all is calm, all is bright

My cousin-in-law, Shauntel recently opened a super fabulous etsy shop.  She designs holiday cards, printables, and baby announcements.  Right now if you order a Christmas card you get a free printable as well.  And, that is how I got this printable that I am loving this year.

Thanks to a combination of some big church responsibilities, home responsibilities, and the fact that we are leaving for our month long sabbatical to Utah/Virginia in less than two weeks I'm a little overwhelmed right now.  My head is spinning with lists of things I must. not. forget.  More than any other year I've needed to remember "all is calm, all is bright."  I'm trying really hard to make my life calm and bright this season.  Calm in that I'm giving up things that just don't need to be done (and frankly, can't get done.)  Bright in that I am still remembering and enjoying the things that matter most.

For example, I love beautifully wrapped gifts.  I love pretty paper, handmade cards, and big bows.  Well, this year at the store Jilly begged for Dora Christmas wrapping paper.  And who am I to deprive her of a little Christmas joy?  So this year our presents will be wrapped in Dora paper.  I cringe a little bit every time I think about it, but I love how excited Jillian is.
For the past few days I've been picking a talk each day to read from past First Presidency Christmas Devotionals.  This one has been my favorite so far.  Instead of stressing about decorations and presents and foods I'd love to make, I've been thinking of ways to teach Jilly about Christmas and do fun things together as a family to celebrate.  Hopefully this will be calm and bright Christmas to remember.


Pumpkin Recipe #4

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
This recipe is from Our Best Bites- go here to see excellent pictures of the baking process instead of pictures of my little sicky loving on a piece of bread.

2 cups all purpose flour (spooned into measuring cup and leveled)
1 cup whole wheat flour (I just did 3 cups of all purpose)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup white sugar
6 ounce container vanilla yogurt
3 eggs, slightly beaten
15 oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (plus a few extra for the top of loaves)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 2 9x5 loaf pans with nonstick spray and set aside.  Combine flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk gently to combine and set aside.
In a separate mixing bowl combine brown sugar and white sugar and whisk to combine, breaking up any clumps of brown sugar.  Add yogurt, eggs, pumpkin, oil, and vanilla extract and whisk until smooth.
Slowly add dry ingredients to wet and mix together, being careful to not over mix.  When combined, gently stir in chocolate chips.   Divide batter between loaf pans and sprinkle a few extra chocolate chips on top.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out with a few crumbs attached.  All ovens are different, I would set your timer for about 45 minutes and keep an eye on it after that.  Don’t overbake!
Let cool for 10 minutes and then run a sharp knife around edge of pan and remove loaves from pan.



This year I thought it would be really fun to do a Turkey Trot.  We found one near Oakley (Bryan's parents' home) and convinced the whole family to run that morning.  I was really excited (and a bit nervous since everyone had been training hard and I had been eating ice cream...oops.)

We had to leave the house at 6:30am.  Jilly had a rough night so I was going on 4 hours of sleep, and I slept through my alarm so the morning of the race was very chaotic.  We had driven to Oakley the previous night, and I left my running shoes in the car so there was one less thing to remember in the morning.  

We got to Walnut Creek (where the race was) and I ran to the back of the car to grab my shoes.  Not there.  I frantically searched the car and then asked Bryan if he had seen my shoes.  Bryan, being very thoughtful and helpful, had taken my running shoes into the house for me the night before.  It was so, so dumb of me to not make sure my shoes were in the car before we left the house.  So there I was at the race in just my socks.  

It was 7:10, the race started at 8:00, and my phone said it would take 37 minutes to get to Oakley.  I jumped in the car and raced back to the house.  There wasn't a lot of traffic and it was a beautiful day and I kept thinking "I've got this."  Bryan called as I walked into the house and wasn't extremely optimistic about my chances.  So I headed back feeling very dumb and deflated.  

As I got off the exit in Walnut Creek I noticed the clock said 7:58.  I called Bryan.  As we were talking I heard "5,4,3,2,1, GO!"  The race had started, but he said that he would wait for me at the starting line.  I parked at the first spot I found and ran a half mile to the starting line and joined up with Bryan.  We were some of the very last people to cross the starting line.  

