Thursday, November 28, 2013

A day to be thankful.


I had a lovely Thanksgiving with my family. It was Klair's first Thanksgiving, and I think it was a great first. We woke up bright and early (thanks Klair) and spent the morning playing with our baby girl in her playroom and eating breakfast together. Can I just say that I love eating breakfast as a family? We always eat dinner together, but it's rare that we can sit down for a nice breakfast. There is something about the morning time that is so... clarifying. The day is young and uncluttered with pressures that seem to mount as time passes. Plus, Klair tends to be happiest after a long night of rest. Mornings are especially wonderful when we can spend them together without having to rush anywhere. Today was one of those mornings. With no deadlines or destinations, we ate a nice classic eggs and toast breakfast and enjoyed each other's company.


After Klair's nap we took a few family photos and headed to my sister's house. She hosted Thanksgiving for quite a few people this year, and she did a fantastic job. She had so much going on and a lot that she was responsible for, yet somehow managed to keep her cool and make everyone feel welcome. That's admirable. She even made me a personal size gluten free pumpkin pie and gluten free rolls! How thoughtful is she?

Klair spent the afternoon and evening playing with her cousins and trying a lot of new foods. She enjoyed the potatoes and surprisingly liked the cranberry sauce. She wasn't so keen on the stuffing and hummus. She also really enjoyed playing with blocks (I suppose that means we need to invest in some) and scooting around to the acclaim of her audience--which inlcluded everyone that was there. She can turn a head with her cuteness, and she knows it. My favorite part of the night was when Klair threw her roll on the floor (a trick she's been pulling a lot lately). One of my nephews happened to pass by. He stopped, picked it up, blew on it, and nonchalantly gave it back to Klair. He couldn't for the life of him understand why I wouldn't let her eat it...

On the way home from my sister's house Klair fell asleep in the car, so Sam and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity. We took a nice long drive in the mountains. It was a lovely night, and a perfect way to end our evening.

Now I have to shift my focus back to party preparations. Tomorrow is Klair's actual birthday! I can't wait to celebrate with this little turkey.
Now that I think of it, exactly one year ago right now we had just checked into the hospital and they were starting to induce my labor. At this very moment Klair was getting ready to come into the world...

I'm glad I have birthday celebrations to focus on, or I'd probably just cry all weekend :) I can't believe how quickly time passes!

In the words of my daughter...



(photo credits to my talented husband)





gluten•free•strawberry•coconut•cream•pie

This year for Thanksgiving I had it pretty easy. My sister was gracious enough to host it at her house, and my only assignments were mashed potatoes and pie. In reality, however, my only assignment was pie because Sam has reserved the right to always make mashed potatoes. He claims that they are his specialty, and I fully support him in any cooking endeavor (especially when he does a great job-- it's one less thing for me to worry about). With such a light load I decided to try something really special for my one contribution to tonight's feast. I chose...

strawberry coconut cream pie !
(gluten free of course to suit my own gluten intolerant needs)

It was a little tricky procuring (good) strawberries this time of year, but once I found them I knew I had to give it a go. My friend Brittney brought it for a dinner party a few months back and it was so good I asked for the recipe. I've been meaning to make it for awhile now, and I felt like the fresh, light pastry would be a nice addition to the richer, heartier desserts that were sure to be in attendance this turkey day.

This recipe didn't disappoint. It turned out to be so pretty that it literally made me giddy. Once I finished the pie and was able to admire it, I had a moment where I didn't really care how it tasted because it looked so nice. Yet, luckily, it tasted amazing as well. Everyone loved it, including my 3 year old nephew. In fact, as soon as he spotted it he claimed it was his and became visibly upset when anyone took a slice...

