Friday, November 16, 2012

Molasses Cookies--An Autumn Tradition


Much of the excitement I feel about the changing seasons is influenced by our family's food traditions--the smells, the sights, the textures and colors--and obviously the tastes.

Last year I posted about my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread--and it is definitely a culinary herald of Autumn for our family.  Another are these cookies.

They look very brown and humble, I know--but they are delicious.  If you think you don't like gingerbread ("Too spicy!  Too...whatever!"), try these.  I promise you won't be disappointed.  Plus they make your house smell like it's just been smacked with an Autumn goodness the best possible sense :).

Molasses Ginger Cookies

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil or 3/4 cups butter (I used 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup coconut oil, but usually use butter)
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups unbleached flour (I usually use 1/2 whole wheat, but went decadently all-white this time)
4 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt (I use Kosher because I prefer the little salty crunch, but normal table salt is fine)
1 Tbsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Cream together butter or oil and sugar.  Add eggs and molasses and stir until combined. Stir in dry ingredients until they are evenly mixed in.  Chill dough for one hour.  Scoop out (I use about 1 oz of dough) and roll dough into balls, then roll in the extra granulated sugar.  Bake on 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, or until they are starting to get a little more brownish golden on the top.  Let them sit on the cookie sheet for another 10 or so minutes to firm up, then put on a rack to cool.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Work Day

One of my friends and I have a kind of funny tradition, but one that we really enjoy.  It is called "Work Day."

We get together for three or so hours and work.  We alternate whose project gets top billing, and then just go to town together.

We have done glamorous things, like these pillows for her to-die-for living room...

I donated the plaid fabric, and she bought the rest.  I did most of the sewing, and she watched my kids for me.  It was so fun to work with such pretty materials--ball fringe and ric-rac are both weaknesses of mine.  

We also had fun putting together the gallery wall for my living room:


We've also done some not-so-glamorous projects, like cleaning out her son's bedroom.  It was nice to know, as I unearthed all sorts of crazy stuff, that I am not the only one with a semi-disgusting, baffling, yet ultimately love-able 14-year-old boy :).  

Either way, it's more fun to do work (and I am less likely to get Decorating ADHD) when I am doing it with a friend.  

We've both had a couple months of craziness, and I've missed the excuse for productivity and companionship.  

It's time for work day again.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mental Health Prescription #1: Nuture Your Spirit

Disclaimer: This is an unabashedly Christian, religious post.  If that is not your cup of tea, happily skip it and come back in a few weeks for a more general post :).  I would also be interested in any comments about what you do to nurture your spirit in your own way.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  I hope that's not really true. Because I have good intentions to blog, and I often post something that alludes to a future post as though it's immediately forthcoming, and then wait months before I do anything about it.

However, like most good things that I procrastinate, I get to them eventually.  Thus, here we are.

After my last post, I've been continuing to work on becoming happier.  At the center of this effort has been doing what I need to do spiritually so that Jesus can help heal my heart and open my eyes to the joy in my life.

For most of my life, I've thought that Jesus' sacrifice was mostly for sinners and for big sins--you know, the "big 10" :).  I knew theoretically that I, like everyone else, was by definition a sinner and that I thus needed his atonement.  I believed that his sacrifice was necessary and that he loved me, but because I was defining sin so narrowly and not sinning in super visible and traditional ways, I often struggled with understanding how Jesus fit into MY life.  So I consequently kind of did my own thing.  I was living my life like I was a spy on a covert operation in deep cover, trying hard to fulfill my mission but not checking in with headquarters very often. 

However, there were huge, difficult parts of my life that I found overwhelming--things like depression/discouragement, personal weaknesses, disappointments, frustrations, fear, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, difficult relationships.  But since most of these things didn't seem to fall under the "sin" category, I just soldiered on, praying for God's help but not really taking the time to understand how he could help me with these burdens.

Part of my problem was too much humility, and part of it was too much pride.  Too much humility because I would think that I don't deserve to ask the Savior for help with my "First World Problems" when there are people with really terrible problems out there.  I felt like I just needed to stop whining and buck up.  Too much pride made me think that I was doing just fine on my own, thankyouverymuch--what could Jesus do for me, anyway?  Either way, it was a lack of faith and lack of understanding about Christ's role in my life.

