Category Archives: live better

Happy Good Friday

I love watching this girl sing. She’s been on Ellen DeGeneres and Steve Harvey, and goodness, have you seen her sing with her Dad? It will make your day!

While Easter Sunday is what we ultimately celebrate, I came across this quote that made me pause and consider this day, Good Friday: “We must never forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer, who gave his life that all men might live . . . This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha’s lonely summit. We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us.”  -Gordan B. Hinckley

Really loving mormon.org this week. So many sad, happy, redeeming, and powerful stories and videos on life and the need for a Savior.

Happy Good Friday, friends! Today’s heartache is what makes the rising so good.

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The Famous NY Times No-Knead Bread

This is one of the most popular recipes ever published by the New York Times, courtesy of Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery, who designed this bread as a minimalist technique for anyone who wants to bake a fantastic loaf of bread.

Let me tell you – it’s fantastic. And works every single time.

It is SO good and SO easy to make that I’ve made enough loaves to open a small bakery. Except we gobble it up too quickly to sell.

Three ingredients + water and stirred with a spoon. After that? TIME to let the magic (science, really) happen: The secret to great bread? Let time do the work.

I like to do this in the morning or at night and than leave it alone for a day or two. Takes 5-10 minutes.

 This recipe guarantees: soft and airy on the inside and chewy delicious on the outside.

 Three ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water. Stir.

That’s it. The dough will be wet and shaggy. Cover with plastic wrap for12-18 hours. Here is where the science comes in. Your dough needs to rest for a long time to allow the gluten to become long elastic molecules – the reason for no kneading.

You’re going to bake using a covered dutch oven (or cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic.)

A covered dutch oven? Yes, this crust needs a lid to bake. The Professor gifted me with this beauty and I absolutely adore it. You can cook soups and stew on the stove and bake puffed pancakes and bread in the oven; it’s my most favorite kitchen item!

 Unlike the New York Times recipe, I use parchment paper. The advantage is you simply lift up the paper (with the bread on it) and place in pre-heated dutch oven.

Baby loaves. Which cook more like a four-leaf clover.   Package it up all pretty if you like. Deliver warm. And you’ll have friends for life.

The New York Times No-Knead Bread*

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/4  teaspoons salt
  • 1 5/8 cups water (5/8 is just barely shy of 2/3 cup!)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water (warm or cold,) and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
  2. Dough is ready when doubled and bubbly. Heat oven to 450. Place dutch oven in the oven.
  3. Lightly flour a work surface or parchment paper. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to your fingers, work dough into a ball and onto the floured surface. Sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Let rest about 30 minutes (OR longer – NYT lets it rest for 2 hours!) When dough is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. Remove hot pot from oven. Carefully pick up parchment paper and place in heated dutch oven. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 10ish minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
  5. Eat and realize that life is beautiful because of warm bread.

*tweaks from astackofdishes

Enjoy!

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What is On the Walls of Your Home?

I’m becoming more intentional about what goes on the walls of our home. Of all the sensory receptors in the body, 70% are in the eyes. Fascinating, no? We see a lot of images everyday, and what we see stays with us.

We didn’t have a lot of extra for decorating when I was a kid, but my mother made a real effort to put up interesting art. I remember eating breakfast as a little girl and staring up at a poster of the urinary system 🙂 My mom put up anatomy posters, Monet, ancestors, and framed Minerva Tiechert. I am so appreciative of that now.

What’s on our walls? Here are a few amateur shots from around the house:

 Flowers painted by great grandmother, Alice Fogg Family photos Love is spoken in our home at all times, day and night. there is never any fighting 🙂 This Christ print is by Greg Olson, one of my favorite painters. We received this for our wedding (almost 20 years ago!) We see it every time we enter or leave the house, and every time we enter the living room. Poor Jesus has been through a lot in our house. The glass was shattered after Nelson kicked a soccer ball into it, the frame cracked after a dry winter, it’s been tipped over by careless dusters, and often gets covered in black soot from the fire. Nevertheless, after replacements and loving care, the print is going strong.This hard-workin’ laundry mama reminds me how I adore washing and folding multiple loads of laundry a day. She and I always have a smile on our face while performing this service for our family (just ask the kids! 🙂 )

I like to use inspiring pages from a youth Christian magazine, The New Era (’cause Cosmo hasn’t really led us toward the light). Love, love, love their monthly message. I tape these up onto the bathroom mirror. We ponder goodness while brushing teeth.

But besides this, and my children’s artwork, I’ve been longing for meaningful art  to ponder and get lost in.

This past summer, when my heart was heavy, I gravitated toward paintings of strong women.