I'll definitely be making it again soon. Actually, come to think of it, the vibrant red topping would look lovely on a Christmas dinner table... hmmm :) 

The pie crust recipe.
(recipe by bettycrocker.com)
Ingredients:
1 cup Bisquick® Gluten Free mix
5 tablespoons cold butter
3 tablespoons water

Heat oven to 425°F. Grease 9-inch glass pie plate with shortening or cooking spray. Place Bisquick mix in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or fork (or pulling 2 table knives through mixture in opposite directions), until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in water; shape into ball with hands. Press dough in bottom and up side of pie plate. 2 Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned; remove from oven. Cool while preparing the pie filling and topping. 

The pie recipe.
(recipe by willowbirdbaking.com)
Coconut Cream Filling Ingredients:

1 can (14 fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup whipping cream

Topping Ingredients:


1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
red food coloring (optional; I skipped this)
mint leaves or whole strawberries for garnish (optional)

Directions:
To make filling: Heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and corn starch. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cream slowly to the yolks, whisking as you add. Then pour the yolk mixture into the pot of hot cream and whisk. Continue to whisk with heat on medium-high for 3 more minutes. The mixture will turn thick and bubble. You need to continue to whisk for the full 3 minutes or the pastry cream will separate once it is cool. After the 3 minutes, whisk in the butter. Add the coconut flakes. Pour into a shallow dish to cool.

Cover with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream. This will prevent a thick skin from forming on the surface. Refrigerate for at least an hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Once it is cold, stir the pastry cream to loosen. Whip the 1/2 cup cream to medium peaks. Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in the remaining cream until the pastry cream is nice and light. Fill baked, cooled pie crust with your coconut filling.

Slice 1 cup of strawberries in thin slices lengthwise and layer the slices in pretty concentric circles around the top of the coconut cream. Set this in the fridge to chill while you make your glaze.

Make the glaze: Crush remaining 1/2 cup of strawberries and boil with water in a saucepan over medium-high heat for two minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and discard the pulp. Add the juice back to the saucepan over medium-high heat and gradually whisk in sugar and cornstarch. Cook until thickened. If you have lumps of corn starch just strain it again once thickened. If you want, you can tint this glaze with food coloring to desired hue. I used one drop of red food coloring and it was beautiful!

Cool the glaze slightly and then pour over top of strawberry slices on your pie. Garnish with big mint leaves, if you’d like, or whole strawberries. Chill entire pie for at least a few hours for best results; cut with a knife held under hot water and then dried. It will still have the consistency of pudding, so it works well to serve it up in a pretty little bowl.




Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Klair is walking!


I know it's late, but birthday preparations are taking precedence over sleep these days. I just finished making two batches of cupcakes, cleaning my kitchen (nothing gets cleaned when the babe is awake these days) and fluffing tissue pom-poms. It turns out that pom-poms are a bit more involved than I thought they would be. My husband passed out on the couch trying to help me. Honestly though, I'm okay with it. He is a man of many talents but creating girly party d├ęcor is apparently not one of them. I should probably follow his lead and go to sleep too. And, I fully intend to after I finish writing this; however, all the pom-pom fluffing in the world could not redeem my parenting status if I allowed this night to pass without mentioning what took place earlier:

Klair took her first steps tonight!

I should probably make it clear that she has taken plenty of steps with assistance. For months she has been conning people into endlessly walking around the house while holding their hands for support. She has also become quite adept at pulling herself up on furniture and walking around it. And, in the past week or so, she and I have been working on her ability to stand in place without any assistance. She has also at times taken a timid step...maybe even a step and a half as Sam and I have passed her back and forth between us. Despite these major steps towards taking steps (you see how I did that? I'm so clever when I'm tired) her main mode of transportation has been scooting. Until now. Tonight she randomly decided to go out on a limb (I must think I'm hilarious or something) and walk!

We were visiting my in-laws and admiring their extremely plush new carpet that they just had installed. Apparently this rather padded and currently furniture-less floor inspired extra confidence in Klair Bear. She took three very distinct steps before face planting into the carpet. I had my head turned and looked just in time to see her take the last step and a dive, but my in-laws saw it all transpire. Luckily, the carpet broke her fall and she was not phased. Gravity's attempts to stop her were rendered futile.

