Encouraging Words Bring Comfort and Inspire Me to do Better

This last weekend, we had the opportunity to hear from our church leaders to inspire and uplift and encourage all who wanted to hear their messages.  I found comfort in the thoughts shared, as I often feel the world is becoming a sad place with bad things happening all around that I don’t understand.  I value life, and all people and my heart hurts when I hear stories and see images depicting a decline in these same values.  I was particularly touched and comforted by the words of our Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.  A summary of his talk to us is below.  I hope you take a moment to read it, and find the same comfort and desire to be the light and be the good in the world. If we all make an effort, perhaps we can make a difference, at least in our part of the world.

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Be an Example and a Light
In the Sunday morning session, President Monson asked us to be an example and a light to the world. “We become examples of the believers by living the gospel of Jesus Christ in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity,” he said. “As we do so, our lights will shine for others to see.”

Cultivating the following “attributes of a believer” will allow our lights to shine:

Be an example in word and in conversation. “Let us speak to others with love and respect, ever keeping our language clean and avoiding words or comments that would wound or offend. May we follow the example of the Savior, who spoke with tolerance and kindness throughout His ministry.”

Emulate the Savior’s example of charity. “Throughout [the Savior’s] ministry He reached out in charity to any in need. As we emulate His example, we will bless lives, including our own.”

Be an example in spirit. “To me that means we strive to have in our lives kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, and goodwill.”

Be an example of faith. “In order to gain and to keep the faith we need, it is essential that we read and study and ponder the scriptures. Communication with our Heavenly Father through prayer is vital.”

Be an example of purity. “We need to be be clean in body, mind, and spirit to be worthy to have the Holy Ghost. “Purity will bring us peace of mind and will qualify us to receive the Savior’s promises.”

“That each of us within the sound of my voice may pledge to follow Him, thus becoming a shining light to the world, is my prayer,” he concluded.

~Venita

First Birthday!

It happened! All of the sudden my baby turned one. When I think about it, it’s crazy a whole year has gone by since those first special moments in the hospital because they seem so fresh in my memory but at the same time, it feels like Charlie has been a part of our lives forever. We didn’t have any big fancy party for his birthday because I just didn’t think it was necessary and even celebrating with my at home family will happen next weekend because the schedule just worked better this way. We did have Derek’s sister Caitlin in town for the weekend which made it extra fun!

 

On Charlie’s birthday he woke up to streamers, balloons, pom poms, and decorative banners. He loved the balloons and sticking the tied end in his mouth and walking around with a balloon wobbling around in his mouth while he would just laugh.We went to the pool and had the whole thing to ourselves! Now that he walks, he likes to get in and out of the pool an walk around the pool deck. It involves more following him around but I don’t mind if it’s making him happy.

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After the pool, naps, lunch, snacks, and playing with balloons and other toys, Derek got home from school and we had dinner and then it was presents time. Charlie is a very lucky little boy to have so many people who love him so much. With extended family, Derek and I really only ended up getting Charlie a couple of presents because he just didn’t need any more. We had him and Derek go into the other room while we set his presents out and then Charlie walked out like Christmas morning. We weren’t sure what to expect as far as him understanding what was happening and that the gifts were for him but he walked right over to his little cozy coupe and touched that and then over to his basketball hoop where he said “ball!”. Then I helped him one by one open his gifts. The first we opened was a Thomas and Friends DVD and he kept staring at it and even after I started to open the next gift with him, he wanted to keep looking at the DVD. Derek, Caitlin, and I were all surprised at how he wanted to look at each gift as we opened it. Then we had a lot of fun opening all the packaging and showing him how to play with stuff. All of his gifts are things he can play with now but also grow up with which is just what I was planning on.

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After presents was cake, or cupcakes rather. I love how this little Happy Birthday banner turned out :) He didn’t really know what was happening with the fire but when I started to take the paper off of his cupcake, he started panting and then grabbed it and went to town, he loves sweets just like his mama!

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Then bath time with his new foam letters and numbers and off to sleep. After he went to sleep, we all looked through our pictures and videos from the day on the tv and decided it was a great day!

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How lucky am I to be a mom to this sweet one year old.

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Worth the Wait

Good things come to those who wait. Good things are worth the wait.

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When I think about my relationship with my husband I think of the word “waiting.” Most people know I waited for him while he was on his mission, but not everyone knows or realizes that he waited a long time for me first. With Alex’s birthday this week I came to the realization that we have known each other for 15 years, as we met at the tender age of 11.

