Monday, January 5, 2015

I Choose To Be Positive!

I have noticed that things are very negative in the world right now and since Christmas has just passed and the joyful feeling always seems to pass all too quickly, I have been thinking about how to combat such negativity.  Everywhere you turn there is something being reported in the news or talked about in public that can bring you down, can cause depression or feelings of doubt and unhappiness.  I don't want to feel that way - do you?

Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.

I write in a personal journal as much as I can and I try to speak my heart in these pages because I want my children and grandchildren to know who I truly am.  I want to use these journals to remind them about all the good in life because there is so much to be joyful about.  Most of my writings are very positive because I have always wanted to be a happy person but I do have down days and I do write some things that may not be as uplifting as I would want them to be but that is life - that is MY life sometimes and I know that they will learn from my thoughts and feelings.  I am not presenting my true self if I am only writing the good and the positive although, I wish I could!

For this reason I want to make more of an effort to point out things that are good in every day living.  This will make me be more thoughtful about what goes on each day and help me to recognize those tender mercies that may some days seem far from me.  I want to know these things when they occur in my life.  For this reason I have decided to make a slight change in my journal writing to help me focus on the good.  My goal is to write about or mention at least one unexpected positive thing that has happened during that time period that I am writing about.  If I am watching for these moments I will be more mindful of the blessings I am receiving every day whether they are apparent or not.

Some examples of good things or blessings that have come my way in the last week that were expected are:
  1. I was able to talk to all of my children and grand children this week during our Christmas celebrations.   Priceless!
  2. Spending time with one of my beautiful daughters and just enjoying her company.  Also priceless.
  3. Receiving all the beautiful Christmas cards from family and friends.

Some examples of beautiful things that have happened this week that I was not expecting:
  1. Pulling up to the pump at the gas station and finding out that it was only going to cost $36.00 to fill up my car rather than the normal $50.00 because the price of gas has gone down significantly.  This one almost made me cry - seriously! 
  2. Getting a text from an old friend saying she missed me and that she was thinking about me.  My heart still skips a beat when I hear from an old friend.
  3. Learning some additional skills that will help me take better pictures - something I have always been interested in but not very good at.  I have a long way to go but it feels so good to understand better how to use light in photography, for example.
Another thing that I think will help to keep positive thoughts always in the front of my mind is to watch for and make notation of positive and encouraging thoughts that I am confronted with each day.  I have listed below just a few that I have found.  Some are spiritual and some are just uplifting.  Take a look because they might inspire you too!

Put Your Positive Pants On!
We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong.  The amount of work is the same. 
Carlos Castenada
Keep looking up . . . . that's the secret of life.
Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
Dr. Seuss
Sometimes when things are falling apart they may actually be falling into place. 
The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.
Mark Twain
Life is like a camera.  You focus on what's important to capture the good times, develop from the negative and if things don't work out, take another shot.
Author Unknown
If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sun beams and you will always look lovely.
Roald Dahl
Spread love everywhere you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Mother Teresa
Start each day with a grateful heart.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
Ephesians 4:29
  Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Abraham Lincoln 

There are so many good things in life to focus on but sometimes it can be hard.  Find ways to keep positivity in your life.  Share it with others and if you come up with some creative and new ways to do it, please let me know.  I would love to hear them!
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Friday, January 2, 2015

Breakfast Enchiladas For A Large Crew!

Have you ever had family, friends or special guests staying at your home and wondered how you would feed them all a hearty breakfast without having to slave over the stove when you needed to be entertaining and having fun?  Well, here is a great breakfast you can throw together the night before and then just pop into the oven while everyone is getting up and getting ready for the day.

Elizabeth and I made this on Christmas Eve this year and then popped it into the refrigerator and then continued on with our Christmas cooking for the next day.  When we got up the next morning I popped this dish into the oven and by the time we were done opening presents, this delicious and hearty casserole was ready to go.  It was heavenly!

Here is what you need to do:

In a large frying pan cook your Sausage and Onions until the Sausage is cooked through and the onions are translucent.  You can cut your sausage into bite sized pieces but since these are going to be wrapped in tortillas and people will just be biting into them, you don't really need to.  After these are cooked through set them aside to let them cool before moving on.

Chop your Green Onions and dump them into the . . .

2 Cups of Cheese.  Ok, I might have a little more than 2 cups of Cheese in here but I LOVE cheese!

and then

add the Sausage and Onions

 and mix it all well.

