Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I'm so excited for today. We've visited the pumpkin patch in the evening as a family. The kids and I headed back for more during the day. We have our jack-o lanterns carved and cookies made. We've been mulling cider and jumping in leave piles. Autumn is here and it's time to celebrate.

I was very happy when Lydia announced she wanted to be a princess this year and wear her birthday dress. No complaints from me! Easy peasy.

Lydia has no problem in front of the camera.

Collin on the other hand...

Isn't this the most pitiful thing you've ever seen? 

Oh dear.

"Come on Collin! Let's dance!"

(I also gave him some candy. The key to all good family photos FYI)

That's better. I don't know why this cow has horns and utters. One of life's little mysteries. 

Just a year or two left before he's dressing up as spiderman or something. 
But for now, I still get to make him adorable.

I went all out with my costume, as you can see.

Now we just wait for that first little knock on the door.

Have a wonderful All Hallows Eve ya'll! Come to my house...we have York Peppermint Patties!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Embracing the "all good"

Lately I've been doing a little self reflection of my life. Thinking about the day to day, my progress on goals, my marriage, my kids. I had a startling realization. Everything is great. Really. Everything is going wonderfully right now.

I can easily tell you the hardest parts of my life. 13 was a bad year for me. 7th grade. I really don't even want to talk about it. I was just not prepared to deal with any of it. Age 21 for exactly 3 months I was a train wreck. Age 28, for the year after Lydia was born, I never sleep more than 3 hours at a time and never went a day without crying. In fact, the only reason I started this blog was because I was trying to pull myself out of the misery and depression of having a baby who never slept and never stopped crying. If you read my first post, it wasn't exactly chipper. 

I think we can all look back on our lives and think of the really hard times. We allow for that. But sometimes I wonder if we allow ourselves to see the moments of goodness as they are happening. The times when everything is right. As I write this my house is really messy and I have no idea what to make for dinner because I'm sick to death of cooking. Lydia is dealing with some teenage angst that is driving me a little bit crazy. Things aren't perfect. But things are really, really good.

My vacation did exactly what I hoped. I feel refreshed and able to look at things with a clearer head. I'm married to an amazing man who I'm crazy about. My kids are darling, smart and healthy. My home is comfortable and my new friends are sweet. Boise is a great place to raise a family.

Right now my life is wonderful. There is always a chance that in tomorrow lies our greatest trial. You never know when sickness or unemployment will hit. I might have another sleepless year. But right now, today, all is good. I need to embrace it for the small moment that it exists.

My goal for the year has been to "Develop a passionate joy in the present". This goal has been life changing for me. I had the above pendant made so I could be reminded daily of my mantra. I've hung it next to my bathroom sink so as I start my day, I am reminded how precious those fleeting hours are. 

A couple months ago, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a leader in the Mormon church gave a powerful talk I recommend to all women of any faith. One thing he said coincided perfectly with my goal this year:

Forget not to be happy now. Recalling the children's story “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” President Uchtdorf said people were looking for a golden ticket in a candy bar. Unfortunately, the candy bar itself became an utter disappointment if it did not contain a gold ticket, he explained.
"So many people today are waiting for their own golden ticket — the ticket that they believe holds the key to the happiness they have always dreamed about. For some, the golden ticket may be a perfect marriage; for others, a magazine-cover home; or perhaps, freedom from stress and worry. There is nothing wrong with righteous yearnings."
The problem, he added, comes when a person puts their happiness on hold as they wait for some future event — or gold ticket — to appear.
"The happiest people I know are not those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in the pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments."

Focusing on the joys of the everyday and my other goal to "find poetry in the prosaic" has made me a better wife, mother and happier person. Even with 8 loads of laundry to do, dishes piled up and constant noise. I'm just happy I have my little family in my home who wear those clothes, eat my cooking (sometimes), and fill my life with laughter. 

Today I close my eyes to enjoy the crisp air of fall, the smell of leaves and the crunch of them below my child's feet. Today will be a fleeting memory soon enough, but if I hold it close, embrace it and let it be part of me, I will have it always. Today, all is well.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Harvest Soup - Tomato

After my latest Bountiful Baskets acquisition and a delivery from a nice neighbor, I had a ton of tomatoes. Couldn't let all these beauties go to waste, so I thought to myself, "What would Ina Garten do?" And you know what Ina would say? Get some of that chicken stock out of the freezer and make some SOUP! I remembered there was one of her soup recipes I hadn't tried. Sacrilege! 

We also picked up the children's book Soup Day at the library and the kids and I have made soup three times already this week.

But this soup tops them all. Oh my. It was incredible. I photographed my culinary journey.

  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 quart chicken stock or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes. I used parchment paper for easier clean up.

Poor basil plant. I picked it clean.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown.

Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet.

 Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. (I used a food processor.) Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold. I ended up thinning it with extra stock. It was just a tad too thick for me.

