Monday, June 30, 2014

Gluten-free Blueberry Banana Yogurt Muffins

Just before school was out I decided to make some muffins for the girls' lunches. It was towards the end of the week and grocery shopping needed to be done, but our bank account wasn't quite ready for that yet (I don't even want to talk about my grocery budget right now...ugh).

Anyway, I had a bunch of overripe bananas in the freezer and I figured making some banana muffins would be a great way to use up what we had in the house. The girls were finally in bed, so I got out my binder full of favorite recipes, thawed and smashed the bananas, mixed in the butter, and opened the fridge to get an egg...

...and realized we were all out of eggs. (You knew that was coming, didn't you?)

It was late, I didn't feel like making a run to the grocery store (and, also, we were a little short on cash, remember?), so I improvised and used some vanilla Greek yogurt I had in the fridge. The fact that it was vanilla-flavored turned out to be excellent because I was also out of gluten-free vanilla.

Those muffins turned out to be the BEST muffins I have ever made. They were incredibly moist, perfectly sweet, and all around delicious. The next time I made them, I added some fresh blueberries for extra sweetness, and they were EVEN better.

These are made with gluten-free flour, and I have not actually tried them with wheat flour. Still, you can easily substitute all-purpose white flour for the gluten-free flour.

gluten-free, egg-free blueberry banana muffins. So good, you will never need another muffin recipe again!

Blueberry Banana Yogurt Muffins


4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 Cup butter, melted
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup Vanilla Greek Yogurt (I used Ciobani brand)
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose gluten-free four (I use Mama's Almond Blend for most baking and love the results)
1 Cup fresh blueberries (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a wooden spoon, mix smashed bananas with melted butter. Add sugar and yogurt, mix well. Sprinkle baking soda and salt over mixture and mix in. Add flour last, stir until mixed.

Spoon into muffin liners and bake for 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Makes about 18 muffins.


More Gluten-free Goodness from Overstuffed:
How to Make a Gluten-free Pie Crust
The Maestro's Famous Mint Brownies
Springtime Lemon Cake
Follow My Gluten-free Boards on Pinterest

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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Inaugural Beach Day 2014

IMG_8512 Sunday Photo web

I am a little late getting my Sunday photo/weekly recap up today because I was taking a VERY LONG Sunday nap. Because I am exhausted! We played hard this week, to be sure. But the best part was finally going to the beach this summer.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day (today is, too) and, after Bria's string quartet rehearsal, we piled in the car and headed to our favorite beach to meet some of our favorite friends. We didn't have a ton of time to spend at the beach that day, because Bria's quartet was playing at a wedding later that evening (her first paying gig as a musician and she made 50 bucks and was THRILLED--easiest money ever, she said).

But we definitely milked those few hours for all they were worth...

The girls built sandcastles.

IMG_8395 Beach Day 1 2014 web

And caught the biggest tadpole I've ever seen in my life.

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Bria sunbathed, as teens are wont to do. And also made sand art on her arms.

IMG_8426 Beach Day 1 2014 web

Chloe ate potato chips and actually smiled for a couple photos.

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Sophia immediately tried out the (very cold) water, learned to walk in flippers, and played with squirt guns.

IMG_8443 Beach Day 1 2014 webIMG_8449 Beach Day 1 2014 webIMG_8432 Beach Day 1 2014 web

Sometimes the teen's sunbathing was interrupted by her sisters' activities.

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The girls did a lot of running and jumping into the water.

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Sophia gathered pretty rocks for her (gigantic) collection.

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The dads (and sometimes the kids) played Frisbee and tossed around the football.

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And the moms enjoyed chatting, watching, and enjoying the sun.

It was a glorious day, and I hope that there are many, many more to come this summer.

Happy Sunday!

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Friday, June 27, 2014

My Extraordinary Sophia

A couple months ago, a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:
"The youngest just made a card for her friend Sophia. She told me how Sophia stood up for her on the bus today when another person was being unkind. She then told me about all the ways that she likes Sophia: she is determined, energetic and wants me to be happy. We all need good friends."
Obviously, my mother heart grew a few sizes after reading that. Sophia hadn't told me about the incident on the bus, and when I asked her about it she didn't think it was any big deal. She said, "I just told him to be nice because he wouldn't like it very much if someone were saying those things to him." Then she shrugged it off like it was what any 7-year-old kid would do.