Spray the bottom and sides of your baking dish and then using a 1/3 measuring cup, scoop out the Sausage, Onions and Cheese onto a Tortilla.

Roll the Tortillas up and place them seam side down in a 9 X 13 inch casserole dish.

As you add them to the dish they will fill the whole dish.

You may need to smoosh them together a little bit to get them to fit in the dish.  As these cook the cheese will melt and combine with the eggs it will be a devine breakfast for everyone!

Next you need to beat the 6 Eggs gently in a small bowl.

Measure the 2 Cups of Half and Half

and pour it into a large bowl.

add the Eggs to the Half and Half

and then add the Flour and mix it all until it is well combined.

Pour the Egg mixture over the Tortillas that line the bottom of your casserole dish.

It will seem like a lot but just keep pouring until everything is in your casserole dish.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and place in the refrigerator over night.

When you get up in the morning pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and pop your casserole dish into the oven for 35 - 40 minutes covered with foil and cook until the Eggs are set.

When the timer goes off, remove the foil from the baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of Cheese over the Enchiladas and continue to bake uncovered for another 10 minutes or until the Cheese is melted.

You can serve this warm and creamy dish with Sour Cream, Salsa or even a little hot sauce if you like some heat.  Enjoy!

Breakfast Enchiladas


1 lb. Breakfast Sausage

1 small Onion, chopped
1/2 cups Green Onions, chopped
2 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided
8 - 10 Flour Tortillas
2 cups Half and Half
6 Eggs, whole
1 Tablespoon Flour
Salsa (optional)
Sour Cream (optional)
Hot Sauce (optional)
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Monday, December 29, 2014

Motherhood - The Best Job I Have Ever Had

I have had many jobs in my life but by far the best job I have ever had is that of being a mother.  Nothing will or could ever match the joy and fulfillment that I have received from my work as a mother to my children.  It has been exciting, fun, exhausting, frustrating, joyful and fulfilling beyond the dreams that I ever had as a child.

My sister Kathy and I playing house.  Mothers wore pig tails back then!

For as long as I can remember all I have ever wanted to be was a mother.  It wasn't just that I wanted to have children but that I wanted to be pregnant and have that whole experience and in the end have a sweet little baby to share my life with along with my future husband.

The day it all began.  August 25, 1982 in Kensington, Maryland.

This quote by David O. McKay depicts completely how I feel as a mother and the importance of our role as mothers in the lives of our children:

"Motherhood is the greatest potential influence either for good or ill in human life.  The mother's image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child's mind.  It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realization of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world."

David O. McKay, 1953 

I realize that this is not the hope and dream of every little girl but I have never shied away from my expression of love for motherhood - to anyone.  If motherhood were a badge, I would wear it on my forehead.  I am not ashamed to say that this was my goal and joy from the beginning of my life to this day and I am not sorry for the direction my life has taken or for the choices I have made.  Of course, there were other things that I wanted to do in my life as well but I knew that I had to be a mother and that the other things would follow along in God's time - and I believe that everything has happened the way it should so far.

It hasn't all been easy and some days were downright rough but each one was a gift and I would enjoy, thrive on or survive each one because it was all mine.  One thing is for sure.  Motherhood is a job that is much easier if you rely on a loving Heavenly Father to be your guide and your aid in all things.  I'm not sure how it can be done, good or bad, without that relationship.

 This was 1986 - don't judge the hair.  Matthew doesn't look very happy with me, does he?  Alex was!
As a young mother I wanted to spend my days with my little ones playing, learning and growing together.  My deepest desire was to be the one who was there to help them when they were hurt, to aid them when they were learnging to read, write and to do simple math problems.  My husband is the mathematician in our family so I knew that once past addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, my kids would be turning to him and I was totally fine with that!

 Such hams!  These kids were and are the light of my life and yet there were some days that they ran me ragged.  I wouldn't change one moment of our history as a family together.
I hoped to one day watch as they grew from baby to toddler and then on to a pre-schooler.  I thought about what it would be like to have kids in elementary school and how interesting and wonderful it would be to help mold and shape them during those years as they are so precious.

This is the time when you build the ground work of a solid relationship with your children.  If you aren't doing it when they are in their elementary years and keeping those lines of communication open, you are missing out on not only some great experiences with your children but you are also losing your opportunity to bind your relationship with them that will undoubtedly be needed as they go into their teens years.  Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of neglecting to give your teenagers all the attention you physically and emotionally can. 

