Paige’s Baptism and the Holy Week Begins

People often ask me what baptism is like for members of the Mormon faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). Well, it’s cool! I only know how to write what I know, so this is what it looked like for our family this weekend:

Sunday was already a special day as Christians everywhere began the celebration of The Holy Week, the last week of Jesus Christ’s life on earth. Palm Sunday, seven days before his resurrection, Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem.

It also happened to coincide with the day our sweet Paige was baptized.

As is the Christian custom and belief, baptism is the first step toward living with our Heavenly Father again. In the Mormon faith, there is no infant baptism as we believe babies are all born clean, pure, and without sin. By age 8, our opportunities for naughtiness increase :). Children are capable of knowing right from wrong and are able to take responsibility for their own actions, thus the need for baptism.

We have been talking about baptism for many months now, preparing Paige. It is very important to us that she knows what baptism is all about, what covenants (promises) are, what it means to “take upon us the name of Christ.”

It is amazing what a little child can understand, how close they are to spiritual matters, how soft their hearts are. There was no holding her back – she practically danced her way to church.

Earlier in the week, on her 8th birthday (my baby is eight, an unfathomable topic), the thing she most wanted was her own set of scriptures. She was very particular about the style: compact, black, snap-shut case, and her name scripted on the cover.

The scriptures include The Bible (the King James Version) and The Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ’s ministry.IMG_8269

She did not specify a duct-tape scripture case, but that’s what she got :) Nelson, of course, made it for her, and she was pleased as punch. (Get your orders in now!)

IMG_8235

As the big baptism day approached she was so excited, she could hardly sleep.

paige3We had a little photo shoot. I practiced my rudimentary ISO and aperture knowledge, attempting to capture my girl and all her goodness.paige2 paige1 IMG_8367

Finally, the big day arrived. My parents had flown in from Scotsdale, AZ, my twin brother drove up from New York City, and our dear Makechnie cousins arrived from Needham, MA. Yes, baptism is something so important that family members travel from far and wide.

IMG_8368Paige felt pretty special as we drove to church, stuck right there in the middle.

The program is simple. Paige had made assignments weeks earlier. Grandma Heather gave an opening prayer. Brynne (10) led the music (so darling.) Brother Nelson (13) gave a short talk on what baptism means. He talked about sins feeling like heavy rocks, but because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we can repent (say we’re sorry, try to make things right, pray for forgiveness, and try not to do it again), and that heavy load disappears.

Hearing my boy bear his testimony and share what he believes at such a young age made me teary; I caught a glimpse of the good man and missionary he can become.

Then it was time for the baptism. Paige wore a simple white dress, representing “clean” and the “washing away of all sins.”

In the Mormon faith we are baptized by “full immersion” as Jesus was. It is a sacred ceremony, but all are invited to attend and witness, whether you are a member of the church or not. Gregor performed the baptism as he did for all our children.

When Paige came out of the water she had a big smile on her face. As I helped her get changed and back into her other white dress I told her I was very proud of her and asked if she was happy. She nodded and gave me a big (wet) hug.

While she was getting changed, Paige’s cousins played the violin and the cello (awesome!) When Paige was dressed and we were seated again, her cousin Hailey (15) gave a short talk on what it means to have the gift of the Holy Ghost. Wow. The talk was wonderful and I felt so grateful that my girls have such strong female role models; girls who know they are daughters of God, who have such a strong sense of self and faith.

The baptism was followed by a confirmation as Paige received “the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Hailey reminded Paige that the Holy Ghost would be a comforter in her life. It would guide her as she goes through life, making important decisions, and help her recognize right and wrong.

Paige listened so earnestly and the feeling of love was strong. She was confirmed an official member of church by her Grandfather Nelson, followed by handshakes and hugs.

The “cousin choir” sang a closing song and then Cope gave a beautiful closing prayer. As Grandpa Art said, we were “brimming with joy.”

After the baptism Paige sat next to me during sacrament meeting. She looked up at me with her big blue eyes and said, “I am perfectly clean now with no sins. I’m not carrying anything heavy.”