 However, several months of protracted stresses and sadnesses earlier this year softened my heart to the idea that I couldn't do my life, any of it, the way I'd been trying to do it.  I couldn't do it on my own.  I tried at first to do lots of other things to cope with that helpless feeling--shop, eat (bad idea), exercise, distract myself with computer stuff, talk it out with people who love me.  All of these can be or should be part of a healthy life, but they don't get at the core of life's problems on their own.  My search to find something--anything!--to help me feel better makes me think that most of the sins we silly humans commit or the addictions we may have are often just imbalanced attempts to find the peace that only comes through God. 

In desperation, I started to realize that despite church-going and serving, I needed to learn how to truly "come unto Jesus" one-on-one.  It's not that I haven't felt his love and help throughout my life, but I definitely felt like I had lost that easy connection with him over the last few years.  My reaction when things have been difficult has been to turn inward rather than turning towards him.

I started to study the scriptures and other books about the Atonement with a new intensity.  I read conversion stories of people in the Bible and Book of Mormon and was reminded that Jesus came to heal us in every way.  Anything that weakens us, or saddens us, or hurts us, or separates us from him is on the table.  If he can heal Paul, or Peter, or the woman in the New Testament who had been bleeding for years, or Alma or Enos--he can heal me, too.  Completely.  Miraculously.  Graciously.

In order to be able to access the Savior's healing power, however, I've had to get some of my own ducks in a row. The process has involved first learning more about who Jesus is and how he helps us.  I have a feeling that this learning will be a life-long process.  I then had to do some serious soul-searching to figure out what I need help with (what are the REAL problems?), which is not as easy as it sounds.  Lots of the things we think are the problems, are really just symptoms.  The last step is to humbly ask for his will and his help in that thing and open my heart to his help, guidance and blessings.  This has been hard for me--both to pay enough attention to recognize my needs and weaknesses and then to ask for help.   

The good news is that this process works.  It is repentance.  I know that this is why Jesus came here to earth--to allow all who are willing to come unto him and be healed from all their infirmities, again and again.  Jesus is real, and his love and power has transformed my heart the last few weeks from ingratitude and despair to joy and thankfulness.  My life isn't miraculously easy for me all of a sudden, but I feel like my burden of sadness has really been lifted.  And that feels very, very good.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

My Mental Health Sabbatical

So, I feel that something of an explanation is in order for my sudden three-month sabbatical from the world of blogging.  I've deliberated about whether I wanted to go into this in such a public forum, but I feel like it might be something that helps other parents, and especially Moms, out there.  So here goes.

I haven't been blogging because frankly, I've been pretty miserable for the last few months.  Not quite every day miserable, but more days miserable than not miserable.  Crying multiple times in a day several days a week.  Feeling irrationally angry and out of control.  Trying to put on a normal face when I'm feeling anything-but inside.

And I am telling you, this is not a nice way to live.

It is hard for me to understand why I have been so sad.  After all, I know enough about life and the greater world to know that I live a pretty stinking charmed life.  I know I do.  I can see all my blessings laid out in a neat line and recognize how lucky I am.

I have a truly good husband who loves me despite my imperfections and who makes me laugh. I have six beautiful kids who fill me with swelling pride on a regular basis both for their accomplishments and for their characters.  We are doing well financially.  I have a spiritual life that brings me peace.  I feel like I have all the things that really matter.

But somehow, knowing that you are blessed and ought to be happy and feeling happy and blessed are two different things.  Sometimes counting your blessings actually makes you feel worse when you are sad, because you have to add "ungrateful" to your list of reasons to feel bad about yourself :).

Now, I find that I have two choices when I am stuck in a rut: stay there, or start analyzing things to figure out how to get out.  How did I get in this rut?  What do I need that I am not currently getting?  What situations made me fall there in the first place?

I always find it interesting that when I am feeling down that other people's advice tends to be along the lines of "Take some time for yourself..."  I get that I need time for myself, but people say this as though shopping or manicures can solve real problems and real sadness.  I really do like shopping and even manicures as much as the next woman, but they don't solve problems of the soul.