 My mother-in-law said that she loved when kids were finally out of diapers and were able to eat a hamburger because then you could take them anywhere.  It is so fun to take your kids places and do things with them.

I looked forward to having teenagers.  Yes, I know that in this regard I may be considered just a little bit odd but I was excited about having teenagers.  I loved my own teenage years and I had a great relationship with my own parents so I wasn't too worried.  I knew that this would be a period where my kids would either tune me out or totally plug into what I was saying and that this was the time to really solidify my relationship with them.  I certainly could have done much better as I now look back and there are things that I would have done differently but my kids are all still talking to me so at least I didn't mess things up too badly.

Again, I knew that I would need to rely on heavenly help to keep me not only close to my children but to know when they needed me.  We would not always agree but the lines of communication would need to be open - not shut and this time of all the times in their lives would be the most critical.  These years were so important because at the drop of a hat they could change course to go down a wrong path.  This thought did worry me but I knew from my own experience that constant communication was key to keeping my kids close - now and forever.

I remember sitting up late at night talking to my dad and feeling a little bad about it but since I had so many siblings, if I wanted all his attention and to have a private conversation, this was the time to talk.  He worked so hard and had a long commute every morning and evening but I never felt like I was inconveniencing him or keeping him from sleep.  I wanted to be that way for my kids but I am afraid that I may have slacked on this one a little.  I can stay up late now when I'm not having to care for little ones or medium sized people but when they were all at home I have to admit, I was always tired.  

I am sure that there were times when my kids might have said that I didn't have a clue about what was going on with them and I do know that there are some things that I didn't know - THEN!  But I am a mom and we are usually more clued in to our kids then they think we are.  I do have confidence that each of my children knew they could count on me and trust me.  No matter what, this mom was and will always be on their side.  It is in my blood.

 This is the day Alex left to go on a 2 year mission for our Church.  Again, I could not have made it through these 2 years without a deep faith in a Heavenly Father that I believed would protect our son - and help us to not miss him too much!

As they grew to be young adults, graduated from high school and prepared to go off to college and to serve missions for our Church, I looked forward to this time as well even though the leaving home part would stink.  When you get to this point in your mothering you start to really see and appreciate the results of many years of hard work for you, your spouse and your child and it is so incredibly sweet!  Step back, take a deep breath and really think about all that has happened in your home for the last 18 years or so and how this person or people have grown, excelled, matured, and developed while in your care.  What an awesome thing to think about.

Now that my kids are all out of the house and have started families of their own, my role as mother has changed quite a bit and after all the years of "in the nest" mothering, I am loving the "out of the nest" mothering just as much.  I miss my kids, their spouses and of course the grand kids more than I can say but with every new day comes the opportunity to connect with them and stay in their lives - even though it is long distance right now.  We talk on the phone, share pictures and videos via cell phone, text or email and the best communication of all - Facetime or Skype!  These forms of social media have kept me from high tailing it out of my little town in Pennsylvania and moving to another part of the country!

The beauty of mothering is that it goes on forever and no matter where your kids go, no matter what they end up doing with their lives or who they end up with, you will always be their mother.  This is a job that you can never be fired from, never be let go from or can actually ever really leave and this gives many of us such comfort.  Being a mother is an awesome responsibility and I can't imagine how I would feel if there were a day that it just ended but thankfully, that will never be an issue.  

When our kids do leave the nest, we have had the opportunity to make our mark and hopefully it is a good one.  Whatever your circumstance, wherever you live and no matter what your example of a mother has been, be the best mother YOU can be.  More than anything else your kids just want your attention and love and that is easy to do - you can't really mess that up!

Happy Mothering! 

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Sweet Potato Souffle

I posted my mother-in-law's recipe, Glea's Easy Holiday Yams, a few weeks ago which has been a staple in our house for years and always will be but there is another Sweet Potato recipe that I wanted to share because it is delicious.  My daughter Elizabeth is home for a few days and we were doing our holiday baking and whipped this up.  It is really easy to make and a great recipe to help someone with their kitchen skills.  It is the day after Christmas so I will make this short!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.  Instead of boiling the sweet potatoes as I usually do I decided to just bake them in the oven and I got the same result - except the oven heated up my house which was nice!  I washed 6 LARGE Sweet Potatoes and placed them on a foil lined baking sheet and poked holes in each one with a fork.  It is best to choose potatoes of the same size and then make sure that they are large for this recipe.

