Jun 22, 2016

Happy Through Trials: How This Woman Finds Happiness Despite Tragedy Striking

car accident, gratitude, service

This next woman in this series is amazing.  She seriously amazes me everyday.  I went to high school with her husband and I never really knew her, but since I really met her at a blog conference in February I feel like she has been my friend forever.  She is an inspiration to me and I know she will be an inspiration to you as well.  You can follow Alyssa on her blog, After the Victory

service, wife, mother, daughters

Hi! My name is Alyssa Chambers. I’m a wife and the mother of two daughters. I love anything outdoors…hiking, biking, camping, and running…just to name a few. I love being a mom…there is no better job in this world in my opinion! I enjoy reading, writing and learning. Life is pretty good…and even though life is hard…I’ve learned over this last year that we can still find happiness in our trials.

Happy Through Trials: How This Woman Finds Happiness Despite Tragedy Striking

On August 23rd 2015 my life changed forever…my family and I were in a tragic car accident. I lost my husband and four year old daughter. My other six year old daughter and I were hospitalized for several days. It was the most horrible experience of my life and now almost a year later we continue our daily struggles without half of our family. The last year has been extremely difficult, yet it has also shown me the goodness of others and has built and strengthened my faith. I have a stronger faith in God, forever families, and a loving Savior.

Although the last year has been the hardest year of my life…I’ve been able to notice the beauty in life and strive to appreciate the smallest of blessings. Trying to have a heart of gratitude has helped me to 
see the joy in life…even amid sorrow, pain, and grief. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said this…

“Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift. It can happen to anyone. No one is immune…There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious.

gratitude, service

We can be grateful!

It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.”

Happy Through Trials: How This Woman Finds Happiness Despite Tragedy Striking

Even though I may be separated from half of my family now, I’m grateful for the knowledge I have of life after death. I’m grateful to know my sweet husband and daughter are happy and are in the arms of a loving Savior. I’m grateful for the smiles, hugs, and prayers of family, friends, and neighbors. I’m grateful for the ability our hearts have to heal and our bodies to mend. I know the road ahead will continue to be rocky and difficult…but rather than become angry and turn away from God and those I love…I’ve chosen to face them. I’ve chosen to endure. I’ve chosen to trust in a beautiful plan of happiness and to seek for strength… to be the best wife, mother, and friend I can be. I’ve chosen to have gratitude.

Happy Through Trials: How This Woman Finds Happiness Despite Tragedy Striking

When life seems unbearable…I get on my knees and pour out my whole soul to my Heavenly Father.   I pray for comfort…I pray for understanding…I pray for help…I pray for others. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in my own trials, life, and daily struggles that often I forget others may not have it so easy.  Serving others is another way I’ve been able to find joy in my trials.

I’ve learned…over this last year especially…that when we take time to forget ourselves and serve others we can feel peace, comfort, and strength. Serving and reaching out to someone else who is stricken with grief and who has suffered the loss of a loved one, has allowed my heart to heal. Looking for ways to serve others…gives my life more purpose. My husband was a great example of serving and loving others…when I serve others it’s in honor of him and my daughter…I want to make them proud.

Happy Through Trials: How This Woman Finds Happiness Despite Tragedy Striking

I know that one day I’ll have my ‘happily ever after’…and having faith and looking forward to that day is what makes life worth living…I strive to find joy in the journey. President Uchtdorf also said this…

“…We are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.

The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions-temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.

How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings.”

Like President Uchtdorf…I too, am also very grateful to know that there are no ‘true endings, only everlasting beginnings.’ I look forward to the glorious day when I’ll be reunited with my husband and daughter. And until then…I’m going to find joy in the journey to eternity…

Happy Through Trials: How This Woman Finds Happiness Despite Tragedy Striking

Jun 15, 2016

Happy Through Trials: How This Woman Filled A "Hole" In Her Life In A Healthy Way

Traveling, healthy lifestyle, exercise, nieces, nephews

Happy Through Trials

The next amazing woman in the series is Kristen.  I have the privelege of knowing her too!  We worked together as accountants awhile back.  She is truly an inspiration to me.  I have seen her go through this crazy journey that she talks about below and she has handled it better than I think I ever could.

Eight years ago my parents flew me down to San Diego to spend time with them and visit my mom’s side of the family for a few days. While driving to my grandparents’ house from the airport my dad brought up my health. At the time I was a level three morbidly obese person although I wouldn’t know that for a couple months. He mentioned his concern about my weight and then brought up my desire to get married. At the time I was almost 26 and VERY single. I’ve always wanted to be a wife and a mother, but I just wasn’t somebody guys wanted to date. At my parents prompting I went to see my primary care doctor to see if maybe I had thyroid issues. I’d been heavy my whole life, but I was at an all-time high. My weight was causing unhappiness in all areas of my life. My doctor referred me to a dietitian and I started to take control of my life.

