Peanut Butter Popcorn: A Holiday Tradition

Good morning! I'm over at Housewife Eclectic today sharing about my holiday traditions, so here today I'm going to share a recipe for one of them: peanut butter popcorn. (I originally shared this recipe last year as part of Holiday Treat Week with Tricia over at Leafy Treetop Spot.)


FAMILY.
Me and 6 of my 7 older siblings, plus my dad and his new car
I'm the cute chubby one in pink :)

While not inherently holiday-ish, this delicious treat is all about family and isn't that what the holidays are really all about?

Let me introduce you to Peanut Butter Popcorn:

It might not look like much, but it's delicious, sinfully sweet, and cheap!

I grew up the youngest in a family of 8 children (as you can see from the picture above). Cheap is important. Cheap and makes enough for everyone is the difference between living in harmony and... not-so-harmonious living. A harmonious day is a holy day and therefore a holiday, right? :)

So, at our weekly family-together nights and any other family gathering, my mom would make Peanut Butter Popcorn. It's perfect for making with a large brood because there's a job for everyone. It's actually more difficult to make by yourself than with a helper, so grab a helper or two (or six) and let's get started:


You'll need
  • Popcorn -- 2-3 servings, kernels with an air-popper are best, but the microwave bags are fine
  • A big metal bowl
  • Your oven
  • Another big bowl, in any material
  • A saucepan
  • 1 cup peanut butter -- chunky or smooth, doesn't matter
  • 1 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
1. Preheat your oven to 275*F  or so. Place the big metal bowl in the oven and turn the oven off. (You want the bowl and the popped corn to stay warm because that makes it SO much easier to evenly distribute the topping.)

2. Start one helper popping popcorn into the non-metal big bowl.

3. After the first batch of popcorn is finished, have another helper shake the bowl so that the biggest, fluffiest kernels come to the top and the yucky unpopped "old maid" kernels fall the bottom.

Yup, my family togetherness memories are based on an elitist popcorn hierarchy. :)

4. Carefully remove the *hot* metal bowl from the still-warm oven. This is a good job for a parent or an older helper.

5. Enlist a helper (or two) to scoop the fluffy kernels off the top of the bowl, using their hands, and place the the fluffy, high-class popcorn in the metal bowl, being careful not to touch the bowl since it is still *hot*.

6. Dump all the old maids and the smaller lower-class kernels that are left in the bottom of the bowl. Return the metal bowl to the still-warm oven to keep the bowl and popcorn warm.

7. Employ your helper(s) in popping another 1-2 additional batches of popcorn and give those the same elitist treatment, returning the high-class kernels in the metal bowl to the oven after each batch.

8. When you've sorted the final batch of popcorn and your metal bowl is about 2/3 full (probably about 8-10-ish cups of popcorn), combine the vanilla, sugar, and corn syrup in the saucepan. (Another job for a parent or older helper.)

9. Heat the sugary goodness until it boils and the sugar is completely dissolved.

10. Remove the boiling sugary goodness from the heat and quickly add the peanut butter, stirring until it's all melted into the sugary mixture.

11. Carefully remove the hot (possibly warm by now) metal bowl from the oven and quickly pour the *very hot* peanut butter sauce over the top.

12. Stir...

13. Stir... this is a good time to have helpers. :)

14. Stir some more. Make sure that the peanut butter sauce is evenly distributed and covering every fluffy kernel.

15. Now you make a choice: keep stirring until the sauce is completely cooled OR spread the cooling popcorn onto waxed paper.

You could also form the popcorn into balls, but leaving the still-warm popcorn in the bowl sends most of the still-warm peanut butter sauce to the bottom of the bowl, making it hard to get OUT of the bowl, both to eat and to clean. :)

16. Enjoy! Share with family, friends, the UPS man (for bringing all those fantastic holiday packages), or whoever.You could even add it on your Christmas Cheer Garland. :)

The Christmas Cheer Garland {Haul Out the Holly}

Haul Out the Holly,Gwenny Penny,Christmas tutorialsToday I am thrilled to be sharing with you as part of Haul Out the Holly, a Christmas crafting extravaganza hosted by my awesome friend, Gwen, of Gwenny Penny. She's lined up 3 weeks of fantastic and talented guests (and then there's me...) to share fun holiday craft ideas with you, so be sure to pop over and check out the amazingness there.

And so, I present, The Christmas Cheer Garland

This garland is as inexpensive and easy as you want it to be, and it's sure to bring a smile to everyone who graces your front door this holiday season. Why? Because, as much as I hate to disagree with Buddy the Elf, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is NOT by singing loud for all to hear (especially if you sing like I do), but by spreading treats far and near...

I learned this truth (along with many others) from fantastic friends of ours. Every year at Christmastime, they bake up a huge batch of sugar cookies, decorate them, and then hang them on their Christmas tree. Every guest who comes to the house then gets to take home a cookie from the tree.

I loved this family tradition of theirs and decided this year to start it with my own family. There were only two problems:
  1. Our (fake) tree is only 3 feet tall.
  2. My husband hates (most) sugar cookies.
So, with a little improvising, we ended up with the Christmas Cheer Garland: individually wrapped treats strung up on the garland by our front door so that each visitor can take a little bit of Christmas cheer (and holiday calories) home.

