Monday, December 28, 2009

Rock, paper, Stars.

(Photo credit: um ... the band's awesome photographer)

You know that band that makes you feel like you're a teenager again, and all you want to do is sit in your room and listen to them all day? Stars is that band for me. Seriously, ohmygosh, you have to listen to them, they are soooooo good.

I remember once when I was unspeakably sad, and the two things that could make me feel better were "Monty Python's Flying Circus" episodes, and Stars' album "Heart."

They're also the last band I really ever saw in concert before my daughter was born. I felt so awesome dressed all in black, my belly bulging, like I was the ultra-cool pregnant lady that still went to shows. I was lucky to find a barstool at the back of the club, next to the open door away from too much smoke and noise. And, really, what was I thinking wearing those boots? It was so worth every ache in my feet and back.

Please don't think I'm a fanatic. There's a lot of music I hold dear. This is just some of it. It's good. And I do so love to share good music. If you want to listen, go here. Of the songs you can choose from, my favorites are "Your Ex-Lover is Dead", "Take Me to the Riot", and "Going Going Gone (Live Version)".

Who's your favorite band? Or memory/story about a band?
Do share!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I bought this fabric probably about three years ago with the plan of making a tree skirt. Other projects took priority, however, and here it is, still just the way I bought it--minus a few square inches that I cut out to use on my daughter's stocking.

So now I find myself the week after Christmas, and the inspiration has come! I am ready to work on all the unfinished projects that are waiting on my tables and shelves and stored away in boxes. The first project for completion is this tree skirt...the stars are just calling to me! It will be so satisfying to pull it out next year.

Here is my goal--finish all incomplete projects, hopefully one a week, before beginning any new ones. I'm also thinking that I should start early on things I'd like to do for Christmas next year--like plan out one project each month to accomplish for my holiday preparations. It will be the Twelve Months of Christmas, instead of the twelve days of Christmas. What do you think? Too ambitious? These are just two of the many (probably too many) goals I am setting for the new year. What are some of yours?

Fun Star Inspiration

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stars Were Gleaming

Stars were gleaming, Shepard's dreaming; And the night was dark and chill.
Angels' story rang with glory; Shepard's heard it on the hill.
Ah that singing! Hear it ringing, earthward winging, Christmas bringing!
Hearken! We can hear it still.

See the clearness and the nearness, of the blessed Christmas star,
Leading, guiding; Wise Men riding, through the desert dark and far.
Lovely showing, shining, glowing, inward going, gleaming, glowing,
Leading still our Christmas star.

Nancy Byrd Turner (b. 1880)
Polish Carrol

My three year old girl has been singing this song for the last month. She seems to have a love for songs with stars. She loves Twinkle Twinkle. This song though has been her choice. What a great reminder of the real reason of Christmas.

This week, we celebrate the birth of a little baby boy. A boy who would one day give up his life for us. In a nation where people are trying to erase any mention of Christ, it is this season when it is extremely evident, that he can not be erased. He is real. He was born for us. What a wonderful gift we have been given.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fun Find

I found this cute thing while seeking today! I'm looking for a new little mistletoe for our home now that our special stuff is in a book. I love this!
Now...if only I knew how to knit!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The First Kiss