With the support and applause of her audience (which included her grandma, aunt, uncle, dada, and me) she continued practicing her steps by going back and forth between us. She was able to successfully complete several more rounds of multiple steps, and at one point she walked steadily from her Grandma to me (about 4 or 5 steps) without falling or leaning in to be caught. It was a wonder to behold. She has been so content with scooting--often adamantly falling to her bum and scooting away when I've tried to practice walking with her--that I was convinced it would be awhile before she decided to walk. I stand corrected. Just a few days shy of 1 and my baby girl is walking! Does this toddling around officially make her a toddler? I'm surprisingly okay with it if it does. Even though I know this signals a pretty big change for her (and for me as a mom), I'm just too proud to feel anything other than love and excitement at this point.

Here are some videos... now of course as soon as we got the camera out she stopped doing it as well as she was before. Isn't that always how it goes with kids? C'est la vie. At least this shows a little of what she was doing and it's good for the memories of the night :) I'll post a better video of her as soon as I can get a good one.



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Klair's 1st Birthday Invitation

My husband is a man of many talents. In addition to his musical abilities, he is also really great at designing things. I came up with an idea of what I wanted for Klair's first birthday party invitation, and he was able to bring my ideas to life (the actual invitation has more information--like our address--but we omitted it from this version for the blog for obvious reasons).

We recently had a photoshoot done of Klair for her 1 year photos, and they turned out so well that it was nearly impossible to choose a photo for her invites. Thus, we ended up using a lot of the photos that we liked (and even narrowing it down to these seemed like an impossible task). There were just too many cute ones! I will be posting all of these photos soon.

...

**The photographer is Mary Clark over at DMC Photography. She is based out of Salt Lake City, Utah and she does phenomenal work. Plus, she is incredibly easy to work with and her prices are very competitive. She did Klair's newborn photos too, and I think that I am going to make it a tradition to go back to her each year.**


Sunday, November 24, 2013

j.wride . CD . release !


Tonight was great

My husband is in a band called j.wride, and they had their CD release show for their new album Monsters. They have been working very hard these past few months recording and getting ready for this, and it really paid off. The new CD is incredible, and the show tonight was so fun! Sam and his band mates (and the other wives who don't have a one year old to chase after) spent all day setting up. They worked like crazy, and it showed. The sound was immaculate, and it was a very visually appealing set as well. It all made for a such a fun, lively, and, dare I say, even magical atmosphere.

My favorite part of the night was when they decided to do a cover. I got Sam a cheap little harmonica for a stocking stuffer a few years ago (I want to say it was 5 bucks at Target?), so needless to say it isn't anything too fancy. Well, while they were practicing Sam got it out and started playing around with it. Like all things musical he quickly figured it out (I will never understand how that husband of mine can pick up an instrument and instantly play it). Before I knew it the band was doing their own rendition of Billy Joel's hit classic "Piano Man" in my basement.

Fast forward to tonight: they decided to play it at the show. Sam got his cheap yet surprisingly effective instrument out and the audience loved it (naturally). There was a lot of singing along and even some swaying taking place.



One girl loved it a little too much though. I wish I had this part on video. After his performance she shouted loud enough for the entire venue to hear "Is he single?" to which the lead singer replied in the mic that he is not. You would think that this would be the end of it. You would think. She yelled back "I don't care. I'll fight her!" Apparently I have a j.wride wannabe groupie gunning for me...

Despite the apparent danger that I put myself in by attending tonight's performance, it was a much needed night out. My sweet mom babysat for us, and my sister and best friend accompanied me to the show (which was so far away that it felt like a mini road trip). I enjoyed spending time with the girls and being able to see a side of Sam that I don't get to see very often. My husband is extremely talented, and I love watching him perform so flawlessly. I can't really blame the girls for wanting to fight me. He's kind of a hottie :)



If you get a chance you should definitely check them out. Their new album has been the soundtrack of my November. I've listened to it about 1,000 times, and I'll gladly listen to it 1,000 more.


Sporting my new j.wride shirt :)
 I love all the people in this photo. 



