brace held high above my head. Those days where everyone would stop and stare, and many would send their little ones to ask me what had happened. Those days where my mother would accidentally dry my good leg carefully and then absently scrub my stitched leg dry (Bless her heart! She was a butter-finger of a nurse. You know, spilling my bedpan on me and stuff like that!).

Stephanie's blog has reminded me of that feeling of insecurity, wondering if I would ever look normal again and just blend back into the crowd. Trial and tragedy happen to us all. Slowly the scars inside and out are healed, and yes, we blend back in. However, the lessons learned and the blessing given never go away. I am thankful that I have scars from head to toe, because with them came the richest blessings the Lord had in store for me.

Each time I read her blog I want to tell her this. It passes quickly.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fantastic Christmas Book

I read the Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco to the kids for story time this morning.

Love. LOVE. Love this book!

It is about a family that helps an older couple reconnect.
(Makes a great Christmas gift!)
Amazon picture
Sorry it isn't linked to the site- you can use my amazon widget.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Education Blog

Because of the popularity of my school related posts I started a new blog that will be used to address school issues, curriculum, activities and other educational topics.

***you can click the "Zany School" button above my posts***

I was feeling pretty crazy and so the background on my school blog is a picture of some zany hats I took at the Texas Renaissance Festival when I was there for my brother's wedding. We were on our way out the gates and it hit me that in the whirlwind of the day I hadn't taken any pictures of all the beautiful shop fronts. The colors and textures were enough to keep me happy for a lifetime!

Just take my blog with a grain of salt. I want it to be fun!!

And for now...this blog can be all about the crazy things we create with my three hyper-driven children.

Here are some of the other pictures from the Festival:

The corset is much cuter when it isn't worn upside down!
Gypsy Dresses
Sand Painting

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Fun Advent Calendar (or 12 Days of Christmas)

I was reading a friends FB page and she had posted this great picture (thanks Kimberly).

I loved the idea right away because I like to be able to do more than just a small chocolate. With boxes like these you could give a daily ornament, scripture, chocolate or whatever else your traditions are.

If you are thinking we are already too far into the month to start something new, consider doing the twelve days of Christmas. Start on the 12th of December and put a special note or surprise in each box. I did this for Jesse our first year together and each year when I put his ornaments on the tree I think of the joy it brought me to surprise him with something small each day.

Friday, December 3, 2010

First tooth, a Christmas gift and back to bed

Today I am tired. So. Very. Tired! But I had to get out of bed and do just a few things.

Like take a picture of Jaden in bed with his new dollar. Yep! He lost his first tooth.

Jaden put his tooth in a little yellow bag under his pillow so it wouldn't get lost- but it did! At four in the morning the assistant tooth fairy woke me up (he was in-charge due to my near constant fever). Anyway, the bag was nowhere to be found. We searched the bed and under one limb at a time only to find it is his sweet little clutch (guess he wasn't ready to part with it after all).
The bag (I used it to can mustard pickles and it turned yellow!)
He's really trying to show the gap on the bottom.

So taking Jaden's picture led to me having to take Dallin's picture in his bed...

And a picture of Dallin's pirate costume under Jaden's pillow...

And yes! that is chocolate on his face because he ate his entire advent calendar while I was sleeping!!

Then Ashley wanted me to help her finish a gift for a friend (matching aprons for mommy and baby)...

It was a little hard for her, but she stuck by me and worked the whole time.

Finally done and I am going to try to nap before Daddy comes home!!

Love to you all, and when I get better we are going to have a big bash at our house!!
I just LOVE parties!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful Hearts

The pies, and cookies, and fudge, and cake are all ready to go to grandma's house. Our bags are packed. The car is cleaned out. The dishes are done. And all of a sudden I have a moment to think and am totally overcome with a feeling of humility and gratitude. I can't believe the Lord's hand in our lives this past year.

Just a year ago Jesse had surgery, shortly afterwards I would face two surgeries, Dallin two of his own, and Jaden one also. As the whirlwind of doctors and hospitals swept us away we were always watched over and kept safe. The roads were always clear (which is critical considering my lack of snow-driving skills!). The treatments and medications all went smoothly (yea!).

I have tried to show gratitude. I've tried to help others in need. And yet, I know that there is no way that I could ever repay the Lord for his great mercy and love. I pray that as this day of thanks is upon us we may all know and feel of his great love for us.

I love the words of Amulek, "And thus He shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name...and encircle them in the arms of safety." (Book of Mormon, Alma 34:15-16)

I have felt of His love and have had His arms wrapped around me. For this I give thanks and praise unto Him who redeemed us all, even our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Centerpiece and Game

It is blizzardy outside and yes, it's a snow-day!! Even my man gets the day off- you know closed highways will do that to you. So while he and the kids are downstairs playing the Wii I get to share a fun activity we did yesterday.

Cute, huh? They are a multi-functional centerpiece. We used them for a little family night game about being thankful, and now they are decorating the house.

Here's what you'll need:
paper cups
sheets of different colored paper
glue sticks

1. Print the bodies on white paper and color them in. Print the feathers on different colors of paper.
(I tried to load my templates, but they just didn't work... try this link for another option)
therapyfunzone turkey pattern
2. Cut them all out.
3. Write things you are thankful for on each feather.
4. Glue feathers in a fan shape on each cup, then glue the body over the feathers.

For the Game
The game was simple since the children are little. We each wore a turkey on our heads so that we couldn't read our own words. Then we went round-robin saying what we were thankful for. When a person said one of the words on their turkey they got a point. It was a good reminder of all the things we have to be grateful for.

