Monday, September 28, 2015

Sunday Photo and a Spooktastic September!

This past weekend we took a road trip down to Ann Arbor to see our alma mater (BYU) play the University of Michigan. While the game was disappointing—okay, it was more than disappointing—we had so much fun being with family in that stadium and watching good football. Even though it wasn't our team that was actually playing the good football! My dad and two of my brothers came out to watch, too, so that made it even better.

Our Sunday was spent driving the ten hours back home to the UP. We stopped to eat in Mackinaw City and walked around the bridge park for a while. So beautiful. So that's my September Sunday photo of the girls.

In other news this week, I made a Halloween wreath!

The other day I sat in front of the TV and made my very first Halloween decoration of the year. I love making tulle wreaths for Halloween, so that is what I made and I LOVE how it turned out!

If you want to actually see what I made with all of the above supplies, you'll have to head over to visit my friend Heidi's blog at One Creative Mommy, because I'm posting over there for her Spooktastic September celebration. If you haven't read Heidi's blog before, I'm pretty sure you'll love it. She's a bit of a kindred blogger: She has three daughters, she is a gluten-free blogger, and she posts about many of the same topics and crafty things that I do. I get a lot of inspiration from her, and I know you will, too.

So head over to see my fun Halloween wreath and the rest of her Spooktastic ideas right now!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fudgy Football Brownies

I love football season. And this fall I'm loving it more than usual because, guess what? We, who have prided ourselves in never paying for cable in our 16 years of marriage, finally got cable.

I suppose it was inevitable. Sixteen years is a lot of years to go without being able to watch football at your own house. And it really was football that did it, too. We can easily watch most of our shows via the internet, but sports is pretty iffy, and we were always spending a lot of late nights at friends' houses for football season, which was no bueno for the kids especially.

Fudgy football brownies that are gluten and dairy free. So good!

So now we can watch all those college football games that seem to start at 10:30 our time from the comfort of our own home! This also means that we can now be the ones to have friends over for game day instead of always being the guests. And that also means I can make fun football food and have a little game day party!

At our house, game day treats are a little difficult because of our gluten-free status, but we actually try to be dairy-free as much as possible, too.

So I made some gluten-free, dairy-free fudgy brownies for this week's game. They were a hit!

Of course, since it's football season, I had to shape them like footballs, even though that isn't the most economical use of the final product! No worries, everyone ate the odd pieces, too. They just didn't look as cute, that's all.

Make these delicious gluten and dairy free fudgy brownies for your next football game party! #overstuffedlife

Fudgy Football Brownies 

(gluten- and dairy-free)

Brownie Ingredients:

2/3 cup coconut oil, liquefied
1/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla (make sure it's gluten-free!)
3/4 cup all purpose gluten-free flour mix

Brownie Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease 8x11.5 baking pan with an oil spray.

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl.

Spread batter in greased pan and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (Of course, I didn't have a toothpick, so I used a fork, but you know...)

Gluten-free fudgy brownies. Easy to make, and very delicious!

Cool completely, and then cut into football shapes. (You are totally allowed to cut them into squares, but that's boring! It's football season, cut footballs!)

Gluten-free fudgy brownies. Easy to make, and very delicious! Make them football shaped for your next game day party!

Icing Ingredients:

2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon Silk almond milk

Use Silk Almond milk to make your game day parties dairy free.

Icing Directions:

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and beat on medium speed with electric mixer.

Put icing into a plastic baggie and cut a small opening in the corner with scissors. (This is what I do, but if you have pastry bags and a tip, by all means, use them!)

Icing football brownies

Decorate the football shapes by outlining them and adding the laces with your dairy-free icing. This is important! Nobody will know they are footballs if you don't have the laces! They might think you are serving them fudgy UFO brownies or maybe fudgy eyeball brownies. And we wouldn't want that to happen, because...weird.

We have to serve recognizable footballs, y'all.

