Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Do you know what year the first nationally declared Thanksgiving was held?

Any guesses?


This one might be a little bit easier, what was happening in the United States in 1864?

The Civil War

How long had the Civil War being going on, and how many people died during the Civil War?

Over three and a half years and over 600000s Americans died.

November 1864 was towards the end of the Civil War, it ended the following spring. Most the big battles had occurred by then, estimating over 500000 causalities by the time of the first Thanksgiving holiday.

As I have read and reread books about Thanksgiving to Caleb this year I am always struck by the same thought-what on earth did people in the United States to have to be grateful for in 1864? That had to be one of the darkest times in our nations history, but people gathered around and gave thanks for what they did have, even with all they didn't have. The pilgrims were the same way. More people died than lived that first year in Plymouth. But people offered thanks and praise to God for His goodness. 

This year I wanted to cancel Thanksgiving, I wasn't feeling very cheerful. This year has been stressful and emotional. In fact the last three and a half years have been long and emotionally draining. 

And then I thought of what it would be like if we were in 1864 and asked to celebrate and give thanks.

That would be much much harder.

And I find myself grateful that Thanksgiving is a holiday that came about during a horrible war that affected so many Americans. 

We all have good times and we all have bad times, but we can all be grateful whatever the season of our life.

So I made a goal, instead of expressing gratitude for one blessing a day this month I was going to write down ten things a day.

After a couple of days I decided to challenge myself and have a theme a day. I started off easy: what am I grateful about being married to John, being Caleb's mom, living in Montana, my calling. Those were a little too easy so I thought I would challenge myself. Why I am grateful for our time in Texas? What about infertility? Or having had a stillborn son? Those ones stretched me. But I realized there truly are significant but subtle blessing in every aspect of my life. 

President John F Kennedy sums up the other critical and often overlooked aspect of gratitude: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter word, but to live them."

I have found it is pretty easy to write down one or even ten things a day that I am grateful for. However, to actually live a life of gratitude can be very difficult. 

Even with all that we have been through the last four years, and knowing we are a week away from another move with more changes and challenges. I am trying to not only list the things I am grateful for, but have a grateful heart and life. To take time to express my gratitude to those I love, and have optimism in the future because I can see so many blessings.

I am trying to follow this advice each and every day. 

"I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. I am suggesting that we go through life we 'accentuate the positive." I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we are more generously compliment virtue and effort."-Gordon B Hinckley

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Christmas is coming...

I love Christmas.

I also love the word intent.

A couple years ago John and I had a lot of talks about how to make our life and traditions more intentional. Instead of just living, or go off of what every body else did we were going to be intentional in our actions.

And thus began how we do Christmas.

I belong to a Church rich in symbols, however I find a lot of people are very apprehensive about symbolism and how to interpret symbols. John and I decided to use Christmas as a time to teach our son about symbols. We have tried to make Christmas intentional, symbolic and lots of fun, and yes we feel we can have all three :)

The first thing we decided to attack was Santa. I am personally not a fan of lying to my child and Santa is a lie. I know that every family needs to do what is best for them. But we opted out of Santa. We don't go around telling him Santa isn't true, we tell him about the real Saint Nick and say the Santa in books is just like any other character in books-not real, but a symbol of a great man. 

Caleb is also extremely literal, he tells me he thinks it is ridiculous that people actually think reindeer can fly. I have a feeling that even if we did do Santa he would have figured it out by now. 

The next step was our presents. I spent hours researching what other families do and came up with what I felt worked for our family. John and I talked about it and we thought it was worth a shot. John especially hates consumerism. 

We do four gifts. One is completely fun and from "Santa." Then we go off the idea of the three wise men. I read a lot of scholarly articles about the gifts and what they really meant. I especially like this one because it is short and sweet, but there are some very long in depth ones out there that are fun to read if you are like me and like to read about history and religion. 

We do ours slightly different from what I have read, but I think the idea is to find whatever works for your family. 

I love that gold showed that the Wise Men knew who they were seeing, the King of Kings and Prince of Peace. Our family does one gift that shows we know who that individual is and what makes them unique. If you have spent much time with my son you know he is about the most imaginative little boy in the world. His gift has always been something that helps him create and use his imagination. John is huge into the outdoors and views that as a great way for our family to connect, so he often gets outdoors items. And I get baking stuff :) 

Frankincense was used to worship. So we get something that helps us worship. Caleb always gets church books, John gets white shirts or ties and I get a journal. We have done other things but the idea is something that helps us to get closer to God.

Myrrh is the hard one and people interpret it in a lot of different ways. The general consensus from Biblical scholars is that myrrh was given because the Wise Men knew Baby Jesus would one day die for them. The above mentioned article states that myrrh was used by the wealthy to make their home smell more pleasant. I read another article that mentioned it was used as a comforting sense (almost like lavender oil of today). So we do something that comforts. Caleb loves to read and it is very soothing to him, so sometimes he gets books. Last year he got a drum set because he loves to hit things and make noise :) John has gotten iTunes gift cards because he can't fall asleep unless he is listening to music. 

I just read my friend's blog that suggested having stockings being consumable items like gift cards, candy or membership to a children's museum. John and I just talked and we are going to try that this year.

We have also asked grandparents to support us in this and have limited them to three gifts. Anything we get beyond three from each parent we give to charity. I feel like a lot of times parents can control themselves but grandma's can't :)

The other thing we do is a Christ-centered advent calendar. I remember as a child my family trying to have a little bit of family time each night during December. I really love making and spending time with family during the holidays. We have used our traditions and found ways to tie them back to the Savior (gingerbread houses-the wise man built his house upon a rock, Christmas lights-light of Christ). 

