"In all of living have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured!"
~ Gordon B. Hinckley

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bruschetta Chicken

As my due date draws ever-nearer (only 2 weeks and 1 day! Crazy!!), I'm getting less and less motivated to spend time planning out meals, and even less excited about spending a lot of time up on my massive, swollen feet preparing something. So when I opened up my cupboard for inspiration (and hopefully something quick!) and saw an easy, delicious-looking recipe for Bruschetta Chicken Grill staring back at me, how could I resist?!

While the original recipe sounds wonderful, I did change a few things to make it fresher (more bruschetta-y instead of marinara-y), adapt to what I had on-hand, and simplify the cooking process. It only took about 20 minutes to prepare everything, and it's an easy recipe to prepare earlier in the day whenever you have time, and just toss in the oven before dinner.

The end result: Mmmmmm :) It even got the husband "We should definitely have this again sometime!" stamp of approval!

I tossed some mozzarella on the chicken before adding the bruschetta topping because it sounded good in my head, but since the bruschetta is served chilled, I actually liked it better without the extra cheese...just in case you're wondering what the white things in the picture that aren't mentioned in the recipe are.

The recipe is also dairy-free! (assuming the Italian bread and butter you use are dairy-free like mine were)

 Original recipe inspiration: Hunt's Bruschetta Grill , found on the back of a can of Hunt's diced tomatoes

My version:

Bruschetta Chicken

- 1 lb. chicken
- 1/2 cup Italian dressing (I used Wishbone)
- 1/4 cup pasta sauce (can also substitute 2 Tbs tomato paste)
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups fresh tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 tsp dried basil (or 1 Tbs fresh)
- Italian bread
- butter or margarine

- 1/4 cup Italian dressing (note: this is only 1/2 of the Italian dressing needed for the recipe)
- 1/4 cup pasta sauce

Marinate 1 lb. chicken for 30 minutes. Pour chicken and marinade into an oven-safe pan and cook at 400 degrees for 45 minutes, or until done.

- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups tomatoes, finely diced
- 1/4 cup Italian dressing
- 1 tsp dried basil

Mix together in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Once chicken is cooked thoroughly, serve over toasted Italian bread and top with bruschetta.


FYI, the left-overs for this recipe are delicious!! The flavor sets in even more nicely with time :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

December 30-day Challenge Progress Report

Well, I'm sorry to say I'm really not being as diligent in completing this month's 30-day challenge as I was hoping.

Between Christmas preparations, planning, shopping, baking, and festivities, shopping for a new phone (to replace Trevor's so I can have his since mine doesn't work), shopping for a piano (to be more useable at church, and so I can start teaching and bringing in some income, and because I feel a bit destitute without one), stressing out about money stuff (in addition to diapers, wipes, and all the new baby expenses, our health insurance bills are about to increase by about 600% each month. Thanks obamacare!), trying to get stuff ready for the baby (only 2 1/2 more weeks!!!! Crazy!!!), coping with feeling pregnant and blah every day, and trying to do normal everyday stuff while obeying the dr.'s orders to sit around all day every day with my feet elevated and drink tons of water to try to get my crazy feet and leg swelling under control (they haven't gone back down to their normal size since Thanksgiving, not even on days I kept them elevated for 22 hours. Ugh)...I really just haven't felt like putting any effort into learning about photography!

Just a few weeks ago I was all excited about the thought of spending an hour a day studying with my camera and other resources. Now I mostly just want to lie on the couch in my pj's, turn my brain off, and eat brownies and Christmas goodies out the wazoo...and somehow not ever get full or fat or feel sick. Who did I think I was kidding? Haha oh well.

I haven't been a total failure though :) I just haven't done it every day, and I haven't blogged about any of the things I did yet!

One of my hopes was that I'd be able to go through my photography Pinterest board and clean it out a bit as I checked out the sites and tutorials, so I could turn my board into a more succinct collection of the most useful ones. I haven't done that yet, but I have been doing some reading and learning with this super handy dandy book my sister gave me for my birthday! Nikon D5100 for Dummies. Exactly the book I need :) Easy to understand directions that are specific to my exact camera, in addition to basic photography information! It's organized to be used either for cover-to-cover reading for the clueless, or as a reference to quickly figure out how to do specific things. There are also similar books for tons of different models, and some for DSLR photography in general. Great stuff, and it's not even that expensive! I can't wait to delve deeper! (Some day in the future when I feel like using my brain, instead of right now when it feels like mush haha)

What I've read so far has helped me get a little braver in tinkering with the menus, and not being afraid to change settings a little. 

I've also had a few chances to pull out the camera and get more hands-on chances to practice! True, I mostly played it safe (and lame) and used auto or scene modes instead of being brave and shooting in manual, but hey, practice is practice! And there are always elements of composition, lighting, content, and editing to worry about too (not that I did awesome with any of them, but we won't talk about that :)

Fun things I've done with my camera this month in addition to reading include:
- taking step-by-step pics of making and baking butter cookies for a friend's blog
- taking pictures of chocolate crinkles for a cookie recipe swap blog post
- taking some pictures of a super delicious new dinner recipe I came up with! (update: I finally posted it! Check it out HERE)
- fiddling with the ISO and shutter speed to try to get good pictures outside in the dark
- taking pictures of my husband at his last flag football game of the season!

Are any of them great? Nope! 

Do I spend an hour on it every day like I planned to? Not at all!

Am I having fun and at least getting my camera out every once in a while? Yep!

Success so far? We'll go with yes :)

*Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Easy Fudgy Chocolate Crinkles

It's almost Christmas!! And that means lots and lots of Christmas cookies!!

This year I'm participating in a big holiday cookie recipe swap hosted over at White Lights on Wednesday! All the participants were assigned partners to swap favorite holiday cookie recipes with. This recipe for Fudgy Chocolate Crinkles is from Darci who blogs over at Inventions of the Not-so-Chef. The cookies are absolutely divine, and super duper quick and easy to make!

Chocolate crinkles are one of my favorite kinds of holiday cookies, but the recipes I tried always seemed to turn out too hard and crunchy. This recipe turned out unbelievably soft and fudgy! Confession: I ate at least 7 of these instead of lunch, and even more after dinner. I'm in love :) And the fact that they only take 5 minutes (or less) to mix up, and only require 4 ingredients, makes them even more awesome!

This would be a great recipe to let little kids help with since it's simple, and needs to be hand-mixed. It's also perfect for when you need to bring treats to a party and only have a few minutes to throw something together, but still want it to taste gourmet (or just don't feel like spending hours in the kitchen).

Another great thing about this recipe is that it doesn't have any dairy! So those of you who are lactose intolerant like me can eat to your heart's delight without all the unpleasant after-effects of lactose-laden goodies!

My husband and I (ok, it was mostly me) devoured over half of the cookies in just a few hours, so I'm thinking of making another batch on Saturday :) I'm kind of tempted to try adding some mini chocolate chips, or putting a caramel in the middle for fun, but my husband things I should just make them again exactly as the recipe says so he can continue to bask in their un-adulterated goodness. He's probably right :)

So, without further ado, here's the recipe I've been raving about!

Easy Fudgy Chocolate Crinkles

Source: Food.com via Darci

- 1 Devil's Food cake mix (I used Betty Crocker) 
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup oil
- powdered sugar for rolling (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix, eggs, and oil in a large bowl. Stir by hand (not with an electric mixer) until thoroughly mixed together, but do not over-beat or they won't be as soft and fudgy.

Roll into 1 inch balls, roll in powdered sugar, and place on an un-greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until just beginning to set. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing.

Note: the oil in the dough will absorb the powdered sugar, so coat the dough balls generously to get that pretty white cracked exterior. Also, when baking, err on the side of slightly-underbaked for the fudgiest results. The cookies will continue to bake slightly after removing the pan from the oven.


And be sure to check out the wonderful host blogs (WhiteLightsonWednesday.com, ILoveMyDisorganizedLife.com, RealHousemoms.com), and of course check out the rest of the recipes from the swap!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Some Christmas Cheer from my New Friend, Amazon

It's the most wonderful time of the year! But there's so much to do it's hard to enjoy it with all the stress of shopping, Christmas lists, budgeting, (and in my case, having my first baby!), and everything else!

