Saucepan Brownies

So, guys, I know that there are not only a billion brownie recipes out there, I know that there are a billion delicious brownie recipes out there. I mean, brownies are chocolate which is practically a guarantee that they are going to be YUM. Right?

I personally have 3 favorite brownie recipes that I cycle through depending on the occasion.

I have one recipe that makes totally and completely over-the-top brownies that result in me feeling 100% satisfied, 100% guilty and 100% chubby. And then I have a recipe that tastes totally killer but is made with non-guilty ingredients (like coconut oil and whole wheat flour and coconut sugar) so I don’t have to feel bad for eating it (right?). And then there are these brownies.

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My I’m-Not-Feeling-Particularly-Sinful-OR-Particularly-Angelic-But-I-Could-Go-For-Something-Chocolatey Brownies.

In my opinion, the perfect brownie.

They’re soft and fudgy and chewy and not at all cakey because if you want cake-like brownies than just make some cake, gosh darn it.

The trick to making these successfully is to frost them RIGHT when they get out of the oven. Like, Oh hello, browniesWHAM!frosting. Super fast. The frosting kind of melds with the brownie so you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends and it turns into this fudginess that just melts in your mouth. Mmmmm. Delicious.

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Saucepan Brownies

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 beaten eggs
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter over low-medium heat. Stir in cocoa powder. Turn off your stove and remove pan from heat. Let the pan cool enough that your eggs won’t cook when you stir them in. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Pour into a greased 9×13 inch pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the batter is set (it no longer jiggles). While the brownies are baking, make the frosting recipe (below). As soon as you remove the brownies from the oven, spread the frosting evenly on top. Let cool for about 20-30 minutes before cutting into bars.

Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (or cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

To make the frosting, melt the butter. Add remaining ingredients and stir until completely smooth.

Five Things Friday: 5 Books Everyone Should Read (at least in my opinion)

One of the first ideas I had for a Five Things Friday post was books! Yeah, so nerdy of me but I love to read! I honestly love reading pretty much anything-fiction, nonfiction, fluff books or more serious material but in all my reading I actually pretty rarely come across a book that I love SO much that I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone. More often I’ll recommend with caveats or change the recommendation depending on the person.

But THESE books (again, in my opinion) are SO good and insightful and uplifting that I think everyone (like, EVERYONE) would benefit from reading them (or at the very least enjoy reading them).

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And, okay, if you get real picky there are really 17 books listed. Whoops.

You Are Special by Max Lucado

I wanted to include a children’s book in the list and, while there are lots of great children’s books that would fit the bill, this one in particular stood out to me. The story is sweet and the message is beautiful no matter what age you are.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

I was pretty surprised to see that The Chronicles of Narnia only has an average 4 star rating on GoodReads because, to me, it is clearly a 5 star series. However, when I read the bad reviews I was shocked: Readers gave the series a poor rating upon learning that the books are mainly a catalyst for Christian themes and allegories. Ummmm, seriously guys? It’s C.S. Lewis. Being surprised that his books are about Christianity is like being surprised that a tree is made out of wood.

Regardless of what other people think, I think these books are excellent. The stories are beautifully and cleverly written and the symbolism running throughout is clear. Lewis gives so many little stories in the series that can easily be related to our own personal live (and can turn into great talk material too:).

We bought the audiobook (it has all the books in it) for a road trip and have listened to it several times. It’s a series I look forward to reading with my kids someday. If you want nothing else from the books, they are a great read with lots of adventure and fun. I know The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the most famous of the books, but give the other ones a try because they have some of my most favorite characters ever in the history of books (like Reepicheep❤️).

Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson

This book is about Stephanie Nielson, author of the NieNieDialogues blog and her true journey of surviving a plane crash. She was burned on over 80% of her body. Following the crash, skin grafts, and several months of induced coma, she had to relearn how to do basic, everyday things but she also had to learn how to love herself again in her new skin. I’m not going to lie-I bawled my way through about 2/3rds of this book and I’m tearing up even now thinking about it. It is an incredible story that reminded me just how much I have to be grateful for.

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I know that it’s kind of like “Man, if you haven’t read these book yet, it’s just not going to happen.” But I am proof that that doesn’t have to be the case (and it shouldn’t)! I didn’t read the books until I was 22 and was worried that my marriage would suffer if I didn’t read them (haha-just kidding, but seriously Ben was adamant I read the HP books and man, am I glad to admit he was right about this one!). Rowling just absolutely sucks you into the world of Harry Potter. She is an excellent author but I would argue that she’s an even better story teller. And beyond the story, there are these beautiful, piercing truths woven throughout. They are the kind of books that enrich your life as you read them. I think it’s just about time I read them again…

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

This book gets talked about fairly often and I was always interested but didn’t actually read it until about 2 years ago. If you’re a slacker like me, I encourage you to put this at the very top of your Must Read list. This is another true story of Corrie and her devout Christian family and how they made efforts to help hide Jews during WWII. Corrie and her sister end up in a concentration camp, but throughout their struggles they never lose faith and witness miracle after miracle. This is another book that I bawled through. You can actually still tour the ten Boom home in the Netherlands and you can bet that that’s on my bucket list!