However (and at risk of sounding too brightly optimistic when I am at best only tentatively so), I've figured out a few things I need to do that have helped me to start to claw myself out of this pit.  To be a happy person and a happy mom, this is what has been lacking:

  • Create order.  Have a system in place that creates better order in our home and in my life.  In short, be more organized and make sure my kids do their share.
  • Exercise regularly.  I have often figured that if I don't mind not looking like a super-model, that regular exercise beyond the demands of being an active mom was optional.  I do not think I am in any danger of looking like a super model any time soon (more's the pity), but I am learning that if I don't exercise for a few days, I get grumpy.  Who knew :)?
  • Feed my spirit daily through prayer, scripture/inspirational reading and thoughtful contemplation and journalling.  I can nearly always trace a horrible day (or week) back to a failure to do these things.
  • Check my expectations, and keep them in check.  Like a lot of at-home moms, I seem to think that I should be able to do everything right now--brilliant kids, beautiful home, perfect marriage, wonderful food, worthwhile volunteering, time to develop personal talents and career, etc.  Well, surprise--I can't do all of it, all the time--and that is absolutely normal and fine.  Keeping my expectations low seems like a lame cop-out, but it actually makes me happier with myself and my kids.
  • Let myself feel what I feel, and figure out how to healthfully process my emotions.  I need to be unafraid to be real with myself and with others, instead of trying to pretend that everything is fine when it isn't.  When I do that, I stuff all the negative stuff, let it build up and then it comes out in ugly and inopportune ways.  
  • Let go of perfectionism. Bottom line, the reason I even want to maintain a facade of perfectionism is due to unhealthy pride.  I like to be self-sufficient, and that is good.  But it is other people's realness that draws us to them, not their perfectionistic facade, and trying to pretend you aren't sad or that you aren't struggling is like trying to pretend you aren't drowning--it doesn't work.
I am still taking it one day at a time, corny as it sounds, but I can cautiously say that I'm starting to feel better.  It feels so very good to enjoy things again and have more of a sense of humor about life's downs.  I'm going to blog a little more about each of the things that have been helping me over the next few weeks. 

How about you?  What do you do when you find yourself stuck in the pit of despair*?                           * Princess Bride reference intended :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Night Must-See T.V.

My eyes have been glued to my T.V. screen every Friday night for the last few weeks.  That is unlike me, because with the exception of "Downton Abbey",  I can't think of many shows that qualify as must-see T.V. for me.

The reason for my interest is admittedly biased.  My little brother is on T.V. !  It is true.  He is one of the cast of a new reality TV series called "Bering Sea Gold" on the Discovery channel. 

Like most reality T.V. shows, there is plenty of drama and conflict.  There are some rascally characters who have a hard time keeping their language family-friendly.  So I recommend it with those caveats.

The weird thing about having someone you know really well on television is that it should feel really weird, but it doesn't.  At least not to me.   Maybe that's because I love and respect Ian so much.  For once, someone who is actually a good person can be quasi-famous.

Which is not to say that anyone has shown any interest in keeping up with our family anytime soon--which is a good thing.  Unlike my brave brother, my idea of hell would be to have someone filming my life for weeks at a time.  I have too many moments I'm not proud of.

I am proud of him--not so much for being on T.V., but for being secure enough with himself to let all of America into his life--the good, the bad and the ugly.  He didn't do so lightly.  He has been  a little worried, hoping that the way he was portrayed on the show would accurately reflect the Christ-like person he is trying to become.  That speaks volumes about the kind of man he is.  

Although to be honest, as a big sister, I somehow always remember him as a little kid (he's the one on the far right in the picture below).  You've gotta have someone keeping you humble, right? :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Busy, Busy, Bathroom

We are busy, busy, as usual.  We also started having our master bathroom remodeled this week.  I wish I could brag that it is me and my husband sweating it out, but I have to admit that we have hired a contractor and it is nice knowing it will be done soon, with minimal stress on our parts, other than enduring the noise and mess that comes with remodeling.

