December 19, 2016

choosing happiness

The last few months I have felt like all we do is wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, hang out and go to bed. It's been that every day slump that we've been stuck in. I'm so grateful for the holidays because it has taken us out of the slump and reminded us that we need to make a stronger effort to get out and enjoy life! We've been so blessed to have time and flexible schedules to hang out with friends and family. I recently changed my schedule at work so that now I am only working in the mornings. That's really opened my schedule up and given me the opportunity to serve in church and have time for others.

As I've mentioned before, living in California is no dream of mine. I enjoy open roads, trees (lots and lots of trees), corn fields and basically, just wide open spaces. Traffic, beaches, the hustle and bustle of California are things that I may never really adjust to. What I've come to realize recently, and yes, it's taken me a little while, is that I cannot control that right now! I have no control over those things that I don't like about living here. However, what I do have control over is my happiness. So, in realizing that, I've decided that I need to focus on the things that I can change and focusing on things that I do enjoy about living here. Can you even imagine how much happier I've been? I know, shocking. 


This weekend was such a blessing for me. I was able to spend some quality time with Ryan as we snuggled and watched Elf with hot cocoa and chocolate coated popcorn by our lit up Christmas tree. It sounds just as cozy as it was! I was able to visit some of the wonderful ladies I've been assigned to meet with once a month in church. It's called Visiting Teaching and it is truly amazing. I love it! We are given a companion, in which mine is a dear friend (and neighbor!) and we are assigned a few women in our congregation to visit with and check on. It's a great program and I feel the blessings from serving in that calling each month. 

I was blessed to have a girls day out with my sister-in-law and mother-in-law and my brother-in-law's girlfriend! We started the morning out early with breakfast at Swammi's. We went and got our nails done at a small little salon in Escondido and just talked and laughed and got to know each other better. It's so nice having new family members who are just built-in best friends. I wouldn't even say it's forced because we get along great and I love them so much! 


In the afternoon, Ryan took me to a concert in San Diego. For King & Country was playing at Rock Church and it was AMAZING. They are a Christian Rock Band started by two brothers from Australia. They are extremely talented musicians and have received two grammy awards! The concert was amazing and they were really connected with the audience. The whole band came into the audience to perform two songs and they had a great mix of Christmas songs and their original music. At first, they started by singing four Christmas songs in a row and I was about to freak out if I didn't hear some original music! But they eventually played some and the performance was amazing! 

I kicked off the evening with a ladies-only party held by a friend from church. We did the whole shebang with food, dessert, presents and mingling. It was a lot of fun and really good for me. The whole day was so busy but with all great stuff! 

Anyways... wow. I really went off topic. Basically I had the best weekend I've had in a really long time so it was worth going off topic for! Getting back to choosing happiness and whatnots, I was reading some material from our church website, lds.org, and was really touched by the words from our church leaders. President Erying, of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, "It is only through following the Savior that any of us can find peace and serenity in the trials that will come to all of us." 

No matter our circumstance, we can always choose to be happy. My mother-in-law is a beautiful example of this. She is faced with huge trials each day but through it all, she keeps a smile on her face and means it. She makes time to serve others around her and does it with sincerity. I admire her and her devotion to choosing her happiness. She isn't relying on someone to do it for her or her circumstances to define her happiness but rather, simply chooses without conditions, to be happy. 



No one can truly be perfect at choosing happiness. Like everything in life, we try, we fail and what we do from there is what truly defines us. Do we continue to get up and try again or do we stay on the ground and postpone our progression? That is what matters. No one or no thing can define our happiness. Just as President Eyring said, we can only find peace and serenity in the trials we face by following the Savior [and His teachings]. 

I hope each of us, especially as this new year approaches, finds a way to choose happiness everyday.

December 13, 2016

tips + tricks: diy holiday frame

Today I wanted to share with you one of the easiest DIY Christmas decoration ideas that I have ever come up with. Now, that's not to say that someone else in this very big world has also come up with this idea. Because I personally did not find this decoration on the internet but just from my own creative thinking, it makes me proud and happy to see my ideas come to life!