 

July GBOMB

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Good

  • Ben had a week off at the beginning of the month and we snatched up the time and did as much as we could! Some of our friends were in Phoenix for a summer job so we went down to visit them for the 4th of July. We seriously had so much fun. One of our friends was born on the 4th so Ben and I made a pinata for the occasion (picture’s below!). I got to go to a yoga class with her too. We also went mini golfing, spent lots of time in the pool (Phoenix is HOT) and lucked out with THE best seats for fireworks. It was a blast!
  • In that same week we drove over to visit some other friends in Albuquerque. We did a ton of fun stuff there but I think one of our faves (besides visiting friends, obvs) was going to the zoo! You could get super close to the flamingoes and the elephants were soooooo cute!!! We loved it and I’m hoping we can go back in October for the famous Albuquerque hot air balloon festival!
  • As far as momming goes, this past month has probably been one of my favorites to date! Wendy is seriously growing in leaps and bounds (not physically…ha!). This month she’s become the speediest scoocher. She can’t crawl, but boy, does she move! I also feel like we see more of her personality every day. She is such a sweetheart and such a tease! One silly thing she does occasionally is ignore us! Ha! We’ll say, “Wendy, Wendy.” And she won’t make eye contact but she’ll get the biggest grin on her face. I know it is so cliche to say but I am so lucky to be this sweet girl’s mom. I love watching her grow. She’s also got 2 teeth now–her little bottom ones!
  • So Wendy’s weight might not be going up a ton, BUT we saw her specialists yesterday and they were thrilled with how she’s doing! Phew! Just a bit of numbers for you: Most babies gain 6-11 grams per day. Before we took Wendy in she was averaging 2-3 grams per day. But for the past month and half (since we started taking her to the specialists), she’s been gaining more than 13 grams per day. She’s still in the “less than 1st percentile” BUT she’s gaining above average! To say I’m relieved is such an understatement!
  • Ben’s been a bit more busy this month but we still see him so much more than during the regular school year and we love it!

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Blah

(I’m officially changing this bullet point to ‘Blah.’ After all these months ‘Bad’ still just seems too harsh.)

  • Ben has one more break before school starts in August and we have quite a few fun things planned for that break BUT we aren’t planning to go North to visit family and that bums me out. We had such a good time in May, I wish we could just go back and redo it!
  • Flagstaff has a Monsoon Season and we are in it! It rains every. single. day. Truthfully, I don’t HATE it. I mean, it really cools things down. But it seems like every time we go for a walk in the evening, we get a few blocks away then the rain starts and we immediately look like bad parents. Oops.
  • I was in a weird reading funk for a few weeks. Everything I picked up I just couldn’t get into and ended up putting them aside (permanently) after reading only a couple of pages. But I did some searching and came back from my last trip to the library with a stack that I’m really excited about.

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On My Brain

  • I’ve been watching a healthy amount of Project Runway this month and loving it. Watching that show always gets me wanting to get more into sewing clothes…but then I remember that I don’t have a serger and I don’t really have space for it, to say nothing of the money…but it’s still fun to dream and map out clothing construction.
  • I sometimes feel like the vibe parenting has these day is a little too…obsessive? Scientific? Damning? I don’t know but I was recently linked to this blog post on a mother-of-7’s view of parenting and it was so hilarious and fresh and practical and I knew I needed to share. I found myself nodding to basically every bullet point.
  • I sometimes think of doing a product post because I think those are really fun. But then I remember that I’m totally stingy. I wouldn’t be able to fill a post with fun, girly products that I’ve just been loving because I don’t buy fun, girly products basically ever. The one thing I could probably do a products post on is food because yum. But basically I just wanted to share my new favorite ice cream brand: Private Selection. It is seriously so SO good. Like “Where have you been all my life?” kind of good. So if you have it at your store, give it a try! We’ve tried lots of flavors and they are all spot on, but my personal fave is the Sea Salt Caramel Truffle.

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WIP Wednesday: La Passacaglia

 

I’m not going to lie…this summer has really gotten away from me. I had big intentions to be really productive and so far they have Failed. Capital F. Which, I can’t really say I’m super sorry about. I mean, it is SUMMER-the perfect time to relax and not have a crazy schedule and also to go way too many days in between showering…

But that’s a story for a different day.

What I really wanted to post about was the progress I’ve made on my La Passacaglia quilt. I haven’t posted about the quilt in about a billion years (you can see my other posts on it here and here) and the reason behind that is that I haven’t worked on it in about a billion years. Maybe posting about it will get me back into the English Paper Piecing spirit!

Here’s what I’ve completed so far:

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I finished ALL the large rosettes!!! THIS really was a huge accomplishment to me. (I know they don’t look finished-but I swear that’s how they’re supposed to look!). The large rosettes take for.ev.er. Seriously. I mean, take the final row: it consists of 12 stars and 6 diamonds. But really each star consists of 6 different pieces. So really I’m working with 72 different pieces of basting, stitching them into stars, stitching them to the diamonds and then stitching them to rest of the rosette. Anyway, you get the idea, yeah?

