Sunday, January 31, 2021

Black History Month Free Teaching Resources


I'm gathering resources to help teach Honor about significant contributions to civil rights for Black History Month, and I thought I'd share them here.

First, I downloaded a free power point lesson about Rosa Parks and the bus boycott from Twinkl.  I actually learned something from the lesson myself that was different than I had always thought about her story and found it pretty enlightening. Download it free here. (You will just need to create a free account to download it.)

Here are some more free resources that you might incorporate into a Family Home Evening Lesson with your family:

*Free Download of Powerpoint and Activities for 6-8 graders to learn about three Black figures in history. Download here.

*"Who am I?": Notable Black Heroes. I plan on using this to either have her research the heroes listed or test her at the end of our unit. She lists a lot of great books to use too.

*Free links to activities for preschoolers. I'm excited to do this activity using the book called Today by Julie Morstad.

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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Oath of Office


In homeschool this week, I had a really nice time watching the Inauguration with Honor and the little boys.

I was praying my heart out leading up to this week that things would be peaceful.  I really wanted to be able to show my daughter something positive about our country, and my wish was granted.

It was really amazing to show my 8-year old daughter the first ever black, female Vice President being sworn in and to listen to the words full of promise and hope spoken from the stand.

I think working as a journalist in my early career and attending college with people who all thought differently from me ensured that I would be a moderate person politically.

I have amazing memories of covering two Presidential Inaugurations and a National political convention during my time working in the media.  And I have wonderful memories of watching the Inaugurations from home and celebrating with my children, helping them to appreciate what a privilege it is to have a country governed by laws and leaders who rule at the request of the people.

 On Inauguration Day, a friend of mine shared this quote: 

"A presidential inauguration is a civic ceremony that transcends the person being inaugurated.  It is an act of state, not politics.  It's primary purpose is for the president-elect to take the constitutionally required oath of office, and for the people by witnessing it to bind him to that oath." - D. Todd Christofferson

I'm praying for our country as we move into this next chapter.  

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Friday, January 29, 2021

More Social Distancing Activites: Look at the Moon


January and February of a any year are usually the hardest for me. I have good coping mechanisms for living in such a non-sunny locale, but yesterday and this week I (and a lot of people I know, including my kids) have been slightly off kilter.  It's been nothing but grey, grey, grey since last week, when the sun shone brilliantly on the afternoon of the temple announcement!  

I always know when I get that feeling like the greyness is going to close in on me, that I need to get outside of myself and do some service.  The "Who" and the "What to do" came easily.  As I was getting ready for the day a few times this week, the names of specific people came to my mind.  I ended up texting those people and checking in on them.  Yesterday, a few more nudges came, and although it was a terribly dreary day, I found a way to get out and do something about the nudges.

It didn't lift the fog completely, but it felt good and it helped.

As I was driving back to my house after running some service errands, I saw the moon.  It was a full moon.  But it was so hazy in my night sky that it was literally almost unrecognizable as a moon!

I looked up stuff about moons today, and it turns out that every full moon has a name and a meaning assigned to it.  I guess I knew that, I just never paid much attention to it. January's full moon is named the "wolf moon".  As it is the first full moon to come after the winter solstice and the days are getting longer, it is thought to celebrate LIGHT winning over darkness.

I thought that was interesting.  Here I am trying to push back my own winter/pandemic-onset blues, and here is this moon reminding me that light has already conquered darkness, that no matter what dark things we are facing, Christ has conquered it for us and will walk with us, even if we only see him occasionally as the clouds part and even if we have to go by faith that, yes that is the moon I am looking at or yes God is with me.

I'm grateful for the reminders the He is there, that we can find in the world around us if we look with eyes to see.

Here is a calendar of the full moons for 2021.  This site outlines the names of the moons with interesting facts and gives the fun idea to do some full-moon-watching social distanced gathering.  Check it out!

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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Sausage Roll Recipe

 Over the first weeks of this year, I've been making an effort to share some recipes that are special to our family traditions.

Today I'm sharing the short-cut method to making our family's traditional sausage rolls (which my family has really enjoyed over the holidays, asking me to make it multiple times.)