Want to make your own meatless (did I mention that my brownies are also meatless?) and dairy-free game day treats? Check out Silk's "Sideline Meat" page for great recipe ideas and to enter to win the Ultimate Game Day Room Makeover. There are a ton of amazing recipes over there--I can't wait to try a bunch of them for our next football night!

Happy Football Season! May your team always win (unless they are playing my team)! And may you enjoy lots of wonderful treats while you watch your games. I know I will.

Make these delicious gluten and dairy free fudgy brownies for your next football game party! #overstuffedlife

This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.
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Monday, September 14, 2015

Back to School Photos {finally!}

You guys, the girls have been in school for exactly one week and it is already kicking my butt.

I'm feeling a little bit like those dead flowers on my front porch. The ones that wilted during a heat spell when we left for the weekend and never quite revived no matter how much water and love I tried to give them.

This first week of school was that heat spell, and I'm having a tough time resuscitating myself! I went back to work the week before school started, and then, well, school really started. Suddenly the girls were doing all of their normal stuff that we took a break from in the summer. Violin (not Sophia, though), piano, cross country, soccer, church activities, homework, and more homework. Some things like orchestra and dance (Sophia's new activity), did not start until this week. But it doesn't really matter. I'm already dead.

Related: Teach Your Kids to Pack Their OWN Healthy Lunch {Free Printable}

I had a whole list of things I wanted to do today so I could breathe more easily this week, but instead I spent a large portion of the day lying in bed watching Gilmore Girls episodes. Because I just could not make myself move.

So, now that I've whined a little bit, here are some photos of my gorgeous girls on their first day of school last week. Soon, those dead flowers will be replaced with some pumpkins—hopefully my life will do the same. As always, I'm working to find balance and I'll figure it out eventually. For now, I'm being happy that I started before the girls, because at the end of the semester, I will be ahead of the game, no matter how behind I am right now.

Without further ado:

Bria {sophomore}:

How gorgeous is she? She is growing into such a wonderful young lady. So responsible, so kind, so willing to try new things. I'm excited for her to have a great year this year!

Chloe {7th Grader}: 

This is Chloe's second year in middle school. She's joined the Cross Country team like her older sister and is really enjoying that. She is fun and bubbly and starting the year off right with her school work.

Sophia {4th Grader}:

Sophia is hilarious. She is driven and helpful and a little bit crazy. I'm hoping this year she will start being a bit more organized in school. I'm thrilled about the teacher she has, and she really loves him. It will be a good year!

This is the year that things have come full circle. When we moved here to Michigan, Bria was entering the fourth grade and Sophia was just starting her first year of preschool. Six years later, and Sophia is just as big as Bria was back then, but it doesn't really feel that way. She is my baby, after all, and Bria has grown and matured so much. It's strange how that works.

I love back to school photos. No matter how sad I am about my kids growing up, there is just something so exciting about that first day and the new beginnings it brings. Now, I'd better jump off the computer and start getting some things prepped so that things run more smoothly the rest of this week and I can start un-wilting myself!

PS Sorry the photos aren't all in focus. We were in a big hurry, as usual. 

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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

2015-16 Back-to-School Feast and Family Theme

Sending my girls back to school each year is always bittersweet for me. Watching them grow older has always been hard for me, and going back to school every year is just a big reminder of the fact that they aren't babies anymore. Still, some of the pain is eased because we get to celebrate the event by holding our annual Back-to-School Feast—one of our favorite family traditions.

Throwing a back-to-school feast is a wonderful way to prepare children for the new school year. We also introduce a family theme during the feast and focus on it all year long. #overstuffedlife

We usher in the new school year by throwing a fancy meal, complete with crowns for the girls to wear. They are princesses on this day—princesses excited for a new school year!

Place setting and crown for back-to-school feast.

In years past I have sewn crowns (one year I actually sewed bonnets) or made them out of paper, but this year I cheated and bought them Disney tiaras. I just covered up the princesses with their names and grades. I kind of love that my girls still look forward to—and even demand—wearing their back-to-school princess crowns. Still, I don't even want to tell you how long it took me to get the ovals and fonts just the right size to glue into these crowns. I may as well have sewn them something for all the time it took!