Now that I’m looking at the quilt in a bigger picture kind of way, I’m not sure it was the best move to do all the large rosettes at first, but I’ll let you know what I think when I finish. Also, I was really excited about finishing the large rosettes because I’ve figured the project would fly once they were out of the way. Funny thing there is that you actually have to work on it for it to progress in any way…

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This stupid coral rosette was almost the death of me. First it got tea spilled on it, so I had to redo it. Then I absolutely hated one of the layers I put on it, so I ended up ripping it out and redoing it again. Honestly, I’m fine with how it (finally) turned out but it’s not my favorite of the large rosettes…which is surprising since coral is my favorite color. Oh well. The above blue rosette is the largest of the small rosettes. See how much more manageable that is??? So easy. And I love that pop of blue.

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Here are the small rosettes I’ve done so far. Each small rosette requires a different number of stars and diamonds. It’s been difficult mapping things out and trying to make sure things don’t get too same-y. I still haven’t found the best method for determining colors for the small rosettes surrounding the big rosettes…and some of these might not make it onto the finished product…we’ll see.

I also wanted to share a couple of things that have been game changers for me in speeding up the process/making things easier.

First is this cute Needles case my mom made for me. I seriously LOVE this thing! I work with different needles for different parts of the EPP process so it’s handy to have this keep track of things. Also, ain’t nobody wants stray needles floating around especially when you’ve got a roving baby whose superpower is finding the most miniscule things and promptly inserting said thing into her mouth.

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Also, I can’t tell you how much a good needle changed my life in the world of EPP! It makes a HUGE difference. I don’t know if any of you follow the Missouri Star Quilt Company, but a few months ago they made a video of Sue Daley and some of her tips and tricks for English Paper Piecing. There were some useful tips and some really neat products you can buy to make EPP easier-most of which I wanted but were also unnecessary.

But she did mention Milliners needles (also called straw needles)-something I’d never heard of. I didn’t know I’d been using crappy needles until I got my hands on some Milliners. I found the above packages at our local quilting store (aside from this particular store, the only sewing store Flagstaff has is Joann Fabric. I believe they had Milliners needles in stock, but I think they were thicker than I wanted) for about $2 per package. I don’t necessarily endorse this brand, but I do think that if you are doing any EPP it is absolutely worth it to get some Milliners needles. They are inexpensive, you can buy them online and they will change your EPP life!!!

So my La Passa is coming along slowly…but I’ll get my butt back into gear and hopefully I don’t let so much time pass by before my next update!

Lactation Cookies

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So apparently galactagogue is a word.

It means “a food or drug that promotes or increases the flow of a mother’s milk.”

Just to be clear, I never thought I would be talking about lactation on here…but I’m always down to talk about cookies so I guess these have earned their place.

I mentioned in my last post that we’ve been going to some specialists for Wendy’s weight. To help her gain more weight, the doctors recommended that I pump twice a day and supplement that breastmilk with formula. When I started pumping I realized that I wasn’t producing as much milk as I thought (sorry, baby) and all the guilt and emotions set me on a crazed search to discover how to increase my supply.

Cue the galactagogues.

There are lots of things that historically have been used to increase milk supply. Obviously, I’m not a doctor and if you’ve got serious issues you should go talk to a doctor…but here’s a list of things I’ve used in the past month that have made a noticeable difference in my milk supply:

  • Lots of water
  • Green vegetables –especially spinach
  • Mother’s Milk Tea
  • Marshmallow root (not marshmallows…)

Some other things that are considered galactagogues: oats, brewers yeast, flaxseed, nuts…

Plus every nursing mom needs lots of calories.

Plus is it even possible to survive without chocolate?

Anyway, I think it’s pretty clear that all these things point to cookies, right?

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Or at least they did to whoever invented Lactation Cookies and I can’t complain. There are several recipes out there for Lactation Cookies (you can even just buy them already baked!), and I kind of wanted a mix of good stuff (read: healthy) so that I wouldn’t feel bad eating them for breakfast and good stuff (read: delicious) so that I wouldn’t have to choke them down. I tweaked the recipe from How Sweet Eats just a bit and really loved the results. The cookies turned out chewy, chocolatey, and had the perfect crunch between the nuts and the golden brown edges.

So if you’re nursing, whip these up and eat as many as you want-guilt free! I can’t guarantee that the cookies themselves will increase your milk supply…but I do think the ingredients are a great step in the right direction. Plus munching on some cookies is bound to decrease your stress levels which will also do you-and your milk production-a world of good.

Here’s  the recipe:

Lactation Cookies

1 1/2 cups oats
3/4 cup flour (I used white whole wheat)
2-5 Tablespoons brewers yeast
1 1/2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
3/4 cup sugar (I used coconut sugar)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup Chocolate Chips (optional; use more or less to taste)
1/2 cup Chopped walnuts or almonds (optional; use more or less to taste)

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine oats, flour, brewers yeast, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a separate bowl or stand mixer, beat butter and coconut oil until they are creamy. Add in sugar and beat again. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Gently stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Form dough into roughly 1 inch balls (or use a cookie scoop🙌) and place on greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350° for 10-14 minutes or until cookies just start to become golden around the edges.