I smiled down at her, knowing how she felt. But the greatest thing I wanted her to understand is that baptism is just the first step. There will be times she feels heavy. She will make mistakes like we all do – and it is okay. There will be heartache and missteps. Like all of us, she will feel badly. She will feel guilt. And, like all of us must do to progress, she will try to do better. That that’s what this life is all about.

When I sat down to write this post I put aside the worry and second guessing my word choices. I tried to just write what was in my heart and then go back and edit. But after, I didn’t want to go back and “fix” and make this all sound politically correct or “right.” What’s in my heart feels right, so I will leave it largely unchanged and unedited.

I am often hesitant to share my faith so publicly, for fear of criticism or misunderstanding, but you know, Jack Canfield wrote, “everything you want is on the other side of fear.” The more real and honest we are with each other, the more we do understand. The more open I am, I find that my fears are unwarranted; many many people not of my faith asked how Paige’s baptism went. They want to know. We are curious cats. Pepper me with questions if you like. My blog is as open book as it gets!

As I tucked Paige into bed last night she asked her usual questions and some unusual ones too…”would you still love me if…” I assured her I would love her forever. I think she’s also testing me. Now that she’s all “good” and hasn’t had time to smash the car or smack her sister, will I still love her if she messes up?

She smashed her nose to one side. “Would you love me if I looked like this?” “Would you love me if I did this…” The scenarios ranged from the innocent to the more macabre, “if I killed a squirrel…”

I assured her that there was nothing she could do to make me not love her (though perhaps I might not always like everything!) Times my love by an infinite number and that’s how much I believe God loves her and each of us individually. That love is not conditional. It is always there, waiting for us to receive it.

The scriptures say that this life is the time for “men to prepare to meet God.” Baptism is that first step. We’re so proud of you, Paige.

Love, Mom

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Game-Changing Weekend Links

Hello darlings. I hope you’re going into a restful weekend with your peeps (I’m ready for a nap.) There’s some great things going on in the world. Here’s some game-changing links to inspire and carry you through the weekend:IMG_0964 Is it Easter time already?

Unique and beautiful, this Easter Bread is a family hit (cooked with hard-boiled eggs. what???)

DSC_0323The one time I played Martha: Bold and Beautiful: All-Natural Eggy Dye. Gorgeous, no?

I’m not Catholic, but I love the idea of Lent. Read all about it.

Love Mumford and Sons? Here’s, “Believe,” a tribute to their Christian roots.

The futility of always pushing ourselves to be more: Be Content

Grief is the price we pay for love: Memento Mori. I weep.

For writers, mothers, people everywhere: YOU ARE THE CAVALRY. Oh, it’s good.

Have a great weekend, my friends. And remember: Your life is a gift. Make it a good one.

Love, Amy

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Easy Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

This is the easiest made-from-scratch biscuit you’ll ever make. And it’s ever so tasty.

Biscuit history: I loved buying prepackaged biscuits from the freezer & grocery section (Pillsbury! Red Lobster!) but after perusing the ingredient list, reading too much Food Babe100Daysofrealfood, and not being able to identify what exactly I was eating, I shed a sad tear and left them biscuits in the freezer section…wo, was me.

I turned to homemade biscuits, like these Greek Yogurt Buttermilk Biscuits (tasty!) but due to time rolling dough, molding, rerolling, remolding, etc…biscuits rarely happened around these busy parts.

Until now.

Hark! The Easy Buttermilk Drop Biscuit saves the day! Straight from my favorite cooking magazine, Cook’s Illustrated, “Drop biscuits are the non-nonsense alternative to traditional rolled biscuits.” So there.

Yes, white flour is used, but these drops of goodness are a huge upgrade from the highly processed alternative. This biscuit features ingredients I can pronounce, real butter and real milk from real cows. Also, they are so delicious.

biscuit3 And easy, did I say EASY? Similar to the Bisquick drop biscuit, I’m partial to these.

biscuit1 A pad of warm butter or perhaps a swivel of your local honey?

biscuit2Light, fluffy, the perfect compliment to any meal, especially warm soups on these cold windy days. I’m hungry now. Excuse me, I need to go make some more biscuits…

Easy Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour*

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon vinegar)**

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly***

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 475. Put 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute. Let cool.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Combine buttermilk and the 8 tablespoons cooled butter in medium bowl and stir until butter forms small clumps.

2. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir until just incorporated. Using greased 1/4-cup dry measuring cup, scoop onto baking sheet.

3. Bake until tops are just golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Gobble!

compliments of Cook’s Illustrated

*Whole wheat white flour works well. Coconut flour does not; too crumbly with a flavor change.

**I rarely have buttermilk handy. I almost always substitute 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon vinegar. It works perfectly. Lemon juice works but is more obvious. Yogurt not as successful.

***Make sure that butter is slightly cooled so you’ll get some butter clumps.

Happy baking!

 

 

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Real Quotes From Real Kids

Occasionally I get nice notes :)

Occasionally I get nice notes :)

Yes, all of these statements recently came from the mouths of my dear sweet babes. And, well, if you think this household is all butterflies and sunshine…

The Top Ten:

1. “I don’t need a coat. My coat is in the car.” I go to car. The coat is still in the car. Child is at school. It’s 10 degrees outside. Fine. Child can freeze, but what must the teachers think of me? Image, people, image!

2. Let’s go exercise. “I’d rather be murdered with a rusty fork.”

3. “Ew! You’ve reached a new smoothie-disgustingness high.”

4. “You don’t listen to me! You just say ‘how was your day now go clean the bathroom.'” (I’ll admit, this one hurt. sniff.)

5. “How was I supposed to know your sweater would shrink? Actually, this is your fault; you never showed me how to wash sweaters!”

6. “We should totally get a donut. It’s totally overkill (after our Taco Bell lunch) but it’s the first day of vacation. I’ll work out later.”

7. “Mommy, I just swallowed a firecracker. It was good – kind of salty and kindof sweet.”

8. “I’m not arguing – I’m explaining why I’m right!”

9. “I ate all my snack so I went to the nurse and asked for one.” What did you say? “That I was soooo hungry and didn’t have a snack.” What about this sandwich and clementine? “I didn’t want to eat it. The nurse has pretzels.”

10. “You’re pretty. For a 38-year-old.” I’m actually 40 now. “Woah, really? Huh. I guess you’re really pretty then. For a 40-year-old – I’m kidding, mom, I’m kidding!”

I can not reveal which child said what because there would be a household revolt and they would ban me from blogging, but in my heart of hearts I know. And so do they.

And still, I love them. Imagine that.

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The Incredible Designers at minted.com {and a give-away for you}

Have you heard of minted.com? I’ve been following them on Instagram for awhile, drooling over the gorgeous artwork and photography. I love this site. It’s a global art community for indie artists and designers who submit their work in competitions and then the minted community votes on what sells.

I am delighted to participate in a sponsored collaboration today. (and am still deliberating on that perfect something to order.)

Paige is getting baptized at the end of the month so we played around with way too many announcements…
MIN-SN0-BCR_A_FRTMy sweet girl.  Card design by  anupama of Bangalore, KA, with gold foil lettering.

MIN-UD2-FPS_A_FRTHere’s some Mother’s Day or simply saying-hello stationary.

Oh, the home prints…I loved this feature the most. Which one would you get?MIN-4UR-GNA-007_A_APZThis is called Under Water, a limited edition print by Chelsey Scott from Saint Paul, MN.

MIN-LOY-GNA-007_A_APZThis would look fabulous in the living room, don’t you think? Stare Down by Amy Carroll of Grand Rapids, MI

MIN-7HJ-GNA-007_A_APZGorgeous. Float by Betty Hatchett of Cincinnati, OHMIN-D27-GNA-007_A_APZThe colors! Love this. Organism No4 by VERY MARTA of Green Bay, WI. So stunning.

All this beautiful artwork and photography makes me want to break out the watercolors. If you have the same urge, you can enter the design and photography contests HERE. (1st place photography photo is $3000! Zowie.)

MIN-54F-MGA-007_A_APZProp by Smile Peace Love of East Stroudsberg, Pennsylvania. Beautiful.