Monday, November 18, 2013

Klair is almost one...


Amidst all of my planning and the building excitement for Klair Marie's big day with the birthday bash that we are throwing her, I have to admit that I feel, well... sad. I am happy to see her grow and grateful that she is thriving, but I'm also slightly depressed by the prospect of time passing us by. I find myself looking at her newborn photos (like the one above), and reflecting on her firsts--her first laugh, the first time she rolled, the first time she called me "mama"--and I can't help but wonder "how?" How has an entire year gone by? I ask this question to the women around me--veteran moms-- and they just laugh and give me a look that seems to say "just wait." This doesn't make it any easier. Does it ever get any easier?

It feels like I was just holding her for the first time, skin to skin, her tiny body pressed against mine--watching her back softly rise and fall with every breath she took. She needed me then. She still needs me now.

...will she always need me?

I think this is the origin of my sadness, the source of my fear. It's the reason why apprehension is building as each day draws closer to her birthday. I realize that November 29th is technically just another day, but it feels symbolic. Once she turns one, she becomes a toddler. I don't like this word toddler. My dislike of the word stems partly from the negative associations of temper tantrums and all around terribleness, but mostly I don't like it because toddler isn't baby. She will no longer be my baby, at least not in the literal sense. I can't bear the thought.

Right now, she is my girl. We are so madly in love with each other. She wants to be with me all hours of the day (and night for that matter). When I'm gone, she breaks down. And, while I despise her sadness, I can't deny my appreciation for the fact that she is so attached. She adores me.


I know how the story goes. Kids grow up, parents go from hero to "ugh, Mo-om, not in public! How embarrassing."  Girls especially have a tendency to clash with their mothers. How can I avoid this? Is it possible? Can I somehow circumvent the usual crash course and maintain a relationship where my daughter still likes me well into her adolescent years? I'm not saying I want to be her best friend. Obviously, I'm her mother first. But it would be nice to be generally liked... even if she despises me in those inevitable moments when I have to tell her the dreaded "no."

Although I've been a parent for a year (plus 9 months if you want to count pregnancy, which I think should definitely count)... I haven't had to do much "parenting" yet--at least not from a disciplinary stand point. Sure, Klair has thrown a few tantrums, but it's so easy to distract and redirect her right now. That won't always be the case. I know I might risk sounding prideful, but I feel like I've got this baby thing down. I'm pretty good at being a mom to a baby... or, at least, to this baby. I don't have a clue how to be a mom to a toddler, a kid, a pre-teen, a teenager... an adult! Oh my. I have so much ahead of me. Through all of it I hope and pray I can maintain the bond that we have now.

I suppose, regardless of how she may feel about me at certain times throughout her growing years, my love for her will never waiver. And, though she may not always be completely dependent upon me... she will always need me in varying ways... right? I will certainly always need her.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Marhsmallow Pops!


Klair's birthday is approaching fast. I've been collecting ideas on Pinterest and making lists for awhile now, but soon I will actually have to execute them. 

So, tonight I decided to try out a recipe that I want to add to my dessert menu. I've never done it before, and I figured it would be better to try and tackle it now. That way, if I failed miserably, it wouldn't be the night before the par-tay.

But, happy day! I didn't fail. In fact, it was a great success. They ended up being ridiculously easy.

My inspiration for this creation comes from a blog that I recently started following called A Night Owl. Rather than follow her recipe exactly I decided to use white chocolate, dye it pink, and add sprinkles for Klair's impending birthday bash; however, the possibilities for color and embellishment are endless. Christmas pops anyone? Baby shower dessert?

I think what I like most about this recipe is that it is much easier than making cake pops, but they look just as cute (and arguably taste better... depending on how much you like cake, I suppose). The easy factor appealed to me, and these babies literally take a few minutes to make once you gather all your ingredients.
...
Alright, enough typing. Let's get started:

For these pops you'll need: 


  • A bag of white chocolate chips 
  • sprinkles 
  • a bag of large marshmallows
  • paper straws or cake pop sticks
  • 2 microwave safe dishes (one for the chocolate, one for the sprinkles)
Instructions: 
  • Melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave. (I put mine in for about a minute on high)
  • Stir the chocolate chips with a spoon to give it a smooth consistency.
    • At this point you can use some food coloring to dye it whichever hue you desire. 