This was my English great-grandmother's recipe. I remember my grandmother always made sausage rolls for Christmas Eve to eat after opening our gifts at midnight.  We also sometimes had them on New Year's Eve.

She made a lovely homemade crust.  Then my Mom started making it with a box crust when necessary.  And now I make it using a store-bought crust that I just roll out.  So when my girls read this years from now, just know simple is best, but Grandma's way was probably tastier!

What you'll need:

2 roll-out crusts

1 tube of hot sausage

1 tube mild/regular sausage


Rolls out both crusts on floured surface.

Mix the two sausages together in a bowl.

Spread meat evenly on top of the crusts.

Then "jellyroll" the crust and meat concoction together.

Make sure to seal the edges.

Bake on a pan at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until crust is brown and meat is no longer pink.

Slice and serve hot.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Some Personal Progress in the Children and Youth Program

 My girls, how I love my girls!

Two years ago, I worked really hard to help my oldest daughter accomplish her Young Women Recognition Award, while she was still just 12 years old (and before the program was replaced with a different one.)  I found this process to be very helpful in her spiritual progress and maturing.

Although the Children and Youth Program has put that old goals program aside, I am still trying to replicate that with my second daughter Autumn.  Autumn helped a lot with Scarlett's projects and I know she was looking forward to doing something similar, so we're moving forward using the old book as guidance/inspiration.  I want to give her lots of opportunities to seek revelation on her own for what she will do, but there is at least one project that she's doing in a similar way to what Scarlett did.  And we just got approval from her principal to work on this project today.  Here's a little sampling of what Autumn will be making (individualized, handmade locker signs and LOTS more of them) for her classmates:

Just 324 more handmade locker signs to go...

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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Welcome to Pittsburgh

Well, you guys know I'm happy.  Last week, the Church made it's official announcement of the location where it intends to build the Pittsburgh Temple.  Not only is that location in my Stake, it's basically down the street from my house.  We can literally walk there.

What adds to my joy is that the people of Cranberry Township, our neighbors and friends, have been very welcoming towards us, and I'm so grateful for that as well.  I credit the good people of this town for creating a place where people of all faiths are welcome.  I noticed it right away when we moved here four years ago, and I pray regularly thanking God for that amazing blessing.  

In anticipation of the great blessing of a temple, I thought I'd pay homage to just a few things about Pittsburgh that are truly unique, that my readers from elsewhere might want to know if you ever come here to worship in the future temple!

Pittsburghers use a lot of jargon that is very specific to this area.  (See the map above!)  The first time you hear someone drop a "Yinz" in conversation, you're gonna jump out of your seat, I assure you.  It's mostly used by people who grew up here in place of y'all or you guys.  My children's pediatric nurse says it and I find it very endearing. But when non-natives use it, you can tell.  It doesn't quite work. But that doesn't stop people from trying! And after four years of living here even I find myself thinking and sometimes using the word yinz!  

There's really a ton of unique words I could share with you, but I don't want to get too in the weeds.  But I will share this one: dahntahn, because it gives me an excuse to share this beautiful picture of Downtown Pittsburgh. (My husband works in the pointy building on the left.)

If you ever get a chance to visit, please go "dahtahn" to explore the many amazing museums, universities, the Strip District, ride the Incline, play in the water steps, check out the Mr. Rogers memorabilia at the Children's Museum or catch a game. (Our Stake President is a former Pittsburgh Stealer with two Super Bowl rings!) I really love going downtown during Christmas time because they have lots of amazing events and decorations all over. The ambiance is really neat.

The ambiance might be "neat", but the weather is usually some version of messy--or as they say in Pittsburgh..."Be careful out there, it's slippy." It's slippy because it's icy or wet and because no matter where you're going in Pittsburgh, it's uphill. Spring and Fall in Pittsburgh are beautiful however. The trees are amazingly beautiful.

Here's another local reference.  Nebby means anyone who's sticking their nose where it ought not to be.

I'll share a few more things before I go:

No matter where you live in the state, you don't generally refer to Pennsylvania as Pennsylvania.  In conversation, you always say "PA" instead, spelling out the initials "P-A".  That's basically the easiest way to fit in in PA....know to say P-A and not the whole word!

But what I like most about PA (beside that fact that all six of my children were born here) is how many important events happened in this great state.

