Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Banana Bread Recipe

I'm cookin' some up right now, and it smells glorious!
I tweaked this recipe a bit from Betty Crocker, because I almost never have buttermilk on hand.

1/2 c softened butter (about 10 seconds in the microwave until you can leave a fingerprint, but not melted)
1 1/2 c sugar
2 large eggs
3 medium mashed bananas (1 1/2 c)
1/4 c vanilla or strawberry yogurt
1/4 c milk
or one tube Gogurt plus enough milk to make 1/2 c
1 t vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c nuts or chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut 2 rectangles of parchment paper the size of the bottom of your pans (I use 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2) and lay them in the bottom so the edges curl down.  Mix butter and sugar.  Blend in eggs.  Mix in bananas, yogurt, milk, and vanilla.  Stir in flour, soda, and salt, and then add nuts or chips.  Put one dollop into each pan to flatten the paper.  Adjust it so it is straight in the pan, and then divide the rest of the batter evenly between the two pans.  Bake about an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let them cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes or so before you take them out.  Betty Crocker says to let them cool for two hours before you slice it, but I can never wait that long.  Plus it is most delicious when it is still warm.  Keep it wrapped tightly.  You can store it for 4 days on the counter or 10 days in the fridge.  (If it will even last that long.)  I usually eat up one loaf and freeze the other for later.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas

I love Christmas!  It is an exciting time of the year when people are especially generous in reaching out to neighbors and people in need.  I am really trying to keep my focus on Christ rather than shopping and busyness. This time of the year can become quite stressful sometimes with all of the obligations that come from tradition.  I want to teach my children that "Jesus is the reason for the season," and we give gifts to celebrate His birthday.  Since we can't buy a gift and give it directly to Jesus, we give it to someone He loves instead.  I like to sing the Happy Birthday song on Christmas morning to help them remember.  I rarely ask them, "What do you want to get for Christmas?" but sometimes ask them, "What do you want to give for Christmas?"

What traditions do you and your family share to make Christmas Christ centered?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Beanbag Words

Last month in our issue of the Friend magazine, there was an article about a game to play where you toss a beanbag to people in a circle and take turn saying positive things about whomever you throw it to.  We played the game for Family Home Evening, but used Sweetheart's favorite stuffed horse, "Horsey."  It was good to get some positive words flowing in our family, and we could feel the Holy Spirit with us stronger.  Sweetheart wanted to play the game again another day just with me.  It is a great feeling to be given so many compliments by a tiny four year old boy.  He really is a sweetheart.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Gingerbread Ornaments

Here's a photo of our finished gingerbread people.  This picture is pretty busy--kinda like Where's Waldo.  See if you can spot the Grandma and Grandpa and the missionary.  There's also one in pajamas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gingerbread Men Ornaments

My kids and I have been having fun doing a craft together this week.  We are making gingerbread men out of salt dough to give as gifts for teachers and friends.  Here's our recipe:

Salt Dough

2 cups flour
3/4 cup salt
about 3/4 cup warm water
1 t vegetable oil

Mix it all together (you'll have to use your hands).  It is better to err on the side of too dry than too wet, as you can always add more water later.  Roll the dough out about 1/4 inch thick, and use cookie cutters to cut shapes.
Use a drinking straw to cut a hole at the top or cut a paper clip with wire cutters.  Insert the paper clip U shape carefully in the top of the cookie, making sure not to go through the front or back.
Lay them out to dry.  It will take a day or two.  Make sure to turn them over every now and then to prevent curling.  It seems letting them dry on a towel helped them to dry quicker.  You can also bake them at 200 degrees for a long time--a few hours.

Once they are dry, paint them with acrylic paint. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Smartphone Safety Risk

I got a forwarded email today with a link in it to a news story about how it is dangerous to post pictures online from your Smartphone.  The GPS technology in the phone adds information to the pictures that tells the exact location the picture was taken.  So a predator could find out where you live, etc.  You can disable the function that does it to make your pictures safe.  Here's the link to the news story:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Halloween Costumes

This is Sweetheart's special request.  He wanted to be a dog (I think because his Pillow Pet was on his mind when the costume conversation came up).  I made him a thick polar fleece jogging suit and sewed a tail on the rear and pinned ears on the hood.  It's a simple costume, but it's just what he wanted.  No make-up because "That would be too weird."

