Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Family and Friends!

A few weeks ago this beautiful painting was decorating the foyer of our church for our Stake Christmas Fireside. What amazing talent we have in our stake and especially our ward! Amazing!

This painting touched me deeply, the beauty, the simplicity, and the bow! I love the bow! It reminds me of the precious gift the birth of a tiny infant brought to us all, the hope it gave to all mankind and the perfect example this baby grew to be.

Last night we watched the movie The Nativity and I was deeply moved by the way it portrayed the birth of our Savior. I love how in the movie pregnant Mary asked Joseph if he ever wondered when it would happen that Jesus wouldn't be just any baby, that it would be apparent to others that he was the Savior for all mankind. How great that their speculation was answered even before His birth. It shouldn't be surprising to those who have felt the powerful influence of the Holy Ghost that some were given this powerful revelation. What a gift! The Nativity is a beautiful movie. Very thought provoking, spiritual and a perfect way to spend part of Christmas!

The other message that touched me in a personal way was that of love. Loving others, it's not always easy is it? Sometimes it's not at all like we expected it to be, or perhaps it takes extra effort. In the movie The Nativity, Joseph loves Mary. Mary was young and was taken by surprise when she was betrothed to Joseph. She did not love Joseph; she did not know him. She wasn't the happiest of brides; you could tell it wasn't her plan for herself. In the movie, it shows Joseph, loving Joseph, making so many sacrifices for Mary and the child she was carrying. It was moving to watch the change in Mary. She learned to love Joseph, and couldn't be happier with any other man she may have chosen for herself. You know, sometimes God knows more. God can change hearts, heal hearts, help us love others and learn from others. One thing Mary's character in the movie portrayed was deep faith. Faith in following God's plan even though it was the scariest thing ever. I love Joseph and Mary more after seeing this movie. Yes, I know it's not THE EXACT way things happened, but my heart tells me that much of it is. I am so grateful for Joseph and Mary and their commitment to God that led them to do His will of bringing His Only Begotten Son to earth! I am so grateful for that sweet baby, Jesus, and the man he grew to become. Grateful for His sacrifices and his love for us!

Merry Christmas to all my family and friends!! May our Savior's love be in your homes and his loving guidance watch over you!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Happy for No Reason

So, I walked by this book at the public library and was drawn to it. My recent enrollment in Psychology and my study of Personality, Emotion and Learning has created a sort of passion for those subjects. Mix it with the past year of my life and my personal growth and attempts of growing into the woman I want to be... well, I couldn't pass it up. I checked it out and have been frustrated that it sat there unread because I had finals to study for.

Now, I can't put it down! There is so much good stuff in there!

Here are a few of my favorite treasures found inside this book:

1. "You BRING happiness to your outer experiences rather than trying to extract happiness from them. You don't need to manipulate the world around you to try to make yourself happy. You live FROM happiness, rather than FOR happiness." She explains that most of us strive to sting together happy experiences like beads on a necklace to create a happy life. She says, "Being Happy for No Reason, in our necklace analogy, is like having a happy string. No matter what beads we put on our necklace- good, bad, or indifferent - our inner experience, which is the string that runs through them all, is happy, creating a happy life."

2. "When you are Happy for No Reason you're UNCONDITIONALLY happy. It's not that your life always looks perfect - it's just that however it looks, you'll still be happy."

3. "Some people enjoy their lives no matter what happens, while others can't find happiness no matter how hard they try."

4. An INTERESTING tidbit on Thomas Jefferson's famous line from the Declaration of Independence... "the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"... In 1776, the common usage of the word "pursue" was not "to chase after". To pursue something meant to PRACTICE that activity, to do it regularly, to make a habit of it. SO: Let's stop pursuing happiness and start practicing it. We do that by practicing new habits.

5. Chasing happiness is a bit like a hamster on a wheel. We often believe we "will be happy when.... (fill in the blank here) " OR we believe that when we acquire something IT will make us happy. "With each one, you experience either fleeting satisfaction or out right disappointment. But how long will it last?"

6. When you are not able to change the events in your life that you don't like, change your response to them.

OH! There is so much more inside this book!! She talks about habits to develop and practice. Changing responses to real life. Taking responsibility for your own happiness. GOOD STUFF!!

Another GREAT quote, different book:

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." - Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Now, I have to say that I am 80x happier today than I was a year ago. I have also had the toughest year of my life. It is strange but, I believe that I had figured a bit of this out on my own!

One of the habits Shimoff talks about is gratitude. Gratitude has really helped me appreciate all of the awesome things I have in my life! I have SO MUCH more than I don't have. Yes, there are a few things I really desire to have in my life right now. The things I want most though, I cannot put on a Christmas Wish List.

