Sunday, February 28, 2010

Service Boot Camp: Happy in Your Work

Service Boot Camp - Day 28:

We did it! We did it! We did it!

28 days of voluntary enlistment in service boot camp was all that I'd hoped for and more.
At times it was a bit brutal, I'll admit, and the re-enactments a little too militant-like, but the pay-off in what I have learned about myself and life in general is sublime.
And although some things in my life took a backseat to my goal to serve others this month (such as diet and exercise...tsk, tsk...) I sense that I am stronger now in new ways.
And that feels good.

My husband jokingly pointed out that I picked the month with the least amount of days to focus on service. Oh, well, we've all got to start somewhere, right?

Fellow boot-campers, I salute you!
Thank you for enlisting and serving so bravely.
You all deserve medals!

Day 28: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, but far from complete.
There will always be work to do...serving others.

As they say in the 1957 movie Bridge on the River Kwai,
"in a job like yours, even when it's finished, there's always one more thing to do."
And in the words of Colonel Siato,
"Be happy in your work."

Continue reading... »

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Service Boot Camp: Find the Good

Day 25: I heard a national weather forecaster today say "Scranton, Pennsylvania has the worst weather in the country." Thank you, Sir, for the very cheery news. We don't live in Scranton, but it's not too far from us either. I also recently heard that a magazine has named the city of Cleveland (my home base) "the worst place to live in." There are even websites dedicated to detailing why some cities and even neighborhoods are the worst places in America in which to live.

Why, people????
So much negativity in the world can make us feel like we can't make a difference.

But the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to look for the good.

And people who find the good also find power from within and peace that can permeate every other aspect of their lives.

My Mom sent me a link to the "One Million Pillowcase Challenge". It's a charity that is asking people to make pillowcases for children who are battling cancer. I wanted to make some, but found that none of the quilt shops in our area are participating.

So I made one for a friend of mine who is recovering from surgery and will soon undergo her first round of chemo. She is such a good, good woman. And she always sees the good, is always grateful, is always positive that everything happens for our good. But it can be difficult to remember to see the good when you are experiencing such trials. So I made her this pillowcase this morning and added the phrase "Find the good." to help her to remember her own mantra during these trying days.

Day 25: Find the Good.

Continue reading... »

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Service Boot Camp: Flowers in Winter

Day 24: When a person needs to be served, "Call me if you need anything," is just about the last thing that they want to hear...but sometimes it's all we can think to say in the moment.

It's like when someone wants to give you a present and they ask you to tell them what to get you. It's convenient for the giver, but you'd probably prefer for the giver to tend to the details of figuring out how or what to give...and how or what to do in order to serve you.

With this in mind, I have been thinking a lot about a particular person (and their family) who is going through a difficult time right now. I have also been listening to what others have said this person likes. I have heard multiple people say, "She loves flowers."

Now there aren't a lot of flowers around these days, being that it's winter, so I decided that one thing we could do is make some tissue paper flowers with the kids to help brighten up my friend's surroundings.

When I brought them to her, I knew immediately that this was the right thought at the right time. It was simple, but thoughtful. It was also something she would have never asked for herself.

During a Primary Sharing Time lesson once, a sister talked about how important it is to "listen with your heart" when attempting to serve others, and she had the kids role play "listening or hearing" verses "listening with your heart". It was an effective lesson.

One thing I haven't mentioned much during Service Boot Camp is the service that we parents, Mothers in particular, perform in our homes...on behalf of our families.

This also requires a lot of "listening with your heart."

Recently, my kids have expressed a lot of interest in pouring...pouring their own drinks, mixing their food at meals, etc. So yesterday, I decided we'd do some water play, where they could develop and gain confidence in their water-pouring skills. They loved it, of course, and although they couldn't express it, they seemed happy that my heart heard their needs.

Day 24: To choose effective service for others, first listen with your heart.

Continue reading... »

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sewing Smackdown Results & Giveaway Winner!!!

The first ever Sewing Smackdown was a blast:
Round 1 went to my sister Dawn. Round 2 went to me, Jocelyn. And clearly round 3 was won by my Mother Susan.

Now, as my Mom mentioned in her post, the pattern for her Baby Fairy Purse came from Winter Peach on Etsy. Check it out if you are interested in making one for yourself.
The Owl purse is very cute as well.