 Belle walked in her parade with her arms behind her flapping her wings.  That made me laugh.
 They were so excited to get out the door and trick-or-treat that they didn't bother to put on socks.  They both regretted it later.  The weather was so nice that I left without a jacket (and also regretted that later).  The next morning it rained and snowed.

Notice Belle's white jack-o-lantern missing its two front teeth.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Busy Times

I've been trying to avoid the computer a bit lately because of how much time it absorbs.  I have been super busy!  I finally finished sewing the kids' costumes in time for their school parades.  Belle's fairy costume was a great challenge since I was using small scraps of stretchy velour with no pattern.  The huge grin on her face and the way she sacheted around when she tried it on the first time made it all worth it!
I'll try to get some pictures up soon.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Christmas Cards In October

I recently saw a store ad for a sale on Christmas cards.  I though it was crazy at first, but then it dawned on me that it is actually a really good idea to get started early and have them all done and ready.  Some years in December I get so busy that my cards don't get finished and sent out.  If I signed and addressed all the cards in October and November, stick on a "forever" stamp, I could have them waiting and ready to drop in the mail at just the right time in December.  Brilliant.  I already have the cards since I bought them at last year's clearance sale.  I do like to put in a family photo, so that is something else to be thinking about getting done early.  Ritz photo has 3x5s for 7 cents every Wednesday I think. 

Lets see if I actually do it.  I'm still sewing Halloween costumes at this point, (but I am proud to say I have a considerable portion of my Christmas shopping done already!)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Maze Runner: A Review

Yesterday I finished reading The Maze Runner by James Dashner.  It is a sci-fi book for teens, the first of a trilogy.  I'm giving it a 2 star rating, but let me explain.  James Dashner obviously has a great writing talent.  The book was very well written with plenty of mystery and excitement.  It had that blasted sentence or paragraph at the end of each chapter that makes it impossible to close the book and move on with real life.  It was a gripping story, and I was guilty of letting my chores go a bit too much.  But as well as it was written, I simply did not like the story.  Thomas is a teenager who gets deposited into a community of boys who've all had their memories wiped.  They are trapped in an artificial world where their only hope of escape is through a maze that changes daily and where giant slug robots try to hurt and kill the "Runners" of the maze.  It wasn't pleasant.  I don't enjoy reading for hours about young men being tormented and traumatized.  The end of the book didn't resolve the feeling of angst I had for Thomas and his friends.  I don't intend to read two more books full of this stressful stuff to try and find a happy ending.  Dashner also included his own made-up curse words which are generously slathered throughout the book.  That bugged me.  If you like blood and horror, then this book is great for you, but it's not my thing.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I received this link in an email to day.  It is an uplifting song with 6 1/2 minutes of gorgeous images of the earth.  Have a look for a spiritual boost.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nanny 911

I've been watching reruns on Netflix of Nanny 911, a 2004 TV show where British Nannies come into the homes of American families having trouble with discipline and try to turn things around in a week's time.  Although the screaming and fussing can get irritating, it is nice to get a refresher on some of the parenting techniques that actually work.  There is definitely a pattern in the episodes I have seen so far.  The kids are going nuts.  The parents are going nuts.  Nanny comes in and just observes and takes notes the first day.  Many of the parents think that whatever she will do could not be effective on their kids.  She goes out to formulate her plan and brings back "Nanny's Rules."  Many of the same rules return from family to family.  There are usually between 4 and ten rules, I think.  Here are some I can remember:

Hands are not for hitting. (No hitting, kicking, biting, etc.)
Be respectful. (No name calling, sassing, etc.)
Use your words.  (Express your feeling with words rather than violence or shutting down.)
Take responsibility for your own things. 
No lying.
Wheeled toys stay outside.
Listen to each other.  (Lots of families are yelling a lot to be heard, but nobody is giving anyone else the time of day to be heard.)
Keep a schedule.

Nanny reminds the family that rules apply to ALL.  Whiny kids come from whiny parents.  Children learn disrespect from the model their parents set for them.  Violence breeds violence.

Next she brings out some tools to help them get organized.  Some families need a written schedule to follow.  Most need an incentive program.  There are points of some sort (marbles, magnets, tickets balls, fake cookies, etc.) the children can earn for good behavior or lose for poor behavior and a point collector (clear jar, magnet board, etc.).  Some parents need to learn how to put the kids in timeout--one minute per each year of age.  Plenty of them need to learn how to use tough love and realize that it is a child's prerogative to get upset and cry when they don't get what they want.  Parents show greater love for their kids by setting limits and being consistent than when they cave in and give the kids what they want just because they complain.  They will not be traumatized because they spend one entire night crying while you firmly and patiently return them to their own bed again and again.