And, of course, another song to listen to while you read.

We didn’t become close friends until high school but that’s not when we started dating. The other misconception about Alex and I is that we must have been high school sweethearts. We weren’t. I did plenty of dating in high school and none of it was with Alex. He had a crush on me those 4 years and patiently waited for me to get all the ridiculousness out of my system… for 4 years. He was a good friend all that time and endured a lot of watching me walk away with someone else. I think he knew a long time before I did that we would end up together and he patiently waited for the right time to make it happen.

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Alex, our friend Ceth, and I were always together at church events and dances. They were my buddies and we always had a lot of fun and laughs together. There were a couple of years that they were in the same seminary class as me and those were always fun too. The 3 of us would often pass each other funny drawings/notes during class. We had another common friend at school, another Alex, and it took a while for us all to realize we were all friends with each other. I had no idea he knew them or they knew him until the name “Ceth” came up in a conversation we were having in drama class one day. I told him Ceth and Alex were two of my best friends and he said they were two of his best friends too. We were amazed that all this time we were friends with each other and with them and neither of us (or them) knew it! I guess it was always meant to be that we would all be friends.

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me and the 2 Alexes. Ceth wasn’t there this time. We were dressed up to see Pirates of the Caribbean. I had cut up Alex’s shirt for him and then spent the next 15 minutes laughing until I was crying, over the miscalculations that led to it being a belly shirt.

 

Alex (THE Alex, MY Alex, not the other one I just mentioned that was a mutual friend) and I became closer after Ceth’s family had been zoned out of our ward at church. For combined young men/young women mutual and sunday school we only had each other to hang out with (well, there was another friend, Tyton, we sometimes hung out with but he wasn’t always grouped with us as he was born the year before us). We became more comfortable just being around each other without needing another friend as a buffer to keep conversation going. It’s like he had always just known me, the real me that exists even when no one else is around. He made me laugh constantly.

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One summer day, after spending a lot of time together at a big tri-stake youth conference, Alex finally asked me out. Our first date was mini-golfing –well, I guess you could say our very first date was going to LDS prom together my senior year but that was a little complicated. We went as friend-dates. Don’t ask. After our first real actual date in which we were both more available, we were officially “dating” but not really that official because no one even knew about it. It was kind of short-lived. My fault, not his. I didn’t know what I wanted and I was young and stupid. I broke up with him, partially because I didn’t want to go off to college with a long-distance high school boyfriend (I was a grade above him at school even though our birthdays are only 4 months apart. My birthday at the end of one school year, his at the beginning of the next), but mostly because my ex-boyfriend from before Alex convinced me to break up with Alex and go back out with him, and I listened (told you I was dumb). Alex was smart enough to know what was really going on and asked me straight up if I was breaking up with him to go back out with my ex-boyfriend and I straight up lied and denied it. I then told him I still wanted us to be friends.

When I came back home the next summer Alex had just graduated high school and I was again available. By then he had forgiven me for lying to him (I had gotten the cold shoulder from him all year long whenever I was home visiting or even when I tried to contact him via MySpace because, duh, he knew I had lied). I could tell he wanted to start things back up again and he persisted until I agreed to a date. I had wanted to take a little break from dating altogether but that didn’t really happen haha. We starting dating again and this time it went very well and it got more serious. Serious enough that, with his upcoming mission in mind, things went from “not making any promises” to “well I will make an effort to wait but still not making any promises” to “I promise that no matter what I will still be around when you get back.”

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Alex was my very best friend in the entire world by the time he left. I was there when he got his mission call. In fact, I kept him company all day and tried to keep his mind off of it while he waited for his dad to get home from work so he could open it. I was even there when he threw up in anticipation of the mission call sitting on the counter at home that he couldn’t open yet. I was there to share in the excitement and talk about what it would be like in Samoa the rest of the day and weeks to follow. He was there when it was time for me to head back out to Tampa for school. He helped me move. In fact, he moved me, as I had to be in orientation for work the second we arrived in Tampa that day. By the time I got out of my 3-hour long orientation he was done moving all my stuff for me, and was even extremely kind and understanding when I then had an embarrassing “lady” moment, the kind you shouldn’t be having after middle school, but in my defense it had been a very very busy day and my brain was all over the place. Even after I was back in Tampa he was the person I talked to on the phone every single day at lunch time –on our perfectly coordinated lunch breaks from work– and before bed at night. I told him everything. Everything that happened in my day I had him to tell it to. Every funny thing that happened was something I couldn’t wait to tell him later. I couldn’t imagine not waiting for him and being with him forever by this point.

