Monday, December 23, 2013

Hot Fudge Sauce (aka.. the greatest neighbor Christmas gift EVER)

Saying I love hot fudge is the understatement of the century! Seriously, there are no words to describe the pleasure I feel taking spoonfuls of it out if the jar (hot OR cold :))! I love it on ice cream, cheesecake, crepes, in milk or hot chocolate...and just about any other way (ok, except perhaps on vegetables).  I'm so lucky that one of the reasons my husband loves me is that he thinks it's extremely funny to watch how much I adore eating dessert.  Uh huh, this one REALLY makes him fall in love with me because I don't think I could adore hot fudge any more than I do.

I could eat it any time of day, any time of year, or wherever I am on the planet.

This year, I decided to make it for my neighborhood Christmas gifts. It's by FAR my very favorite neighborhood Christmas gift I've EVER given!!! Here's why:
-Amazingly delicious
-Won't go bad if it's not eaten within 3 days
- 3 week life span
-It WILL be eaten... no one can throw it away
-So many uses for it
-quick and easy to make
-Not a common neighborhood gift
-I've got a free tag with directions already done for you

So, if you've already given your neighborhood gifts this year, here's something to think about for next year!
If you're not doing any neighborhood gifts this year, good for you! Some years it's SO MUCH better that way (See my thoughts on that HERE)!
 If you haven't done them yet, and need a quick, great, and inexpensive gift, lucky you, here it is!

Even if it's not Christmas time, make it!

  • 10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup sifted cocoa powder, Dutch process or regular (the flavor will be more decadent, deep with the Dutch process)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • pinch table salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces


1. Sift the cocoa powder. Seriously. If you don't, there will be clumps in the hot fudge!!

2. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate in 30 second intervals. Stir in between, until the chocolate is smooth.
Whisk the cocoa powder into the melted chocolate, Whisk till very smooth. Set aside.

3. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cream, corn syrup, salt, and water over LOW heat. One the sugar is dissolved, turn the stove to medium or med high. Simmer for approximately 4 minutes, stirring often.

4. Turn off the heat and whisk in the vanilla and butter. Let cool for about 2 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture. Whisk till smooth.

You had better eat at least a little bit now... even if you're saving it for later! Serve warm. 
Store in fridge. To reheat: microwave on low, stirring several times until smooth and shiny.

Yield: 2 Cups
Recipe Source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

** For my neighborhood gifts, I doubled the recipe, and then I made it again and tripled the recipe. I poured it into half pint jars. This yielded 18 half pint jars.

  Here's the tag up close:

Print out a few pages of these, and then tie them to the jars with a 
cute little ribbon or twine:

Save to your computer and print. Then write your family name at the bottom... or copy to your computer and type in your family name then print. Here's what ours look like...

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Teaching Kids the True Meaning of Charity

So, I've been missing in action here for a while because my computer totally crashed. Finally we got a new one that is not a "dinosaur". Wahooo!

This is an activity that is great for Christmas because learning to develop charity is one of the greatest gifts anyone can offer to others and to Jesus Christ, himself.  It's important any time of the year! And it applies to everyone of any faith or religion.

Charity is one of those attributes that I've thought long and hard about. It's what I want to become. As I study about it, I find  that charity is not just about casseroles and cookies, although that's part of it.
 It's really about genuine goodness, purity, and love. Developing charity gives us the tools within ourselves to successfully navigate through life. This is why I sincerely desire that my children develop it while they are young.

We read or memorize scriptures every night as a family, and even though some nights end up in a whole bunch of craziness, I've learned more about who my children really are as we do this. Charity is perhaps the most meaningful and applicable thing we've studied so far, and so I wanted to share it.

Scriptures about charity are in the bible (1 Corinthians 13) and in the Book of Mormon (Moroni 7:45-48).

First, we talked about each attribute that the scriptures define as charity. Here they are:

(Feel free to copy to your computer and print)

I had my kids memorize this. It took a while, but even my 3 year old can say them all :)!

As we talked about what each of these things meant, I found out that my daughter had someone make fun of her that day. We talked about how certain attributes of charity could help her in that situation.
I also found out that my son was overconfident in his running ability. He was sure that he could beat another kid in his class, and found that the other kid actually beat him. We talked about not being "puffed up" or "envious", and how developing that part of charity could help him.

Through our discussion, I realized that having charity really does help every aspect of life... from when we're down in the dumps to when things are totally going our way. It helps us truly to emulate the character of Christ during the best of times and the worst of times.

The thing is though, most of us will have to put a whole lot of effort into becoming truly charitable. 
I made this little "game" so that my kids could see how often charity applies to their every day situations. My hope is that when they are in a similar situation that they will remember what to do, and how true charity can help.