Thanks again for joining us for our Sewing Smackdown.
If you'd be interested in participating in a future Sewing Smackdown, let me know in a comment on this post!

(Love your name, by the way!)

Leave a message on Susan's blog so you two can be in touch about your prize...Your very own baby fairy purse!

Continue reading... »

Monday, February 22, 2010


It is time for the 3rd and final part of our
Sewing Smackdown!

Thank you to my Mom & Sister for participating and to You for voting and commenting.

As a special Thank You to you:
We will be giving away one of the items shown here today.
The winner will be chosen randomly from the list of comments.
If you are picked, you will win the project that you vote for.

for your favorite project by leaving a comment on this post.

You can also see the corresponding tutorials by clicking on the links provided.

Continue reading... »

"No Sweat" Ruffled Sweater Scarf

Letter from Basic Training: Day 22

For my 3rd and final entry in the Sewing Smackdown,
I decided to make myself this "No Sweat" Sweater Scarf.

I have named it the "No Sweat" sweater scarf to remind myself to not sweat the static of life, the obnoxious noise that is trying to bounce me off of the path I am on to follow The Savior.

It's just noise.
I know that.

And I will not be moved.

I also named it "No Sweat" because it's so darn easy to make

The perfect accessory for the on-the-go-Mom.
It's lovely and it covers stains!

(Let's face it, that little detail is empowering in and of itself!)

And the fact that it is made from one of my husband's old sweaters makes it extra special.

Ok, are you ready to make your own?
(Call it whatever magic words you need to motivate yourself today and let's go!)

Here's how:

Get an old sweater
3 yards of ribbon
and a yarn needle

Begin by cutting the sweater into 4 inch strips. Sew the strips together, end-to-end, until you have about three yards or more sewn together. Set your sewing machine to the widest zig-zag with the shortest stitch length. Sew all the way around the edge of your scarf, stretching as you go. The stitch should be on the scarf (for the zig) and just off the scarf (for the zag), creating a finished edge. When that is complete, thread your yarn needle with the ribbon and sew down the length of your fabric as shown. Secure one end with a knot. Then gather your scarf as much as you'd like and tie the other end in a bow. That way you can adjust it and wear it many different ways.

Then wax victorious as you wear your will-strengthening scarf.

Day 22: Cheers to my fellow service boot-campers...only six days to go now.
Keep up the great work you are doing.
And remember:
"...none were received unto baptism save they atook upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end." (Moroni 6:3)

Don't let anything distract you.

Uh, I have to clean up this sweet little girl's paint mess now.
But don't forget to VOTE on the Sewing Smackdown TODAY!

When you vote today, you will also be entered for our GIVEAWAY.

Continue reading... »

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Service Boot Camp: The Best Bad Haircut I Ever Got

Letter from Basic: Day 20

Wow, just when I thought that Service Boot Camp couldn't get much more realistic...I went out tonight to get a long-overdue "cut & color" and returned with the worst hair cut and color job I have had in at least the last 12 years. And no, I am not exaggerating.

If I had thought that my stylist was capable of it, I would have just asked her to go ahead and give me one of those military-style buzz cuts so I could get a fresh start...but I'm pretty sure that also wasn't a skill she kept in her beauty school tool belt.

Instead, I stayed in the chair and politely pointed out the parts that needed to be fixed (basically the whole thing) and did not leave that chair until someone else came over (twice) to fix her many mistakes.

Sadly, by that time, what length I had grown out since Thanksgiving was lying on the floor, and my hair color was still...not good. It took at least an hour longer than it should have (time that I could have been home with my family), and I still paid pretty good money to have this harrowing experience.

Don't get me wrong. My stylist was a sweet girl. I could sense that she came from a rough home situation. And I felt for her. I honestly did. Seeing the mistakes that she made, and watching her trying to fix them unsuccessfully on her own, made me ache for her, more than for my vain self. She was trying her best, and she had only been cutting hair for 2.5 months...a fact I didn't know until halfway through our encounter.

Nevertheless, my hair...was her.

But in the moment, as I was contemplating what I would say to her in parting,
choice words such as "you should be fired" didn't even come to mind.

Instead, my love for her overpowered my selfish pride.