So I've been able to concentrate on the fun part: the design.  I want to feel like I stepped into a sunny day at the beach every time I go in my bathroom.  I also want a more contemporary look than I normally go for.  I just like a bathroom to feel (and hopefully be) clean.  Here are some inspiration photos I pinned:

I love the look of the marble with the warm brown of the vanity.
Via Decorpad

Lovely color scheme--like the warmth of the wood with the blue and marble
via Google Images

Good mix of modern and cottage
I love the open vanity and beachy feel.  

love this silver travertine for a shower
Love the outdoor tropical shower

Here is a sneek peek of what we are doing:

Shower tile (Silver vein-cut travertine for $3/square foot from Craigslist)

Floor tile (Grey limestone, $4 a square foot, another Craigslist find)
beautiful grey floor tile

Vanity--just waiting for cute baskets of towels, etc., on the bottom:
Zoomed: allen + roth 36" Brown Espresso Hagen Bath Vanity with Top

Nice modern showerhead

Paint Color:


Right now we have a hole in our kitchen ceiling, and everything in our bathroom is gone except the floors and the wall.  We had our rusty, galvanized pipes replaced as well, and we are loving the water pressure in our one working shower.  They installed the Hardiboard in the shower, and we are now living in a house that looks basically normal except for the light coating of drywall dust that has settled over everything.  I never thought I'd say it, but I just really want to be able to clean my house....  Right now, there is no point.

But man, am I glad that we can afford to remodel our bathroom right now.  It is going to function and look sooooo much better.  I'll post some more progress pictures in a few days.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Coin "Tiled" Mirror Frame

During our snow days a few weeks ago, I finished a project that I've been planning to do for a while.

Several months ago, I bought an IKEA mirror at the Goodwill.  It looks something like the one below, except with a completely flat frame.  When I bought it, it was turquoise, which although lovely, was a bit brighter than what I wanted.  So I spray painted it antique gold, then lightly with a silvery champagne color and hung it up.  I've been wanting to bring more silvery tones into my living room, but it just didn't look good.  I liked the shape, but not the color.  Also, the flat frame just looked too contemporary for my shabby chic/junk market/aspiring Miss Mustard Seed-style living room.  So I left it on the wall and just felt cranky and confused whenever I looked at it :).
SONGE Mirror, silver color Diameter: 28 3/8 "  Diameter: 72 cm
One day, one of my friends, Genevieve, hemmed and hawed, finally summoning up her courage to tell me: "Uh--promise you won't be offended--but I think that mirror doesn't look so good there..." We do decorating projects together and bounce ideas off each other all the time, so this wasn't completely out of the blue, but it was pretty bold of her to say.

I laughed in surprise--I wasn't at all offended, and we we brainstormed about what to do with the mirror.  Then Genevieve, genius that she is, reminded me of my plan to do a table top of international money something like the penny counter I had pinned a few months ago.  What about putting the money on the frame?


 I knew this was a good plan instantly.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  By the way, this technique would work on any other flat surface (picture frame? small table? etc.?) you want to cover with coins.  The guy at used resin and a framed counter, but I knew I didn't have the time to do a project that was quite that intense/messy/smelly/required somehow adding a lip to contain the resin all around the edge of a round mirror.  

So I went with what I had on hand (or could borrow from Genevieve).  I absolutely loved how it turned out.  

Pretty cool-looking, right?  Despite the lame pictures?  I need to invest in some better equipment for taking low-light interior photographs in Washington. A light scoop?  A tripod?  (Gulp) a different lens?  I am not exactly experiencing sun-drenched rooms this winter.

Anyway, technical difficulties and insecurities aside, here is the tutorial:

Other than a surface to decorate (flat mirror frame?  picture frame? etc.?), you'll need:

  • Silicone adhesive (I used Dap Clear Silicone Rubber Sealant)Mod Podge CS11245 8-Ounce Glue, Hard Coat
  • Modgepodge Hard Coat
  • Foam brush
  • Lots and lots of coins (more than you think you'll need--I was literally raiding my kids' piggy banks--I did pay them back, don't worry...)
Step 1.  Arrange your money on the surface in whatever way pleases you.  I kind of sprinkled all the international money evenly around, making sure to make the silver/copper balance roughly even, then filled in with American money.  Incidentally, I put all the American money heads down unless it had a year that was significant to our family (birth years, year my husband were married, years we graduated from high school, etc.).  My kids liked helping me find coins that had special years on them.