MIN-4VW-GNA-007_A_APZCorner Bar in the Neighborhood, New Orleans by Mary Anne Tusa of Madisonville, Louisiana.

MIN-RZE-BSH_A_FRT Bookworm Baby by 24th and dune of Williamsport PA. So cute! (I forgot to tell husband: we’re having twins!)

MIN-SR3-QCE_A_FRTThis is my imaginary Quinceanera invitation, created by designer Lori Wemple of Huntersville, NC.

MIN-Q13-ANC_A_FRTHappy Everything Wedding Announcement by designer, Anne Clark of San Francisco

So what would you get? Minted has so many beautiful designs: check it out!

Leave your comment below, darlings. Minted is giving $25 to a reader. Please leave a comment by Friday, the 13th(!) so the random generator dealio can work its magic. And may the odds be ever in your favor!

All opinion ares my own, but thank you, Minted, for the sponsored collaboration. Good luck in this awesome venture!

Liz, commenter #6, you were the lucky winner. Please be in touch at amy (at) maisymak (dot) com. Congrats! 

 

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Green Shamrock Smoothie (the gut healer)

It’s that time of year when the Shamrock Shake is calling your name, luring you into its beguiling drive-thru. You find yourself compromising your health for a shared memory.

“It’s March!” you say. “We need a shamrock shake – it’s tradition.”

This was the conversation The Professor and I had last night.

“Should we?”

“Sure. It’s fun. Just this once.”

You see, don’t you, what a slippery slope this is?

“Mmmm,” he said, forking over $2.94. “Look at all those chemicals.”

“It tastes like toothpaste,” I remarked.

“Don’t say that. I won’t want to drink it.”

We drank 3/4 of it, until the whipped topping was swirling on the bottom and we felt slightly ill.

Whereupon we looked at each other and agreed: “We don’t need to do that again.”

It’s not that it wasn’t good – it was. Sugar tastes good. But listen.

My friends, it’s time to make new traditions. Like eating real food.greensmoothie2This one’s for you: The Green Shamrock Smoothie. Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s a gut healer, not a gut destroyer. It will make you feel good instead of…not. It provides energy instead of migraines.

Gut health is important. “Disturbances in our gut flora are being linked to an increasing number of diseases from gastrointestinal issues such as IBS and acid reflux to allergies, autoimmune issues, diabetes, depression, obesity, ADHD and autism.”

Do you suffer from bloating, constipation, gut aches and pains? The following ingredients are well-known for their gut healing magic.greensmoothie1

 Green Shamrock Smoothie (the gut healer)

1-2 Cups Water

1/2 Lemon (peeled and thrown in

1/2 inch Ginger (skin on, scrubbed)

1 Cup Spinach (fresh or frozen)

1 Cup Kale (fresh or frozen)

1/2 Avocado (peeled)

1 Green Apple (cut, skin on)

1 Frozen Banana

Directions: Put ingredients in the Vitamix (or other powerful blender and give it a whirl.

If you’ve never had a really green smoothie before, this will take some acclimating. You may the need to grimace. It might not taste that great. But an interesting thing has happened over the last few years. When I got a day or two without the green smoothie, I start to crave the greens. I need it. I want it. I must have it.

The green smoothie has changed my taste buds; high sugary drinks taste too sweet now.

Out of curiosity, I looked up McDonald’s Shamrock Shake nutrition information.

Calories (535) and fat (15 grams) aside, the Shamrock Shake has 73 grams of sugar.

4 grams = 1 teaspoon.

That’s 18.25 TEASPOONS of Sugar in a 12 oz. drink. Woah, Bessy!

Is sugar bad for your gut? Well, thanks for asking!

Sugar promotes the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, hampering the growth of healthy species. Sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods basically provides an all-you-can-eat buffet for the bad bacteria to thrive.

Oh, I do love a treat. And I eat too much sugar. But we try, don’t we?

The body is a gift. Use it wisely. Drink a Green Shamrock Smoothie.