The Scrapbook Frame is simple, affordable and adorable! The whole idea of flipping my home upside-down for the holidays is overwhelming. Changing all the vases, putting up the tree, moving around my every-day-decor... just the thought of it gives me an anxious feeling! This decor craft is perfect for adding to your holiday or non-holiday decorating without the stress of money, time or even too much effort! 

I remember the moment this idea came to light. I was walking around Hobby Lobby in Edmond, Oklahoma when I was serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a Monday afternoon and I was walking through the scrapbooking aisles with my companion. Looking through the holiday papers, I kept thinking they looked like something you would find sold as decor in a store. They also remind me of designs you can find on different holiday crafts. I thought, these are pretty enough to put on my wall by themselves! 

Grabbing more than I needed, I took those 12x12 scrapbooking pages home to our apartment and thought about how I could display them for the holidays. Of course, it wouldn't be very pretty to just tape them onto the wall, so a 12x12 picture frame could liven it up and make it look much more expensive than it is! And that was that. I started to put scrapbooking papers in my 12x12 frames and put them on the walls or on a side table and I've loved the way it looks! It's amazing what you can find at the craft store for 35¢.


12x12 Frame With Matte Insert
(I get mine at Hobby Lobby or Michaels with the 40% off coupon)
Scrapbooking Paper of choice



 I will normally have paper in my frame, similar to what is shown above, during the rest of the year. There are scrapbooking papers for almost every type of design, color, theme and image. The thing I love most about this project is that there are only two items you need and it costs, on average, about $10-$12! If you are really getting into the simplicity of things, you could also dig around a few thrift stores and I'm sure you will be able to cut that price down in half. 

Crafting and DIYing is something I really enjoy. Challenging projects are ones that help me to improve my creative thinking and help gain more experience with crafting tools. However, when I think of or see an easy and simple craft, I jump right on it! What I love most about this scrapbooking frame is that there are so many different approaches you can take. You can decorate the sides of the frame, use a different matte behind the paper, etc. The more possibilities within a craft, the more fun! For example, these are the pages I used for Thanksgiving & Halloween!



So, experiment and play with different crafts - make them your own! That's what I try to do with these projects. Somehow it makes everything so much more enjoyable and rewarding.

December 7, 2016

christmas decorations

There are a lot of memories I have of my mother coming down stairs in our home in Indiana and she would ask, "...what are you doing, sweetie?" That was a question thrown around a lot while I was growing up. I would constantly be rearranging our living room, the office or my bedroom. Most of the time, without my mother's permission!

She was typically very kind about it and found it endearing to see this little 7-year-old body grunting as she pushed a 200+ lb. sofa across the living room. These habits grew as I got older and led me to study Interior Design at LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, UT. It's so interesting to look back and see how the things that you did as a child, reflect into whom you have become as an adult. 

My habit of moving things around a lot has been kicked down quite a bit since we moved into our apartment. The limited space doesn't allow me to do very much rearranging. To let out my inner OCD, I focus on changing the decor and going with the seasons. I love decorating and seeing how I change the colors or wall decor. 

This time of year makes decorating extra fun! Everyone has their own style and ideas on how to bring the Christmas Spirit into their home. For a long time, I liked decorating my teenage room with the traditional bright greens and reds. That felt like Christmas to me. It reminded me of visiting Santa, caroling and making Christmas cookies with my mom until midnight on Christmas Eve. 

As I've gotten older and my style has developed and changed, I really enjoy experimenting with different styles and colors. The dark reds and variations of greens look beautiful with gold, beige and white. I chose these colors not only because they are a more mature take on the traditional bright colors but in the tree light, I love how they warm up the room.


Eventually in our life, I would love to have a really nice nativity scene in our home. One of the Willow Tree ones would be so beautiful but right now, that is so out of our price range and we would have no where to place it. These nativities will do for now! 

The small one was a gift from my parents while I was on my mission. They sent it to me that Christmas and nothing made me happier than to have this sweet little nativity scene on my desk to look at every day. The larger one, I made while I was on my mission, that same Christmas! We had an activity at the church and painted our blocks and applied the vinyls. 

I chose to display these nativity scenes on our coffee table because they are the first things you see when you step into our home. The Christmas season is all about the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ and I wanted our decorating to be a reflection of that. 


