Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Thoughts on Halloween

Ahh, Halloween. One of my least favorite days of the year.

I’d be inclined not to celebrate Halloween, as I pretty much hate it.  However, as I’ve said before, I just can’t make a decision, and that applies to Halloween as well.  In my few short years on this earth, my opinions have ranged from Halloween being abhorrently evil and Halloween being a wonderful day of candy and fun.  So, what is it?  This year, I think I’ve come a little closer to settling on an opinion.

First, as a kid, I was taught that a good way to make a decision was to write down all the pros and cons:

Things I like about Halloween:
-Candy
-Costumes (fun costumes not fitting into any of the categories listed on my ‘dislike’ list – but may I mention I LOVE making/wearing costumes)
-Carving pumpkins (again, things not fitting into the ‘dislike’ categories)
-the idea of honoring deceased ancestors (pretty much lost in American culture today, but a part of the celebration in the past and in other countries)

Things I dislike about Halloween:
-Anything evil or satanic (including witchcraft, spells, devils, demons, black magic, etc)
-Anything violent or insinuating violence (gore, blood, death, weapons, etc)
-Anything involving zombies, ghosts, or the ‘undead’
-Anything haunted, creepy, spooky, scary, etc.
-90% of all Halloween decorations are really tacky – fake spiderwebs, plastic gravestones, fake blood, the list goes on. We spend all year getting rid of spiders, cobwebs, etc and then put fake ones all over. I don’t get it.
-Halloween is second to Christmas in retail gimmicks, length of celebration, and decorating extravagance. It disgusts me.
-Really expensive low-quality costumes.  I really don’t understand why people waste their money on crap.
-The high percentage of women who see this as an excuse to dress like a slut.
-People who say “coshtume” instead of “costume”
-greedy kids taking handfuls of candy
-kids older than 13 trying to take my candy
-the fact that some churches host haunted houses, spook alleys, etc. Not appropriate at all!
-most of all: Most people seem totally ignorant to what Halloween really is, how it started, and what the traditions are all about. (My honest opinion is that much of this has to do with public schools – since many public schools can’t legally say anything about any religion, they can’t teach the history of any holiday traditions.  It’s a sad but true fact that many Americans have little or no desire to learn anything outside of a classroom, and so they never learn the truth.)

If I could tell every person in America something today, it would be the true meaning of Halloween.  I want everyone to understand the history and meaning behind it, then step back, take a look at what they are doing, and see if they really agree with it.  I want them especially to see if they really agree having their children participate. I think that many people just haven’t taken the time to think about what they are doing.

Halloween, like most holidays, is a mixture of Pagan and Christian traditions.  (In this case, mostly Pagan) I won’t go on about that, I figure you know how to use Google and can read more about the origin of the holiday if you want (try searching for Samhain – the Pagan celebration).  Now, you need to understand that Pagan religions (such as Wicca) are about the worship of earth (they are not satanic as some people believe, but many Pagans do call themselves witches).  I personally have no problem with looking for the good in every religion and celebrating with them the ‘good’ traditions I find.  However, I think it is interesting that Christian people are so excited to go all out in celebrating a Pagan holiday, but they don’t celebrate or even consider Hanukkah or Passover or Ramadan or Eid or Holi or Diwali.


The Conclusion:
So, I got to thinking about this, and I think I made up my mind (at least for this year).  At first, I was thinking it was time to suck it up and do away with Halloween altogether.  But then I got to thinking – if a Muslim friend invited me to a Ramadan feast, would I go? Yes, of course!  If a Jewish friend invited me to a Passover fest, would I go? Yes, of course!  If a Hindu friend invited me to a Holi party, would I go? Yes, of course! Do I think it is wrong to experience other cultures and support other faiths in the celebrations? No, I do not!  So should I see Halloween as entirely evil? No. There are many good things that our Pagan friends celebrate on Halloween, and I can join with them in this. 