By the end of that year, I’d lost almost 100 pounds and was looking pretty dang good! I was happy and had this new found confidence, but still VERY single. I was working full time and fast approaching graduating from school with a bachelor’s in accounting. I picked accounting as a major because I loved numbers and math and it was something I’d be able to do from home as a mother. Even though I was happy and more confident there was a huge piece missing from my life. I wasn’t a wife or a mother.  Then the worst thing that could possibly happen happened. My two younger siblings both got engaged and married within weeks of each other. I NEVER thought they’d get married before me! The day after I found out, I just couldn’t deal with it. I was very depressed and even called in sick to work to avoid life.  I ended up going to meet with the bishop (the leader of my church congregation) to get some advice on how to handle the situation.

unmarried, health issues, lupus, healthy, love, faith

As we sat and talked he told me how his two daughters (friends of mine) handled the whole watching younger siblings get married and start families while they were single. He said that they strive to be the best aunts possible to their nieces and nephews. They also try to take a couple trips a year to places all over the world. I knew at the time that travelling wasn’t an option, I could barely afford school at the time. However, I had some nieces and nephews at the time. He also suggested I try to get more involved in the congregation and work on myself spiritually. I left that night feeling a little better, but still kind of down about life and being single. I hadn’t been on a date in three years and didn’t have any prospects.

After a few days I started to really think about the advice I’d been given. I loved being an aunt, but I’d been so focused on school and getting healthy that I’d neglected my nieces and nephews minus phone calls for birthdays. So I started to think of ways I could be the best aunt ever, maybe even become the favorite aunt. I started calling my siblings more and making an effort to know what was going on in my nieces and nephews lives. Gradually the number of nieces and nephews grew and my sister that lives close to me started having kids. This was a game changer! I finally had a nephew close enough to spend regular time with.

A couple months after he was born I started dating someone. I (along with a lot of people) thought I was going to marry this guy. I became attached very quickly. This relationship was different from any other that I’d had. We could sit and talk for hours and hours. After a while we started acting like an  old married couple. Our dates often consisted of running errands together or going fishing or shooting. He introduced me to a side of Utah I never knew existed and I loved it. To this day I enjoy fishing and shooting and hunting because of him.

Much to my dismay this relationship ended after a year. He said I deserved someone much better than him. I didn’t want anyone but him. I was devastated. Looking back, he was right, I do deserve someone better. When we broke up he made me promise to see a dermatologist about a rash I’d had on my face and arms for the whole time we dated. It would get better and then come back with a vengeance. He gave me his dermatologist’s name and I scheduled an appointment about two weeks later. Little did I know that his insistence on me seeing a dermatologist would change my life completely and possibly saved my life. As I explained why I was there to the dermatologist, he said the rash was one of two things…Lupus or Rosacea, but most likely lupus since it was on my arms. He then did a biopsy and blood work to see what he could find out. I left that day with a hole in my arm and more questions than answers and nobody to turn to for support. I went back two weeks later to learn the rash on my arm was the lupus rash. He insisted on doing another biopsy and sending it to the University of Utah to make sure it was really the lupus rash. I was headed into a very dark place at the time between the breakup and latest news from the dermatologist. At this time in my life I thought there was nothing harder than getting a life changing diagnosis and having no one at home to help me deal. Gratefully my parents had decided to fly me to my older sister’s to get away for a long weekend. So off I went with a larger hole in my arm to visit my older sister and her family. At the time she had a 5-year- old and a 3-year-old. The 3-year- old LOVED helping my clean out my hole and thought it was the coolest thing EVER. My sister and I talked all the what-ifs and next steps all while she, her husband, and their two boys gave me all the love I needed at that point in my life. I left feeling a little better about life, but still dreading the results of the second biopsy.

Happy Through Trials: How This Woman Filled A "Hole" In Her Life In A Healthy Way

At this point in my life I had a two choices I could make on how I handled the current state of my  life. Option one was to be miserable and dwell on how awful in my eyes my life was. Option two was to figure out how to be happy and positive through all the negatives I was being thrown and they were coming left and right. I went to meet with my bishop shortly after being diagnosed with lupus and we talked about the trials in my life at that point and time. I was fast approaching 30, single, and now had a chronic illness that would result in prescriptions and frequent doctor’s appointments the rest of my life. It made me feel like I was less desirable to a guy because who wants a girl that’s broken. As I talked to my bishop on a regular basis one night he said something that changed everything. He said, “I know you don’t want to hear this right now, but you chose these trials and all of your trials in the pre-existence.  This speaks wonders of the type of person you are and the spirit you were.” As I sat there I thought, you’re right bishop I didn’t want to hear that. Little did I know how much that one comment would change every trial I would go through from then on out.