Housewife MacGyver in Real Life

Hello friends! I'm just popping in to tell you that, for the month of December... I'll only be popping in every once in a while. I've got some posts scheduled to review our year of Housewife MacGyver -- and add some new things I've found throughout the year! -- and a couple of places I'll be guesting, but other than that, I have very little planned blog-wise.

Why?

Because I'm going to take a few weeks to enjoy life and the holiday and my family, to try to practice what I (along with my fantastic guests) have been preaching all year -- becoming self-reliant and managing resources. Managing my life and my very important jobs as a wife and mother and all-around good person.

I've been taking baby steps all year long (and I hope you have been, too), but since having my baby girl in August, I have been less and less effective at keeping up. Now that she's 3 months old (can you believe it?), my personally allotted "grace" period is over and I'm working on getting my life back to the semi-chaos I love instead of the complete chaos that drives every member of my household a little crazy.

One big step for me in moving toward less chaos is (drum roll please...) spending less time online. I love all the goodies and deals and friends I find online, but I have developed a tendency to spend waaaay too much time online. So, for December, I'm cutting waaaay back on my online time -- mostly my surfing time. I'll still do my very best to come by and visit your blogs, friends! And I'll be back in moderation in January for certain, because I love my blogging friends too much to leave forever. :)

Yesterday I had a mini Housewife MacGyver moment. And it felt fantastic! I was up early enough that I got in a 3 mile run before my husband left for work. I watched a friend's little girl while she attended the temple. I had dinner planned and started early enough in the day that I was able to make a double batch to take to a friend who has been struggling. And in between, I played with my son and laughed with my daughter and read books and, yes, has some online time (I'm going for moderation, not completely hiding under a rock :)

As I went to bed last night, I felt so amazing about my day, and myself. Yes, there were still dirty dishes in my sink and toys scattered around and laundry to be folded. But, for the first time in a long while, I felt fulfilled. I felt happy about what I had done that day and ready to take on another day and give it my all, not frustrated with the state of my life. 



So, for the month of December, I'm aiming for more days like yesterday (but including some crafting, too :). Today has been pretty good so far. But while my children are sleeping, my to-do list is calling to me, and I'm going to answer it before I give in to my gut reaction and tell it to be quiet and let me pin some more.

Happy December :)

(pssst... you can also hop on over to Housewife Eclectic today to see how I'll be changing my regular Wednesdays on the Web posts there in the coming year)

'Tis the Season... Shutterfly Holiday Cards

Thanksgiving is past (here in America) which means... it's Christmastime! It's time to pull out the tree, put on the carols, and send the annual holiday greetings.

vintage snapshots

If you want oohs and aahs over your cards, I highly recommend Shutterfly's Christmas and holiday cards and greeting cards. I ordered my Christmas cards from Shutterfly last year and I was completely impressed and totally thrilled with them. The quality is amazing: all of their cards are printed on high-quality cardstock or photo paper (depending on the design you choose) and their print quality is impeccable-- worth every penny!

I procrastinated last year (who, me?) and even though I didn't order my cards until the 17th (yes, of December...), I still had my cards on my doorstep in time to [quickly] address and send them off again to arrive by Christmas Day for most of our friends and family.

I am kind of a design snob -- I like my cards to look great and professional and NOT just like everyone else's -- so I love that Shutterfly has oodles of designs to choose from:

classic
classic holly frame

modern
fa la la

fun
what fun

religious
rejoice bethlehem

and everything else! 


Shutterfly's online card creator is fast and SO easy to use. Just pick your favorite family photo(s) and get to work. You can browse all of their designs or narrow your search by style, card size/format, the number of photos on the card, and price.

For the photos that you want to keep in view year-round, Shutterfly has a great selection of photo gifts and photo calendars (great for grandparent gifts). My husband ordered a puzzle of our most recent family photo for my birthday back in October, and it was so fun to put together our faces! I think every family has a puzzle lover, so imagine his/her delight to have a self-puzzle to put together Christmas morning :)

So, when you're ready to send your greetings this year, check out Shutterfly. In under an hour, you can have the prettiest holiday cards on the block. The biggest challenge is choosing just one of their drool-worthy cards... right now, I'm stuck between this one:
sweet merry ribbon

and this one:
sweet snow globe

Help an indecisive girl out?

Disclosure: I received 25 free holiday cards from Shutterfly. All opinions and experiences are 100% mine. 

Housewife MacGyver: The Perfection of a False Reality

My dear friend Heather is back again today to share another dose of her real-world love and wisdom. Give her a warm welcome back...

In today's world, when we become dissastified or frustrated or bored with our lives, it is exceptionally easy to create a false reality to live in or someone elses to covet.  Social networks, blogs, text messaging, and plain, old-fashioned, everyday interactions can make the lives of those around us look wonderful and at times perfect.  Appearances can be decieving.

Even though your friend may look perfectly put together, and her children are wearing adorable coordinated clothes, and they drive a nicer car than you, and her house is immaculately clean at any given time... that does not for even one second mean that her life is perfect, or "better" than yours.

NO ONE, I repeat NO ONE has a perfect life.  You may not know about a struggle with depression going on behind the scenes, or a chronic illness or condition being dealt with.  Perhaps a battle with keeping a marriage happy and together or struggle with infertility is affecting someone that you are unaware of.  And even if they are not dealing with something at this moment, their time will come.
  
