Thursday, November 20, 2014

How We Fell in Love - 5 Years Ago

Today is mine and Alan's 5 year anniversary!  

5 years.  We finally feel like we have some time under our belts.  As I was thinking about what to post for our Anniversary, I was pretty sure I never wrote our love story.  There are tons of details I won't go into just because I just want this to be one post, but here's how it went.

Alan and I were both students at BYU when we met.  In fact, he lived in an apartment across the street with 3 other roommates.  Two of his roommates became mine and my roommate Crystal's home teachers.  And they were the best home teachers!  They came over often to say hello, see how we were doing, and brought us treats.

All 4 boys had recently gotten home from serving missions for the LDS church which meant that they were all a year younger than I was.  I was 22 and they were all 21.  Not that that's a huge age gap, but I just figured I would always marry someone older than I was so I just thought they would be good friends.  We went over to their apartment often as our friendships grew.

Alan was actually the last one I got to know well.  He was always gone studying or on a date.  He was ready to get married so he was dating lots of girls looking for the right one.  I actually had plans to student teach in Washington, DC in the next two semesters so I was ready to head out of Utah and move on to other things.  I hadn't really dated anyone seriously while at BYU so I was ready to try elsewhere.

In May 2009, my roommates and I were asked out on dates by this group of boys and some of their friends.  Alan's roommate Jared had set me up with a BYU football player and Alan asked my roommate Shalisa on the date.  The date went well, but I never got a call from the football player...surprise surprise.  But soon after, Shalisa told me that she was pretty sure that Alan liked me.  I told her that Alan had asked her out so I didn't think so.  She disagreed.  So I decided to start paying more attention.

Well she was right!  Alan and I started spending lots of time together.  We could talk forever and we loved it.  I felt like I had always known him.  In fact we kissed on our first date (June 13, 2009) and it felt like we had done this before.  After that first date we decided to date exclusively.  

I could tell he wanted to tell me he loved me, but I felt like it was too fast!  Too soon!  Even though I kept feeling like I wanted to say it back.  But my logical brain needed to catch up to my heart.  So I told him not to say it.  Finally I let him tell me he loved me and I said it back and I knew when I said it, I really did.

The summer was a whirlwind.  Alan and I were both camp counselors so we were gone all week and could really only see each other on weekends.  I also went down to California on vacation and as a youth counselor for 3 weeks in July.  During that last week I was really having some doubts.  We were talking about marriage here and I just wanted to be 100% sure that he was the right one and I just didn't know for sure.  This was the biggest decision of my life and I had to know without a doubt that God approved of this match.

We were talking on the phone and I had all these doubts that I shared with Alan.  The conversation wasn't going well.  My phone died and I went to grab my chord.  When I plugged it in and called him back I had what you would call a stupor of thought.  I couldn't remember any of the doubts.  I couldn't remember any of the conversation we had just had.  I just felt good and a clear mind and I knew then that Alan was the man for me.  

So our first official date was in June and we were married in November.  It was fast, but it was perfect for us.  It needed to happen that way.

We were engaged a week later and married November 20, 2009 for time and all eternity in the Bountiful Utah temple.  It was the best day!

And now 5 years later, I couldn't have picked a better man.  Alan is exactly what I needed and wanted.  He is and does so many things that I had no idea about until after we were married that are exactly what I wanted and more in a husband.  God knew much better than we did and it has worked out perfectly. 

I love you Alan Tanner.  You are amazing.  You are the best support, help, father, husband, leader, worker, and man I have ever known.  
Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sam's Christmas Wish Book Review

Sam's Christmas Wish by George D. Durrant is a great story about service and the spirit of Christmas.  My husband and I read it together and it brought tears to both of our eyes.  It's a sweet story sure to pull at your heart strings and remind you of the power of anonymous service.

I really want to make sure that my family does service during Christmas and this is the perfect way to inspire that in my family and yours too!  This greatly illustrated book is unique to Christmas stories which is part of the reason why it's such a great book.  It starts out with a man who lost his job a few weeks before Christmas.  In his pride, he didn't want people to help his family provide the Christmas that he couldn't.  But somehow it came anyway filled with presents, a Christmas dinner ham, and a Bible.  Not a trace of evidence of where the gifts came from, it changed Sam.  It changed his heart, much like Ebeneezer Scrooge, and for the rest of his life he did acts of service for others.

But that isn't all.  There is a great ending to the story where Sam is finally able to do his own grand act of service.  You'll have to read it to find out.  This is where Alan and I both got a little emotional.  I was trying so hard to read it without choking up and I as I finished I turned to Alan and he had tears in his eyes.  Yes I married a sweet man.  

This is definitely a Christmas book you want on your bookshelf.  It's a great children's book to teach service and love to your family.  Your children will love this story and it's a great opportunity to jump start anonymous service traditions in your own family this Christmas.