Notes:
-The oats, brewers yeast, flaxseed and nuts all historically help to increase milk supply. If you can’t find flaxseed, don’t sweat it. Just omit it knowing you’ve got some other great galactagogues in these cookies.
-You should be able to find the brewers yeast and ground flaxseed in any health food store but they’ll vary in price. WinCo is my favorite place for the flaxseed-it’s in the bulk section so you don’t have to buy a ton (not that it’s expensive-just that it’s not something I use often). And the cheapest place I found for the brewers yeast was Natural Grocers (about $10 for 1 pound). I also really love vitacost.com for either product if you prefer buying online/are down to wait a couple days for shipping.
-You’ll notice there’s a big range for how much brewers yeast you can include in the dough. I dumped in the full 5 Tablespoons because I wanted as much help as I could get. Putting that much brewers yeast in did give the cookies just the slightest hint of an after taste…I don’t quite know how to describe the taste either. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t necessarily good either. If that weirds you out, or if you’re making the cookies for someone else, I’d recommend 2-3 Tablespoons instead. (But really-the brewers yeast flavor isn’t too noticeable…especially if you’ve got a good amount of chocolate chips).
-These cookies freeze really well!

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June gbomb

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Good

  • My sister Heather and her husband came to visit right at the beginning of the month! It was SO fun having them here! We discovered some awesome things to do in Flagstaff and just thoroughly enjoyed their company. They have 2 little girls and I’m so glad we got some one on one time with them! They are just the sweetest little nuggets! I wish they were all still here!!!!!!!
  • One of the big reasons Heather came was to do a race with me. It’s been a looooong time since I’ve raced and since Flagstaff is a bit of a running mecca, I figured it was time. I’m so glad Heather did the race with me! I was so nervous I just might have backed out if she wasn’t doing it too, ha! We did a 13k (about 8 miles) night trail race. It was challenging but I’m so glad I did it (and also glad it’s over)!
  • We had another friend visit this month and we’ve loved having company. It’s fun to catch up, but I also love the opportunity to discover more about the area we live in. Sometimes it’s hard because Flagstaff is kind of expensive and not super kid friendly, but we found some pretty sweet spots with our visitors. So…if anyone else wants to come visit…
  • They say if you’re married in June, you’re a bride all your liiiiife!!! (Name the movie! Anyone? Anyone?). But really…Ben and I have now been married (more than) 5 years! Whaaaa? Yeah, it’s crazy.
  • Ben is teaching summer classes on campus and he’s also working on his thesis, buuuut he has been significantly less busy than either of us had been expecting. It’s been so nice to have him around more.
  • Oh man, summer in Flagstaff has been absolutely gorgeous! For those who aren’t familiar, Flagstaff isn’t really like the rest of Arizona-it’s at a high elevation, we get lots of snow and our landscape is pine trees instead of saguaros. This summer has been filled with wildflowers, pine scented air and blossoming cacti. It is unique and I love it.

Bad

  • Sooooooooo….where to begin? Our doctor has been a little bit concerned with Wendy’s weight the past couple of appointments. And the last time we were in, the doctor referred us to some specialists (a nutritionist and a GI specialist). For whatever reason, I kept thinking that the specialists were just going to tell us that everything was fine and that there was nothing to worry about. But no. Both specialists expressed concern and then they mapped out a guideline for how we were going to make Wendy gain weight. I know, it’s not so bad but my mom brain just exploded with stress and worry and feelings of inadequacy. It is so frustrating to be failing at the one thing that’s supposed to be simple and second nature. However, we’ve followed the guidelines the specialists recommended and we had a follow up appointment this week. The verdict is good: Wendy’s gaining more weight and on track to get back up to percentile (instead of zero percentile like she’s been at).
  • Another frustration this month has been exercising! I don’t know how mothers of multiple children get any workouts in! I guess I really can’t complain-I do exercise every day and Wendy is not mobile enough to get into too much trouble when I do a workout video. I guess my biggest complaint is that I haven’t been able to run as much as I wish I could. I miss it. Maybe I’ll get a good run in…in 18 years…

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On my brain

  • I’ve been teaching the 11 and 12 year old primary class at church since Wendy was born. And I feel like I still haven’t found the right groove. I try to switch things up or incorporate new ideas and I still feel like I’m met with apathy (at best). Maybe it’s just the age group…but I’m always trying to think of ways to get them more involved…and less disruptive. Any ideas?
  • I’ve written about this before and I’m sure I’ll write about it again but Ben’s been looking into more PhD programs and it always makes me wonder where we’ll be going next. He won’t apply until the end of fall and probably won’t hear back/decide where to go until March(ish). I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…
  • I have never been super into Halloween but I’ve seriously been thinking about costumes all month! It is so weird for me, but since Wendy’s birthday is so close to Halloween, I really just feel an extra need to make the most of that holiday. It’s a good thing we still have months before October because my history with Halloween has not primed my brain for costume ideas.