It's easy to have moments of "perfection": the hour you spend on vacation playing together and taking pictures, or the one decent dinner you manage to turn out in a week or more and decide to post about, or a new haircut that you have been waiting months to get.  Those are all things that are perfect in their own moments.

And naturally, we want to share our triumphs and happy times with others.  It is much harder to admit our weaknesses and and share our failures, plus it tends to be a bit depressing.  But ironically, focusing on and comparing ourselves to others is also depressing.

Don't judge others, or yourself, on superficial information.  If all someone had to judge you by was your facebook updates, what would they think of you?  We all have baggage; some peoples' are heavier than others.  Sometimes there are even hurts that never go away, like the loss of a parent, child, or loved one that everyone else forgets about over time, but for those closest, the pain can stay very real long long after the loss.

If we allow ourselves to believe the lie that we are not as good as those we see, we can start down a very dangerous path. 

Take me for example.  If by some chance I have happened to fool anyone into believing I've got it all together or something, there are some things you should know.  I am not a good housekeeper, I have piles of dirty dishes and laundry and stuff around at any given time.  I am not very patient sometimes, and at times I let it get the better of me.  I lost my mother at age 14 and I envy everyone lucky enough to still have theirs.  I have a problem saying no to pretty fabric and paper.  And I don't always remember to brush my teeth.

But, there are many good things in my life.  And I do try to focus on them.  I have a husband and daughter who in my eyes are pretty darn wonderful and we love each other very much.  I love all things crafty (except cross stitching, my impatience gets in the way) and I am fairly good at them.  I also enjoy cooking and do pretty well there too.  I also like people and am generally comfortable in social situations.  And, I have been told, that I give off an air of general happiness.

Now, if you only knew about my strengths, it would be easy to imagine that I had few weaknesses.  But it wouldn't be true.  And I am willing to bet an awful lot of cookies that the same is true for each and every person that you and I know.

Life is not a competition.  That kind of high school mentality has NEVER led to happiness.  As a little girl I was lucky enough to have parents who told me "The only person you should compare Heather to is Heather".  In other words, you are the only measuring stick your should EVER use to judge yourself with.  Who cares if Pretty Patty Perfection next door had her Christmas shopping for this year finished back in April.  Or if her skin appears flawless at any given time.  Or if she runs 10 miles every day?  None of those things make YOU any less of the wonderful person YOU are.

Just tell yourself the next time you get discouraged by someone elses seemingly perfect life, you don't know the whole story.  That picture of their cute baby might have taken an hour of crying to get, or years and years of trying to get here, or both.  Don't let yourself sink too deeply in the lives of others.  Take some time to live your own life, and maybe even make it more like you'd like it to be.  And maybe don't be so unwilling to admit to others some of the chaos going on behind your scenes :)

One last thing.  I truly believe with all my heart and soul that a loving God created each and every one of us.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.   He sees the beauty and potential he placed within each of us.  There is no fooling him, for good or bad.  He wants us to be happy, no matter our circumstance.  He loves EVERY one of us, and wants us to learn to have that same love for each other.  So just remember the next time you are discouraged or disgusted by someone elses life, to look through God's eyes.  Try to see yourself and others the way he sees us.  You'd be surprised just how much the picture changes :)

Hallelujah!

Hi gang! I'm over at Housewife Eclectic today getting all fired up and singing hallelujah about a new (and much wanted) Blogger feature: this little checkbox.

Come on over to read about it and get a Gospel of Links refresher.

Thanks for reading!

Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon When You Take the North "Poll"

Melissa & Doug want you to tell them which of their educational toys you think is the best! Just click on the image below to place your vote in the North "Poll!" You'll Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon** to use at MelissaAndDoug.com just for voting!

Men [and women] are... {Book of Mormon Forum}

My good friend Jocelyn over at We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ (and my guest here) has decided to continue The Book of Mormon Forum with a blog-hop once a month. I first joined the Forum here, and I'd like to continue joining each month because the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a big part of me being "just" who I am, so it just seems natural to share this with you as part of all the other loveliness I share. Thanks for reading! :)

I was contemplating what thought to share for this month's Book of Mormon Forum blog hop when my husband and I read this verse in our nightly scripture study:
 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25)

In the next few verses (26 and 27), Lehi continues to talk about what other things men -- and women -- experience as a result of the fall of Adam and our Savior's atoning sacrifice. Editing it down (while still maintaining the meaning, of course), I read that men are...
  • that they they might have joy (verse 25)
  • to act for themselves and not to be acted upon (verse 26)
  • free to choose liberty and eternal life... or captivity and death (verse 27)
For all three of these purposes to be fulfilled in our lives, we must act for ourselves to choose liberty and eternal life, and thereby gain joy in this life and the next. Without our ability to act and choose for ourselves, we could not experience the fullness of joy that our Heavenly Father has prepared for us: the joy of eternal life.

Each choice that we make each day is a choice toward either liberty and eternal life, or toward captivity and death. As Elder Russell M. Ballard says,
We prepare each day, right now, for eternal life. If we are not preparing for eternal life, we are preparing for something less, perhaps something far less. (Sept 2011 Ensign)
Looking at my choices of the past week or two... I haven't been preparing for eternal life all that well. But, thanks to the Atonement, I can repent of my shortcomings and I can be better. I can do my very best (even all that I can do) so that my life is the very best that it can be, to allow me live eternally with my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ, and my beautiful family!

