Overstuffed: November 2013 Overstuffed

Saturday, November 30, 2013

How to Decorate Your Christmas Tree

Last year I was forced to put my beloved Christmas Tree in the dumpster after we took it down on New Year's Day.  It just couldn't stand up straight anymore to save its life, and it was hard to fluff it out without having all of the branches fall off in your hand.  It lasted us 14 years, though, so I can't complain too much.

The exciting thing about throwing your old tree away is that you get to buy a new one!  We chose a 7.5 footer from Target, and while the set up process is completely different and I was not happy with it at first, it has turned out to be quite a lovely tree.  And a whole foot taller than our last one, which used to be 7 feet, but shrunk a bit over the years as we worked to smash the angel onto the top branches!
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The Day After Thanksgiving is tree and mantel decorating time (also egg nog drinking, leftover eating, Christmas carol listening, and deal shopping time), and this year was no different.  While I still have a lot of decorating to do--you should see all of the bins in my living room--just putting up the tree and stockings change the feeling of the house.  Everyone feels it and we're all a little nicer and a little happier.  The Spirit of Christmas is a powerful thing!

A couple of years ago I wrote a five part series about how I decorate my Christmas tree.  I've seen lots of tutorials around the internet since, and it seems we all do it a bit differently, so pick and choose what you like and I hope it helps you!

Part 1: Getting started, choosing a theme, adding lights & floral accents
Part 2: Putting up large and specialty ornaments
Part 3: Putting up the ball ornaments
Part 4: Putting on the ribbon and/or garland
Part 5: Finishing touches

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(After going through the tutorial, you may notice that I finally painted the ugly paneling in my living room!  Yay!  We've also purchased LED lights for the tree the past few years and they are so much less troublesome.)
Happy Christmas Decorating!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas Wish List Printable

Every year I tell myself that "this year I will not go overboard on Christmas gifts!"  Last year, because we had spent so much money on our Epic Vacation, I was really serious.  But, apparently not serious enough, because come Christmas morning the tree was overflowing with gifts.  I just love Christmas and buying Christmas gifts for my children so dang much that I can't help myself!  But even little things add up, and before I know it, I'm completely over budget.

I always start out each year thinking that the kids will get four gifts:  Something they want (from Santa), something they need, something they'll wear, and something they'll read.  I love that idea.  But then I want to buy them five things they want, and I notice that they really need underwear AND socks, and look how cute that skirt/dress/shirt is, and you can never have too many books, right?


We have made such amazing headway on our debt this year that I don't want to sabotage that.  I love seeing that big red number go down, down, down and I'd really like it to keep going down in December.  Which means, (say it with me) "This year I will not go overboard on Christmas gifts!"

I've seen this great printable floating around Pinterest to help support the four gifts only idea.  However, when I went to print it out, I realized that it doesn't quite fit for our family.

First, we downplay Santa over here quite a bit.  I have much more I could say about that in another post, but suffice it to say I'm uncomfortable with Dear Santa letters.  

Second, there's only one line for each item!  Where's the fun in that?  I like to have lots of options to pick from so that my girls are surprised on Christmas morning.  

So, I made this one (you can download it at the end of this post): 
Christmas list

Bria's Christmas List

It's fun for me to see how my girls distinguish wants from needs.  Like "things to wear" are on wants, needs, and wears for Bria this anonymous person living in my house.  She is definitely a teenager! Apparently she also needs "BROTHERS!!! (preferably 3)"  but I'm pretty sure that's not even possible, because we all know that if I were to actually have another child it would definitely be a girl that I would call Phoebe.  I am in love with her book list, too.  I am in love with her, actually.

Chloe Christmas List

I also like how "A person who wants a lot of things, Chloe" wants peace signs.  Do you think she'd mind if I just drew a bunch on a piece of paper and wrapped them up?  I'll have to get her to clarify that.  I'm also pretty in love with her book list: "Books by whoever wrote BFG" and "Brayden [sic] Bell!! The book that starts with an A."  Except, I don't think he has a book that starts with A, and his next one (the one that starts with L) won't be out for a while yet.  (But you should definitely read his books The Kindling (Middle School Magic)and Penumbras (Middle School Magic)while we're waiting for it.)

Sophia's Christmas List

I like how Sophia wants paper but needs a "really big sketch pad."  She also needs "little cups of paint."   And she will only wear "really cute" clothes.  Because a really cute girl like Sophia has to have clothes that match her high level of adorability!

As a mother, I adored this little Christmas list writing exercise.  Now to make sure I don't buy all the things--not even for their stockings!

(Does anybody know where I can get a really good deal on three brothers for Bria?)

