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?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Autumn Jam with an Instant Pot Shortcut

This jam is amazing!  I love all homemade jam, but this one really stands out.  We don't eat a lot of jam at our house and I make several batches a year, which means I always have tons of extras.   I whipped up a batch of this jam a couple of days ago and we've already gone through two jars, so I made my second batch today!  I have apple, plum and pear trees all ready to be picked at the same time and who knew mixing the fruits all together would be so yummy??

Do you have an Instant Pot?  I use mine every single day... usually multiple times a day!  I decided to use the Instant Pot to shortcut my jam making and it did a great job!  It saved time, saved dirty dishes, saved space on my stove AND allowed me to make jam without standing over a hot stove right next to a boiling canner in August!

 Autumn Jam

tiny apple chunks compared
to the size of the other fruits

6 c. mixed apples, pears & plums
(Apples peeled, cored and finely chopped. Pears peeled and cored. Plums, pits removed, no need to peel.)

1/2 c. apple juice
2 TBSP lemon juice

1 pkg powdered pectin
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
6 c. sugar

Instant Pot Directions:
(traditional directions follow)

ready to pressurize
I used more pears & plums
than apples
Chop your fruit directly into the IP liner, filling it to the six cup mark.  Add apple juice and lemon juice.  Press manual and choose high pressure for 1 minute. Once the timer beeps do a quick release of pressure.  Remove lid.  Turn IP to saute on high heat.  Stir in pectin and pumpkin pie spice.  Use a potato masher if there are any big chunks of fruit to mash up.  Once mixture reaches a boil, which should be right away, add sugar.  Cook and stir until mixture comes back to a boil and time for 1 minute.  Remove liner from pot.  Fill hot jars and process for 15 minutes.

Traditional Stove Top Directions:

Mix fruit, apple juice and lemon juice in a large pot.  Simmer for about 10 minutes or until fruit is soft.  Use a potato masher if needed to mash up the hot fruit.  Stir in pectin and pumpkin pie spice and bring to a rolling boil.   Once mixture reaches a boil, add sugar.  Cook and stir until mixture returns to a boil and time for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Fill hot jars and process for 15 minutes.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Pura Vida

A little known fact about me is that I'm half Costa Rican.  As I child, when I'd see the American Flag or sing patriotic songs in elementary school I'd get emotional and choke back tears... okay, I still get emotional during the pledge or national anthem because I'm ridiculously patriotic, but as a kid I would ponder on how grateful I am to be an American and live in the United States.  I've always had a deep love for this country I live in.  I've also always been curious about Costa Rica, which is where my mom comes from.  As long as I can remember, visiting Costa Rica has been one of my biggest goals.

Becoming US Citizens in 1964

My mom was adopted into the United States when she was two years old and her brother was just a baby.  There was some adoption paperwork, naming my mom's biological mother and saying the two kids were given to a stranger in a bar and that man's wife made him take the kids to an orphanage.  We always wondered what possessed someone to abandon their children.  My mom's adopted parents were told that attempts were made to locate the family but no one had come forward.  My mom and her brother, Ronnie, were adopted out of an orphanage in San Jose with along with another Costa Rican boy from a different orphanage.  Her adoptive parents had gone to Costa Rica to adopt a baby and ended up taking three children instead!  I have always thought that was really admirable.

Here they are with kids belonging to the family they stayed with while all the adoption paperwork was completed.
My mom's hair was red from malnutrition and they all had worms.  My mom was afraid of small animals and it was believed to be due to the rats she had been around. Years were spent speculating on where my mom came from and the circumstances surrounding the kids ending up in an orphanage.  A private investigator was too expensive and we didn't know where to get more information.

Written by my mom's father

Eventually, along came the internet and with it, the ability to connect to people worldwide.  My mom posted an ad on the Costa Rican craigslist website with the small amount of information she had about her beginnings in Costa Rica.   A man responded to her and said he worked with public records.  He did some digging and came up with her birth father's name.  A second ad was placed, and someone responded!  The email came from the secretary of my grandfather's brother!  A simple ad in craigslist led to a family reunited.

I remember the first time we made a phone call to Costa Rica.  My mom's Spanish was rusty, so one of my friends offered to translate for us.  We placed the phone on speaker and all sat around the phone anxiously as we dialed my mom's older brother.  

We learned that my mom's biological mother was separated from the kids' father and she had gone into the city with her two babies to try and find work.  Her older son stayed home with his grandparents because he was sick.  While she was in the city, the kids were taken from her by the government and placed in an orphanage.  The family tried to get them back, but with no luck.  The government felt like they weren't being taken care of properly.  We're not exactly sure the circumstances surrounding them being given to a man in a bar, but that testimony in the court documents so somewhere along the lines my grandmother must have felt like she just couldn't take care of her children.

My mom and her biological father.

My mom's biological mother never recovered.  She lived a life of depression, alcohol and men to try and drown out the shame of losing her children.  She died very young and there are no pictures of her.  Her other son, my mom's older brother, was raised by his grandparents and went to work in banana plantations as a child to help support them.  He actually still works in the plantations today.  It's a heart-breaking story for my Costa Rican family to have lost two of their babies, but I know my mom is so grateful for her life in the United States.

Marcos, Alicia, Ronnie... together after over 50 years!
My mom has been to Costa Rica several times to visit since she found her family seven years ago.  On her first trip she was thrown a party to represent all the many birthdays that had been missed over the years.  She met her biological father and brother, several half siblings and lots of aunts, uncles and cousins! Her father's sisters especially were so happy to see her because they remember when the children were taken away.

My uncle, Ronnie, was able to visit Costa Rica a couple of years ago and meet the family too.  We've been working on getting their brother Marcos and his wife here to the United States for a visit so we can show them what life is like for us!  They are very traditional Costa Ricans and think we're a bunch of rich snobby Americans!  They would definitely be in for a shock if they ever came to visit.  My mom keeps telling me what a culture shock I'm in for when I go there!

My mom and her sister-in-law at their home in Costa Rica.
 I have cousins, aunts, uncles and a grandpa I've never met!  My only living grandparent is in Costa Rica.

In a couple of days I will be leaving my "snobby" American life behind to go with my mom, my husband and my three children for a two week trip to Costa Rica for the first time. My Costa Rican family doesn't speak a word of English and I don't speak a word of Spanish, but I have so much love in my heart for these people I've never even met.

Of course as we've been talking about this trip for months we've all been getting excited about going to the Caribbean beaches, seeing sloths and eating delicious food, but really this trip is about family.  These are the people I come from and although communication will be difficult, hugs are universal!

We are not staying at resorts, or even hotels.  We've decided to rent houses and shop at the markets and cook our own food and really get a taste for the beautiful country of Costa Rica.  I'm nervous, but I'm also more excited than I can express!  I spent my whole life imagining where my mom came from and now I'm going to see it firsthand!