Instead, I said sincerely, "It's ok. (smile) Don't worry, you will get better."

Perhaps I did a huge disservice to every woman who will go to her for a haircut in the future.
But maybe, just maybe, I did us both a favor tonight.

Who knows?

Day 20: Practicing grace again this evening.
Lately, I have wondered just who is running this Boot Camp, anyway.
I definitely feel two forces pulling on me. And it weighs on me.

But I am determined to allow my experiences to teach me and to change me into the person that the Lord needs me to be. Tonight, as I watched this poor girl fumble with her comb and scissors, I couldn't help but catch of glimpse of the Lord's perspective. It must be heartbreaking for Him to sit back and watch as I pitifully struggle and stumble. But I am very thankful...that during these times especially, He has only encouraging words to show that He believes in me, and that I will, in fact, get better.

As I type this, I realize that tonight was not about getting a haircut at all.
Given the insight that I have gained on how the Lord sees me, tonight's experience was worth much more than what I paid for it. Had I realized all of this before I left the salon, I would have added "Thank You," to my closing remarks.

A Note about the Photos: These photos are here simply to illustrate what happened when my kids "helped" me make bread this week. Wheat sure is a blast. Note the Martha Stewart cookbook on the table...which is really making me laugh, after the fact.
Welcome to OUR cooking school, Martha!

Continue reading... »

Friday, February 19, 2010

Service Boot Camp: Where They're Always Glad Ya Came

Letter from Boot Camp: Day 19

I recently referred to the area where we live as "the middle of nowhere".
(So sorry Lewisburg, I still love you!)
But I have to say, for the record, that living in such a rural area does have its perks.

One of those high points is the Farmer's Market, which takes place every Wednesday of the year, rain or shine. That is very good for us, because we (badly) needed an outing this week.

So, we headed to this free source of fun, color, smells, food, and open arms, just minutes from our house. My kids will say that feeding the animals and visiting the candy counter are some of the things that they look forward to when we go. But I always look forward to the way that people there receive us--a Mom with three wee ones--with such love. The people there treat my kids like they would their own. I can tell just by the joyful look on their faces that these people treasure children. I want to be around people like that.

This is the line that I generally hear, everywhere that I go:
"Well, you certainly have your arms full..."
which I usually literally do.

When I go to the Farmer's Market, I also hear:
"...but this is the best time of life, when you are with your little ones."

I realized tonight, after such a tough week of Mommying, that I was slightly misguided in focusing my Service Boot Camp on activities that didn't involve my dear children nearly enough, and that as in everything else that I do, I need to include my precious babies.

The wise words of my Farmer's Market friends echo a phrase used by the Greatest Servant of us all, our Savior, Jesus Christ, when He said in the New Testament, "Suffer [or permit] the come unto me." And in the Book of Mormon, when He commanded that their little ones should be brought before Him. He blessed them and said, "Behold your little ones..."

I anticipate next week will be sunnier all around, as I serve hand-in-hand with my little ones.

Day 19: Old people and children. They sure seem to have things figured out. :)
Continue reading... »

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Service Boot Camp: Such A (Mango) Treat

Letter from Basic Training: Day 18

Platoon-mates...It's been a long, cold month of Service Boot Camp.
You've been serving valiantly.

You deserve a treat.

Trust me...this Mango Fool Parfait is the bomb.

Run out today and get yourself some mangos, lime juice & heavy whipping cream.

And whip up this treat for yourself (but don't forget to share the extras).

This is by far my favorite fresh fruit treat!

I give you:

Mango Fool Parfait

1 1/2 cups puréed mango (2 large mangos yield 21/4 cups puree)
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons rum (substitute with pineapple juice, water, or just leave this out)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, whipped
3 cups chopped mango 4 to 5 mangos)
1. Combine mango purée, sugar, lime juice and rum. Fold in whipped cream. Place 1⁄4 cup chopped mango in each of 6 parfait glasses. Top with 3⁄4 cup mango cream mixture and 1⁄4 cup chopped mango. Top each with a dollop of remaining mango cream mixture. Serves 6.

Recipe adapted from Chef Allen Susser, Aventura, Fla. Relish a Taste of America, "Crazy for Mangos," July 2008.