To download the Christmas List Printable:

Enter your email into the form below and the printable will be sent directly to your email inbox. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

Enjoy it! It has really helped our kids to think through their Christmas list instead of just writing down everything they might want. And it has helped us as parents to buy them the best gifts instead of ALL the gifts.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

To download this printable, click here: In All Things Give Thanks Printable

I just put my Gluten-free rolls on the counter to rise.  I used this recipe--I hope they turn out!  Yeast breads are one thing I haven't come anywhere close to perfecting gluten-free.  I have missed eating rolls the past few holidays, so I was thrilled to find this recipe.

The girls have been doing their hair, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and helping me with odd jobs around the house this morning.  Next up on the docket:  Sweet potatoes (this recipe), and mashed potatoes.  The smells of a cooking turkey are filling the house!  I love Thanksgiving Day!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Table Setting and Place Cards

Simple and elegant Thanksgiving placecards to put the final touches on your Thanksgiving table.

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is making the table beautiful.  It's not often that I get an excuse to make a really gorgeous tablescape, so I get a little giddy on the holidays where I get to do that.  I love getting out my good silver and polishing it, I love coming up with centerpiece ideas, and I even love starching and ironing the napkins.

The problem with this is that I end up having to buy new dishes or chargers or glasses or tablecloths or something so that I don't get bored with what I already have.  This year was no different, but I found all the plates and bowls at the dollar store!  So that was cheap.  I bought a new tablecloth, too, but everything else was already in my possession--not too bad, right?
IMG_9006 Thanksgiving 2013 web
I always set the table the night before Thanksgiving--too much cooking happening on the actual day to give the table the attention I feel it needs!

The other thing I absolutely love doing is making the placecards.  I love how they turned out this year!  Here is how I made them:

1.  I purchased a box of "decorative accents" from the WalMart craft department (it's the only "craft" store in town).  It included the twine balls, plus several other types which I did not use.

2.  I first fiddled with the twine balls to see how they best stood up straight, and then I hot-glued paperclips to them.  Make sure to put the paperclip in far enough to the ball so that its center of gravity won't change too drastically once you add the name card.  Also make sure to use enough glue so the paperclip stays stable--it may be more than you think.

3.  For the name cards I used the fonts "Austie Bost Rest of Our Lives" for the script, and "Copperplate Gothic" (should come installed on most computers) for the print.  I then printed the names out onto plain white cardstock.

4.  I punched owls (I used this punch from Stampin' Up!, but only used the owl part) out of patterned paper, inked the edges with black ink, and then adhered them next to the names.

5.  I used a paper trimmer to cut the names out.

6.  I then adhered the ribbon to the back of each of the white cards, glued them to kraft colored cardstock, and then used my paper trimmer to cut them out again.

7.  I put them in the paperclips, and got to setting the table!
Thanksgiving Place Setting

Bria loves to help me with the table settings, and it was her idea to fan the napkins out and place them in the glasses.  I had another idea, but was unhappy with how it turned out, and I really loved what Bria came up with.  She told me that if I put it on the blog, I had to credit her with the napkins!  EVERYONE:  BRIA DID THE NAPKINS AND THEY ARE AMAZING!
Thanksgiving Tablescape
Now I've got to go get started on the rest of my pies.  I ran out of GF flour and had to send Joel out in the snowstorm to get me more--it hasn't stopped snowing around here for nearly two days!

Regardless of the snow, I am thankful to have my little family to celebrate with, as well as some friends who will be joining us.  I wish all of you a wonderfully happy Thanksgiving this year, too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving To-do List

Yesterday, the Maestro and I spent the day in Marquette. Marquette is where they have a Target, along with other stores I am deprived of in my small town. It's a 2-hour drive, and while we see the orthodontist there on a regular basis, it hasn't been very recently since Bria got her braces taken off. I've been missing Pier One Imports because of it, but since it means she turns in all her homework now, I won't complain too much.

But it's Thanksgiving Break now for the Maestro and me, so we made a lovely day trip together, AND made a decent dent in our Christmas shopping.  The girls are still in school through today, so I'm planning to get as much as possible done, even though it's already 11:45 and I haven't done a darn thing but read.   And in fifteen minutes I'm going to lunch with a girlfriend.

But after I have replenished my mind and soul, I will:

  1. Deep clean the kitchen and get it ready for the heavy duty Thanksgiving Day cooking.
  2. Vacuum the house.
  3. Deep clean the dining room.
  4. Polish the silverware.
  5. Iron the napkins.
  6. Troll Pinterest for table setting ideas.
  7. Fold laundry.
  8. Make labels for my pies.
  9. Wrap the Christmas gifts I bought yesterday.

What are you doing today to prepare for Thanksgiving?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Gluten-free Pumpkin Bars

If you follow me on Pinterest you might know that I have an obsession with pumpkin.  I freaking love it.  My Pinterest board called "Pumpkin is My Favorite Food" has (gulp) 767 pins on it.   Yes. Seven HUNDRED and sixty-seven.  As if I would ever make them all. And, obviously, about 750 of them are not gluten-free.