The Book of Mormon ForumIf you have questions about the Book of Mormon or my beliefs as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please leave a comment or email me at iamjustlu@gmail.com. 

If you're interested in receiving a complimentary copy of the Book of Mormon to read for yourself, I would love to send one your way, along with my testimony and a special copy of The Ensign magazine explaining the origins of the Book of Mormon.

Learn more about the Book of Mormon here at mormon.org
or by reading some of the great links in the Book of Mormon Forum blog hop:

Housewife MacGyver: Raising Spiritually Self-Reliant Children with Jocelyn of We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ

The ever-awesome Jocelyn of We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ is here today to share with us the steps to becoming spiritually self-reliant and helping our children to become so as well. Jocelyn does the most awesome activities with her children, she posts the best holiday book lists for kids, and she can pull off Nanny McPhee with style. :)



It can be tough for parents today to tackle the issue of raising spiritually self-reliant children, when we don't feel spiritually sound ourselves.  But how important is it to teach our children to be spiritually self-reliant?  Consider this:

A child who is spiritually self-reliant will be able to more easily figure out how to deal with a bully, how to seek out healthy relationships, how to deal with the problems of life, and how to fix their own mistakes.  (Let's face it, we all make-em.)  So how important would it be in your mind for your children to have these skills?  Right...very.

Hopefully, if you feel unstable in this area of your parenting, you can follow these simple steps right along with your children and grow, as a family, to become just as capable of changing a tire or sewing on a stray button as you are charting a safe and happy path through life.

Her are six steps to raising spiritually self-reliant children...and becoming spiritually self-reliant yourself:

1.  ...know God's laws (know the laws of the land, laws of your family...basically, understand what is expected of you).

2.  ...know who you are (know why you are here, know your strengths/weaknesses...know your personal mission/goals).

3.  ...know how to communicate with God (know how to pray, know how to ask for help from others).

4.  ...know how to feel the Holy Ghost (know how you feel inside normally and what it means when you feel something different, know how to communicate those feelings to others).

5.  ...know how to make your own (good) choices (have experiences having responsibility over your own actions).

6. ...know how to fix your mistakes (starts with knowing how to clean up your own spills and continues to knowing how to apologize to others, how to make restitution, how to ask for help from the Atonement of Jesus Christ).

Raising spiritually self-reliant children or being spiritually self-reliant yourself doesn't mean that you have the answer to every question in parenting or in life that presents itself.  It does however mean that you have the confidence, ability, and know-how to seek out the correct answers and from the best sources.

In my religious perspective, we "talk of Christ and rejoice in Christ" so that our children will know where to look for answers to every dilemma they may face, so they can ultimately become spiritual entities unto themselves.  Whatever your spiritual-leanings may be, you can help raise spiritually self-reliant children by expressing the spiritual laws you live by, by helping them to discover the unique person that they are, by teaching them how to pray, by encouraging them to listen to their heart, by allowing them to make some decisions entirely on their own from an early age, and by giving them the tools necessary to fix their own mistakes.


This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

Just your friendly neighborhood reminder...

...to change your passwords! Yup, it really has been 6 months already! Get the details and suggestions for creating a strong password in my post today over at Housewife Eclectic.

Thanks for reading!

Housewife MacGyver: The Loneliness of Depression by Andi of Jane of All Crafts

Today our guest is one of the spunkiest bloggers I know: Andi from Jane of All Crafts. Andi often cracks herself up in her blogs posts (by her own admission), and, without fail, she cracks me up too! 

I asked Andi here today to share with us a different topic though, not about humor or crafts...about depression. Because emotional health isn't all rainbows and lollipops, and because depression is so very real and affects more people than we know. I'm so grateful that Andi is willing to share part of herself with us today! 

Since Andi sent me this post, she's decided to take a little time off blogging to make her health a priority, so read what she has to say here and then, would you be so kind as to pop over and offer her some love and encouragement? Thanks!

Hi Just Lu followers!  I'm Andi from Jane of all Crafts.  I blog about all kinds of crafts, DIY, sewing etc.  You name it, I probably blog about it.  Like my blog title suggests I am a jane of all crafts, master of none :)  Aside from my crafting adventures I sometimes get a little personal on my blog and share some things about my family and I.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am an open book.  What you see is what you get.  I wear my heart on my sleeve and have nothing to hide.  So once I started to get some loyal followers I thought it was time to share something that is a part of my everyday life and Lu asked me to be here today to share it with you as well.  Here is an excerpt from that post.


This particular subject definitely isn't something that defines me but is a part of who I am.  I have depression.  I take medication (sorry Tom Cruise).  It never was an issue, except the occasional blah day, until after Natalie was born.  I didn't realize until after the fact that I had had post partum depression.  Natalie was 3 when I decided that I needed to try medication.  Most days are great, some days not so much.  Today has been one of those days.  For some reason I just feel sad.  It's like this deep gut feeling.  I really can't describe it.  It sucks away my motivation.  I am overwhelmed with thoughts of failure.  As I type this I worry what you will think of me and if you are asking yourselves, why is she telling us this?  I am having a very difficult time writing this post because until you have had depression it is hard to explain what it feels like to have it.  I always tell people that you don't know you are in it until you are out of it, if that makes sense?  It's this vicious cycle that just compounds on itself.  You feel depressed so you don't want to do anything, then the guilt and self loathing sets in which only makes the depression worse which starts the cycle all over again only worse.  It is a very lonely place.  I know what it feels like to be numb to everything and feel hopeless.  Thinking that you will never get better, you will never figure it out. 