This wreath was so simple and inexpensive to put together! Besides the cost of the actual wreath, it was only $4 for the materials. The flowers, pinecones and deer are from the Dollar Tree. I don't even care what people say about the Dollar stores - you find some amazing things in there! I made the "JOY" sign and the burlap you can buy anywhere but I got mine from Hobby Lobby. 

Wreaths haven't always been my favorite way to decorate however, coming home to this on our door brings an immediate smile to my face! The bright red totally contradicts what I said about the bright colors earlier but I made an exception for our door! You can do anything you want with a wreath. The possibilities are endless and I love that everyone can put their personal twist on theirs! 


 Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree 

What lights up a room and brings in the Christmas Spirit more than a beautiful Christmas tree?! Almost every night since we've put it up and decorated it, the lights in the apartment are turned off and those beautiful little lights around the tree get to make their debut!

Ryan and I decided to start a tradition for our little tree. Every year, we will get a new ornament that sums up our year or our marriage at that time. This year, we went out and found an adorable little wood ornament. I loved it at first sight mostly because the style is very me but once I really looked at it, I realized it was very us. I've had a hard time living here but Ryan has done everything in his power to make it my home. Regardless of how I feel living here, this is where we met, dated, got engaged, married and started our life together. California has truly grown on me and is now, my home.


These are not unique ideas on how to decorate your home... in fact, these are the most basic and traditional ways to do so but that's what I love about Interior Design. It's about what you want in your home... what makes you happy! I hope everyone has enjoyed bringing the Christmas Spirit into their home and decorating to their style.

November 30, 2016

memories worth treasuring

There is something about this time of year that makes me feel so warm and more aware of my blessings! I love the magical feeling that comes when I listen to Christmas music and how my tree lights up a dark room with such beauty. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

Thanksgiving was also wonderful this year! It was our first together as a married couple! Thanksgiving morning, we began our tradition by having french toast with candied bacon because there is no such thing as calories on a holiday, am I right?! We listened to Christmas music, talked about how much we loved the holidays and what our big plans were for the day.


We spent Thanksgiving day with my parents, one of my sisters, Darcie and my cousin, Ben. Friday was dedicated to Ryan's side with aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and of course, Oma & Opa. It was a lot of fun and I'm so grateful we have so much family close by to celebrate with! I sincerely miss my other siblings and nieces and nephews who live literally on the other side of the country but I love that we have FaceTime and texting to keep in contact and wish each other a happy holiday.


Watching my mom cook and prepare made me want to remember everything about her. I never want to forget her habits in the kitchen, or the wonderful smells she would create. I want to remember everything about now. I regret so much how little I paid attention to my Grandma Odom while she would be baking or cooking down in Pensacola, FL. I always loved eating her creations but because I was so young, I never thought to help her or to just visit with her in the kitchen.

This thought resonated with me all week long and made me remember that it's really what I do and who I am now that determines my future. I'm grateful for all the opportunities we have to grow, change and become better. I want to treasure everything about my life right now, who I am, who the people are around me, the love that is shown to me. It is all worth treasuring.


•••••

Decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving isn't something I'm too keen on doing however, this year, almost as soon as I could, I started to decorate! I waited until the week of Thanksgiving, at least ;) Growing up with cold winters and a white Christmas almost every year, celebrating the holidays in Southern California has been a huge adjustment. 

Decorating our little home has been a great way for me to feel the Christmas Spirit! We don't have everything decked-out but what we do have is enough. There are so many little things that we can do to make a huge difference. With limited space in an apartment, you have to become a little creative. Of course, the tree, ornaments and a nativity are classic ways to decorate but I try to find creative and affordable ways that are unique to me and my style.


I started with picking colors. A lot of people suggest going with deciding on a theme and colors but that is just so much to keep track of on my busy schedule so colors are what I can handle! I decided with gold, dark greens, white and nudes. It's not perfect but it is doing the trick for me.

With all my Christmas and holiday DIYs I've been working on, I've thought to start doing a Tips & Tricks Tuesday. Every Tuesday I will share a tip or a trick that I've learned or come up with. This month will focus on Christmas DIYs and gifts. This is also a really fun way for me to keep a record of the different projects I've been working on or achieved.