But they just look so darn delicious!

I still happily pin all the pumpkin recipes, but now I do it in the hopes that I can experiment with them in all my free time and make them gluten-free.  The pumpkin bar recipe I am sharing today has long been a favorite of mine, and I have fiddled with it and figured out how to make it taste amazing in a gluten-free state.  Now the only problem is that I eat way too many of them whenever I bake them.

Someday I will have a good relationship with food.  But right now is not the time to talk about that--let's get baking some amazingly yummy gluten-free pumpkin bars!

Gluten-free Pumpkin Bars

4 eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup oil
1 15-oz can pumpkin
2 cups Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2  teaspoon xanthan gum
3 teaspoons cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin with mixer at medium speed.  Stir together dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until batter is smooth.  Spread batter into a greased 13x9 inch baking pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Let cool completely before frosting.  (I have found that it is difficult to frost GF baked goods as they are a lot crumbier than usual.  You will have more success at "pretty" icing if you have the patience to let these really cool off totally and completely.)

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-oz package cream cheese, cold
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla


Combine cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add sugar and mix at low speed until combined.  Stir in vanilla and mix again.


More gluten-free (and pumpkiny) stuff:
5 Tips to Help You Transition to Gluten-free
How to Make a Gluten-free Pie Crust + GF Pear Pie
My Gluten-free Pinterest Board
My Pumpkin Pinterest Board

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Winter, It Is Here

And Bria still refuses to wear tights.

She also refused to wear a coat of any type to church today, and that dress she's wearing has short sleeves.  Crazy girl.  It's actually amazing that she bothered to put one on for our Sunday photo today.

As you can see, winter has officially arrived in the Keweenaw.  It's been so cold this weekend, that I have been wearing my coat around the house.  And to sleep in.  And, unlike Bria, I would have worn three coats to church if I could have figured out how to do it.

But, be proud of me.  Because yesterday I had a million errands to do, and even though when I woke up and looked at the weather on my phone and saw this
The red exclamation point was a winter weather warning for lake effect snow.  We were supposed to get ten inches.  Thankfully, we didn't even get half of that.

I still got my butt out of bed, bundled up, and went out to shovel the driveway so I could run my errands.  (Joel totally would have done it for me but he was picked up by a friend before I was awake to go play basketball.)

The only thing keeping me from staying in bed is that it really is my favorite time of the year as far as holidays and family traditions go.  As far as the weather goes, well, I will tolerate it until Black & Blue January.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I'm a Mormon.

Free printable quote: "I'm a Mormon. I know it. I live it. I love it." Ann M. Dibb

I'm a Mormon.  I know it.  I live it. I love it.

It's a huge part of me, my faith, and I am incredibly grateful for it.

This is a printable I made for my mom last year when she was Young Women's President.  The background has all the colors of the YW values, as well as the quote by Ann Dibb.

To get the printable, subscribe to my LDS-related posts below!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Stop Eating Gluten

I took this photo of Bria last week as she was coming out of her orchestra rehearsal.  I just love her.

Even though Bria isn't one of the gluten-frees in our house, I have a feeling she probably should be.  But, she's 13, a little stubborn, and basically healthy, so I don't push the issue too much.  She's coming to it on her own, anyway.  She eats a lot less gluten now than she has in the past, simply because our home is mostly gluten-free, and she is beginning to recognize the difference in how she feels.  So, yeah, I don't push it with her.  (But if she suddenly comes down with more drastic symptoms or an auto-immune something, all bets are off.)

Last night, she was telling me that her hip joints were bothering her.  Joint pain, specifically in the hips, is a top-ten symptom of gluten intolerance, so I simply said, "Stop eating gluten."

Her eyes rolled so far back in her head that I couldn't see them anymore.

"Mom!  That's your answer for everything!  My stomach hurts--go off gluten!  Oh no!  I just poked my eyeball out--well, you shouldn't eat gluten!  There isn't peace on earth--don't eat gluten!! Gah!"

She's pretty funny, that one.  And did I mention she's stubborn?

This morning, I drove her to the orthodontist for an 8:00 am appointment.  I was not one bit excited to do this because it snowed a lot last night, and that meant getting out of bed, bundling up, and driving in the snow.  Blech.  Why am I not a bear?

Bria, on the other hand, was practically giddy over the snow.  As we were crossing the bridge, she went on and on about how she couldn't wait for the lake to freeze over because it was so beautiful and it was her favorite thing.  And oh!  She just loves the snow, didn't I?

I gave her a dirty look.  "I do not like winter, and you know it," I told her.

"Oh," she said, "you don't like winter?  Stop eating gluten."

In all seriousness, my being gluten-free HAS helped tremendously with my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) issues.  But not completely.  Living somewhere slightly less wintry might help, I'm guessing.