As I do with all holidays (you will hear about Christmas and Easter when the time comes), I choose to participate in the holiday traditions that I feel are appropriate and that symbolize concepts that I think are ‘good’.  In the case of Halloween, this includes gratitude for the harvest, honoring my ancestors (who, before the Christianization of Europe, were Pagans themseves), and celebrating man’s victory over evil.  However, as a part of this, I also need to recognize the religions of other holidays more.  If I am going to celebrate part of a Pagan holiday in my home, I need to also be willing to have a symbolic dinner on Passover, try to come closer to God during Ramadan, etc.

So, if I don’t have fake spider webs on my bushes and a disgusting plastic zombie crawling out of my front lawn, forgive me. I will still give you candy if you knock on my door!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Welcome, world!

This is the first day this blog has been open to the public. If you are reading this, THANK YOU!!! please comment or follow (either through facebook or blogger) to let me know you are out there. Twitter and pinterest may come in the future. As far as the blog is concerned, it will be a random sampler of things I make and do, some product reviews, some tutorials, you name it. I'm sure you will see some dumb ideas and some good ideas. I'm not perfect and I don't mind letting you know that. I dont plan on posting every day, I am hoping for twice a week. For this first little while it may be more often just so I can get a good number of things in to keep you interested. If there is anything in particular you want me to post about, please let me know!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

21 Days project

If anyone needs to figure out how to live a more disciplined life, it is me! I would say that I have discipline, but I just can’t seem to get things done – which I suppose is evidence that I am not as disciplined as I thought.
 
Luckily, Crystal Paine over at moneysavingmom.com has just published a new E-book, 21 Days to a More Disciplined LifeWhen I read the sales page and description of the book and to whom it was written, I thought “yeah, that’s me… but a book won’t help!” Then, she linked to a group of bloggers (and facebookers and tweeters) who are going to keep each other going on this and actually accomplish something instead of read the book, be motivated for a day, and then be overwhelmed and lazy all over again the next. (Which is what will happen to me, I know)
 
The book is all about forming new good habits while accomplishing some sort of goal or project. Each day has a page of motivation and encouragement, followed by a goal for the day and a tip for your “Mega-Project”. The Mega-Project is the thing that you want to have completed by the end of the 21 days. I picked cleaning and organizing my storage/sewing/office/whatever room (it is hoarderville in there, really). The book is designed so that you can use it again and again to do many different projects. (It isnot just cleaning related projects either. Others have chosen waking up earlier, eating healthier, losing weight, learning a new skill, sewing/building something, etc.) If I’m somewhat successful with this one, I just might tackle the garage or under the stairs next.
 
So, starting November 1st, I will be doing this 21 day challenge, along with other women (and men, I suppose) around the country (world?) who, like me, make great plans, start big projects, and then never accomplish anything. I will post my progress to you a few times each week, and then at the end of November, give a book review and final report on my success (or failure).

Here's the deal: I need your help! I need you to keep me accountable and keep me going on this thing! Please comment and let me know that you are watching me. :)
 

Note: If you purchase  the book by following the image link above (or other links on my page), I will make a small commission on the sale. If you do decide to buy the book, thank you in advance!

Inspiration Sunday: What are you lying about?

As I was preparing my lesson last Sunday, I came across this quote that I really liked:
 
“No man will ever be totally free who is living a lie.” –Elder Marvin J. Ashton (April 1982 General Conference)
 
This really stood out to me. It made me think about feeling freedom and harmony in life, and how you can go about achieving that freedom. I kind of read it to mean “If you don’t feel totally free, you are living a lie.” I think to some extent, nobody feels totally free in life. There is always room to improve, always a new challenge to overcome, no matter our age or position. However, just because it is a lifelong pursuit doesn’t mean it isn’t worth pursuing. Our purpose here on earth is to continually improve to develop a more godly character and assist those around us in doing the same, and part of this is seeking to eliminate the ‘lies’ we are living.
 
