28 August 2014

Bruschetta (Toasted or Chilled)

My sister sent this recipe after tinkering with it. After getting my hands on it, I tinkered a little more. The result is two delicious ways to serve up this appetizer or side dish: toasted or chilled (and a great way to use up some garden tomatoes!).
Jenny's chilled version.

Ingredients:

7 to 9 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 oz feta or shredded mozzarella
1 teaspoon basil, fresh or dried
3 Tablespoons olive oil plus 2 additional Tablespoons
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
3 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 baguette or French bread (here's a pretty quick recipe if you're in need)

Mix all ingredients except additional olive oil, butter and bread. Chill at least 30 minutes (optional if serving bruschetta toasted). Mix butter and olive oil together. Slice baguette and brush both sides with butter mixture. Bake at 350F for 3 to 5 minutes (or until bottom is golden) then flip and bake an additional 3 to 5 minutes (until both sides are golden). If serving chilled: spoon refrigerated tomato mixture over sliced toasted baguette and serve immediately. If serving toasted: spread tomato mixture onto toasted bread and bake an additional three to five minutes or until heated thoroughly.
Enjoy!
(Thanks Jenny!)

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27 August 2014

The Be Careful Generation

Claire's favorite way to use the monkey bars.
It's no secret that our girls are little wild things (in the best sense). They love to run, jump, explore, climb, scream and try new things. And I let them. There's a strange trend going on in the world that prevents kids from being what they are: kids. Some adults would rather smother a child's curiosity than let them explore, watch every minute of playtime so they can decide whether what their child is or isn't doing something risky and stunt their growth and progression all in the name of keeping them safe. My children appear to be part of the Be Careful Generation.
Within the last two months, my position as parent has been subverted several times by well-meaning but out-of-place adults who, in the name of being cautious, did something I found completely inappropriate. At the store, Kate was desperately trying to help sack groceries and had stepped up onto a ledge barely twelve inches off the ground to try and reach something to put in her sack. I saw her do it and in a clear, calm voice, told her to step down. Before Kate could decide whether or not to obey, a frantic store employee rushed over and yanked her off like she was standing on the edge of the Sears Tower. Another time was at a children's museum on the carousel. Our girls have been riding carousels since before they could walk and know they need to hold on. Even though I was standing within arms length and alertly supervising my children, an employee felt the need to come tie a strap around their waists in an attempt to make them more secure without any thought to asking me if I prefered to have it on or not. I told him I would rather they didn't have them on to which he raised his eyebrows, told me they'd be more safe and tied them anyway.
Lighting her first firework.
Part of life is learning cause and effect. Of course I tell my children to hold on when they're on something that moves, watch out when they're near something dangerous, that the bugs they're poking might bite, pulling the cats' tails might make them scratch, fire is hot, scissors are sharp and it's a long way down the stairs if they goof around. But then I leave it at that. The beauty of taking what Jack calls calculated risks is that A) our children learn that we'll always tell them the truth (Hey, that cat DID scratch me when I yanked that his tail!) B) cause and effect is a pretty swift, stern teacher if it's allowed to happen and C) eventually they'll learn to make their own decisions without our warning them because they learned how to take appropriate risks at a young age.
Evelyn holding our rooster Rufus.
That's not to say we don't scoot them right out of the way when they walk up to the wrong end of the horses or stop them if they're climbing dangerously high. But, especially if it's a life skill they should master, what better time to do it when they're curious about it and I'm around to help? Stairs, scissors and ladders have to be learned eventually, after all.
Kate helping move wood.
What are your thoughts?

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25 August 2014

Can't-Leave-Alone Bars

I think something in the name of these treats subconsciously makes you want to eat them...but who am I kidding? They're delicious. That's why I want to eat them. All of them.

Ingredients:

1 white cake mix
2 large eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter.

Combine cake mix, eggs and oil.  Flour hands and press 2/3 of the cake mix into the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking pan. In a microwavable bowl, combine milk, chocolate and butter. Heat for 30 second intervals, stop and stir until mixture is smooth. Pour over cake mix in pan and spread to cover. Drop spoonfuls of the remaining cake mix on top. Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes or until the spoonfuls of cake mix are lightly browned (the chocolate portion will stick to a toothpick, so a toothpick inserted in the center is not the best method for testing doneness).  Cool then cut and serve.
Enjoy!