If you think you might have a gluten intolerance, check out this list: Top 10 Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sophia's Struggles

"Mom?  Sometimes I have struggles at school."

Sophia and I had just driven up to the house and I was just about to turn off the car.

"What kind of struggles do you have at school?"

"Friend struggles."

She proceeded to tell me all about the second-grade playground troubles she was experiencing.  I interjected with a few how does that make you feels and why do you think your friend acts that ways, but mostly I listened to her.

In the end, I didn't even have to come up with a solution, because she did it all by herself.  And I thought it was a really good and mature idea, even though I wasn't sure how her friends would receive it.  She said she would try it the next day and see if they could work things out.

That was a couple days ago.  Yesterday, it was just the two of us at home after school and we were in the kitchen making some pumpkin bars together when she brought up the issue again.

"I'm still having friend struggles.  I tried what we talked about, but it didn't really work."

"What happened?"

She explained, and we talked through the matter a bit more.  Sometimes I feel so ill-equipped to be a mom!  I have no idea how to deal with second-grade playground drama--and the one thing I have drilled into my children's heads is that they are to treat everyone with kindness, no matter what.  And they honestly try to do that, I think, though I'm sure they are not perfect.  Sophia's struggle is that she has lots of friends that she wants to play with, but they don't always want to play with each other.  Then Friend A will be upset because Sophia decided she wanted to jumprope with Friend B, but if she decides to play tag with Friend A, then Friend B is mad.  It's a pickle for sure, because if you're trying to be nice and please everyone, it is sometimes absolutely impossible. I would be feeling the same sense of loss that Sophia was feeling--in fact, I still have to deal with similar situations as an adult!

We talked through some more solutions, and I helped her practice what she might say, but I still felt a little worried that I may have given her bad advice.  At the same time, she seemed relieved that she has a plan, and that makes me feel somewhat better.

She went upstairs for a while to do her reading, but about 15 minutes later she came running back downstairs.  She was holding the American Girl book A Smart Girl's Guide to Understanding Her Family, and very excitedly showed me the back where they had other books in the series advertised.  One of them was A Smart Girl's Guide to Friendship Troubles

"Do you want me to buy it for you?"

"Yes!  I think it will help me a lot!"

So, of course I went straight to Amazon and ordered it.  It will be at our house tomorrow, thanks to Amazon Prime.

This whole experience melted my heart.  This little girl amazes me all the time.  She wants so badly to be good and to do the right thing, and if she wants to read a self-help book at seven years old, well heck!  You bet I'm going to buy it for her.  It also makes me feel so blessed that my girls talk to me and tell me what's going on in their lives and I hope they continue to do that, even though I don't know if I will always (or ever!) have the right answers for them.

But I guess it doesn't matter if I know the answers or not, it's the listening that's the most important.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Eleven Random Things About Me

1. I really don't like movies. There are so many things I would rather do than sit through a movie, most of which I don't like anyway. The only movies I really enjoy are the ones that are based on books that I have previously read and loved (I realize that's odd, as most readers hate the movie versions). The last movie I was excited to go see in the theater was The Great Gatsby.

2. I have a significant high-frequency hearing loss in my left ear. If you are sitting on my left and try to whisper something in my ear, I will have to turn my entire body so you can whisper into my right ear. Otherwise I will not understand a word you whisper, as whispering is a high-frequency sound. Bria is highly embarrassed if I have to turn to hear her whisper and will refuse to repeat herself. Joel just knows to sit on my right.

3. I have never broken a bone, yet my children have each broken at least one. Chloe has broken three.

4. My biggest goal is to learn to achieve balance in my life. I am such an all-or-nothing girl that I am either perfect or I let everything go to pot and don't even care. It's very tiresome sometimes, and I wish I could find a nice middle ground. I'm working on it.

5. I have six pairs of high-heeled black boots and I don't think that's enough.

6. I haven't been able to wear flat shoes since I hurt my Achilles tendon a couple summers ago without being in great pain. You will always find me in heels or good sturdy tennis shoes now. And good sturdy tennis shoes are ugly and only appropriate for exercise, so heels it is.
Dog beard
Look!  I have a Schnoodle Beard.  I also love my dog--but you already knew that.

7. When I was in 8th Grade I had an assignment to write a persuasive letter. I wrote a letter to my parents convincing them to let me quit piano lessons, and it worked! I have regretted that letter since college. I'm a decent pianist, but I sure wish I would have continued so I could be a GOOD pianist.

8. The reason I don't like to cook is because I get too easily distracted in the kitchen. I burn things, I forget to add ingredients, and I skip important steps in the recipe because I am trying to do three other things besides cook the meal.

9. I had all three of my babies without epidurals or other medications and I used hypnobirthing with the last two.

10. I have been spit on in the eye by Romanian gypsies. More than once.

11. And if that wasn't enough, a wild baboon pooped on my head in Belize. Just once.

You guys.  NaBloPoMo is killing me.  I have a whole lists of posts I would like to write, and I've done okay, but some days I just can't do it.  Today is one of those days.