I love that my children can have fun with each other in such a simple way. It is what I have longed for all my life. I remember growing up with no TV and relatively few toys and my best friends in the world were my family. I enjoy watching similar relationships develop between my sweet children.

My thoughts and prayers are with all who need to be out on the roads today. Drive carefully and may the Lord watch over you!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Turkey Cookies...a great treat for kids (or adults)!

Picture from BC Website
There's something about sugar cookies that always brings me back to my childhood. I remember my mother baking them and my mouth watering unbearably for the whole 8 minutes they were in the oven!!

I posted our family sugar cookie recipe at Halloween, but since my mother-in-law wanted cookies at Thanksgiving I just couldn't resist posting this cute decorating idea. It works great because I still have a bag of candy corn left over from Halloween.

If you want other great holiday cooking tips check out the Betty Crocker link below.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Hope you have family and friends to share this fun season with (if not, call me...I would love to spend it with you).

Betty Crocker Turkey Cookie Recipe

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Photo Blocks

This is a fun craft and great Christmas gift! We did it in the throws of Strep Throat because it was a no-brainer activity... my kids seem to love those because I don't freak out about the details!

You will need
Wood blocks (mine are just chunks of 4x4's, but 2x2 is great too)
Sand paper
Scrapbook paper
Modge Podge
Paint brush or sponge

1. Soften the wood grain and edges with a light pass over of sand paper
2. Cut pictures and scrapbook paper to fit the size of your blocks (2 paper & 4 pictures)
3. Paint Modge Podge on one side of the block
4. Paste a picture or paper
5. Repaint the Modge Podge over the picture
6. Allow to dry for an hour before finishing the other sides (I found I could do three sides, dry, do the other three sides)

Voila!!! Merry Christmas "someone"!

7. Rough up the edges with sand paper and dab paint of them if you want them to look antiqued.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To Capture Thankful (in pictures)

I just stumbled upon a post on a blog I was told was a wonderful-must-read blog by *Stephanie Nielson (thanks Finches for the tip). This woman's life story is inspiring and she is doing a Thanksgiving giveaway.


What am I thankful for today? (you may ask)... My camera! I am so grateful to be able to capture all the little and big moments in my world. And now Stephanie is giving away a Tamron lens. 

Will I win it? Will I win it? I am sending my positive thinking out into the universe....

There are so many things I am grateful for that I wish I could capture...

I am Thankful that my brother-in-law is safe in the UN compound in Haiti and so thankful that the Lord has kept him alive.

I am Thankful that my sister (his wife) who is about to have a baby any minute is holding together despite the stress and fear.

I am Thankful for the many midwives and others who have sacrificed so much to take better medical care to Haiti. Thanks Jen and Andaluz for all you are doing.

I am Thankful for my dear husband…
And our three sweet children…
A happy family…
I am Thankful for Life !!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thai Sticky Rice

My children love steamed rice. It is so sticky and fun to eat. I use black and white glutinous rice and they roll it into balls and call it “purple snowballs”. Yes! I know it is gross to play with your food… but it is also lots of fun!!

So here’s how to pick your rice:
If you don’t want to run out to the nearest *Asian market then choose a rice that is sticky (a short or medium grain). A good indication is if the rice breaks apart when cooked too long. The rice that has worked for me is glutinous or Jasmine rice, but I think Calrose might work.

Here are some pictures of the rice before and after steaming. (Follow the directions in the recipe below for prepping and steaming your rice)

Before Steaming- ready to be soaked

Wrapped and in the steam basket

After Steaming

 If your kids don’t dive into the rice right out of the steamer than try this fantastic dessert…

Thai Sticky Rice Dessert

1 1/2 cups glutinous white rice
1/2 cup glutinous black rice

1 can coconut milk
4 oz palm sugar
1/4 cup sugar
Dash of Salt

Mango pieces

Mix the rice together. Fill the bowl with water and let sit for 4-12 hours.

Drain the water off and wrap the rice in a cheesecloth. Place in a Thai basket and set over a steamer. Steam for 45 minutes or until the rice is completely cooked. Remove from steam basket and put rice in a large bowl.

Melt the milk and sugars in a small saucepan. Pour the sweetened milk over the cooked rice and let sit for 30 minutes. This allows it to soak up the liquid.

Serve with mango pieces on top.

*This online Asian market has more info on the basket and rice:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Church… or “Man-Catcher Brownies”

 So on Sunday I was sitting at church and all I could think about were the “Man-catcher Brownies”. They are by far the best brownies in the world (and I can say this because I have tried every brownie the whole world over, haha).

Normally, I would have gone home after church and straight to the kitchen…do not pass go…do not collect $200! But I was visiting at a friend’s house and it would have been terribly rude to do such a thing (and yes! I felt guilty dreaming about that much sugar at her very healthy home)!!

Now I am home with my Strep Throat victims and we have absolutely no desire for chocolate. So, for those of you craving a sweet chocolate treat…make these and think of me with every bite you take!

This is how happy they make us…
Somehow he makes these fudgey brownies look crumbly!
WARNING: These are thick, moist, and very chocolaty!

Man-catcher Brownies (this is from the Washington Post)

3 sticks butter
2 cups cocoa powder
6 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking oil spray.

Melt the butter and add the cocoa powder, stirring to combine. Let cool slightly.

Add eggs, sugars and vanilla. Fold in the flour and salt until just combined. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a crust forms on the surface and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Cool completely before cutting. I like to take them out like a big brick of fudge and cut them on a cutting board. Then return them to the pan.

Enjoy! We always do…

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