I’m not talking about the lies you might have told others about yourself, I am talking about the lies you told yourself about yourself. We have all tried to convince ourselves of something at some point in time. It is a natural coping mechanism to try to sooth ourselves (or, to “lull yourself into security”). However, the security we feel from doing this is a lie – it keeps us from true lasting happiness. It also is often temporary, because eventually we have to face the facts. Overcoming our lies and living free is a two-step process:
 
Step 1: Recognize your “lie” and accept who you are
Maybe you don’t want to admit to yourself that you really aren’t as perfect as you let other people believe. Or, the opposite, you are afraid to admit that you can achieve something great and hold back your talents. Perhaps you are comfortable where you are and are trying ignore the spiritual prodding of God leading you to a higher (but more difficult, of course) path. Maybe you are facing the challenge of accepting limitations due to health, age, or other circumstance. All these things hold us back and keep us from feeling true freedom, harmony, and contentment in life.
 
Be honest with yourself. (Easier said than done sometimes!) Allow yourself to acknowledge some fault or problem, some lie that you are living with. (Not all of them at once, bite-sized pieces are best!)
 
Accept who and where you are now. Accept that you haven’t achieved your ‘end goal’. Realize that you aren’t who you want to be in the end, and admit that there is some way to improve or to achieve this end goal. Recognize that you won’t be here forever, this is just a stepping stone to bigger and better things!  Choose to see this as an opportunity to grow and improve, rather than hiding it away in the closet and hoping it disappears.
 
Step 2: Realize who you want to become and eliminate your lie
Now, what is it that you really want to become? Think big! You want to be a benefit to society and influence people for good. You want to change somebody’s life for the better. YOU CAN DO IT! Whatever issue is facing you, whatever your ‘lie’ is, stop seeing it as a stumbling block, and start seeing it as a stepping stone. This is an opportunity to grow and learn and become who and what you want to be. 
 
Chart your course to success in eliminating your lie. This will probably be a long-term plan. That is okay. You may need to make major life changes. You may need to seek professional help. You may need to get family and friends involved. Be brave, be honest, be diligent. Above all, get God involved. Pray for strength and direction. As you move in the direction that He wants to take you (and trust me, He knows better than you do what you can become and how you should get there) you will feel increased freedom, harmony, and contentment. You will eliminate the lies you are living, turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones, and begin to experience what it means to be “totally free.”


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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Vegetarian Queso Dip and Homemade Cheese Crackers

Last weekend we were invited to a "killer" party (pun intended- the theme was serial killers) hosted by our good friends/relatives, the Piersons. (You should check out their blog, Vanessa has some pretty awesome ideas and I am going to beg her to do a guest post for me even though it is so far beneath her!) I brought what has become our traditional Halloween appetizer – a creamy queso dip with homemade cheese crackers. (I call them pumpkin crackers, but only because they are shaped like pumpkins.  There is NO pumpkin in the crackers. Promise.)  Hubby really loves this dish, and people seem to like it (or at least they say they like it) when I make it, so I thought I’d share.


Cheese Crackers

There are a million cheese cracker recipes floating around on the internet.  Mine goes like this:

1 C flour + some for flouring your rolling surface and rolling pin
¼ C butter
Pinch of salt (no more than ½ teaspoon)
2 C shredded cheese
Water (several tablespoons, just add to consistency)

Mix the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor (a blender will work) until the butter is mixed in and it looks like crumbs.  Then add the cheese a half cup at a time, pulsing until it is ground up and well mixed.  Your dough will be quite crumb-y at this point.  Add water a tablespoon at a time just until the dough will stick together. It usually takes 3-5 tablespoons.  Divide the dough into sections, knead and press into balls.  Roll thin on a lightly floured surface – I mean SUPER thin – and cut with a cookie cutter (or into squares with a knife).  Bake on a baking sheet covered with wax paper or parchment paper at 350 for 12-15 minutes (keep an eye on them, they go from soft to crispy to burned very quickly.)  They will stay good in an air-tight container for about a week.  If you want them to look really orange, use some food coloring.  (I did not.)

Vegetarian Creamy Queso Dip

(This is adapted from a recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook, which is pretty much the Bible of cooking, IMO.)

2 Tbs butter
½ C diced onion
½ tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
½ tsp taco seasoning (more or less to taste)
1 tsp minced garlic (more or less to taste)
1 can green chilies

Put all together in a saucepan and sauté in the butter a few minutes until onions are soft.

