Friday, March 31, 2017

Unlimited LDS Audiobooks with Deseret Bookshelf Plus and 6 Book Series for YA LDS Readers



Every year right around Easter, I start to feel drawn to religious topics. I don't often write about religion here, but I try to keep my eyes and ears open to questions and things my readers want to know. More than once I have been asked by readers who are the members of my same faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints what I recommend for their teenagers to read. Easter, combined with the launch of the new Deseret Book e-book and audio book plus app made it the perfect time to recommend these wonderful books.

Deseret Bookshelf Plus is a new an amazing subscription service for $6.99 you can get unlimited access to their entire collection of ebook and audio books. They have more than 500 audio books and 1500 ebooks all included in the price. As a mom who loves to download audiobooks for traveling in the car with my kids, I can tell you the audio books alone make this price worth it. It even includes Dragonwatch the latest in the Fablehaven stories. They have a free 30 day trial right now, so you can try it for free!

There are books of every kind, including cookbooks like Our Best Bites, Biographical books like The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Fiction like Charly and so many more. Since I am asked most often what books I would recommend to teens and young readers I have compiled my favorite books you can read AND listen to with Deseret Bookshelf Plus. These are all amazing books that I have personally read and felt inspired by. They are clean, fun and uplifting.



Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites- Jim is an adventurous boy who is a little bit of a rebel. Garth, his best friend, loves to read and study the Book of Mormon. The two find themselves thrown back to the time of the Nephites and experiencing the Book of Mormon first hand.

I devoured these books as a kid. They were adventurous and the characters very clever. Jim is funny and Garth is endearing. I stayed up really late reading these books more than once and I hope my kids are going to love them as much as I did. I stopped reading them about the time I graduated high school and so I have a few to catch up on too!


Fablehaven- When Kendra and her brother, Seth discover that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven, a sanctuary for magical creature, their eyes are opened to a world of magic and danger.

After years of prodding, I finally took my first leap into the world of Fablehaven. It is full of magical creatures and adventures. If I being completely honest, I read all five books in five days. I almost stopped after the first book, thinking it was a little two young for me, not completely captured by story yet but I am glad I kept going. It is one I can't wait to read with my kids! While not inherently religious, this book written by a member of the LDS church is everything a parent could hope for in a series their children will love.



Dragonwatch- Fablehaven fans rejoice! Dragonwatch is the first book in a whole knew series about the kids in Fablehaven. It picks up right where Fablehaven left off. As someone who had a blast reading Fablehaven I was so happy to have a book to turn to when Fablehaven was over.



What I'd Wish I had Known When I was in High School- This book was a must read for me in my teenage years. It took important gospel ideas and principles and applied them to the challenges the youth face every day. It teaches without overwhelming and covers topics such a popularity, self-esteem and self discipline. Jon Bytheway's funny wit keeps teens reading and learning. It is uplifting in a world that drags teens down.

The Five Scriptures That Will Help You Get Through Almost Anything- This talk on tape made a bigger impact on me during my teenage years than any other single thing I read or listened to. It lists five scriptures to help teenagers understand the love of their savior and how to move past hard things in life. I know longer remember all of the five scriptures and principles but I think of the first one often, knowing that God loves his children. If you know he loves you, really know it. So many things are easy to push through.



The Other Side of Heaven- I read this book in high school and the experiences of John H. Groberg while on his mission in Tonga touched me deeply. Elder Groberg writes his first person account of the three years he spent on a small island. The blessings, heartaches and miracles described in this book buoyed me up in ways I can completely describe. After reading this book I became obsessed with the movie adaptation and watch it over and over again. It is truly a story that shows God is good and loves his people. This book taught me things about myself, things about God and things about the world that have blessed my life for years to come.

I can't wait to start Fablehaven and Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites with my kids. I think they are going to laugh out loud at Jim and Garth's adventures and beg for more with every fairy and dragon in Fablehaven. I am thrilled to start listening to these books for such a low cost every month. With a free 30 day trial waiting for you, what do you have to lose?

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Resurrection Eggs: A Memorable Easter Activity for Kids

This post is sponsored by Mormon.Org 



My mom has been in pain my entire life. Arthritis has been my mom's constant companion for more than 30 years. When I was a child I prayed over and over again to the Lord, begging him to take away my mom's illness. Even in pain, my mom is an absolutely amazing mom. She would read to us every night, hilarious books that made all of us roll on the floor with laughter. She makes the best chocolate chip cookies and created all sorts of amazing activities for us. I remember watching the pain on my mom's face, wishing I could help her, terrified that one day I could be in that kind of pain. 