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Books Lately

I had put a hold on Big Little Lies at the library and like two days before it came available to me, I started reading East of Eden, a particularly huge book. So I plowed my way through that so that I could get to Big Little Lies, a book I ended up not being able to put down. Basically, I read a LOT of pages in not very many days. And afterward, I was totally burnt out on reading and had to take a bit of a break from cracking open any more books. Anyway, I finally got back into it, but these are all book I read before my hiatus. Here’s what I’ve been reading the past couple months:

(also, I’ve been feeling a little bit bad with my book recommendations, knowing that they aren’t all 100% clean. I know everyone has different levels of cleanliness that they’re comfortable with when reading books and I wouldn’t want anyone to read something because I recommend it only to find that they’re not comfortable with the content. So, I’ll try to mention if a book is completely clean. If I don’t mention it’s clean…read at your own risk. Or, if you’re intrigued but wary, just comment or text me and I can give you more specific details).

 

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Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

This book’s about: Lauren Graham and her life! She talks a bit about growing up and her journey to becoming an actress. She also talks about her more well known roles-like acting in Gilmore Girls and Parenthood.

What I Thought:

  • I was pleasantly surprised with this book. It more than exceeded my expectations. I thought it was clever and genuine and surprisingly clean.
  • So…I feel like Graham writing this book came about largely because of the Gilmore Girls resurgence. Like, agents saw that as an opportunity and got Graham on board for writing a book about her experience with that show in particular. However, she really only dedicates 2 chapters to Gilmore Girls. So basically, I think the book still has plenty to offer even if you haven’t watched the Gilmore Girls series.
  • This book is funny! I especially liked her run down of REI. Ha!
  • Bless you, Lauren Graham for what you said about season 7 of Gilmore Girls!
  • She talks about writing and specifically about writing her book, Someday, Someday, Maybe  and I really gained more respect for her and for her writing. She didn’t just think, “I’m a star so people will read whatever the heck I come up with.” She works hard with her writing and really enjoys it, too.
  • I do wish she had a different ending. Her last chapter is on the Year in the Life and since the book was about so much more than Gilmore Girls, I wish that she’d ended with something more relatable and in tune with the rest of the book.

Should You Read It? Yes. This book was just a straight up pleasant, fun, clean, interesting read. Whether you’ve watched Gilmore Girls or not, I think this book has plenty to offer.

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East of Eden by John Steinbeck

This book’s about: a kind of modern day Cain and Abel story (although it’s definitely different) set in the Salinas Valley of California.

What I Thought:

  • Well…I guess first thing’s first…this book is long. Like really long. To me it was reminiscent of some of those old books-think Gone With the Wind- that just cover so much information and span over so much time. It’s very verbose.
  • With its crazy longness it had several side stories that, even after contemplating them for awhile, I still couldn’t figure out why they were included in the novel. They were entertaining, sure, but they didn’t really go.
  • There are some pretty raw happenings in this book. I’m always surprised when older books have scandalous stuff in it-like prostitutes. Yeah, crazy, crazy stuff.
  • First off, I feel like when a book is a “Classic” I hold it to a different level than your average book. Like, I expect more from it or something. Second, I sometimes feel like certain themes are less earth shattering because, being a member of the church, it’s something I’ve known for a long time. For example, in this book, one of the main points is that we all have evil in us (the natural man) but we are able to demonstrate power over that evil and choose our own actions. I also kept thinking of the Second Article of Faith (We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression), because another big question throughout the book was whether we ought to suffer for our parents’ mistakes. Or, in another way, if, because of Cain, we are destined to make his same mistakes. Anyhow, definitely great points…just less awe inspiring because, yeah, I already knew that.
  • Even though some of the main themes weren’t totally mind blowing, there were some priceless little nuggets. They made me stop and think, “Hey, he’s got a point here.”
  • I think everyone should have a Lee in their life. Amiright?

Should you read it? Maybe. It’s totally long so it’s a commitment. But if it’s your goal to read more classics, I’d say this is a great option. The symbolism is easy to pick up on and the writing is sympathetic toward the Cain character which is pretty interesting.

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

This book’s about: Something big happens at the local Elementary school Trivia Night! But before we find out exactly what happened, we delve into the lives of 3 Kindergarten moms, their kiddos and what led to this crazy disaster.

What I Thought:

  • Guys, I seriously loved this book. It has some pretty heavy stuff in it but Moriarty was able to mix it perfectly with lightness and humor so that it didn’t feel heavy, if you know what I mean.
  • Also, I always respect an author who seems to be trying to raise awareness with something worthwhile, and that’s definitely true here.
  • This is the kind of book that just made me remember that everyone’s got stuff going on. You know, be kind, because I don’t always know what others are dealing with.
  • The book is set up to where it gives you a big teaser at the beginning and then it rewinds several months to give the prelude to the big night. I stayed up way later than I should have thinking that the Trivia Night was surely just around the corner…but Moriarty truly leaves that off to the very end. So if you’re in the same boat as me…maybe choose sleep…I mean, if you can. I couldn’t put the book down!
  • Many other reviews of the book said they thought the book was too long and drawn out, to which I completely disagree. Every chapter was interesting and added to the story. And I felt like suspense built in a delicious sort of way.
  • The end. Oh my gosh. I was like “Wha-wha-whaaaa?!?!” Maybe I’m slow but I did not see it coming! The end was crazy and also sad…but, all in all, I really did think the ending was great.
  • This was my first time reading a book from this author and it absolutely made me want to check out her other stuff!

