Thursday, January 26, 2017


My kids now call me the "Crazy Jello Lady" and people at church sing the Jello song to me when I pass because I happened to be featured on a fun KSL news segment about Jello in Utah last month!  You can watch it HERE!  It was a lot of fun!  This is the Jello salad recipe I make more than any other.  It's so delicious!

Overnight Jello Salad

1 small pkg vanilla pudding (not instant)
1 small pkg orange jello
12 oz carton of cool whip (extra creamy, if possible)
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 can pineapple tidbits, drained
2-3 bananas, sliced

Cook pudding according to package directions using water instead of milk. Add the dry jello powder and boil until dissolved. Cover and let set overnight. In the morning, whip jello-pudding mixture and cool whip in a large bowl together. Fold in fruit. Let chill.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mental Illness Through the Eyes of a 16 Year Old Girl

Mental illness is not beautiful.  It's not romantic. Depression isn't just being sad.  I don't know what sad feels like. Anxiety isn't just being nervous.  Bipolar isn't just mood swings. Self harm isn't just attention seeking.

Depression is feeling empty, numb, hopeless. It's staring at the ceiling at 4 am with burning eyes because your thoughts won't stop telling you that you're better off dead.

It's not getting out of bed for days because you don't see the point. It's leaving piles of homework in the corner because you lack any motivation. It's being told you're selfish and lazy when really you want so desperately to be able to go outside and hang our with friends but your depression keeps you in your basement all day.

Anxiety is not being able to pay for your food at a restaurant.  It's the constant feeling of almost falling off a cliff. It's having panic attacks in the middle of class. Hiding in the bathroom as your chest doesn't allow you to breathe and the tears don't stop. You can't speak or stand and you can physically feel the walls caving in around you. It's the feeling someone would get when they're just about to take the most important test of their lives, only instead of a test, it's just asking for a takeout box.

Bipolar Disorder isn't just an over-emotional girl on her period. It's wanting to kill yourself for days as you suffer a rock-bottom depression and then all of a sudden you're so high you can't see yourself ever coming down. Mania is terrifying, not happy.  It's laughing at the most dire situations. It's loud and chaotic. It's like spinning around in circles as fast as you can and not being able to stop, only to stumble into a pit and plummet back to that crippling depression. It's not being able to trust your emotions because you only feel in extremes.

Self harm is ugly. There's no one who is kissing your scars. It's feeling so bad about yourself and who your illness has made you become that the self hatred boils over, spilling out into hysterical crying and the urge to destroy yourself. Or feeling so numb and empty that you bleed to feel something again. It's pain. It's stinging. It's fear. It's regret. It's shame. And it's not being able to stop even when you want to.

None of these things are beautiful. They're ugly. They're destruction. They're chaos. They make you forget what it ever felt like to be happy. Mental illness consumes you. It is hell.

But if not for these illnesses taking over my life, I wouldn't be the artist I am. No one would be able to feel the emotion radiating off of my paintings. I would lose my creativity. To create is to survive. And the only things that is beautiful out of any of this is what I am now able to create. The most important thing I've ever learned is how to take all of the pain and negativity and channel it into a piece of artwork. Out of my suffering I have created beauty.

My paintings may be sloppy and dark, and difficult to understand, but they are beautiful and they are me.

A note from her mom:

I've been surrounded by mental illnesses most of my life, but it is so different to watch your babies struggle. Even though I can understand what someone with a mental illness is going through, I can't truly understand how it feels to them.  In our home I have worked hard to completely normalize mental illnesses.  In fact, my daughter will mockingly call me "neurotypical", meaning I'm one of the only people in our family without a diagnosed mental disorder.  I'm the odd-ball, which also means I'm the caregiver and carry a lot of stress due to doctor's appointments, medications, psychiatrist's appointments, counseling appointments and the day-to-day of helping those who are not-so-neurotypical. It's an exhausting life.  