  • Take a straw/stick and insert it into the marshmallow
  • Dip the marshmallow in the white chocolate until it is coated.
  • Dip the coated marshmallow into the sprinkles and rotate it until covered .

  • Place the coated marshmallows on parchment paper and let them harden (about 10 minutes--you can speed up this process by putting them in the freezer for about 5 minutes)


And... voila! You have yourself an easy sweet treat for your next special occasion! 


...

Oh, and this. 
This was my favorite moment of the night. My sneaky little Rosie took off with a marshmallow. 
She looks pretty happy with herself... yeah? 



Photography by: Samuel J. Duke 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Today was a hard day. Today was a beautiful day.


Klair bear is teething. She already has 6 teeth, and soon she'll have 8. She was an early bloomer in this regard, with her first two teeth making their debut appearance at just 4 months old. Now, with four teeth on top, her two bottom teeth are getting some new neighbors. And, thus far, they haven't made a very good impression. I don't know if this is common, but it seems that for my little one the bottom teeth are so much crueler than the top. When her top teeth came in I didn't even notice until they were poking through. But these bottoms... they are another monster entirely. My darling, always happy baby has been so moody. It's as if she's trying, fighting so hard to stay true to her easy going nature. But, every once in awhile the pain becomes so severe that she simply can't deny it anymore and gives in to the unrelenting, miserable disturbances.

There is nothing worse than a baby in pain.

I can't console her with words. I can't ease her troubled heart by telling her that it will all be over soon. In her mind the pain might very well last forever without any hope of ceasing. I feel so helpless as a mama. All I can do is give her the allowed doses of medicine, cold things to chew on, and my affection. I hold her close, running my fingers through her golden baby hair while desperately trying to bring her to a place of calm--a place of safety. She won't be consoled. Sam takes her, and tries to soothe her. She clings to him, calms down, and then riles right back up again.

I take her, she settles. I feel the tangible connection between us, as if the umbilical cord had never really been severed. She is tethered to me. I have a friend who once described her baby's cries as tragic, but also beautiful. She said that they were a love song just for her. I think of this. Klair's cries are not meaningless. Instead, they are bursting with love--with need.


She needs me. I need her. 




As she calms, a sensation of gratitude washes over me. Am I grateful for her ability to relax? Yes. But there is also a genuine, heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity to be her mother-- her safety. I am so grateful for this love that I never knew I was capable of until that brilliant baby came into my life. I am forever thankful that I can nurture, care for, console, comfort,  and love this child.

I am humbled to be her mother.




When I was pregnant I heard the song "Home" by Phillip Phillips for the first time. As I listened to the popular tune, I remember the lyrics from the chorus seemed to pierce my soul.

"Troubles they might get you down, if you get lost you can always be found. Just know you're not alone. I'm gonna make this place your home."

That last line struck me with severe force. I started crying. Here I was, about to have a child--about to become a mother. Sam and I had created a child, and soon she would leave the safety of my womb and enter the madness of this world. We were responsible for providing her with a firm foundation. We were to define her notion of home, family, safety--we would define her notion of love. It was both terrifying and exhilarating... but mostly terrifying. I always imagined the good moments when I thought of shaping Klair's concept of home. I pictured us reading, teaching, playing, laughing...

Tonight, I realized that the bad times, the sad times, the uncomfortable times-- these are just as important, and possibly even more pivotal. Life hurts. Baby girl is already learning that lesson. But, with the grace of god, I'm hopeful that she will also learn that she is loved--that her dad and I adore her more than we can possibly express. In the sad moments I hope she finds strength in this, in her dark moments I hope she can see light.

