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 :)



November 6, 2016

a thankful heart: relying on gratitude

I have a friend, Aleigh Joy Moore, who has a wonderful blog. I've loved reading it since I met her back in 2012 while she was still waiting for her now husband, to return home from his mission in Ohio. She's been doing the A Thankful Heart Series for a few years in which she invites each of us to reflect on the many things we are grateful for, in honor of the month of giving and thanking. 

She says on her latest post, "Three years ago I decided to do a series of posts during the month of November about all the simple joys in life that I am genuinely so very thankful for. 
Each week, on Sunday, I would post a few things that made my heart feel that much more full.
It could be something as small as the meal I ate the night before or as big as my faith and family. Either way, it reminded me of the many blessings I have been given and somehow my days felt brighter and my heart felt happier."


I've decided to join the fun and every Sunday this month, I will share a few things in which I am grateful for. Thank you Aleigh for such a wonderful idea and motivating me (and everyone) to focus on what matters most.


I love Sundays. They are so great for my mental and emotional health to go and be with a congregation of people who believe in the same things are that are trying to make it through trials, just as I am. It's an amazing feeling when you can be uplifted and then come home, put your PJs on and eat junk food. It's a really beautiful and necessary thing!

More importantly, I love Sundays because I can focus on the blessing it is to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my life. It brings me so much joy, when I utilize it's power to provide me with hope, happiness and peace.


It may be extremely cliche to put that as my number one. However, when I sit down and think what I am thankful for, almost every single time, I immediately think about my Savior, Jesus Christ, and this gospel he has provided me with. 

I love that I can turn to my Father in Heaven in prayer and know in my heart, that He is listening... that He knows me by name and before I can even say anything, He knows my sorrows, trials, joys and feelings. What an amazing blessing that is and I am so grateful for it!


When Ryan & I had been married for about a month, he ran upstairs to our bedroom and said, "I have a surprise for you!" I really never know what to expect when he says that but this time he really meant it! Waiting downstairs on the patio, was a Diet Coke, some sort of candy bar and a red cactus. 

Normally, Ryan would bring me flowers but he said that he couldn't find any that he liked for me and so he settled for the red cactus. At first, I was a little surprised but very quickly fell in love with this little red guy! I went out the next day to buy a planter and ended up buying some succulents and now we have quite a few to fill the area by our front door! 


I absolutely love looking at my little red cactus and her succulent friends. It makes me so happy to see something grow and stay alive. Remembering to water it is not much of a challenge since they require little to no water per week! 

I'm grateful that there are so many beautiful things on this earth that we can enjoy. I'm grateful for vibrant colors that bring me so much happiness and of course, for a wonderful husband who bought me a single red cactus. 


Ever since I can remember, there were always amazing smells of homemade bread, no-bake cookies & home cooked meals on the table. My mother is a fabulous cook, baker & person. She taught me so much about the importance of sitting as a family for dinner. She did her best (and still does) to provide an amazing, homemade meal.

Fresh into our engagement, I was daydreaming about the meals I would make for Ryan and the dessert recipes I would try to conquer. Much to my surprise, I have done just that! I try really hard to have a homemade meal every night with the exception of the occasion night out or "it's been a crazy day. I'm ordering pizza!"


Ryan makes this noice like an, "mmmhmm!!!!" real deep and loud that always reassures me that it was a good dinner :)

Discovering my talents is something I have been impressed to work on. To make sure I'm taking care of myself emotionally and mentally by keeping hobbies and constantly looking to where I can improve. It's such a blessing that each of us have our own talents and gifts. 

•••••

If you would like to learn more about Thankful Heart Series, check out the link above. Thank you for reading!

November 2, 2016

fullertons in the making: the beginning

Hello world! Well, at least a small part of the world ;) Today is November 2nd, 2016. I've started 3 blogs before today and never kept up with any of them. One about baking, one about my adventures in 2012 and one about my interior design career. I either gave up to quickly to even start or had quite a few posts and eventually died out of the habit of posting. 

Well, today, on November 2nd, I've decided that because there has been so much change and happiness in my life lately, it's time to commit and share! I'm not an extra-ordinary girl or have amazing adventures every day to share but this blog isn't for others as much as it is for me. For me to talk about marriage, trying new things, struggling with bills, wanting a baby (!!!) and other things that happen when you begin adulthood. 

Five months ago this next week, I was married to my best friend of four years. We were sealed in the San Diego California Temple on June 10 and every moment of that day was magical.


 As we go through the blog, I'll share much more about us, how we met and how we got where we are today! So far, I have absolutely loved being married! It's a new challenge every day with getting to know new little things about each other and keeping up with the many household chores. Ever since I was young, I always fantasized about my future husband. What he would look like, the things he would say, the many flowers he would bring me after a long day of work. My expectations were always high and still are in some ways but my sweet husband lives up to them as much as he can! 

There have been so many times where we have fought about some really ridiculous things but in the end, how we resolve it, really shows how strong our relationship is. I'm not saying that we scream or throw things, not even close, but like every couple, we occasionally have little tiffs and arguments. It's totally normal and such a big part of the first few months, or years, of marriage. 

Recently, I've seen or heard about many couples getting divorced because of that exact reason: they fight too often and they are no longer happy. I can't say that every relationship is the same, because they are not, but I feel so much for these couples. A few had only given their marriage 10-12 months until they finally decided it was no longer what they wanted. Too often we stray away from the idea of counseling or outside help. We simply give up. It's kind of part of our natural man. I often think, what would have changed for these couples if they had given it a shot? Again, I am not saying that everyone is the same. Especially in the instances where abuse or adultery take place. I've just learned, in the short amount of time I've been married and from watching my parents whom have been married for 42 years, that marriage is hard work.




Just like everything else in life, marriage will not come easily. Sure, is it easy to help around the house? Is it easy to tell your spouse you love them? Of course! What isn't easy is when we disagree, misunderstand and are impatient. My wonderful mother-in-law has recently been saying (I'm totally paraphrasing here!), that who we truly are is defined by the way we react to the challenges of life. Isn't that true? That has resonated with me when I begin to grow impatient with my husband or feel my misunderstanding growing into anger. I'm not a perfect preacher of these things but they are things that I believe are true! 

Marriage is hard. I will never pretend that it's easy for us or make you believe that our life is perfect. It is certainly not. But I strongly believe in the potential for it to become perfect in the next life as I try my hardest and my husband does equally. Now that that rant is out of the way, welcome to my blog! My next adventure. Not sure what'll happen. It'll probably be boring at times but isn't that what life's all about?