When I saw this, I HAD TO HAVE it:

She Will Find What is Lost by Brian Kershisnik now hangs in our living room. What has she lost? A person? Hope? Faith? She’s lost something that has impacted her happiness. But all is not lost. Heavenly angels surround her, strengthening and reminding her that she is not alone. I think the beauty is not that she has lost something, but that “she will find what is lost.” Read more HERE, by artist.

She Became Herself With Tears by Caitlin Connolly. Cope says this is a depressing piece, but oh, I love it so much. The colors, the title, everything. I stalked artist Caitlin Connolly on instagram for a full month, waiting for a holiday sale, snagging print #2 of a limited edition of 30. It really felt like the first significant piece of artwork on our wall.

Mothers Teaching by Caitlin Connolly. I love this one, too, which now hangs in my bedroom. I want so many of her prints, but must exercise restraint. Her paintings of strong women really speak to me.

Artists I’m really loving right now…(I even know some of them!)

Molly and Corbett Leith, David FlemingJen Fleming, Brian Andreas, Ruth Chou Simons, and James Christensen (just to name a few – there are so many!)

Good artwork, especially original, isn’t easy. But is shouldn’t be, right? The time it takes to find the right mat and frame and hanger easily overwhelms me. And if you want someone else to frame it, well that’s time and effort and money, too.

But. I’m upping my game, vowing to do better. Art is an important investment for a family and home. It makes homes more interesting, less stale, more beautiful. It’s a conversation starter, it supports our artists, and makes our hearts pitter patter with happiness over that special, unique, carefully chosen piece.

As the chaos of the world swirls around us, I’ve felt a greater need to make home a refuge – and you certainly don’t need great artwork on the walls to do that – but I do want us to be surrounded by beauty and color and inspired artists who seem to have an eye and heart and paintbrush turned toward heaven. Bring the heaven in.

Read this: 13 Reasons Why Original Art In the Home is As Important As a Bed! 

“Do a visual tour of your home with spiritual eyes. Is there love? Is your family room a place to gather as a family? Regardless of circumstances, home should be where family wants to be.” -nestingwithgrace

What’s on your walls? Any favorite artists?

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Ten Favorite Valentines

Let’s start with the treats, shall we?

1. Dark decadent homemade chocolate. With only three all-natural ingredients!

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2. The Valentine Fruit Heartfruit-heart

3. A Valentine Breakfastpuffpancakes

4. Oreo Truffles and Chocolate Covered Strawberries DSC_0096

5. My Favorite Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookie  (thick, soft, and delicious!)DSC_0070-1024x680

6. German Chocolate Cake (and a Love Story)unnamed-2

Valentine Projects this year:

7. Ipod Valentines (comes with a free printable!) Yes, ironic given my technology rants 🙂

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8. Window hanging: Iron crayon shavings into between sheets of waxed paper & cut outIMG_0326

9. Wreath: crumble up tissue paper and glue gun them onto a cardboard wreath.IMG_0338

10. My favorite Valentine tradition: the annual heart attack! Valentine’s get stuck all over the house and we laugh for days (unless they’re making fun of the multiple shades of my hair 🙂 )

paige1 mom

Enjoy! And may all your days be filled with light and love…and especially kisses!

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Happy Monday {when it seems the world is falling apart}

When I told my friend about “signs” and feeling like God gave me little gifts to keep me going, he shook his head. He thought the signs were always there – we were just too busy to see them.

Hmm, maybe he’s right. Do we make our own reality because of how we want to see the world or are there gifts being sent all the time? I think it’s a little of both. But I think Friend has a point: there is great beauty all around us, if we will only SEE.

I read this quote this weekend (and didn’t think it a coincidence:):

“The more often we see things around us – even the beautiful and wonderful things – the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds – even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin

There is an awful lot of doom and gloom these days. We are upset about politics, taxes, healthcare. There are really sad and horrible things happening that we have no control over. For instance, I’m driving myself mad this evening thinking about how much of teen culture is.so.BAD. Will the kids really be okay?

But I must take deep breaths and think about that another day.

This post is about seeing the sunshine and butterflies.

Anyway, has there ever been a period of time when people on earth felt perfectly content or unafraid?

So. I read this this week, too:

“I am asking that we stop seeing out the storms and enjoy more full the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we ‘accentuate the positive.’ I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort.

I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course.

What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears.” –Gordon B. Hinckley #lovethisman

I saw this faith and optimism play out over the weekend as we laid my cousin, Andrew, to rest. Andrew was born with many heart defects and Down Syndrome. But the love his family had for him was a great love story. Andrew was a joy, but also…difficult. I don’t know how his parents and sister could turn every broken toilet into a hilarious story, (he had a fascination with flushing things) but they did!

