Thursday, November 24, 2016

101 things in 1001 days #72 Make an apple pie decorated with fall leaves

Happy Thanksgiving! It has been a wonderful day! I saw this pie on Pinterest and thought it was so super cute, I had to give it a try.  It was super fun! 

Delightfully Colorful Autumn Leaves Crusted Apple Pie
Recipe type: Dessert - Pie
Makes: Serves 8
  • 6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into ¼" slices
  • ¾ cup cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 9" deep dish pie shell (found in the freezer section) or homemade pie dough for 2 crust pie.
  • gel food color (yellow, red, orange, green and brown)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the sliced apples, ¾ cup sugar, brown sugar, salt, flour, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a large bowl and toss to coat the apples evenly in the mixture.
  3. Pile the sugar coated apples in the deep dish pie shell and dot the top with butter. Set aside.
  4. Unroll a flat, round pie dough (found in the refrigerated section) press out any broken areas (if needed).
  5. Use the cookie cutter to cut 8 leaves into the round pie dough. Remove the scraps, leaving only the leaves. *Note - if desired place the scraps on a separate baking sheet. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 until crispy.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, water, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until blended.
  7. Divide the egg wash into 5 separate small dishes (or paper cups), and add a few drops of each gel color to each dish. Mix each color thoroughly with a fork.
  8. Use a paring knife to gently score the veins on each leaf.
  9. Liberally paint the leaves with the gel egg wash (starting with yellow) and adding color as you like to each leaf. *Note the colors will intensify slightly during the baking process.
  10. Place the leaves in random fashion over the apples in the pie plate and sprinkle the leaves with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  11. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the pie juices are flowing.
  12. Remove and cool on a baking rack.
  13. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

101 things in 1001 Days #81 Find my signature roll recipe

I now present you with what Bert the chimney sweep would call "a doorway to enchantment." These rolls are hands down my new favorite. They are soft, buttery (uh, they should be with the amount of butter in them), feathery, flaky and literally melt in your mouth. I'm not kidding. I was very happy to find this recipe!

You're welcome!!!

The BEST Potato Rolls
Recipe type: side
Prep time:  
Cook time:  
Total time:  
Serves: 32
The softest, fluffiest, butteriest (Pretty sure that's not a word) potato rolls in all the land. Get yourself some.
  • ¾ Cup Sugar
  • 1½ Sticks (3/4 Cup) Land O'Lakes Unsalted Butter
  • 3 Cups Scalded Milk* instructions below
  • 1 Cup Potato Flakes
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon Instant Yeast or 2 Tablespoons Regular Yeast. We use instant
  • 7 Cups Flour
  • *1/3 cup additional butter, softened

  1. Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat and add the milk. Cook until the edges begin to foam and froth, but do not allow it to boil. There will be a little layer of the milk "skin" on top. Remove from heat and add the sugar, butter, potato flakes and salt. Stir thoroughly and allow to cool to luke warm.
  2. Add the yeast, stir and then add the eggs, stirring until they are mixed in.
  3. Place the flour in a large bowl. Pour the milk mixture in and stir until the dough has come together, but is still soft. Sometimes we only use like 6- 6½ cups of flour. This is not like a bread dough. It is a slightly sticky dough.
  4. Cover the bowl with a towel or saran wrap. Let dough rise for one hour. Push down and divide dough into 3 parts.
  5. Roll out one portion at a time to ½" thick and butter ½ of dough with a few pats of butter. Fold the unbuttered dough over the buttered dough and press to seal. Cut into 1" wide strips. Pick up one strip at a time and tie into knots. (or roll out into croissants) Place on lightly greased cookie sheet and cover with a towel. Let rise for 1-2 hours more or until doubled in size.
  6. Bake at 350 until golden brown, (14-20 min)
Butter can be replaced by butter flavored shortening if you're ever in a pinch.

Scalding milk does not have to be scary. Just heat on med-low heat, watch for the foamy bubbles around the sides of the pan and use a wooden spoon to occasionally touch the top of the milk to see if a slight skin has formed.

Bread making just takes practice. You may be unsure of yourself the first time or two, but this is one of those things that the more you do it the better you get.

The dough will look shaggy. Don't worry. Just place the towel over the bowl and let it rise anyway.

These can be made a day ahead, let the dough rest in the fridge, bring it back to room temp, roll it out and proceed as normal.