Step 2.  After you have it all arranged to your satisfaction, start using the adhesive to stick the coins on.  You might experiment with how much sealant you need.  I found about a pea-sized dollop was about right for a dime--more for larger coins.  Do all the coins.  It took me about two hours to do all of mine spaced out over a day or so.

Step 3.  When you think you are done, pick up your frame and turn it upright.  If you are like me, a few coins will fall down because you forgot to glue them.  Better to find this out later than never.

Step 4a.  Let the sealant dry.  I left it overnight just to be safe.  Then break out your Modge Podge Hard Coat and foam brush.  Brush a generous coat over the top and between the coins.  Don't worry if it looks a bit gloppy (see picture below).  It will dry just fine (see other pic below).  Just spread it all out there.  I was a little conservative around the edges, though--I didn't want any drips.

Step 4b.  Let the first coat dry completely.  Then add two more coats, letting them dry thoroughly between coats.  Voila!  You will be done and have a unique, valuable (har har) home accessory to be proud of.

A few braggy pictures:



Let me know if you try this technique.  I'd love to hear how your project turns out!

I'm linking up to:
Home Stories A2Z

Not Just a Housewife's Show Me What Ya Got

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Portland Getaway

Hello one and all,

The snow melted--and just in time.  We've had a weekend getaway to Portland planned for a few months, and were hoping/praying for clear roads.

Aaron's been hankering (yes, hankering) to see Jimmer Ferdette play some basketball in the pros, and since Seattle doesn't have a pro team anymore (sniff, sniff), the Portland Trailblazers are the closest we can get.  We stayed over night at a hotel downtown (thank you, Hotwire).  The kids loved swimming in the pool Monday morning.

We had a great day eating at some fun restaurants, shopping a little and doing some fun things for the kids.  Aaron and the kids went to the game with his brother and our nephew, and Lucy and I went to Target (a pitiful lack of imagination, I know) and picked them up when it was over.

All in all, a great little mini getaway.  And I've got the pictures to prove it :).

Sawyer didn't want to come in the pool at all.  Here Sophie is trying to convince him that the water's fine...

He had a great time throwing the ball around and lurking poolside. We probably need to get this kid some more swimming lessons.  He needs to feel the fear and swim anyway :).

 Lukas in midflight.  Most of my pictures of him are blurry.  His nickname is Forrest, because everywhere he goes, he's a'runnin'.

Lucy and Aaron exchanging some loves.

We ate breakfast at Tasty and Sons.  The food was scrumptious.  I forgot to take pictures of it because I was too busy eating...

 The interior of Tasty and Sons has a cool, urban loft vibe.  Loved it.

We stopped by the Doc Marten store.  I haven't been to a dedicated Docs store since I used to go to the one (now closed) in Covent Garden when we lived in London.  I deliberated about some pewter flats, ultimately deciding no, and took a picture of these gorgeous cushions.  I think Sarah from Modern Country Style has one in her dining room. I may have to shamelessly copy this style and make one for our family room.

 Cool old building.  I am a sucker for them!  This one was for sale, and I had a fun time imagining what it looked like inside, and how if money were no object, I could convert it into a block of posh flats.  Yes, I know I'm a little strange.... :)

 Lucy on the swings.  You can't tell, but she is actually swinging in this picture.  She is the most daring baby we've had and loves to go high on the swings.  Heaven help me!

 Damon performing feats of skill and strength.

 Sophie taking the shorter but harder path into the playground.  She's so cute.  And I really wish her jacket came in my size--isnt' it darling?

 We have been hemming and hawing about tile design for our master bathroom shower.  We stopped into Ann Sacks tile and saw this display.  Both of us love it.  Miracle!  I'm not sure if this color scheme is the one we will go with, but at least this is progress.  Woo hoo!

We ate lunch at Hot Lips Pizza and couldn't resist an opportunity to ham it up.

We then spent the rest of the afternoon at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.  Sawyer had a great time with this pulley and in the water engineering area (as you can tell from his shirt).

Cool view from OMSI out to the Columbia River at twilight.

Over and out,