Mistletoe. Yup! I really like that word. It makes me smile and get all "pink cheeked" when I think about it. For me it created one of the most romantic nights of my life. I know that sounds completely cheesy and well, it sorta was just that. It was cheesy and silly and sweet and really fun! I put this memory down on paper a while back in a sort of special journal for my husband along with the exact mistletoe involved. It was a gift I gave him one Valentine's day. Here is a little snippet of how it went down:
Oh wait! First though we must set the mood: My apartment in a small, snowy, cold, college town. Lots of people over to exchange gifts. Hot chocolate and the movie White Christmas. Mark and I had been dating for two months about. There that should do it.
Anyway...everyone had started to trickle out of the place just as the movie began to play. I think this may have been a planned thing set up by my roommates. The only two people left, coincidentally, were Mark (the kisser...okay fine! I won't say it anymore) and me. Oh, and by the way, I tried really hard to look super cute that night! Are you picturing it? Cheesy huh?
Here is what I wrote: Oh baby...the effect of mistletoe and the beautiful excuse it creates for two people who are just shy enough to sit back and wait for the other to advance finally get a kiss. Somehow I just knew (or had set it up perfectly) that this would be the night. My small cozy living room was dimmed and perfect with just the glow of my perfectly shaped small Christmas tree. It felt really romantic as the music from White Christmas played faintly in the background. The show had ended (I don't remember watching any of it) and as the credits began to roll Mark rose to leave.
Oh man! He was leaving and nothing had happened.
But then, as he did, he took my hand in his, spun me in a circle and we began to dance in a cute sort of silly way. He then very confidently looked up and then pointed for me to do the same. I knew perfectly well what was right above our heads (uh...cuz I put it there hoping this would happen) but I played a long and acted all surprised and embarrassed. The HE KISSED ME...for the first time! A small, cute kiss was all it was and I think I stopped breathing.
Finally! The mistletoe must have given him special courage powers.

He said goodnight and smiled, which made his eyes wrinkle in the corners and his cheeks turn a bright pink. I blushed too and just smiled back. I loved his cute face.
Thank you perfectly placed mistletoe! White Christmas and mistletoe still make my cheeks turn pink! Does you have a cute mistletoe story?

*Ha Ha! I forgot! If you get a chance you should ask Mark (the kisser) about his Christmas tree that year. That is a pretty funny story.
Have a really special Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Best. Christmas. Ever.

This Christmas, I think, is about to be the best one I've ever had. My children are at the ages where they can really begin to understand what it means, and the twinkle in their eyes is infectious. We've simplified, said "no" a whole lot, and kept our spending relatively modest. On top of that, my parents' Christmas card showed up. It's a simple card with a note about my father's health, and the usual holiday wishes. But my mother included this quote, too, and I knew I wanted to take it to heart, make it mine, and share it with all of you:

Christmas is not a day or a season, but a condition of heart and mind.
If we love our neighbors as ourselves;
if in our riches we are poor in spirit and in our poverty we are rich in grace;
if our charity vaunteth not itself, but suffereth long and is kind;
if when our brother asks for a loaf, we give ourselves instead;
if each day dawns in opportunity and sets in achievement, however small -
then every day is Christ's day and Christmas is always near.*

I really don't think I could have said it better myself. Here's wishing you a wonderful, blessed, very best Christmas. Every day of the year.

*James Wallingford, quoted by Howard W. Hunter in a devotional address titled "The Real Christmas" given at Brigham Young University in 1972.

Kiss Me Quiche

Are you in need of a quick, yummy, good-for-you dinner in the midst of mounds of Christmas goodies and rushing about? I've got your solution. I call it Kiss Me Quiche because of the rave reviews you're sure to get when you make it for your family, and if you're lucky you just might get a little lip action here:
Anyway, just pair it with a quick green salad, or cut up fresh fruit and toss with your favorite yogurt for a speedy fruit salad.

First, about the crust. You can absolutely buy the premade crusts, but I tried a new recipe that I'll use again and again. For all of you pie-makers (or wannabe pie-makers), how many recipes have you seen/tried called "no fail pie crust" or "easy delicious pie crust" etc.? My deal with pie crust is either it's very easy but doesn't taste good, or it tastes good, but rolling it out is a mess. I've had this recipe for "Yummy Pie Crust (The Best Ever)" - actual title - in my box for a while and decided to try it since there is no rolling out! When it bakes up, it's not so much flakey like a traditional crust but more the texture of a lightly crunchy cracker, which I love. It's a little unorthodox using oil instead of cutting the butter or shortening into the flour, and some would call it pie blasphemy to do otherwise, but it turned out, well, yummy. And when something is easy and delish, well that's a kiss for the cook right there. OK...'nuf background. Here it is.

Yummy Pie Crust (The Best Ever)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 TB milk

Mix all together and press in pie pan. If baking for a shell to fill later, bake at 350 degrees until brown. Can be used for sweet or savory fillings.