Friday, October 28, 2016

101 things in 1001 Days #95 Read "Peace and Plenty" and #6 Pay off my credit card

I really enjoyed this book! Sarah Ban Breathnach is one of my favorite authors.  Her words inspire me.  I wanted to read this book as part of my 101 things because I often have anxiety when it comes to financial matters and I wanted to get her perspective on financial serenity.  There were many things I enjoyed about this book.  First, Sarah has such a gentle touch.  She teaches truths about managing money well but does it in a way that doesn’t make you feel stupid or that you can never ever have any wants in life. Another reason is because she draws on sage wisdom from the past, from old Good Housekeeping articles and Victorian authors.  I love connections to the past.  She also talks about filling your life with authentic and beautiful joys that don’t cost anything. Another reason is because she is so relatable.  She is not some millionaire writing about money worries when she has none.   As she writes this book, she is living with her sister and trying to rebuild her life after losing everything because of poor financial choices and a disastrous marriage.  She “gets” her readers.  She understands money woes and worries.  If you are looking for financial serenity in your life, I can definitely recommend this book! While I still have a long way to go, I learned so much and am definitely closer to being where I want to be.  While I was reading this book, I made the final payment on my credit card.  Woohoo!  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

What the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attack meant to me.

                It was in many ways, just like any normal Sunday.  I had gone to BYC at 11, come home and made the announcement sheet for the Young Women, packed my Sunday bag and was back at the church 10 minutes to 1:00 in order to sit for a few minutes and prepare to take the Sacrament.  The problem was, I was very far from feeling normal.  I hope you will forgive me if I am being too personal. I have some very difficult issues with anxiety and depression, specifically I am one of the many women who experience Pre-menstrual Syndrome.  There are moments when I can feel the anxiety in my chest, as though I were on top of a roller coaster ready to plunge straight down.  There are moments when I am very sad and I cannot pinpoint a reason as to why.  One thing that happens to me frequently during the cycle is that I feel as though I am failing in every aspect of my life and have disappointed everyone in my life and feel a desperate need to apologize.  Anyway, I was feeling all those things as I sat down at church.  Just five minutes before I had been pleading with the Lord to help me.  There was a part of me that didn’t want to go to church today.  I just wanted to stay home.  But you know one of the main reasons why I go to church? Because it works.  It’s as simple as that.  Even in the midst of my anxiety and depression, I knew that I could go to church and hear some message that would help me.  Even as I felt the anxiety get so bad just before the meeting started that I wanted to bolt, I stayed.  As the meeting continued, I continued to pray for help, for something to happen that would restore my inner center, my sense of balance, and about half-way through the meeting, something did.
               In all my inner struggles, I had almost forgotten what day it was.  When the intermediate hymn was announced as “My Country Tis of Thee” I was a tad confused but then I remembered and as we stood to sing, something extraordinary happened to me.  I thought about where I was on that day 15 years ago.  I thought about the instant kinship I felt with the victims and their families as I watched TV, horrified.  We were all brothers and sisters that day.  “Let music swell the breeze, and ring from all the trees, sweet freedom’s song. Let mortal tongues awake; Let all that breathe partake.  Let rocks their silence break. The sound prolong!” As I sang, I felt a new strength steadying me.  I thought of the strength that shone through that darkest of days. I thought of the last words of love expressed to family members, of the policemen, firemen and other heroes whose heroism will never be forgotten, of the people on the other plane who decided that they would take a stand against evil and lose their own lives in the process.  That strength is part of our heritage as Americans and members of the human race.  It binds us together, and helps us find courage in our own inner battles.  That is what this day means to me.  That is what we can never forget.  I never knew any of the people who died that day.   But I love them and one day I hope to thank them for their legacy of faith and strength. 
               “Our fathers’ God to thee, Author of liberty, to thee we sing; Long may our land be bright.  With freedom’s holy light. Protect us by thy might, Great God our king.” I close the hymn book and sit back down. There are tears in my eyes…but I can breathe now. 


Picture from

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Home Part 1

Friday night I drove out to Catherine Creek state park to see my aunt and her friends who were camping there.  It is a lovely drive, one I know well as it was the road I drove many times on my way to Girl’s Camp.  I spent some time with my sweet BFF auntie and her cute friends and as I was leaving, one of her friends suggested that they say a prayer for my safe return back to La Grande tonight and back to Smithfield in a few days.  Her prayer in and of itself was worth the entire drive.  She prayed for my safety and I could feel the love in her voice. She gave thanks that God had brought me safely home to La Grande again.  She gave thanks He had given me the gift of keeping La Grande as home and prayed that I might know that wherever I go, I can always keep La Grande in my heart as home. 