Another habit is believing that the world is not out to get you, but to help you. Sometimes bad things happen but, looking at them as if they may be avenues for greater blessings helps. Your attitude improves! Your happiness is greater!

Good Luck Bad Luck!

There is a Chinese story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer's neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?" A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?"

Then, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"

Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck?

Who knows?

Everything that seems on the surface to be an evil may be a good in disguise. And everything that seems good on the surface may really be an evil. So we are wise when we leave it to God to decide what is good fortune and what misfortune, and thank him that all things turn out for good with those who love him.

Author Unknown

*Check out Marci Shimoff's website HERE.

On Motherhood

I'm very grateful for the opportunity God has given me to be a mother. I take this responsibility seriously. I think it's the most important thing I could do in my lifetime. Raising these two, to not only be responsible citizens, but to have great character and morals, to LOVE God and follow His plan, to honor themselves and their family, to achieve greatness. It's a big job; trust me I've felt the weight of the responsibility on my shoulders!! I believe I am a great mom! My kids make me proud; they're making me look like a success! That said, I'm always looking for ways to be better and the challenges of motherhood are constantly shifting with the children's growth.

I have a friend that I've always thought was the best mother to her boys. In my younger motherhood years I used to believe it was her gift, her talent, and that she was just a better mom than most others.

I'm a little wiser now and although I recognize that she has a gift and talent in her abilities as a mother and I still believe she IS a fabulous mom role-model, I finally see WHAT she does differently that sets her apart from other great mothers. She lives the advice that Sister Wixam gives in this conference address:

She teaches her kids in everyday moments. She bears her testimony often in simple yet powerful ways and with enthusiasm. She creates spiritual opportunities like a scrapbook about her testimony, visiting temple grounds around the country, service, researching her son's priesthood lineage, and supporting her kids spiritual needs. She lives as an intentional mother, with clear focus of her end goal that keeps her perspective as it should be.

I LOVED this talk by Sister Wixam. These things stood out to me:

1. Reach out to "hold" onto our children... anchor them on the path of faith
2. Hold TIGHT to the rod ourselves. Set an example for our children
3. Read scriptures together - the Spirit will increase in our homes
4. The world will teach our children if we do not
5. Teach what we want them to know 5 years from now
6. Teach in everyday moments

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A hot soup for a cold day

I don't mind the cold weather too much, unless it's windy. Today is windy. It feels about 20 degrees colder than yesterday! I put on my Smart Wool base layer and REI wool socks.

I've been wanting to try some new soup recipes; today seemed like the perfect day! I'm home studying for a final and even though it's toasty warm inside it's a soup day!

This one is perfect: yummy, cheap, and simple to make!

Tomato-Tortellini Soup (feeds 8)

48 oz. water
4 Knorr chicken bouillon cubes
1 lb. package refrigerated cheese filled tortellini
8 oz. tub cream cheese spread with chive and onion
2 cans low-sodium condensed tomato soup

Bring the water and bouillon cubes to a boil; break up the bouillon as it softens. Add tortellini; reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Put the cream cheese into a medium bowl and add 1/2 cup of the hot broth, stir until smooth. Add cream cheese mixture and the tomato soup to the tortellini and broth. Stir until smooth and heated through.

Options: I topped with diced tomato and sliced green onion. You could use 48 oz. of canned chicken broth instead of the water and bouillon. You could also replace the cheese filled tortellini with cheese and chicken filled tortellini.

Cost: (My cost at Winco) - $8.88 ($1.11 per serving)
Knorr bouillon cubes (use 1/2 the box): $1.56 for the box
1 lb. package cheese tortellini: $ 3.98 (this is super cheap! I usually spend around $6 for it)
cream cheese spread with chives and onion: $1.98
tomato soup (2): $1.36

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

For the Love of Limes.... (for Jen)

This was dinner tonight and the kids LOVED it!

Garlic Lime Chicken
(recipe from McCormick & Co)

1 tsp. McCormick minced garlic
1 tsp. McCormick minced onion
3/4 tsp. McCormick Ground Cumin
3/4 tsp. McCormick Oregano Leaves
1/2 tsp. McCormick Cilantro Leaves
1/2 tsp. McCormick Coarse Ground Black Pepper
1/4 c. lime juice
1/4 c. orange juice
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients except for the chicken in a large plastic bag. Shake or knead to mix well; add chicken and refrigerate 30 minutes or longer to marinade.

I baked the chicken in a 350 degree oven for about 20 -25 minutes. (? - probably depends on the size of the breast halves)

The original recipe is actually for fajitas. It calls for you to cut up the chicken into strips and cook on the stove top with bell pepper and onion. Serve in tortillas. Instead I baked three large breast halves.

Lime Cilantro Rice

2 cups water
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup long grain white rice
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Bring the water to a boil; stir the butter and rice into the water. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir the lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro into the cooked rice just before serving.