Directions: print and cut out each situation. Fold them into a jar, shake it, and take turns choosing a "situation". After reading the situation, look at the attribute list above, and decide which aspect of charity could help in that particular situation. The great part is that in most cases, there are several right answers. Talk about how they would apply that aspect of charity to the particular situation.

While playing this "game" and discussing what to do, you may bring up the fact that reacting with charity is not easy, and the answers they are saying now may not come naturally when they are faced with a real situation. So, what do you do?

In Moroni 7:48, we find the answer... "Pray to the Father with all the energy of heart that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ..."

Make it a family goal to pray to charity, and strive to become TRUE FOLLOWERS of Jesus Christ. True doesn't mean perfect, it means truly striving.

Kids don't usually have money to give from their own funds everyone a gift for Christmas, but becoming charitable is a TRUE GIFT that they give to all those around as they develop these attributes.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. This is something I'm trying to apply to myself. Here are some questions for adults to ask themselves about charity, and to figure out which attribute of charity would help in these situations:

  • You're going through a difficult trial
  • Someone said something to you a long time ago that really hurt your feelings
  • You have a friend that seems to be good at everything
  • Your husband or one of your children is making choices that you don't agree with
  • You are struggling with money
  • Someone cuts you off when you are driving
  • You have a million demands on your time
  • The trend is to dress a little bit immodest, but very hip
  • Your in-laws just bug the heck out of you
  • People are always telling your friend how pretty she is and how cute her kids are. You feel overlooked
  • You feel invisible or insignificant
  • Your kids break something that is very expensive or special to you
  • You know there are a whole lot of people suffering in the world
  • Someone gossips about you, and you hear about it
  • You're with some friends who are "discussing" aka gossiping about someone
  • You feel the itch to vent or say something unkind about someone
  • You know you have some spectacular talents
  • You feel like you have no talent
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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Best Gifts for Kids- Please Tell Me Your Favorites!

Even thought Black Friday is over, I still have Christmas shopping to do!

Sometimes I have an "issue" with gifts. I just hate spending money on things that just get scattered all over or ignored :(. On the other hand, I am so thrilled when someone really loves and appreciates a gift I've given.

I know that giving is a valuable to the soul.  But, so is my hard earned money!!!!! I want to use it wisely.

So, I ask... what are the gifts you've given to your children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or friends that have lasted and provided exceptional fun and durability?

Here are the gifts  my children  and I recommend. The things that have endured the test of time at our house....

1. Perler Beads:  Kids of all ages love Perler Beads. They keep all of my kiddos occupied for hours. They're especially fun to make with  THIS idea book.  I hot glue glue magnets on back of their creations and stick them on the fridge. They make fun Christmas ornaments, jewelry, stick ons for homemade cards, thank you gifts, and more.

2.  Sculpey Clay: We've spent hours and hours making little creations, toys, jewelry, ornaments, and hair pins, and key chains with sculpey clay. Look HERE and HERE for some of our ideas and tutorials with this great stuff. This is a fun activity to do with kids, or to let them knock themselves out. Though they'll need supervision and help baking. Age 4 is minimum, but even teenagers love this stuff!

3. Big Paper Roll: For $4.99 at IKea, all kinds of fun and creativity will abound! They last forever and kids love these. Especially after watching Ramona and Beezus :).

4. Friendship Bracelet Thread: I bought my kids this at Walmart for $3.97, and have been blown away by how much they've used it. We also have the fancy bracelet maker kit, but this kit with a few safety pins have provided even more fun than the expensive and fancy stuff.

5. Art Supplies: markers, crayons, paper, pastels, chalk, colored pencils, glue, watercolors, clay, yarn... just plain fun for any age, any gender.

6. Rainbow Loom: Yep, I'm on this bandwagon! My daughter received this for her 9th birthday, and she's become an total expert. So fun, and a great way for kids to learn creativity. Love it!

If the kid you're buying for already has a rainbow loom, they can always use extra bands!! (Inexpensive, and useful gift).

7. Huge White Board and Markers: Grandma and Grandpa gave this to my kids a few years ago, and it's been one of the biggest hits at our house. So many uses-- from homework to decorations to just keeping them occupied.

8. American Girl Dolls and Books: I know, I know... they are so expensive :(. However, there are some toys that are just made with such unmatched quality- these are one. I love learning with my daughter as we read the books, and I love watching her still play and sleep with dolls. The great thing about these dolls, is they're still cool for older girls. Kit's Kitteredge has lived at our house for 4 years, and she's still part of our daily life.
Clothes and accessories can be of cheaper quality, but I think these dolls really are worth it!