Fortunately, I have a little help keeping the season merry and bright from one of my new best friends, Amazon.com  :)

Here's a nice little compilation of 5 ways Amazon has helped bring me some Christmas cheer by making my life a bit easier this holiday season!

1) Free 2-day shipping through free Amazon Moms or Amazon Prime trial

I signed up for a free no-commitment 90-day trial of Amazon Moms (it's like Amazon Prime, but with extra perks! Look a few paragraphs down for details), so I get free 2-day shipping! Since all of my Christmas shopping needs to be mailed out-of-state, free shipping is saving me a ton of money! And the 2-day delivery promise helps take a load of stress off with Christmas drawing ever nearer! If you have a lot of mailing to do, or some heavy presents to be shipped, I definitely recommend at least considering taking advantage of this free trial for the Holidays!

The trial is no-commitment, so if you just want free shipping, go for it and then cancel after the holidays! It's hard to beat free, free, free!

If you want to sign up for the free trial, or just learn more, the link for the free trial is HERE.

So what is Amazon Moms anyway? It's a program that gets you all the perks of Amazon Prime (unlimited movie and TV streaming, books to borrow on your kindle every month), up to 20% off diapers, wipes, and other baby products, as well as free 2-day shipping, additional discounts on household items, an option to have diapers and wipes set up to automatically ship to your house on a regular schedule (you can choose if you want every month, every other month, every 3 months, etc), and some exclusive deals specifically for moms!

At the end of the 90-day trial I have the option to cancel, or to pay $79 for a year subscription (about $6.70/mo) to Amazon Prime + Amazon Moms. I was originally planning on just cancelling to keep things free...but now I might be hooked :)

2) Free $5 gift card!

 Right now Amazon is offering a free $5 gift card! All you have to do is click the link HERE and create a wishlist on Amazon. It can even be just 1 item. Then you type in something you're wishing for (world peace, a life-time supply of chocolate...), make sure to un-check the box for promotional emails if you don't want to get them, share it on facebook, and you've got yourself a $5 gift card!! The only "catch" is that it has to be used on a purchase of $35 or more, so if you don't plan on buying anything that costs that much, it won't do you much good. It just takes 1 minute or less though, so it can't really hurt! I used my $5 off this morning, so I know it works :)

Extra little bonus: if you decide to go all out with your wishlist instead of just adding 1 easy item to get the giftcard, your friends and family will have links to the exact things you'd like for Christmas!

3) Free Holiday Music Downloads!

That's right, Amazon is doing 25 days of free holiday music downloads to help you get into the holiday spirit! The link to the free daily downloads is HERE. Check it out! There are 5 new ones each day to download, so you can expand your Holiday music collection for free daily, and hopefully find some new music and new artists that you love!

4) Major Price Markdowns for Cyberweek!

As you probably know, this week is Cyberweek, which means you can find tons of especially great deals for pretty much everything under the sun on Amazon.com for the next 3 days! Combine that with the free 2-day shipping from the free trial, and get your Christmas shopping done this week for just a fraction of the full cost, without even leaving the house! I've seen stuff marked down as much as 75%, and of course they have customer reviews to help you make an informed decision if you're worried that the low price indicates a poorly-selling or poorly-made product. There are daily deals, gold box deals, deals that are good through the end of the week, good coupons, and lightning deals. Check them all out HERE! I've been able to find some good gifts, as well as some things I want for myself :)

5) Free Amazon Gift Cards through Swagbucks

Ok so this technically isn't as much Amazon as it is Swagbucks, but it's still a great way to save a bunch of money off your Christmas shopping by doing it through Amazon! I'm not going to go into all the details of Swagbucks right now for the sake of being a bit more concise (maybe in a future post), but basically it's a site where you earn money for surveys, playing games, taking polls, using their search engine, printing out coupons for groceries through them, and you even get a percentage of cash back for shopping online at several major retailers - including Amazon! You are not asked to give any credit card information (yay!), and you cash in your Swagbucks in the form of gift cards to pretty much anywhere you want! Target, Amazon, Walmart/Sam's, iTunes, countless restaurants, PayPal, Groupon, vacation getaways, charity donations, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

The cool thing about Amazon is that their $5 gift cards only cost $4.50 worth of Swagbucks, so if you get a bunch of $5 gift cards and can cover your entire purchase, that's like 10% off your item! Not to mention you got the gift cards for free in the first place!! There are a bunch of easy bonus Swagbucks to earn when you're first setting up your account, so it's not unrealistic to have earned at least a $5 within your first week for not too much effort.

I've been using Swagbucks on and off for the past 5 months, and I've easily earned nearly $80. It accumulates slowly, but if you spend even just a little bit of time on their site every few days, it really adds up! Especially if you shop online or make travel or hotel reservations! It's not for everyone, but it has served me well!

If you're interested in signing up, or just learning a bit more, it's linked HERE.

Hopefully at least one of these things will help you make it through the Holiday season a bit easier! I know they've all helped put my mind at ease :) Good luck!

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

30-Day Challenge for December

It's a new month! Time for a new 30-day challenge! This is one I've been meaning to do since forever, and I'm really excited for it!

A long time ago, me and Trevor decided it was time to get a "real" camera! We did a lot of online researching different brands and models, checked out a lot of customer reviews and reviews from tons of websites, talked to several different camera stores and some friends who are photographers or know photographers, and spent quite a bit of time comparing features and prices...and in the end we chose to get a Nikon D5100! We did a lot of price-hunting too and were super lucky and even found a crazy good deal on one that had been refurbished by Nikon (so it was like-new and passed the same inspection as all their new ones do before leaving the manufacturer, and it came with a warranty that even covered water damage!).

I LOVE my camera! But in all honesty, my excitement to start learning how to take better pictures was quickly squelched by apprehension as I realized there are waaaaaaaay more bells and whistles on my beautiful machine than I know what to do with. Trying to learn the concepts of photography while trying to figure out what the heck to do with my camera (not to mention how to edit images, or format my card and a million other things) was just a bit too overwhelming, and I've been putting it off, and putting it off, and putting it off...and now it's been over a year and a half since I bought my camera, and I still don't know how to use it or how to take good pictures! I believe the proper word to describe this would be something between "ridiculous" and "pathetic".

My initial interest in photography was mostly along the lines of pursuing a new art form - playing with light and composition etc. Now I'm just a little over a month away from having my first baby, and I want to be able to document our new life with her! So I have some extra motivation in addition to my need to get out of this ridiculous/pathetic rut of having a great camera that I'm afraid of because I think is beyond me, and missing out on gaining a good skill because I'm intimidated by new information.

SO, for this month's challenge I am going to spend 1 hour every single day on learning something that will help me be a better photographer. (And by "photographer", I really mean "a girl with a camera who is less clueless than she was 30 days ago") There are such pretty, happy, wonderful things to take pictures of around Christmas!!

Things that qualify for my hour of camera time include: spending time composing and shooting, reading up on how to use my camera, getting familiar with different settings on my camera, learning about editing, practicing with my editing software, learning a new camera tip from a tutorial, and watching or reading tutorials on anything photography-related really. There's quite a bit of lee-way here. Basically the idea is to spend a little time every day, so it's not such a big scary thing when I decide I want to bust out the camera!

I have some good material to get me started, but please please please feel free to send me any tips of your own, or any links to tutorials, blogs, websites, classes, books, youtube channels, or any other sources that you think might be helpful! I would LOVE your help and input as I learn!