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The day he entered the MTC was the day my parents moved to Brazil. I won’t lie, it was a difficult first few months. I did feel a little abandoned and alone in the world. I felt like my best friend has just died, although he hadn’t. I was so used to talking to him on the phone so often that it was hard knowing that I couldn’t just call him up anymore. Thank goodness for letters. I still have all of our letters back and forth.

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I did a lot to busy myself while he was gone. I helped the missionaries a lot and gave a lot of Elders with girlfriends back home some hope (hahaha). I threw myself into my callings, schoolwork, work, and institute. I made some friends and even went on some dates and got to know some guys. In the end, no one was Alex. All the while I continued to write and keep in touch with Alex. Our letters kept us close (except for that bit of time when he was on that remote Island and couldn’t send or receive letters or emails).

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When he was getting close to coming back home I knew that I really wanted to see where things were. I was excited to see him again but also nervous that it would be different or weird or wouldn’t work out. I remember having a recurring nightmare that he got home and it was different and he decided he didn’t like me anymore. I believed he deserved to be waited for though, so even if it didn’t work out I would have kept my word to still be available when he returned. After all, 2 years was nothing compared to the 4 he waited for me in high school.

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I told him I didn’t want to be at the airport to greet him when he got off the plane and that I would let him have his time with his family first. I didn’t want it to be super weird and preferred to be re-united in private, without any pressure or expectancies, and have more time to process so he could have an easier transition. He wouldn’t have any of that and kept telling me to be at the airport so I came. Well, it was weird and awkward at first and I didn’t really have much of a chance to talk to him right away (which was fine and expected, but that didn’t make it any less weird and awkward for me). I still really wish he had just let me come up a day later or something. Oh well. The awkwardness didn’t last and it didn’t take too long before everything was back to normal and we just naturally picked right back up where we left off, as if he had never left.

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We were married a few months later. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way. He waited for me and then I waited for him, and such is the way with the best things in life: worth the wait.

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-SJ

A Busy Week

This has been a full week.  The POD arrived, full of Flossie’s furniture and belongings and many many boxes of clothes, like 12 large boxes of clothes!!    I guess after 85 years, you have a lot of clothes :).  We got the POD unloaded and all into the house.  Then the chaos ensued.  My living/dining room looked like this.

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After 3 days of moving, shifting, discarding and setting aside some of our old furniture for Goodwill, I have some order back.  Still many boxes of clothing and dishes to unpack, but I can do that fairly quickly, I hope:).  I must hurry, however, the smell of the cardboard and the dust is getting to all of us!

 

These are some of the clothes boxes!!

These are some of the clothes boxes!!

All kitchen dishes, bakeware and china.

All kitchen dishes, bakeware and china.

We watched and loved the premier of Survivor Second Chance.  I just love this show and so wish  someone I know could go on.  Do you love Survivor?  We donned our buffs and took pictures and made our own intro video as to why each of us would win.  We are Survivor nerds.

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She HAS to be a Survivor fan if she's going to live here!  Poor Lady!

She HAS to be a Survivor fan if she’s going to live here! Poor Lady!

I loved, loved, loved my weekend with Mandy and Charlie and Jenny and Lizzie.  It was fun to spend time with some of my girls and adorable Charlie.  We found a fun place for breakfast, shopped, relaxed, shopped and went to the beach, then were spiritually uplifted at our General Women’s Meeting.  A perfect time together.

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Tim and I’s 32nd wedding anniversary is tomorrow.  We’ve never been big on gifts, usually just a card and a dinner out sometime near our anniversary to celebrate.  But this year, I am thinking, due to our life situation, taking care of Flossie, that maybe a little break might be enjoyed.  I am considering taking advantage of having Jenny here to take over Flossie’s care, maybe we could get a way for 24 hours, go to Disney or something.  We will see.  We look like babies!!