Place setting for back-to-school feast.

I consider the most important part of our feast to be the introduction of the new school year's family theme. Each year, The Maestro and I discuss what we think would best benefit our family and come up with a theme. We try to base it on scripture, or at least a hymn or church Primary song of some sort, and then we do our best to make it a focus of our Family Home Evenings and other family meetings.

Place setting for back-to-school feast.

I always create a printable of the theme to display in our home, and I often make smaller versions for the girls to put in their lockers, on their mirrors, or wherever will allow them to see it often and remind them.

Free printable "Do What is Right Let the Consequence Follow" Our family theme this year focuses on the blessings received when we are diligent in doing our duty. #overstuffedlife

Download this printable by clicking here: Do What is Right Printable

This year our theme is Do What is Right Let the Consequence Follow. The Maestro actually came up with the whole thing, including the scriptures that we are using to flesh out its meaning. Our focus is on the blessings that come when we are diligent in doing our duty, whatever our duties may be. We are focusing on doing the right thing, no matter how much we don't really want to do it. I feel that this was the perfect theme for our family right now, if just for me personally. I have huge struggles lately doing the things that are my duty. Whether that be my church calling, going to work every day, or just keeping the house clean.

It's hard! And I really don't feel like being diligent right now. I feel like going to bed and ignoring my duties completely. (Although, taking care of me right now is a HUGE duty, so going to bed might not be as bad as I make it out to be!)

Free printable Doctrine & Covenants 107:99 and 1 Peter 1:5. Scriptures focusing on the blessing received when we are diligent in our duty. #overstuffedlife

Download this printable by clicking here: Diligence printable

We talked a lot about how being diligent in things like homework and working on their church assignments will bring them the blessings of knowledge, virtue, faith, and many more things. Things that are much more important in the long run than just good grades or a Personal Progress medallion.

We also talked quite a bit about what not doing our duty looks like. What wasting time on electronic devices and getting sucked into the unimportant stuff does to our spirits. Not to mention our grades or our ability to concentrate on what's truly important.

Free printable "Do What is Right Let the Consequence Follow" Our family theme this year focuses on the blessings received when we are diligent in doing our duty. #overstuffedlife

Related: Easy Autumn Themed Placecard Holders

The girls get it. They really, really do. I was so pleased to see that they each took their little pocket-sized theme and hung it in their lockers this morning. I didn't even tell them to do it. I'm tickled that they aren't embarrassed of a family theme that is obviously religious hanging where all their friends can see it. They are amazing girls, they really are.

But then they came home from school today. And while they mean well, and they didn't get on their electronics, they weren't exactly diligent about doing chores or practicing or anything like that. We may have even had a temper tantrum or two.

It reminded me that the family feast and theme idea isn't a magical thing that makes my children suddenly change into perfectly diligent angels. But that's why we do it. Because we all need the daily reminder to be just a little bit better than we were yesterday.

And they definitely were a little bit better than they were yesterday, so to me that means what we are doing here is a gigantic success.

The Maestro made Chicken Cordon Bleu over rice and served with steamed squash. We all loved it, of course. Also, I was totally lazy and used my phone to take photos of the back-to-school princesses. Here is Bria. She is going to be a SOPHOMORE. I don't even know how that is possible because I think I was a sophomore in high school five years ago. I'm pretty impressed she was willing to put on a tiara, but she looks forward to it every year! (PS She was 9 when we started this tradition. Sigh.)

Princess Chloe is entering 7th grade. She is such a delight to be around lately. I have a lot to blog about the reasons why, but I haven't had a real chance to sit down and formulate a thoughtful post. Let's just say 6th grade was hard for her—really hard—and this summer has been a growing experience, but I haven't seen her this happy in a long time. I'm so thankful.