I'll try to keep up with posting links to sources I find particularly helpful for anyone else who is beginning photography too, or who wants to brush up on things. Several of my friends have posted on facebook about wanting to buy their first entry-level SLR and start learning, so I'm sure several of us are in a similar boat :)

Happy December! And happy shooting!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 30th: These Monthly Challenges

Today is the last day of November, which means it's the last day of my 30-day gratitude log! And today, I am thankful for the idea to start doing these 30-day challenges! I'm not perfect at them, and I still haven't had a single month where I've been 100% successful at doing whatever my challenge is every day, but I love having something to focus on for a little while! It really helps me feel like I am getting somewhere and improving myself, even though it's just a little bit at a time. It also helps fill the void left by going suddenly from being so busy working and earning money, and dancing and everything...to being home and feeling like blah all day. It's a good excuse to pull myself out of a rut and try to be a little better at something! And tomorrow I get to start a new 30-day challenge! I'm super excited about this next one :D

ps, even though blog posts didn't happen for every day this month, I did write down something I'm thankful for for nearly every day. I'll post all the missing days soon, don't worry! (since I'm sure  you were really worried ;)

November 29th: The Things I Don't Notice

Today I'm thankful for the things I don't think to be thankful for. In particular, today I am thankful for the days when my feet and ankles aren't swollen. For the past several months of pregnancy (since about mid-August) my feet have been getting pretty swollen if I don't spend most of the day either laying in bed, or laying on the couch with my feet elevated. The swelling not only looks funny and makes wearing shoes difficult, it's also very painful sometimes, and sometimes I get a bit of restless leg syndrome with it too. That just adds to the fun! Especially when I'm trying to sleep!

My feet and lower legs are way swollen today and it really hurts! Even after keeping them elevated for the past several hours, and having Trevor rub them for a good 20 minutes or so to try to help out my circulation, they're still just massive and really painful.

Having them be so bad today made me realize that they really haven't been getting as swollen lately! This used to be something I suffered through nearly every day, but lately I've gotten a nice little break from it and I didn't even notice!!

Another fun symptom that I used to have really bad is pain in my sacroilliac joint (lower back/back of pelvis area). For a long time I had a constant dull ache that escalated to a sharp stabbing pain when I moved. One day in particular I got on the floor to scrub the toilet, and the pain was so intense I almost couldn't get back up. I wanted to just sit there and cry because it hurt so bad to move, but I had gotten cleaning chemicals on my delicate, sensitive skin and it was starting to sting and needed to be washed off pronto. Obviously I survived, but it took forever for me to figure out a way to eventually pull myself to my feet because it hurt so bad!! Fortunately, that incredibly painful symptom mysteriously disappeared from one day to the next, and I have hardly even thought of it at all until just recently!

Lucky me, getting a break from these symptoms! I need to do better at opening my eyes and being thankful for the things that are going right without needing to be reminded! I really do have things pretty good :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 25: GPS

Today I'm thankful for GPS's and people who have them! I unfortunately don't have one...and I got pretty lost today trying to find my way to the airport to pick up a friend! It's about 45 minutes away from my house, and I printed directions and everything (and this is my 3rd time driving there, but the directions have ended up being a bit different every time, and several streets out here don't have signs for some odd reason), and I still got lost. I excel at getting lost. And something about being a short little pregnant girl out lost on her own, driving around in her pj's made me feel especially vulnerable and I didn't really feel safe stopping to ask for directions since there weren't any big stores or businesses anywhere for several miles. No way was I going to pull off on some dirt road and knock on some random person's front door! Luckily I did know the general place I was...it just wasn't the place I was supposed to be! But I was able to call my friend and she looked up directions and navigated me there, and we definitely used her GPS to navigate us back home instead of my broken paper directions!

I remember getting frustrated while trying to read a map at Ft. McHenry when I was 10 or 11, and telling my dad I wished they would invent a map that could tell you where you were and move when you did. Well obviously some wishes do come true! Now I just need to get a phone that has a GPS so I can make use of this awesome technology and stop getting lost so much!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

November 24th: Kids Say the Darndest Things and Sugardoodle

I'm a few posts behind on my gratitude journal (I've still been thinking of things I'm thankful for each day, I just haven't posted them yet), but I just had to write this post before I forgot!

Today I'm thankful for the hilarious things little kids say, and how funny it is sometimes to get a peek inside their minds. I wore a necklace with a key pendant on it to church today and my little 5 and 6-year-old students were so confused by it! "Why are you wearing a key?", "Does that open your house?", "Why do you have a key if it doesn't open anything?", "How can it be a key if it doesn't do anything?". Maybe if I had worn my car keys on a chain around my neck they would have been a bit more impressed than they were with my lame, useless, non-functional key necklace!

I also had quite an amusing conversation with one of my students about why I'm teaching them by myself now instead of team-teaching with Trevor like I used to:

kid: Why is it just you?
me: Because Trevor has to teach the big kids now.
kid: So...did you get not married to him anymore?
me: No, we're still married, he just teaches a different class.
kid: But that means you did get not married to your dad now.
(He thinks Trevor is my dad, and that I'm married to my dad. We've been trying to explain that one to him since we started teaching haha)
me: No, we can still be married even if we aren't both teaching the same class.

Poor kid. So confused!

I'm also VERY thankful for the Sugardoodle blog/website! (linked here) My sister-in-law introduced me to it, and it has several supplemental activities, handouts, printables, powerpoint presentations, and video clips for each lesson. It is WONDERFUL!!! And it really made my life soooo much easier today!! I didn't get much sleep last night (about 5 1/2 instead of my usual 8 or 9), and my class has some bad weeks as far as behavior goes (last week for example!). Luckily I currently have a pretty small class. Managing them is still a little hard sometimes since I'm the only one, and I'm getting more and more pregnant every week (obviously). Three hours of church without a bathroom break or a snack break, or even just a moment of quiet to myself, is a long time for this adapting pregnant lady! And I don't have the option to step out with a misbehaving kid, or pull them off to the side for a minute while Trevor teaches - or vice versa. I have to just plow full steam ahead and hope for the best! Sometimes the best defense is a good offense, so I prepared a ton of activities thanks to Sugardoodle, and my class pretty much took care of themselves!

This week's lesson was about loving your neighbor, and how when you show love to others you're showing love to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (Mosiah 2:17 and Matthew 25:40). I taught them the story of The Good Samaritan, and we watched a little video clip linked on Sugardoodle, and they loved it. I'm not even sure why they liked it so much! They watched it at least 3 times (it was only 2 minutes long), and still wanted to watch it again! I had to tell them no, because we had another video to watch :) This darling video is about Heber J. Grant and how he gave his coat to another little boy who didn't have one. It's super cute and super short. Here's the link if you want to see it :)

They wanted to keep watching that one too, but I finally convinced them not to because it was time to color! Sugardoodle had a link to a free printable coloring page depicting the story of The Good Samaritan, and then they colored flowers from yet another free printable and wrote on the back something they were going to do to show love to their neighbor (they all chose their moms), and we stuck their flowers on kabob skewers for them to take to their moms! Easy peasy, the kids had a blast, I had enough stuff to keep them entertained for much longer if needed, and we all survived!! Victory!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November 16th: Girl Talk and My Man :)

Ok, so I'm like 4 days behind on these. Yikes! Time to catch up :)

Today (Saturday) I am sooooooo very thankful for my Trevor!!! He was out of town for several days (I was really good and only cried about it once) attending a conference or something relating to work, and he finally came back home tonight! It was a really good experience for him, but my goodness, I missed him a LOT!!!! Days are infinitely longer when I know he won't be coming home around 5, and the house just feels so much colder and darker without him here. Even if I'm on facebook or whatever and he's off doing homework and we're not even really doing anything together, home is just such a brighter, happier place when he's here! It's also really comforting to know that if I need something in the middle of the night but I'm too sick to get it, he can help me out, or if something happens to me (or there is a scary bug!), he can come save the day. Being home alone really scares me - especially at night!! - and I feel so much safer with him around! Plus I just love that guy :) I had to laugh at everything by myself instead of telling him about it, I couldn't text him or show him when our baby girl was kicking or flopping around like crazy, I didn't have anyone to cook for or cuddle with...oh I could go on and on forever talking about how sad it is without him, but I don't have to, because he's home now! And he's all mine! Forever :)

I'm also thankful for girl friends! I didn't get to hang out with all of them today, but I got to see several of them throughout the week and they really helped pass the lonely time without Trevor! And I'm thankful for all of them! This morning a few of us went to the Hollyday Bazaar (tons of local vendors and boutiques and food and everything) and just wandered and talked and browsed all the cool stuff for several hours while wishing we were rich and good at crafts. The volunteers all wore elf hats with ears, and everything was decorated super cute with Christmas stuff (plus the stuff all the vendors were selling was predominantly Christmas oriented), and they even had a live brass band playing Christmas music! Super cool! Then later in the evening we got together to watch 7 Brides for 7 Brothers (which I've been wanting to watch for well over a year now!), and we just talked and talked for hours!