Because of all the adrenaline I actually did pretty well.  We had to weave (with the stroller) through all the walkers which was very gratifying- we were passing people left and right.  Bryan ran the 5K portion with me then I was done and he kept going to do the 10K.  He could have gotten a much better time without me, but was so nice to stick with his loser wife.  We all had a lot of fun that morning.

The rest of Thanksgiving weekend was fun and less chaotic, thank goodness.  We ate a delicious feast, saw Breaking Dawn Part 2 (girls), biked (boys), shopped, watched the crazy cousins play, got ready for Chad's upcoming wedding, and saw the lights at the Oakland Temple.  Bryan and I drove home late Saturday night and listened in the car to Jim Dale narrating The Christmas Carol- the very best way to ring in the Christmas season.  



This is what our thankful tree looks like now.  It has been so fun to have a place to constantly see and remember our blessings.  As much as I love this tree, it is disappearing the second Bryan allows me to get out Christmas decorations. :)

Here is what ended up on our tree-
our family
great friends
cell phones
I didn't get mauled by a bear (Bryan had a scary bear experience this month)
the right to vote
my handsome husband
having a garage
Rachel's cooking (I paid Lisa to add that)
November birthdays
Bryan's job
Yo Gabba Gabba (one member of our family is much more grateful for this than the other two)
a house
nephews and nieces
everything I have
paci and blankie
full suspension bicycles
colored leaves
Happy Thanksgiving!!



Sorry for dark and blurry pictures, most of these were taken with my phone at the spur of the moment.

One night I hid myself in the craft room to get some work done.  I took a break to check on Bryan and Jilly and found them inside her new birthday tent munching on popcorn and watching Angelina Ballerina.  I was a little bit jealous.

I somehow convinced Bryan to go shopping with me.  Luckily he found one of these huge, terribly obnoxious carts and he and Jilly were in heaven.
 Jilly's friend Kylie came over and while here her cute little ponytail fell out.  I fixed it for her then asked Jilly if she'd like a ponytail as well.  She agreed, and it made my day.
Bryan works with two other guys who also have kids that turned 2 this month.  We had a little birthday party for them and this was the best picture we could get of Jilly, Kylie, and Dev.
For her birthday, Jilly got an easel with a white board.  One day I was talking on the phone and turned around to see this masterpiece Jilly had created on the wall.  Luckily, the dry erase marker came off perfectly with a magic eraser.
Jilly and I have a new morning tradition of drinking a cup of hot cocoa together.  I love hearing her ask for her "toto."
I have to choose my words very carefully in the morning.  If I say "let's get dressed" Jillian gets so excited to put on her favorite dress.  If I oblige, she spins around in the mirror admiring herself.  If I don't oblige, there are many, many tears.  I'm learning to say "let's put our clothes on" instead.


Baby Soup

No, this is not a soup made of babies, but that would be delicious too, wouldn't it? (Kidding, promise.) When Jilly was born my mom made a double batch of this soup and left it in our freezer. We had it many, many times over the next month and never got sick of it. Every time I eat this soup I think of my sweet tiny baby and how amazing my mom was/is. Now it is my go-to meal when taking dinner to a family with a new baby. To me, this soup is comfort food at its very best.

Midwestern Chowder

4 chicken breasts - boil in water - then cut up
2 cups of the water the chicken cooked in                               
2 cups diced potatoes

1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery (confession- I never add celery)
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup margarine                                                                         
1/4 cup flour                                                                             
2 cups milk                                                                                    
10 oz mild cheddar cheese, grated                                  
1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp pepper2 cups creamed corn                                                                    

Combine potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, salt, pepper and water.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Do not drain.  Make a cream sauce with margarine, milk and flour.  Add cheese and stir until melted.  Combine sauce and vegetables.  Stir in chicken and creamed corn.  Heat through, but do not boil.


Birthday Week :: the bike

Ever since before there was a Jilly Bryan has been looking forward to her first bike.  He really wanted to get her a balance bike (one with no pedals.)  The idea is that kids get used to balancing on a bike from a young age and then never have to use training wheels.  The only problem was that every time we went to try out bikes Jilly went straight for a bike that A. was pink or B. had streamers on the handlebars or C. all of the above.  She refused to go near any other bike.  