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24 August 2014

Relief Society

Relief Society is the largest and oldest women's organization in the world and in the eloquent language of 1842, part of it's purpose is "the relief of the poor, the destitute, the widow and the orphan, and for the exercise of all benevolent purposes."
Getting organized.
This past Friday, I invited a neighbor to go with me to a humanitarian project involving women from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who lived on the west side of Indianapolis. Being given an assignment to help with the birthing kits being sent to Haiti and Africa where women have their babies without the aid of a doctor or clean facilities, I was in awe of the generosity and hard work accomplished by good women. There were hundreds of supplies from receiving blankets, onesies, bar soap, gauze pads, hand sanitizer to clean razors and sterilized cord for the mothers to tie off the umbilical cords, all donated freely by those good women. An assembly line was created and in less than an hour, 200 birthing kits were put together and boxes of leftover supplies were still stashed under the table.
On top of that, there were hygiene kits for families unexpectedly taking their children to the hospital, baby bracelets made for mothers of stillborns or infants who die shortly after birth, thank you cards written, baby hats knitted, sleep mats made for the homeless and other worthwhile causes. It was incredible to be a small part of such a tremendous effort.
Boxes of supplies left for next year's project.
Charity never faileth.

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23 August 2014

I Don't Do Ho-Hum

Making progress on the front!
High school ended over twelve years ago but sometimes, I feel like I'm right back where I was, especially when someone criticizes something I've done, either behind my back or to my face. At various times of my life and at various stages, whether a missionary, stay-at-home mother or woman in leadership positions, I've heard my fair share of unkind words directed unmistakably at me.
Remember what the house looked like a few short months ago???
This week, I was the unintended recipient of an email where someone said I'd done a ho-hum job on a previous social event that ironically, I thought was quite enjoyable. I know I wasn't intended to read what she'd wrote, but there it was, written for me and several others to see. I was mortified. My heart raced and I trembled with both anger and embarrassment. I am intimately aware of my own flaws and imperfections but I couldn't help thinking how unfair it all was.
Covered in raspberries.
My insecure self (who interestingly enough, feels the same way as she did way back in high school) constantly worries that people think her home is ho-hum. That she's a ho-hum person for staying at home with small children rather than fighting her way through the workforce and squandering her talents on little children who couldn't possibly appreciate them. That she's a ho-hum mother for having dirty-faced, rowdy, screaming girls who are in a constant state of motion.

The list of ho-hum seems endless.

And then I thought:

I don't do ho-hum.
The best way to enjoy ice cream: messily.
Though I feel the same insecurities with a familiar sting I've known ever since I was a little child, I have been blessed to learn from them. It hasn't made the anxiety go away, much as Paul was given a thorn of the flesh that he just couldn't be rid of, but I believe the beautiful lesson has been learning how to react to my own weaknesses.
Reaching the height where my knees begin to shake while painting...
Our home may underwhelm people at first but a ho-hum homeowner wouldn't be facing their fears, gripping the top of a ladder while painting to renew the facade of the house. They wouldn't tackle siding and making shutters and putting in new stairs and refinishing old floors and painting everything from living rooms to decks for hours on end. They wouldn't lovingly put up crown molding or fix electrical or pluming issues that no one will appreciate or enjoy. They don't get to know their house's every quirk and oddity and come to love it because it's unique. And they certainly wouldn't do it at the cost of their own blood, sweat, tears and pocketbook.
Ironically, Claire DID break this egg.
A ho-hum mother wouldn't let her kids get dirty (that would mean an extra bath), she wouldn't endure the ear-shattering screams of pure joy (that could mean a headache for her) or risk them getting sweaty or scratched or chewed up by bugs (that might mean using up all the bandages). She wouldn't bother battling constantly against clutter and certainly wouldn't budget or scrimp or save to make the underappreciated, often unnoticed role of stay-at-home mother happen. She'd avoid ice cream at all costs (too drippy), helping in the kitchen (they might cut themselves) and couch jumping (too much rowdy fun). The children wouldn't be allowed to help with construction (they might hammer a finger), touch bugs (they're gross), collect eggs (they might break them), help in the garden (they might step on plants), go in a canoe (they might fall out) or ride horses (they might fall off).
Hold on Kate! You might fall off!
By experience, I've learned at some point, people will start admiring how nice our house is. I've just been blessed with the ability to see it's potential early on and the drive to do the work. Some people may be sour about children, but my children are having a full and rich childhood that is shaping them to be fantastic, compassionate, fun-loving adults. And though some look down their nose at me raising our children rather than competing in the workforce, my husband is supportive and more than willing to make the sacrifices needed and work harder than the average to make it happen.

Ho-hum is a state of mind more than it is a statement about an activity, day or event. Unfortunately, some people think that grandiose, elaborate entertainment is the only worthwhile way to spend their time. While grand certainly is fun once in a while, more often than not, the small, unassuming moments are what matter most.
This song always pops into my head whenever I want to be unforgiving.