And let's talk about the qualities her friend noticed in her. Determined? Hoo-boy. I don't know that I've ever met a more determined child. From throwing tantrums at age 2 because I wouldn't let her cook her own eggs on the stove to just doing the things she wants to do without asking my approval (or in spite of my disapproval!), she has always given me a run for my money in the determination department. But that determination serves her really well, too, and she has done some awesome things because of it.

Energetic. Check. I can't keep up with her, but I love her energy and zest for life. And wanting others to be happy? That's perhaps one of Sophia's greatest qualities. She often uses all of that determination and energy to clean the house because she heard me say I was frustrated and tired. She is always looking for ways to make others happy and it makes me happy to watch her.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Personal Best

As usual, my children are my greatest teachers.

Bria just started to run track this year. She got a late start, because most of her peers have been doing it a couple years longer than her, but that didn't deter her at all. Plus, like me, she has exercise-induced asthma, and running track is hard! That also didn't deter her, unlike me, who quit running track and doing any kind of sport because I couldn't breathe well.

She came in dead last in every race she ran for her first three track meets this year. Was she bothered? Not one bit. As a mother watching the races, I worried about that. Was she going to be upset because she didn't do well? Would she compare herself to the other runners who did better than she did? Would she want to give up?

Obviously, I was projecting my own feelings onto her. Because I would have been upset if I didn't do well. I would have compared myself to the other runners who ran better than me. And I would definitely have wanted to give up.

Monday, June 23, 2014

How to Make Faux Chalkboard Art

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Sharpie, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #PaintYourWay 

DIY Tutorial: How to make faux chalkboard art on canvas with paint pens.

My laundry room is a dungeon.

At least, it was until I painted it a bright, sunny yellow. Now it's only a semi-dungeon. It's down in our unfinished 100-year-old basement, and in the winter I really don't like hate going down there. It's dark, it's damp, and it's cold.

But laundry must go on, even in the winter, and so I have been looking for ways to brighten up the room and make it a little more inviting.

I found a really great 20x24 frame at the thrift store and had the idea to make a chalkboard for the laundry room. At first, I was going to just use chalkboard paint and have an actual framed chalkboard, but then I thought about it and realized that it wouldn't be very useful in a dungeon. In the end, I decided that I would rather have some permanent chalkboard art in the frame.

I spray painted the frame MONTHS ago, and it's even been hanging up in my laundry room all empty and taunting me every time I went down there to unload the dryer. (In my defense, it was better than a completely blank wall, but I admit it is also totally stupid to have an empty frame hanging on your wall.)

Well! This past weekend I FINALLY got it together and I made the chalkboard art. And, of course, I love the finished product so much that I'm wondering why I didn't do it sooner! So it is with us procrastinators...

How to Make Faux Chalkboard Art


(affiliate links)

20x24 canvas
White oil-based Sharpie pens
Black spray paint (satin finish)
Painter's tape
Exacto knife


1. Go to Michael's and purchase a 20x24 canvas and a handful of the new oil-based Sharpie paint pens in white. (Can you tell how excited I was to finally get started on this project?)

At Michael's

2. Spray paint the canvas black. I used a satin finish, which worked well. I wouldn't recommend using anything glossier than that since we want the lettering to stand out.

3. Decide which quote you want to put on the faux chalkboard. I decided to use a limerick I had written a few years back for a fun Laundry Limericks contest my friend had run on her blog. I didn't win, but I really liked my entry, and I thought it would be cute to have it on my laundry room wall.

4. Design your chalkboard art. In Photoshop Elements, I made a 20x24 canvas and sketched out a basic idea of how I wanted the quote to look. (Yes, I was apparently temporarily insane when I chose that font for the word LAUNDRY.)

5. I then chopped up the quote into 8x10.5 pieces that could be printed out and used to help guide me in the lettering. I used 10.5 so there would be a small bit of overlap to help me match up the pieces.