As I drove back in the dusky twilight and saw the lights flickering across the valley, I thought about when we first came to La Grande, 22 years ago.  I was heartbroken to leave Utah at 15 and move here.  I prayed and prayed for months that we wouldn’t have to go. As I told my ladies in Relief Society this past week, thank goodness God didn’t answer that prayer the way I wanted.  Looking back I don’t know exactly when I came to define this place as home, more so than any other place I had ever lived.  I only know that somehow along the way I grew roots so deep here that they still thrive, even though I haven’t lived here in 12 years.  Sometimes I wonder what it is about this place that has such a hold on me.  Is it simple nostalgia? Am I living in the past? I have had several people who love me and know me well wonder that over the years.  I definitely am one for looking back instead of forward.  I do enjoy driving past my old house, the high school and the seminary building.  But while I do see in my mind’s eye ghosts of myself and my siblings all around; that is all they are…friendly ghosts who bring with them happy memories but no other connection.  My life here was wonderful but that chapter in my family’s history is done. 

So what is it? Is it the sheer beauty of the town? I look out the window and see Mt. Emily standing tall and beautiful and looking as though she is there to protect the valley below her, the endless sea of green pine trees, the red and yellow trains weaving around the landscape and filling the air with soothing train whistles. Is it the beauty? Yes, I think that is part of it.  Is it the familiarity and sameness of La Grande that I love so much? I know this place so well.  I know that when I drive down Island Avenue, I am going to roll down the window (yes, even in the winter) because I will smell the woodsy scent of the mill.  I know that when I go to “Celebrate La Grande” Al Macloed’s jazz band will play music that will set my toes tapping.  Dad calls La Grande Brigadoon.  I love that about it.  Yes, things change as they always do. Favorite teachers retire. Special little shops go out of business.  Dear friends move or pass away but La Grande is as rich in treasured traditions as it is in pine trees.  Is it the people here that bind me to this place? My aunt who makes every day a holiday, my sweet cousin, the best friends who know me so well they finish my sentences, the ward members who fasted and prayed for me while I was on my mission, people who have believed in me and loved me for over half my life. Yes, the people…my people…are a big part of it. 
  But there is still something more that makes my eyes light up when I talk about La Grande, something deeper that happens to me every time I drive around the corner of Ladd Canyon and see my beautiful valley.  My aunt was right to thank God for the gift of being able to keep La Grande in my heart as home.  From the first day, even though I didn’t know it at the time, La Grande has been a wonderful gift, all of it.  It was a gift to that a little too tall and a little too dramatic 15 year old who had struggled most of her school life to fit in.  It has been a gift to the woman who has dealt with anxiety of losing what she loves since she was six years old.  I know there is such a thing as constants in my life.  I know there is such a thing as safe harbors.  And just like Frodo Baggins and his beloved shire, if there ever came a day when I couldn’t ever come back, I “shall know that there is a firm foothold even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

People ask me some times why I don’t just move back.  Someday I might.  But the truth is, it doesn’t really matter because no matter what happens, I do get to keep La Grande in my heart as home for as long as I need/want to.  Today, I will probably shed a few tears as I drive back into Ladd Canyon and leave.  But I know my other home, my other safe dock, waits on the other side for me, with my wonderful parents, friends, team BSA, and the best calling ever. 

As I drive today I think I will listen to Phillip Phillip’s “Home” song.  I think maybe this was what God was trying to tell me all those years ago.

Settle down, it will all be clear.
Don’t pay no mind to the demons. They fill you with fear.
Though trouble it might drag you down, if you get lost you can always be found.
Just know you’re not alone…

Cause I’m gonna make this place your home. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The parable of the red and white fair ribbons, a life-changing lesson in pride.