In the spirit of Ina, I made some homemade croutons, but I always think they get too soggy in soup. I recommend crusty bread instead.

And, just for fun, I added sauteed zucchini, yellow squash and grilled chicken to a batch. 
Made it much more "man" hearty.
I can't wait for tomorrow's leftovers. Ooo, Fall is my favorite time cook. And eat.
Shane made his famous hot chocolate for the family tonight. (Collin's was dairy free of course.)
 We drank it in our jammies. And then we had to change the kids into new jammies before bed.



The winner of the Minted Giveaway is Emily. Congrats! Email me and I will get you your prize!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Which color???

I'm rethinking my hair. I want to keep it long, but maybe switching up the color. 

What do you think?

Should I go really blond again? (Seen here this summer.)

Red? (Seen here with one year old Lydia)

Auburn? (Taken a bit after Lydia was born)

Or keep it more natural. 
(Taken last week)

Of course, I could always go black.
Taken when I was 22, the night I met Shane.

Don't worry, I won't really go black. And it was a wig.

So what do you think? 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday night answers....

I get asked the same question all the time.

"How do you find so much time to blog?"

Sometimes it's asked nicely, and sometimes it's asked as in "how are you able to spend anytime with your kids when you blog so much?"

I usually don't respond to the latter.

Anyway, here's the answer to that.

I do 95% of my blogging on Saturday Movie night with Shane. We get take-out and watch a movie together. But unless it is a really really great movie that I've never seen, I have a hard time focusing. So after we get done eating, I pull the laptop out. I edit photos, read blog posts and finish up "lovely lists". By the end of the night I usually have 4 or 5 posts done. It's an amazing detox for me.

At the moment, Shane and I are watching Thor.

Now, for that other 5%, sometimes a moment hits when I feel like I really need to get some thoughts out. In that occasion, I might write something when Collin is napping, or when the kids are in the bath. But that's rare. I try not to blog during the day.

***Side note. Thor is super dumb. Only about 3% of my attention is sticking with it.


Other questions I've been meaning to answer.

"Just curious, if you don't mind, could you elaborate on some of the things that are cultural to Mormonism that drive you crazy? I've heard this from a few people lately and it's really made me think."

I was trying to think how to answer this, when Shannon made a great comment.

"There are a few cultural things... I call them "isms", but they tend to disappear when you get out of the western states. I live in New England and the culture of being a Mormon here is SO different. We tend to get down to doctrine, love people for who they are, and leave the fancy stuff at the door. Very different than where I grew up in AZ, but it is great."
******** Love that answer! Couldn't have said it better. And lastly :

"Natalie, I've been wanting to get more readers to my blog. What do you recommend?"

Well - first of all, don't have a blog like mine :) My blog is niche free, as in I really don't focus on anything in particular. Well, except for the color yellow. To get a large readership, you want to pick something you're passionate about and write about it. People with that same passion will find you. My blog is mostly a place for me to talk about whatever floats my boat. I'll never have a huge blog, but that's okay. I sure like writing it. Way better than Thor.
(Also, make sure to comment on other's blogs. I don't get to do this near as often as I would like, but commenting leads people back to you. If they like what they see, they will probably stick around. )
Have any other questions? Feel free to email me
Back to the movie. Shane brought home chocolate. :)

Minted Giveaway ends Monday at midnight, don't forget to enter!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Couch to 5K

I mentioned a couple months ago that we had a little weight loss competition in my family. Whoever lost the biggest percentage of weight won the pot. Shane decided he wanted that pot so he started training for a half-marathon. He did win the pot, and he did finish the race.

He is a much happier guy when he is consistently running.

I didn't win, but I lost a little weight by upping my Zumba classes and getting white flour out of the house. Still, I've plateaued big time. I need to start doing something new.

This week I started Couch to 5K. I keep hearing from people it's a great way to get the beginner runner started gently.

Have any of you tried it?

My first run was good. I did it first thing in the morning and it kind of exhausted me for the rest of the day, but I think that was because I was up at 6. And I have insomnia, so that means I only got a few hours of sleep. I am going to try for later runs from now on.

It's a 9 week plan so I would be done a couple weeks before Christmas. I have a treadmill if it snows. I have an Enell bra which is a lifesaver for well endowed ladies. I have good running shoes.

Running just seems hard to me. But too many people say it's a game changer for them. I'm going to figure out what all the fuss is about.

I've included the first three weeks of the running schedule in case anyone wants to join in the pain fun.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Aw Love.

Lately I've been thinking how incredible it is to be in love. Probably because Autumn is the most romantic season in my option. I've been thinking mostly about being in love after marriage. It's totally different from the "beginning love" of falling in love. Which is an experience all it's own and not to be diminished. But something about being deeply and utterly in love with the person who has been by your side for many years is beautiful.  It's comforting in a way that makes trial bearable and gray days brighter. To know that every Christmas, birthday, anniversary and Tuesday will be with a person who you adore and who adores you is a joy unlike any other. I'm pretty much crazy about my husband. We shared a frosty from Wendys on our date night this weekend and I got all flustered just sitting next to him in the car. With car seats in the backseat. We had frostys on our first date too.