You can find Sam's Christmas Wish at Deseret Book.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Key to the Perfect Thanksgiving Dinner

Author: Victoria Candland

Thanksgiving is fast-approaching and you may be stuck on how to prepare the perfect meal, setup, and décor while maintaining a reasonable budget. You look at the Martha Stewart displays and the Better Homes and Gardens Thanksgiving spectacles and get a little discouraged and down-hearted. But, no need for feelings of inadequacy! We have all the tricks to help you have the best Thanksgiving holiday you could ever want—without throwing your bank account for a loop.


Of course every Thanksgiving feast comes with the traditional recipes that are simply staples: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry relish, and pie. But, we all like a little change in our lives from time to time. Shake things up with some unconventional recipes like sweet potatoes infused with pear and tangerine for a tangy taste that’s atypical for the vegetable. Or you could go with a Mexican entrée to spice it up (literally) like some salsa or mini enchiladas or tamales. Watch the grocery ads for what’s on sale and use those ingredients to create something new.

With food, there is also family, and Thanksgiving boasts those as the two main themes of the holiday. But, sometimes there can be family drama when it comes to the food, especially between the ladies. Perhaps Grandma Agnes always brings her signature rolls, but your new sister-in-law is from France and everyone is dying to try her delicious croissants. Instead of creating tension, allow both of them to bring their bread. Remind yourself and the rest of your family that Thanksgiving is about gratitude, not who can cook better. And if two people want to bring mashed potatoes and no one wants to bring the green beans, everyone will survive and still be happy. So when a guest offers to bring something, relax your personal view of perfection and let them help.


Sometimes we look at the imminent Thanksgiving meal and our checking accounts and sweat. With Halloween just past and Christmas around the corner, how are we supposed to fork out loads of money for a fancy feast? Good thing you don’t have to with the implementation of some easy tricks.

First off, remember to keep the leftovers! This way the food expense will be much more of a good investment. Use the turkey in sandwiches and pack them and a container full of other leftovers for your kids’ lunches and your work lunch. You can create delicious stews from leftovers for dinner, so you and your family won’t tire from the same dinner for days upon days after the Thanksgiving holiday. Transform your leftover turkey into turkey stock and can it for later use.

As mentioned above, always ask family members and other guests to bring a dish so you’re not left buying and cooking everything yourself. Providing a single dish makes the occasion much more affordable for everyone involved.

And forget organic. Organic vegetables for your sides and local free-range eggs for your pie are unnecessary. If you have to buy a less healthy form of butter your health will survive. It is just one meal after all. Don’t be ashamed of buying vegetables in the frozen aisle section.


The setup is vital to the ambience of the get-together. The two focus points of the setup: the buffet and the table arrangements. The buffet is the established Thanksgiving meal distribution, and with good reason. With a buffet, parents can help their children load up their plates at one time and adult family members can easily get seconds and even thirds without inconveniencing anyone. The buffet should use different heights for the display of the beautiful array of dishes. For example, put the turkey in the center of the buffet table on a box covered by the tablecloth and some greenery around the plate. Your cheese plate and roasted vegetable plate, for example, can also be lifted in such a way. This technique automatically elevates (no pun intended) the aesthetical appeal of your buffet. And don’t forget artistic signs for each food item. You can make labels for the food in calligraphy writing.

For the dinner table arrangements, it’s normally best to separate the kids and adults into two tables. However, make sure your 19-year-old cousin isn’t stuck with the five- and six-year-olds. If possible, have these tables in one room. For the display on the kids’ table, there should be limited decorations and nothing hazardous like lit candles. Make sure there are no tall centerpieces that are blocking possible conversation at the adult table, and seat couples close to each other.


What would Thanksgiving be without the décor, or any holiday for that matter? The decorations you use will determine the mood of the holiday in many ways. The most important parts of the décor: table scape and kitchen. Your family is going to be crowded around both of these for a long duration of the day. For the kitchen, the most important factors are cleanliness and organization. Is your kitchen in need of a major organizational overhaul? Check out these simple, yet genius tips you can make the most of in preparation of your holiday events.

For the table scape, define a color palette and a signature theme for the celebratory feast. Perhaps it’s the quintessential fall leaves or something different like owls or a cornhusk or a rustic wood scene. Spray paint is all the rage these days. Have fun spray painting some miniature pumpkins gold and displaying them on your table scape with pinecones and a burlap runner and white candles, for example. Use your creative mind to really wow your guests when they see the beautifully arranged table ready for the meal of the year.

However you plan for this year’s Thanksgiving feast, keep your focus on the important aspects like remembering to be grateful for everything you have and enjoying time with your guests. If preparing for the holiday is causing you stress, employ the helpful hints above to get back on track.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thankful Banner

My mom and I made this cute Thankful Banner for Thanksgiving this year.  It's the perfect addition to my mantle!

Here's what you need:

scrapbook paper
"Thankful" letters
fake leaves

Here's how to make it:

Start by cutting out your scrapbook paper into triangles and your burlap into slightly larger triangles.