 

October 1, 1983, Sunderland, MD

October 1, 1983, Sunderland, MD

I have been regularly going to the gym.  I have been sore every day, but I am getting used to it and am able to walk normal, most days.  Today my arms and chest are sore.  Our finisher, after a hard 45 minute workout, was 10 jump squats, then 10 push ups, then 9 squat jumps, then 9 push ups, and so on down to 1 each.  I did girl push ups and it was still so hard.  I sweat so much, so I must be doing something good.

 

Jenny and I have been busy planning her wedding.  Things are coming together.  She has some fun ideas that will be very doable and be perfect for her November day.  She and I had fun working on these pretty little boards for my home and for her new home.   I love my little sign on my new treasure, this pretty Hoosier Cabinet from Flossie.  Isn’t it perfect!

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Our meals have been lame due to spending time unloading, moving furniture and boxes, all while still living life and doing laundry.  So, I am pretty proud of myself today, I have some beef in the crock pot and will bake some potatoes and make a salad.  It sounds so good, a real meal.

 

So, that is all, maybe next week I will post pictures of our home a little more put together.  I would love that.

~Venita

 

Halloween Costumes through the Years

I am not exaggerating when I say that halfway through the summer, I start to fell anxious if I haven’t already decided on our Halloween costumes for that year. I say “our” because I always manage to rope everyone else in the family into doing a group costume.Luckily, My husband’s the only one who knows he actually has the option to say no, and he seems to  be a good sport about dressing up. (Except for EVERY year when I suggest that we should finally get around to using my amazing idea to dress up as a figure skating couple… Still can’t quite sell him on that one.)

I realize that, for any “normal” person, they still haven’t decided on a costume by mid-October, so I figured it might be nice to share some of the ideas we’ve already done… Only because I’ve already done them.  I won’t share any of my amazing ideas for future years (other than the figure skater one… I’m losing hope on ever getting to use that one. Plus adult-male-sized leotards are pricey).

I thought I’d post a little photo journey back through the Halloween costumes of my married years, (at least, the ones that we documented!) There was one year I know we dressed as “The Baron and Baroness” in generically almost-vampireish costumes.  It was a year we weren’t going to any kind of social event, so we were kinda lazy.  So lazy, in fact, that we didn’t even take a picture.  At least not one that I can find anywhere in iPhoto.

I’ve decided to make it more of a priority to take good costume pictures before they get all ruined from trick-or-treating, so you’ll notice in the later years that “it gets better”.

I don’t think any of the pictures really need that much explanation, so I’ll just keep the ole pie hole shut and let you scroll through the pics at your leisure.  Also, feel free to “Pinterest” them. (jk, obvi I know it’s ‘pin’ IM NOT A HUNDRID) I figure its about time that I finally give back to the place where I spent many a summer evening searching for costume ideas.

The very last costumes are this year’s… I’ve only finished the kids’ so far, because I needed them to be models for my Costume mini-session I’m about to announce. But they’re suuuuper cute!

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Sadie’s dressed as Tinkerbell ^

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Hiding a baby bump in my Princess Bubblegum costume^

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The hubs and I are going to be Prince Ali and “purple dress Jasmine”… Hopefully we look half as cool as these two lil street rats!

Happy Halloween Costume-planning!

-Chrissy

Why Me?

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I was able to  have the most fun filled weekend with my mom and two of my little sisters. They are all such good friends to me. They came down on Friday night and we spent all day Saturday going out to eat, shopping, at the beach and being spiritually uplifted.

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Usually my Saturdays are just like my other weekdays because Derek still studies so this one was a real treat! When Derek and I decided to come to medical school in Florida, I was excited to live near my family but also hadn’t lived close to home in a few years so I just thought it was a nice bonus to many of the other reasons we chose this school but now I think even though we didn’t know it at the time, being close to my family has been a HUGE blessing for us. So, thanks mom and dad and all of my siblings for loving us and letting us take over your house when we come to visit!

IMG_9646One of the things we were able to do as mom and sisters was to watch a worldwide conference for women. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from those inspirational talks, which can be viewed in their entirety here!