Love, Amy

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What I Know From 40 Years Around the Block

“I am thinking about you on the eve of your natal day (as the Pirate King says.) After marriage, that day was the most important day of my life; becoming a mother. And Twice! I don’t think we ever got over the miracle of those two babies. Funny how you remember the feel of those soft little bodies on your chest. It is a wonder to know someone intimately from the day they were born. Like Siddhartha’s river they are forever flowing (changing) and yet always the same. We love you very much and staggered to think you are 40. Fortunately you look 32.”

That’s a note from my mother. Love that woman.

Here she is at 20, with twins on her lap, and pregnant with my sister. Isn’t she beautiful….1975 Mary & twins & preg w Andrea

(We) turned 40 this week. That’s strange to write because secretly, I kindof thought the Pete and I would never really be older than, like, 26.

But I’ve been luckier than most. I had a twin brother who wore this awesome pink-striped shirt. I think we shared it.IMG_7881There was this fabulous pink dress with the prettiest white lace collar. With that awesome home haircut, how could you not love life?

I was lucky enough to start life with graham crackers, no pants, and siblings stuffed into a chair (the other two didn’t fit yet…)IMG_7888

I married the love of my life and we created a  beautiful family. I’ve never had Mad Cow Disease. You see, I’m a lucky girl.

It’s been a blessed life. Sure, I’ve experienced heart ache and heart breaks, but nothing so tragic. I’ve wished for some do overs, but then again, my biggest mistakes taught me a lot about forgiveness and humility and love. I think I’m finally able to see that it’s okay. That we can be better for our mess-ups.

Since I’m so mature now, I thought I’d share 40 lessons learned in 40 years. Just kidding. There’s only 11.

mama11. Life is Long. One of my BYU professors (an Olympian high jumper) once shook her finger at me and said, “Don’t go too fast. Don’t burn out. Pace yourself.” I think of her often. I’m still trying to pace. Trying to stop hurrying, always so busy and productive. That’s not all bad; it’s how we get things done. I don’t regret the things I’ve “accomplished,” but I wish I hadn’t felt so much angst in my 20s, wondering what else I was supposed to be doing with my life. It was there all along, sitting right in front of me. Pace yourself. There is time.

Nelson32. Enjoy the “Right Now.” There’s a reason we carpe diem each other so much. It’s because of pictures like this. When I see it I’m filled with a longing to hold that little boy who was once Peter Pan, then Dash, then a pirate with cowboy boots. And now that’s gone and he’s Messi. Don’t mourn for days past. Be happy you had them and then face forward. I’m determined to enjoy this moment right now.

3. Chill Out. There are few things that really require a daily panic attack. Reserve the high blood pressure freak outs for when they matter. Like when the boys “sword fight” in the bathroom. Then by all mean, FREAK. But listen, you missed the bus? The next one’s coming. Late fees? Pennies. Forgot to do your homework? Tomorrow. Tore your shirt? Here’s a needle and thread. Relax. Lighten up. I fail daily. Cue meditation.

4. Be Slow to Judge (especially other women.) We just don’t know each other’s story, struggles, weaknesses, or needs. I admire the female surgeons, CEOs, teachers, and comedians. I also applaud my stay-at-home homeschooling neighbor with four small children – and the near-homeless man who stood at the pulpit yesterday in torn sweat pants. Man, that’s SHOWING UP. Each of us must do the best we know how with the gifts God has given us.

5. The Small Things Are the Big Things. This is where I have a hard time “chilling out,” because I know that a thousand little baby steps precede results. What we do matters so much. A marathon, a novel, potty-training, rebellious teens, a happy family – outcomes are big things. How we get there are small daily habits. Make sure you’re cultivating the right ones.

6. Be Kinder Than Necessary. Laughter and smiles make a family happy. A smile diffuses anger. Criticism is toxic. Contention sucks the good feeling out of a room faster than a pricked balloon. What kind of family do you want? And I know, cleaning up the same mess every single day is so very tiresome, but growling just isn’t going to help. See #3.