Nanny reminds that behaviors are unacceptable, but children are not unacceptable, and we don't tell children that they are bad.  We say, "That is unacceptable" or "That's not okay," but we don't say, "You're being bad."

The parents who are resistant to the nanny and don't have faith in what she tells them are the ones whose problems persist.  The parents who give their best humble efforts to admit that what they've tried hasn't been working and are ready to listen to a professional experience the greatest change in their families.

Each episode ends with an uplifting and hopeful wrap-up describing the great changes happening in the families, but it is clear that some families will fare better than others.  Many parents really need to go to get some couples therapy to work out their relationship issues that are spilling over to the kids.

I think this is a really great program.  Surprisingly, my children enjoy watching it with me.  I was a little worried that they'd learn some naughty behaviors from watching these other kids after they saw some children literally climbing the walls (I saw the light go on in their minds--"I didn't know you could do that!") but usually they look at me regretfully and say, "We do that sometimes, too."  I thank God that my children are not as wild as the ones I see on this show, but since we started watching this, we've been able to tweek some things in our own home and enjoy a little more peace.

This Little Piggy

My little Buddy loves to play the piggy game.  Most people know the usual: "This little piggy went to market" wiggling the big toe, "This little piggy stayed home" for the next toe, "This little piggy had roast beef," so on, "This little piggy had none."  "And this piggy cried 'Wee wee wee!' all the way home" while you run your fingers up his leg and belly.  My kids have loved it since they were tiny and want me to do it again and again.  I got tired of saying the same thing over and over, so I started changing what the piggies would do.  "This little piggy went to a restaurant, this little piggy stayed in bed, this little piggy brushed his teeth, and this little piggy ate some spaghetti.  This little piggy cried 'Woo woo woo!" all the way to Grandma's house."  Now we take turns making up silly things for the pigs to do.  Those tiny fingers wiggling my toes are so cute.  My children love the attention and time I spend with them to play this game, and now it isn't so dull for me!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Raspberry Preserves

My mother kindly said that my raspberry preserves were the best she's ever tasted.  What a compliment!  And it was only my first time.  I followed the recipe from the paper insert of the Sure-Jell fruit pectin.  It comes in a little yellow box like Jell-O.  There is a recipe for freezer jelly, cooked jelly and cooked jam.  I made cooked preserves, but it was something in the middle of jam and jelly.  I didn't know which it was, so I took an average of the amount of sugar between the two and cooked it at an average time between the two recipes.  (Also I only had half as much raspberries to contribute, so I cut all ingredients in half.)  It took quite a lot of time to get the seeds out of the berries.  This is what I did:
I had to scrape the berries against my wire strainer with a spoon to strain them.  It was difficult and time consuming.  My husband says his Nana has some sort of contraption rather like a mortar and pestle she uses to de-seed her berries.  I may have to invest in one of these, now that I'll be gathering raspberries from my own yard every year.

Some of the berries had sections where the bumps were white instead of red.  I imagine it is from the wasps sucking out the juice, but I don't know.  Anyway, I ripped those parts off.  I also discarded the mushy old ones.  From a 6 cup/ 48 oz. bowl of berries, I made just over a third of that in--in--what should I call it? Not juice... berry goo.  After all was done, I had 7 of these tiny jars (1/3 cup each) of marvelously delicious preserves.  I decorated them fancy to give away, but I think I will have to keep a few more for myself than I thought, after all that work turned such a small yield.  My son is thrilled to have his very own jar and refuses to open it or share it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Short Story Contest at LDS Publisher

LDS Publisher is having a writing contest.  (See the button on the bottom right of my blog page.)  I have been thinking about entering, but I haven't had much time to write something.  Becoming a published author is on my "Bucket List," but I have a lot of work to do.  I've written a simple children's story and been rejected by several publishers so far.  It has been a good learning experience to find out how the publishing world works a bit.