Lucky for me this crazy Facebook meme has been going around with all the random things.  I totally enjoyed reading everyone else's lists, so after a week or so, I finally joined in.  Forgive the meme today, and I'll (try to) be vastly more interesting tomorrow.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Our Epic Vacation: Day 11

It feels sort of like I'll never finish these Epic Vacation posts, but I am bound and determined to do it.  Even if it kills me.  Thanks for reading them even though I know they are probably excruciatingly boring to the people who read this blog.  Except my mom.  She likes them.  So this is for you, Mom!  :)

Already Day 11.  After our Sea Day the day before, we looked forward to our first port of call: Ketchikan, Alaska.  Since we had all the kids with us this time, we chose not to do any excursions.  The last time Joel and I were in Ketchikan with my parents, we did a totem tour there.   And, since I am terrible about actually finishing the blogging of our vacations, it isn't on this blog, though lots of that Alaska trip is.  Sigh.

Anyway, since we didn't plan for a shore excursion, we mostly just hung around the touristy little shops and the harbor.
The Star Princess docked in Ketchikan
View of the Star Princess from shore.

Cousins in Ketchikan
All of the cousins in front of the touristy Alaskan shops, where they enjoyed buying things like ceramic totem pole figurines and bags of pretty rocks.  

Chloe in Ketchikan
Princess Chloe with the Star Princess in the background.

Bria in Ketchikan
Beautiful Bria.

Cool Ketchikan Boat
I thought this boat docked in the harbor was totally cool.  What a life, hey?

Sophia and Estee in Ketchikan with a bear
Sophia and her cousin Estee with a great big Alaskan bear.

Ketchikan fudge
The Maestro is all about the chocolate.  He learned on our last trip that Alaskan fudge and other chocolate treats are mighty yummy!

Ketchikan building
I don't know why I took this photo, but I like it.  Which is probably why I took this photo.

Sophia and the Ketchikan Totem
Sophia and a totem.

Totem pole
Another totem.

Ketchikan Harbor
I love boat harbors.  Love them.

Lara and Joel in Ketchikan
Proof that I was there, too.  Even though this is a truly terrible picture of me.

After we did some shopping, we found a nature center where the kids could do a scavenger hunt (they won pencils and coloring books), watch a film, and learn more about the area.  I have no photos of this because if I remember right, I was trying to corral all the kids who were running all over the center, which was like a gigantic maze, trying to find the answers to the scavenger hunt.

After we had our fill of the nature center, we found a spot on the bridge to watch the salmon run.  Now that was cool.  Can you see all the fish in my photo?  I tried several times to get a good picture of what we were seeing, and that was the best one.
Salmon Run Ketchikan
Look closely!  There are hundreds of fish in this photo.

Salmon Run
There were lots of people fishing on the bridge.  I am not sure why, but there were also several dead salmon laying about.  These two girls were fascinated.

Grandpa saving Sophia's rocks in Ketchikan
Sophia dropped her little velvet bag of pretty rocks over the bridge while she was watching the fish.  Grandpa climbed down and saved the day.

Grandpa in Ketchikan
And found more dead fish on the rocks while he was at it.
Mamah and Grandpa and the grandchildren in Ketchikan
Mamah and Grandpa and all their grandchildren (minus one who didn't get to come this time) on the bridge where we watched the salmon run.
Bria and Chloe were both horribly upset to see the fish being caught and killed. Especially Chloe. She was so upset that she sobbed into her Daddy's shoulder for a long time while the rest of the gang went to do a bit more sight-seeing. Poor baby.
Sad Chloe in Ketchikan
Sad sad Chloe.

The gang doing a bit more sight seeing--also a bit of proof that my brother Dave was there with us.

After we'd had our fill of beautiful Ketchikan (I didn't mention that it was awfully cold that day, too), we headed back on board our ship.  The kids ate dinner that night at the Kid's Club and the adults all dined alone and then played a fun game of Trivia.

Later that night, Joel and I took Bria and Brayden up to the top of the ship to watch The Hunger Games on the big screen under the stars.  In the fog.  With the foghorn.  And lots of popcorn and blankets.  It was a lot of fun.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pear Pie: Luscious and Gluten-free

Thanksgiving is coming, and that means one thing to me:  Pie.

Turkey is great and all, but I am all about the pie on Turkey Day.  So I call it Pie Day instead.

Last year was my first year being gluten-free on Thanksgiving, and my poor pie crusts were a great big ginormous pie crust flop.  And I was very sad.

Well, this year I am determined to get it right, and that's going to mean some practice pies.  So, I made one of my favorite fall pies for the sole purpose of finding a gluten-free pie crust that actually works.  And on the first try, I'd say the pie crust recipe I used turned out pretty well.  I didn't achieve perfection with it like I can with my wheat flour versions, but it's a very good start.