Should you read it: I definitely recommend this book, just know that it’s got some pretty heavy stuff in it.

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What to Feed Your Baby by Tanya Altmann

This book’s about: all the ins and outs of feeding your baby to toddler to young child.

What I Thought:

  • This book was great for me! My pediatrician recommended it and I’m so glad she did. I feel like introducing real food to my baby was something so completely foreign to me. I was clueless on how to introduce food as well as what to introduce and when to introduce it. Yeesh. Parenting. Anyhow…this book was so helpful for me. Altmann really spells everything out for inexperienced parents in a straightforward way.
  • Altmann has a list of 11 essential foods that she believes are most necessary to a child’s health. She gives several examples and ideas of how to feed your child (baby to kindergarten age) these essential foods.
  • I felt like she kept things real. It’s a new book so she discussed some of the current health trends among parents. Spoiler alert-she’s not for imparting your whacko health ideas onto your kiddos…but she’s all for keeping kids healthy and making sure they get the nutrients they need.
  • The book was a little repetitive, but she’s got little blurbs placed throughout the book (different tips or menu ideas) and it was a super quick read.

Should you read it? I absolutely thought this book was worth the read because I needed it. I understand that not everyone is as clueless as me. But if you’re new to parenting or simply want some fresh ideas on how to get your kids to eat healthily, I’d 100% recommend.

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Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

This book’s about: 14 year old Billie Jo living in Oklahoma during the dust bowl.

What I thought:

  • I’ve seen this book around and been interested in it but when I flipped through it and saw that it was written in verse, I was completely turned off. Verse isn’t really my flavor. But when we were staying with Ben’s mom we had some down time and she had in on her shelf, so I gave it a go.
  • The fact that it’s written in verse ended up not bothering me at all. I just kind of ignored it (sorry!) and it read just fine. It also ended up being a verrrry quick read. It’s definitely well written.
  • This book is sad! But it definitely gives you an image of what life would have been like there during the dust bowl…something so foreign to me, I don’t think I can fully comprehend.

Should you read it? If it interests you at all, give it a go! I thought it was well written and engaging. It’s a YA book and totally clean.

Lemon Bars

When I asked Ben what treat he wanted me to make for him on Father’s Day, I knew that he would say one of three things. He knows I am capable of making anything from cheesecake to molten lava cakes but no matter the occasion, he’ll always request one of these three things. Last Sunday, lemon bars won out.

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Which actually made me laugh a little bit. My dad is the same way and I think if I’d been in town to ask him what treat he wanted for Father’s Day, he would have responded with the same…”Lemon bars!”

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This particular recipe comes from one of my mom’s old neighborhood cookbooks. It’s the kind of cookbook that’s been turned through so often that the cover has fallen off. And the lemon bar recipe has been accessed so many times that the sticky and crusted pages automatically fall open right to it.

These lemon bars are light and delicate, melt-in-your mouth delicious. I’d say that they’d be perfect for your next girls-only get together…but the guys love them too (as made apparent by Pa and Ben). So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s never not a reason to make them. The pan size feeds a crowd, but they’re so light it’d be easy to sneak a few (and then some) without feeling a bit of guilt.

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Here’s the recipe!

Lemon Bars

Preheat oven to 325°.

For the crust:
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Mix all the ingredients and press into a standard size cookie sheet (i.e. a jelly roll pan). Use a fork or a toothpick to poke a hole every couple of inches across the bottom to prevent the crust from bubbling. Bake at 325° for 15-20, or until the crust just barely starts to color. Meanwhile, mix the filling.

For the filling:
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
4 Tablespoons flour
6 Tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Whisk all the filling ingredients together. When the crust just barely starts to color, remove it from the oven. Stir the filling as you pour it into the crust (so that it distributes evenly; the sugar has a tendency to settle at the bottom). Return the pan to the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until the edges start to golden and the middle is no longer jiggly. As soon as it’s been removed from the oven, use a mesh strainer, a spoon or just your hand to lightly sprinkle powdered sugar over the top (very lightly…ain’t nobody wants to inhale that stuff, delicious as it might be). Let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing into squares.