These are best chilled.
Just put them in the fridge for about 20 minutes or so, and enjoy!
We added raspberries just because we had them.

I ran out tonight and dropped two of these off to a couple who I thought could use a refreshing treat. I had hoped to sneak into her kitchen and leave it for her, but she ended up being home when I came over. (Drats!) I've decided that everyone needs a friend whose house you can just come in to...It's so very welcoming.

Day 18: What can I say? Serving others is sweet. And this service adventure was oh, so, sweet.
Continue reading... »

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Service Boot Camp: I CAN Help.

Letter from Basic: Day 17

Today, I donated the money from the fortune cookie sale to the church's Haiti relief effort. And it felt really good.

Here is the automated reply that I received, which was addressed to me, but really goes out to all of you who ordered cookies and made this possible.

"We are grateful for your donation of $700.00 to Humanitarian - Emergency Response.

We appreciate your efforts to make a tangible difference in someone's life, and to bless the lives of others around the world. 100% of your donation goes to help those in need.


Humanitarian Services

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Here is more of what the church will be doing with the money that we have donated: Building temporary housing before the rainy season hits Haiti.

Click here to see more of what the Church and members are doing to help in Haiti.

PS - I mentioned that we raised "over $700" for Haiti...well, we really did. I am just waiting for one more check. I'll forward that to the relief effort too as soon as I get it! :) I just didn't want to hold up the rest of the so badly needed funds!

Day 17: Can a stay-at-home Mom in rural Pennsylvania, up to her knees with snow, up to her ears in toddlers really help people--another Mother--halfway around the world??? Whom I've never met and probably will never meet? The idea is difficult to fathom.

We live in quite an amazing world at a very amazing time.
And today, I am grateful for that.

All of the photos shown here came from Meridian Magazine .
Click the links/photos posted here to get there and read more.

Continue reading... »

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Service Boot Camp: Practicing Grace

Letter from Basic Training: Day 16

I'm usually pretty optimistic, but this long stretch of snowed-in, sunless days, being house-bound in the middle of nowhere, PA has us all a little on edge.

A friend of mine pokes fun at "February" on her blog, calling it the most "wretched month" and today, it feels like it certainly fits that description.

I didn't meet my goal today.

I didn't serve anyone...not anyone outside of my own home, anyway.
And, even then, I just barely feel like we survived our day at home.

Normally, I would feel defeated at having not done what I had set out to do.

But then I read this chart comparing "Super Mom" to the "Christ-Centered Mom"on the blog Confessions of a Homeschooler, and it got me thinking about what it means to "practice grace" and that I might need to extend a little grace to myself today.

If you have a hard time reading the chart above, click here to read the original/bigger version.
I have printed it off and will be hanging it on my fridge for future reference.

Day 16: We can't do everything we want to do always.
But there is one thing that we can do.
We can go easy on ourselves and others.
We can practice grace.
Continue reading... »

Monday, February 15, 2010

Service Boot Camp: I Can See Clearly Now

Letter from Basic: Day 15

We are now halfway through our family's month of "Service Boot Camp".

We were so happy with the success of our Haiti Fundraiser, and I was happy to complete the baking (of all 700 fortune cookies!). It was actually really thrilling to work hard at something and to see it work out.

I think my favorite part of this service activity was the time that I was given (while baking) to ponder life and, in the process, to be taught by the spirit.
I have also had some special realizations.

One realization in particular surrounds my Silpat baking mat, which I used to bake the fortune cookies. We were given the mat as a wedding gift from Jane Greensides, a woman in my husband's home ward who was renowned for her ability to serve others.
The woman could cook like the dickens.

Well, I actually borrowed an additional Silpat from a friend for this project, so that I could do two pans at the same time.

I realized immediately that my friend's Silpat had never been used. Then about halfway through the week, I realized that my Silpat never looked as new as hers did. And then, as I thought on it more, I realized or rather, suspected that my Silpat was Jane Greenside's own Silpat. And I suddenly felt two emotions strongly and simultaneously. I felt honored and ashamed all at the same time, because at the time that I had received her gift, I had looked down upon a few of the other wedding gifts that I had received that were clearly "re-gifted".