9. Keyboard: he great thing about keyboards, even very inexpensive ones, is that they have automatic songs, and variety in the keys. I can't remember a time when my kids didn't love to turn on the keyboard and dance, or use it as background music for a play they made up. They love to learn little jingles on it, and it's really come in handy to have music in our home.

10. Bey Blades: My 6 year old has LOVED playing with these. We've had them for over a year, and they're still a favorite toy... which is a miracle for him since he's sooo fickle with what he likes. They're inexpensive and keep boys entertained!

11. Tinker Toys: I know these are totally old school, but my grandparents gave my kids their old set, and wow, what a winner!!! When the kiddos are bored, I pull these out, and oh the creations they make!

12. Legos: Need I say more?

13. Mousetrap: For some reason this is a super popular game at our house. I often catch my older two kids up past bed time with this game :).

14. Clue: Another oldie but goodie. Definitely stands the test of time!

15. Reach for the Stars: When I was in college, a friend of mine told me that his aunt made up this game. I bought it, and played it with college friends.. though it is made for children (to help them build self esteem). We laughed until we cried while we played. So.Much.Fun. Now, when my kids choose a game to play with any adults, it's this one. It's just a small game made by my friend's aunt, but AWESOME!!!

16. Box of Dress-ups: The adorable picture above is by No Business Like Sew Business.
 I wish my dress up box was as cute!! I just have a big wooden box filled with hats, wigs, old Halloween costumes and lots of accessories. My kids have played with these more than almost anything!

17. Play Kitchen: The beautiful kitchen here is made by Ana White. Again, ours is not that pretty, but has been used constantly. I just wish I had the time and talent to make hers!  Every child needs a play kitchen.

18. Mailbox: This is a staple in our playroom. When my grandma had to leave her home to go to assisted living, she gave away all her stuff (such a sad day). When I asked my daughter if there was anything she really wanted from Grandma's house, she strongly requested the  play mailbox. I told her that someone else may have wanted it too. My daughter prayed for the mailbox, was so thankful when she got it. Kids of all ages have fun with it.

19. Cash Register: When my oldest children were little, my grandma was insistent that I get them a cash register. I remember playing with hers all the time, and now my children play with the one she bought for them. Comes in handy in so many games. A playroom is definitely not complete without one.

20. Homemade Quilt: Photo credits for this one go to Now and Then Quilts Etsy Shop.
This one isn't a toy, but I've seen from experience that these last the test of time. My aunt made me a "quillow" (a quilt that turns into a pillow) when I was 16. I loved it, and took it everywhere... and still do!! Now, 20 years later, my kids still use it all the time... and so do I! A perfect gift.

I would love to know what are the best gifts at your house?

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Sure Way to Increase Your Happiness Level

Last week I kept having moments that brought out my insecurities.  I found myself thinking things like, "you just are NOT as cool as you used to be!" and "you're pretty much going to just be mediocre your whole life, so get used to it." I started believing those thoughts and felt slightly depressed.

I know that I'm not alone in this. Sometimes there are little seasons when our insecurities, negative self talk or basing our worth on what we think others think of us just seem to ruin our peace and happiness.

Sometimes certain people just seem to bring hurt or annoyance to our lives.

Do you have someone in your life that seems to bring out the worst in you?  Or several people who  put you in a bad mood or annoy you like crazy?  You wish that you could just love them and feel total goodness towards them, but irritation always results in your associations with those particular people.

They seriously inhibit your ability to feel happiness... or so you think.

I've  tried many times to overcome the way  I feel about these people in my life  I've mentally attempted to feel ease, peace, and happiness with them. No lasting success was apparent  until one day I stumbled upon an idea that changed me...

A lesson from Native American Sacred Clowns.
(From Happy This Year by Will Bowen)

Sacred Clowns are called Heyoka by the Lakota Indians, the Zuni tribe calls them Mudheads, the Hopi call them Hano, Apache Indians have titled them Libaye, and the Cheyenne say they are Contraries:


the Zuni tribe calls them




The purpose of a Sacred Clown is to irritate, annoy, and mess with the members of the tribe. Most importantly however, their role is truly considered sacred and divine.

The Native Americans believe that in the beginning there was chaos, and that chaos is mandatory for people to thrive and survive.  Sacred Clowns are expected to bring forth chaos or irritation, and because of this, people in their tribe become stronger and more emotionally stable.

Each summer, there is a sacred Sun Dance festival  deep in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Tribal dancers honor their ancestors as they perform for 4 days in the scorching heat while fasting (no food or water). On the third day, when the dancers are obviously bone-weary and dehydrated, the Sacred Clowns come. They whoop,  holler, wreak havoc, and strive to distract the dancers.