6.  Print out your lettering guides, and then use painter's tape to tape off the first line of your quote. (If your quote isn't in straight lines and is more word arty, then you can skip the tape.)

7.  Use an exacto knife to carefully cut guide lines into the black paint. I did this by placing my paper over the canvas and tracing only the vertical lines in the font. For the more complicated fonts, I did horizontal lines as well. (Exacto knives are sharp! Be careful that you don't slice through the canvas.)

Use an exacto knife to make a lettering guide

8. Using your score marks, and looking at your lettering guide, begin to paint the lettering on with the Sharpie Paint Pen. Imperfections are part of the charm of this project. I wanted my chalkboard art to look hand-lettered, not like it was perfectly cut out of vinyl or mass-produced, so I didn't worry too much about perfection. In fact, when I got to the crazy font I chose, I ended up having to make several adjustments and it is definitely not perfect. But it does look like maybe somebody hand-lettered it on a chalkboard with actual chalk, and that's exactly what I wanted.

9. Keep repeating this process, line by line, until you have an awesome piece of chalkboard art for your house! Add whimsical art details if you want, too. I purposely scooted my quote slightly to the side so I could add a magic wand to the finished project.

Tutorial: How to make faux chalkboard art with a canvas and paint pens.

I wish I would have thought to grab a black Sharpie Paint Pen, because I had a couple mistakes that I needed to black out. I just used a little paintbrush with black acrylic paint that I had on hand, but the paint pen would have been 100 times easier. They were so easy to work with, and I was able to get a great amount of detail into my project without fear of smearing or having the paint come out too thickly or unevenly.

Here's a shot of how it actually looks in my laundry room, though it is a bit dim in there to get a truly good photo (it is a dungeon, after all, even though it's now a yellow dungeon!):

Make faux chalkboard art with a canvas and some Sharpie Pens.

I seriously love it. Good thing, too, because I completely ignored the laundry while I was working on this project and I'm going to have to spend a lot of time looking at it while I sort clothes in the next few days! (Yeah, those baskets may look empty, but trust me, I have well over ten loads of laundry to do right now.)

Want to do your own chalkboard art? Michael's has lots of Sharpie paint pens in stock. And not just in white, either. There's a color for any project you might want to do!  Watch for great deals on Sharpie paint pens in your Michael's ad, at, or in the store.
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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Happy Birthday to The Maestro

Sunday Photo june 22 2014 web

The first week of summer has been full of reading, rain, friends, and lots of glorious sleeping in. I actually had to turn the heat on twice this last week because of the damp rain and colder-than-summer temperatures outside. Not my favorite. But at least I got to sleep in, so I guess it's all good.

The Maestro turned 40 this past week. Lucky for us, it was not rainy and cold that day and was absolutely beautiful and sunny.  So, we decided to walk downtown (we live a short walk away) to eat out and then walked to a park on the water and spent a lovely evening playing together. It was the perfect way to spend his birthday. The girls got dressed in their running clothes and Sophia very literally ran most of the way there. I didn't have my big camera, but here are a few iPhone photos of our lovely evening.

Summer evenings like this are what make the tons of snow and longer-than-normal winters worth it. Summer evenings like this are one of the many reasons I really do love where I live. Summer evenings like this make me extremely happy.

Bria DowntownerGirls Downtowner

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Seeds of Faith by Dan Barker

Ever since I spent a summer performing in Nauvoo, Illinois, I have been a huge Church History Fan. I absolutely love hearing the stories of faith and the experiences that the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had.

Curious about how I ended up as a performer in Nauvoo? Click here: Cast Not Away Therefore They Confidence
Dan Barker's newest book Seeds of Faith is a compilation of conversion stories from the early saints. I loved reading it. The journal entries detail many experiences these early saints had before they ever heard of Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, or the restored Gospel. Many of them experienced heavenly visitations, dreams, or other types of miracles as they searched for a church to join.

My own faith and love for the Gospel increased as I read this book. I appreciate the time and the research that went into finding these early accounts and organizing them into chapters of similar accounts. I think one of my favorite chapters was the one about those who took a long time to make the decision to be baptized. Some never did take that final step, even though they had experienced some amazing things that should have convinced them to join The Church. I loved these stories as an example of the gift of agency.