1 Tbs + flour

Turn heat to low and mix flour into butter mixture until it is a paste, usually about 1 Tbs, but you may need more.

1 8 oz block cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
½ cup shredded cheese

Add the last three ingredients in order, stirring constantly.  Continue stirring until bubbly and cheeses are melted.  If too thick, stir in milk to consistency.

And there you have it, folks!  I usually don’t use measurements when I cook, so I’m hoping my estimates work out all right.  If you try it, comment to let me know how it turns out!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Simplicity 2150 Pattern Review

In late August I was contacted by my local Joann's store asking if I would be interested in being a sewing instructor. I had given them my name and number in the spring, and I was sure they would never call me, but it was something that sounded like a fun challenge so I went for it.  To my surprise, months later one of the sewing instructors came down with a severe illness and they needed me - NOW.  So, I was given two weeks to sew four items as samples to advertise the classes - a jacket, a knit shirt, a cotton top, and pajama pants.  I was just happy that I even finished sewing all that stuff in such a short time, and was beaming with pride when the education manager called to say that she was very pleased.  Even more proud because I have never sewn a jacket and never successfully sewn a knit until now. (don't tell anyone... I am a professional, remember?)

Since I always like to find pattern reviews before I use a pattern, I thought I’d share reviews for the patterns I use with you.  This is one of the patterns I used for the September and October classes. 

This Jacket is Simplicity 2150 view B.  I made it from a houndstooth print cotton suiting... and absolutely fell in love with suiting.  I wish I had something to make with more suiting, beacuse that stuff is so great to sew with! The pattern is much easier than it looks, so this is a good project to impress your friends.  I zoomed through it until I realized that I had somehow managed to get the collar on backward (thats what sewing at 3 a.m. will do). It took me awhile to figure out how I did that!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Life Hacks

A coworker recently introduced me to the term “Life Hacks”.  Essentially, helpful hints for daily living.  (No wonder I couldn’t find stuff like this online, I didn’t know the right search term!)  Most of these involve recycling one thing to use as something else, which is perfect for me!  I hate throwing perfectly good “garbage” away! I spent a few minutes browsing Google and found a ton of new ideas, here are some that I am going to try:


Hide your valuables in a sunscreen container: Because we all know Jerry Seinfeld was just joking when he said “I’ll just hide my wallet in my shoe while I’m at the beach! No criminal would ever think to look there!”


Soap bottle charging station: Guess what? I just finished a bottle of baby shampoo!  Guess what I’m going to make with it!


Use a toilet paper roll to hold your wrapping paper: This is so much better than a rubber band. Seriously!


Fix a flip-flop with a bread clip: This is one my oldest little brother would think is dumb.  I know he would say “Just buy new shoes!”  But why should I, if I can fix ‘em for free?


Hide money in a Chapstick container: I guess it’s like the sunscreen one, and it’s bad if you loose your ‘chapstick’, but brilliant if you are travelling in an area known for pickpockets.  Wish my credit card and ID could roll up and fit in there too!


Store your cords in toilet paper rolls: Yes! I got SO FRUSTRATED with our giant pile of cords the other day. Now, the frustration will end.

Use a caribiner to hold your groceries: Hubby always makes fun of me for taking multiple trips to bring the groceries in.  No longer! Now I just need a way to hook a few gallons of milk on there…

If you'd like to see more, here's the source for these images!

Garden Report 2012

Wheeew! Two posts down?

That feels great, only a lifetime more to go! (Wow, what if I really did blog for a lifetime? Who knows, maybe I’ll be 70, sitting here blogging about how I still haven’t reached my goals and how I still can’t keep up with household chores because I’m too busy with nothing in particular.)

I guess by the third post, you’ve heard enough about the blog and myself and now it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty of it all. (Doesn’t that sound just like dating? I remember the ‘third date’ rule in high school. Does that still exist?)

