Friday, February 16, 2018

How To: Easy and Delicious Rolls

I've never been brave enough to learn how to make bread or rolls because getting the yeast to rise always seemed super daunting. But I found a super easy recipe and after MANY attempts, I figured it out! These rolls are delicious and come together really quickly. I make them weekly, sometimes more than once a week, and they take only about an hour or so to go from start to hot rolls straight from the oven. In other words, you're welcome.

Step 1: Mix 2 tablespoons of yeast with 2 2/3 cups warm water and 4 tablespoons (or 1/4 cup) of honey. Stir until the honey is dissolved. [I like to mix the honey with the water first before adding it to the yeast.] Give it 5-10 minutes for the yeast to rise.

Step 2: Add 7 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix on the lowest setting until the dough comes together, then at a slightly higher setting until the dough is thoroughly mixed. [It shouldn't be too sticky, but rather pretty elastic.] Let it sit and rise for just 5 minutes or so.

Step 3: Roll the dough into balls and let them rise for about 20 minutes. [They can rise longer, but I think they are better if they don't rise too long. You have to play it by ear.]

Step 4: Place the rolls in a greased glass baking dish. Bake at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned on top.

The finished product! Don't they look amazing??

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Our Easter Advent: 40 Days of Jesus Stories

You probably think it's too early to start thinking about Easter - after all, it's only Valentine's Day! - but last year, we did an Easter Advent that turned out really well, and I wanted to be sure to share it with you in time for you to participate, if you so desire. The full list of scriptures/stories/videos is listed at the end, but first some background:

Two Christmases ago, I wanted to do a 25-day advent that would help us focus more on Jesus, and so every night, we watched a "Jesus video" (the Bible videos created by the LDS Church) and we talked about the things Jesus did and the qualities he showed.  Fast forward to a few weeks later, and I kept thinking about how wonderful it was to talk about Jesus every day and how Easter should be even more of a big deal than Christmas, and I decided to put together an Easter advent. Tim helped me focus my ideas and I made a plan, and we just went for it.

And the results?

It was so much better than I thought it would be. 

Here's what we did last year (and what we'll do again this year):

- We decided to share stories about Jesus every night, starting with a few of the prophecies of his birth and going through his life until his death/resurrection. We included a handful of Book of Mormon stories and we broke down the final days of Jesus's life into several parts to meet our goal.

- We chose to do 40 days partially because 40 days is significant in the scriptures and partially because it coincided with Lent, which I usually like to celebrate. This year, Lent starts today on February 14th.

- Rather than sacrificing anything for Lent though, we decided to focus on doing service. Lent is actually 47 days long because Sundays traditionally don't count, so we decided to do stories for 40 days and service as a family on the extra 7 days. 

Here's how it actually turned out and what we learned: 

- Because we were focusing our actions on service, we ended up focusing all of our nightly stories on how Jesus served people and how he showed his love for them. Once we framed everything in the context of love and service, it went much more smoothly.

- While I initially mapped out which days were most likely to be good service days over the seven weeks, we were flexible as unexpected opportunities have come up. Some things we planned, other things we didn't, but we learned that if you look for service opportunities, you'll find them. 

- One thing that really made a difference was the Bible videos. I can't praise them enough. Even on nights when there wasn't a video to go along with the story (for example, the story of the 10 Lepers - how did that get skipped??), we ended up watching our favorites again. This year, we are adding in one or two Living Scriptures movies, but we very much prefer the Bible videos.

- Another thing that helped is that when we broke down the events leading up to Jesus's death and resurrection, I made resurrection eggs for the kids to open. If you haven't heard of this idea, here's a good example of some easy resurrection egg ideas. (I'll create a separate post about ours and what we included when we're closer to Easter.) 

- I should also note that last year, we wimped out and didn't try to read the stories directly from the scriptures. Instead, we explained the story in words the kids could understand, then we watched the video (occasionally pausing to make sure they were following), and then we talked about it after and asked them questions. And then we'd usually watch it again! Because the kids are older, we plan to read the stories from the scriptures for our daily family scripture study this year.

The main thing I remember about last year was that although I originally planned this for my kids, I needed it for myself, too. I learned so much and gained insights and was strengthened through the opportunity to bear my testimony to my kids over and over again. 

I remember that one of the most rewarding moments came during church when we were about 2/3 of the way through our 40 days. I opened up the Gospel Art Book and showed the girls all the pictures from Jesus' life, and they were able to tell me the story behind every single picture that we'd covered so far. Even Rosie could tell me the stories, and up to that point, I had serious doubts that she was listening when I explained the stories in kid-speak. The whole experience made Easter better for all of us and I'm excited to try it again this year! Yes, 40 days is a long time and yes, it's a big commitment, but yes, it was absolutely worth it.