I left that day and decided I was going to be positive and that I could handle anything that came my way.  I spent a lot of time working on myself the next six months or so. I refused to tell people I didn’t know about being diagnosed with lupus. I didn’t want them to treat me differently and I wasn’t ready to talk about it. As I focused on me I started to attend the temple weekly, reading my scriptures diligently, and really just trying to be in the best place emotionally, physically, mentally, and most of all spiritually. I knew without a doubt that if I was going to get through this I needed The Lord on my side. I also turned to my family for support and as I did this I worked even harder on my relationships with my nieces and nephews. I’d begun to realize that with them in my life they could make any bad day a million times better.

It’s been five years since being diagnosed with lupus. I’m still VERY single and while I’m not okay with it, I’m grateful for it. I never thought I’d buy a house by myself, but I have and I’ve loved every minute of learning how to take care of my house. As much as I would have loved to have a spouse going to doctor’s appointments with me and being by my side as my blood counts dropped well below normal and my doctor kept trying different treatment options I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to grow through it all. I’m the woman I am today because of both the trial of being single and the trial of all of my health issues. I’ve had to learn to take care of myself and ask the hard questions. My testimony of My Savior and the atonement is so much stronger having to go at all of this alone. I don’t know how many times I’ve cried myself to sleep because of the physical and emotional pain, but as soon as I turned to My Savior I would have this great feeling of peace come over me. I know without my faith in Jesus Christ I wouldn’t have this positive outlook on life and my trials. I know that part of my "positivity" is due in part to what my bishop told me shortly after being diagnosed with lupus. Anytime I have something hard I have to go through I think to myself “I signed up for this, bring it on.” It isn’t always easy, but through every trial I grow into the person I know I can be.

On my mantle in my living room I have a quote that reads, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” I love this quote and anytime I read it I’m reminded that I  signed up for my trials and I chose five years ago to be positive through them.

Happy Through Trials: How This Woman Filled A "Hole" In Her Life In A Healthy Way

I have become the favorite aunt of most of my 17 nieces and nephews and I’ve started traveling  more and even went to Peru last year. There are more international trips on the horizon in the future.

Happy Through Trials: How This Woman Filled A "Hole" In Her Life In A Healthy Way

Read the other posts in this series:

Jun 8, 2016

Happy Through Trials: How A Daughter with Cerebral Palsy Changed This Woman's Perspective

How A Daughter with Cerebral Palsy Changed This Woman's Perspective

The next woman in this series to share her experiences is Tara Bennett.  I know her in "real" life and she is amazing!  You will see that in this post.  I am so grateful that I get to know her in this life.  You can follow her on her blog!

The pediatrician told my husband and I that our baby girl, Chloe, was “the healthiest baby in the nursery!” She was just perfect. I couldn’t wait to take her home and start enjoying all the fun adventures I had planned. It didn’t work out exactly like that, though. We were told repeatedly she had colic. I didn’t care what they called it, it sure was not fun. The days and nights were filled with lots of screaming and tears. I couldn’t wait to get past her colicky phase. Four months later, however, after much insistence on my part, some tests were done to rule out any major issues. A moment before the doctor came in to tell us what was wrong, I had an experience that I now believe was a ministering of angels letting me know that they did find something seriously wrong and that it would be hard, but it would okay and I wouldn’t be alone. In the midst of what could have been a terrible moment, I had an incredible sense of peace. I am forever grateful for that experience. It gave me comfort when the doctor came in showing us the white spots and abnormalities they had found on Chloe’s brain CT scan. Miraculously, I was calm. I had peace. About a month later, Chloe started having very serious seizures that caused additional, irreversible brain damage, and she was given the diagnosis of cerebral palsy when she was about a year old.