                It was county fair time this past week, one of the most magical times of the year for me.  I love it all! I love the lights and bells and whistles of the rides, the cotton candy and kettle corn scent in the air, the music from the live bans, and I love entering things into the fair to compete for a ribbon.  I always say that finding a blue ribbon next to your name at the fair feels to me a little like what I imagine finding a golden ticket in a Willy Wonka chocolate bar would be like.   I always get so excited.  This year, I decided to try something challenging, homemade croissant rolls. It was a two day process and during making them I smiled thinking about another blue ribbon to put on my wall.  Then I thought it would be really fun to make something additional to try for another blue ribbon.  I made some fudgy butterscotch brownies and Tuesday morning, I entered my stuff into the fair.  The croissants hadn’t turned out as well as I had wanted, but Thursday morning when the fair opened, I still hoped that I would have two blue ribbons to add to my collection.  But when I entered the home arts building and looked for my entries, there was no blue.  My brownies received a 2nd place red ribbon and the croissants were a 3rd place white.  My four year blue ribbon winning streak had come to end. I was pretty disappointed but then my inner critic kicked in.  I started cataloging all my mistakes and felt embarrassed for even trying.  I walked back to the car thinking that I wouldn’t enter the fair any more.  Yeah, I was being pretty childish.  I didn’t want to come back and pick up my ribbons on Monday after the fair closed.  I didn’t want them.   But today I went and got them because I want them very much.  It turns out I was about learn a master class lesson in pride.  Do blue ribbons matter in the long term? No, but this lesson was life-changing. 
              It started when I was at work.  I was in the middle of filing some papers when suddenly a phrase came to my mind, “It is the comparison that makes you proud.” It was a line I had heard before, from Ezra Taft Benson’s masterful talk “Beware of Pride.” I had always understood it to mean that you were prideful when you were comparing yourself to others, imagining yourself to be better than others.  Suddenly I understood that principle in a whole new light.  It was pride in me that was comparing my results this year with the years passed and pride that was condemning my efforts this year because the results were less than perfect.  And it was pride in me as I looked at myself as a new trainee on a difficult new job and unfairly compared myself to how I could be if I knew all there was to know about the job.  It is pride that compares myself during times when I am weak to times when I am stronger.  It was a fascinating revelation.  I know it was revelation from the Spirit because when I feel revelation from the Spirit about ways I can be better I feel hopeful and not condemned.   I know that with the Savior’s help, I can change.
                     If that was not enough, I was driving home the next day from work when another impression filled my mind.  “In order to be humble, you must be teachable.” Again, it was nothing I hadn’t heard before but I came to understand it so much more during that drive.  I could literally feel the proverbial “light bulb” coming on! It was amazing! I thought of my croissants and how I had studied that Martha Stewart magazine article before I made them but I had expected them to come out perfect the very first time.  I had expected them to be like Martha’s.  But what I had forgotten was that Martha herself probably had years of trial and error croissants before hitting on the perfect recipe.  How could I possibly be teachable and learn from my mistakes if I expected everything I cooked to be perfect the first time? How can I possibly be teachable and learn from my mistakes if I expected everything I did in life to be perfect the first time? I love what Thomas Edison said when asked if he was discouraged after “failing” so many times with his inventions and hadn’t received many results: “Results? Why man, I have gotten many results! If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.”  As I drove home that day, I thought about a lesson I learned several years ago when I was going through probably the most difficult time of my entire life.  I was getting ready for church one day and I was praying “Heavenly Father, I just want to do the right thing.  I really just want to do the right thing.” Suddenly I felt a very distinct answer.  “That’s not entirely true.  You don’t want to make any mistakes, and there is a difference.”  In order to be teachable, we have to know that mistakes are a vital part of the learning process, whether you are making croissants, inventing something that will change the world, or striving to become what Heavenly Father wants you to become. 
                 So I went and picked up my ribbons because I wanted them very much.  They are a reminder that I should never stop trying, never stop taking risks even though the results may not be what I had hoped for.  They are a reminder that effort, even if it is less than perfect, is something to be celebrated.  They are a reminder that I am doing okay, even though I have many life lessons to learn and that I’ve still got lots of time to learn them. Isn’t it wonderful that we have so much help us overcome or weaknesses?! It’s amazing! I know that I can pray and overcome my issues with pride with the Savior’s help even though it may take a while. And it just so happens, I know of a pretty great “how-to” book on overcoming pride too! :) 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

101 things in 1001 Days #15 Make croissants

Every since I saw the article about them in my Martha Stewart magazine I have wanted to try making croissants but all the rolling in the butter and folding intimidated me.  One of the blessings from doing this list is that I am more apt to give things a try.  A week ago I had the thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to enter croissants into the fair?" and just as I started to blow that thought off and come up with all the reasons why I couldn't, I thought "Go for it! Make croissants to enter into the fair!" There were many times when I thought it would be too hard, that I should just enter something more simple, but I kept going and felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment as I could smell that delicious bread baking smell!  They didn't turn out quite like I had imagined, they were a little dry.  I probably won't win the "Best of Show" ribbon I was hoping for, but I am so glad I tried.  I will keep on trying and figuring out what I can do better next time!

Here are the instructions!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

101 things in 1001 Days: #53 Invent a new fruit salad

I thought our ward's traditional Relief Society summer social would be a fun time to accomplish this goal.  I loved the activity tonight.  It is one of my favorite summer traditions.  We all sit and talk in the beautiful backyard of our Relief Society president.  Tonight we played a game where we had to come up with something that we didn't think anybody knew about us and then if somebody did know, we had to come up with another one.  It was a delightful evening and it was really fun bringing my new fruit salad!

Blueberry muffin fruit salad 

A mixture of berries of your choice: I used 2 medium cartons of strawberries and one carton of strawberries but you can mix it up.  (It ain't a blueberry muffin fruit salad without the blueberries though!) 
About an 1/4 cup of Tillamook french vanilla yogurt 
2 drops of lemon oil (I used doTERRA) 
1 batch of streusal topping  

Wash berries and pat them dry.  Mix the berries all together.  Add a small amount  of yogurt at a time and stir into the fruit.  You only want to glaze the berries. Slowly add the 2 drops of lemon oil.  You just want a little hint of lemon flavor. Tonight I sprinkled the streusal topping on top of the salad just before serving but I think I like it a little bit better to just have a bowl sitting near the salad and people can sprinkle some streusal topping on their individual salad as they dish it up.  I think this helps the streusal to stay more crispy.  