7. Done is Better Than Perfect. The biggest myth: Failure is bad. Untrue! Failing is the best! It’s the only way we get better. FAIL BIG! If we’re not failing big every once in awhile, we’re probably not trying hard enough. Whatever it is that you dream, stop being afraid to try. Do your best and move on. If Plan B doesn’t work out, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet, RIGHT?

mama28. There is Nothing More Important Than Keeping Family Together. You move heaven and earth to make sure it’s the number one priority. Nothing is more important than your marriage or those precious little humans you were somehow blessed to raise. It’s worth the time to teach, reteach, and play catch. It’s worth more money, degrees, titles, trips, or french fries to care for the people you were sent to earth with.

9. Our Bodies Are Amazing. Protect it. Give it sleep. Feed it wholesome foods. Exercise it. Don’t give it to people who will hurt it, abuse it, or use it to satisfy their own needs. Once it’s gone…that’s just sad.

10. Agency is Our Greatest Gift. This is a game changer: we are not victims of life. We are response-able. Bad stuff happens to us. We get to decide how to respond. As a parent, this has been a great lesson. Human beings, even small ones, do not like to be forced, coerced or manipulated. Be gentle. Give children choices. Some battles are worth fighting (technology rules and cleanliness and civility) and some are not (matching socks). We must always try to help others, but ultimately, our journey is our own. We must respect that right.

11. I Am a Child of God. And So is Everyone Else. 

I also wanted to let you know about my retirement plan. Here it is:IMG_8041

In 40 years I might have some more advice. In the mean time, God speed my friends. Life is a gift. Make it a good one.

Love, Amy

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Game-Changing Weekend Links (it’s all about love)

from thisheartomine

from thisheartomine

Are you having a good month of February love? When I stop coughing, I know the man of the house is going to like me a whole lot more. sorry, honey bunny. 

I’ve read some good stuff on love this month. Interestingly, the more I study the brain, the more I understand “the heart.” Anatomically, the hearts beats, but it’s the brain that falls in love and keeps that love going strong. Here are some favorite love reads for your weekend perusal….

The anti-loveLetting Your Teenager Read or Watch “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a Terrible Idea. I couldn’t agree more.

#1 New York Times Bestselling author, Richard Paul Evans shares The One Questions That Saved His Marriage. It’s a really good love question.

Okay, it’s an insurance ad, but I love it so much! https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=846847888673923&set=vb.595785693780145&type=2&theater

If you think texting during dinner isn’t having an impact on your love life, think again. A  2014 study from Brigham Young University found 70 percent of heterosexual women felt smartphones were harming their love relationships. Researchers dubbed this phenomenon “technoference.”

A parent’s love: Elizabeth Smart shares the one crucial detail that helped her escape.

I want to love more like a grandmother loves. Writer Katrina Kenison tells a beautiful story that’s stuck with me.

If you really love somebody, maybe running is the best way to show it. You Gotta Read About Betty. Oh, I heart her.

One more: Exercising Our Kindness Muscles by yours truly.

Have a great weekend, lovies!

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A Valentine’s Day Blizzard Weekend

What a weekend. Cold temps, much chocolate, giggling cousins (!), a magnificent play, a photography class, and coughing fits, all made Valentine’s extra special.

At this time I’d like to pay my yearly homage to the mailbox. Despite previous blizzards this year, piled up snow, and multiple plow drive-bys…it stands proud and free:mailbox

And now for your weekend report:IMG_3598After months of rehearsal, Cope transformed into feisty Ms. Jean Louise aka Scout Finch for her school’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird. I love it so. When interviewed, Cope said, “One of the main themes of this play is that two children learn the world isn’t what they thought it was…and that is something we all have to face at some point in our lives.”

Scott Allenby, Communications Director wrote: While the performance is powerful, the impact of the journey for this group of young actors is perhaps even more impactful. On-going conversations around race, equality, and civil rights in today’s world have been an important part of the community this year. Proctor’s student organized Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration set the stage for open, honest conversations about where our society is, and where we need to be, and this play has allowed those conversations to continue in a productive way on campus.

So proud of these kids.

mooOn Friday, the kiddies came home from school with loads of valentine’s. Paige and I had made these valentine cows. She said some of the boys in her class laughed. Hold on to these moments, mamas, cause there’s only so long you can make valentine cows with your wee ones!