Mexican "Kiss Me" Quiche
1 (9-inch) unbaked deep dish pie shell
1 cup 4-cheese Mexican blend
1 large green or red bell pepper
1 (4-oz.) can diced green chiles
2 large green onions, chopped
4 eggs
3/4 cup prepared salsa
3/4 cup evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle cheese, bell pepper, chiles and green onions onto bottom of pie shell. Combine eggs, salsa and evaporated milk in small bowl until blended. Pour into pie shell. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Garnish as desired with more salsa, sour cream or diced tomatoes.

Confusion in the Produce Section

This goes with my previous post, but I though if you were interested in it this might be interesting to you. I went to the store today to buy my Christmas groceries before it gets too crazy. I bought sweet potatoes/yams. There were two types of labeled yam, and one labeled sweet potato. Sure enough, the produce box for all of them was labeled sweet potato. Odd huh. They were three different boxes that said the type of yam/sweet potato as well as labeled in large print, sweet potato. Why do things have to be so confusing sometimes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sweet Potatoes

I have been using this sweet potato recipe for a few years now, and it is delicious! It has been getting rave reviews. So I thought I would share it with you, but mostly for Jenni's mom. She has been wanting it for a few years now apparently. It is an adaption of a Paula Dean recipe, and you know what that means, fattening, indulgent, yumminess. Hey, it is only a couple times a year right?
But first, what is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?

According to "The New Best Recipe" cookbook, which I highly recommend, it depends on where you live. "In US markets, a "yam" is actually a mislabeled sweet potato. In other parts of the world, a yam refers to a true yam, a vegetable having no relation to the sweet potato. "

"Sold under the label "name" or "igname" here in the US, a true yam has a hairy, off-white or brown skin and white, yellow, or pink flesh. This tuber is usually sold in log shaped Chunks that weigh several pounds each. Unlike a sweet potato, a true yam tastes bland and has an ultra-starchy texture. It cannot be used as a substitute for sweet potatoes."
So thus, a yam and a sweet potato here in the us are probably the same thing. It just depends on the color of the skin. Usually a US "yam" has red skin and the "sweet potato" has light skin. They are usually near each other in the supermarket too.

I also read to not store them in the refrigerator and take them out of the plastic bag when you get home. Store them in a dark, well ventelated spot. I also had mine on the kitchen counter for a week or so and they were fine.
Alright, on to the recipe. (I feel like Alton Brown with all the facts.)

Here is the original recipe link Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Here is my adaption.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

• 4 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
• 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
• ¼-1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 cup miniature marshmallows or
• 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Bake until fork tender, about 45 to 60 minutes. Let rest 5 min.

Handling the potatoes with a pot holder, slice each in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl or food processor. The skin on mine usually just falls off so I just pull the peels off.

To the bowl, add the heavy cream, butter, pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, and salt and pepper.

Processes in food processor or by hand until potatoes are desired texture. I find them to get a little too mushy in the food processor and like them a little lumpier then silky smooth.

Place sweet potato mixture in a greased 8x8 or 9x9 pan depending on how much meat you got out of the potatoes. Sprinkle brown sugar and pecans on top, or marshmallows.

Bake at 400 degrees until marshmallows are melted or brown sugar is caramely on top.
I have also done it at 350 for longer while the rolls baked and everything got situated after the turkey or ham came out of the oven.

You can also make it a day in advance and do the final bake the day of the meal to make things a little easier on yourself.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sharing My Thoughts...

Today you can find a few of my thoughts about motherhood on Steady Mom. It is my first official post as a contributor to this wonderful website, and I hope you enjoy it! 

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Tonight I played Handel's Messiah and guess what?...I felt it again.

The sweetest part about my evening was when the congregation rose to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. This man on the first row, disabled and barely able to stand on his own, rose to his feet. He looked, to me, to be the tallest one in the room among hundreds of others who were waiting to sing. He raised his book best he could and with a voice as strong and as tender as an angel's, sang his sweet heart out. His body jerked and his music was waving in the air but he felt it. He felt what I felt. He felt what everyone in that room felt only you could see it was a billion times more powerful for him. He was doing what my insides wanted to do. He looked like he was dancing. I wanted to join him but instead, for that moment, I played that chorus just for him. We rejoiced together. I don't know his name or if we will ever see each other again. He will never know the effect he had on me tonight, but him singing, when all odds were against him, made magic.