Streusal topping 

1/2 cup sugar 
1 cup flour 
1/2 tsp kosher salt 
1 vanilla bean split (optional) 
4 tbls cold unsalted butter cut into pieces (if you use salted butter, omit the salt) 
1/2 tsp of cinnamon 

Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheet with parchment.  Stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into the bowl.  Stir until distributed evenly.  Blend butter in using a pastry blender until the mix resembles gravel.  Dump mix onto prepared sheet.  Shake pan to spread it around and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and rake through the streusal with a fork.  Bake for another 8-10 minutes and rake again, moving any underdone streusal to the edge and vice versa.  Continue to bake or 5-7 min for until streusal  is nice and even deep gold.  

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Hey! Don't judge me by the crumbs in my frosting! Wait, hold on a second, who exactly here is doing the judging?

 It’s pretty amazing the life lesson reminders you can receive while you’re baking! I was making cupcakes—chocolate ones with orange buttercream.  They were for a birthday celebration at my job and I needed to get them done that morning before I left for work.  I had baked the cupcakes the night before and they looked and smelled yummy and chocolatey.  The buttercream smelled divine after adding a little orange oil.  There was one problem, when I went to actually put the two together and frost the cupcakes, the tops of the cupcakes were coming off and there was a lot of crumbs in the frosting.  I put the cupcakes in the freezer for a while and then did a crumb coat which helped some but still I could see the brown crumbs in my beautiful orange frosting.  In the inner critic realm of my mind I could see my co-workers and new friends disapproving looks, and could imagine them thinking “Hmm…guess she doesn’t know how to bake as well as we thought.” Just as I was ready to toss the batch because of all the “judging” happening, that little inner voice I have come to know as the Holy Ghost said very quietly “That’s not them, that’s you.”
It was me who was looking at the cupcakes critically and it was me who was projecting that reaction onto my friends.  It seems so simple and yet I have done this so many times! That inner critic is tricky.  From crumbs in the frosting, to the state of cleanliness in our homes, to how we look, the inner critic can trick us into the thinking that our own inner judgmental thoughts are the judgmental thoughts of others.  When in reality, I think people are far less critical than we give them credit for.   Some of the biggest revelations of my life were finding out that people I perceived as being judgmental and critical of me were actually dealing with their own inner critic battles.  I am not saying that there is not a problem in the world with judging people unfairly.  What I am saying is that speaking for my own life, there have been so many times when I have thought people unkind because of the critical thoughts that were going on in my own head.  In that moment, the only one who was making unfair judgments was me, towards myself and towards the strangers, friends, and family who I thought were looking down on me. I don’t say that to put myself down.  I say it because it’s incredibly liberating.  It is incredibly liberating to know that you have a choice.  It is like the old Indian legend told by an Indian warrior to his grandson, that there are two wolves inside all of us, fighting for dominance.  “Which one will win?” asked the grandson.  “Whichever one I feed,” came the wise reply.   The inner critic is powerful but we still always have a choice whether we will feed it. We can choose not to listen.

And so I finished my cupcakes.  I learned a few things about how to avoid getting crumbs in your frosting for the next time. I took the cupcakes to work and sang happy birthday to my co-worker and felt glad about this gift of a talent I have in the kitchen and how it can make people happy.  The inner critic still comes, bringing with it fear of what other people are thinking about me.   And yet, each time it gets a little easier to hear that little reminder, “That’s not them, that’s you.” I remember that I have a choice.  I can choose not to listen.  I can remember that we are all just trying to do our best, cupcake crumbs and all. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

101 things in 1001 Days #75 Read the Discourses of President Hinckley

President Gordon B. Hinckley was such a force for good in my life while he was alive and it was wonderful to read so many of his marvelous talks.  He is the voice of optimism in my head and I could still hear his voice even as I read his words cheerfully saying to trust in the Lord and that everything would work out.  It was wonderful to read so many of his addresses to people in foreign countries and to see the love he had for them, particularly for those in Asia.  It was wonderful to read a talk he gave in Africa as he talked about the blessings of the temple and then at the end of the talk, announced that a temple was being built in those members’ land.  I loved the words he had for the youth and the missionaries.  Who can forget his “be-attitiudes” talk? It was wonderful to read the talk in which he says my personal theme for the 2016 year: You can be excellent in every way. You can be first class. There is no need for you to be a scrub. Respect yourself. Do not feel sorry for yourself. Do not dwell on unkind things others may say about you. Polish and refine whatever talents the Lord has given you. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life and look for its opportunities.