Magic Tree House Series

My daughter has started reading the Magic Tree House series.  There's somewhere around 40 books in the series.  Basically some kids happen upon a tree house with a library in it.  When they look in the books and wish they could be there, the world around them changes to match the story.  I read the first one, Dinosaurs Before Dark.  I give it my parent's approval.  It is a good transition from picture books to chapter books.  The plot line is simplistic, but exciting (well it was for her, but not for me).  There were a few science facts about dinosaurs in the first book, and I imagine there would be something to learn from each of them, but I don't know.
I'm not going to give this book a star rating because I didn't really enjoy it very much, but Belle (age 7) reads them in one sitting and asks for more.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bottling Peaches

I gathered nearly 200 of the juiciest, sweetest peaches I've ever eaten in my life from my very own tree this summer.  What a treasure I have!  My friend taught me how to can them so I could preserve them for later.  I've never canned anything before, and it has been a great learning experience.  Here's what I learned. 

Cut the peaches in the groove all the way around.  Pull one half away from the pit and then use the knife, a spoon, or your fingers to pry the other side off.  If the peach isn't ripe enough yet, you won't be able to get it separated without squashing the whole peach.  If they are sort of green, leave them on the counter for a couple days until they ripen up.  They should be soft when you press them with your finger.  You can peel the skin right off if they are ripe.  The ones that weren't quite ripe needed a little help with the knife.  Blemishes are okay because they come off with the skin.  If not, cut out the bad spots.  Collect the skins and pits for the compost pile if you have one.
Slice the peaches and put them in jars.  I discovered it was a good idea to be sure all the lids were off the jars before you get your hands all sticky.  Wearing an apron can help keep your clothes clean.  Fill the jars, and press them down gently to make room for more.  Mix about 2 cups (16 oz) of water with 1/4-1/3 cups (2-3 oz) of sugar.  Stir it to dissolve the sugar.  You may want to let it rest while you are cutting peaches to be sure it dissolves well.  Make more later if you run out.
Pour it over the peaches, and then use a spatula to gently press against the side to release some of the air bubbles.
Wipe the rims and threads of the jar with a clean cloth to get off any spills.  Pour boiling water over the lids and leave in hot water until you are ready to put them on.  Use a fork or one of those fancy sticks with a magnet on the end.
Hand screw on the lids (not real tight).  Aren't they pretty?  I love the red edges, but that disappears after cooking.
Put them in the rack of the water bath pot.  Fill it with water (you could be heating some up in the mean time).  My friend said to do it up to the rim, but I have since read elsewhere to cover it with an inch or two.  Put the lid on and boil it for 25 minutes.  This timing might be different depending on where you live (altitude), so I suggest actually looking up a recipe online or in the Ball Blue Book.
Remove them if you have a tool to do it without burning yourself, or remove the pot from heat and let the water cool.  Let them cool for 12 hours on a towel or wire rack.  Check the seal to see if it pops.  If it does, you'll have to put them in the fridge.  If not, you can keep them on a shelf.  You may want to unscrew the ring to see if there is any water trapped in it so it won't rust.  My peaches floated up to the top and made a lot of juice underneath.  It must be normal, but this is my first time. 
Do I have any readers more experienced than I?  I would love to hear if you have any tips or tricks.  Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Little Big Planet

When the Playstation network went down a while back, they gave us 2 free game downloads for our PS3.  We got Little Big Planet.  It is a really fun game!  I'm not really that interested in spending my time on video games, but this game made a bridge for me and my husband to do something we both enjoyed.  You have control over adorable little "sack people" and run around a brightly colored world of obstacles collecting stickers and bubbles.  Much of the game requires team work, which made it a fun family activity.  Even four year old Sweetheart enjoys the game and can play it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fablehaven: A Review

I love reading children's and young adult literature.  It isn't so much because the stories are better, but because they are short!  Being the busy mom that I am, I have trouble committing to a huge novel.  When I sit down with a good book, I find it very difficult to put it down.  I love the altered state of consciousness I get into--I am transported into someone else's life for while.  I enjoy the escape.  But when the book is too long, either my productivity suffers, I have to exercise a lot of self control to put it down, or I end up putting it on the shelf and never finishing it because the story gets cold over time.


I finished Fablehaven by Brandon Mull yesterday.  It did not disappoint.  I certainly love a good story that involves fairies.  My mother and daughter and I all share an affinity to sparkles and tiny things.  I loved the description of the preserve and wish that I could visit the garden.  (I am reminded of an exquisite garden I once visited in Malaga, Spain...)  The story is almost a mystery, so I will not divulge many details here, or I will spoil the ride should you choose to pick up this book.  I found myself getting emotional over Seth's deliberate disobedience and all the trouble he caused (it struck a chord I could relate to).  I liked that there were discussion questions listed at the end of the book.  Wouldn't that be fun to actually be involved in a book discussion?  I haven't done that since I was in college.  Unfortunately, my book club meets at a bad time for me.  I read all the books on the list, but have never attended a meeting!