Each year we pick a theme for the year and we try to focus our scriptures or stories around that aspect of Christ's life and ministry. One year we did faith, hope and charity, this year we are going to do peace. By reading scriptures and doing activities that relate to the idea of peace we hope to better remember Christ as the true source of peace (once I get it put together I will post it). I love traditions but I also love trying new things. I have found this to be a perfect way to keep some of our favorite traditions as well as try new things to help us celebrate our Savior's birth, life, death and resurrection. This allows for flexibility which we need because our life has never been 9-5 normal. This year we will most likely be spending the better half of December in hotels moving around the country. However, I plan to come up with activities that we can do wherever we are so that we can still enjoy the holiday season (we are thinking Christmas tree in the car and nativity scene on the dashboard). But every night we will make time to read a scriptures and think about Christ. 

We also do a family service project once a week in December. My greatest Christmas memories as a child were saving our coins throughout the year and then donating them to a charity. I hardly remember a single present I got but I remember driving to Salt Lake in our VW van and dropping off the jar and feeling so good that children in need could now have shoes. My friend made a list of service projects and I love my cousin's idea for a book drive for children's hospitals. Maybe it is simple or elaborate, I just want Caleb to know we serve. 

I am a HUGE believer in doing what is right for your family, you know your family better than anyone else. I am just sharing my ideas and traditions because they have helped us. I do encourage all to take a minute and really think about what they are doing for Christmas-is it intentional? Is it building your family or your faith? We all can accomplish the same goals in different ways. That is what I love about life! 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Low-fat, low-sugar, whole wheat oat pumpkin bread

I love pumpkin bread, I love pumpkin anything honestly. I don't love a cup of sugar and two sticks of butter in a single loaf of bread. So after years of trying lots of different recipes I found the perfect pumpkin bread recipe! I makes a great snack is really rather healthy. 

I love the idea of eating fat free pumpkin bread, and this recipe could very easily be fat free. However, there is no getting around food with fat tastes better. I have started taking the time to calculate how much fat would be in each slice of bread based on how much fat I add to the bread. This recipe ended up with under 3 grams of fat a slice by having a couple of tablespoons of coconut oil. Coconut oil is one of the best sources for fat, and it adds a little nice texture to this bread. Bread with only applesauce always tastes just a little off to me. But if you really want low low low fat get rid of the coconut oil and use only applesauce and don't add nuts or chocolate chips.

I also always make two loafs when I make bread. It freezes so well and takes no extra work to double it. So this recipe makes two wonderful and delicious loafs.

Adapted from here
  • 2 cups oats (Process in blender or food processor to flour consistency
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 large banana (mashed) **about 1 1/2 cup
  • 3 T. melted coconut oil then add applesauce to make 1 cup
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2-1 cup chocolate chips or walnuts
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Add to dry ingredients and mix until combined. Fold in chocolate chips

Place batter in loaf pan sprayed with coconut oil/ olive oil spray. **Can top loaf with a sprinkle of oats before baking to make it pretty!!**

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Enjoy! Even John my pumpkin bread hating hubby loves this recipe

Monday, November 4, 2013

November Meal Plan

I can't believe we are down to only one full calendar month in this house! So this month I had to take an inventory of everything we have that needs to be used up and then use it up :)

Week 1:

Sunday-Pumpkin french toast

Monday-Honey Chipotle Tostadas

Tuesday- Coconut curry red lentils I plan on adding some red peppers for more veggies and color!


Thursday-Quinoa and Black Bean chili (we never got around to making this one last month, but I have all the stuff for it).

Friday-Balsamic glazed pizza. I made this last month and it was AMAZING!

Saturday- San Antonio!!

Week 2:

Sunday- Tuna Sushi

Monday- beans, rice and veggies.


Wednesday- Israeli couscous

Thursday-Pasta with fancy olive oil (we have been apart of an olive oil club for the last two years. Sadly, the movers won't move it so we have to to use it up in the next month)

Friday- Greek pizza. Another amazing pizza from last month. I still have all the fancy cheeses for this one too.

Saturday-Kate's Grilley cheese

Week 3:

Sunday- Shrimp


Tuesday-Barley salad

Wednesday- Roasted Veggie pesto phyllo

Thursday-Roasted squash salad


Saturday-BBQ pork

Week 4:

Sunday- My BIRTHDAY! I'm hoping to not have to cook :)

Monday- Black beans and sweet potato chimigangas

Tuesday- Fall veggie with Quinoa and poached egg I made this last month and it was amazing. I didn't use beets because they didn't have any at our supermarket. So I threw in zucchini and used my "power green" mix and welted it with the quinoa.

Wednesday-Wild rice salad

Thursday-Saturday-Austin! We are being super classy and going to a football game for Thanksgiving, and probably eating BBQ

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Black bean and sweet potato chimigangas

Ok, do me a favor and just commit to trying this recipe before you judge the ingredients.

It is an odd ingredient list.

But these are amazing!

I promise.

Black bean and sweet potato chimigangas

1 can black beans, or about two cups cooked black beans
1/2 sweet onion
1 clove garlic-minced
1 sweet potato-finely diced
1 zucchini-peeled and diced
1 red pepper-diced
1 c. chopped spinach
1-3 t. chili powder (depending on how hot you like it)
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. paprika
1 t. salt
1/4 c. grated cheddar
1/4 c. grated peper jack
Whole Wheat tortillas
Salsa or guacamole or avocado dressing

Heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat in large skillet. Add onion, garlic and sweet potato. Cook about 5 minutes until onions are tender and sweet potatoes start to soften. Add zucchini, red pepper and spices continue cooking until all veggies are soft. Stir in beans and spinach, stir until spinach welts.

Heat tortillas, fill with about 1/4 c. of filling, top with a little cheese. Fold in two sides, then the other two sides to make a little envelop.

Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes until crispy.

Top with salsa and enjoy