Notes
*If I’m making this for Ben, I always half it. We could eat a whole cookie sheet…but that doesn’t mean we should. When I half it, I use a half sized cookie sheet, or a 9×13 inch pan.
*When you start pressing the crust you’re going to think, “There’s not enough dough to cover this whole pan!” I think this every time I make these! But just be patient and keep pressing-it’ll do the job, I swear!
*I’m sure a real food blogger would disinherit anyone who didn’t use lemon juice from an actual lemon…but the truth is, I think I’ve only used real lemon juice once, and I’ve made this recipe countless times. The bottled lemon juice works great! And, you guessed it, if I’m using bottled juice, I simply omit the zest. Feel free to add up to 2 Tablespoons additional juice if you’re using bottled.
*I’ve always been curious to see how these would turn out being baked in a smaller pan. You’d get thicker bars…but would they turn out better? Worse? Ben says there’s no reason to mess with them (truth) but maybe one day I’ll give it a try…

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5 Things Friday: 5 Years

Last week Ben and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary! And I know 5 years is nothing to couples who’ve been married 15, 30, 50 years, etc., but it’s still something that makes me a little bit proud. And a lot of bit nostalgic. I mean, a lot can happen in 5 years. A lot has happened in 5 years.

Anyhow, I really wanted to do some sort of post in homage to this benchmark anniversary. But I couldn’t quite think of the right thing to write about. I didn’t want to be too preachy (heaven knows 5 years doesn’t give you all the right answers). I didn’t want to be too mushy. But I wanted it to be list-ish to fit into the 5 Things Friday mold. And what I came up with doesn’t fit in a concise title, at least not one that can work as the title of a blog post.

I decided on a list of Five Things That I Really Love About Ben That I Didn’t Realize Would Be So Awesome/Helpful When I Married Him. It’s partly mushy and partly advice-y and totally 100% things I’m grateful for in my husband. And I’m sorry in advance for the cheesiness. Well…sorry in a sorrynotsorry kind of way.

Also, pictures, because wedding day <3.

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  1. Ben is hilarious. Remember back in Young Women’s when we had to list the attributes our perfect spouse would obviously have? And how my list always started, “Handsome, Sense of Humor, Ripped Bod…”? But seriously, Sense of Humor was always one of the first things to pop in my head. Back then I knew that humor helps make life more fun! But I didn’t realize that laughing together is what turns an acquaintance into a friend. And laughing with Ben on a regular basis has turned him into my best friend. When we were first dating, I thought Ben had the weirdest sense of humor (anyone familiar with his analogies knows just what I’m talking about). And now I think he’s super hilarious. I don’t know if that says something about him or about me, but I do know that he makes me laugh all the time and I love it. I feel the need to include that one of my old Young Women Leaders pointed out that on her list for an awesome spouse, right next to “Is Funny” she included “Thinks I’m Funny” because nobody wants to hear crickets after taking a stab at hilarity. I genuinely think Ben is a crack up and whether or not he thinks the same of me, he laughs anyway. That’s true love right there.

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2. Ben is forgiving. Forgiveness is definitely not any sort of secret or new marital bliss tactic, but maybe it should get a little more attention in the world of marriage (who am I kidding? In the world, period.). Forgiveness is not something I’m good at. I have a really hard time forgiving. And then even when I say, “Oh, I forgive you” I still want to have an hour long discussion hashing out all the details of why whatever happened hurt me. I’m terrible. Ben is a great example to me. When he forgives (anyone! Not just me!) he seems to just forget about it. No hard feelings. No “Well, I forgive you, but I still want you to feel a little bad about what you did.” Nothing like that. Forgive and forget pure and simple. It’s definitely given me insights into how I can improve. Be more forgiving. Less guilt tripping. I’m working on it. Slowly. But for everyone’s sake, don’t make me mad. Just kidding, just kidding. Kind of.

IMG_01683. Ben has an awesome family. And, well, this particular point, you could argue, has nothing to do with Ben! At least not directly! Hold your horses while I explain! Many years ago (before I was married, older and wiser), I had a friend who was dating a boy and things were getting serious. Getting married was a topic of discussion between them (exciting!) but, BUT his parents didn’t really care for her (what the!?). BUT, BUT clearly this wasn’t a real issue, right? I mean, you’re marrying him (we insisted), not his family, right? I mean, right???? WRONG! Sorry to be so direct but it is so obvious to me now that when you marry someone, you absolutely marry the whole fam! Whoever you marry is largely (I would say the majority) a product of the home in which he was raised. So…when your husband has a disturbing propensity toward potty humor, you can look a little ways past him to his sisters (again, what???) and see where it came from. Seriously, family can explain a lot about a person. But lucky for me, Ben’s family really is awesome and I’m super grateful for the relationships I’ve formed with them. When Ben and I were dating and I learned that he was the youngest AND the only boy, I had every reason to be nervous. But his family just enveloped me into their space and never looked back. What a blessing. Seriously. Well, besides the potty humor. But even then, I’ve mostly learned to tune it out.