I am grateful for those of you who read my posts, even if there are only two or so, thank you! I love that I have a place to write and lay out all my thoughts and feelings. Have a wonderful week!

November 22, 2016

how i prepare for thanksgiving

Growing up, I loved Thanksgiving because my mom would make her homemade yeast rolls and I was in charge of the chocolate pudding pie. My sister, Darcie, makes delicious vegan gravy and my cousin, Ben, whips together amazingly creamy mashed potatoes. 

Thanksgiving was always about the food. Don't get me wrong, it is still a huge part of why I love that day but the meaning of Thanksgiving has become more significant to me these past couple of years.

I love that we have an opportunity to be with family and friends. To reflect on the things that matter most to us. Family, friends, our home, bed, food, nature, the Gospel... these may be the "clich├ęs" but they are the first things that come to mind when listing my gratitude. That quality time and reflection has become what Thanksgiving is all about for me.


Similar to every important event in our lives, we prepare. I have found that preparing not only physically but also mentally and emotionally for Thanksgiving is essential for making it a valuable and memorable day!


Keeping in contact with loved ones is actually a huge challenge of mine. This time of year I make a special effort to make phone calls, quick visits or send letters to friends and family. Even with that special effort, I still am not perfect, by any means. 

However, when I do make the one phone call or write that one letter, it feels so good. I imagine, and hope, it makes that other person feel my love and gratitude for them.


My husband has such a big heart. That has to be the number one thing that made me fall in love with him. He is constantly looking for ways to serve and usually jumps at the opportunity. Whether that is helping someone with their car, cleaning our church building or helping me around our home, he shows me the importance of service. 


Giving a little of our time, effort or talents can make such a difference. It never matters whether it is great or small. It never matters if we are thanked or given a reward. It does matter that we are a little less selfish and a little more aware of those around us. It does matter because even if it goes unnoticed, we are becoming just a little... better.


All my life, I've been taught that traditions are important. I still, to this day, don't fully know why we, as a society, make traditions. Maybe to hold on to family values and culture. Maybe to have something more to look forward to. Whatever the case, I find traditions wonderful because no matter where I am, if I am with those that I love and upholding some of those traditions we've created, I feel at home.

My all-time favorite tradition in our family is the traditional, going around the table and sharing what we are grateful for. It warms the room to hear each person express their love for others and take account of what has been given to them.

•••••

Before the commotion of Christmas and Black Friday (which is really just becoming Thursday night)... let us all remember what we are grateful for. Let us all take a look around us and remember we are loved, cared for and wanted.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful holiday with family and friends.

November 17, 2016

Spinach & Ricotta Shells



Thanksgiving is only one week away and I cannot believe it! Ever since Halloween passed, every day goes so quickly and the holidays are zooming by. With all this holiday buzz, I've seen so many recipes for Thanksgiving foods. Don't get me wrong, I love me some homemade pie and loaded mashed potatoes but I've been craving foods outside of that category. 

Any time someone asks me what my favorite food is, I usually say pasta. I love all kinds of pasta but especially ones with a lot of cheese! Hey, they never specify on the nutritional value ;) When I was living at home before I got married, my mom always had a really fancy, homemade dinner planned for Sunday evenings. When she would make her spinach and ricotta shells, I would drool watching her stuff them!

I have been playing with my own recipe and this one is extremely husband approved! We ate all of it in two days so here is the recipe for you to enjoy it with your family as well.


18 Jumbo Size Pasta Shells

3 Garlic Cloves, Minced

1/2 lb. Ground Beef

3/4 Jar of Pasta Sauce (I generally use Kroger Brand, Parmesan & Romano) 

1 1/4 Tablespoon Olive Oil 

3 Cups Fresh Spinach Leaves 

15 oz. Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

1 1/4 Cup Shredded Skim Milk Mozzarella Cheese

1/2 Cup Grated Shredded Cheese

1 Large Egg

1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning

2 Tsp Kosher Salt

1 Tsp Black Pepper

*These prices are dependent on your location, taxes and grocery store choice. I shop at Walmart or Ralphs and these prices are based off of the California 8% tax. 