Every year I get antsy to play this amazing work just because I know that when the that night comes I will get to feel Christmas and I'll get to see that joy in every body's face who participates. This year I saw it more powerful in one man's eyes then I have ever seen before!
This is, again, why I play!

A New Tune

She plays - even on a cardboard guitar - just for the joy of it.

"Oh, I used to play the piano, but not anymore."

"I just can't find the time to practice."

"I wish I'd kept it up."

Sound familiar? Yeah, me too. Our house contains, among all the other accoutrements of daily life, a piano, two flutes, and two guitars (one acoustic and one electric). Four of these instruments belong to me, and I used to be pretty good at two of them, but I do not play them anymore. One day, I just sort of stopped. It's definitely a source of regret. And when I do find a minute to sit down and try to play something, the loss of what I used to know becomes painfully clear. It's overwhelming and discouraging and humbling.

My friends, all of that is about to change.

I am a busy mama with too many commitments and not enough hours in the day. It's definitely not going to be easy, I know. But right here, right now, I am committing. I will find the time; and if I can't find it, I will make the time. I will practice playing music every day. I will play the scales and arpeggios. I will do the fingering exercises. I will callous my fingers on the strings.

Want to join me?

I know, I know. You don't have time either. You aren't quite sure where to start. So here are some suggestions:

1. Begin where you left off. Play what you know.
When my 4-year-old daughter came to me with one of my old piano books and said, "Can you play this on the piano?" I got lucky. She had the book opened to Beethoven's "Fur Elise" - one of the very few pieces my fingers remember how to play. And so I played it for her. And then I played it again. And again. And suddenly I wanted more. This is where I'd left off, and so I play this piece often as a reminder.

2. Then, go back to the basics, and play what you don't know anymore.
"Fur Elise" is beautiful, but in order to really get back what I lost from not practicing, I will have to take some steps backward. I will have to go back to my beginner books and re-learn things that my fingers have forgotten. It will take some humility. And patience. Especially if you have small children. Just today I ended my practice session near tears because I couldn't manage to make it through even the most basic exercises without interruptions throwing me off. Luckily, tomorrow is another day.

3. Find something new and make it your goal.
When I had music teachers, there was always some particular piece to study, always a specific goal to have one thing ready for recital. Do the same thing. Choose something - one thing - you want to learn, and then learn it. And don't give up because it's too hard now.

As for finding the time, oh how I wish I could just weave those extra hours into all of our days. But if you can find - or make - the time to do it, here's some good advice on how to make the most of your time with whatever instrument you're practicing:

Making the Most of Your Practice Time, an article from Hudson Music
How to Practice a Musical Instrument, from the blog Notes and Lines

When I was younger, I wanted nothing more than to play my flute for the Seattle Symphony. Then, one day, too early to make such a judgment, I decided that I wasn't good enough. And I wasn't. Yet. So I stopped playing. It's like what Mo Willems says about drawing, though: " ... people stop when they decide they're not good at it. [But] Nobody stops playing basketball once they realize they're not going to be a professional." I don't know if the Symphony was ever a realistic goal, and it certainly isn't anymore. But who cares? I remember how I used to feel when I played music, how magical it was, and how important it was - no, is - to me. And I want it back. I'm going to get it back.

Jack Kerouac wrote, "You can't teach the old maestro a new tune." I'm going to prove it wrong.

Ready, set, go!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tree Ornament Tutuorial

Materials You Will Need

Main fabric for front and back of tree

Heavy weight fusible interfacing

Quilt Batting

Favorite fabric scraps

Assorted ribbon pieces


Any other embellishment you like

Start by drawing a simple tree shape on your interfacing and then cut it out.

Use it to trace your tree shape onto your main fabric...

and then onto your batting.

Cut out all your pieces

If you want to take it easy on your machine later cut your interfacing out just a little bit smaller to allow for a seam.

You should have 2 fabric, 1 batting and 1 fusible interfacing piece.

Next, iron your fusible interfacing to the inside back of the tree and set aside.