Really though, the most poignant lesson I've gleaned over time is in regards to the people who make me feel less than adequate. It is a measure of my own personal progression. While I'm still far from perfect, I'm learning and trying. To the woman who, for an instant, made me feel ho-hum, I initially wanted to lay into her and let her know just what I thought of her rash, unfair, ridiculous accusations. It would be easy to make her feel the way I felt by dragging her down. Rather than being petty, shallow, rude or allow an all-consuming grief take over, I swallowed my pride, took a breath, said a prayer (and spent a few moment furiously painting) and then, chose to forgive.

After all, I don't do ho-hum.

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22 August 2014

Biting Flies

This is how bad the biting flies are at times:
(And part of my hesitation in wanting to get on Dancer--she's got a great buck!)

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20 August 2014

Creamy Garlic Pasta

This is a one-pot pasta creation that's a special treat!

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 teaspoons minced garlic
2 Tablespoons butter
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 pound spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 1 Tablespoon dried

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic and stir for about a minute. Add butter until melted. Add salt, pepper and chicken stock. Raise heat to high and let boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Add the parsley during the last few minutes of boiling (if using dried). Once the liquid has been absorbed, reduce heat and stir in parmesan until completely melted. Remove pot from heat and stir in cream and parsley (if using fresh). Serve immediately.
Enjoy!
Thanks to The Cheese Pusher for the recipe inspiration!

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18 August 2014

My Writing Process Blog Hop

Toni Mari, author of And We Danced and the newly released Join the Dance, invited me to participate in an author's blog hop and I'm thrilled to be chosen! I connected with Toni while networking with other authors in the same genre as Headed for the Win and have loved getting to know her better via email correspondence, her website and reading And We Danced, a charming, exciting look at what it takes to compete in the upper levels of dressage as a youth, mixed perfectly with a dashing cowboy who's got his own issues, a mortal enemy who makes me cringe and all the fun and confusion of teenage life. Please visit Toni's site here to read how she formulates her writing.
Now, to answer the four given questions!

1. What am I currently working on?
I've got a solid start on Nadia and Winny's return in the sequel to Headed for the Win. They'll be up against stiffer competition, cheating and some romantic drama...and of course trying to figure out how to deal with it all while being stuck in one another's bodies in the middle of an international horse show.

But, as usual, I can't seem to put all my eggs in one basket. I'm also working on a dystopian book with a different approach and a romantic comedy featuring a rock star and a rocket scientist. Never a dull moment in my mind.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Every author is going to create something different by virtue of the fact that they are a different person than anyone else. I think one of my strengths is presenting stories from a different point of view. There's almost always something to learn by removing yourself from your comfort zone and experiencing it from another person's shoes.

3. Why do I write what I do?
While I've got several book ideas swarming in my head, almost all of them incorporate horses in one way or another. I've always loved horses and have enjoyed sharing the thrill of riding (which so many people unfortunately haven't experienced, it seems). Some of my writing is based on my own real life situations, others on dreams I have for the future. Writing is a great way to satiate my desire to ride, even though I don't get as much time in the saddle as I would like with three little girls keeping me busy.

I also love the challenge of creating books for people that avoid salacious, vulgar, crude, profane, overly violent or otherwise demoralizing while still being funny, witty, adventurous and gently romantic. Those are the kinds of books I enjoy reading too!

4. How does your writing process work?
I am an early bird so I've been trying to harness that into my writing. I get up about an hour or so before everyone else so I can have quiet time to full-on write. I haven't found any particular methods (sticky notes, note cards, outlines, etc) that are my go-to, but I do keep some notes on my phone or computer if it's an idea I want to make sure to incorporate into a novel (I love checklists, and that's what those notes become). Mostly, though, I ponder and think. A lot. With being so busy between children, fixing up a house, a fairly demanding church calling and other responsibilities, I find myself using driving time, naps or standing atop a ladder painting as a great time to brainstorm and work out the details of a story.

Now, to pass the blog hop on to another author, Brittney Joy, who I also met while networking. She's written Lucy's Chance, first of the Red Rock Ranch series. If you've ever seen Wild Horse, Wild Ride, you'll love her sweet novel about building relationships of trust between horse and rider, overcoming insurmountable odds and one particularly handsome cowboy.
Cowboy Boots or Muck Boots ... always have been Brittney's shoe of choice. An animal lover to the core, her parents didn't know what they were signing up for when they put Brittney in a summer horse camp at the age of ten. She was hooked.
Horses quickly became her true passion in life. At twelve Brittney started working at a local stable - cleaning stalls and leading trail rides. At thirteen her parents finally broke down and bought Brittney her first horse, Austie, who was a spunky bay Quarter Horse/Saddlebred cross with a perfect white heart on her forehead. Brittney grew up on Austie's back and, when it came time to go to college, she packed her mare along too.
Brittney and her family and now live in their own little piece of heaven in the Oregon countryside. They stay busy taking care of their two horses, two cows, ten sheep, fifteen chickens, and one very naughty goat.
Read more about Brittney by visiting her website here and look for her continuing the blog hop the week of August 25th!