Joseph Smith came here to Harmony, PA (marked on the map above with a circle) to translate over 60% of the Book of Mormon.  The Declaration of Independence was adopted here.  The Battle of Gettysburg was fought here. The Priesthood was restored here.

This is a good place.  This is a place and a people that God loves.  I know that His hand has been on this good land for a long, long time, and I look forward to watching Him work once again in this area.

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Monday, January 25, 2021

Tour Church History Sites from Home

Honor got a camera for her 8th birthday, and she's having so much fun taking pictures of our family and making videos with her little brothers.  I'm glad she has that camera to be creative, to entertain herself and tp pass the time.

How have you gotten through months of pandemic quarantine?  Like me, maybe you've been baking and feeding your family to keep everyone happy?

I'm reaping the effects of this choice, but there will always be good memories regardless of the pounds we've all gained!

I'm looking forward to doing a bit more low-calorie activities this winter by taking virtual tours of some Church history sites.  

Here is a list, some we've done so far:

Laie Hawaii Temple and Visitors' Center: 

Historic Nauvoo (Brick Shop)

And we're looking forward to doing these virtual tours in the coming weeks:

Mormon Battalion Center at San Diego

Virtual Tour of Rome Italy Temple:

A friend of mine posted photos of temples they'd like to visit and it got me thinking of how fun it was to "travel virtually" this December visiting foreign countries, so we'll see how this goes.

You can check out more church history sites and their availability for virtual tours here and here.

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Friday, January 22, 2021

you look familiar

So, Honor, my 8 year old, is super obsessed with the fact that, as she puts it, we are twins!  She is soooo proud of this.

She makes me take pictures with her all of the time to prove it.

It's just a funny thing that I wanted to remind myself of when I stumble on this photo later in life.  

When I look in the mirror, I see this old woman where a perky young lady used to always be!  But when my daughter looks at me, she sees herself, which to me is the greatest compliment she could have given me, because I think the world of her.  

She is strong, active, smart, funny, and kind.

When she gets an idea, she runs with it.  Like last week, when the older kids finally all went back to school in-person (just for one day, mind you!)  she decided to create her own board game.  It's called Holiday Travel, and it's really fun.

I am grateful for the time that Honor and I have had together during the pandemic to solidify our bond, as if having matching faces wasn't enough to do that already.  She is always in my heart.


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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Sugar Cookie & Royal Icing Recipe & Decorating Tips


When we moved to Pittsburgh four years ago, a really kind sister in the ward had my girls and me over to teach us how to decorate sugar cookies.

I have always been touched by this gesture.  This sister is a super-pro at cookie decorating and makes them look totally professional.  Also, I have always wanted to know how to do that, so I just think she is a very generous person to share her "secrets" with me.

When I make them with my kids, we always have a great time doing it and they feel really accomplished because we are able to make the cookies look pretty opposed to how they used to look when we made them, which was not so cute.

So, today, I thought I'd share the recipes that we use and some tips to help anyone out there who might like to give it a try!

First, I make the cookie dough.  I love this recipe, because it's so quick and easy.  You don't have to chill the dough in the refrigerator and it tastes so good.  I love almond flavoring in cookies (it's what gives my fortune cookies their yummy flavor as well!)

Here is the recipe that I use.  It's called BEST SUGAR COOKIE EVER by In Katrina's Kitchen. (Follow the link for the recipe)

Once the cookies are made, we whip up this icing recipe, courtesy of my cookie master friend Julie.

Royal Icing


Prep 10 mins ∙ Makes 1 batch of sugar cookies (The icing makes a LOT, so I only double if I'm making like 4-6 batches of the cookies.)


  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder*
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon of a combination of vanilla and almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 2 lbs powdered sugar


In the bowl of your mixer combine the meringue powder, water, emulsion (extracts) and corn syrup. Mix on low speed until frothy.

Dump all the powdered sugar into the mixer and begin by mixing on low until the mixer starts to struggle.

Then switch speed to level 4 or medium speed and mix for exactly 3 minutes. No more and no less. immediately put the icing into a air-tight container.