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Sometimes I think your ears hear things and then there are times when your heart hears things or rather feels things. These quotes above are some of the things that my ears heard but my heart throughout the conference was feeling heavy. Not in a bad way but in a why me? sort of way. I feel like I have so many blessings, I have a wonderful husband and a smiling healthy baby, a place to live and food to eat, a wonderful family and loving and caring extended families on both sides, and I live in a great country where I enjoy so many freedoms. But I got to thinking, why am I blessed with all of this? What made me qualify for this? I feel so sad when I hear of friends who want children so badly but for some reason, they aren’t able to or I see people who don’t have a place to live or food to eat or people in other countries who don’t enjoy any freedoms and I wish that I could give them what they need. I know that we all have a purpose here in this life and that it will all make sense one day. In the conference one woman spoke about how one day when we die we will look back on this life and think “was that all I had to do?” I look forward to that day, when my eyes are opened again and I can see all of the parts and trials of life that were working to make me into a better person and I’ll realize how small they were in comparison to the big picture. But, I guess for now, I will think why me? and ponder on what I can do to help those around me.

Anybody else feel this way sometimes? How do you resolve these feelings?

-Mandy

 

Talents

My new ward here had an activity with the women where they each got to show off a talent that they had.  I was planning on going, and hadnt quite nailed down what to bring for it.  It made me reflect all week though on my talents.

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This morning I had told Brad I wanted to make a bright and colorful quilt for the end of our bed to cheer up our all white bed. (I love white) He laughed and said, “okay!” This sent me into a crazy person laugh fest.. spiraling downward and out of control.  Im not quite sure why it struck me as so funny. I was crying, couldnt breathe.. I mean I was laughing HARD.  My thought process went through how the only other quilt I have ever made was one for Brad.  He wrote me a song as a wedding gift and had asked me to either make him a quilt or paint him a picture.  I made him a quilt and the next year painted him something. These are things that I cherish…. I.  I.  I.  hahahah, oh boy here it comes again.

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My next thoughts were, that if you have a REAL talent, others ask you to share it, you dont have to push it onto them.  I then realized (in a humorous, not depressing way) that I have no talent that anyone really cares about! When I think of talent I think of specific things people are REALLY good at DOING.

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Anyway, I dont really have anywhere I am GOING with this other than to share that I know I do have talents, and even though they are varied and not big, they are there and they make me, me.  AND the best part is that I have no problem shoving a cookie in anyones face and saying, “I made this! And its SOO GOOD.”  Or showing a bonnet and saying, “look!  Isnt this adorable?!” I am not very humble, because people tend to find partial talents endearing, haha.  Okay, Happy Friday! Go brag about a talent!

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Pictures, FHE Lesson Plan, AND cookie recipe… Whaaaat?

Okay so this week, like Mandy, we had a pretty perfect day. There are a few things that I think I’ll talk about pertaining to this “perfect day” so I think this post will end up being all over the place. It’s going to be a post about quality family time, the importance of taking a break from the world, Family Home Evening (part II), and a yummy chocolate chip cookie recipe. All with tons of pictures of it all!

Mondays are Alex’s day off. Monday= Saturday for us. We started off the day right by sleeping in. We then proceeded to laze (yes I know that’s not a real word) around for the next few hours. We had planned to go shooting because I got a new gun (well, new to us) that Alex had traded someone for (a Shield for a Walther CCP) for me to possibly carry concealed when the time comes. I wanted to try it out and see if it was a comfortable fit in my hand, if the recoil wasn’t too bad, if I liked the trigger pull, etc. So after Sophie’s nap we headed out. It was fun and I got more comfortable with my new gun and worked on my accuracy.

After we had had enough shooting we went home and did dinner. I came up with a last-minute plan for Family Home Evening that I’m pretty proud of, considering how last minute it was. I also baked these delicious chocolate chip cookies that I’ve been obsessed with lately. I’ll share them both with you.

Family Home Evening Lesson: The Tower of Babel

We’ve been using the Children’s Old Testament Stories videos for a basis for Family Home Evenings lately. They are so easy and my kids love watching videos so it works out well for us. To get to it, download the Gospel Library App (the one with the icon symbol of angel moroni playing the trumpet, like on the LDS temples). Open it and go to ‘Children’ and then ‘Old Testament Stories’ and select a chapter. At the bottom of the screen there is a little triangle (‘Play’) button and if you press it you will see different options like ‘listen,’ ‘watch,’ ‘download media,’ etc. I just choose ‘watch’ and it brings it up in video form.

For music we use the LDS Music App (the icon symbol is hymn-book-green with a music note on it) because it allows you to play the songs, which the Gospel Library App no longer allows you to do.