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17 August 2014

County to State

"I WANT A COOOOOW!"
A few months ago, signs for the Hendricks County fair started popping up in our neighborhood so one mild afternoon, I decided to take the girls for a visit. Any reason to see animals is a good reason (especially if they're the kind we don't have. Yet).
 We scratched sow bellies...
That cutie pie was only a week old!
 ...cooed at baby alpacas...
 ...and watched horses who could lope slower than molasses in wintertime. Seriously. Even the barrels class barely riled those faithful horses up.
Trying (and failing) to take a photo with the cute carved bear bench.
After a bit of other sightseeing and treating ourselves to a bag of kettle corn, we headed home, only to relive the fun at the Indiana State Fair with Jack in tow.
Looks like Claire's got some pretty strong bones.
A lot of it was the same, just on a bigger scale.  There are more animals, more crowds, louder people and bigger, faster rides.
Those cow hides were sure soft!
The girls made a few new friends too, one of which was a particularly vocal sheep who seemed to be looking for someone:
And of course, we pet more piggies.
This gal snorted and grunted until SOMEONE offered her a backrub.
We got  caught in the middle of a tractor parade so we decided to sit down and watch. Evelyn has always had a particularly nice crowd wave.
The piglet feeding frenzy was a big hit too. I couldn't imagine feeding nine feisty babies at a time, but that mother took it all in stride, napping the whole time. I imagine that's one of the reasons she was the grand champion sow.
There was too much to do and too little time (we would've had more time if we'd not spent 20 minutes in the parking lot trying to figure out where on earth the parking attendants were trying to direct us) but it was fun all the same. We took the scenic route on the way home and did some GenCon sightseeing along the way.
Photo courtesy of Claire.
I think fairs are becoming a family tradition. I'm secretly hoping my girls will want to participate when they get older so we can keep it up!

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13 August 2014

10 August 2014

Fame!

Recognize anyone famous? The original drummer of Imagine Dragons is sitting right behind me...
I was reviewing my list of goals this past month and have been rather pleased at how many have been achieved already this year. Then it got me thinking: what new goals would I have next year (I like to plan ahead, haha). I looked at a few other people's goal list and found it interesting that several people put on their bucket list that they wanted to meet someone famous (one guy had that he wanted to see the Northern Lights AND the Aurora Borealis--Hey! That's cheating!). Though I wouldn't consider meeting someone famous as lifelong dream, it got me thinking about people, who are considered well-known in one way or another, that I have met.
Meeting Sheri Dew. And I had no idea who she was.
Most "celebrities" have been people who are known well in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsGordon B. Hinckley was ten feet away and waved at me at a temple dedication, I shook hands with Russell M. Nelson after a stake conference and listened to M. Russell Ballard give a discourse during my mission. I also hugged Sheri Dew and had a photo snapped with her before I even knew who she really was.
Andrew's (far left) now jamming with The Moth and The Flame.  (Source)
Funnily enough, several notable people I met were during my time serving an 18 month mission for my church and in subsequent years attending church (who says church isn't awesome???). Who knew a fellow missionary, Andrew Tolman was going to go on to help form a wildly famous band, Imagine Dragons? Now he's jamming away in The Moth and The Flame and is a nice a guy as ever.
Source
I went to church with Brandon Quinn a couple times too. Most recently, I spotted him playing a murderous soccer player on Bones. I knew it was him from the start!
Source
Earlier this year, I met Steve Cleveland, well-known basketball coach, at a church meeting. He thought I was eighteen. Aww! It was so nice to be mistaken as a teenager when I in fact, just reached my thirties.
Yes, I played the tuba in college and yes, I met Tommy Lee.
I guess the only non-church related famous person I met was Tommy Lee. Boy, that was an experience. He came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to film a television show, Tommy Lee Goes To College, and was in not only marching band but my Native American literature class. I was on TV a few times (which, ironically aired while on my mission, haha). It's always a fun topic of conversation.
My mom and Tommy Lee are tight.
But not as funny as when I mention my mom's pretty much BFFs with Tommy Lee. She's got an autographed photo of him and her hanging in her office.

So, that's about all the "famous" people I've met. What about you? Met anyone famous? Is there someone you'd love to meet? Do share!

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