Gluten-free Pie Crust

1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Gluten-free flour  (I used Bob's Red Mill All Purpose GF Flour)
1/2 Cup (1 stick) frozen butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons ice cold water


Add flour, frozen butter, and salt to a food processor (I used my BlendTec blender).  Pulse in short bursts until butter has been broken down to pea-sized pieces.  Add water to flour/butter mixture.  Continue to pulse in short bursts until the dough is combined.  Remove dough from processor or blender and form into a ball on floured (make sure to use your GF flour!) wax paper.

Gluten-free dough can be difficult to roll out,  and rolling it out on the wax paper with a well-floured rolling pin worked amazingly well.

Once your crust is rolled out, carefully transfer it to your pie plate, gently pressing dough to fit.  From this point, you can begin to treat your GF pie crust dough just as you would any other pie crust.


Luscious Pear Pie

1 unbaked gluten-free pie crust--bottom only
1/4 Cup Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten-free flour
1 Cup Sugar
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 Cup heavy whipping cream
4 large pears, skinned, de-veined, and thinly sliced  (Note:  Pears must be sufficiently ripened, or the pie will not turn out well--I usually buy them a week ahead of time and they are perfectly ripe by the time I bake the pie.)


Fill half of the unbaked pie shell with thinly sliced pears.  In a small bowl, stir the remainder of the ingredients together (except the cinnamon) and pour evenly over the pears.  Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon.

Bake at 425ºF for about 40 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

Did I mention this is one of my favorite fall pies?  It is.  Second only to a good pumpkin pie, this pear pie is really and truly luscious.  I can't wait to eat the last piece  (I hid it from everyone else)!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Christmas Dress Debut

IMG_8964 Sunday Photo web
I may not be able to match them exactly anymore, but coordination is the new catchword.  I was just thrilled to find leopard print for Sophia, lace for Bria, and sparkles for Chloe.  If they're happy, I'm happy!

Yesterday I had to scramble to get Christmas dresses for my girls.  It used to be I could buy them all matching dresses at The Children's Place so when Bria's October birthday discount rolled around, I used it to buy their holiday dresses.  I always had them in time for the Primary Program (in the LDS church, the children put on a music/speaking program for the main church meeting--usually in the late fall), so that's when the Christmas Dress Debut would happen.  Then they wouldn't wear them again until the Sunday before Christmas.

Well.  Today was our Primary Program.  And I am the Primary President, so it shouldn't have taken me by such surprise!  But yesterday morning I realized I didn't have new dresses for the girls.   I have since decided it's because Bria has grown out of The Children's Place, so they don't even send me a birthday coupon for her anymore.  And when I don't get that coupon in my inbox, I'm not reminded that it is time to shop for Christmas dresses.

All is well, though.  Even though I have virtually no shopping in my little town, I do have a JCPenney, and I am happy with what I found.  Even better, all of my girls are actually wearing tights today--maybe because I bought them new ones.

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The Primary Program went amazingly well, thanks for asking.  My tiny little Primary has doubled in size this year, so it was harder than usual to write and execute the program.  And I only have 20 kids!  I don't know what you people do with the huge primaries when program time comes around.  But my kids sang with their whole hearts (most important to me) and they knew the words and they wrote beautiful talks and they helped the entire congregation feel the Spirit.  Hooray for Primary Programs!

This was the first Primary Program that Bria did not participate in.  We had the program about two weeks after she turned 12 last year, so I still made her take part--I only made her play her violin, but she was technically (and somewhat begrudgingly) still in it.  I still had her wear her new dress today, though--isn't it great on her?  I'm a little jealous of it, actually.  What a gorgeous girl I have!

Amendment:  What gorgeous girls I have.  Including the adorable little puppy girl.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ten Signs You're the Mother of Girls

Growing up, I had three younger brothers.  Actually, I still have three younger brothers.  What I'm getting at is that I did not have a sister, even though I asked my mom if I could please exchange my youngest brother for a girl when he came home from the hospital.  I had no idea what having a sister would be like since my world as a child was largely populated by boys and their rough-and-tumble ways.  I escaped into my room to play with my dolls or do girlie things, and they had absolutely no interest in joining me.

I really thought I would just be the mom of boys--I knew boys, I could deal with boys.  But I ended up with three girls instead, and since I never had a sister of my own, some things have been a little surprising, to say the least.

1.  You have an insatiable need to dress your girls in matching outfits as much as possible.  And even when they're starting to grow out of it, you insist on making at least their Christmas and Easter dresses match to some extent.  (Oh yes, I just bought Christmas dresses today!)