I'm SO glad I'm lucky enough to have so many awesome girlfriends right now! It was really hard making the switch during engagement and early years of marriage from having tons of girlfriends, to being in a ward with basically no one my age around, and really no girls at work. There was quite a bit of a dry spell for a long time, but thank goodness that is over now! It's pretty funny to me too how much girl talk has morphed! It used to be pretty much only about boys, dancing, food we love, and random stuff like that. Now it's about babies, parenting, housework, husbands, grocery shopping...haha we probably sound like a bunch of old mom ladies sometimes. Oh well :) I still love it!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

November 15th: Identity

Today I'm thankful that I know who I am, and what makes me important. I watched several episodes of What Not To Wear tonight after dinner (I've been good and haven't watched TV all week, so I binged hehe :), and honestly, it was a bit eye-opening and heart-breaking to see these women who didn't respect themselves enough to try to dress as if they were worth respecting, and/or who thought that dressing trashy was the way to get the most attention and feel best about themselves. Their motivation for dressing that way wasn't even that they wanted to look like a slob, or be treated like a slut, they just didn't understand how to dress themselves attractively, and thought that's what they were doing when they let it all hang out. Before tonight I had only seen like 2 episodes of that show ever, so I don't know what it's usually like, but all of the women in the episodes I watched today were very emotional when they saw themselves after their makeover and finally saw how beautiful they really were all along, and realized how to let that beauty shine out without having their poor choice of clothing distracting from it.

I'm pretty sure there's not a woman alive who hasn't struggled at some point with body image, or feeling beautiful, or feeling she is worth as much as she really is; I am no exception. But, I have been very blessed to have been raised religiously, and I have always known that I am a daughter of God, and that I matter to Him. My religious upbringing has also equipped me with an understanding that dressing as a body - instead of as a person - is not the way to show people who I am. (that's "dressing as a body", not to be confused with "dressing to flatter your body". They're totally different, and the second one is a good thing!)

Although I could benefit greatly from ending up on that show (for heavens sake, I watched it in mis-matched, over-sized pj's because I never even got dressed today, and my most frequent hairstyle these days is "up" because I'm too lazy to shower every day, especially if I'm not going anywhere), I just don't imagine the "final reveal" after getting a new wardrobe and new hair style and professional makeup job would be as emotional for me as it was for them. Not because I'm more put together than any of the pre-makeover women on the show, and not because I wouldn't look like a million times awesomer after a professional makeover than when I do (haha more like don't) myself up on my own, but more because I already know I am of great worth. Don't get me wrong, seeing myself all prettied up would be super fun, and would teach me a ton about how I could look better, but I don't need that to see who I really am. I don't need that experience to show me what I'm worth.

There's just something about knowing that the God of the universe takes time to listen to you personally every time you pray, and is involved in the details of your life even though there are literally billions of other people to worry about at the same time, that makes it hard to not feel amazing! He loves ALL his little girls! (and boys) Let's never forget that :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

November 14th: Glorious Sunshine

Today I am thankful for sunshine!! I think I may have a mild bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder, because the cold winter months with fewer hours of daylight are always hard for me. I also just hate being cold period...so maybe I'm just a whiner. That's very possible too :) This year, we're kind of in a weird spot in the time zone. The sun rises at 6 am, and it's dark before 5 pm. That means when I sleep in till 11ish (with a potty and snack break at 5 nearly every morning), by the time I get up, there are only 6 hours of sunshine in my day. And since most of my days are spend indoors and none of our windows are facing the sun (probably to help combat the intense Summer heat), I've been missing it a lot lately! But today I woke up for my potty/snack break a little late and the sun was already up! So I decided to bask in it a bit!

Even though we don't get sun streaming in through any of our windows, the angle of the sun is brightest and best right after it rises, so I opened the blinds in the kitchen and made myself a nice breakfast and did the dishes without even having to turn on the lights, and it was glorious!

And then a few hours later I took a nice long nap because waking up at 6 is not for me haha

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November 13: Video Chats and a Good Hearty Laugh

Today I'm thankful for Skype and video calls and all that technology that makes it possible to communicate with people we can't be with in person! It's wonderful! My family is pretty spread out - as is Trevor's - so video calls are awesome! Every few months my parents and all my siblings will get on and we'll do a little family get-together, even though we're spread all across the country! With the holidays coming up, we're sad we can't be with our families to celebrate, but we have a tradition of watching each other open our presents via Skype, so we still get to share the festivities with each other. I can't even imagine how hard it would be if snail mail were the only way to communicate! We are truly blessed to live in a time with such great technology! (despite my inability to understand it haha but that's what husbands are for, right? :)

I'm also thankful for the great healing, cleansing, refreshing, and rejuvenating power of a good laugh! It's amazing how much good it can do! Good for the abs, and good for the soul! Nevermind the fact that I was laughing out loud in a room by myself at stuff that wasn't even that funny...haha it still feels great :)

November 12: Sleeping In and Electric Blankets

Today I'm thankful that I currently have the luxury of sleeping in! My parents are major early birds, and from the time I started Kindergarten, I had to get up at 5:30 am (even earlier during high school). Then I got to college and tried to plan my classes so I could sleep in a bit more, but it didn't always work out. Plus, isn't part of being in college is staying up until obscene hours of the night/morning doing homework, or celebrating on the nights you don't have homework (or procrastinating...oops)? I was pretty much always tired. Then during the Summers I would work as many hours as I could at multiple jobs (sometimes up to 60 or 70 hours a week), so I was frequently tired. And then I graduated and became an adult (haha) and worked a few different jobs with differing schedules, but I often had to wake up early.

Soon I'll have a baby who will wake me up several times a night, and make sure I don't get too much sleep, and she will probably eventually be followed by other babies, who will also make sure I don't sleep too much. How kind of them!

But for right now, I can bask in the looseness of my schedule and sleep as long as my body needs! And I absolutely love it!! Even though I do sometimes have a hard time sleeping because of my squashed bladder, stomach that randomly demands snacks, discomfort from having very limited sleeping positions thanks to my new oddly-shaped pregnant body, crazy dreams, restless legs, and/or general nausea, it is VERY reassuring to know that I can sleep in as late as I need in order to make up for lost sleep during the night :)

And now that the weather is starting to cool down quite a bit at night (it may be mid-November, but it's still beautiful short-sleeve weather here during the daytime!), snuggling up under the electric blanket and catching a few extra Z's is just like heaven!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November 11th: Veterans. And Cheese and Crackers

Today is Veterans Day. I am so so incredibly thankful that I have the privilege and blessing of living in this country (despite any qualms I may have with how things happen sometimes). I am also indescribably grateful to those who have been willing to give up years of their lives for military service, and those who have given their lives in their service. And I'm definitely thankful for the military wives and families who sacrificed and suffered at home alone while their fathers, husbands, and sons were off fighting. I don't know how you find the strength to do that. I honestly don't think I could.

Also - not to trivialize in any way my gratitude for veterans, soldiers, military families, and this wonderful country in general - today I'm thankful for cheese and crackers. Since finding out that I'm lactose intolerant, obviously, I haven't been eating as much dairy. I do LOVE cheese though, and Kraft Naturals is lactose free! So I can eat cheese and crackers! And after eating hardly any dairy for a year and a half now, being able to eat cheese like a normal person is WONDERFUL!