The song we sang was “Search, Ponder, and Pray” (Children’s Songbook 109). I was in a hurry and couldn’t think of a better one. I figured this is always a good one whenever talking about a story from the scriptures since the song is about searching the scriptures. After thinking about it later I think any song about obedience or choosing the right would work for this lesson too.

We then watched the video, which was ‘Ch. 7: The Tower of Babel’ and talked about it. Afterward I got the kids’ blocks out and we each built our own towers, making them as tall as we could before knocking them over (because you can’t get to heaven by building a tower, duh). The kids loved this activity.

By the end of all this the cookies were cooled off but still warm so we said a closing prayer, each grabbed a warm gooey cookie, and went outside to our little “front lawn” area to just hang out and eat them. The kids also loved this idea. Alex grabbed a couple of small balls and we threw them around, playing catch with the kids, and let them run around and “race” each other. They also both attempted to climb the fence. I was actually quite impressed with Eli’s natural climbing abilities. He knew just where to place his feet and hands to advance upward. I need to get him involved in rock climbing!

Pic time!

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tryin’ to keep dat cookie away from dat dad!

 

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“Go away daddy”

 

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Blurry, but one of my faves

 

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This is one of my other faves

 

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Peeking into the neighbor’s yard

 

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Eli getting a little boost cheat from dad

 

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Afterward the kids got a nice warm bath and were put to bed.

We had such a nice, relaxing, fun day. The best part is that we spent the entire day together. We often use Monday as a day to run errands and get things done so it was so nice to just ignore the world and all our responsibilities for the day and just be together as a family, enjoying one another’s company. I imagine that is exactly what heaven is like, just families enjoying one another’s company. There were chores to do, things to prepare for the rest of the week, and other responsibilities on our plate but we chose to ignore it all and just enjoy each other. It was wonderful. I think we all need to check-out from the world from time to time to focus on ourselves and our families for a day.

And now, without further ado, here is that yummy chocolate chip cookie recipe I mentioned. The perfect chocolate chip cookie is different for different people, as we all have different tastes and preferences for what makes a cookie perfection. I have been through many recipes in my search for the perfect one and there are some that I really love and do from time to time as I crave those specific ones. For instance, the recipe Stephie posted a while back is one of my favorites! I love it, but it asks for such specific ingredients that I don’t always have on hand, plus they flatten and harden more here in the high elevation of Idaho and I don’t like to try to change up that recipe because it is so specific. I do make them sometimes though because they still are delicious and I get a craving for them. They use dark chocolate so it is a more specific craving when I want those. Other recipes I have to adjust so they won’t flatten or on their own they don’t flatten but do dry out by the next day and end up tasting as hard and dry as a Chips Ahoy cookie (decent cookies, but not what I’m going for when I’m making cookies from scratch). For me, the perfect cookie is thick, soft, moist (even the next day), and plenty of chocolate in each bite. Mmmmmmm! One of my favorite chocolate chip cookies are Chick Fil A’s. They have some serious cookie game going on. They always warm them up so you get it warm, melty, and lots of chocolate in each bite, plus they add oatmeal to give it more texture, but they are also still very soft! Oh I could go on about it. I looooooove their cookies. They are perfection! Someday I will figure out how to make those, but for now… these cookies are pretty dang amazing. Here’s the link to the orignial recipe.

 

Ingredients:

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1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (use cream cheese in a block or spreadable, don’t use fat-free, light or whipped)
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste  - I did 1/2 teaspoon of salt as I felt it needed a bit more flavor after the 1st time
2 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used 1 cup chips and 1 1/4 cups chunks)

DIRECTIONS:

  • Combine the butter, cream cheese (measure it by smooshing it into a 1/4-cup measure), sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well-creamed, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (or use an electric hand mixer and beat for at least 7 minutes).

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  • Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, optional salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.

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  • Add chocolate chips and chunks, and beat momentarily to incorporate, or fold in by hand.
  • Using a medium 2-inch cookie scoop, form heaping mounds (I made 28). Place mounds on a large plate, flatten mounds slightly with your palm, cover with plasticwrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking. Do not bake with warm dough because cookies will spread and bake thinner and flatter.  I skipped all this because when I want cookies I want them NOW. I ignored this tip and baked them anyway and they still came out thick and delicious, even at this higher elevation! I have also tried them after refrigerating the dough for 3 days and it didn’t really make much difference.
  • Preheat oven to 350F, line a baking sheet with a Non-Stick Baking Mat or spray with cooking spray and place mounds on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart (I bake 8 cookies per sheet). Bake for 8 to 9 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if slightly undercooked, pale and glossy in the center. Do not bake longer than 10 minutes as cookies will firm up as they cool (The cookies shown in the photos were baked with dough that had been chilled overnight, allowed to come to room temp for 15 minutes, and were baked for 8 minutes, with trays rotated at the 4-minute mark. They have chewy edges with soft, pillowy centers). Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.
  • Cookies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Alternatively, unbaked cookie dough can be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so consider baking only as many cookies as desired and save the remaining dough to be baked in the future when desired.
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My cookie. mmmmm!