This was not the plan. In fact, to be honest, I had decided I didn’t want a child with special needs when I was about six. My friend had a brother with severe special needs and they never got to do anything fun together, that I saw. Their mom was always busy taking care of her son with special needs. And many times throughout my young life, when I saw families with special needs, I couldn't help but think it did not look fun. And without large doses of fun, what was the point? Well, despite my lifelong opposition to the idea, I had a child with special needs and health issues. It was different than I had thought it would be. It wasn’t just an abstract idea, it was an experience I was having with my beautiful daughter who I cherished and my husband who I loved deeply by my side. So it wasn’t like I thought it might be when I was looking from the outside in. It was hard, but it was beautiful and filled with love.

baby, How A Daughter with Cerebral Palsy Changed This Woman's Perspective

The first year I was so sleep deprived and just trying to get through that I honestly don’t remember much. But I do remember deciding at some point that even though we were facing some serious challenges, we were going to have some serious fun! And we definitely did. I did everything within my imagination to make Chloe smile and to celebrate every day. I even remember one time saying to her while she was screaming and I didn’t know why, “Chloe, I don’t know what you need. I’ve done everything but stand on my head!” And as I said the words, I knew I had to do it – I had to stand on my head. I don’t remember if it helped or not, hahaha, but I tried! I still and always will believe in living a life of celebration, making little changes in our perspective and activities that make everything special. I learned a lot about this way of living from the book "Celebration! Ten Principles of More Joyous Living."  I reached out in my community and via social media, making friends with a lot of other special needs parents. We shared and received insights and inspiration. Many of them remain dear friends and will forever! Whenever difficulties arose, I would muscle through them with a smile on my face until they passed. Nothing was going to make me betray my plan for a life filled with fun, fun, fun! When there was a sickness, surgery, seizure, or hospital stay, I would grin and bear it, barely holding on with white knuckle strength… I could barely wait for it to be over so we could get back to fun activities and giggling.

Happy through trials

I’d like to end my story here and tell you we went on celebrating, smiling, and having a hunky dory time for the rest of infinity and letting you know that you too can have a reason to celebrate and have fun no matter what you’re facing!

Well, I’m not here to do that. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I’m going to get very real with you at this point. When Chloe was 5-years- old… after 5 years of smiling no matter what and having fun no matter what, I hit a wall. Some might call it a mental or emotional breakdown. I felt broken beyond repair. I felt worthless and hopeless. I had no desire to celebrate, smile, or get out of bed. Let me tell you what, it was not fun. I look back in gratitude for that time, though. My husband and our families supported me and helped however they could. Once again, I experienced the ministering of angels, but this time I knew their names and felt their loving embraces. 

J.K. Rowling has said, “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” I can echo her words in regard to this time in my life. I had to rebuild. It was not possible to put the pieces back together, they were too shattered and scattered. Professional counseling and spiritual intervention were required. I learned many lessons during this time and I’d like to share a few with you.

How A Daughter with Cerebral Palsy Changed This Woman's Perspective

You aren’t always going to be okay and that’s okay.  Allow yourself to be at peace if you’re not at peace.  Acknowledge the darkness and sit in it for a moment. As Brene Brown teaches, “We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light… The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” I learned that suppressing or numbing any difficult feelings will ultimately affect any positive feelings, even if you don’t realize it at the time. If you allow yourself to look into the face of your anger, pain, resentment, or whatever negative feeling you might have…get to know it, understand it, allow yourself to feel it, then you can let it pass or seek help from whatever source(s) you choose if it doesn’t pass. This can be scary because it’s hard to admit when we are having a hard time and/or need help. But you know what’s scarier? Not living your truth.  Not letting your real self have an authentic experience. Hitting rock bottom. As I have heard Julie Hanks say, “We don’t need to feel better. We need to be better at feeling.” Accepting grief, misery, and whatever negative emotions that come up can lead us to self-discovery and growth, maybe even change if you’re open to it. Change can be scary, but if you’re not changing, if you’re stuck in neutral, you’re not going to get anywhere worth going. The best part about living honestly is that it’s contagious and healing! When you are willing to show up authentically to life, the people around you will dare do the same and you will help each other! This concept is taught beautifully in the lyrics of this song: 

Life isn’t about having fun. It’s about having a meaningful experience that allows us to evolve. 

For much of my life including the 5 years after Chloe was born, I thought life was about having fun. I thought of parents who had children with special needs and didn’t seem to be having any fun and wondered what was the point. When I was forced to look at my life from a different perspective, I realized I wanted (and needed) to feel happiness and joy even when I wasn’t having fun. This was not a skill I had yet acquired so some work was needed. After addressing some poor thought patterns and developing some healthy coping skills, although my circumstances didn’t change, the way I saw my life changed. The way I lived my life changed. Instead of begrudgingly enduring long nights filled with seizures and crying, hospital stays, and unpleasant medical procedures that incurred enormous medical bills, I started experiencing life in a different way. My heart would fill with joy and heartfelt gratitude that I was getting to spend time with Chloe at night, even if the reason was that she was crying or seizing. I would recognize and appreciate that even though her medical needs impacted us financially, we were blessed with all the things we needed and more. After long nights, I found humble gratitude for the morning, looking forward to draw back the curtains and let the light in on a new day. I had found a beautiful acceptance and that was key. Wishing things were different had caused deep suffering. I don’t recommend that. I recommend that we stop hoping people, places, and circumstances are “ideal” or different and start finding the joy that is waiting for us in the truth of our reality! Tools for learning how to love life exactly as it is are taught by Byron Katie. I especially like the book, "Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life".