Even his obituary made me laugh. A small piece: “Ever the prankster, Andrew enjoyed breaking household items, hiding things, and telling jokes about setting people’s hair on fire.”

Before he passed away he hid all of his mother’s pants. They are still looking for them. On several occasions I thought, “bless them, I could never do it.”

But they did. So very well.

His father, Ray, said at his funeral: “Happiness is a choice.”

In a prayer, Andrew’s mother said, “Thank you for the great honor of allowing us to raise Andrew.” She didn’t talk about how hard it was, only the great honor.

I’m thinking about this today, on a cold, grey January day when there are many many worries on my mind. I’m looking out the window {’cause it’s not on my phone} and really trying to see it.

Some seasons of life are better than others. And I just thought I’d share this belief of mine, that our lives have meaning. That there are good things all around us if we want to see them. That happiness is a choice.

And like Olivia Pope says, “ALL PROBLEMS HAVE SOLUTIONS!” 🙂

Okay?

Hold on. If you can’t see the light right now, believe. It’s there.

unnamed

Happy Monday, friends.

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Auntie Jill’s Sweet Potato Pie {yum!}

It was voted Thanksgiving’s #1 dish, and that’s saying something in this house where we are surrounded by viable Chopped contestants.

It’s also saying something as I have struggled to like sweet potato since I was a wee lass growing up on the plains of Nebraska. The sweet potato has so many virtues and has long been touted as one of the world’s healthiest foods. Why couldn’t I adore it? But this. Love at first bite. The butter, sugar, and pecans might have something to do with it, but you have to start somewhere, right?

This Sweet Potato Pie comes from Auntie Jill, passed down from her mama Nancy in Iowa. The first two Makechnie boys married girls from the midwest. Aren’t we quaint?

Mama Nancy’s recipe sure was delish, but Jill saw the need to healthify it by cutting the sugars in half, using dates instead of white sugar, and fresh sweet potato instead of canned in syrup. Still, we agree it’s more of a dessert to be eaten after a 5k Turkey Trot (or sleeping in, whatevs,) and goes ever so wonderfully with any meat and potatoes meal, like Thanksgiving. Which is why I’m posting this in January. Makes perfect sense, right? unnamed-1You’ll peel, cut, and boil 4-6 sweet potatoes. Mash them with butter. Add sugar, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla.unnamed-2 Now for the topping! Chop 1 cup pecans.unnamed-3 Add brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon to the pecans.unnamed-4 Spread sweet potato in a pretty pie baking dish. Add the nut and sugar topping.unnamed Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Serve and swoon.unnamed-6

Sweet Potato Pie Casserole

Ingredients
4 and 6 sweet potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar (*or puree 1/2 cup pitted dates with 1/2 – 1 cup hot water until thick paste forms)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (2% or more is best)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Topping Ingredients
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped (or pecan/walnut combo)
Directions
  • Boil sweet potatoes until soft and mashable. Mash with butter. Add sugar or pureed dates, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla. Mix well.
  • Pour into ungreased 9″ glass baking dish or a deep dish pie plate.
  • For topping: in a separate bowl mix brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon with fingers or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Stir in nuts.
  • Sprinkle the topping on the sweet potato mixture and bake @ 350 for 40 minutes.
  • Can be made ahead.
Enjoy!
Thanks Auntie Jill and Mama Nancy – we sure do ENJOY!
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Favorite Books of 2016

I didn’t read enough this year, but did discover some gems, both old and new.

The year started out with a big high as I binged on all things Liane Moriarty, (as a side note, guess who’s on the February 2017 cover of  Writer’s Digest???)

But after the summer I went into a reading slump, with just so-so feelings book after book (coinciding with a hard summer, so maybe it was me, not the book 🙂 )

Here are my top picks for the year (and make sure to leave me some recommendations!)

 

The Light Between Oceans
The War that Saved My Life
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Christmas Day in the Morning
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives
The Nightingale
When Breath Becomes Air
Waiting for Augusta
Truly Madly Guilty
Hamilton: The Revolution
Writing Irresistible KidLit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers
The Hypnotist's Love Story
The Last Anniversary
Three Wishes / The Last Anniversary
Medium Hero
The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own
God Wants A Powerful People
The Five Love Languages of Children
Crossing to Safety
Ramona the Pest
Alexander Hamilton
Today Will Be Different
Love Warrior
Commonwealth
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#LighttheWorld

Okay, now we can move on to December!

Let’s kick off the season with the best part: LIGHT.

Join me?

Follow Our Savior Jesus Christ. In 25 Ways. Over 25 Days.