I know I have already learned so much from her. I guess I'm really just hoping to repay the favor.




Monday, November 11, 2013

Fall fashion . Anniversary Update

After raving about my amazing husband in this post last week for our anniversary, I realized today that I never talked about what we did to celebrate. How ungrateful would I be if I didn't brag about what my sweetie did for me?

First of all, a few days before the actual anniversary he surprised me 
and took me shopping for a new pair of boots... 
                      

He knows me too well. If there is one thing that I love, it's fall fashion. Boots, jackets, sweaters, scarves... I adore everything about clothing for this season. If I could dress this way year round, I would. In fact... I have been known to wear boots and scarves in the summer (and suffer the consequences... fashion before comfort, right?)

Speaking of jackets and sweaters... That's what he surprised me with next. After we got my new boots I figured that they were my present because they were more than enough. But, on the morning of our anniversary, I surprised him with breakfast in bed and some music equipment he has been wanting, and I got clothing in bed. (I love breakfast food, but I'm thinking this is way better.) He surprised me with pajamas, and this new jacket and sweater:
Then, all dressed up in my new attire, we went out on the town. He took the day off of work and we spent time with our daughter, grabbing Chinese food for dinner.  Klair loved the sticky white rice :)

After Klair went to sleep we got a babysitter and headed out to the movies. I had been hoping to plan some kind of a getaway to celebrate, but Klair has been going through an extremely needy phase. I recently left her with Sam one night and he told me that he's never heard her cry so hard.  She refused to take a bottle (I'm still breastfeeding her) and she refused to go to sleep for him until she unwillingly fell asleep--exhausted from her fit. She adores her dada, but apparently when it comes to bed time she just wants me. With this in mind neither of us felt it would be a wise time to try out our first night away since she was born. It wouldn't be fun for her, and it especially wouldn't be very fun for her babysitter. Thus, we decided to take a rain check on the getaway idea and settled on a night out at the movies, hot chocolate, and a nice scenic drive. We saw The Saratov Approach. We had been meaning to see this movie for awhile, and it didn't disappoint. In fact, I loved it.

Overall, our anniversary was a simple, lovely day with our little family. 
It was a great way to celebrate our marriage. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Gluten Free Creamy Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup + Fall Mason Jar Centerpiece



Lately my talented musician of a husband and his equally talented bandmates have been having practice at our house. They have a cd release coming up, so they've been jamming a lot to try and get ready for the big debut. (Their band is called j.Wride. You can check them out here. And, if you're in the Utah area, you should consider coming out to one of their gigs. Fun times are sure to be had by all.) If there is one thing that I can say with certainty about a group of men practicing music for hours on end it's that they get really hungry. Thus, inspired by my guests and the cool fall weather I decided to put one of my favorite soup recipes together. They invited their wives, and it turned into a really fun get together. I even managed a new centerpiece for my table. (How domestic am I right now?) Here are my night's creations if you are looking to get into the fall spirit:

Creamy Tomato Basil Bisque 

This is a tried and true recipe that I've used on a number of occasions. I found it here and the first time I made it my husband fell in love--so much so that it became a cold weather staple. Due to my gluten intolerance, I modified it slightly by using Bob's Red Mill all purpose gluten free flour. We paired it with a garden salad and bread--for my gluten eating guests I provided a yummy cheddar cheese french loaf, while I ate it with a slice of my favorite GF bread from a local bakery.

INGREDIENTS

2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced onions
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 T fresh oregano
1 T dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil
4 cups chicken broth
½ bay leaf
½ cup flour
1 cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup butter
2 cups half and half, warmed (you can substitute this for milk for a lighter option)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

DIRECTIONS

1. Add tomatoes, celery, carrots, chicken broth, onions, oregano, basil, and bay leaf to a large slow cooker.

2. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-7 hours, until flavors are blended and vegetables are soft.