Looking back, it is almost funny to me that accepting things the way they were and stop wanting them to change was what brought about the most change. Oh the ironies of life! Through this experience, I was able to learn a profound yet also simple truth that rather than resisting difficulties, we can learn to embrace them. We can learn to let the hard things we face change us for the better…strengthen us (or reveal to us strengths we didn’t know we had), increase our awareness and compassion of the challenges others face, and ultimately, miraculously, bring us more happiness! So 
when you are facing something bigger and harder than you thought you could handle, and you start to see that it is changing you, I say…let it! Let it illuminate the true you! The growth might be painful, but you will be grateful for the person you’ll find deep within! I think this is called healing. As Elaine S. Marshall has taught, “Pain changes us, but not in the same way that healing teaches us. Healing can help us to become more sensitive and more awake to life. Healing…invites gifts of humility and faith. It opens our hearts to the profound complexities of truth, beauty, divinity, and grace.”

Please don’t get me wrong. When I say life is not about having fun, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have fun. I still have LOTS of fun with Chloe!!! I’m just saying that fun isn’t the point. Chloe and I can laugh and do fun things one day, then experience seizures and suffering the next, and now that I have learned to see life differently, I can find great joy in both days. And, of course, I still believe in celebrating life. I also believe it’s important to note that loving what is has to do with events that have already transpired and/or things we cannot change. I still wholeheartedly believe in changing and improving what we can! I’m also big into setting goals for the future. I find great joy in these things! But when circumstances don’t improve like we’d hoped or our goals are deterred by things out of our control, the concept of loving what is allows us to relinquish misery and retain peace and joy with the way things actually are.

You get to choose! Choose joy. Choose love. Choose peace. When I hit rock bottom, I was slowly  but surely opened up to a new way of viewing and experiencing life. It included changing the way I understood and engaged in some spiritual practices (such as prayer and scripture study), reinforced the importance and prioritization of daily routines (such as eating healthy, sleeping, and exercising), and implementing quite a few new habits (such as meditation, affirmations, and more). I could spend two weeks talking about all of this (and if you know me in real life, you know that’s really true LOL!)… I will spare you that torture. But I will share one thing that has helped me a great deal. Music has always been a big part of my life, but when I faced this emotional crisis, I decided I needed to be even more selective about the music I listened to, based on how it might affect me emotionally. So I went on a quest to create playlists of music that would be healing or uplifting for certain moods. I resolved to consistently listen to these playlists instead of music that might stir up negative emotions or, worse, make me feel apathetic. I’m sure my playlists will not be to everyone’s taste (I like quirky/folky music and meaningful lyrics), but I wanted to share them anyway. The playlists (linked to Spotify) are called, Choosing Joy, Choosing Love, and Choosing Peace. Even if you don’t like the music I’ve selected, I hope you can at least take away the intent behind it… we can choose to feel joy, love, and peace. We might first feel anger, grief, or other not so pleasant emotions in response to the tremendous trials or everyday annoyances we face, but then we get to choose what we do next. We can choose our thoughts, our perceptions, our habits, our influences, our music, our food, and many, many things. We can’t always choose our circumstances and our circumstances are not always going to be fun, but I have learned that there are a lot of things we can choose. What will you choose?

Happy Through Trials

Read other posts in this series:

Jun 1, 2016

Happy Through Trials: A Mother Watching Her Son Suffer From Cancer

Happy Through Trials

I'm so excited to share with you something I have been thinking about for many, many months.  This is a series that will include some of this world's most amazing women.  Each Wednesday, there will be a new post that will go live sharing a story about a woman that is going through something that is VERY hard.  Although, she is going through something very hard they each remain happy.  That doesn't diminish the pain they are feeling.  

The purpose of this series is to help each of us through our own trials.  We all have trials.  We all have things that make life sometimes seem impossible.  It is my hope that you can feel the strength from these amazing women.  