Here's the full 40-day list of Jesus stories/scriptures/videos. (Sorry it's not in a better/easier format - I couldn't get the table formatting to work.) This does not include the extra days of service, so remember to work those in before the last week. (The stories assigned to the days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are scheduled for specific days.) And if you decide to join us or do your own version, please let me know how it turns out!

Easter Advent: Forty Days of Jesus Stories
Day 1: Prophecy of Christ’s Birth (Isaiah 9:6) 
Mormon Tabernacle Choir - World’s Largest Virtual Hallelujah Chorus

Day 2: Samuel the Lamanite & Christ’s birth in the Book of Mormon (Helaman 14:1-6; 3 Nephi 1:4-21)
[There is a Living Scriptures video "Samuel and the Sign" but it's not available online unless you have an account]

Day 3: The Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38)
“An Angel Foretells Christ’s Birth to Mary”

Day 4: The Nativity (Luke 2:1-20)
”The Nativity”

Day 5: The visit of the Wise Men & fleeing into Egypt (Matt. 2:1-15)

Day 6: Jesus teaches in the temple (Luke 2:40-52)

Day 7: The baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:13-17)

Day 8: Jesus turns water into wine (John 2:1-11)

Day 9: The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:5-26)
“Jesus Teaches a Samaritan Woman”

Day 10: Fishers of men (Matt. 4:18-22)
“Follow Me, and I Will Make You Fishers of Men”

Day 11: Jesus heals a man of palsy (Mark 2:1-12)
“Jesus Forgives Sins and Heals a Man Stricken with Palsy”

Day 12: Jesus heals a lame man on the Sabbath (John 5:2-12)

Day 13: The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-16)
“Sermon on the Mount: The Beatitudes”

Day 14: Jesus heals the Centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13)
[No video]

Day 15: The Widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-16)

Day 16: Jesus calms the storm (Mark 4:37-40)

Day 17: Jairus’s daughter is healed (Mark 5:22-24, 35-43)
“Jesus Raises the Daughter of Jairus”

Day 18: The woman with an issue of blood (Mark 5:22-34)

Day 19: Jesus feeds the 5,000 (Matt. 14:15-21)
“The Feeding of the 5,000”

Day 20: Jesus walks on water (Matt. 14:25-33)
“Wherefore Didst Thou Doubt?”

Day 21: The adulterous woman (John 8:2-11)

Day 22: The man blind from birth (John 9:1-12, 35-38)

Day 23: The parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

Day 24: The parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:2-7)
“Jesus Declares the Parable of the Lost Sheep”

Day 25: The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32)

Day 26: Martha & Mary (Luke 10:38-42)
[No video]

Day 27: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44)
“Lazarus Is Raised from the Dead”

Day 28: The ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19)
“Chapter 37: The Ten Lepers” [from the LDS media library]

Day 29: “Suffer the little children” (Luke 18:15-17)
“Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me”

Day 30: Forgiveness & the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21-35)

Day 31: The rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27)
“Christ and the Rich Young Ruler”

Day 32: The greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-34)

Day 33: The widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44)

Day 34 - Palm Sunday: Triumphal entry (Matt. 21:1-11)

Day 35: Jesus cleanses the temple (Matt. 21:12-13)

Day 36: Mary anoints Jesus (John 12:2-8)
[No video]

Day 37: The Last Supper (John 13:1-35)

Day 38: The Atonement (Matt. 26:47-57; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46)

Day 39 - Good Friday: Christ’s trial and Crucifixion (Matt. 27:11-50; John 19:25-27)

Day 40: Signs of Christ’s death in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 8:3-23; 3 Nephi 10:9-10)

Day 41 - Easter Sunday: The Resurrection (Matt. 27:57-60; Matt. 28:1-8; John 20:3-18)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Favorite Children's Books, part 1: Picture Books

My kids love books. They love being read to, they love "reading" to themselves and each other (cutest thing ever, see the photo), they love going to the library to pick out new books, they love it all. Parenting win, right?
My favorite part of this photo is that the 3-year-old is "reading" to her older sister. Love. It.

Last summer, I compiled a checklist of about 75 books kids' books recommended by other moms/bloggers/BYU Magazine, and as of this month, we've checked off all but a handful of them that the Provo/Orem libraries don't carry. This process was fun for three reasons:

1 - I really love marking things off of lists. Like, a lot.
2 - It gave me specific things to look for at the library instead of aimlessly browsing and hoping for a good find.
3 - We read a lot of really awesome books!