Fablehaven receives my four star rating.
(No foul language, but some vivid descriptions of scary stuff)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Weeding with Scriptures

Where I go to church, we have a monthly fast and testimony meeting when the bishop turns the time over to the members after sacrament to come up to the pulpit and testify what they know to be true.  It is a faith building experience to hear others' testimonies and even more so to bear your own.  This past week, Belle's best friend took a turn.  She is a darling seven year old girl with wide eyes and a bright face.  She spoke of a lesson her mother had taught her that "touched her heart" about how reading our scriptures is like pulling weeds.  If the weeds are left to grow, they will eventually choke our testimony, so we must continue to read and study the scriptures to keep our testimonies strong and growing.  The simple faith of this young girl was an inspiration to many.  A few people commented on what she said, and several people gained the courage to stand and take a turn because of the example she set.  And here I am several days later still thinking about it.  The simple faith of young children can make a dramatic impact on all around!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Daughter's Quilt

This is the second quilt I've ever made.  I made it for Belle to go on her toddler bed, which she no longer has.  The butterflies started to fray after I washed it, so I had to hand stitch the edges down.  That took me forever to do, and I finally finished it this month!  I don't know why the picture turned out with so little detail, but I had to stand on the bed and hold the camera in the air to take the shot.  The butterflies are 3D--the wings aren't stitched down.
Today I am learning how to use Picasa because my old photo editing software is rebelling on me.  So far I haven't figured out how to save a file in a smaller size. And there is something wrong with this shade of green...

I entered it into the county fair just for fun, and I took 3rd place in my division.  It's kinda neat to get a ribbon, but EVERYBODY got a ribbon.  I saw about five quilts in a row that all had 3rd place ribbons on them.  I don't know how it works.  I will have to remember next year to encourage the children to enter something.  They will get a ribbon, and hopefully a boost to their self esteem.  My goal is to learn enough about photography this year to have a worthy photo to enter the fair next year--I mean one that I would feel really proud of. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Beautiful, Famous, or Rich?

One day left to answer the poll.  This is just for fun.  I'd would be interested to hear what your reasons are.  Take a vote and leave a comment to tell why!

Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day of School

Today was Belle's first day of school.  It's my first time being the mother of a second grader!
We took the traditional "first day of school" shot in front of the door. These sparkly glittery things are all the rage this year.  When she lined up with her classmates, she was fourth in a row of girls with the same bejeweled sneakers.
After school I asked her, "How was your day?"  She said, "It was really boring."  WHAT?!  I replied, "You have got to be kidding me."  "I am!  It was really fun!"  She isn't normally such a jokester.  I wonder who was her influence today.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Berry Picking

Berries are ripe for picking.  While enjoying the harvest, I've had time to ponder about life.  I've often complained to myself that I had to pay consequences for other people's actions.  Not fair!  But while picking blackberries at a friend's house yesterday, that I also can often receive blessings that come only from other people's actions.  That's not fair, either, but I sure like it.  I guess that can even things out.

Other lessons I learned while picking berries: 
This is the first year I've had raspberries.  When they first started ripening, I went out every day to pluck the red ones.  When Sabbath day rolled around, I worried that I wasn't able to pick the berries that were ripe.  I didn't go out there, nonetheless, and on Monday, I discovered that there were red berries that had turned an even deeper color and almost purple.  These berries were even sweeter than the ones I had picked before.  Now I know to wait longer for them to ripen.  Blessings come when we keep the commandments.

Raspberries grow on canes that came up the year previously.  Berries don't form on new growth.  Also I've put in a lot of work keeping things watered and weeded for months now, and finally things are starting to come to fruition.  From these I have learned about patience.  I relate it to some personal struggles that have taken more than one season to resolve.

Sometimes you have to stand out in the hot sun, reach far, and get some prickles in your fingers in order to get the sweetest berries.  Getting the most out of life takes work and sacrifice.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Halloween Already?

It's still a couple months away, but I've already got Halloween on my mind.  Being the penny pincher that I am, I want to have plenty of time to manage the procurement of costumes that will make my kiddos happy.  This week I asked them what they wanted to dress up as for Halloween.  Belle wants to be a fairy.  AGAIN.  Third time, I think.  But she wants purple this time.  I had a lucky find on once and was able to snatch up a couple boxes of fine fabric scraps.  I have some stretchy fuzzy purple stuff that will do just the job.  The scraps aren't very big, so I have to be creative.  I've already started putting it together, and I am feeling the sweetness of success.  I don't have a pattern for exactly what I need to make it work, so I am altering another pattern (quite a bit).  These sort of things usually result in a lot of error, but I am excited that it is actually working out quickly this time.