An outsider would assume that these Sacred Clowns are evil, and should just leave. Right?


One year, Sacred Clowns didn't attend the festival. It would seem logical that the dancers would perform better, but the opposite happened. The worst year ever resulted for the dancers, and they were actually hospitalized because of heat exhaustion.

Truly, the adversity that the Sacred Clowns bring to the festival helps the dancers fight for who they are, and accomplish what they were meant to do.

Sacred Clowns are brought out in the Native American culture to help people understand their own true selves.
Sacred Clowns poke fun at the people, often speaking opposite of the truth. They try to mirror problems directly or inversely of those they are sent to irritate. Then, the people find within themselves the parts of their soul that need healing.

One sacred clown observed that "white people"sit around complaining at how other people and life circumstances annoy them. Yet, the Native Americans sit around the campfire at night and talk about the way the sacred clowns taught them something about themselves that day.

So, how did this change me?   I can now look at those who annoy me, or even those who really hurt or bother me as if they are a Sacred Clown or a teacher sent from God.

When we see others as divine teachers rather than irritants, everything changes. It helps us gaze into our own souls to view what part of us may need to heal, forgive, or be strengthened by divine power. Seeing people as sacred teachers rather than people who bother us is ennobling to the soul.

Here is one example, I'm a bit hesitant and embarrassed to share. It's a minor one, and it may appear silly, but it's a sacred clown to me:
In the last few months I've discovered Instagram. I like it tons better than Facebook, perhaps because I like pictures and think they are a delightful way to keep in touch.  I tapped into different circles of my friends who are also on instagram. I've enjoyed it a lot, and it's a lot faster and easier for me to keep in touch than any other social media source. If I follow someone, I hope that they follow me back. Just kind of a two way friendship thing, right?

So, I hit " follow" on a few friends that I've had for over 10 years.  They were  private accounts that I had to "request".  We have lots of mutual instagram friends, and so I see the comments they make to others often. What appears to me is that they didn't accept me as a  "friend", nor did they follow me. I  let this upset me. I started to feel bad and rejected.

Then I remembered the Sacred Clowns.

I pondered how I could view these people divine teachers that are revealing to me something about myself rather than as people set out to make me feel rejected. What are they teaching me about my spirit, and how can I keep my resolve and confidence because of this experience?

The answer came to me as I looked inside myself.  I saw that I have an insecurity that cares deeply about what other people think, and want to be accepted by people (and I'm even waaaay past my teenage years). It showed me that a place in me needs healing.

Obviously, I need to work on  knowing that I'm of great worth... even if no one else acknowledges that fact. It helped me realize how important it is to be secure in the fact that God loves me, and that I love me. I concluded that perhaps I need to love myself a little more. Not in a conceited way, but to be secure with who I am, regardless of how anyone else responds to me.

 That experience taught me to make sure to be generous in making others feel important- even in little ways. Times of rejection often teach us best to be inclusive and kind.

Remembering Sacred Clowns can turn those hurtful, negative, and annoying experienced into sacred ones. I'm not saying that they will suddenly take away hurt or pain, but truly they are a tool to peace and happiness.

Next time you encounter those people who drive you crazy, annoy you, or who bring you pain... remember the Sacred Clowns. 
I've found that the best way to make this work is not just to think about it, but to write about these things:

1. Who is your Sacred Clown and why?
2. What have those people taught you about yourself?
3. What divine message are they giving you?
3. How are you going to heal the parts of your soul that need healing?
    Forgiveness? Prayer? Connecting with God? Building confidence?
  It's what you DO with this information from yourself that makes the difference.

When you feel insecure, hurt, irritated, or annoyed... remember to bring in those Sacred Clowns :)! It will increase your degree of peace and happiness.


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Sunday, November 10, 2013

In Lieu of Plain Pumpkin Pie... 25 Scrumptious Pumpkin Desserts

I've confessed before that I don't like pumpkin pie. I try it every year just HOPING things in my taste buds will change. Maybe one day I'll taste my perfect pumpkin pie recipe... at least I hope so.

I LOVE everything else about Thanksgiving... the turkey, stuffing, cranberries, jello, and especially pies. I love pumpkin desserts, and those made with sweet potatoes. This post is dedicated to fellow Thanksgiving, pumpkin lovers who need an alternative to traditional pumpkin pie. Or other kindred spirits who just love desserts....

Happy Thanksgiving Prep!

As I find amazing pumpkin desserts, I'm adding to my list:

Pumpkin Torte from Taste of Home
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