Newlyweds on a trip to Guatemala. The days when our passports actually got some use.
My goodness, we were young.

For 5 years I thought there was no way I could love him more. 
And then I had his baby.

It really does change everything.

I love being around couples who are crazy about each other too.

My best friend Carrie married Xander, the sweetest guy in the world. I loved this guy as soon as I saw how much he loved my friend. We are planning to buy a private Island between the four of us and only invite really really cool people.

I love that Shane's sister is married to one of my best friends. 
(You two are invited to the private island of coolness. FYI)


My cousin Lindsay and her husband Josh took part in the most incredible photo shoot

Aren't they the most beautiful couple?

I know. I kind of hate them too.

My friend Mara, who I only run into on the rare times I visit NYC, just started a lovely blog called
A Blog About Love, exploring marriage, infertility, and loving after divorce. It's very inspirational.

I love this wedding so much. I don't know the couple, but they seem crazy about each other. I'm thinking about having a vow renewal party just to copy it. A party about love. Weddings are the best!

Speaking of which, Shane's brother Neal is recently engaged. They are the cutest couple ever!
New love is pretty incredible too.

Aw love. 

It's super.

Don't forget to enter to win over $100 in Minted Holiday cards!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cutest little ragamuffin

Oh my word, this boy is darling. Even on days like this when I've completely failed him, like this day. We had to take Lydia to school and we were late. So instead of getting him dressed, I left him in his mismatched jammies, grabbed a pair of baby legs to keep him warm, "cat in the hat" socks and a hair rubber band as a bracelet. Actually, Collin accessorized the bracelet himself.

And I think I need to get his hair cut. It looks like he has bangs.

Even so, he's so cute, he totally owns this look. (SOOO happy he's holding on to those baby cheeks. I get to kiss them everyday!)

Today is the most glorious rainy fall day. We are eating leftover lentil soup and the most scrumptious pumpkin cookies. As I've mentioned before, rainy Autumn days fall second only to a winter blizzard in my book. Getting excited for those winter days. Just bought out plane tickets to Washington state for Christmas. Already praying for snow. (Though not as hard as I did in years past.)

Speaking of Christmas, don't forget to enter the Minted giveaway!!!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Minted - Holiday Cards Giveaway- Over $100 Value!

Most of my holiday giveaways won't start until after Halloween, but I had to get this one in now. If you are like me, you are already booking your Christmas photo shoot this month. (If you don't book ASAP all the good photographers will be full!) I wanted to make sure you got this fabulous prize pack in plenty of time. 

(Scroll to the bottom of this post for some of my photographer recommendations.)

I am a bit of a stationary guru. I really really love stationary. I have the worlds worst handwriting, but I still love to send snail mail. And the very best stationary?

I can honestly say I have tried out almost every major card company out there. Last year I ordered Christmas cards from three different companies. I wanted to see the difference. Minted is light years beyond anyone out there. First of all, their paper is gorgeous. Incredible quality and feel. You can upgrade to pearlescent paper or even recycled. The ink is crisp and rich. Second, the designs are darling. Always the most updated looks, because it is a community design team. They take designs from upcoming artists, let fans vote, and they sell the most popular. So you alway know that your design is a winner.

And the best part? A designer personally makes sure the card is just how you want it, and even sends you a digital proof! No way to goof that up.

Some of my favorites from this year.....

Rustic frame (almost all the photo cards have a non-photo version)

I am sooo tempted by the varsity holiday card. Yellow!!! Hard to find this color for Christmas time.
Yellow not your thing, no big, you can pick from several colors for each different card.

How about red? or blue or green?

Pick the color that best matches your photo.

And then you have all the backers for your card to choose from.

Or if you wanted it to be a folded card, you can design your interior.

Slip in envelope liner, so very posh.

And don't forget the skinny wrap address labels. Not only do they add that extra something, they keep your card protected. 

Want something totally over the top this year? Try the Minibooks

Last year I ordered some holiday nostalgia minibooks and they turned out amazing. 

Like a little gift. These would be great to order for family members to hang on their tree every year.

Pretty much I'm obsessed with Minted. Can you tell? 
As soon as you order from them, you will be too.

One natalie's sentiments reader will be receiving 50 holiday flat cards along with backers and skinny wrap address labels. 
Oh yeah! 

Everyone gets 15% off when you enter EARLYBIRD15 by Oct 17th!
To enter:

Head over to Minted and then come back here and let me know what holiday card you would choose if you won.

For additional entries, let me know in a separate comment if:
I'll announce the winner on October 25th. Good luck!
US addresses only

Some of my favorite photographers:
For Spokane Washington Area: m photo
For Boise, ID:  Amber Fischer Photography
Chattanooga, TN:  Pleasant Vonnoh
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