This weekend we also did our annual heart attacking of the house. Some of ours were…interesting…as usual:snow  The “not” was written after Cope annoyed her sister. Charming children, aren’t they?brynne paige  tennyEven doggy got heart attacked. momMy kids are extremely observant when it comes to my hair color and I’m just sayin’ that getting it right is not easy! They just think they’re so funny. :)paigeOh, melt my heart, darlin’!birthmark Nelson has a small birthmark above his lip. He would not have found this funny a few years ago. Now he rolls his eyes, chases and catches his prey (sisters), and wrestles them to the ground. Win-win.beard coldThe morning of Valentine’s began as early my sister-in-law and I trotted to the little local library for a 4-hour photography class. It was excellent. My head is spinning with words like “F-stop, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.” Exciting times!boy That night it snowed and snowed and snowed. The temperature dipped into the negatives, -30 with windchill.  After multiple attempts to get up our steep hill, we finally did (whew) and were snowed in for the rest of the weekend! I pretty much stayed in bed trying not to cough while sweet cherubs fetched me food. It was quite blissful and since we had a sweet cousin in the house, there was minimal fighting! Company is good for a family that way, isn’t it?girls These girls couldn’t be kept from the snow for long!girls2 But they didn’t last long either, coming in with red cheeks and begging for hot cocoa.mailbox2And I had such high hopes that this would be the year the mailbox stayed put…

How was your weekend? Warmer than mine???

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Dark Decadent Chocolate (that’s awesomely healthy!)

hearts2Healthy. Easy. Delicious.

Courtesy of my mother-in-law, this chocolate is dark and decadent. It tastes expensive, but is cheaper than any box of chocolates.

It’s mighty serendipitous that this tasty confection came just in time for Valentines Day as we are still trying to repent of our holiday gluttony.

You only need three ingredients:

Cocoa Powder, Coconut Oil, Maple Syrup

heartsPut ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until melted. Pour into bowl (glass or metal). Freeze for an hour of so. Done. No candy thermometers or complicated instructions.

Break up chocolate and eat.

I wanted heart molds for Valentine’s so I bought this one from Amazon. It worked beautifully. The candy pops out and the silicone is easy to clean – even dishwasher safe. I’m already dreaming of all the other little molds I must make..bunnies, groundhogs, four-leaf clovers, chickens…oh dear.

hearts4This chocolate is so dark (a major heart healthy benefit) that at first Paige (age 7) didn’t like it as much as the sugary Hershey’s, but I tell you, she’s come around. “Mmm, mom, can I have another one, please, please, please?”

For quality nutrition, the cocoa should be at least 65% cocoa. Most chocolate is very low in cocoa. This recipe also has coconut oil (a healthy fat that is easily used for energy) and maple syrup. Maple syrup is obviously a sugar, but pure maple has some health benefits. In addition, as the baker, you can control the amount used.

The first time I made this chocolate I didn’t add enough syrup and it was just too bitter. So I lazily poured a drop into the individual molds after the chocolate and coconut oil was in. Don’t do that. You’ll end up with this:hearts5The darlings didn’t mind. “Mmmm, it’s chocolate filled with maple syrup!”

Excited? Oh boy, I am!

hearts3

Homemade Dark Chocolate:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Cocoa Powder (high quality)
  • 1 Cup Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Pure Maple Syrup (use less or more depending on taste)

Directions:

Heat Cocoa Powder, Coconut Oil, and Maple Syrup on stove over medium heat until combined. Stir constantly. Taste (but be careful – it’s hot!) for sweetness factor. Pour into glass or metal bowl. Freeze. For molds: first pour melted chocolate into liquid measuring cup, then into molds. Freeze.  Done. Eat!

Helpful hint: Put the molds onto a baking sheet before you pour chocolate into it. Trying to move it later with hot liquid chocolate…is a disaster.

Recipe made 28 cute little valentine hearts.

In case your interested in the products I used:

Cocoa Powder from Sunfood or Trader Joe’s, Organic Coconut Oil from Trader Joe’s, Pure Maple Syrup from Tucker Mountain Maple, Valentine Mold from Amazon.

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Enjoy!

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