The first woman to share her story and her thoughts about how she can remain happy through the trial she is going through is, Stephanie Dirks.  You can follow her at www.randydirksfamily.blogspot.com.  Read her story below.
A woman whose son was diagnosed with cancer

Early in January 2014, my 12-year old son, Caden, became ill with what we thought was a viral infection.  One of our other daughters had the same symptoms, so after she was diagnosed with it, we just assumed that Caden had the same thing.  Like her, he got better after just four days.  However, a few days later, he became sick again, getting sicker by the day.  After a night of sleeplessness, excruciating pain, vomiting, and what we thought was extreme constipation, we took him into the ER.  

“We have found a large mass in your son’s liver.  Life Flight will be here in 10 minutes.”

I will never forget the confusion and surreal emotions that flooded my mind and body at those words.  That morning a nurse had told us that it sounded like Caden had pneumonia.  Now he could have cancer?!  I had cried hearing he may have pneumonia— "Can we take that now, instead?", I thought.   

Happy Through Trials

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May 26, 2016

7 Things I Learned from Allison Miller's New Cookbook

Drinks, Desserts, Breakfast, main dishes, side dishes, Summer recipes

Last year we did a lot of work to our backyard.  We are planning on putting in a putting green as soon as it stops raining for more than a day.  We are looking forward to the Summer months and hosting many outdoor parties/barbecues.  The only problem I have is that  I want to wow my guests, but I am not a master chef and I don't have a lot of time on my hands.

I have a few go to recipes, but they are not "show stoppers".  They run more on the boring side of things.  I have been on the hunt for a good Summer cookbook.  I am kind of picky about my cookbooks.  My cookbooks have to meet the following criteria:

  1. First of all I HAVE to have a picture for each of the recipes.  I don't know what it is, but I have to have it.  I am a visual person and I have to see what I am making before I will commit to making it.  
  2. Second, I have a picky family; I don't want to buy a cookbook for only a handful of recipes.  So my cookbooks have to have food that picky eaters will eat.  
  3. Last, like I said in the beginning of this post the recipes have to be relatively easy and quick.  I am not saying under 5 minutes and beginner recipes across the board.  (I have been cooking in the kitchen for 10+ years now and I do enjoy cooking so I do like to spend SOME time in the kitchen.)  

This year I found the PERFECT cookbook to fit all my cookbook requirements and I couldn't be more pleased.  So today I am sharing that cookbook with you!  My friend, Allison Miller, who blogs at Cupcake Diaries just released a cookbook, "Sun and Sizzle: Grills to Greens and Everything In Between."

I want to share with you 7 things I learned from this cookbook.  That's right you can learn something other than just recipes from cookbooks.  Many of these things Allison mentioned in the section of her cookbook titled Tips, but some are things I learned from the recipes.

Summer recipes, Drinks, Desserts, Breakfast, main dishes, side dishes

7 things I learned:

  1. When cooking hamburgers, make an indention in the center of the patty with your thumb.  As the meat rises in the center, the patty will stay even and level and won't dome up in the middle.  (How have I never known this!  This is a pet peeve of mine.  This tip actually made me giddy!)
  2. Meat is meant to be flipped just once.  After placing it on the grill, allow it to cook for a few minutes and then try pulling it away from the grill.  If it sticks, it needs to cook a little longer before flipping.  (I can't even begin to count how many times I flip my meat.  This was news to me)
  3. Brush sauces on at the end of cooking so that it doesn't burn, as sauce contains sugar and sugar burns easily.  (Once again, I am guilty of brushing on the sauce throughout the whole cooking time.)
  4. After marinating meat, pat it dry so it will sear on the grill and not steam.  (I can honestly say I have NEVER done this.)
  5. Once meat is off the grill, allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing into it so the juices don't spill out.  (Once again, I slice into that meat immediately after taking it off.  I do tend to be a bit impatient.) 
  6. I learned all about steak temperatures and what they mean.  
  7. I learned that you can make ice cream without an ice cream maker.  I have made ice cream in a bag with my daughter, but I have never made yummy "set up" ice cream without an ice cream maker.  There are 3 ice cream recipes in this book! 
Recipes I've tried and loved

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad:  This is so yummy and will feed a large crowd.  I brought it to my sister's baby shower and everyone loved it.  I might be sheltered in the food department, but I have never had greens mixed with pasta and was skeptical, but I couldn't get enough of it. 