This piece titled "A Beautiful Mess" was written by my daughter last year, which was a low point in her life.  She has since made a lot of progress, thanks largely to finding a good bipolar medication, but she still struggles daily. I tease her all the time about being so high maintenance.  I am very proud of her for finding healthy outlets to cope, such as painting and writing and I'm even more proud that she is allowing me to share her thoughts with the world. Please, parents, make your home a safe place for your teenagers to share their feelings with you, no matter how dark they may be.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016: A Year in Picture Review

2016 was a year of MAGIC!
When I chose magic as my word of the year for 2016, I had no idea what would transpire, but it truly was a magical year.  Here are a few of the amazing things that happened last year!

We visited the ice castles in Midway!
It was our first time and WOW!  Beautiful!

I hosted a 1950s themed dinner party.  Everyone dressed up, the food was perfect and we all had so much fun!
This will be a tradition for sure.

We went bobsledding in Park City!  It was crazy, but so fun!

I attended my first blogging conference.
I met so many fabulous ladies and really had an incredible time!

We went to our first Utah Jazz game and got to go down on the court to high-five the players as they came out.  I'm not really a sports person, but Caleb and my husband really had a great time!

I built a craft room!  Ok, I hired someone to build it, but it's pink and girly and has a chandelier!

I threw myself the most amazing pink princess party for my birthday.  This was such a magical event!

We went to Lava Hot Springs for the first time.
So much fun!

Our annual trip to Yuba Lake was as great as ever!

We saw Lita Ford, Ratt, Warrant, Dokken and Bret Michaels in concert!  Bret Michaels was a blast!  He checked Poison off my concert bucket list!

Costa Rica!!!
Visiting Costa Rica had been a goal of mine since I was a little kid.
I got to spend two amazing weeks there!  I can't wait to go back again!

Weezer was another band on my concert bucket list.  CHECK!
They played with Panic! at the Disco, which is a favorite of Alyssa's.

It was a summer of concerts!  We also saw Kansas and Lynyrd Skynyrd!
Alyssa is a great concert buddy!

Crystal Pepsi made a limited time comeback in 2016!
I can't even tell you how many I drank!

I flew to Virginia for the first time for a
Pinups for Patriots conference!
I joined this fun organization in 2016 and really love it, even though I'm slow to get things going!
We attended the Modern Marine Expo at Quantico.

NYC!  We toured the beautiful historic library and attended a Thank You for your Service documentary showing and reception on the USS Intrepid.  So cool!

We took the family to the Witchapalooza dinner theater for the first time in October.
I had always wanted to go!  So fun!

I entered a Halloween-themed pinup competition.

A weekend at Bear Lake with these fabulous ladies was just what I needed!
This is also going to become a tradition.

My husband and I celebrated our (early) anniversary at the Roof Restaurant and the Anniversary Inn... both incredible places!

I did an hour-long podcast interview for the new Pinups and Patriots show.

The very same week I had an article published on Time Magazine's Motto website!

I couldn't include photos of all the time I've spent with fellow veteran's wives/caregivers over the last year, but this photo sums it up!  This was a Wounded Warrior Project activity.  We decided we needed to match in our pink castle dresses... you know, as people do.

Over the last couple of years, most media interviews I've done have been very heavy, dealing with veteran's and caregiver's issues.  It was so much fun to do a Jello interview!  Yes, Jello!  So random.  Take a minute to watch it.  You'll see what a crazy Jello lady I am!

We spent a fun night on Fremont Street in Vegas listened to live music and watching the light show!

My first cruise was fabulous!

Holding a baby panther in Mexico was seriously a highlight of my life!  It was the most amazing experience!  What's really adorable is when people ask my husband what his favorite part of our vacation was, he says it was watching me hold the baby panther because I was so, so happy!

It was cold and rainy during our California trip, but the kids rode the ferris wheel on Balboa Island and we all had a lot of fun playing in the arcade together.  I got beat at air hockey by one of my kids for the first time.  It was so nice having some good old fashioned family fun time.

I can't wait to see what JOY 2017 brings!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017: The Best is Yet to Come!

It's New Year's Day!  I've been pondering on my goals and my word for 2017 over the last couple of weeks.  I've decided my word of the year will be JOY!  Last year my word was MAGIC and so many magical things happened! I held a baby panther!!! You can't get much more magical than that! This year I want pure JOY in my life!