Sweet Potatoes tend to leak a little bit of liquid as they bake and it can be hard to clean off of your cookie sheets so the foil catches this liquid.  You can just crumple up the foil, throw it away and then just put your baking sheet back on the shelf without having to wash it.  Wonderful!


After baking place your peeled and cooled 6 large Sweet Potatoes into your mixer bowl and mix until smooth and creamy.  You could eat them just like this but don't.  There are a few yummy things to add first!  Now when you add each of these items, add them one by one and mix until incorporated before adding the next ingredient.

Add your White Sugar and mix until combined.

Add the Eggs and continue to mix on low.

Add the Milk and keep that mixer running.

And last, add the teaspoon of Vanilla and mix until well combined and then turn the mixer off.

Pour the Sweet Potato mixture into your prepared baking dish.

In a separate bowl add your melted Butter, packed Brown Sugar, Flour and the chopped Pecans, or mixed nuts as I did. 

I didn't have any Pecans at home so I just used some Mixed Nuts that someone had given to us as a holiday gift.  Also, I added a little more butter than the recipe called for so the topping was pourable rather than sprinkleable but it turned out great.  The more liquid topping gave this dish a slightly crunchy topping but it was soft underneath and the more powdered topping is more like a "crisp" topping on an apple or peach pie.  So good!  Either way, you can't go wrong.

Pour the Topping mixture over the Sweet Potatoes in the baking dish and bake for 35 minutes and this is what you get.  Can you see that it looks like a candied topping?  It is just a very thin layer and gives this dish a gentle, crisp topping.

Give this recipe a try any time of the year.  I promise you will love it!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Perfect Mashed Potatoes - There Really Is a Trick To It!

I don't usually like to write two cooking posts in a row but since next week is Christmas, you really should have the instructions on how to make the very bets mashed potatoes - ever!

Everybody has their own special or favorite way of fixing Mashed Potatoes and everybody thinks their way is the best.  Whether you like creamy, lumpy, creamy and lumpy, skins still attached or flavored Mashed Potatoes they are all considered the ultimate comfort food.  There is a trick to making the perfect Mashed Potatoes though and I don't think most people know what it is.  I am going to share the secret with you in this post.  Yay! 

Now this is not the trick but it is certainly an important key to making the best Mashed Potatoes.  Are you ready?  YUKON GOLD POTATOES!  That's right, the key to making the most delicious, creamy and buttery Mashed Potatoes is to use Yukon Gold Potatoes.  Now I typically use Russet Potatoes for two reasons.  One is I always have Russet Potatoes in my kitchen and two, they are less expensive than Yukon Golds so I reach for Russets instead.  I'm a discount shopper that way.  If you want to really see the difference though, grab some Yukon Golds next time you are in the grocery store and give them a try.   

Peel and cut into uniform size chunks 5 to 6 large Potatoes and put them into a large pot, fill it with water to about an inch above the Potatoes with a dash of Salt and put the lid on the pot.  Bring the Potatoes to a rolling boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer.  Cook for about 20 minutes or until a fork poked into the Potatoes goes in easily.

Drain the Potatoes in a strainer and then put them right back into the hot pot.  This will keep the Potatoes hot AND help to remove a little of the moisture that is in the Potatoes.

With your favorite Potato Masher, mash the Potatoes to the consistency that you want. If you like lumpy Potatoes you won't want to mash too much!

HERE IS THE TRICK THAT YOU MUST DO TO HAVE CREAMY - HEAVENLY MASHED POTATOES - In a small sauce pan melt 2 Tablespoons of Butter and then add 1 1/2 Cups of Milk and heat until steaming but not boiling.  Heating the Milk and Butter will keep your Potatoes from becoming gummy and sticky and will ensure that you have a creamy consistency.  You don't want the milk to burn so stir continuously to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.  Make sure to heat your Milk and Butter!

You can also add some flavorings at this point.  If you want:

Garlic Mashed Potatoes - Add a couple of cloves of fresh chopped Garlic and let it warm with the Butter and Milk.  The Garlic will infuse the Milk and Butter and really give your Potatoes a delicious flavor.

Parmesean Mashed Potatoes - Shred about 1 Cup of fresh Parmesan Cheese and add it to the Milk so that it has time to melt while the Milk is heating and when it is incorporated into the Milk and heated through it will create a cheesy and creamy flavor.

Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes -  After you have added the Milk to the Potatoes, add 1 Cup of Sour Cream and mix until well combined.  You can also chop fresh Chives to add right before serving.