Yep, I have depression.  And yes, it has been extremely challenging to deal with at times.  Although I am learning to better cope with the love and support of my family, friends, doctors, and therapists.   The hardest thing for me has been self acceptance.  I know having depression doesn't make me any less of a person then someone who doesn't, but I still have days where I ask why me?  Why on top of everything else that life throws at me do I have this too?  And there is a part of me that is ashamed.  Ashamed that I can't do this without taking medicine.  Ashamed that I'm not "normal".  Sometimes I feel like I just need to suck it up and move on like everyone else does.  Then a tiny voice inside my head yells "Snap out of it!" "Depression isn't who you are, you are so much more."  I don't always listen to that voice and this road to acceptance is rough but I figure at least I'm making the journey.   


Whether or not you have depression all of us can relate to learning to accept things about ourselves we cannot change.  For most of us it's an ongoing process.  It's important to know that even though there are things we don't like about ourselves we are not defined by them. Learning to except the the hand we've been dealt and choosing not to be so self critical I think is an important step to self reliance.  


Like the serenity prayer says, 

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

And to anyone who is reading this that suffers from mental illness I want you to know that you are not alone and there are people out there who understand and who will support you. Depression is a very lonely illness. If you haven't talked to someone about how you are feeling find someone you trust and talk to them. Don't stay trapped in your own thoughts.  
You will get through this.
You deserve to be happy and healthy.


I am here if you need to talk, andi@janeofallcrafts.com


This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

Housewife MacGyver: Keeping a Marriage Strong with Tera's Tidbits

Today I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Tera, one my best friends and favorite people in the whole world. I have to include the whole world part because she is currently living in Germany! She shares her European adventures with her four kids at her blog, Tidbits from Tera. Tera and her family are the friends whose wisdom and example (and fun!) stick with you long after your daily interactions with them are past. I am so grateful to have Tera as my friend and here today as my guest!

September ten years ago, the world watched with horror as this happened:


At the same time, I was preparing for the arrival of friends and family to join me for this event:


Erick and I were married two days after 9/11. Some siblings didn't make it because all commercial flights had been cancelled. My father, who was performing the marriage, made it only because we postponed the ceremony by eight hours. That gave him enough time to finish his 18-hour drive straight from where his flight had been grounded. I found myself clamoring to make everything work: adjusting the wedding breakfast to be before the ceremony instead of after; finding something to wear to the breakfast since I would no longer be wearing my wedding dress; contacting the photographer and praying that she would be available for a last-minute change... You get the idea. 

The worry and change and stress were intense. But somehow the day turned out perfectly in the end. Despite the chaos in the world and even in my own life, I was married that day to a wonderful man. We were blessed by and surrounded by wonderful family and friends. Erick and I found a way to be together, and it was perfectly romantic.

Little did I know that my wedding experience was foreshadowing what my life would be like in the years to come. Did we experience another 9/11 tragedy? Definitely not. But Erick and I faced other challenges in our years together. To name a few... We moved eight times in ten years due to career changes and job placement. Erick lost his job one week after our second child was born and had no prospects for another job in the region. Erick joined the military and departed for a year of mandatory training while I attended school full-time and cared for our three children.

Through each challenge, we have been able to adjust and rearrange our situation to make it work. And though we have experienced these challenges and many more, somehow Erick and I continue to find ways to grow closer. 



Here are a few things we do to strengthen our marriage:


Words can hurt
Something Erick and I decided to do even before we were married was to watch what we say to others about each other. I am quick to praise Erick to my friends and family. I find his strengths and share them happily. Is my husband perfect? Nope. Am I perfect? Even less so. But I do not criticize him to others. I don't share negative things about him with others. I even watch what I post on the internet. How easy is it these days to post a cutting comment on facebook during a moment of frustration?

This commitment to one another has protected our relationship. We know that we can confide in one another, and we know that our confidences will be kept. It has also helped us to consistently look for the good in each other. And after days and weeks and now years of looking for the good in my husband, it is easy to find. And constantly finding good within him makes me love him all the more.


Agree to disagree
During our first year of marriage, I was very difficult to get along with. I know Erick would never say so, but it was a tough year for him. I was overbearing and emotional. The reason? I believed that my way of doing things was always the best. The problem? Erick didn't believe that my way of doing things was always the best. Of course it was best most of the time... but not always. (ha ha)

For example, we had heated discussions about Sabbath day observance. I was very opinionated about what we should and should not do on Sunday. The problem? Football. Erick loves football. It is a true passion of his. He played in high school and in college. He has followed college and professional football most of his life. When his team plays on Sunday, he wants to watch it. I struggled with this. I felt like watching football on Sunday was a far cry from "keeping the Sabbath Day holy." Whenever he turned on the TV to watch a game or even check the score, I felt anger and bitterness toward him. (See? I told you I was difficult.)

During one of our discussions regarding this issue, Erick read me the eleventh Article of Faith, which states, "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." Erick taught me that this does not only refer to people outside of our own faith, but people who share our faith. We know the commandments. We have the counsel from our prophet. Now it is up to us to obey those commandments in the way that we see fit. His counsel has stayed with me.