But now years later, I could start to consider the love with which these gifts might have been given and begin to see their value, as items given to me from someone's HOME...especially the Silpat that quite possibly had been used to serve many by this dear lady...that is now being used to serve others again.

Day 15: As we focus on serving others, the Spirit is able to whisper to us and reveal things to us that we didn't know we didn't know.

To read the rest of my experiences in "Service Boot Camp" click here.
Continue reading... »

Friday, February 12, 2010

Our Hearts Go Out to Haiti: Fortune Cookie Recipe

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I am happy to report
that the homemade fortune cookie sale
has raised over
all of which will be donated to the
LDS Humanitarian aid program to help with the recovery efforts
and needs of the people affected by the earthquake in Haiti.

"Our Hearts Go Out To Haiti"
is aptly named, because my heart has truly gone out to them
as I have baked, and baked, and baked.
(At least 50 dozen cookies so far!)

Thanks to everyone who bought cookies.
We did this together!

Here is the recipe for these beautiful
fortune cookies.

When I make it, I quadruple the recipe!
The more you make at once, the nicer they turn out,
and you are certainly going to want to spread the good fortune
around to neighbors and friends!


Fortune Cookie Ingredients:

2 egg whites
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp water


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place egg whites in a large bowl and beat until very frothy,
almost soft peaks.

Add sifted flour.

Add sugar, almond extract, and vanilla.


Stir in two tablespoons of water to thin batter.
(The picture above shows four because I quadruple the recipe
as I mentioned earlier!)

Mix until smooth.

Place one tablespoon of batter on the pan.
(It works best using a Silpat baking mat.)

Start in the center using your tablespoon in a circular motion until you have spread the batter into a five-inch circle.

You'll want to begin with just two cookies on a sheet,
but once you get good at it you'll be able to do more.

For quality control purposes, I worked best with four on a sheet.

Bake the cookies for 6 minutes.
Watch closely for the final minute.

Remove when cookie edges are just beginning to brown.

I usually took mine out promptly with about 30 seconds left.

Then when the buzzer went off, I began shaping my cookies.

To Shape:
Simply lift one cookie off of the sheet using a very thin spatula.
Flip cookie over so the "wrong" side is up.
Place your pre-printed/cut fortune paper flat on the cookie.
Fold in half so the edges line up nice and neatly.
Then, using the lip of a bowl, bend the cookie over it and shape with your hands.
This whole process should take about ten seconds.

Place in a muffin tin to cool.
And repeat with remaining cookies.

After a few minutes I flip the cooling cookies over to allow the moisture to release.

Store cookies in air-tight containers for up to a week.
Recipe Source: AlphaMom

Continue reading... »

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Service Boot Camp: Break Away

Letter from Basic Training:
"Breaking Away"
"How do you do everything you do?"
"When do you sleep?"
"What are you taking? I want some."

I've received a lot of comments like these lately,
especially since I've been blogging
and they always make me laugh.

I'm just like you.

My house gets messy.

My budget gets tight.

And my voice gets a tad loud at times!

But in answer to the question:
How do you manage to do all that you do?

I'm not totally sure.
But I do try to follow one rule of thumb.


This week, in Service Boot Camp,
I am discovering what can happen
when I cut TV viewing entirely out of our daytime routine.

I have found that the kids play together...nicely.

They create and build things.

They make up silly stories and role-play.

And I feel like I own my house again and not like my TV owns me...and my time.

It's wonderful.

And I still manage to get my fortune cookies baked!

Day 10:
What can you cut out of your life to make room/time to serve others?

Continue reading... »

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Service Boot Camp: Show a Little Love

Letter from Basic: Day 9

Today's service activities:
Fortune Cookies as far as the eye can see!

I've baked 18 dozen so far
and currently have 13 dozen more to make.

Thankfully, a friend of mine is coming over to help
me bake and wrangle the kids.

If you are looking for a fun something to make today,
you might try this pin cushion.

I made this for my Mom,
but you might whip one up and take it to someone
who needs a visit and a little reminder that they are loved.

Here is the tutorial for the Sweetheart Pin Cushion.

Day 9:
Platoon-mates, you are all doing great!
Don't get psyched out or think that you can't make a difference.
Just try to show love any way that you can.
Even being friendly to a stressed and tired
check-out girl can be a sweet service that you can render!
Continue reading... »