 

-SJ

Good bye to the House, but not to the Memories

Last week, Tim, Sam and I flew up to Maryland to pack up things from Flossie’s house that would be coming to Florida.  Her home sold the first day the realtor listed as a preview to something “coming soon”.  She received two full price offers, which is a huge testament to her and her ability to keep her 18 year old home current and not dated looking.  We had 2 days to pack things up and fill a POD that would bring the things to their new home with us.

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As we walked in, it looked bare bones.  All furniture there, but ready to be staged for listing.  All of her “things”, pictures, notes, stuff that makes a house a home, were gone.  All carefully packed by Tim’s sister and husband and son, and put away to help the house look generic, to appeal to a variety of buyers.  To me my first thought was that the house looked and felt lonely, and sad.

 

When we visited, the oldest two kids got the sewing room and the trundle bed, the others slept in this room in sleeping bags and never complained once.  It looks so bare without all our travel stuff.

Whenever we would visit, the oldest two kids got the sewing room and the trundle bed, the others slept in this room in sleeping bags and never complained once. It looks so bare without all our travel stuff.

This kitchen always had something delicious ready for us to eat, either on the counter, stove or table or all the above.  It looked so empty.

This kitchen always had something delicious ready for us to eat, either on the counter, stove or table or all the above. It looked so empty.

We set to work, going through the boxes already packed, Katie, showing me personal things Flossie might like here.  Disassembling furniture, wrapping all in clear plastic sheeting to protect it and then using lots of blankets to add cushioning.  It was with much love that we all worked, taking care as we handled Flossie’s precious things.  There were a couple of boxes  in the basement, packed years ago by Flossie, labeled, “Cedar Chest”.  These things were no longer in a cedar chest, as years ago, she had refinished her own cedar chest and her mother’s cedar chest and gave one to me and one to Tim’s sister, Katie for Christmas.  We opened those two cardboard boxes to a treasure of well used baby shoes, in a variety of sizes.  There was a pretty little confirmation dress, that I am sure was Katie’s, a baby bunting, crocheted blankets.  It was yet another moment I felt so much love for this lady.  She had saved these things for years, tucked in a safe cedar chest, then upon giving that away, carefully folded and packed into boxes, labeled for herself in her own hand, for us to find.  The blankets that Katie didn’t want to take, I brought home, for what, I am not sure, but I just couldn’t leave them to go to goodwill, not yet.  There was a pretty cream colored crib sized crocheted blanket, it had no baby designs on it, so I am going to wash it up, and it will be a great lap blanket for Flossie to use when we go out in the cooler evenings.  Did I ever tell you that Flossie and her husband were hoping for babies to come for 9 years!  She had a long time to hope and pray for little ones to come.  Then it was 7 years after Tim she got to have a little girl.  This, for me, makes these items so much more important.

 

In the bins in the basement I went through her sewing room things.  There were so many projects and fabrics and patterns  that she was working on.  A pair of trousers for herself, all pinned up, ready to cut and hem.  A fabric padded baby book for an expected great grand baby. Terry towel bibs she was making for her friend’s adult handicapped granddaughter.  This is the kind of lady I get to have as my mother in law.  She was going to learn how to quilt, had a pattern and the chosen fabrics all together in a bundle.  There were pages out of magazines tucked in her recipes, some with notes she wrote in the margins, “tried this Thanksgiving 2010, next time leave out the lemon.”  It is a very strange thing to be going through there personal belongings of someone you knew so well.  We all have little things that mean something to us, but to others they might seem like nothing.   I was filled with a strange sense of being very protective of her and her “things”.