Which of us was at greater fault? The one who turned on a television or the one who cast judgement and had anger in her heart? I realized that my anger was the cause of contention, not the football game. I love Erick very much. He is a good, honest, and kind man. He doesn't drink, smoke, cuss, or abuse. He serves others. He is tender and loving. He is an amazing, supportive husband and father. He does so much good. Why should I dwell on such an insignificant difference of opinion?

There have been other (fairly minor) things in life that we don't agree on. We are aware of our differing viewpoints, and we respect each other's opinions. But instead of judging one another, we strive be loving and tolerant. We have learned to agree to disagree. And I believe we are both better for it.

Tell me what you need
This one is kind of strange. It may not work for everyone, but it definitely works for us.

Long before I met Erick, I noticed that men (in general) were not always as observant as women wanted them to be. I had heard married friends and family say things like, "he should have known...," or "he didn't even notice..." when they were speaking about their husbands. These women would get outright angry, and their husbands would have no idea what they had done wrong.

When I met Erick, I decided to try an experiment of sorts. I told him exactly what I thought he should know or notice, and I told him what I wanted him to do about it. Does that make any sense at all? Probably not. Let me give you an example:

I call Erick on the phone before he gets home from work.
Erick: Hello?
Tera: Hi Erick. Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I got my hair cut today.
E: Okay.
T: When you get home, will you be sure to notice it and tell me how much you like it?
E: Sure. Thanks for the heads up.
T: You're welcome. Now don't forget. 
E: I won't. Love you.

Believe it or not, my experiment worked. Both Erick and I love it, and we have continued to tell each other our needs and expectations throughout our marriage. Here's another one:

Another phone call
Erick: Hello?
Tera: Hey it's me.
E: How's your day?
T: Actually, it's been terrible. That's why I'm calling you. I am extremely emotional for some reason. I'm tired and I feel overworked and unappreciated. 
E: I'm sorry.
T: Thanks Erick. When you get home, would you try to be extra nice? I need a little extra love.
E: Of course. I love you babe. I'll be home as soon as I can.

Like I said, this may not work for everyone, but it has definitely saved us from the stress and  frustration that many couples feel. Believe it or not, the love or praise that he gives me is just as sweet as if he thought of it himself. I get exactly what I need, and he doesn't have to wonder how I'm going to react to him when he gets home. 


Date
"Continue to date your spouse even after you are married." I'm sure you've heard it a million times. Erick and I have interpreted this one a little differently because of our varied situations in life. 

There were many times in our marriage when we could not afford to go out on a date. We couldn't even afford a babysitter. So we stayed in. Our focus was finding alone time together. We made it a point to put the kids to bed and spend quality one-on-one time together. Some nights we would just talk over a bowl of ice cream. My favorite date night was eating dinner picnic style in the middle of the family room floor and then watching a movie together. Easy. Free.

There was a time when Erick was striving to start his own landscaping business. He worked long grueling hours. He was gone before the kids and I woke up in the morning and came home long after we had gone to bed. There was little time for us to be alone together. I believe that this time could have damaged our relationship had we not desperately worked to demonstrate our love for one another.

Instead of spending a lot of time together, we looked for ways to serve each other. I would make him a special lunch and take it to him at his job site. I would make sure to have the house clean and stress free and have a good meal waiting for him when he got home. It was in the fridge and had to be reheated, but it was ready on a plate for him. Occasionally, Erick found the energy to do the dishes that I had left in the sink at the end of an exhausting day. These little things seemed huge at the time. I loved him more during this time than I ever had before.
>

Today it's even harder to find time alone together. Erick is deployed for the year to Afghanistan. He is in a dangerous and primitive area that has sporadic and slow internet. I think dating now is more important than ever. But how? It's all about setting aside time for each other. This may sound crazy, but we cyber date. Through email, we share ideas and hopes and experiences. We discuss the children and make plans. We compliment each other and challenge each other.  Despite our physical distance, he his right with me emotionally.

I know that Erick and I still have many challenges ahead, but I'm sure that with a positive outlook and good communication, we will continue to grow closer every year.


This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

Pintiquette, or The Art of Politely Pinning

While I am far from writing the book on Pintiquette (or The Art of Politely Pinning), I did Photoshop the book cover! And, you know me, I just can't stop myself, so I also wrote a blog post, inspired by the people at Pinterest. Read more about the social graces of pinning here at Housewife Eclectic.

Thanks for reading!

Some very overdue thank-yous

I am terrible about thank-yous. I just found a box of written but never sent thank-you notes from our wedding almost five years ago. And just last week I gave up clinging to the hope that I'd eventually get going with the thank-yous for the baby gifts that Little PiƱa was showered with. I take small comfort in sending good karma instead of thank-yous...

Anyway, in the last few months, I've won some fantastic giveaways and I would be remiss if I didn't let you know about them because I love each and every one!

During the summer, I won a $20 credit to Natalily Designs, the Etsy shop run by Andi over at Jane of All Crafts. Everything Andi makes is just adorable, but I chose the piece I have been drooling over since she first debuted it:

I love it and I get compliments every time I wear it. The bird charm adds the perfect touch to the super-popular nest pendant!

Then back in September, I won a Facebook giveaway from Kendra of On My Side of the Room and her shop Belleza Mia.... just another shop where I love EVERYthing. :)

I won the Taking Flight necklace, which goes great with everything. I wear it pretty much every day... that I'm not wearing my bird-nest pendant. It's simply gorgeous!