Keep it simple, simple, simple.

My friend, Rebekah, copied pasted, and printed out the 25 ideas listed, and put them into an envelope for her children to open every morning. LOVE IT. 15321614_10211192681475802_1883106853_oClick HERE to do the same!

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A LINK to the following advent calendar

25-days_summary_02-1small

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-10-40-02-pm screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-10-40-22-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-29-at-10-22-57-pm

Tonight I showed the video to my family. Tomorrow we begin. No matter how big or small, all service brings light.

He is the light. We are the light.

Merry Christmas – let’s #lighttheworld on fire!

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Best of Fall

I know, I know. We’re on to cyber deals and Christmas parties, but first I must pay homage to our glorious fall.

img_8172 New season, new goals!

img_8326 School starts and she still holds my hand

img_8339 A new fridge. And a brother-in-law who is all in!

img_9340 Lazy lump days

img_8548 img_8796My favorite cows

img_8379Is any running better than fall running? img_8595 A completed piano chart!

img_8640 Girl in a tree

img_9228  img_8707 img_8800 csc_0079img_8906 img_8968 Love this guy.

img_8839 Cousin dabbing

 img_9392-effects img_8847 img_9021 Baby blow that horn! Her siblings love this sound 🙂

img_9048 img_9051 img_9063 Grandpa moves in! We are happy.

img_9150My soccer girls! img_9227 Finishing the basement. So much work. So much satisfaction.

 img_9461-effects Fiery skies atop Maple Street

img_9315 The woods were lonely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep…

nelson7 Bam

img_9394 Early morning drives

img_9643 The boy paints his first bathroom

img_8707-2 unnamed-2 Thanksgiving!  img_9568Our great Goody neighbor cope-singsShe sings  unnamedThe basement is almost livable! The boy’s room.

img_9725Saying good-bye to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We close today.

img_9539You were glorious.

“Seasons are not only realities that occur outside and around us, in the skies and in the trees. I believe seasons are also internal and personal, interwoven into the fabric of human life. We are designed to transition, to change, and to vary. Our souls have seasons.” -Adam McHugh

Amen.

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How to Feel a Little Happier Tomorrow

About a year ago, in the spirit of trying to be more organized, I mapped out a calendar of posts I wanted to write instead of my usual writing-everything-on-the-fly-however-the-muse-moves-me way of blogging.

Intentions were good. Output was poor.

I also didn’t pay particular attention to particular events, like the election, and how we all might be feeling post-voting. This week I had “laundry post,” slated.

But I’ve been feeling rather despondent post-election. A laundry post seemed rather…trivial. Didn’t our country need more? I could only stare glumly at the black screen…who cares about laundry? Write something important, something meaningful, something big.

So I wrote nothing.

Not to worry, my heart is coming back. How is the state of your heart?

So I unplugged for a bit and boy was it refreshing. Even Hilary went for a walk the day after! Nature is soul cleansing. When I run outside in the woods, breathe in fall air, crunch in leaves, our sweet land of liberty feels good. It’s not what happens to us, but thinking that makes it so.

As always is the case, when you are searching, you find. This gem from Sarah:

There should be less talk, a preaching point is not always a meeting point. What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone’s house. That says enough. All of us are but His instruments who do our little bit and pass joy.

-Mother Theresa here

Isn’t that great? Take a broom and clean someone else’s house! Oh yes, I am 100% positive that if you picked up a broom in my house, I would feel very JOYFUL.

Mother Theresa, oh wise one, also said:

War is the fruit of politics, 

so I don’t involve myself, that’s all. 

If I get stuck in politics, I will stop loving. 

Because I will have to stand by one, and not stand by all.  

This is the difference.

This is the difference. I’ve had a personal political crisis of late, but these words speak to me, reminding that I can only control what is in my circle of influence, and that is enough. In fact, if we all did that a little better with our own families, the world would take care of itself.

14993573_10211597144023419_526944804417536894_n

If that feels too big at this very moment, try something smaller: make your bed.

Yes, that’s the advice from happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin. Sounds trivial and small, perhaps, but maybe there’s more to it. The simple act of getting out of bed and pulling up your covers is not only satisfying, it marks the start of the day. It makes our world feel a little more orderly and organized. And every time you walk back into your room, it’s a nicer place to enter.

I think the making of the bed also signifies something bigger for us: It’s time to rise up! A bed made signals a resolve to face the world. You can’t crawl under the sheets and hide anymore. You must rise, and find a way to be good and brave and kind.

So there we go. It’s rather simple. Turn off the news, find Nature, pick up a broom for someone, make the bed. And than all will be well, my friends.

God speed.

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