At this point we didn't give up but decided that this was definitely going to be something she'd have to grow to love.  So instead of paying full price we started looking on Craigslist.  Finally, the week before her birthday we found one and drove out to look at it.  It was lime green, but it had a bell on it that she loved so we bought it.  

A few days later Bryan was talking to one of his friends about the bike.  His friend, Jeff, said that he could powder coat the bike and even already had some pink paint.  So Bryan took the bike apart, stripped off the green paint, and took the bike to Jeff to work his magic.  On her birthday morning we gave Jilly a shiny pink balance bike.
She still is very hesitant to ride it, but she loves to ring the bell and she loves to show people her new bike.  I'm sure one day soon she'll be going off jumps with Bryan.


Birthday Week :: birthday outfit

I've been wanting to make Jilly a ruffle skirt for a long time and I figured her birthday was the perfect occasion.  I followed this tutorial and it went pretty well.  I do wish that I had made the ruffle pieces a little longer so they would be more ruffly, and a serger would have made my life much easier.  But, the skirt looks cute on her, and she loved frolicking through the bushes at Bryan's office during our birthday picnic. 


I also made her a "Birthday Girl" button inspired by this one.  I cut 2 strips of gold paper about 1.5 inches wide and 11 inches long then accordian folded them.  I hot glued both ends together to make a circle.  Next I pressed down in the middle and smooshed it under my scriptures for 20 minutes to flatten it out a bit.  Last I put a dollop of hot glue in the center and held it together for a few minutes til it stuck.  (I hope my ugly, chipping nail polish doesn't make you as ill as it makes me!)
Then I just printed out Birthday Girl on card stock, cut it into a circle, and glued it on front of the gold sunburst.  I also hot glued a safety pin on the back.  Jilly didn't wear the button all day, but she did wear it to Chick fil A so everyone would know she was the birthday girl.


Birthday Week :: chick fil a

If you know me, you know it was not difficult at all for me to decide where to go on Jilly's birthday- Chick fil A.  We invited some friends to go with us and luckily it turned out to be Family Night there.  Aside from the enormous cow that was trying to be friendly but in reality scared the dickens out of our children (Jilly was literally trembling and clinging to Bryan's neck) the kids had a lot of fun.  There was a woman painting faces, another doing balloon animals, and of course the play place was very popular.  I made Minnie Mouse cupcakes and thought it was funny that Jilly just wanted to pick off the cookie ears (exactly what I wanted to do too.)


happy birthday

Dear two-year-old Jillian Kate,
 I love that you're my best girl.  When you see something cool, you tell me all about it.  When you get hurt, you want me to kiss your owie a thousand times.  I will always want to hear about what you think is cool and always always will kiss all owies.
You are such a happy girl.  You love to sing, dance, color, read books, and play with bubbles in the bath.  Whenever one of your friends comes over you get so so so excited when you see them through the window.  We love to hear your laugh and see your big smile.
 But you can also be devious.  You love to sneak your paci out of your bed and run away the second we take off your diaper.  You know when you're doing something you shouldn't and you get the sneakiest smile on your face.
I love exploring the world with you because everything is so new and exciting.  You make me stop to smell every flower, touch every leaf, chase every squirrel, and listen to every bird.  You beg to go "ou-side" all day long.
 You make us so, so, so happy.  Every night after we put you to bed your daddy and I talk about the funny and cute things you did that day.  You complete our lives in a perfect way and we couldn't possibly love you any more.
Happy Birthday Jilly girl!!


Birthday Week :: the weekend

Jilly's birthday is this week and since she is one of my very favorite things in the world there will be lots of celebrating and lots of blog updating.  First up, our weekend festivities.

We put these balloons up on Friday night while Jilly was asleep and her reaction in the morning was priceless.  She loved running through them all weekend and has told me at least one million times about the one balloon that popped.  
We went to Apple Hill with Bryan's family.  It was cold, cold, cold, but all the more reason to get apple donuts and hot chocolate (cold cold cold = 40 degrees and sunny, California has made us weak.)  The girls were not quite sure about all this extra clothing.