The last few years I have been lucky enough to score some hand-me-downs and yard sale bargains for Sweetheart, but he didn't get any say in the matter.  We had to bribe him just to keep the costumes on.  Now that he is four, he is ready to choose.  He wants to be a brown dog.  It has to have a hood, though.  Where did he get that idea?  My mom told me that they have been going gaga over "Critter Capes" or something when they've watched Qubo at her house.  Good ol' merchandising getting my kids riled up over something they want to buy.  This is a pretty specific desire.  I hope he is not disappointed with what I can sew if it doesn't compare to what he has built up in his imagination.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fatherhood by Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby is such a funny guy.  I've been enjoying his humor since I was in grade school.  Does anybody remember Picture Pages?  I can still hear the song in my mind: "Picture Pages, picture pages, time for fun with picture pages, time for me to draw another picture for you!"  I don't recall being wildly entertained by the show, but his pen would make noises as he drew on the board.  The Cosby Show, though, is one of my top ten all time favorite TV shows.  Funny stuff. 
Anyway, I have just finished reading Fatherhood.  The humor doesn't disapoint, and I found myself laughing out loud several times, especially when I recognized the behaviors he described from my own children.  He describes some of the joys and struggles a father may expect from his children from birth to adulthood.The commentaries at the beginning and end were a little dry, but interesting to note how views on psychology and parenting transform over time.

Here is my rating system for books I read:
one star = didn't like it (I won't be reading books to completion that would rate lower than one star)
two stars = it was okay
three stars = it was enjoyable
four stars = really liked it
five stars = couldn't put it down, can't get it out of my head now that it's over

For Fatherhood, I give it three stars

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dave Ramsey and House Chores

In Dave Ramsey's book Total Money Makeover, he teaches how to stack your debts by paying off the debt with the lowest balance first while paying minimum payments on the rest, then after that balance is gone, adding what you would have paid for it onto the next lowest balance.  I have pondered his advice to pay off the lowest balance first rather than the highest interest rate.  It seems like you would be done paying it all off faster if you weren't accruing so much interest along the way.  It is a psychology trick, not a mathematics trick.  It's about motivation.  Once you have paid off the smallest balance, the easiest one to do in the shortest amount of time, you get a psychology reward that makes you feel like you can keep doing it and not relapse into bad spending habits.  It seems to me he is making some assumptions about uniformity of human nature, and I do not personally agree that this solution is one-size-fits-all, but I can certainly see some validity to his point.

I take his debt stacking solution and now apply to cleaning the house.  Lets say your whole house is a disaster--worst case scenario.  Dishes piled to the ceiling, trash bags spilling over, hampers filled and dirty laundry trails in every room, black rings in the toilet, toys and books everywhere except where they belong, crumbs and sticky spots under the table, leftovers growing mold in the fridge...  Need I go on?  How do you go about tackling a job like this?  Realistically it isn't all going to happen in one day if you have to work alone.  I say pick the smallest and easiest job to do first.  Maybe it's the guest bathroom.  Just swab the toilet, wipe off the counter, and change the hand towel.  Voila! One whole room clean.  Doesn't that feel great?  Progress.  Now the next smallest job.  Or you could do a little bit in each room, whatever catches your attention, but at the end of the day, you'll probably be left feeling like you didn't get anything done.  Tomorrow the work will feel more like a drag.  That's kinda like paying a little extra on all your different debts at different times.  That's the least likely method to bring success.  Or choose the biggest job with the most interest...  That's probably dishes.  Gross.  If you don't take care of those soon, you'll have bugs in the house and a smell that won't go away.  And you'll have stains in the sink...  This task will take a long time, and you may need to take a break in the middle when the dishwasher or drainer is full.  So you've put in a good amount of effort that doesn't pay off immediately.  This job is going to take all you've got to keep going.  Just plow through.

At times I feel like I'm running in a hamster wheel.  Run run run run run and get nowhere.  There are always more dishes, more dirty clothes, more crumbs on the floor...  So I imagine that my hamster wheel is hooked up to a power generator, and I'm pumping energy into my family.  That helps.