Each year there are so many things I want to improve on.  This year I feel like I have a mix of big goals I want to accomplish and maintaining I need to do:

Spiritual-  Spiritual comes first on my list because God is number one in my life.  My spiritual goal for 2017 is once again to attend the temple at least four times during the year.  I think the first step in this goal is to find a good friend to go with me.  I'm not motivated to go all by myself. 

Physical-  My physical goal is to focus on a healthier lifestyle.  I want to avoid eating out as much as possible, go to water aerobics at least once a week and cut most soda pop out of my life.  

Intellectual-  My intellectual goal for the year is to complete 4-5 classes at the local community college in 2017 and get straight As in all my classes.  I've enrolled in two fashion design classes and start school in a week!  I'm pretty nervous, but also excited for this new adventure!  

Emotional-  My emotional goal is to continue to attend support group meetings and Relief Society meetings, even though I'm going to be busier with school.  I need the emotional support that comes from these types of meetings. 

Social-  My social goal for 2017 is to socialize more as a couple.  My husband is not a fan of socializing. At all. Under any circumstances.  I miss hanging out with other couples, so I'm setting a goal for more double dates and couple parties.  

Financial-   My financial goal is to make and sell 50 skirts and/or aprons this year... This one seems a little overwhelming to me, but I think I can do it!

Adventure-  It wouldn't be a New Year's resolution list for me without a travel goal!  My goal is once again to visit at least one state I've never been to before.  I also plan to go on a couple of camping trips!  We didn't take our camper out one single time last year, so I need to clean the dust off and go have some camping fun!

What about you?  Have you made any goals for the new year?

Friday, November 11, 2016

PTSD awareness isn't just about suicide.

I shared this on facebook a couple of months ago, but thought Veteran's Day was an appropriate  time to share it here as well.


 Watch it on YouTube here.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Instant Pot Italian Chicken

I've seen several versions of this chicken, both Instant Pot and stove top and I decided I wanted to try it.  When your kids say, "Good job, Mom!" before they've even tasted it you know dinner is a hit!

Instant Pot Italian Chicken

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
Italian seasoning
garlic salt

1/2 c. chicken broth

1 c. cream
5-6 oz parmesan cheese
1 c. chopped spinach
1/2 c. sun dried tomatoes
2 TBSP cream cheese
8 oz sliced mushrooms

Slice chicken breasts in half to make them thinner.  Coat with garlic oil and sprinkled both sides with seasonings.  Cook chicken breasts in your Instant Pot two at a time on saute until lightly browned.  After chicken is browned, remove all chicken. Add broth to IP and stir to remove brown bits from the bottom.  Add chicken back into pot and high pressure for 10 minutes.  Quick release the pressure and remove chicken from pot.

Add remaining ingredients to pot.  Simmer and stir on saute until mushrooms are slightly softened.  
To serve, place chicken on top of cooked pasta and top with sauce.  Yum!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

No Spend September

A couple of months ago I decided to try going a full week without spending any money. No groceries. No household items. No eating out. Nothing. I think my kids were more frustrated with it than I was... or I should say Alyssa was frustrated.  She likes to talk me into french fries here, ice cream there and I always give in because it gives me one-on-one time with my lovely, spoiled 16 year old. The week was difficult for the whole family. My husband loves to eat out and I love to wander around thrift stores and craft stores. A week without spending may not seem like much to some people, but for us it was huge!

I feel like I've spent a ton of money over the summer between our big vacation and back to school shopping. Over $400 for school fees alone! For two kids at public school! That's not even counting school clothes or supplies. Soon the holiday season will be full blown upon us and more money will float right out the window. I decided I need to do a No Spend September as kind of a financial cleanse in between two very expensive seasons.

The rules I'm setting for myself are:

1- No shopping in person or online for anything, with the exception of basic groceries and household supplies. I'm giving myself a $400 budget for these items.

2- No eating out, with the exception of date night once a week and lunch with friends one time during the month. No movies or other entertainment expenses outside date night. I'm giving myself a $100 budget for this. 

3- No rationalizing that something is a "good deal" that I just can't pass up. 

4- No wandering around stores when I am bored. The same goes for browsing online.

Are you up doing a No Spend September challenge?

What rules would you set for yourself?