Cookbook, Summer recipes

Root Beer Pulled Pork Sandwiches: This was so very simple and didn't disappoint in the yummy factor!  I love crock pot meals!
main dish, Summer, recipes, cookbook

Grilled Chicken Caesar Sandwiches:  This was so simple too.  I had it for lunch one day and it made my lunch so much better than my typical turkey sandwich and it didn't take that much longer! 
main dish, recipe, Summer, cookbook

Recipes that I am going to try next

Blackberry Peach Lemonade: We love lemonade around here and this looks so delicious.  
cookbook, recipe, drink, Summer

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream: I HAVE to make this for my grandma.  This is her favorite flavor of ice cream.
cookbook, dessert, Summer, recipe

Zucchini Pancakes:  I LOVE breakfast.  I also LOVE zucchini bread.  I think combining the two sounds amazing!
cookbook, recipe, breakfast

Like I said in the beginning, this book will not disappoint you.  It is the PERFECT Summer cookbook.  I'm so happy I have added it to my cookbook collection.  

Check out what other bloggers have to say about this cookbook from the Sun and Sizzle blog tour!
7 Things I Learned from Allison Miller's New Cookbook

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May 17, 2016

Princess Birthday Party-Party Favors

treasures, Disney princesses

I was provided free product from Oriental Trading in exchange for a blog post.  No other type of compensation was received.  At the bottom of the post are some affiliate links.  All ideas and opinions are my own.

I asked my daughter what kind of birthday party she wanted and she said Frozen.  For those of you who are new here, I threw a Frozen birthday party last year.  I was not about to do that again.  So I told her that she needed to come up with something else.  I was prepared for a complete meltdown, but instead she said, "OK!  PRINCESS!"  That was when I thought, "Really?"  I mean that isn't that far off from Frozen.  However, I decided to work with it.  

This daughter of mine live, breathes, and sleeps PRINCESS.  She always needs a dress on.  Just the other day we went to preschool and she gasped in the back seat (almost caused me to have a heart attack) then she said, "We forgot to put a dress on me!"  She is always wanting to dance around the room with her prince.  She has a certain princess smile.  She eats like a princess.  She plays with all her princess toys.  I mean the list goes on and on.  So I thought that a princess party was probably the best option for her anyway.  

This year she turned four years old.  I told her that she could have a friend party this year, but she could only invite four friends.  She was happy with that.  Then the birthday party planning began.  It was so much fun to plan out this party.  I can't wait to show you all the details.  The first hurtle I had to overcome was what I was going to do for the party favors.  

I wanted to do something fun.  At the same time I wanted to highlight each of the princesses.  So I thought it would be fun to have a prize or present from each of the princesses.  That is when I decided to put together a gift bag with all the princess "treasures".  

Do you want to see what I came up with?! I have to add that each bag and the contents cost about $3 a piece!  So affordable. 

Princess Birthday Party-Party Favors

Merida (from Brave): I made an arrow from felt and a wooden skewer. (I had all this at home already)

Rapunzel (from Tangled): Paints 

Snow White (from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves): A whistle

Tiana (from Princess and the Frog): Gummy frogs (I had to get these at a gas station) 

Pocahontas (from Pocahontas): A compass notepad 

Princess Birthday Party-Party Favors

Jasmine (from Aladin): A gold bracelet made with dry macaroni noodles and a cut up toilet paper roll.  (Once again using stuff from around the house)

Ariel (from The Little Mermaid): A dinglehopper made with a plastic fork and some jewels.  (All left over from other projects.  

Belle (from Beauty and the Beast): A light up rose

Elsa and Anna (from Frozen): A chocolate kiss

Aurora (from Sleeping Beauty): An eye pillow (Many stores have these; I got them at a dollar store) 

Princess Birthday Party-Party Favors

I attached a little tag to each treasure to make sure the girls knew exactly what it was they were receiving and who the "treasure" was from.  Then I put them in a bag with the cutest glass slipper (for Cinderella of course) on front.

Everything fit in the white bag perfectly.  I loved the white bag with the blue glitter of the glass slipper.  I cut out glitter iron-on vinyl for the glass slipper using my Cricut.  

I couldn't have been more thrilled with how it turned out.  The girls loved their party favors and the smiles on their faces made it worth every thought I put into it.

Disney Princesses, treasures

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May 4, 2016

Confessions of a Molly Mormon (Book Review)

Love, God, Scriptures, Prayer, Sunday, Fasting, Temple, Commandment, Jesus
This is a sponsored post and contains affiliate links.  However, my opinions are honest opinions.

Last week I got down on my knees to pray with my daughter before she got in bed.  I was rushing her because it was far too late and I needed some mommy time alone.  I kept telling her to hurry and that she needed to stop taking so long.  We rushed through the prayer and the rest of the bed time routine and I said good night.  I shut the door behind me and I basically did a dance because I felt like I was free.  