2.  You can do at least two full loads of laundry that contain only pink clothing each week.

3.  The arrival of the American Girl Doll catalog in the mail is the most exciting event of the month.

4.  You know everything about the latest teen heartthrob (Ross Lynch) and the boy band du jour (One Direction).  Not because you want to, but because your daughters talk about it incessantly.

5.  Your children have complete meltdowns over whether or not they will curl their hair for church.  Because curling hair means hairspray and "I HATE HAIRSPRAY but I WANT to curl my hair but I DON'T WANT TO USE HAIRSPRAY!"  There are similar meltdowns over shoes, dresses, room cleaning, and oh, HAIR.

6.  You're used to emotional fluctuations that go from sheer ecstasy to the depths of despair and back again in about 1.8 seconds.

7.  When your children discover the snail infestation in their grandparents' yard, they build a snail house, name the snails, and even try to kiss them.  Because "awwwwww Mommy, look how sweeeeeeeeeet they are!"  (Shudder.)

8.  You do fifty million loads of laundry a week, not because your children are particularly dirty, but because they wear twenty outfits a day.

9.  Your office is usually sparkling.  Not sparkling clean, just sparkling with all of the glitter projects your daughters have been doing in there.

10.  You get hugs and kisses and cuddles every day from three of the sweetest (if also the most dramatic) girlies on the planet.  AND they all love to watch Pride & Prejudice with you. What a lucky woman you are.

I was inspired to write this post because I read this one:  10 Signs You're a Mom of Boys.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Giving Thanks--Free Chalkboard Printable

"Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us to recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven."  
~Thomas S. Monson

Today I give thanks for my amazing husband who supports me in all my overwhelmedness.  Who willingly spends an hour or two fixing my slowly dying computer when I am freaking out about losing everything on it (yes, I will be purchasing an external HD tomorrow).  Who happily does the dishes when I have lost the ability to move my limbs due to the exhaustion I have brought upon myself (see overwhelmedness).

In other news, Thanksgiving Break can't come soon enough, and when it does I will be SO THANKFUL.

To download the printable, click here: Sincerely Giving Thanks Printable

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ready for Hibernation

Some super fat pigeons eating all of our newly seeded grass.  I guess they're getting ready for their winter flight south. 

It snowed this week.  And it got really, really cold.

I am okay with the snow.  Mostly.  It's beautiful, after all.  It can get a little annoying once we have twenty feet of it on either side of our driveway with more coming, but I do think it's very pretty.

Chloe came home from school on the day that it snowed and told me how happy she was that there was snow.

"I love playing in the snow at recess, Mom!  I forgot how wonderful it is to have the world be all white and muffled when you talk.  It's my favorite thing."

Yes, snow is pretty awesome.

It's the cold I'm not okay with.  I am always freezing anyway and I don't need the weather to help me freeze even more!  In the winter, all I want to do is cozy up into my comforter with my heating pad and fuzzy socks and read a book.  And drink hot cocoa or tea.  And cuddle with my kids.

I wish humans hibernated.  It sounds so lovely, doesn't it?  Flying south seems like a good option, too, but since I don't have wings or the money for a plane ticket and a place to stay in the Bahamas for six months, I'll have to stick with hibernation.

See you in the spring!
(Wishful thinking.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

To Be The Giver of a Gift

In the dressing room before my performance on Saturday Night of Mahler's "Um Mitternacht."  The final moments before I perform are usually spent touching up my lipstick, pondering the soul and emotion of the piece, and praying.
I have a friend named Sarah who is an incredible artist.  In fact, if you are in Utah, you may be very familiar with her gorgeous tulip paintings--I've seen a few in real life and they are breathtaking.  Sarah recently wrote a blog about her artistic process that touched my soul because she was able to articulate things that I have felt about my own process when it comes to singing.

You should definitely hop over to her blog to read her post in its entirety, but here is the last paragraph of her post:
"Painting feeds me and brings me balance.  The experience of painting is an exhilarating process for me.  It is a process of doubting, questioning, crying, joy, triumph, discovery, elation, and finally peace with it all.  For me that process alone is worth it all, but how much sweeter the reward becomes when I can share it, when someone sees my work and time stops, even if only for a second, and they say, 'I like it; it makes me feel happy.' Then my joy is full, and I feel blessed to be able to be the giver of that gift."

Sometimes I'm not really sure what draws me to performing.  I'm not a super outgoing or extroverted person, and I actually really hate being the center of attention.  I am guilty of trying to escape after performances so I don't have to talk to people afterward.  It makes me a little (okay, a lot) uncomfortable to hear them compliment me in person.   So why do I do it?  I guess it's because of this process that Sarah talks about that forces me to dig deep into myself as I grapple with the music.  It's often terribly hard, but it is always incredibly rewarding.  Few things bring me the kind of joy as being able to finally perform a piece of music and know that I gave it my all.