The day I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, my mom cried. As often as I prayed for her pain to go away, she prayed her pain wouldn't be passed on to her kids. The time right after my diagnosis was a frustrating time. Every joint hurt. I was endlessly exhausted and my mind felt like it was in a fog. Even though our autoimmune disorders aren't exactly the same, I found myself going through many of the same things my mom did. In a fit of exasperation one night, I asked her how she pushed through the pain for so long. Her answer was simple: Faith. Faith in our Savior's love. Faith in a greater plan. Faith that she could make it through this trial. Faith in the importance of raising her children. Faith in the fact that life is good and worth living despite the pain. 



So even with the pain, it has been an amazing 30 years for my mom, filled with the adventures of 6 kids and 11 grandkids, trips all over the world, and days spent baking with grandkids and pillow fort adventures. If she has missed the pain, she would have missed all of the wonderful too. 



When I look forward to my life, I know there will be bad days where the Hashimotos wins, but I also know there will be sweet moments like baby kisses and story time, or days on the beach in the sand and snuggling with my little ones late at night. There will be chocolate chip cookies, playing in the back yard and laughter. I wouldn't miss it for the world – even to miss the pain. I have faith that I am right where I am supposed to be and I have faith that life is good. 

Earlier I mentioned all of the activities my mom used to make for us as kids. These Resurrection Eggs were one of those memorable activities. Every Easter we would sit in a circle, and each take a turn to open an egg and learn about the Resurrection of the Savior. It is one of my favorite Easter memories and something I have continued with my own children. 


When our family does these eggs together, I like to have one of my kids open an egg and take out the object first. We discuss the object in the egg and how it might pertain to the story. Then we take out the slip of paper with the scripture on it and read it. 


With all of the Easter egg hunts, baskets, and coloring eggs, it's nice to just take a moment to truly celebrate Easter.


For eggs 1-4 you will need: 

  • A small cup
  • 3 dimes (30 pieces of silver)
  • Thorns
  • Small piece of soap


Place each item in its own Easter egg with the corresponding scripture.

#1) Matthew 26:39
  And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. 
Item: Sacrament Cup

#2) Matthew 26:14-16 
14  Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,
 15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
16 And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him. 
Item: 3 Dimes

#3) Matthew 27:29-30
 29 And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
 30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. 
Item: Thorn


#4) Matthew 27:24-26
 24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.
 25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
 26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
Item: Piece of Soap


For eggs 5-8 you will need: 

  • Square of red felt
  • Nails
  • Dice
  • Pebbles


Place each item in its own Easter egg with the corresponding scripture.

#5) Matthew 27:28-30 
 28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
 29 And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
 30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
 31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him. 
Item: Red Felt

#6) Luke 23:33-34
 33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
 34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
Item: Nail

#7) Matthew 27:35-36
 35 And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.
 36 And sitting down they watched him there;
Item: Dice

#8) Matthew 27:50-51, 54
 50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
Item: Pebbles



For eggs 9-11 you will need: 

  • White cloth
  • Stone
  • Cloves


Place each item in its own Easter egg with the corresponding scripture.

#9) Matthew 27:58-60
 58 He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.
 59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,
Item: White Cloth

#10) Matthew 27:60, 65-66
 60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.
 65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.
 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
Item: Stone

#11)  Mark 16:1
Matthew 28: 2-5
 1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.
 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:
 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.
 5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
Item: Cloves

#12) Matthew 28:6
 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. 
Item: None — it's empty!


There is always a certain power that comes with the last egg. I remember my youngest daughter's first time participating in the eggs last year. She cried when the last egg was empty. Her older sister put her arm around and told her to not be sad, because Jesus has risen and he loves her. That sweet moment is forever one of my favorite memories.

This Easter, strive to find peace within yourself. You can find the 8 principles of peace at  Mormon.Org and ideas to help you strive for them. #PrinceofPeace
How have you found peace?
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

One-Pan Parmesan Chicken, Potatoes and Broccoli



One of the most frustrating parts about cooking happens after tummies are full — clean up. As wonderful as home-cooked meals are, it often comes at the price of a load of dishes.