Can any of your moms relate?  Please tell me yes.  I had some good quiet time and when I hopped into bed later that night I was exhausted.  I quickly said my personal prayer and laid down.  However, I couldn't go to sleep.  It was then that I realized that I rushed through two of the most important conversations I had during the day.  I rushed through my prayers.  I prayed because it was part of my routine.  That was it. 

God, Scriptures, Prayer, Sunday, Fasting, Temple, Commandment, Jesus, Love

Since then I have been more aware of how I am praying.  I have been trying to slow down and really have a conversation with my Father in Heaven.  I have been trying to teach my daughter to do the same.  I have been more conscious of what HE is trying to tell me.  I have been trying and when I try I notice a HUGE difference.  

There are a lot of things that I can feel guilty about everyday.  A lot of things that can cause so much fear that it is crippling.  There are a lot of times that I judge myself so harshly that I feel like giving up.  It is all so silly.  

Perfectionism, Peace, Faith, Fear, Judging, Joy

If you are like me in any of these ways then "Confessions of a Molly Mormon" is for you!  The author (Elona K. Shelley) is so real in this book.  It is hard to be real and I am so happy that she opened up.  When you write or talk about certain things that are personal or very raw then you are vulnerable.  At the same time you can help so many other people if you do open up. 

That is why I am so glad I read this book.  I can't think of many books that have been so raw and real.  She goes through 7 "confessions".  Some of them I can relate to and others I cannot.  However, even with the ones that I can't relate to, it was nice to read about it because I want to be a more understanding person and since she opens all the way up and can dip inside of her emotions, if you will.  I can learn how to be more understanding of others that might have that same "issue". 

With every confession she follows it up with "victories" (at least that is what I am calling them).  The victories show how she got over whatever it was she was confessing.  She talks about ways she helped get over it or become better in an area.  She goes through many stories and examples for each of the confessions.  It's written in an organized way so it isn't confusing.  

She gives one final (8th) confession that is a "happy ending" confession.  I love how it ends on a happy note.  Let me tell you though, even though she is confessing throughout the book I never felt like it was depressing.  The whole book was very positive. 

Then after she goes through each of the confessions she has an amazing appendix.  In the appendix she has additional material for each of the confessions.  I love this because if you need help with one of the things she confesses then you can dig a little deeper in that section.  

It is a quick and easy read (which I need since I have kids that keep me quite busy).  So pick this up for yourself.  If you know someone that is struggling with feeling "less than" then please pick this book up.  We are all doing way better than we think we are!  

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Apr 27, 2016

A "Work From Home" Mom Fail

Last week I had a crazy week with work.  I had emergencies come my way in every direction.  To make it worse...it was my daughter's birthday that week too.  My phone was ringing.  People were frantic.  Emails were flooding in.  It was crazy.  There were many times that I actually screamed out loud.

Apr 16, 2016

A Lesson Learned from Flight Attendants

This post is written by health/fitness contributor, Melissa.  She also blogs at On The Go Healthy Mom.

Being COMMITTED is an important word for a mother.

We have many responsibilities to be committed to our family, and the demands of our children who count on us to do MANY things for them.

We also have a commitment to ourselves, and sometimes- we put ourselves last.

As moms we tend to take on A LOT!

Can you relate?

I know I can.

We wear many hats as a mother- cook, taxi driver, cleaner, Band-aid put-er-on-er, snuggler,

And many more.

We go about our days, wanting to please everyone around us, but what we really need to do it to take care of ourselves, so we can take care of others.

Just like when you are on an airplane, when you are fastening your seat belt and the flight attendant is explaining how to put on your oxygen mask in case of an emergency.

You are then told to put on your own FIRST before you put on your children's, so you can breathe to be able to take care of them.

So that you can have the energy to do all those many things that you need to do as a mother.

Here are a couple of tips to help you commit to some time for YOU, so you have the energy to commit to those around you.

>>Make it FUN- not a chore.

It is not a job to take care of YOU, it is part of everyday life. Do something for you each day. Get up early, write in your journal, exercise, get yourself ready for the day. Do something you love before the kids wake up. You will feel so refreshed and energized!

>At the end of a long day, do something relaxing that you love. Take a bubble bath, read a good book, watch your favorite TV show.

>>Do a Babysitting Co-Op with other Moms. Watch their kids so she can go to the gym or do something without kids. And then she watches your kids so you can do something you love without kids! It's a Win-WIN!

Take the time for YOU, and feel good about it- not guilty.

You are worth it, and so are your kids!

Thanks for checking in,


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