November 10th: Nice People Without Hidden Agendas

Today I am thankful for the wonderful people who are so willing to help without asking anything in return! Trevor got a flat tire while he was out driving (long after the sun went down, of course), and realized after the tire popped that he didn't have a car jack. So he was stranded there on the side of the road. Luckily, one of our friends was available and willing to bring Trevor a car jack and help him change the tire, but even after they had everything they needed, that tire absolutely would not come off!! They tried everything, but to no avail. Then this huge guy passing by saw them and came over to help. I wasn't there so I can't personally testify of his awesomeness and raw man power, but Trevor and Chris both claim he picked up the spare tire with one of his gigantic hands and banged it a few times against the tire that they hadn't been able to get off, and then he changed the tire! Easy! And thanks to our wonderful friend who provided the car jack, and the mysterious Samson man who provided the muscle, my Trevor made it back home to me safe and sound :)

It also kind of reminded me of a year and a half ago when I had some tire trouble of my own (while my husband was out-of-state, of course), and I was saved by the selfless generosity of several people! I wrote about my adventures in my blog post "My Magic Truck and the Good Samaritan". And another incident that happened just a few months before that that I also blogged about in my post "Be Careful What You Wish For / How to get All the Boys". We sure do have awful luck with cars sometimes! Fortunately, there have always been good people to help us out when we needed it.

There so many selfless, wonderful people in the world, it blows my mind! I have been blessed so many times by the service and kindness of friends, family, and even total strangers who ask nothing in return. I want to be more like them :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 9th: Zofran

Today I am thankful for Zofran (an anti-nausea medication). I was feeling preeeetty nauseous this morning. I think it was my whatever-they-are, still-undiagnosable nausea issues acting up, and not necessarily anything relating to pregnancy. It probably doesn't help that I haven't been eating particularly well for the past few days, and I've been especially stressed about labor and delivery recently. Add on top of that the fact that stress and worry upsets my stomach, which then makes me anxious because of my phobia of vomiting, so I get more nauseous, and then more anxious, and even more nauseous...ugh. It's a vicious cycle that gets out of hand easily, and it's even harder when the nausea randomly and suddenly shows up and is bad to begin with like it was today. After a few hours, I finally got to a point where the nausea backed down just enough for me to be able to take some Zofran without feeling like I would throw it back up the second I tried to swallow it. Not too long after that, the meds kicked in and the nausea cleared up a TON. It's amazing the difference one little pill can make.

I really don't like to take medicine if I can help it. But thinking back to a few years ago, before I knew about Zofran, and back a little less far to the time I knew about it but my insurance only covered 12 4-hour pills a month and I stopped responding to them for some reason, as compared to now when I finally decided to give Zofran another shot and I can get as much as I need with my insurance and they usually provide nearly complete relief (I changed pharmacies, so maybe that has something to do with why it stopped working, and then started working again?), those little pills have literally changed my life. Maybe a more accurate way to explain it is that they have given me my life back. I used to be so sick all the time that I couldn't be Karin anymore, and there was no end in sight. While there still isn't much of an "end" in sight considering I still don't have a diagnosis or treatment, I do have a medicine that helps me cope with my symptoms. Without it, I'm pretty sure I would be in a very dark place right now, and probably wouldn't be much of myself at all.

There probably wouldn't be much of my physically either. Back during that really hard period of time, I was so frequently nauseous - especially after eating anything - that for awhile I was basically starving myself because I was just so terrified of vomiting that I couldn't eat. Strangers would randomly comment about how skinny I was. It was weird. I know it sounds ridiculous. People throw up all the time. It's life. It's normal. It shouldn't be that big of a deal. What on earth is so scary about a stomach ache? But for me it's a huge deal. I know it's a totally irrational fear, but it's still very real, and very strong.

All of that just makes me even more grateful that Zofran exists, and that it has helped me so sooo much to get myself mostly back to my normal happy self!

And I am also incredibly grateful to all the cancer patients who suffered through the nausea associated with chemotherapy (in addition to all the other many many many things that cancer patients suffer through), because without their suffering and nausea, this medication never would have been invented to treat it, which means it definitely never would have become available to someone like me.

Modern medicine definitely has its flaws, but at the same time, it is SUCH a gift and a blessing!!!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November 8th: Pinterest

Today (ok, yesterday) I am thankful for Pinterest! It just makes being a homemaker seem like so much more fun! I spent the majority of the day looking up recipes, doing the dishes, baking up some awesome multi-stage cupcakes (I'll have to post pictures later!), cleaning up, making dinner, and doing the dishes yet again because of all the mess I made baking and cooking! And I loved it! Even though if you think about it, I was really just doing boring old housework :) It's just so much cooler when you're doing something you saw on Pinterest!

Friday, November 8, 2013

November 7th: Temples

Today I am thankful for temples. Every day of my life I am thankful for temples! I started preparing the lesson to teach my class of 5 and 6-year-old kids, and the topic this week is temples and how through temple covenants, we can be with our families forever. It's hard to try to figure out how to teach something so important and complex to kids so young, but at the same time, it's cool to read how the lesson manual has broken down such a huge thing into its simplest and most basic pieces. Reviewing them and spending a little time reflecting on the importance of the temple as I started thinking about what I was going to teach my little class in a few days refreshed my love of temples, and reminded me again of how grateful I am for them!

Me and my Trevor had the blessing of being able to be married and sealed together for the rest of eternity in the temple. Of course we knew what we were getting ourselves into long before we even decided to get married, but my appreciation for the doctrine of eternal families was greatly intensified just a few weeks later.

I honestly don't remember much - if anything - that the sealer said to us in the temple on our wedding day (I wasn't feeling very well at the time, and quite frankly I was a bit distracted by the fact that I was getting married!), but we had the opportunity to talk to another sealer later. He talked about what it would be like after death without being sealed to your family. He compared it to losing a child in a crowded grocery store, or being separated from your family while on vacation or something. Except that instead of at least knowing the approximate area of whoever it is you are trying to find, imagine that they could be anywhere on the entire earth, and that they are somewhere mixed in with all the billions and quadrillions of people who have ever lived on the face of the earth since the beginning of time, and you don't have phones or any way of contacting each other. That's kind of how it will be after death for those who have not been able to receive the sealing ordinances and be married for eternity instead of just until death.

In contrast, being sealed is like hearing that voice over the intercom telling you "Mrs. Smith, please come to the customer service desk. We found your child!". It gets you back together again with your spouse to continue your happily ever after, even after death! And your kids too! And your parents! And everything is happy and wonderful!! 

I am so soooo glad that me and Trevor had the privilege and blessing of being married in the temple so we can be a forever family and be together forever! And our little baby girl too :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

November 6th: Yoga Pants

Today I am thankful for yoga pants. And pj pants, and sweatpants, and skirts, and basically anything that isn't real pants!! I've never liked wearing uncomfortable clothes - especially clothes that were tight around my stomach - and now that I'm pregnant, that dislike has been amplified by like 7846197243 times!

As my baby belly gets bigger and the weather gets cooler (meaning I can't get away with cut off sweats or skirts as much), yoga pants just sound better and better for the occasions I have to grace the world with my presence. Like yesterday when I went to the Peanut Festival!

That's right. Totally rocking the yoga pants everywhere I go! If you were hoping to see some cute fashionable maternity outfits on this blog, well, you should know that you will be severely disappointed! (I do get brave every now and then and wear maternity jeans - which are a MAJOR improvement from regular jeans - but I still end up wishing I was at home wearing something else.)

This particular pair of yoga pants was a Christmas present from my Mother-in-law from 2 years ago, and they are seriously like the most perfect comfy cotton yoga pants! And they have nearly been loved to pieces! Thanks to the 25-30 lbs I've put on in the past few months (unfortunately it is definitely not all just in my belly), I'm juuuuuuust about too fat to fit my thighs into them :(

All the more reason to be thankful for them while I can still wear them!

Question time: Functionally speaking, how on earth do you ladies put your feet into your pants/shorts/whatever you wear on your legs without your belly being in the way during the last month of pregnancy?! I can get the first leg in alright because I can swing it out to the side, but the second leg is tough! Everyone keeps telling me I'm tiny, but I can just barely lift my second leg up enough to get it in my pant leg and it totally squashes the baby in the process (cue nausea, reflux, and general discomfort), and every time I end up thinking "this time may be the time I perish". Is there some trick I'm missing? I seriously want to know, because if my baby girl gets much bigger, I will literally have to have Trevor put pants on me...which would require me to wake up before he leaves for work...which isn't very likely.