Jilly's "this is lame" pony ride face, but I know she loved it because she was sad to get off.

Then we separated- the boys went on a snowy bike ride and the girls went shopping.  That night we celebrated three birthdays- Bryan's, his dad's, and Jilly's.  Bryan chose dinner- tacos, his dad chose dessert- German Chocolate Cake, and Jilly chose the plates- Sesame Street. 
Last year Jilly was a little hesitant with her cake, but in the past year she has really figured out this whole dessert thing.  
And we finished the night with jammies and a movie (jammies and bed for the girls and a movie for the adults.)


friday five

1. Tuesday night was pretty disappointing for us, but luckily we had Lisa and Blake come visit to bring us lots of cheer.  We love seeing our friends!  (I'm lame, and this is the only picture I took the whole day)

2.  A friend recommended Edenbrooke so I picked it up at the library at the end of last week.  I read it in 2 days, which is something I haven't done in a while.  I couldn't put it down, and was so sad when it was over.  A very cute, quick, happy read.

3. Daylight Savings Stinks.  Every single morning this week our wake up time has started with a 4 or a 5.

4.  Jilly is in a major coloring phase.  I'm thrilled that she enjoys art (she is a lefty after all) but we've got to watch that girl closely or everything in the house will be covered in red scribbles!

5. I know some people have a not til after Thanksgiving rule about Christmas music but this week I was in a bad mood and had a terribly messy kitchen waiting for me so I turned on a Christmas station on Pandora and suddenly cleaning the kitchen seemed fun!


thankful tree

Last week I saw this on pinterest and fell in love.  We needed our own thankful tree.
So I went outside and found a branch with a few twigs I could break off, stuffed them into a jar, and wrapped some twine around it.  I then cut lots and lots of leaves from scrapbook paper.   
I put the leaves, some pieces of twine, and a pen in this little basket (that was filled with treats for Little Red Riding Hood's sick grandma last week.)  Whenever we think of something we're grateful for we add it to the tree.  I also have been asking anyone that comes over to add a leaf to our tree.

I love looking at our grateful tree and remembering our blessings.  I can't wait to see how full it gets in the next few weeks!


Busy Jilly, Part 2

When I wrote Busy Jilly, Party One it was with the assumption there would be a part two.  Then I got busy/lazy (you pick) and it took me almost 2 months to post Part Two.  I would plan on Part Three sometime in late 2013.  But, until then, here are 4 more easy/cheap to make activities to keep your toddler busy.

5. Foam Stickers- These are possibly my favorite things in the world.  EVERY kid I've ever encountered loves foam stickers.  It's not too hard to pull the paper off, and they can be stuck and re-stuck to everything.  I've gotten two big tubs at Michael's with 50% off coupons so they were about $4 each, and a tub lasts forever.

6. Threading Felt- I found this activity here and when I realized I had all the materials on hand I started making it immediately.  Jilly still can't do it herself, which eliminates it from the category of "things I can hand her when I need to be doing something else" but I figure as we practice more she'll soon be able to maneuver the felt pieces over the button by herself.  And then, oh the glory, this will be so easy to take along anywhere and everywhere.  

7.  Wallet- If your child is anything like mine his/her very very favorite activity is to raid your wallet.  And as nice as it is to have something that keeps her occupied for a while, it is not pleasant to arrive at the doctor and realize that your insurance card is no longer inside your wallet.  I saw this idea on pinterest, and luckily I had an old wallet lying around the house but you could probably find a cheap wallet at Goodwill to use.  On pinterest it said to cut pieces of scrapbook paper to put in the wallet, but that wouldn't fool Jilly for a second.  I've been collecting random cards we have around- an old license, BYU ID card, an expired AAA card, rewards cards from stores, business cards, etc.; her especial favorite is a Disneyland ticket that has Minnie Mouse on it.  She loves pulling all the cards out then sliding them back in their spaces.

8.  Beans- So, so, so entertaining.  Whenever we have leftover beans from a recipe I toss them in a plastic bag.  We now have quite a collection of different colors and sizes.  Give Jilly a few bowls and measuring spoons and she's happy for a good solid 30 minutes.  Cleanup isn't too bad because she's actually pretty good at keeping them on the blanket.