ANOTHE TRICK IS TO MAKE SURE YOU USE HEAVY WHIPPING CREAM OR HALF AND HALF.  If you want super creamy Mashed Potatoes, use Heavy Whipping Cream, Half and Half or Buttermilk instead of Milk.  I do this all the time and it really makes your Potatoes so much more rich and creamy.  Give it a try!

Pour about half of your Milk mixture into your Mashed Potatoes and stir until it is all well combined.  If you want it to be creamier, add more of the Milk and continue to mix until it is the consistency that you like.

And there you have it.  The best Mashed Potato recipe EVER!

Enjoy your spuds.

Merry Christmas!
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Monday, December 15, 2014

Gingersnaps That Don't Snap!

I LOVE Gingesnaps - I always have.  They bring back wonderful childhood memories and they just make your tummy feel good.  I do not, however, like when they are super hard or snappy.  I don't like anything that feels like it might break my teeth when I bite into it so I really do prefer Gingernaps that are not super hard.  In fact, I really love a Gingersnap that is more of a soft cookie and this recipe is just that!

This Gingersnap cookie recipe is so delicious around the holidays so what better time to share this recipe with you!  These cookies are super easy to make and if you have kids that like to participate in baking, try this one out with them.  They will have fun rolling the balls of cookie dough in their hands and then covering them with granulated suger.  Yum!

The ingredients are all standard things that you probably already have in your kitchen other than maybe Molasses but it is pretty inexpensive no matter where you get it.  Grandma's brand at Walmart was $2.88, so go and grab a bottle at your local grocery store so that you can make these delicious cookies.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl or mixer bowl cream together the Butter and Sugars until fluffy.

Add the egg and mix.

This is how your Butter, Sugar and Eggs should look.  This step is important so make sure that your Butter is at room temperature so that these ingredients combine well.

Now, here is a little trick.  Before you pour your Molasses into your measuring cup, spray the inside of the cup with Pam or your favorite cooking spray.  This will make it so that the Molasses slips right out of the cup and you won't have to do any scraping.  Your welcome!

Pour your Molasses into your existing wet ingredients and mix this well.

Add in the Vanilla and mix until everything is well incorporated.

Dump in the Baking Soda, Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, Salt and Pepper and mix well.

Doesn't this look heavenly?  I could eat this right now.

Add in the Flour and mix until everything is mixed well.

Now you need to chill the cookie dough for at least 30 minutes.  I wouldn't let it chill much longer than that because you want to be able to scoop it out easily.

After the dough has chilled for 30 minutes, scoop some dough into a small cookie scoop and pop the dough into your hand.  Roll the dough into balls that are about 1 inch in diameter.

Roll each ball in Granulated Sugar you have set aside in a small bowl.

Place the cookie balls on an un-greased cookie sheet or on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and space them about 2 inches apart.

These don't look perfectly round but that's alright because they are going to flatten out all on their own.  Bake in a preheated oven for 8 - 9 minutes or until the cookies begin to get crevices and creases in them.  If you cook them for too long they won't be soft and chewy so don't overcook them.

Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet and then place them on a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.

When these cookies are baking in the oven, you house is going to smell so wonderful.  If baking these cookies doesn't put you in the Christmas spirit, I don't know what will.  Of course, you can make these cookies at any time of the year so don't let the calendar keep you from enjoying them.

I am going to go and eat my cookies now so I will talk to you all later! 

Gingersnaps - That Don't  Snap!

1 1/2 sticks softened Butter
1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Molasses
1 Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
2 teaspoons Ground Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
Extra Granulated Sugar for Rolling Cookie Dough in a small bowl

In a large mixing bowl or mixer bowl cream the Butter and Sugars.  Add the Molasses and continue to mix.  Add the Egg and Vanilla and mix some more!  Add the Baking Soda, Ground Cinnamon, Ground Ginger, Ground Cloves, Pepper and Salt and Mix again.  Add a third of the Flour and mix until it is all incorporated.  Add the next third of the Flour and mix again until all of that Flour is mixed well into the batter.  Add the last third and mix until it is all well combined.  Scoop the dough up with your small cookie scoop and dump it into your hand.  Roll the dough into a ball and then roll the ball in your small bowl of extra Granulated Sugar and place it on your cookie sheet.  Place the balls 2 inches apart and then bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 8 - 9 minutes.  This mix will make about 24 delicious cookies!
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