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4. Ben has a strong testimony. Okay so this one kind of doesn’t really need explaining. But also, I’m a talkative word monster, so Imma just have at it. But I do feel the need to say that I think everyone has the potential to be a good spouse no matter what religion he/she associates with. But I also think that believing in something good will help any relationship. So, with Ben…we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We are Christian. We believe that Christ lived a perfect life and in doing so, He was an example of a seemingly unending list of positive attributes: kindness, honesty, humility, love, patience, charity, and so on. As believers in Christ, we believe that these Christlike attributes are important for our own lives. Now, Ben has a strong testimony of our church and in Jesus Christ. This isn’t to say that he has perfected all of these attributes. Absolutely not. It is to say, however, that I know he finds these attributes not only important but worthwhile in obtaining. He believes in working toward being kind, honest, humble, loving, patient, charitable, etc. Ben believes in improvement. He believes in working toward a greater goal, in being a good person and becoming a better person. Again this isn’t to say that he’s improving at lightning speed and nearing perfection. Ben knows he’ll be chipping away at some of these Christlike attributes his whole life. Luckily,  he believes I live by the same rules. I don’t have to be perfect yet either.

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And finally…5. Ben is adventurous. If you’re taking notes for your future spouse and marriage, this particular point is absolutely NOT necessary. I am positive many successful marriages have been comfortable and predictable. When I married Ben I had no idea that he had itchy feet that no amount of Gold Bond could cure. We moved to Idaho for Pete’s sake! But since then we’ve moved to places I never dreamed of going and have had experiences I never dreamed of experiencing. And, my gosh, it’s been fun. You certainly get to know a person when travel halfway around the world with them. And Ben is also very fun to travel with (he’s all “Let’s do it!!!” to my, “Should we? Is it worth it? What about the money???” Marriage. Balance, amiright?). All our adventures-the big cross continent ones and smaller takes less than a day ones-have helped us learn each other better, if that makes any sense. And, at least for me, they’ve helped me appreciate Ben better. I’ll tell you, nothing makes you appreciate your spouse more than being pregnant in the middle of nowhere and having him say, “Yes, dear, let’s spend the 9 dollars on the pint of Ben and Jerry’s.” But that’s a story for another time.

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These past five years, they’ve been pretty darn good.

Easy DIY Baby Skirt

Sorry, sorry, sorry that this post is very much happening after Mother’s Day instead of before like I intended! Our internet stopped working the day I was going to write it up and then we left town the next day and then with vacationing…yadda, yadda, yadda. Sorry. Let’s still be friends, mmkay?

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So remember how I was crazy and made all of us matching outfits for Easter? Well, this was what I whipped out for Wendy. I had considered doing a dress but I’m super glad I decided on a skirt because it came together so quickly and after that week of crazed sewing, I didn’t have much patience (or time) to work out the intricacies of a dress.

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The skirt was so easy and it took me less than an hour from start to finish.

Here’s how I made it.

First, I did some measurements to see how much material I needed. Wendy was about 14 inches around her waist (width) and 7 inches from her waist to her knees (length). For the width, I added an extra inch for seam allowance, and for length I added about 5 inches for the ruffle around the top and to hem. I’m always a bit of a wimp and throw in extra inches knowing I can cut back later (when I hem) if I need to. Rather be safe than sorry! So I had a rectangle of fabric that was 15 inches by 12 inches.

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As you can see in the picture of the skirt, there’s a little ruffle at the very top followed by the waistband. First, I pressed the edge of the fabric down a half inch. I don’t have a serger, so where I’m able to, I like to hide the edge of raw fabric. I also ironed the fabric at about 2 1/2 inches. That would give me room for a ruffle at the top and for me to sew an elastic in place for the waist.

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Here you can see how I mapped out where I would sew. I gave room for 1 inch of ruffle at the very top. Next is the elastic. I sewed a 1 inch gap to fit the elastic through, which was plenty of space since my elastic was 3/4 inch. And then I sewed down very close to the bottom to hide that raw edge.

I attached a safety pin to the end of my elastic (I cut my elastic right at 14 inches, knowing that about 1/2 inch would turn into seam allowance, making the part around her waist 13 1/2 inches-tight enough to be snug without being too tight), and guided it through the fabric. I also safety pinned the other side of the elastic TO the fabric so that I didn’t lose it. Make sure your elastic doesn’t get twisted! That’ll make anyone go crazy!

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Once my elastic was all the way through, I overlapped it about 1/2 an inch, and used a zigzag stitch to sew the ends together (just like pictured above, one side laying right on top of the other side).

Okay, so at this point I had a ruffle and an elastic, I just needed to sew my skirt into a tube. I’m realizing now that since you can’t see the full skirt in the pictures, it’s a little hard to visualize what’s going on. Sorry! I’ll do better next time!

But basically…with the rectangle of fabric I had, I folded it so right sides faced each other and the ruffle was at the top. I sewed all the way down the length of the skirt WITHOUT sewing on where the elastic is. That part just stays un-sewed. Also, no serger and it’s not convenient to turn in the edges so this particular seam (which is the back of the skirt) stays raw.

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THEN the only thing left to do was hem!

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And there it is! Finished baby skirt! Sew easy! Okay, okay, sorry that was cheesy…but seriously, it was a super quick project!

I know my sewing projects aren’t anything revolutionary and I’m not tech savvy enough to provide real guidance (like a pattern!) but I love sewing and I love sharing how and what I sew. Sewing clothes is definitely something I want to improve upon and I gotta start somewhere!

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And luckily my particular model makes anything look good 🙂