This is the fun part! Lay out the design of your ornament onto the front piece of your tree. I like to use "stitch witchery" so that my pieces don't slide around under my sewing foot. I also tried it without though and it works just fine.

Leaving your ribbon and fabric bits long, stitch them to your tree front.

Trim around tree and sew on any buttons now or add your embellishments. I have used brads and cute little safety pins. Have fun with this part. If you scrapbook like I do you'll have some fun things just begging to be added. Just remember you will be sewing around this so don't put anything to close to the edge.

Next, make a tree sandwich. Bottom piece with interfacing, then batting and then decorated front piece. Pin together. Again you will be sewing around this so stir clear of the edge with your pin.

Sew around entire tree.
The best part of this project is there is no turning right side out. Raw edges on this is what makes it so cute and artsy.

Trim excess fabric or batting if you like and add a ribbon or embroidery floss to hang your ornament.

This is an easy and quick little project so I went a head and made a bunch assembly line style. This is great for using up those itty bitty ribbon pieces that you just couldn't part with. I think this whole project minus the main fabric was done with scraps. There is something really satisfying about using every last bit.

You're done! Hang it up somewhere fun or give it away as a gift. These would make cute present toppers too.

If you make these be sure to let me know how they turn out. Have fun and enjoy making something pretty!

Hey Mr. DJ

Rachel, the Rachel from the blog, is great. She finds the best music. I actually stole this blog title from a post on her personal blog from a while ago. In her post, she listed some of her favorite children's music. The difference between her and I, is at our house, we listen to The Wiggles, and the typical ones, along with a few lesser known groups; But Rachel, she listens to way cooler stuff, along with some of the more known ones, but it is for adults as well. So inspired by her, I will give you a list of my favorites, not my kids favorites, but mine. They like them too, but my three year old is totally into the Disney Princesses right now and I am so sick of that CD.

Some Rachel helped me discover were,
They Might be Giants: Here Come the 123's; Here Come the ABC's; and No

For the Kids, Various Artists: (one of my very favorites) It has Cake in it, and there is no parental advisory. Awesome CD. 5 stars here.

And some I have found since I was inspired to look were,

The Barenaked Ladies: Snack Time (There is tons hidden in the lyrics for parents)

Jewel: Lullaby

Dan Zanes and Friends: Catch that Train; All Around the Kitchen

The Terrible Two's: If You Ever See an Owl; Jerzy the Giant
So if you are sick of the Wiggles, Barney, etc. take a try on these. They are pretty fun. And thanks Rachel for the inspiration.

Consider the Lilies

I have had the words of Christmas songs running through my head since Halloween.  But after this past week’s events, I woke up with the words of a different song running through my heart.

I’m thinking of my friends who are struggling with losses and burdens. They are the kind of sorrows that no one else can relieve or carry for them—no one except the Savior.

I did not intend to write this post in this way today. But it came to me, as I lay in bed, that it is not my words that need to be heard, but the healing words of this song. These are words that have touched my life and that I pray will bring you the same sense of love and peace and hope. They are words that come directly from a loving Father in Heaven, given to us through the humble talents of Roger Hoffman. Hear what he has to say, and listen while you read the promises that are ours, if we trust Him.  I am so grateful for people who are able to bless our lives with the beauty and power that can only be found in music.

(There is a button on the top of the sidebar where you can hear the music--it is so much more powerful with the music.)

Consider the Lilies
by Roger Hoffman

“It is not within my power to express my gratitude to the God who gave this song to me.
In it is expressed the sum of His great power to redeem us all from the effects of this fallen world.
He not only forgives sins, but heals the adverse effects of them on everyone who will trust him.
It has been so with my life and with many, many whom I know personally.”

Consider the lilies of the field,
How they grow, how they grow.
Consider the birds in the sky,
How they fly, how they fly.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky.
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sheep of His fold,
How they follow where He leads.
Though the path may wind across the mountains,
He knows the meadows where they feed.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky,
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sweet, tender children
Who must suffer on this earth.
The pains of all of them He carried
From the day of His birth.

He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And He will heal those who trust Him,
And make their hearts as gold.

With Love,