This is a great book to read a little at a time. Just one or two stories a day gave me much to think about and to ponder about. I will definitely be using some of these stories in future lessons I give at church, as well.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Kick-off Party!

This post is part of an ongoing Summer Reading for Kids series. Click HERE to find ideas for reading activities, reading lists, and reading incentives...and keep checking back for more!

Our last day of school was last Thursday. So, naturally, Friday morning we had a little Summer Kick-off Party.

The Maestro made a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and gluten-free waffles (that Puccini really thought she might get to eat if she sat at the table with us).

Summer Kickoff Breakfast

After we ate, we talked with the girls about what our expectations, plans, and goals were for the summer. We reintroduced our 2013-2014 Family Theme and talked about ways we could better incorporate it into our lives this summer.

Since the theme is "My Body is a Temple: Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Healthy Spirit" I thought we would make physical, mental, and spiritual goals for the summer. I made some goal sheets that match the theme that is still framed in the dining room, and we used them to record our goals. The girls have hung their goal sheets up by their beds, and we will do check-ins every so often to help with accountability. (Mine is hanging next to my computer.)

My Body is a Temple Goal Worksheet-kick off summer by making goals with your children.

To download the .PDF file for your own use, click here: My Body is a Temple Goal Worksheet

We also talked about all the FUN things we each wanted to do this summer. We compiled a big list together, and I am planning on cute-ifying it and hanging it up in the kitchen so we can cross things off as we do them. 

Finally, I gave them their reading bins. (For more info on our reading bins, click here: Choosing Summer Reading for Your Children) Now, the girls can read whatever they want during the summer, and they do. We go to the library often and many books are chosen and read. But at the beginning of the summer, I put together these bins of books that they might not have chosen for themselves and I think of it as a gift to them at the beginning of the summer. And the girls LOVE it.

We gave them their bins and reading journals....

...and they couldn't wait to get started. They pretty much read all day, and have been reading quite a bit this week, too.

Nothing makes this mama happier than to see my children like this:

Kick off summer by throwing a party for your kids! Make goals, plan fun and vacations, and give them new books for summer reading!

And this:

Kick off summer by throwing a party for your kids! Make goals, plan fun and vacations, and give them new books for summer reading!

And this:

Kick off summer by throwing a party for your kids! Make goals, plan fun and vacations, and give them new books for summer reading!

So far, after exactly one week of summer, Chloe has read three books, Bria has read one and is well into a second, and Sophia has finished two. Hooray for summer reading!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Beauty Box Five Review: June 2014

"Summer Chic" is the theme for Beauty Box Five's June beauty box. "Less effort, more cool" means products that are easy to use but pack a big punch. (Keep reading--this post includes a code for a free box so you can try it out yourself!)

Nicka K Nail polish Beauty Box 5 June 2014

Nicka K New York Nail Color (Retail 4.99): I actually had discovered this brand a few months ago, and I love it. It is inexpensive, and yet it is as nice as any of my more expensive nail polishes. Also, I really love the shape of the bottle. Is that weird to like products based on their packaging? Because I totally do.

My toenails are currently painted a Nicka K red, and in this month's Beauty Box, I received a very pretty lavender. A very pretty lavender that my teenage daughter quickly claimed for herself. Which was fine with me, because that girl paints her nails on a daily (sometimes twice daily!) basis. And I think she can pull off the purple better than I can.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

You Can't Scare Him--He Has Daughters

The other day, one of my students showed up to her lesson with a gift for The Maestro. She said she couldn't help herself when she saw this t-shirt for sale and had to purchase it for him.

Naturally, I forced him to put it on for our Father's Day Sunday Photo. Force might be the wrong word, since he happily did it and even recommended the Charlie's Angels pose (end of post).

I'm so thankful that my children have The Maestro for a father. He is a wonderful father to girls. He has no problem letting them put make-up on him and do his hair (want to see what happens when he lets them do a Daddy makeover? Click here: Why Decorate Easter Eggs When You Can Decorate Daddy?). But he also loves teaching them how to play sports and the girls are often found in the backyard with him playing soccer or throwing a Frisbee.