Sophia is entering 4th grade this year. She is such a fun kid, even if she is the most strong-willed kid to ever live. She makes me laugh hard every single day, and she also makes my hair turn grey every single day. It's a balance. But I'm sure thankful she's mine, even though it is totally unbelievable that my baby is in fourth grade. I don't know what is happening to my life!

Throwing a back-to-school feast is a wonderful way to prepare children for the new school year. We also introduce a family theme during the feast and focus on it all year long.

After the feast, the girls modeled their outfits for the first day of school and The Maestro gave each of them a Father's Blessing jam packed with wonderful advice and promises for this school year. That is my favorite part, as it gives each of us (he gives me a blessing, too) a wonderful start full of peace and God's love.

Here's to an amazing new school year, filled with diligence and doing what is right. I'm excited to see what we learn this year as we focus on this theme!

Feel free to download my printables if you would like to use them in your own home or church lessons:

Do What is Right Let the Consequence Follow printable
D&107:99 and 1 Peter 1:5 printable

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Sunday, September 06, 2015

Benediction to Summer 2015

I've been a great big Sunday Photo slacker around here. I think I'll start doing them on the first Sunday of each month instead of every week (or, in the case of lately, instead of never). So, even though this particular photo is cheating since I took it on Friday, it's my Sunday photo for September.

School starts on Tuesday. I know we are the last people on earth to start school, but I'm still not ready. I love summer and I never feel quite ready for fall and school and the holidays to come and jerk me out of the blissful, sunny, warm, lazy reality that is summer vacation.

It's actually been pretty darn hot around here for September, so we headed to the beach on Friday and spent an amazing 8 hours there. The beach we chose is called Misery Bay, but I can attest it was anything but miserable. And for the first time this year, I actually brought my good camera to the beach instead of just my phone.

The girls and I went out around noon with one set of friends, and throughout the day more friends gradually joined us. The Maestro even came out as soon as he was finished up teaching for the day and we stayed almost until the sun set. Eight glorious hours spent soaking up the last rays of the summer sun.

The kids caught little minnows, built sand creations, played in the water for hours and hours, and danced on the beach. Some other friends brought their paddleboards, too, so Chloe was out there working on her balance for quite a while (whenever she wasn't dancing on the beach, that is).

The adults sat and chatted, and when we got too hot we got in the water. Even I, who rarely voluntarily puts myself into Lake Superior, got in many times. The water was perfect. The day was perfect. Everything was so perfect it was almost not real.

Related: How to Have the Best Beach Day Ever

The best part of this day for me was that there was no phone service. I get so distracted by all of the notifications and apps on my phone, that it is so refreshing to be forced to put it away and just be in the present. I work on this all the time, but it ultimately takes going into the wilderness to really and truly unplug. The only thing I used my phone for was to get some great photos of Chloe and her friends dancing and jumping on the beach.

I think part of the reason I am so sad when summer ends is that I often didn't make enough of it. I spent too much time worrying about the unimportant stuff, or over-committing myself to things that eat up my summer. And even though I love my singing gigs and I don't totally mind putting together the annual benefit recital that I oversee, I resent them for eating into my beach time or my family fun time.

Related: 7 Tips for Better Beach Photography

But mostly, I totally resent myself for not being willing to drop everything and head to the beach more often. I think that I've finally learned my lesson this year, and I PROMISE that I will not overschedule myself or my kids and that as soon as it's a nice day, we will head to the beach.

These are the moments that matter. These are the things that count. Spending time with family and friends, out in nature. These are the things that my children will remember about their summer.

Plus, it keeps them off their devices (just like me)!

Related: Easy DIY Patriotic Cutoff Shorts

Even though school starts soon, and even though I feel fall in the air, I'm hoping we will have just enough days with warm enough weather to make the most of what's left of our summer days.

No matter what.

Good-bye Summer Vacation 2015. We will remember you fondly and miss you muchly. You will provide our souls with much-needed warmth during the long winter months!

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