And then just a couple of weeks ago, I won a giveaway from Sophie's Beads, hosted over at We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ. I won this great Stick of Joseph & Stick of Judah bracelet, but Sophie can make a charm out of any book or cd cover and create a custom bracelet, earrings, or pendant:

The books are so tiny and just adorable! And if you want a chance to win one of your own, head over to Housewife Eclectic where Debra is hosting a giveaway. :)

The only unfortunate part about having won all these great giveaways is that I think I've used up my luck for the year... so no chance of winning a new Silhouette Cameo machine at one of the great giveaways going on. Rough life, eh? ;)


Housewife MacGyver: Choose to Be Happy with Debra from Housewife Eclectic

Today I am beyond thrilled to have my best friend Debra here to share her wisdom with us. The only thing better than having her here on my blog would be having her here in my house instead of in the tropical land of Texas. :) She's the brains behind Housewife Eclectic and is the bee's knees, the cat's pajamas, the whole nine yards, and whatever other idiom you'd like to insert that means totally awesome. She's just finished a whole Month O' Pumpkins and is also hosting a super awesome giveaway, so go pay her a visit!

I remember when my husband and I were first married looking around our apartment and realizing we owned nothing new. Our couch had belonged to a member of my husband’s church. My mom had picked up our kitchen table at a yard sale and our washer and dryer were the ones that my parents had bought when they were first married more than 25 years earlier. We lived in a small apartment and hardly owned anything nice but we were really happy.

About a year into our marriage, the jealousy bug bit me. We went to visit a newly married friend in their new apartment and everything they had was gorgeous. They had chosen not to go on a honeymoon or have a reception, so they had a lot more money to decorate. I was suddenly no longer happy to just have a bed, couch and a washer of my own, I was bitter that my things weren’t as nice as theirs.

I eventually got over our apartment and went back to loving it for what it was, our first place together that we would always remember.

My husband and I have joked throughout our whole marriage that we are the unluckiest people we know. The star don’t align for us, ever usually. We worked hard all through college, often forgoing sleep to earn a little extra money or study a little longer, while many people we knew had parents paying for their college. Our jobs in college were both contingent on being students, so we lost our jobs the day we graduated, five days after we welcomed our beautiful daughter into the world. The economy had begun its steep decline just months before, so it was more than 9 months before we ever saw another paycheck. I could go on and list the health problems that have plagued us and other misfortunes.

Now I don’t say any of this to make people feel sorry for us -- I am sure everybody has their share of misfortune -- but to help you understand how frustrated I was with our lives. We watch miraculous jobs fall into people's laps in their hometowns while we had to move thousands of miles away for my husband to get employment. So by the time we made it to our new house in Texas, I was bitter again. I had just left the state I had lived in all my life, my parents and my best friend to live in what I thought was the worst place in the world. After a couple of months of crying on the phone to my mom, she begged me to try to be happy. Pretend to be happy for a week and see how it goes.

That night when my husband walked into the house there was dinner on the stove and I was dancing with our baby in the kitchen. He stopped and searched my face for the tears he thought had to be hidden there but I was determined that he wasn’t going to find them, even though I was crying inside. We sat down at dinner and ended up talking and laughing for hours. As I laid down to go to bed that night, I realized that for the first time in Texas, I was genuinely happy.

Now in the two years since that night, I have had to choose to be happy over and over again.

The days that huge medical bills have landed on us, I have chosen to not let something I can’t change upset me.

On the days my child won’t stop being defiant, I have chosen to play with her and let her know how truly loved she is.

On the days I have felt like crying, I have cried and then picked myself up again and decided to be happy.

Happiness is a choice, sometimes a really hard one, but one that gets easier and more wonderful the harder you try at it. Is our life better now? In some ways, yes, but even if it isn’t, it SEEMS better because I have chosen to be happy about it.

Happiness is always a choice. Stop wasting your life away wishing for something in the future. Stop saying you will be happy when you get that raise, or you baby sleeps through the night. If you keep saying that when the deadline comes for being happy you will just find another deadline to push your happiness to. Choose to be happy and choose to be happy now.

If we spend our days waiting for fabulous roses, we could miss the beauty and wonder of the tiny forget-me-nots that are all around us. Dieter F. Uchtdorf
free printable from kiki creates

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.

Last-minute Pumpkin Decorating with Mr. Pumpkinhead

If you're in a crunch for time and still need to decorate your pumpkins, hop on over to Housewife Eclectic today where I'm sharing a new friend of mine:

Happy Halloween!

The Dahlia Top {Toptoberfest}

Toptoberfest! It's the most wonderful time of the year!

In case you haven't heard, Toptoberfest is a fantastic celebration of handmade tops, hosted by Tricia of Leafy Treetop Spot. (You may recognize her from Housewife MacGyver.)

I am so pleased to be participating in Toptoberfest this year with Tricia -- if you're stopping by from Leafy Treetop Spot, welcome! Let's get right down to business and introduce...


The Dahlia Top is a reverse-applique design using two knit fabrics, both old tshirts in this case. That might sound (or look) complicated, but it's really more a matter of patience and time than talent. Trust me -- there's not a particular abundance of patience around my house (especially that's left over for crafts... I figure my children need my patience more than my other creations ;), but there is definitely more patience than artistic or sewing talent. :)

This top was inspired by this top on Etsy. I am a big fan of buying and supporting handmade, but I knew that I could put together a similar top in colors that I really loved for a tiny fraction of the cost. Of the three tops I've made, two of them were free, using only old tshirts that I wasn't wearing anymore. You can't beat free!