So in the spirit of paying it forward, and in no particular order, here are 25 of our favorite picture books! This is mainly for (but not limited to) kids ages 2-5, and some of these are geared more for girls than boys. This list has been thoroughly vetted by both children and adults, a.k.a., the kids loved them AND I didn't mind reading them multiple times. (There are many books left off this list that the kids loved but I wouldn't read more than twice. Sorry, Pete the Cat and Eloise.)

Journey by Aaron Becker - We love this book (and its sequels) with all our hearts. No words, only pictures, so it's perfect for any age. 

Nibbles by Emma Yarlett might be the kids' all-time favorite book ever. Note that this is an Usborne book. If you don't know what that means or you need a consultant, I've got a connection for you. :)

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty is another absolute favorite that I quote to the kids ("It was the perfect first try!") on a regular basis. Also makes me cry on a regular basis. A must-read/own.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey is one that I remember reading this as a child and now my kids love it too.

Berlioz the Bear by Jan Brett is a fun and silly story and we read it over and over and over.

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor - We are BIG fans of Fancy Nancy around here. Start with the first book and then enjoy all of the sequels and easy reader books.

The Adventures of Beekle, the Un-imaginary Friend by Dan Santat is one of the first books we read off of my list and it was so sweet and fun!

The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer almost didn't make the list because I didn't want to read it more than once, but once was enough for the kids, too, because every page has a LOT to look at. This is a great one for reading once and then letting the kids peruse after that.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt is really funny and silly! We never got sick of reading this one.

The Enchanted Wood by Ruth Sanderson - This fairy tale was surprisingly sweet and original. My kids stayed with it until the end, in spite of the large amount of text.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud - Everyone needs to read this book! It gave me a way to talk to my kids about kindness and empathy and even bullying in a very accessible way. Just this morning, Rosie told me I'd filled up her bucket when I helped her, so it's memorable too!

Good Night, Yoga and Good Morning, Yoga by Mariam Gates were fun ways to introduce my kids to yoga, and Georgie still asks to do yoga before bed sometimes. Winner winner.

When You Were Small and When I Was Small by Sara O'Leary have been favorites for a long time. Simple but magical stories.

What Do You Do with an Idea? and What Do You Do with A Problem? by Kobi Yamada are delightfully illustrated and creative in their approaches. I think I liked them more than the kids, but we will definitely be reading these again as they get older.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig is a powerful story about the power of a friend. It was a great way to challenge my kids to notice who might be feeling invisible and to reach out.

Mrs. Muddle's Holidays by Laura F. Nielsen is a book that I'd like us to own at some point. The kids loved it and it made me excited to start more of our own family holidays and traditions. Very fun!

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman was one that my kids brought me to read again and again. 
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts really caught my kids' attention, I think because they often feel so small too. It's a great story about the difference one person who pays attention can make.

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman - My kids really liked this one, and even if they didn't quite grasp some of the deeper messages, they got the part about apologizing and forgiveness, so, excellent. 

The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth has some beautiful answers to the questions, though it was bit over my kids' heads. Another one we'll come back to later. 

Alice the Fairy by David Shannon is one that we've enjoyed for several years. It's one that has a couple of lines that made me and Tim laugh out loud the first time we read it. 

One Smile by Cindy McKinley was one of two books that we read (and the better of the two, I thought) about the power of simple acts of kindness. Always looking for ways to teach that so this was a great find.

Here's the full list without my commentary:

Journey by Aaron Becker
Nibbles by Emma Yarlett
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Berlioz the Bear by Jan Brett
Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor
The Big Book of Bugs by Yuval Zommer
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
The Enchanted Wood by Ruth Sanderson
Good Night, Yoga and Good Morning, Yoga by Mariam Gates
When You Were Small and When I Was Small by Sara O'Leary
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
Mrs. Muddle's Holidays by Laura F. Nielsen
The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman
The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth
Alice the Fairy by David Shannon

One Smile by Cindy McKinley

And there you have it! We have many more books that we could recommend but this is a good start. Leave a comment with your favorite books to read with your kids so I can start my next list!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Welcome to 2018

Welcome back, little blog and any blog readers still out there. It's a new year and the perfect time for a fresh start, even if all previous attempts to do so haven't gotten off the ground. I've been kicking around the idea writing more this year and my forgotten blog seemed a good, structured way to start doing that. So here we are!