I see that I have only had 7 people look at my blog so far, but I'm curious, how do you manage your housework?  Not just in worst case scenario, but generally, how do you stay motivated to work?  Leave a comment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Warm Fuzzies

My kindergarten teacher taught me that it is better to give warm fuzzies than cold pricklies.  We should try to make people feel good.  (I'll be writing posts in the future labeled "warm fuzzies" when I have words to make people feel good.)  I remember the lesson well because of the fun craft that went along with it.  The warm fuzzy I made was pink with red feet.  I gave it to my grandmother, who treasured it.  It adorned her bathroom backsplash for twenty-five years before she called me, distraught, to tell me that someone had pilfered her puffball.  Of course I made her a new one to replace it.  Belle then made one to give to my mother.  She put about ten googly eyes on that thing.  She's an "out of the box" kind of thinker.

This is how to make a warm fuzzy.

Gather up some materials: pompoms, glue, wiggly eyes, cardstock, foam core shapes, pipe cleaners, and whatever else looks appealing.
Cut some feet out of cardstock or foam core.  I wish I could leave a template for the creatively challenged, but I have no idea how that is done.
Put a drop of glue on the feet.

Stick the fuzzball onto the feet.

Dab a little glue onto the back of the wiggly eyes, and then attach them to the pompom.
That's your basic warm fuzzy, but you can add extras if you like.  Use your imagination.  You can glue them to the front of a note card or add a slip of paper under the feet (the size of a fortune cookie message) with a few kind words (like "I love you," "Thanks for being my friend," "You make me smile," "I admire you," and "You make me feel all warm and fuzzy.")  These are designed to be gifts, so make a few to warm the hearts of those you love.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
--Dr. Suess

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Old Maid

My parents took the kids to a plant fair in the spring and allowed them each to pick out some plants to put in the garden.  Belle chose some cucumbers which withered up and died shortly.  She was distraught. (Luckily I had planted some seeds that are doing fine.)  Sweetheart chose a tomatillo.  I have never eaten a tomatillo and never grown one.  This plant has grown enormous.  It is about four feet wide now.  It has about a hundred flowers on it, but not a single fruit.
I had to do a search to find out what was wrong.  As it turns out, tomatillos are not self-compatible, meaning she needs a boyfriend.  No friend, no fruit.  No tomatillos para nosotros.  She will die an old maid, and I will not be compelled to learn new recipes for this odd looking Mexican staple food.

How do you like my corn stalks?  Utah had an unusually wet spring.  The corn I planted didn't like it.  I got only a single stalk from my second planting, and four from the third planting.

I am a complete beginner to gardening.  This is the first year we've lived in this house, the first time I have had some good land to plant a garden.  I once had a rocky clay soil garden, but the only success I had was some odd looking gourds.  This year I have enjoyed a few "fruits of my labor--" a couple handfuls of green beans and peas.  So far I have harvested a quart freezer bag full of raspberries and half a quart of tiny strawberries.  I have removed probably a hundred pounds of weeds, especially morning glory/choke weed.  Hopefully next year will be better.  I hope my wishes for fewer weeds (having picked before they go to seed) is not nieve.

Tomatoes are coming.  Yay!  And sunflower seeds.
And a gratuitous shot of a maple (from which I will not be harvesting anything but shade):

Any gardening pros out there?  I would love to absorb your wisdom.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Brother of Jared

I was able to substitute teach in the 6 year old primary class in church today.  The lesson was about having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and about the brother of Jared, one of my very favorite stories from the Book of Mormon.  If you are familiar with the Old Testament of the Bible, you know the story of the tower of Babel, where the Lord confounded the people's language.  Jared and his brother were there.  The brother of Jared prayed to not have their language mixed up--them and their family and friends.  Their desire was granted.  Later the Lord guided them (the people of Jared, or Jaredites) to a choice promised land (America).  They had to cross the ocean.  Jesus instructed them to build barges (eight of them).  He gave them instructions, I assume in a like manner as he did for Noah and his ark, and they followed the instructions.  The barges were designed to go completely under water and turn over, as God intended to blow them where they needed to go.  They were "tight like unto a dish," which caused the problem of having no air to breath and no light to come in.  The Lord taught the solution for the air--to cut holes in the top and bottom so it could be opened up for air, then stopped up again when the water started to come in.  When the brother of Jared (his name was Mahonri Moriancumer--whew!  What a  mouthful!) inquired what should be done for light, Jesus asked him to come up with his own solution.  He came up with sixteen molten stones, clear like glass.  He had faith that the Lord could light them up if He only touched them with His finger.  His faith was so strong that he actually SAW the finger of Lord.  It frightened him, and he fell down.  This was the spirit body of the Lord, before he had come to Earth to get his body.  He didn't know that God looked like a man.  Jesus praised him for having more faith than any anybody else and showed Himself to him and taught him some awesome stuff about the future.  He instructed him to write it down, and no one would understand his language (remember Babel), and not share it with anybody.  It would be revealed when the time was right, after the resurrection of Christ, and he would make a way for the language to be known.
I began by telling a story about a girl who brought lunch for her father who was working inside a well.  She knew he was there because she could hear him, but couldn't see him.  He told her to jump in, and he'd catch her.  Then they could eat lunch together.  She trusted him and hopped right in, and he caught her.  Just like this, we know that God is there, even though we can't see Him.  I had these stones laid out on the table covered up by a paper towel.  I asked if they believed something was under the towel.  Well, it was bumpy instead of laying flat, so they could tell something was there without seeing it.