**I use 2 1/2 tsp of CLEAR vanilla and 1 tsp of almond extract. Clear flavorings ensure white icing.

Next I divide up the icing into however many colors I want.  In separate small bowls I have the kids stir in water and food coloring to make the icing the correct consistency, and then we fill the icing/piping bags which are equipped with small round tips.

In general, you want consistency of the icing to be firm enough that it doesn't run off the cookie while you're "outlining" the cooking and runny enough that it will also spread and mix with itself when you are "filling" in the cookie shape.

Per my friend's instructions, I use tall drinking glasses to help me fill the piping bags.  Then I place wet paper towels in the bottom of each glass and use them to stand the bags upright as we mix more and as we decorate.  Makes the whole process easier.

Here's a cookie that has been outlined.

Even my 4 year old can enjoy doing it.

And here's one that has been filled in.  You can make two bags for each color....or you can mix a consistency that can be used for both outlining and filling in.

You can make designs like this by swirling wet icing with a toothpick.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

All Together Now


Whenever it's time to change the drawing/phrase on my kitchen chalkboard, my kids all jump at the chance to be the one to create something for the board.

This one was created by my 8 year old Honor at the beginning of January, and I just thought it was an appropriate reminder for all of us during the politically charged day/week/season.

Ultimately, we're all in this together.  WE have so many challenges to face, and we will certainly only beat the terrible things in our lives, when we do it together.

I wanted to also take a moment to thank those of you who have reached out to me and offered words of support, encouragement, and advice in my parenting woes.

I definitely needed that.  I needed to not feel alone.  And you, dear long-time readers, have done that for me, and I appreciate it.

We're all in this together.

In church this week, someone quoted the scripture that has always been the theme of this blog: 2 Nephi 25:26:

And we atalk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we bprophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our cchildren may know to what source they may look for a dremission of their sins.

...and I was reminded how much that scripture has meant to me and guided my parenting in the past.  And I silently pondered to myself, "Do I really believe in this scripture?  Am I still willing to let this scripture be my guiding light as a Mom?  Because I've done the talking of Christ and the prophesying of Christ part for my kids, but am I ready to focus on the part where I just stand back and point them to Christ as the One who can help them with the remission of their sins part?"  Because that's the part of parenting that I'm now at....the part where I let my past last 15 years of teaching speak for itself and I stand back and let them rely on Christ for the rest.

Anyway, I think I have enough faith, and you guys have helped me to be braver and lean a little/lot more on His merits this week.  And I thank you.  We're all in this together.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

whatever tomorrow brings

It's no secret, that I love this country and the principles on which it was founded.  My grandmother was born on the 4th of July, and my grandparents served in World wars, so we're a family who loves the USA and loves to teach our children to love it as well.

While I worked in TV News, I helped cover two Presidential Inaugurations and one political convention.  I interviewed people in and outside of the White House.  I attended an Impeachment Trial inside the Capitol and listened to oral arguments inside the Supreme Court.  Inside the news bureau where I worked, it was my job to escort all on-air guests through the make-up room, the green room, and finally get them on-set, so I had a chance to get to know quite a few politicians in a candid environment. My time in DC only solidified my respect for and gratitude for the process.

It's not perfect, because we the people are not perfect, but I love to teach my children to love our country, which is why I have been praying hard that there is something GOOD I can show my kids tomorrow as we watch the Inauguration together.

In preparation this weekend, I cleaned my house, and let the kids help me decorate.  We pulled out red, white, and blue balloons and streamers and we're just full of anticipation.

My four year old Val who just loves holidays, asked me, "Mommy, why are are we getting these red, white, and blue straws?"  My answer, "Because next week we're getting a new president!"

Sometimes I pick winners when I vote, and sometimes I pick losers, but who I pick doesn't matter when the counting is done.  When Inauguration Day rolls around, I'm ready to support Democracy and make the best of the next four years.

Some Inauguration Days I have a big smile on my face.  Sometimes, I'm just happy for the person and what his election means.  But always I am flying the red, white, and blue.  Always I am teaching my children what a privilege it is to live in a country like ours, where we get to help pick our leaders and where we respect the rule of law.

I know that is not what 2020 looked like.  Not even a little bit.  But I am praying and will continue to work and pray for a future and for a tomorrow that I can be proud to show and pass down to my children.


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