The tutorial and template are below -- and you can use the template for so much more than just a top! The same flower would look great on a skirt or a bag or anyplace else that you can think to put it, with any type of fabric -- or even paint! I've provided the template in several different sizes, or you can resize it to fit your projects needs. 

Social Bookmarking

If you like to save online stuff and maybe share it with your friends (online or otherwise), hop on over to Housewife Eclectic and check out my posts there last week and today, about my favorite social bookmarking sites and an intro to what social bookmarking is

And remember that time when I was crafty? I still am, I'm just even worse at sharing in a timely manner than normal. But I've got at least two great posts coming up later this week! Thanks for sticking with me. :)

Twenty-five

It's my birthday! So far it's been great: baby slept all night, breakfast in bed and a nice long shower, and a toddler version of Happy Birthday. Life is so good. :)

I'm turning 24, and I thought I'd do some planning to preempt a quarter-life crisis... not that I actually believe I'll have a quarter life crisis, nor do I believe that 25 is in any way old. But I do plan on making myself one of these. :)

Anyway, last year on her birthday, my friend Tera set goals to accomplish in the upcoming year, and I think it's a great idea. Birthdays aren't as exciting as adults as they were when we were kids, but having a list of specific goals makes it more fun to look back over the years. At least for me, I very rarely accomplish anything major without it being on a list...

So... here's my list of twenty-five things I want to do before I'm 25... but it's not set in stone so I'm open to suggestions :)

Finish the t-shirt quilts that I've been saving supplies for since high school

Re-read all four books of scripture 
(Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants/Pearl of Great Price)

Run another 10K... and actually train for it :)

Finish reading The Screwtape Letters and All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience since I started them almost 2 years ago

Visit a state (of the nation, not of mind :) that I haven't visited before

image source

Learn to eat using chopsticks

Complete The Love Dare

Refinish a piece of furniture

Watch AMC's top ten movies of all time

image source
Ride in a hot air balloon

Improve my posture

Take a family photo in a photo booth


Complete the 200 sit-ups challenge

Go geocaching

Hike Mt. Timpanogos

image source
Get a passport

Build a website

Go star and satellite gazing with my husband like we used to when we were dating

Eat something that I grow myself in a garden of some sort

image source
Attend the temple (at least) once each month

Learn to make creme brulee

Build a snowman and go sledding with my son

Have a date night every week with my husband

Take more photos... like maybe one a day

Here's to the best year of my first quarter century of life! :)

Housewife MacGyver: After all that we can do...

Last Sunday evening, my husband and I noticed that a house that we had looked at and been very interested in was back on the market. We had LOVED the house and seriously considered putting in an offer, but, for multiple reasons, we hadn't.

Seeing it back on the market, we felt like maybe this was a divine sign that this was the house we were supposed to have... so, first thing Monday morning, we had our realtor draw up papers and I spent the morning running around to get the papers filled out -- to my parents' house to use their printer since ours was out of ink, to my husband's school to catch him on his lunch hour so he could sign each page, and then, thankfully, just to the office of his school to fax them (thank you, nice secretary!) -- all in the lunch and naptime hour.

And then, that afternoon, a call from the realtor: We didn't get the house. The sellers didn't even LOOK at our offer.

All of that work.... all of that feeling of divine intervention... for nothing??

I hung up the phone and shed a couple of tears while preparing dinner -- completely frustrated. Why did we even bother going through all of that running around and paperwork?

As I chopped the garlic for dinner, a thought came to me. Not necessarily an answer, but a comfort nonetheless:
...for we know that it is by bgrace that we are saved, after all we can cdo. (2 Ne 25:23)

After ALL that we can do. With this house that we love, we've done all that we can do, and now we have to continue on in faith and leave it in the Lord's hands, knowing that He loves us and He wants us to be happy, but also knowing that He expects us to do our very best, to work for the worthwhile things in life. Even the strongest belief can't help you win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket. :)

The concept of doing all that we can applies both to spiritual topics as well as to topics of everyday emotional and mental well-being -- which are often very hard to separate. :)

As a parent, I teach my children and love them and do all that I can for them to teach them correct principles, to raise them to be respectful and kind, to help them to not embarrass themselves (or me) in public. But there comes a point when I have done all that I can do and I have to let them exercise their agency and make their own mistakes -- and hope that they will learn to trust our Heavenly Father so that he can make up for where I lack. (My little babies won't be fully on their own for quite a while, though. :)

As a wife, I do all that I can do love my husband and keep our marriage strong. I cannot preserve and sanctify our marriage on my own. For our marriage to be its best, my husband also needs to be doing all that he can do. And, in turn, as we both do our very best and do all that we can, we rely on the Lord to help us as well. 

As a follower of Christ, I do all that I can do live the best and most virtuous life that I can, repenting and then relying on Christ's atonement to span the gap between my best and the perfection that is necessary for me to return to His presence. 

Right now, I don't know why things work out the way they do, why we would feel so strongly about that house for naught. Maybe at some point I will know, but maybe not. That's not so important. What's important is knowing that I've done my best. And what's more MacGyver than that? :)

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.
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