3. About 30 minutes before serving prepare a roux. Melt butter over low heat in a skillet and add flour. Stir constantly with a whisk for 5-7 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 cup hot soup. Add another 3 cups and stir until smooth. Add all back into the slow cooker. Stir and add the Parmesan cheese, warmed half and half, salt and pepper. Add additional basil and oregano if needed (the slow cooker does a number on spices and they get bland over time, so don't be afraid to always season to taste at the end). 

4. Cover and cook on LOW for another 30 minutes or so until ready to serve.



...


Mason Jar Centerpiece

This is a pretty self-explanatory craft, and an easy one to throw together with items that you're likely to have around the house (or that can easily be obtained by a quick trip to the nearest craft store). Simply take a mason jar, add some flowers of your choosing, tie some burlap around it and... voila! You can also substitute and/or add lace to mix things up a little. For a more refined look you can wrap a rubber band around the stems of the flowers (this makes them more stable) and then cover this by wrapping it with a bit of burlap and securing it in place with super glue. To finish the craft, I placed my mason jar flowers on a place mat that I found at Ikea.







Thursday, November 7, 2013

Swing Life Away...

Klair and I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and go to the park. After all, who knows how many more times we will be able to play there before it becomes too cold? We've spent so much time outdoors through the spring, summer, and fall. I'm a little terrified by the prospect of cold weather and cabin fever. Baby girl likes to go, go, go places. She's a doer. She wants to see things, and experience life--this much of her personality is already very evident. If we've been spending too much time at home she becomes irritable and restless. She loves to be outside and...

                                               she lives for the swings.

That girl could spend all the days of her life swinging and never tire of it. The look on her sweet baby face as she glides...no...flies so effortlessly through the air... it is the purest joy. When we pull up to the park the realization of where we are, and what we are about to do hits her. Her face immediately lights up and her tiny little legs start kicking with genuine excitement. She can't get out of her carseat fast enough. It's sad knowing that I won't be able to see this again for several months until the earth decides to thaw out after a harsh Utah winter. I almost wish there was a way I could communicate it to her--tell her to savor and enjoy every last bit of it... Yet, I suppose therein lies the beauty of a child. She already enjoys every last bit of it--every single part of this strange and beautiful world that she's found herself in--regardless of whether or not it's about to end. Hers is an unrestrained happiness. It's written on her face, plainly for anyone to see. She couldn't enjoy it more if she tried.
There she goes again. Teaching me more about life in 11 months than I ever could have managed on my own. 



**Also: A question to you fellow mamas out there. What are some fun things you do with your kids during the winter? I need some ideas here!**

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Four Years Down, Eternity to Go...

Yesterday was the 4th anniversary of the day I married this hunk.

He is the love of my life. Cliche? Maybe. True? Absolutely! I try to be the type of person that recognizes blessings and expresses gratitude. Yet, inevitably I find myself caught up in the ups, downs, and in-betweens of life and  I end up taking Sam for granted. Thus, I am thankful for times like these which cause me to reflect and realize what I have.  It's pretty humbling.

First off, he is kind. Now I know this may seem like a pretty simple, maybe even trivial compliment to pay a person. What good qualities does he have? Well, he's... kind! That's not the case for Sam. His kindness, his goodness-- it is all encompassing of his personality. It is the central tenet of who he is. Furthermore, one might wonder why I would choose to highlight this quality first. After all kindness isn't very "manly" by the world's standards. Why not focus on how strong he is?

His kindness is his strength. 

His goodness is a light that shines so brightly that a person could deny it as readily as the night can deny the rising sun. He is the kind of kind that complete strangers recognize, garnering their immediate trust and admiration. He possesses genuine charity--the pure love of Christ-- and this quality (a lifelong aspiration for many) flows so freely from Sam. He makes it look easy. He genuinely loves people, and they love him back.