Preheat your oven to 375°F. Cook jumbo shells according to the directions on your box. Drain and set noodles aside. Meanwhile, prepare the ground beef. Drain grease and stir in pasta sauce. Warm up over low heat.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Toss in minced garlic and stir frequently to prevent burning. Once garlic is a nice, golden brown, begin to prepare your spinach leaves over the garlic. You will only want to keep them in the skillet for 2-3 minutes, with occasional stirring. 

In a medium bowl, prepare the shells stuffing by adding cheeses, egg, seasonings, spinach and garlic. Stir together until thoroughly mixed.

Grease an 8x10 casserole dish with either butter or spray. Lay down a little less than half of your beef pasta sauce in the dish. One by one, stuff each of your cooked jumbo shells with your stuffing. 


Give each a generous amount! Lay them down on top of your sauce.

Spread the remainder of your sauce on top of the shells and sprinkle a little mozzarella or parmesan as well. I added some more pepper and salt on top, but that is optional!


Cover your dish with tinfoil and bake for about 20-25 minutes. If you would like it to be a little darker on top, take off tinfoil after those 25 minutes and bake for another 10 minutes.



This recipe was inspired by many that I have found but is one that I personally experimented with and enjoyed these measurements. When I share recipes, I always encourage people to experiment with different seasonings, ingredients and styles to cater to your own likes or dislikes!
I served this with a Romaine, Caesar Salad and Garlic Toast. One thing that I loved about this meal was not only is it filling but it can last up to six meals for two people!
I hope you enjoyed today's post and take a stab at this recipe! 


[ The total price of this meal was about $9 ]







November 13, 2016

Giving In Gratitude

I absolutely love Thanksgiving! I love the food, being with family, pie and my mom's homemade rolls. Overall, I love what Thanksgiving is really about. When you type into Google, "definition of Thanksgiving", the first definition is: "The expression of gratitude, especially to God." 

I am a young woman advisor for the Laurels in our church, which is class of 16 to 18-year-old girls. One of my responsibilities as an advisor, is to get to know them and help with the different things that they are challenged with at this transitional age. After weeks of preparation, I hosted a little fall activity in our apartment for these young woman!

Our fall activity was all about giving and being thankful. I wanted them to really think about the importance of giving and being grateful to God and to those in their life for the things they are blessed with. We made two DIY crafts that are great for giving to those that you are grateful for and just in time for Thanksgiving! 





You Will Need:
4 oz. Canning Jar
1/2 Cup Unscented Epsom Salt 
1/4 Teaspoon Vegetable Oil
1/2 Teaspoon of an Extract or Essential Oil
(Optional) Food Coloring

Side Note: I really enjoyed using Peppermint or Coconut Extract

Instructions:

1. Mix together Epsom Salt and Vegetable Oil.
2. Stir in your choice of scent and ensure that it is completely mixed together.
3. Mix in your choice of food coloring until the desired color. I don't suggest using too much! 
4. Poor and pack into your canning jar. Keep it sealed tight when not in use.
5. Relax and enjoy!


The thing I loved the most about this gift is that it's easy to give without packaging, baths are amazing and most of all, it was extremely easy to make! I love that you can make it your own with the different choices of scents and colors.


You Will Need:

1 qt. Wide Canning Jar
Chex Mix, Traditional Flavor
Peanut Butter M&Ms
Mini Pretzels
Roasted and Salted Peanuts
Candy Corn

Side Note: These are all optional. This is another great DIY project to do in big groups because you can choose whatever ingredients you would like. Chex Mix is a great base for your mix.


Instructions:

It's really hard. Prepare yourself.
1. Choose the amount of each ingredient you would like and throw it into the jar.
2. Eat it and enjoy! 


I encouraged the girls to write notes of gratitude to whomever they would be giving their gifts to. It was fun to watch them as they pondered who they wanted to share this gift with and even more when they were thinking of why they were grateful. These girls are great and I'm so happy to know them and be their leader! :)


•••••

Immediately following this activity, Ryan and I went with some friends to Ocotillo Wells. It's pretty much just desert in North East San Diego. We set up tents, a fire and enjoyed the amazing weather, stars and each others company.