I love this great man of God and hope to one day thank him for all the good he did me.  I know he was a prophet of God and that he is doing a great work on the other side! 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

101 things in 1001 days #43: Learn my credit score and how to improve it.

Not going to lie, there are many things about the financial world that make me nervous because I don't understand them.  In doing this goal I at least wanted to understand credit a little more.  I learned my credit score when I applied for a car loan this year and I was very surprised to learn I actually had a great credit score.  That was very different than what I had expected.  I thought if you could have a negative credit score then mine would be pretty close.  I did some research into what makes a good credit score and how to keep it good/improve it.  I still don't understand all of it but I understand a great deal more than I did before.  I knew that paying your bills on time affected the score but I also learned that it helps if you keep your account balance 50% or less of the credit limit.

I thought this site was a great reference and made things simple to understand.

I'm glad I had this experience!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

101 things in 1001 days #12 Read Louisa May Alcott's 8 classic books

Here is my report of the last of the Louisa May Alcott books.  It was a wonderful experience!

Rose in Bloom
This is the sequel to “Eight Cousins” and further tells the story of Rose and her friends and family.  It is a great piece of historical fiction because it tells a lot about how life was like during this era, particularly when it comes to dating and courtship.  Again, one of the things I really enjoy about the Rose books is the presence of a really strong father figure in Uncle Alec.  He is one of my favorite Alcott characters.  The book does get a bit slow at times, but overall it is very worth it.  There are beautiful love stories involved and even though one may make you go “Huh?” it again gives us a glimpse of how life was in those days.  I loved this book!

Under the Lilacs
This is one of Alcott’s lesser known works.  It the story of Ben, a run-away from the circus and his dog Sancho.  He finds a surrogate mother/big sister to stay with and begins life as a somewhat normal kid.  There are many fun adventures along the way and many sweet moments.  It does drag at times but there is one particular scene in the book that is so heart-warming, I will bet that it will make you cry.   Of all Alcott’s books, this one is probably the most designed for children and gives the characters a “happily ever after” that is worthy of the fairy-tales.

Jack and Jill
I love this book! Again, it is one of Alcott’s lesser known works.  It is the story of two best friends, Jack and Janey.  Because they are always together, Janey is nicknamed Jill after Jack and Jill from the nursery rhyme.  A tragic sledding accident leaves them bed-ridden for the winter and while Jack gets better quickly, Jill doesn’t fare so well.  It is a delightful coming-of –age story about them and their friends and family.  I love the two mother characters in the story.  Jack’s mother is especially beautifully written.  This was my second time reading it and when I came across this line it made me smile just like the first time.  In talking about one of the characters, it said she “remained a merry spinster all her days, one of the independent, brave, and busy creatures of whom there is such need in the world to help take care of other peoples' wives and children, and do the many useful jobs that the married folk have no time for.” Of course I want to be married but it that is not to be in this life, I hope that I can be like that.

An Old-Fashioned Girl
Hands down, “An Old Fashioned Girl” is my favorite Alcott book outside the Little Women series.  I have read it several times and each time it does me so much good.  I wish Louisa had written several Polly books.  Polly Milton is a girl from the country who goes to stay with a friend’s family who lives in the city.  She is such a beautiful and inspiring character.  In each of Alcott’s books there seems to be one character who an angel on earth of sorts.  As much as I love Beth from Little Women, Polly is much more of relatable character.  She is an inspiration but also loses her temper and has struggles.  Her relationship with the Shaw family is wonderful and I particularly love the surrogate father/daughter relationship that develops between her and Mr. Shaw.  I love the beautiful love story as well.  Each time I close this book at the end I feel a little sad.  Each time I start it, it makes me smile.  It is a lovely story! 

Monday, May 16, 2016

101 things in 1001 days #1 Read the Standard Works

           When I first started making out my 101 things in 1001 days list, I knew this was one of the things I wanted to do.  I found a great chart that helps you read the standard works in a year.   Regular scripture study has not been an easy thing for me.  There have been times when I have felt I was too busy and to be honest, not very interested. I felt there were other things I would have rather spent my time reading.  But I wanted to do better and I believed that being in the scriptures daily would bless my life.  Yesterday, I finished the last chapter of Revelations and read the Articles of Faith, finishing off the Pearl of Great Price.  What an absolute blessing this goal has been! I am so grateful that I did it!