Alright, well, for the “nitty-gritty”:

Last winter, I decided I was going to have a garden.  We’d lived in our townhouse for a year, and having a whole 5x8 foot plot of land to play with was really exciting me.  Those of you who live in ‘real’ houses with ‘real’ yards probably think that a whole 40 square feet is practically useless, but trust me, nothing is useless.

In March, the ground was un-frozen enough to start digging.  I ripped out two disgusting ugly bushes that our HOA had planted.  (If they ever ask what happened to them, they died. After I dug them up, yes, but still, they died.)  I worked that dirt 12-18 inches down, and quickly learned that under a few inches of top soil was some rock solid clay (even though half a mile down the road the soil is sandy). I was pretty confident that I was given the worst soil in the world, but worked it anyway.  After I practically destroyed my hands and wrists turning the soil, I planted a few early potatoes and devoted myself to making a plan until things warmed up.

I got my neighbor friend to get in on the plan with me.  We checked out some library books about gardening in small spaces, most of which turned out to be useless (although do check out Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  I didn’t follow his exact system, but it gave me the confidence I needed to know that I could grow lots of food in that small space, and gave me the idea of planting everything I could vertically to save ground space.)  We split the cost of seeds and two tiny tomato plants (a whole dollar each at Wal-Mart), and I planted them while she prayed that something would actually grow.

We had a warm spring, and I planted most of the seeds in mid-April, a month earlier than suggested in our zone.  By May (when most people were just beginning to plant), we had some pretty decent sized little plants.  Tomatoes, beans, lettuce, cucumbers, watermelon, potatoes, radishes, carrots, and broccoli.  

Our garden in May
I didn’t use any fancy techniques or fertilizers, just stuck them in the ground and kept them watered.  I used some Miracle-Grow plant food every other week, but soon most of the plants were out of control so I stopped feeding them.  By August I wasn’t even watering them, and they just kept growing!  The beans produced and died off pretty quickly, but were replaced by the watermelon vine, which kept growing but never bore fruit.  Only one cucumber seed out of 10 sprouted, but it went crazy, almost took over the whole garden, and produced many more cucumbers than we could ever eat.  The potatoes were awesome, and having never grown them before, I thought it was like a treasure hunt digging through the dirt to find them.  The lettuce was alright, but tough and prone to bugs and stray cats.  The carrots turned out great, but took much longer to grow than expected.  The few radishes that actually produced were delicious, but I ended up planting about 20 seeds for three vegetables.  The big producers were the tomatoes and the broccoli.  The broccoli plant got really really huge and just when I was thinking it would never actually produce broccoli, it did.  It produced a lot through the season, and one broccoli plant produced plenty for our little family this summer.  The tomatoes would have been totally out of control if it hadn’t been for the deer.  They came by every few nights and kept them trimmed.  But still, the plants produced more tomatoes than we could eat, and a lot of them are now in my freezer.

In late September, the garden was just past its peak, finally giving us produce at a pace we could actually consume it, although looking quite overgrown and overwhelming:

Our garden in September
 Last Monday, realizing that the plants were looking a little dead and the first freeze would be here within weeks, I decided it was time to say goodbye to the garden for the season.  I spent all afternoon (the bonus of a small space is that it will only take an afternoon, not a whole weekend) chopping down the plants and throwing them in a pile.  But instead of throwing them away, I decided to turn my garden into a sort of compost pile, and buried all my plant waste back in the garden.  The hope is that over the winter the nutrients will absorb back into the soil and I can have a great garden again next year.  (I do have some winter potatoes still in the ground, though.)

The garden in October
I will let you know in the spring how my little compost idea turned out!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

About Us


(Photo courtesy SilverCrest Photography)

Alright, well, now that I’ve determined a sort of purpose or direction for this blog (essentially just about me being me, which is what people told me to write about all along… thanks people!) its time to let you know who I am.  I don’t know if that will make people any more likely to read my blog, but it might quell your curiosity a bit.

I am… uh… why is it so hard to write about yourself?