It's been a long time since I was able to watch the sunrise. This morning, we woke up around 5:30 and watched that beautiful, bright sun come up. It was a much needed mini vacation for all of us! 

November 9, 2016

Breakfast Wheel

I come from a family of Southerners. My parents grew up in Pensacola, FL where we go to visit almost every summer since I can remember. My Grandma Odom was, and still is, known for her homestyle, southern inspired cookin'. I'm fairly certain that KFC came up with their slogan, "Finger Lickin' Good", from eating Gramma's Sunday suppers because they were just that.


My mom is an amazing cook and baker. She's completely self-taught and shared her skills with most of my siblings and I. I've always loved her meals and like I've said before, she instilled in me the importance of sitting as a family for dinners. I've made a really strong effort to make sure that I have dinner on the table when Ryan gets home from work and they have almost all been homemade. I feel I deserve bragging rights because this is something I've worked extremely hard on!


I use so many recipes that have been given to me by family and friends but my go-to has been Pinterest. I started a few different boards that are related to food including "What's For Dinner" and "My Guilty Pleasures". 

Because I have been relying so much on the vast amounts of recipes that people are sharing from all over the globe, I decided to start keeping track of which ones I found to be successful! If you would like to see all the recipes, check out my Pinterest profile.


One thing that I've loved about doing this documentation and research is that I often find recipes that are easy to work with. From there, I can use that as a reference but play with my own seasonings and ingredients to make it my own. 

Tonight I am sharing one of my very first Pinterest meal attempts that went really well! It's been a huge hit and I continue to make it from time to time. I call it a Breakfast Wheel but Pillsbury calls it, "Bacon, Egg and Cheese Brunch Ring". 

These are my own pictures (all but one). I originally got the recipe here!



4 slices of bacon - cut in half crosswise

1/2 lb. mild sausage

1/3 cup (+ a little splash more) milk 

4 eggs whisked

Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

1/4 cup chopped red & green bell pepper

1/4 cup of chopped onion

1 can (8 oz.) Pillsbury™ refrigerated crescent dinner rolls (you really want to get the good stuff - it makes a huge difference in not only taste, but size of the cut-out dough)

2/3 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (or any other type of cheese you may enjoy!)

1 cup Pace Chunky salsa, if desired, for dipping

1 cup sour cream, if desired, for dipping


Preheat your oven to 350°F. Prepare a cookie sheet or pizza pan with parchment paper. In a skillet, cook the bacon. In a separate skillet, prepare the sausage. Set meat aside and drain the grease.

Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to a skillet. (I know we're using a lot skillets here, so wash as you go!)  Prepare the bell peppers and onions over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook over medium heat. Set aside.

 Whisk together the milk and eggs in a medium bowl. Add seasonings to taste. Cook eggs over medium heat, allowing them to set between each stir. Avoid over-stirring. 

Unroll your dough and place on baking sheet and arrange the eight triangles into a sun shape. Meaning, shortest side of the triangle towards the center, overlapping each triangle with the next. 

Press into each other enough to allow it to bake together but not so much that you have flat dough.



You'll begin layering your ingredients by putting them into the wheel shape, keeping it on the thickest part of the dough. Place your halved bacon on each triangle. Sprinkle about half of your cheese on top of the bacon. Add your eggs, onions, peppers and sausage. 

It may be helpful to mix these last 4 together in a medium bowl before placing them. I didn't find it too difficult but this is helpful if it is challenging for you to keep it from falling all over the sheet. 

Sprinkle your remaining cheese before creating your wheel. Pull the points of the triangles over your layering masterpiece and tuck them in to form the Breakfast Wheel. 

Optional: Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush it over the top of your wheel.  


Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a golden brown. I like my dough slightly undone, so I usually stick to about 20 minutes. 

Make sure to allow it to cool for at least 2 minutes. I know, it's tough to sit through those amazing smells for 120 seconds!

Serve with salsa and sour cream, if desired!



I will be sharing a recipe that I found successful either through Pinterest or my own recipes, at least once a month! I hope this one goes well for you and you enjoy this delicious meal with friends and family :)