I started reading the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon together.  I loved the familiar stories at the start of the Old Testament, of Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Joseph, and Moses and him setting the children of Israel free. I decided to read two of the designated sections each day because the stories were so interesting, I didn’t want to stop.  As I got further into the “law” section of the Old Testament, I did get bored often but kept plugging along.  I enjoyed the stories of David and Solomon.  I LOVED Psalms and Proverbs.  Isaiah was not as hard as I thought it would be to get through but Jeremiah was the hardest book for me. 
I loved reading the Book of Mormon at the same time and seeing how they all fit together.  For anyone reading this who is unfamiliar with The Book of Mormon, it is a record of the people on the American continent some of whom left the Jerusalem area just before the Babylonian captivity and some who left the area at the time of the tower of Babel, as well as other people.  It also includes Jesus Christ’s visit to that continent after his resurrection.  I loved getting the added perspective and history that came with reading these two books simultaneously. It also gave me added perspective about how they complement each other so well.  In the Old Testament, Jehovah is often portrayed as being angry and ready to destroy.  We need The Book of Mormon in our lives to help us understand better the character and nature of Jehovah and his incredible mercy. 

After I finished the Book of Mormon, I started on the Doctrine and Covenants, which is a book of revelations and commandments received by the prophet Joseph Smith during the time of the restoration of the church.  I loved reading this book and imagining all the extraordinary things that happened during that time.  It helped me gain an added appreciation for temples and helped strengthen my testimony and gratitude for revelation, both on a personal and prophetic level.  Again and again, I saw evidence that the Lord is very much aware of his people. 
I really enjoyed reading the New Testament.  I am very familiar with the four gospels but I loved reading about the life of our Savior again.  I think my favorite part of the entire experience of reading the Standard Works was reading the writings of Paul.  What an inspired and wonderful apostle! His words strengthened me many times and helped me want to be a better person.  Revelations was another book that was tough to get through but was inspiring at the same time.  What an incredible experience John had!

The Pearl of Great Price is indeed a treasure.  There is the book of Moses, part of the Bible translation Joseph Smith did.  There is the book of Abraham, which is the translation of some Egyptian writings that were found in the early days of the church.  There is Joseph Smith: Matthew, which is Matthew 24 and part of the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible.  There is the Joseph Smith history in which the prophet gives an account of his First Vision among other things, and The Articles of Faith, part of a letter stating what we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe.  There is so much in this small book of scripture.  We learn so much about who we are and our divine potential.  I absolutely loved reading it.  As I read the account of the First Vision again I felt the Holy Ghost confirming to me again that it is all true.  I wanted to read the last of the Joseph Smith history yesterday because it talks about the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood and yesterday was the anniversary of that great event.  I was a little sad to have it all over when I closed the book on the Bible and the Pearl of Great Price yesterday.  I really have noticed a difference in my life as I’ve read the scriptures every day.  I found that I missed the experience if there was a day I couldn’t do it.  I simply felt better and became better each day because of it.  I’m so glad I chose this goal! Here is the link to the chart I used if you would like to try this.  I can highly recommend it!!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

To all my fellow "Take-my-Timers"

It all happened about a week ago.  Something needed to be done and very quickly.  Thankfully I had help but a scenario played out that I have seen many times. People hover for a few minutes and then gently suggest that maybe they take over and I go do a simpler task.  Then I watch as they do what I was just doing much more quickly.  I found myself waking up at 4:00 in the morning that next day haunted by two words that I have heard a lot in my life.  I felt bad because I was just “too slow.”

  I have always been one to take my time.  I was the girl in first grade who was let out for lunch a few minutes early because the cafeteria was downstairs and my teacher was worried I would get trampled by the rush of kids running to lunch.  I am the employee who carefully visits and revisits each step of a process to make sure I am doing things correctly.  I have heard the words “slow as a…snail, molasses in January etc.” one too many times.  And inside my inner critic has translated “not quick enough” into “not good enough.” 

Thankfully, God is more powerful than the inner critic and kinder too and has gently been helping me to realize that I need to let that go.  The day after my early morning scolding of myself for being too slow, I was watching a Star Trek movie I have seen a hundred times.  Captain Picard finds himself on a planet where eternal youth has created a much slower existence for its inhabitants.  While enjoying a leisurely evening walk with an enchanting woman, she tells him that many of their younger generation are attracted to stories of a faster pace of life.  “Many of my people who live that faster pace of life, would sell their souls to slow it down,” he replies.  The words struck me.  A slower approach to life could be a blessing and I was making it out to be a curse. The very next day, I was sitting in a Sunday School class and we were discussing what it means to “feast upon the words of Christ,” a scripture phrase from the Book of Mormon.  A friend raised her hand and I know she doesn’t have any idea how much her words affected me.  She said that when we feast on food we slow down, we savor; we take our time. “Slow down”, “savor”, “take our time”, I wrote them in the margins of my scriptures.  I felt like I did when I was a little girl and first heard Mister Rogers sing “I like to take my time for if I should have to do it right, I like to take my time to do it right.”  I remember so clearly as a child feeling relief to hear those words coming from the television.  I felt that same relief hearing the words of my friend and the sweet confirmation of the Holy Ghost.  When it comes to feasting upon the words of Christ, it is not only okay to slow down, savor, and take my time, it was what is needed.