But tasty dishes don't have to require lots of dishes, or even lots of prep. Take, for instance, this delicious One-Pan Parmsean Chicken, Potatoes and Broccoli. Your dish load will consist of a cutting board, a knife, and a baking sheet. Oh, and the food is incredible!

When I need a quick fix meal that hits the spot, this is one of my favorites. Not only is it fast, and easy on the dishes, the flavor is amazing and I'm always satisfied.


INGREDIENTS

4 chicken breasts
6 red potatoes
4 broccoli crowns
Olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Custom Seasoning Blend
2 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp parsley

PREPARATION


  1. Cover your baking sheet with tinfoil and coat with cooking spray.
  2. Take another sheet of tinfoil and create a little "boat" to go in the middle of the tray to hold the chicken, thereby preventing the juices from running into the potatoes or broccoli. This boat should be about a third of the width of the total tray, which will split the tray into three parts (one for the potatoes, one for the broccoli, and one for the chicken.)
  3. Cut the potatoes into thin round slices and lay the slices on one-third of the cooking sheet.
  4. Cut the broccoli crowns down to small pieces and lay on another third of the cooking sheet.
  5. Prepare your custom seasoning blend by mixing the salt, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, paprika, and parsley in a bowl.
  6. Sprinkle the seasoning blend on both sides of your chicken breasts and lay the chicken breasts in the tinfoil boat you prepared.
  7. Sprinkle the same seasoning blend over the potatoes and broccoli.
  8. Lightly coat the potatoes, broccoli, and chicken with some olive oil.
  9. Sprinkle the shredded Parmesan cheese over the potatoes, broccoli, and chicken. Go on, be generous with the cheese!
  10. Bake at 400 degrees for about 22-25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes get a nice brown crust.


This dish comes together so quickly and the three elements work so well together. The chicken is tender and the Parmesan and seasoning blend really bring out the flavor in the broccoli and potatoes. Dip it in a little ranch dressing and you're in business!

This dish is one of my toddler's favorite. I'm not sure she even realizes she's eating broccoli, so I'll count it as a win!

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Chilling with My Peeps Free Printable


It isn't Easter with Peeps. These fun and colorful marshmallows have always been a part of the holiday for me and I love to carry on the tradition with my kids. Celebrate the iconic Easter treat with this fun and free printable! Download below. 


The printable prints on an 8.5x11 piece of paper and then has a border for you to trim down so it easily fits in an 8x10 frame.


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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gluten Free Chicken and Rice



One of my favorite meals growing up was my mom's Chicken and Rice. It is an easy, fast meal and my mom made it often. I always feel a little nostalgic every time I eat it. When I went gluten free, it was one of the recipes I was sad to lose but after messing with the ingredients and amounts for more than a year, I have finally made a delicious gluten free version that tastes just like the way my mama made it.



Cream of Chicken Soup Substitute: 

  • 1 cup Cold Milk
  • 2 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 tsp Chicken Bouillon
  • 1/2 tsp Salt


Ina pan blend the  milk and cornstarch and cornstarch together. Stir in butter, bouillon, and salt. Heat to boiling then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for a couple of minutes to help thicken the soup. 


Gluten Free Chicken and Rice

  • Cream of chicken soup substitute 
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups instant rice 
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 green pepper, diced 
  • 1 Tablespoon dried onion
  • 1/2 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika


Mix together the cream chicken soup, water, bell pepper and rice in a casserole dish that fits in your microwave. Add the two chicken breast to the top of the mixture. Pour the melted butter on top of the chicken and season the chicken with the salt and paprika,

Microwave for 30 minutes every 15 minutes turn dish unless your microwave is a turning one. Pull the chicken out of the dish and dice up. Stir the chicken back up and serve topped with a little paprika.

A simple, easy dish. Perfect for any weeknight!

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

DIY Dresser and Toy Storage Stickers with Cricut

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Cricut. The opinions and text are all mine.

It's true, I love to make fun crafts with my Cricut but I have loved creating amazing useful things too. I have been so surprised how easy it has been to organize all aspects of my life with my Cricut. Today I am going to show you how I used my Cricut to help my toddler be able to put her own things away. These dresser and toy storage stickers are game changers!