November 5th - Elephant Ears

Today I'm thankful for elephant ears! I didn't know what they were until just barely, and I love them! The National Peanut Festival is in full-swing right now, and our church had a booth making and selling elephant ears to earn money for the Boy Scouts, so me and Trevor volunteered for several hours tonight. Basically they're a lightly salty dough that's stretched out to like the size of a small pizza, then deep fried and heavily doused in cinnamon and sugar on both sides. We got to take home some of the leftovers after closing up shop, and goodness, they are delicious! Imagine a mix between an awesome donut and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Mmmmm, sugary deep fried deliciousness! I ate a whole one by myself. I don't know what I was thinking! Ok, actually I do know what I was thinking, and it was something along the lines of "Wow, this is delicious! I should keep putting it in my mouth until I explode!" Not the best decision ever health-wise, so I better kick off tomorrow with a nice nutrient-dense green smoothie!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Tale of Two Non-Trick-or-Treaters

Last year Halloween was pretty lame. We didn't even have costumes. We were too busy with work and school and life and dance rehearsals to make them (although we did shop for supplies to be 7 of 9 and the borg from Star Trek...they're still in a box somewhere). I went to a mini Halloween game night with some friends a day or two before Halloween, but Trevor was too busy to come so I went alone. We were too busy to go to the Halloween party at our church too, and we didn't carve pumpkins because - you guessed it - we didn't have time. We didn't even pass out candy or anything since we lived in my grandparents' basement and didn't have our own door. Actually, if I'm remembering correctly, Trevor had to work from 4 pm Halloween night until 4 am November 1st, so I spent Halloween night bored and alone in the basement watching dumb random old Halloweenish movies on Netflix that were just really poorly-made and not even worth watching, until I eventually fell asleep. I did get to go to the BYU Social Dance Lab for a bit that night (and Trevor came for a bit too during his break from work) and see some old BYU friends and new dance friends and my cousin, so that was fun, and I got to wear some old costumes from years past to work, but that was about as festive as it got.

We made it work, but overall, super lame for Halloween!!!

This year was much better :)

I wanted to do a fun couples costume with Trevor, and I also wanted to do something fun to incorporate my nice little pregnant belly - which actually feels HUGE, but everyone keeps telling me it's tiny. All the pregnant costume ideas I could find were really overdone though. Bun in the oven, wear overalls and paint a pumpkin or watermelon over your belly, be a cheerleader or athlete and paint a basketball on your belly, put blood and doll limbs on your belly so it looks like the baby is sticking out, paint a beach ball on your belly, etc. Not that those are bad ideas or anything, but I wanted to do something more fun and original than that! I also wanted to do something super comfy since being pregnant is definitely NOT comfy.

Then one day, I found this idea on Pinterest, and I knew I struck gold!


Vector from Despicable Me! It's perfect! Super duper comfy (according to the girls in the movie, they're pajamas!), definitely not overdone (yet), easy to do as a couples costume, and he's got that big round belly that goes perfectly with being pregnant! Check out her blog post (linked here) to see the rest of her awesome pictures! Her whole family got dressed up as Despicable Me characters, and they are seriously so cute!!

My version of the costume wasn't nearly as elaborate as hers, but considering I only spent a whopping 2 hours or so making it, and only about $20, I'm pretty proud of myself! Plus now I have a nice big comfy "warm-up suit" to lounge around in for the rest of my pregnancy since most of my maternity clothes are too small now and/or are Summer clothes. And comfort is definitely trumping fashion these days! (I am so cool...)

Instead of making everything from scratch like she did, I decided to look for some cheap orange clothes to use. After scouring several stores and thrift shops, I finally found the perfect orange pants at Walmart for $7, and I happened to find an orange shirt there too that matched perfectly for $5! The only problem? The shirt wasn't maternity and fit awkwardly, and the pants were actually leggings and they only came in size XXXXL. No joke. Yes, I've gained a lot of weight with this pregnancy, but not that much!

(I was having a sick day and wasn't wearing makeup when Trevor took this photo, so I told him to crop me out :)

So, after I found the perfect - yet not-so-perfect - orange outfit, I surged up the inside of the shirt sleeves to make them fit better, and used a pair of yoga pants as a pattern to make the pants waaaaay smaller! And then I added some iron-on adhesive up the outside seams on the legs and sleeves to attach some white ribbon ($2 for the whole spool and I have a ton left).

I got some glasses at the Dollar Tree, and ordered this wig from Amazon.com for about $5 (free shipping!). It's obviously more of a flapper wig than a bowl-cut guy wig like Vector's hair, but I didn't want to have to worry about cutting it. Plus I'm a girl and it's my costume...so I can be a girl Vector if I want :) And I figure the wig will come in handy for a future costume someday.

Trevor wanted in on the fun, and made a Dr. Nefario costume, complete with a fart-blaster gun that he designed, painted, assembled, and soldered all by himself :) He also spray-painted his goggles black right before the party and stained his face and hair pretty bad from putting them on while they were still wet. Gotta love that guy :) We wore our costumes to a super fun Minute-to-win-it Halloween party that our friends threw and it was great!

And we got to wear them again to the chili and cornbread cook-off, and trunk-or-treat at our church the night before Halloween.

On Halloween night we had a few errands to run after Trevor got home from work, and we didn't want to miss out on the trick-or-treaters! So we decided to forgo taking the time to change into costume for a third time this year and get right to the candy action!

We turned on a Halloween party playlist and brought chairs out on our porch, as well as a little portable table. We set up one of those bug-repelling candles, got some corndogs from Sonic (on sale for $0.50 on Halloween!!), baked up some onion rings, and read Scarlett (the sequel to Cinder) out loud to each other as we ate our romantic candle-lit out-door dinner between trick-or-treaters.

It was perfect :)

10 Swoon-worthy Male Celebreties

It's time for another Top 10 Tuesday!

One of my friends posted this video on facebook the other day...and after watching it like 5 times I decided I better write this post!

Seriously, how can you go wrong with a nice dramatic Jane Austinesque love scene in the rain?!

There's just something about those Austin men :)

Watching this reminded me how much I love Colin Firth, which reminded me of all the other guys that make me swoon...so today's post is a list of 10 of my all-time favorite celebrity guys! Don't lie, you have one too :)

Trevor always teases me about it. He'll see a movie trailer or a video online and tell me I need to watch it because "it has that guy you love it in it!". Oh, but which one?! There are so many!

Getting my list down to a "top 10" is hard, especially since the ones in the forefront of my mind change depending on what I've seen most recently, so lets just say this is 10 of my favorites, not in any particular order.

(ps, sorry about the overuse of exclamation marks in this list. I can't help myself. You try writing down your list without using any!)

10 celebrities that never fail to make me swoon!

- Colin Firth - classy, timeless, and how can you not love Mr. Darcey?!
- Michael Buble - just sing to me forever in your dapper little suit. Please!
- Harrison Ford - he's got it, whatever "it" is. Who cares if he's super old now!
- James Marsden - he can sing, he can dance, he's just all-around awesome...yep :)
- Patrick Stewart - I can't even place why, especially since he's so old in like everything I've seen him in, but he's definitely a favorite! The accent doesn't hurt, and neither do the awesome pictures and videos of him on reddit and youtube. Brilliant actor, classy loveable characters, and just a hilarious, great, personable guy in real life too!
- Christian Bale - beautiful man? Yes, very much!
- Matt Bomer - confession, I've only ever seen him as Neil Caffrey in White Collar, but goodness, I am smitten. I'm pretty sure he can cure cancer with his eyes. And maybe a little help from his hair too.
- James Franco - yet another downright beautiful guy!
- Josh Groban - I've always been a huge fan! Especially around Christmas time, which is coming right up!
- Channing Tatum - um, I'm pretty sure he's on everyone's list. He just is.

Before I finish, lest you start thinking I'm forgetting that I have a dreamboat husband of my own, here is my very own Austin man :) And as crazy as I am about the guys on that list, all 10 of them added together (plus all the guys in the running that didn't end up on the list this time) still don't even come close to how much I love my Trevor :)

This photo is from our Bridal/Formals photo shoot with Whitney Lewis (seriously, she is AMAZING!! I had the pleasure of getting to do 3 shoots with her. If you want knock-your-socks-off quality photos, look this girl up!!!!). She was shooting me, and Trevor got bored so he sat down to watch...and he just looked so perfect I asked her to turn around and get a shot of him too :) It's still one of my absolute favorites! 