 So, this message is for all those out there who take life at a slower pace; those being constantly told to hurry-up and who feel less because they aren’t as fast as everybody else.  My friends…don’t change.  Yes there may be some times when we need to pick up the pace and go faster but that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with us.  There is something right.  The world needs all of us, the Speedy McFeelys and the take-my-timers. 

We may be the last ones out the door, or down the stairs for lunch.                                                       
There will always be someone who can do it faster than we can.
There may be many other ways to finish the statement “slow as a…”
And we may wake up at 4:00 am recounting all the ways we could have been faster.

But we mustn’t ever give up this gift…

 For we know how to slow “it “down and really see sunsets, first snowfalls and lilac buds.                                                                                        
We can help others to stop and smell the roses or the scent of cinnamon toast in the morning. 
We know how to take our time and savor as we feast upon a Thanksgiving dinner, or on the words of Christ…or even just a simple, ordinary day. 

There is more to life than increasing its speed,” Mahatma Gandi


Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Letter to the Homeless Man at City Creek Mall

Dear Sir,

 I first saw you when I came to Salt Lake City on President’s Day.  Your dog caught my eye first.  I smiled at first because he looked cute all curled up on the sidewalk.  Then I looked into his sad eyes.  I saw you and your cardboard sign and I realized what was going on.  “Can you get me something to eat?” you asked.  I smiled politely and said the automatic response of “Sorry, I don’t have anything,” and I walked away. 

I tried to forget.  I tried to just simply enjoy the Disney and the Yankee Candle store.  But your dog’s sad eyes haunted me.  I kept hearing your voice asking for food…food, something I have always had, something I find great pleasure in creating with.  Suddenly I felt like I did when I was ten years old and watched a TV movie with Lucille Ball playing an older homeless woman.  She was getting ready to go to sleep at night and after making sure that no one was looking, she took a teddy bear out of the shopping cart she pushed around all day.  She kissed it and then set it next to her.  It was over 25 years ago and I can still remember crying inconsolably because it was just so sad.  Even though I knew it wasn’t real, I wanted so badly to make everything all better for her. I felt the same thing for you and your sad dog. And then the voice of cynicism came in.  What if you were playing me and all the other people who walked by feeling sorry for you? Was it all some kind of con? Did you really need help or were you just using unsuspecting people? No offense, it’s just I’ve been lied to quite a lot in my life and sometimes I have a hard time trusting people.  I left Salt Lake an hour and later, the cynic and the fixer still arguing inside of me.

I saw you again yesterday.  I was walking into the mall and there you were, at the same place, your dog curled up beside you.   For a moment I wanted to turn away, to just continue on with my fun afternoon.  I wanted to not see you.  But I did.  I did see you.  I’m telling you this because I know what it’s like to be surrounded by people and feel like no one can see you.  “Enough is enough,” I thought and I turned and headed for McDonald’s.  I bought some burgers and chicken nuggets and then at the last minute I asked them to put in some apple pies.  I walked out to the street and handed you the back.  “Right on,” you said, “Thank you so much.” As I turned and went back inside, for a moment, I could hear you talking softly to your dog, showing him what was inside the McDonald’s bag. 
I don’t know if I’ll see you again.  I don’t know if mine was the first meal you had all day or one of many.  I’m not writing this to show how cool I am because I gave food to a homeless person.  I am writing this because I need to express something to you.  I didn’t do it just for you and your sweet dog. I did it for me too.  I did it because I am tired.  I am tired of that cynic in me that wonders if everyone who needs help has an agenda.  I am tired of seeing ulterior motives when I should see people.  It’s none of my business what has you there on the street.  You yourself, as a member of mankind, are my business, as that old familiar ghost Jacob Marley reminded me again this Christmas. 

“You’re welcome,” those were the only two words I said to you and then I walked back inside.  That’s all I could say.  You see, I also know that I can’t fix your problems.  I know that there is part of me that needs to let go of that overwhelming feeling of responsibility I felt as a little girl watching a cold and lonely Lucy Ricardo hold her teddy bear.  Even though I knew then that it wasn’t real, I knew that there were plenty of cold and lonely real people on the streets and it broke my heart.  I still want to make everything all better.  I know I can’t.  You want to know how I know that? Because I know who can make everything all better. I know that He can see you too.  He knows exactly where you are and where your dog is.  He knows where all of his people are, even those who do not have a physical address.  He can help you.   He was the one who sent that McDonald’s bag to you and in doing so He helped both us. He doesn’t want you to forget what apple pie tastes like either.

Thanks for listening.  Best of luck to you. I hope you find your way home soon. 

The lady at the mall