Last year I sang in a concert that put me through more doubting, questioning of my abilities, and crying than I had ever experienced in preparation for a performance before.  And yet through all of that, by the time I actually stepped onto stage to sing, I felt complete peace.  The joy I felt when that concert was finished was greater than almost any before, simply because I had been through the wringer in the months, weeks, and days leading up to it.

I always tell my students that we have two responsibilities as singers:  1) to sound good, and 2) to make the audience feel something.  This is why we have the arts.  We can feel things so deeply that just to say "I feel so happy" or "I feel so sad" isn't adequate.  We must sing, or paint, or dance, or write in order to put those big feelings into song or onto canvas or into movement or into the pages of a novel or the words of a poem.  And still others feel things so deeply that they listen to music or look at art or go to the ballet or read a book.  It is a necessary relationship between the artist and the consumer of the art for neither could exist without the other.  We help each other to feel something.

My friend Annette is a wonderful writer.  You may have even read some of her novels.  She said once that it was sometimes sad to her when someone told her they loved her latest book so much that they read it in a day.  Of course, this is a high compliment to a writer, but Annette felt a little sad because it often takes her a year or more to complete the process of writing and editing, but the reader only needed a single day to finish it.  I related. The five-minute performance I had on Saturday night took me a couple months to prepare for, just as most of the performances I have given do.  And then, when you look past the time it took to write one novel or to prepare one aria or to paint one canvas, you see all the time--an entire life, usually--that the artist has dedicated to learning and perfecting the craft.  The finished art is an incredible gift of time and of the artist's entire soul.

It's interesting to me that I wouldn't receive the same sort of reward if I just sang a piece to myself in a practice room.  Even if I sang it perfectly (which I'm sure I never have), if nobody is there to hear me do it, it just isn't really worth doing.  Somehow, in the act of sharing my work, I am able to appreciate all that went into it all the more.  To bring joy to others--to make them feel something--somehow fills my own soul with indescribable joy.

I am, as my friend Sarah so eloquently put it, blessed to be the giver of that gift.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Our Epic Vacation: Days 9 & 10

The morning of Day 9 dawned bright and early, and we were all excited to get to the cruise terminal and board the ship!  Hooray for cruises!

With the help of my Dad, my brother Dave, and both of Dave's cars, we all made it to the cruise terminal and got ourselves checked in. If you've never been on a cruise before, I will tell you that this involves standing in the longest line ever for at least an hour if not longer.  But the end result is boarding a ship, so nobody can really complain.

Then you have to wait in another long line to even get on the ship.  At one point, as we were slowly inching our way along the ramps, my niece Estee dropped her ship card down to the bottom of the dock.  Luckily, it didn't go into the water!  Joel walked down there and had to solicit the help of a ship employee to get to it, but he retrieved it for her and she was able to board the ship without issue.  Those ship cards are more important than anything else!  What a good uncle the Maestro is, hey?

Once we got on the ship, we found our staterooms and unpacked.  Unpacking is absolutely necessary because it's nice to be able to move around in your teeny tiny room that you're sharing with three other people.  Dave's room was right next to ours, and so we sort of played musical beds.  Sophia and Estee stayed in our room, and Chloe, Daxton, and Tychon (all around the same age) stayed with Dave.  Bria was upstairs with my parents and her cousin Brayden.

After we unpacked, we went up to the Lido deck for lunch where we finally met up with my brother Nate and his wife, Brittany.  Then came the boring but necessary muster station drills.

It was Sunday, so after that we went up to the ship's chapel and held a family Sacrament meeting.  We had all been assigned talks or other responsibilities and it was very nice.  A random lady even came in and sat in on it.  I hope she had a nice experience.

After our church service, we walked down to the dining room for MORE FOOD.  Because cruises are about eating all. the. time.  Dinner was nice, once my brother Nate and I got past a little misunderstanding.  :)

After dinner we got the kids all signed up for Kid's Club which is, of course, their favorite part of cruising.  And then it was already time for bed.  But that didn't stop Sophia and Estee from leaving us this cute note.  They remembered how it went from the last cruise, after all!
Midnight Snack

Day 10 was a Sea Day, so we slept in, got breakfast, took the children to kids' club and proceeded to find some fun things to do on the ship.

We hit a ping pong competition that Mom and I watched while Joel, Dave, and my Dad competed.  Joel pretty much lives for ship ping pong competitions when we are on cruises.  But he didn't win this one.  Sad.

We also played Bingo, ate lunch, took the kids swimming while Joel napped on the deck, hit the gym, and played golf.  Not all of us participated in every activity, and only Joel golfed.  Are you shocked?

Then we had our first formal dinner of the week.

I realized I hadn't taken a single photo of Day 10 until I was lying in bed exhausted.  I was working on Project 365 at the time, so not taking a photo was not an option.

I grabbed my phone and snapped this lovely photo.

***End of Days 9 & 10***