 As is this one :)

Life is pretty great when you share it with the man of your dreams!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day 1 - 4

Ok, I didn't post my daily things I'm grateful for yet because I hadn't posted what the challenge was , so it just didn't make sense. But I did write them down, so now that I've explained the challenge in the previous post, here they all are!

November 1

- today I'm thankful that Trevor has a job that lets him put in an extra hour of work every day and take every other Friday off! I LOVE having him to myself all day, and getting a surprise 3-day weekend with him :)
- I'm also thankful for chocolate! And great deals! Which means I'm especially grateful that we happened to unintentionally stumble across Halloween candy (we went there for vitamins and a flu shot ha) that was marked down 50% from the sale prices from the preceding night, and it was totally the good stuff!! We spend about $40, so that's over $80 worth of Reese's, Hershey's, Kit Kats, M&M's (plain and peanut butter), Russell Stover coconut nests, and Hershey Kisses! We're definitely set for a loooong time :)

November 2

- today I'm thankful daylight savings! Everyone always seems to whine about it, but I love it! (my opinions will probably change once I have kids though) We got to stay out later after a Saturday evening church meeting 45 minutes away from home, and have a little dinner date with some friends at this Mexican grill, and it was super yummy! Aaaaand we still had time to do some last-minute grocery shopping, drive home, get a full-night's sleep, and wake up with plenty of time to drive the 45 minutes back for a morning meeting, and we were even early! Yep, definitely couldn't have done it nearly as comfortably without daylight savings!

November 3

- today I'm thankful for beautiful weather! My friends in Utah woke up to snow and got a day with highs in the mid-30's, meanwhile out here in Alabama me and Trevor decided to have a picnic and sunbathe in the glorious, warm, sunshiney 70 degree weather we had here today!

November 4

- today I'm thankful for to-do lists and free printables. I'm great at being unorganized and not being as productive as I want to be, so I've been trying to do a bit better lately. Nice colorful to-do lists seemed like good motivation, so I looked up about 15-20 different ones on Pinterest to get ideas. I've got it narrowed down to two favorites!

The first (linked here) is great if you have goals and tasks that need to get done, but you don't necessarily want/need to plan out exactly what time of day it gets done. I also LOVE that it has a checklist for drinking 8 glasses of water, and that it includes a "for me" section to make sure you save a little time for yourself :)

The second (linked here) is excellent for planning your day out in specific, half-hour chunks. There's also lots of room to write down notes (shopping list, elaborate on one of the to-do's, write down things to do tomorrow, etc.), and I think it's super helpful that it has the hours of 9-5 are in a different color, so it's easier to break the day up at a glance.

Thanks to my handy dandy little to-do lists, I actually had a good, productive day today!

30 Days to Greatness: Part 4

I am really loving doing these little 30-day goals!! I already have a mini list of things I want to do in future months! From now on I'm going to start referring to them as 30-day challenges instead of 30 days to greatness, because I think it suits them better :) Also, please feel free to join me in these monthly challenges; the more the merrier!

Last month's challenge (linked here) was to encourage good mindful eating habits by keeping a food log of what I ate, how much I ate, when I ate it, how long I spent eating it (vs. gobbling it down), how I felt before and after (was I truly hungry, or was I just impulse-eating, and did I stop when I was full, or did I binge and then feel sick), and include an end-of-the-day total of how many servings I ate in each food group and how many cups of water I drank.

It was pretty eye-opening!

I knew I wasn't doing great - hence my reason for choosing to work on it for a month. And now, a month later, I'm still not great at eating as nutritiously as I should be, and I definitely missed a few days of food-logging throughout the month. I still feel like I've made good progress though! And I've gotta say, there were SEVERAL times that I started to eat junk just because, but then stopped myself because I didn't want to have to write it down in my food log and see how badly I did at the end of the day! Haha I highly recommend keeping a food log to anyone who is trying to eat better! The extra little bit of accountability - even if you are the only one who will see your food log - really helps you think twice about what you're putting into your body :) I really hope I can keep getting better at this, even when it's not my monthly challenge, so me and my baby will be as healthy as possible! (and what better time to be practicing nutritious, mindful eating than during the stuff-your-face-with-goodies Holiday months?)

So! Now it's a new month, and it's time for a new challenge! (sorry about the excess of exclamation points today. I must just be particularly excited about life right now!)

My 30-day challenge for November isn't very unique. Actually, several of my friends are already doing it! Since Thanksgiving is coming up this month, I'm going to keep a daily gratitude journal and focus on being thankful for things that I take for granted all-too-often. It's pretty simple, but it's very important.

Ideally I'll post daily about what I'm thankful for, but for the sake of being realistic (since I usually don't blog every day, but I do get on facebook every day), I'm going to let a facebook post count too :)

Here's to a month filled with things worth being thankful for!! (as every month is!)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

You Might Be Pregnant If...

In honor of how much fun I'm having being pregnant lately, I compiled this list.

1) there are exactly 2 positions you can sleep in, and neither of them are comfortable. And switching from one to the other is a 2-minute procedure involving a lot of groaning, discomfort, and useless flailing...and it's probably not worth it anyway since it will soon be followed by a sudden urgent need to eat food and/or pee
2) your feet look more like monster-sized marshmallows with little sausages sticking out of them than recognizable human feet
3) several times a week you randomly burst into tears, then stop even more suddenly and randomly...and have no clue what you were even crying about
4) you want to eat the same exact thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for weeks on end, even if whatever food it is isn't that great. For example: olives.
5) it feels like there is some sort of creature inside you practicing kick-boxing with your organs
6) successfully pooping is an event that merits immediately informing your husband (even if that means texting him because he's at work) and receiving sincere praise and congratulations every time
7) shaving your legs, putting your legs into and out of pants, putting on shoes, and picking things up off the ground are just not worth it any more because your belly is too big
8) you wake up every morning questioning your sanity because of the bizarre things you just dreamed
9) staircases are suddenly indistinguishable from Mr. Everest, and you feel like passing out any time you accidentally walk at a normal speed instead of a turtle speed
10) you frequently feel like you're about to pee your pants, but then you try to pee and it's like nothing. 2 seconds later you feel like you're about to pee your pants again. (This is especially not cool when you're test driving new cars, or on an airplane, or on a 3-hour road trip in the boonies, or ever really) 

I could go on...but I think this girl does a great job summing it all up at her page http://pregnantgirlproblems.tumblr.com

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Little Inspiration from My Dear Friend, Dr. Suess

As I mentioned in my last post, morning sickness seems to be threatening to make an appearance again in this third trimester.  It actually hasn't been unbearably bad the past couple of days, but I've been taking anti-nausea medication much more regularly lately as a precautionary measure after things got pretty bad on Sunday...so of course that's probably been helping a lot.

With the impending threat of possibly having to deal with the same nausea misery that haunted my first trimester and part of my second - on top of all the other "joys" that come with the third trimester as my wonderful growing baby continues to wreck havoc on my body - for another 3 months (possibly an additional 2 weeks if I deliver late like my mom did), I was NOT a happy camper! Especially knowing that the only way it will end is with labor and delivery, which I've been reading about a lot lately, and right now, to me it sounds like the #1 worst, scariest, most awful, horrible thing in life ever!!!!

So of course I've been an uncomfortable, unhappy, sick, moody, complaining mess. Trevor even voluntarily told me the other day that if being pregnant made me this miserable, he was ok with this being our only kid. What a sweetheart :)

I need to get a thicker skin though. Sure, I'm not living the dream, and sometimes I'm downright miserable, but many women have a much harder time with pregnancy than me, and/or have to work through the symptoms while trying to keep their job or take care of other kids or as a single parent. At least I have the option to skip a shower and getting dressed, and just lay around and watch TV all day if I'm feeling rotten!

Plus I have an incredible husband, awesome friends, a great group of ladies and other wonderful people as a support group at church, a good family, super duper health insurance thanks to being allowed to be on my dad's still, my husband has a decent job and income, a darling baby girl - the beginning of our little family! - on the way, and, really, life is good!