When I got to the part in the story about the brother of Jared asked the Lord to touch the stones, I turned out the light and asked the kids to come touch one of the stones.  They all thought it was great when it lit up.  (I had a flashlight hidden in my sleeve!)
That was so fun.  I love when the lessons turn out well, and you think the kids actually learned something that they'll take with them.

God lives!  Jesus lives!  The Holy Ghost is real!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Conjoined Twin Peaches

I have been thinking about entering these freaky peaches in the County Fair contest, but they judge on "marketability."  These aren't the kind of beauties people pick up in the market, are they?  There are actually two sets of these on my tree.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jackie Evancho

Yesterday while I was dusting the blinds (will wonders never cease?) my mom called me on the phone.  She said, "Hurry and turn on channel 7."  (That's PBS.)  Oh, it's Jackie Evancho.  Yes, I have heard of her, and yes she is AMAZING!!!  This little 10 year old girl has the voice of an angel (I know I'm not the first person to characterize her voice with that word).  An ADULT angel.  Her singing gives me goosebumps all the way up to my cheeks.  My husband and I first saw her on America's Got Talent where she made her debut.  We have rarely ever both been hooked on a TV series, but we wanted to hear this girl.  And of course all the other awesome talents in the show.

If you haven't heard Jackie Evancho's voice yet, do a quick search.  She has her own website, facebook page, and wikipedia description.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Pioneer Woman

I've just finished reading a book called The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels.  It is the August pick for my book club.  After suffering withdrawals from running out of pages, I visited the author's website at The Pioneer Woman.  Her blog is fun.  I love her writing style and "voice."  It so happened to be the same day of the fishy ordeal (see below).  So I thought to myself, "I want to do that, too!"  Here is my new baby blog, where I can share my stories and thoughts that just don't belong on my hairstyling blog.  I still don't know how this blog will develop, but as an aspiring author, I want to exercise my writing talent.  I don't aspire to be famous like Ree Drummond, but hopefully I will have something to say that will entertain and inspire my readers.  As soon as I get some readers.

Please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Empty Tank

Sammy was a good fish.  We weren't ready for the responsibility of a dog yet, but this little beta fish was just as excited to see a person at the door as any puppy.  I never knew a fish could have personality, but he actually showed a preference for my daughter.  When she got overzealous with the fish food one day, Sammy took a vacation to Oma's house.  He flared his gills at her and refused to eat anything except when Belle came on the weekends.  Depression?  Homesickness?  Happy as a clam to return home, he seemed to be quite comfortable in his little tank with the treasure chest and fake sea plants.

I told my husband I didn't want a fish.  It is just a responsibility without return except an interesting decoration.  I felt guilty keeping an animal in captivity this way.  He reassured me that the fish would be quite happy living a leisurely life, hand fed and safe from predators.  I was okay with that.  And I must admit that I grew fond of the thing after a while.  He was kinda cute, too.

Do you think that I didn't tell the children that we don't pet fish?  Or that we shouldn't put things in the water? Or take the fish out of the water? Of course I told them, but their parent filter must have blocked out the sound of my voice.  This is the kind of story that can make a person laugh and cry at the same time.  We've all done our share of crying except little four-year-old Sweetheart who is the major culprit.  Their first experience with death, I'm not sure he quite understands it all.  He just wanted to play with Sammy.

Belle asked if I could take a picture of him so she could remember him.  Surely I have a picture of him already looking healthy and happy?  Alas, no.