He is steadfast and true. In a culture where faith is becoming increasingly taboo and deemed antiquated, my husband is valiant in his beliefs. He doesn't stand on the corner or shout from the rooftops in grand gestures. Instead, it is in his small, simple acts that his faith is made evident. He goes to church every Sunday. He accepts and takes pride in whatever service is asked of him--such as getting up early to help shovel snow at the church, or staying up late to prepare lessons for his 9 year old primary class. He is a worthy priesthood holder who constantly blesses his family, and takes advantage of any and all opportunities to serve those around him. He takes time to lead his family in prayer everyday. And, when someone asks him about his beliefs or the occasion arises to discuss them, he eagerly seizes the opportunity to speak of his love for Christ and his gospel.

He is hard-working. He rises early every morning and goes to work to provide for this family, and he faithfully comes home every night to us. (And, when he comes home he skips the couch and spends every moment he can playing with Klair until she goes to bed). He works long hours (sometimes forgoing sleep altogether) and travels to the far corners of the world to give us a roof over our head, food on the table, and so much more. He enables me to stay home with Klair--a priceless gift and privilege that has brought me more happiness than I know what to do with.

He is fun. He makes me laugh. He makes Klair laugh. He even laughs at my jokes! We really get each other. He is my best friend in the world and I enjoy sharing life with him. The most beautiful destinations in the world would seem dull without him by my side.

His an incredible father. Or should I say "Da da?" He loves that little girl more than life, and she adores him. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. How about two?


  
I could go on forever talking about his qualities. To sum it all up, he is the best man I have ever known. I don't deserve to have such an amazing, selfless man by my side. He is my light, my life, and my champion. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I owe every good thing in my life to the decision I made to marry him.

Sometimes when I think of God He seems so distant, so incomprehensible... and I find myself wondering what He is really like. In times like these I immediately think of Sam and the love he shows me. And, suddenly, God doesn't seem so mysterious anymore.

"The closer I come to you, the closer I am to finding God. You're a miracle to me."
                                                                                                                             -Anberlin

  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Klair's 1st Halloween

A Halloween inspired by our favorite musical... Cats!

Ok that's not entirely true... We've never even seen the smash broadway classic. I did, however, see an adorable black cat costume for a baby girl here (thanks Pinterest!) that inspired me to create my own version for Klair (and our costumes followed). I thought that making her a kitty outfit would be fitting due to her love for our own black cat...and it was just too adorable to pass up. Plus I really wanted to make Klair her very first Halloween costume. I realize this domestic desire will become a more difficult task when she gets older and starts deciding for herself what she wants to be. Thus, I decided to take advantage of her inability to choose and picked something simple to execute. It didn't require any sewing besides a few simple hand stitches, and I feel like I was able to pull it off quite well. Scratch that, Klair is the one who really pulls it off, don't you think? 



After I finished her costume I simply found myself some ears and gathered together some black clothes from my closet. It was not my most creative costume moment, but at least I was festive enough to dress up. And, in case you were wondering, I did not force Sam to wear his costume. Instead, I spotted the awesome footy pajamas at while we were at Sam's Club and simply suggested that he could buy it and be a kitty with his girls. He hesitated due to the...feminine nature of the pajamas... but obliged once he realized they had an XXL that would fit. With a purchase of some ears his hilarious ensemble was created, and we became the most "Ausam" cat family around :) 

On Halloween we filled our day by going to the Halloween party at Sam's work, visiting family, and even doing a little trick-or-treating with Klair. Obviously she's too young to understand what is going on, but I didn't feel right about her first Halloween passing us by without at least a little door-to-door fun. Thus, we took her to a few houses on our street and showed her off to the neighbors. I'm not sure if she enjoyed holding the candy in its wrapper and examining it, or actually eating it more. I do know for a fact, however, that I enjoyed watching her take it all in. Everything is so new and exciting for her, and seeing the people she loves donning crazy attire and being handed brightly colored, edible things wasn't an exception. I look forward to many Halloweens (and other holidays for that matter) to come with this curious, adventurous, happy girl. 



Sam kept trying to get me to growl. This is my best cat face. 


My little pumpkin :)

                             So Sweet!                                                                Little Cat family.
             
 

 Klair shares. 


After all the fun we had to find an open place for her to scoot around. These are the results. Poor tutu...