To make this stickers, head over to the Explore site and select the great big blue, Create a New Project button. Hit the insert images button on the left hand side and then type different pieces of apparel in the search box. I ended up searching for a shirt, pants, underwear, headbands and jammies but you can search for whatever you need to label your drawers. You can find the ones I used here.


I wanted these images to be extremely simple so it would be easy for my toddler to understand them. I simplified all of the images in Design Space by turning off layers. You can turn off a layer in Design Space by clicking on the eye in the layers section on the far right side of the screen. Simply click the eye on what you don't want to cut and it will take it off your screen without completely deleting it. Measure the open space on the dresser you want to use the stickers on and resize the images to fit. My images are a little less than 3 inches tall.


Make your images all the same colors and your Cricut will know that you plan on cutting them out of the same color vinyl and place them all on one cutting mat to be cut at the same time.


Set your Cricut to vinyl and cut out your images.



Weed off the excess vinyl leaving just the clothes behind. These images are so simple you can get away with peeling them off and putting them on the dresser without transfer tape.


After your vinyl has been added you are ready to let your toddler help put away their own clothes, or at least be able to grab a pair of pajamas when it is time for bed.


Making these dresser stickers gave me the idea to add photo labels to our toy storage too. I want my toddler to learn from a young age to help put up and put away her own toys and this was the perfect way to do it!


To make this stickers, head over to the Explore site and select the great big blue, Create a New Project button. Hit the insert images button on the left hand side and then type kinds of toys in the search box. If a type of toy isn't available figure out photo would describe that toy well. For our bin of cars I found a car, for our doctor kit, a stethoscope for the Littlest Petshop toys, a paw print. Miniature food toys are represented by an apple, the magnets a red horseshoe and Mr. Potato Head by a mustache. Thing of simple things your toddler can recognize and associate with their toys and search for those things. You can find the things I searched for here.


I simplified these images just like I did the dresser images to only need one color of vinyl. I found bins for each category of toy and separated them out.


I cut the labels from all different colors of vinyl depending on the image and then weeded off the excess, leaving just the image.


Most of the images are so simple, you can get away with not using transfer tape.


Add the images to the side of each box so it can be seen when the boxes are stacked on top of each other.


Add the boxes to the closet for easy and cute organization.


When most people think about buying a Cricut, their minds immediately jump to the craftier side of things, but the Cricut can be used for so many things. You can make DIY dresser or toy stickers like I showed you. You can use them to cut out chalkboard labels for your pantry and labels for your medicine cabinet. You can use it to make your own planner stickers and upcycle jars for storage. While there are about a million different ways to get crafty with the Cricut there are also a million different ways to get organized with a Cricut. Just another way to use it!

What would you organize with a Cricut?
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Tarts

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, MARS Incorporated. All opinions are mine alone. #SweeterEaster  #CollectiveBias


Easter is just around the corner, bringing with it all things bright and spring. I am so excited to pull the Easter decorations out and have fresh flowers in the house again. One of our favorite things to make every spring are these easy and delicious cheesecake tarts. They are just about the easiest cheesecakes you will ever make with just a hint of peanut butter. Finish them off with a DOVE® Peanut Butter Egg for the perfect combination of peanut butter, cheesecake and chocolate.

You will need:

  • 2 8-oz packages of cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 vanilla wafer for each cheesecake 
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • cupcake wrappers
  • DOVE® Peanut Butter Egg for each cheesecake

Mix together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and eggs together until very smooth. Add a wafer to the bottom of each muffin tin with the flat side of the wafer down.


Spoon the filling over the wafers until each cupcake wrapper is two thirds full of filling. This should take just about all of the filling you made.


Bake the tarts at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. It usually takes my oven on the longer side for these to be completely set. Wait for the cheesecakes to cool completely and then top with a DOVE® Peanut Butter Egg for that extra pop of peanut butter. I like to drizzle caramel over the top of the egg and the cheesecake but it isn't necessary.

To get these DOVE® Peanut Butter Eggs head to Walmart, the go to destination for all of your Easter needs. They are brand new this year and can be found in the seasonal candy aisle.


These cheesecake tarts would also be delicious topped with other varieties of candy including M&M’S® White Chocolate and Starburst® Jelly Beans Strawberry (new and exclusive at Walmart)


It is the perfect time to make these delicious treats with an Ibotta offer. Earn up to $3.00 with the rebate. 

How are you going to enjoy your DOVE® Peanut Butter Egg?
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