 

I enjoyed walking by a room as we were loading the POD in the driveway, and seeing Tim and his sister sitting, she on the floor packing something, and Tim on the chair,  remembering, and smiling at the memory.  Saturday was a good day.  I really felt we were in a sacred place.  Sunday was good too, but Saturday, Katie was there with us the whole day and I felt a sense of camaraderie as we worked together for Flossie.  By Sunday evening, we had the house empty except for the few things Katie would keep and the things that would be stored or donated.  Sadly, there had to be some things donated, but I feel that in those things, people will find treasures and be so excited to put them to use in their lives.  Since we finished up  early, we decided to forego our planned flight home on Monday evening, and spend Monday driving her car down to Florida.

Sam, my model, showing how empty the kitchen is now.

Sam, my model, showing how empty the kitchen is now.

Our lovely model enjoying the wide open spaces.

Our lovely model enjoying the wide open spaces.

Filling the POD.  A great way to move.

Filling the POD. A great way to move.

 

We got the house all tidied back up Sunday evening, filled got some road trip snacks and went to bed early.  As we walked through the now mostly empty house, I felt like the house was going to be alright, I thought it would be getting a family and people, and life and fun.  It made me happy to think about this, the future of this house that had meant so much to us over the years.  It gave me comfort it wouldn’t sit empty any more.  It’s time of mourning was over.  As we pulled out of the driveway at 6:00am Monday morning, I stopped the car in the front and took a good long look at it, the house that so many times was full of sunshine each time we walked through the door, full of good food, fun activities, Orioles games, play dough, green plastic army men, donuts, hot chocolate, puzzles, a basement, and most of all a lady who loved each of us always, never judged, who did things for us because she wanted to and who always said, “you can have anything you want, but my money!”  I got a lump in my throat and told Sam it was a happy home while Grandma lived there and I was glad it was getting a family again.  He looked at me like I was so weird and said, “its just a house, mom, we have Grandma with us.”  Out of the mouth of a 14 year old boy, he was right, the memories are in my heart, in our hearts, and we are so lucky this lady is still with us, time to create new memories.  Now I just have to figure out how to meld a whole POD full of cool antique furniture into our full house!:)  On to new things!

Isn't it a pretty house?

Isn’t it a pretty house?

 

One of my favorite pictures of me with two of my many favorite people.  I'm so happy we get to have her with us for a while.

One of my favorite pictures of me with two of my many favorite people. I’m so happy we get to have her with us for a while.

 

Beach buns

The title goes for both my hair (which was actually in a braid but is normally in a bun) and for the sandy buns we all came home with!

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Anyways, yesterday was just the best day. Every semester, Derek has 3-4 big exams. To make those days something to look forward to, Derek takes the rest of the day after his test off and we all get to spend time together and sort of pretend like we aren’t in medical school for the day.

Charlie must have known he was in for a fun day because he was still taking his morning nap when Derek got home a little before noon and slept even a little past that. He took a three hour nap which doesn’t happen all to often so he just must have known it would be a fun afternoon! Once we all had lunch together, we packed up and headed to the beach.

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The last couple of times we went to the beach with my sister, Charlie loved the little blow up pool that she brings to the beach so we stopped by Walmart to pick one up. It was bigger than what we were originally wanting but it worked great for what we wanted and seriously made our beach trip 100 times more fun for all of us. If you have a young child or baby, I highly recommend buying one of these! They are only about $10 and made our day a lot better by cutting down on shells to the mouth and helped to distract Charlie from crawling straight into the ocean. Thank you so much for sharing your beach secret Steph!

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This pool can go taller but I figured blowing up the top ring was unnecessary and also I didn’t want to do it

 

Charlie is just learning to walk and it was so fun to see him taking steps in the sand. He loves the beach so much which makes  Derek and I so happy because we do too. There is something about the beach with the sound of the water and the warm sand that is so refreshing and we all left feeling so happy and wonderful. After the beach we came home to de-sand ourselves and then we headed out again for dinner at our favorite Mexican place where Charlie had his first meal out. Usually I just give him some of mine but he always eats so much for meals that we figured we would see if it was worth it to buy him his own and it was. He ate all the inner contents of a chicken burrito, some of the tortilla, and some applesauce and apple juice.

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After we put Charlie to bed, we looked through all the pictures and videos of the day and they are some of the videos that I want to save as official home videos (however you do that… maybe I’ll put them on a VHS). But anyways, there are so many days lately where we don’t get to all hang out together which just makes the ones that we do 100 times better!

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-Mandy