Last year was a mixed bag of good and bad, fun and struggle, good choices and tired ones, and while I initially felt like I/we ended the year pretty much where we started, I can see now that we made some progress. Both Tim and I became much more aware of some of the mental health challenges that have kept us in negative holding patterns, and just recognizing and naming those challenges has helped, albeit in small ways. As a result, I've learned to notice my patterns of thought and behavior and what affects them. I could write a whole lot more about this (and I probably will!), but for now, I'll just say that my intentions for 2018 are all about keeping me mentally healthy and positive. I wanted to be sure to write down my intentions for the first part of the year before they all fly out of my mind (a real danger at this point...I'm just so tired!). 

My personal focus for this first stretch of the year is self-care. Not the take a break, relax, do something nice for yourself kind of self-care - believe me, I do plenty of that - but the harder, more rewarding kind that is not about enjoying the moment, but enjoying the one that comes after it and because of it. 

This kind of self-care says, I will exercise not to lose weight, but because it gives me energy and makes me feel better about myself. 

I will get more sleep because it increases my patience and lets me enjoy my kids more.

I will read not to escape, but to expand and stretch my mind.

I will spend time every day in the scriptures, not because I am supposed to, but because it improves my mood and keeps me grounded.

I will make time to write on a weekly basis so my thoughts and feelings don't become toxic. 

And I will give myself the grace to forget, mess up, become distracted, lose focus, and try again. And again. And again. Life is forever tries, or so I've been told

Of course, there are more things I want to change and improve in my life (Floss more! Take vitamins!  Play with my kids! Scan old photos! Turn in work assignments on time! Create the perfect chore chart! Keep in touch with friends!) but that list gets overwhelming quickly. So I focus on what I know will make the other things easier to accomplish and try to be content with that. All I can do is try.

As a reward for making it this far, and the celebrate the return of my blog, here are some super cute pictures of my kids, because Why Not?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Some work bragging from Kate

As part of my updates, I wanted to do a little bragging about the work I've done in the last while. I'm rocking the work-from-home thing (okay, "rocking" is a bit strong; I'm accomplishing it with varying levels of success) and finally even have a babysitter three days a week to make it happen (thank you, Elyse!)

I've mentioned this before, but after my job with the scrapbooking/crafting magazines disappeared, I took some time off to have a baby and then started doing freelance and contract work. It was stressful to start working for myself that way, but the miracles flowed in (and then again) and it's been a great experience, even if the stress of working from home gets me down on a regular basis. 

Between my 3 1/2 years with the magazines and the 1 1/2 years of freelance work, I can say I've been writing and editing professionally for 5 years, which is awesome and sort of amazing to me still. This is what I wanted to do, career-wise, and I am making it work the way I wanted to do it - at home, part-time. English major victory!!!

At least half of my jobs have been to write content for various websites, so I actually get to see my name in (digital) print, which is really cool! (My next goal is getting published for something I wrote creatively for me and not for a job.)

First, my stint with writing for eHow last year, which did not pan out but I completed my 3 articles and got my $50 bonus so, sweet, right?

How to Make a T-shirt from Fabric
How to Make an Adult Tinkerbell Costume
How to Make Accordion-fold Books

Second, I spent last summer writing company reviews for, though sadly, none of my reviews have my name attached. If you care to browse, I ended up writing about DNS providers and life insurance, business loan, personal loan, and payday loan companies (don't EVER use a payday loan company is the moral of that story).

And third, my current really awesome job is writing content for and I've had a couple of articles go live already. These have actually been really interesting to research, as I've covered a pretty wide range of topics in just the two months since I started working there. These are just the start of many articles to come:

Do Security Systems Really Work?
Funding Circle Reviews: An Exceptional Loan Experience?
Updated: Prosper Reviews: Our #2 Pick for Peer-to-Peer Lending
More updates:
Best Smart Locks: A Look at the Top Locks on the Market
Best Digital Door Locks: Security and Convenience
Best Wi-Fi Baby Monitors: Peace of Mind from Far Away
Lending Club Reviews: Our #1 Peer-to-Peer Lending Company

All this researching random topics makes me feel like a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none. Except, of course, for the researching and writing part. I've got that part down.

P.S. I should mention that the other half of my freelance work has been writing educational materials (another job where I got to research all kinds of random stuff in order to write reading passages for various grade levels) and editing all kinds of papers. I worked for an online editing/proofreading company (don't anymore, I just quit last month) that accepted almost anything, so I got to edit (mostly poorly written) essays about a huuuuge range of topics. I mean, everything from marine biology to emergency room procedures to the materials used to make dentures to Italian painters to health administration reports to literature reviews to the best bituminous mixtures to make asphalt, which, funny enough, I though was another paper about dentures for the first 2 pages. I don't miss that particular job but it definitely kept me on my toes!