Once upon a time, in the land that I’ve lived in my entire life, I was born.  I have a mom and a dad and three younger siblings.  And then, I found Prince Charming, I made him mine, and we are living happily ever after.  We have a little prince of our own now.  I think he is the cutest little thing that ever existed, and judging by the number of complete strangers who have stopped me to talk about his dashing good looks, he must be.

Hubby and I are both pioneer stock (well, not completely, but mostly).  Our ancestors walked across the country to come here, and we don’t have any desire to leave.  We hope to carry on the same faith and traditions as our forefathers, here in the land they claimed for us.

I get a little nostalgic at times (a lot nostalgic, very often) for the ‘good old days’ before I was even born.  I like old things, I like connecting to the past.  I like to do things the ‘old fashioned way’ (don’t get me wrong, I love indoor plumbing and electricity).  I think that connecting to the past gives us greater perspective and helps us chart our future.

I am an expert procrastinator. You might say I’m lazy, but maybe I’m just slowing down to enjoy the finer things in life (like napping).  I am the most indecisive person you will ever meet.  I can’t make up my mind about 90% of the time.  But when I do make up my mind, no power in earth or hell can shake me.

Somehow, I manage to be both assertive and reticent.  I think this has to do with my indecisiveness, I can’t even decide on my own personality.  I am generally unconfident and uncertain about myself, and assume that when people complement me they are just trying to be nice.  (This is really why I haven’t ever started a blog; my ideas just never seem very cool.)

I guess you will learn my interests through this blog, but I most enjoy spending time with family, eating, creating, and learning (everything).  I read a lot of old books about religion, education, sewing, and what they used to call “housewifery”, but that is not PC these days.  My goal is to live a real intentional, responsible, planned, purposeful, organized life and to help others do the same… I have faith that if I keep moving, I’ll get to where I’m going.

Hello Infobahn!

Everyone keeps telling me I should start a blog. 
More than that, they ask me why I don’t have a blog.
My answer is usually “Well, what would I write about?” And they always say “Whatever you want!”

So, here it goes, I guess.  I really will write about whatever I want – of course I’m not interested in everything so you shouldn’t expect to see any posts about sports or politics or anime.  Probably more like sewing and crafting and cooking and kids and some religion or opinion pieces thrown in for good measure.  That’s what I plan on, at least. I worry that that is just too many topics for anyone to be interested.  But I worry that nobody would be interested in anything I write, too.

As the name of the blog implies, I’ll be talking about things relating to home – and I know there’s a ton of bloggers out there talking about homemaking and homeschooling and homesteading and homewhatevering and they are all a thousand times better at what they do than I am.  I just hope that someone somewhere someday will read something that I write and actually like it.  Who knows, maybe I really could be a good blogger like some people think.

As far as the rest of the blog title and what it has to do with anything:
Our: this is about me, my family, our opinions, our beliefs, our projects, and the things we do.  I am not endorsed by anybody, I am not officially representing anybody (except myself).  Do not take my opinion to be the opinion of everyone I associate with, please.  Also, I am sorry if you don’t like what I say, but this is my forum and I have the freedom to write what I please.

Deseret: I am writing this blog from Deseret – the land that my ancestors dreamed of and worked their rear ends off to establish.  Yes, it’s Utah now, but to me (ever thinking of the past) it is still that utopian Zion where all is well.  I don’t know that it really ever was the heaven-on-earth that people expected it to be, but I always think that perhaps with a little positive thinking it can be heaven to me. 

Deseret was not only about being a place of refuge and peace, but a place of industry and thrift.  Thrift is my expertise. Industry, not so much (but I hope to get there someday).  Topics like prudence, frugality, productiveness, and diligence are also on the menu here.

Home: Like I mentioned earlier, what I will write will relate to home, family, etc.

I especially like the meaning of the three words together – Our Deseret Homethis is a blog about my journey to creating a home that is a refuge from the world in a way that is thrifty and industrious.

Well, there you have it folks, that is what this blog is all about! (I only just discovered it by writing that line.)  Please, please, please, somebody, somewhere, please, read this blog and let me know that you read it! I don’t want to write to the depths of cyberspace, I want to write to YOU (whoever you are…)