I LOVE this quote by Dr. Suess, because, quite frankly, when you stop and look around, this life really is pretty wonderful! Exactly like he said! What a brilliant man!

I've heard it several times, but I especially loved it this time around, and it made me think of this picture - partially because of the photo itself, and partially because of the story behind it.

Several months ago, I was introduced to a friend of a friend, who is a photographer. She wanted to do a photo shoot of a ballerina, and needed someone to take pictures of. I was the lucky winner :) She chose the hair, makeup, location, poses, and even provided the dress she wanted me to wear (conveniently we are exactly the same size!). All I had to do was show up!

What makes these pictures so special to me is what I didn't know at the time we were shooting them.

I didn't know I was a mom.

I thought I was a dancer and a working wife with a student husband, and it was hard, but it was wonderful. We weren't trying to have kids, or completely change our lives. I had no clue that the ballet class and rehearsal I had just come from was one of my very last for probably close to a year, or how hard that would be to have to give up. I didn't know how sick and uncomfortable I would be for the next several several months on end. I never dreamed that less than two months later I would be living on the other half of the country! And I most certainly had no clue that I had a baby girl growing inside of me!

Everything has changed so so much since I was the girl in that picture!

And life is hard, but it's still wonderful :)

(This photograph is used with permission, and her business is Enchanted Window Photography. Check it out!)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Today's To-dos

It's Friday! The past 2 weeks have been riddled with returning morning sickness (hello 3rd trimester) and a ton of stress from trying to decide on and buy a crib and a car, so I've been letting a lot of stuff slide. But today I'm feeling good, we finally bought a crib (and I love it!), we're at a good not-so-stressful point in our car researching and purchasing, and we have big plans for this weekend!!!

Today's Plans:
- do 2 loads of laundry - including our neglected sheets
- do *ahem* several days worth of dishes
- shower and actually shave my legs for once
- attach the white trim onto my Halloween costume and pray my wig comes in the mail today!
- take out the trash so no more monster-sized roaches decide to be our new roommates
- sew a strap on my maternity swim suit since I lost the real one
- pack my bags...
- and head on down to Pensacola for a weekend beach getaway with my husband dearest!!

He's taking the Physics GRE tomorrow morning (GAH!!!! Please pray for him! This is a very important test for his/our educational future opportunities, and it's an extremely hard one, and of course he only gets one shot!!) and the nearest test location just so happens to be right near the beach. So after he survives the 3-hour test of death, win or lose, we're spending the rest of the afternoon lounging on the beach :) And then we get to head back home in time for a Halloween party with some of our favorite Alabama friends!!

But we can't leave until I stop trying to remember my epic Harry Potter/Dr. Who/Star Trek/Dancing with the Stars/Hunger Games dream from last night and tackle this to-do list! So, I guess that means I better stop writing and start doing. Onward!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Top 10 Tuesdays!

I decided I want to try something new to get the creative juices flowing! Top 10 Tuesdays! Each Tuesday I'll post a list of a top 10 something. For example: 10 favorite lame jokes, 10 things I wouldn't change about my beach trip, 10 pregnancy cravings I have most often, 10 dairy-free dinner recipes we love, 10 things I hate about cold Winters, 10 things I put on my to-do list so I have something easy to cross off, 10 things I keep putting on my to-do list and never doing, 10 inspirational scriptures that I love, 10 imaginary pets I wish I owned, 10 favorite Disney songs, 10 shows me and my Trevor love watching together, 10 things I want to teach my baby girl, 10 reasons to not match your socks, etc.

Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed about posting/documenting after something happens because I think it needs to be some long, detailed, interesting story...and it's so daunting that, not only do I not actually ever write it (and miss out on the memories I could have), I don't post anything else in the week I spend dreading and procrastinating it until I forget about it. Fail. So my hope is that this will help get me out of that rut and on to posting bigger and better things! And having a snapshot of my life in quick-and-easy (to both read and write) lists of 10 seems like a totally fun, doable way to accomplish that!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Super Soft Molasses Cookies

I worked in the bakery at Costco for a few years. Their regular cookies are great - of course, but one year we made these molasses cookies as a seasonal item. They were SO GOOD! I'm not a fan of the super hard and crunchy texture and extra spicy zing of most ginger snaps, but those molasses cookies were perfect! Big and soft, and just the right about of spice! I've been craving them for the past little while, but of course, they were just a temporary seasonal item from a couple years ago that I don't think they've made again...and the nearest Costco is over an hour and a half away...and we've been converted to Sam's since membership is cheaper and it's only half as far away. So yeah. Costco bakery's molasses cookies are just not going to happen. Which is a crying shame, I must say.

Simple solution: try my hand at some molasses cookies of my own!

The end result was a bit too good, and I may or may not have eaten 10 of them...I'm definitely going to be hitting the fruits and veggies hard tomorrow to make up for it!

I looked at recipes from Betty Crocker, Mrs. Fields, the back of my jar of molasses, and several random recipes on Pinterest, and came up with this version. It's a keeper! And it's dairy-free!

Soft Molasses Cookies

Cream together:
- 1/2 cup margarine (it helps make them softer than butter. To make it dairy-free use Blue Bonnet's light margarine)
- 1/4 cup shortening

Add in and mix until well-blended:
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 1 cup brown sugar (packed firmly)

Sift in:
- 1/4 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter or margarine, or if substituting shortening for the butter, make it heaping)
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 2 1/4 cups flour

Dough will be sticky, but don't add more flour. Set aside some granulated sugar (about 1/3 cup) in a bowl.

Chill dough for 1 hour, then roll into balls. Roll the dough balls in the granulated sugar and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

I know it's Fall and everything, and these are totally a Fall cookie, but it's still nice and hot here in Alabama so I just couldn't resist helping myself to some of Breyer's lactose-free vanilla ice cream with a cookie on the side :)

Dear Diary...

Back when I first started this blog I intended for it to be like an online diary where I would post about my doings each day. Ha! Now it's like a hodge-podge of quotes, recipes, vents, and random stories of my life that I post in sporadically. So I think it's time for a nice old-fashioned journal entry post :)

Today I:

- woke up at 6:30 AM
- promptly fell back asleep until 10:30 AM
- started my day out feeling sick and yucky
- got better after several hours (thank you zofran!!)
- found out the mirror in my walk-in closet makes me look waaaay skinnier than my other mirror. I don't think I'll be looking in my other mirror for several months
- decided that spaghetti noodles are too difficult to eat neatly and shouldn't exist. Rigatoni, macaroni, bowties, shells, penne, and ziti are MUCH more practical
- found out I'm anemic. My poor body does NOT like being pregnant
- didn't get out of bed until 4:00 PM thanks to not feeling well, which means my feet and legs actually didn't get very swollen today!
- took a shower AND put on makeup AND got dressed AND went out in public (All are rare occurrences these days. I guess I should mention that none of these happened until 4:00 PM. And no, I did not wear pants. I wore a skirt. I don't like pants these days. Or clothes for that matter...)
- finally decided on a crib and bought it! Wahoo!!
- got a free sample of a whoopie pie at the bakery!
- went car shopping/browsing at The Lemon Lot. I even found one I like that's in our price range! Although, I'm probably biased now because the seller named it and wrote the specs as if he/she was talking about a person so now I feel like I'm friends with the car. Silly brain.
- bought some yummy pre-marinated pork shoulder for a steal of a deal!
- didn't buy the steak that was on sale because it was green like the bad meat in Oregon Trail
- made dinner (...ok actually I cooked up some onion rings and we dipped them in Thousand Island dressing and ate leftovers. My husband loved it though, so my task is complete :)
- learned how to create my own banners for my blog!
- learned that I'm very bad at making my own banners for my blog, and deleted my first 6 attempts
- decided I'm not ready to change my banner for this blog yet until I get more skills :)
- ate a bunch of food with mild amounts of dairy and didn't take any lactaid and I was ok!!

And I also didn't go to bed until well after 1:00 AM because my husband is staying up late studying for the Physics GRE and I'm keeping him company :)