Take your letters and glue them on each of the scrapbook papers.  Spread out your twine and lay your burlap triangles across it so that the tips are touching.  Use the clothespins to attach the scrapbook paper and the burlap to the twine.  Allow some extra twine on the ends for hanging.

Then glue your fake leaves throughout the banner on all the different letters.

Attach a few twigs to the banner by tying them with different ribbons to the twine in between a few of the letters.

Hang it up on your mantle and you're done!  This is our mantle.  I know the DVD player chords are so ugly.  We have learned from being in this apartment that hanging your TV above the mantle is not an ideal place.  We've learned for our next place.  :-)

You might also like our cute baby jar Thankful Turkeys that are on our mantle too!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Celebrating A Christ-Centered Christmas

Have you wanted to have a more Christ-centered Christmas, but weren't sure how to do it?  Of course Santa, elves, parties, stockings, and cookies are all a really fun part of Christmas and should still be enjoyed, but have you felt that something was missing?  That there was so much hustle and bustle of the holidays that you forgot or ran out of time to focus on the real meaning of Christmas?

I have definitely felt this.

With my young family, I really want to start having more Christ-centered traditions during Christmastime.  I don't want everything to be focused on the gifts.  I want my children to think about giving, love, kindness, and of course the birth of Christ.

But how?  If you weren't raised with those types of traditions, how do you know what to do?

Well let me tell you.

You need Celebrating A Christ-Centered Christmas by Emily Belle Freeman!  She has 7 awesome traditions that are centered on Christ that she shares with you.  Each tradition is focused on one of the members in the nativity.  She shares stories, songs to sing, scriptures from the Bible to read, and activities to do with your family.  I love that this book is really for family of all ages.  You can adjust the activities so they fit the ages of your children.  It's also a great book for anyone who believes in Christ.  It's not a book that's only for Mormons which some of the books I review from Deseret Book are.

My favorite tradition that she shares is about Joseph.  I feel like Joseph often gets skipped in the story.  He's mentioned, but not really focused on.  I love how Emily focuses on his service and how he must have felt on the night that Christ was born.  She says, "Joseph represents the desires of our hearts.  He reminds us of the secret acts of Christmas kindness given with sacrifice and love to the broken, the weary, the lost, or the lonely."  One of her activity suggestions is to anonymously help another family in need.  This is something Alan and I have done a few times in the past and something I really want to get my whole family involved in.

Celebrating A Christ-Centered Christmas is a quick read that is full of great ideas!  I love the feelings I felt while reading this book.  It has really gotten me motivated to make sure that our family traditions are more focused on Christ with Santa still there, but just not the main focus.

You can find Celebrating A Christ-Centered Christmas at Deseret Book!

Friday, November 7, 2014

God Bless Us, Every One! Book Review and the Real Meaning of Christmas

Almost everyone knows the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  It has become a Christmas tradition as people reread the story or watch different versions of plays or movies of the tale of Ebeneezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future.  Sadly I haven't actually read the book yet (but it's on my to read list!), but I do love watching A Muppet Christmas Carol each year and thinking about the message of the story - 
Christmas is about love.

Especially in modern society, we spend a lot of time on the shopping and gifts.  My dad's favorite holiday is Halloween and he says it's because no one is ever disappointed; everyone likes candy.  Too many times do we see disappointment on Christmas morning when that's not what it's even about!

With my young children I want to make sure that they understand what Christmas is really about - Christ, love, family, friends, kindness, generosity, sharing, caring.  And I think that comes with traditions that focus on those attributes (which I'll be talking about more in a book review next week!).  And of course the Santa and magic of Christmas is fun too.  I think there just needs to be a good mix of both.

God Bless Us, Everyone One! is about the story behind the book A Christmas Carol and how it came to be.  We do know that Charles Dickens was forever changed by the book that he wrote. The story began as a desperation to provide money for his family as his previous book sales were diminishing, but this book opened not only his eyes, but the eyes of generations after.

God Bless Us, Everyone One! is such a fun interpretation of how the story came to life for Dickens.  The illustrations are beautiful and help portray the thoughts and feelings that Dickens might have had as he experienced A Christmas Carol in his own life.  Almost a brief summary of the actual story of A Christmas Carol, this book is definitely something you'll want to bring out at Christmas each year to read with the family.  As I read this book, I couldn't help but think about Dickens' famous work and the feelings that I feel when I hear that story.  The magic and spirit of Christmas jump out at you as you learn about Dickens' background and the change that he had in his own heart.  You and your family will love this book!

You can find God Bless Us, Every One! at Deseret Book.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Baby Jar Thankful Turkey

Every year since we've been married, Alan and I have made a Thankful Turkey where we add feathers with something we are thankful for each day in November.

I have changed up my turkey each year from simple paper to Styrofoam balls to this year's baby jar!  This year we got the kids involved and we all made our own baby jar turkeys.  I've had these baby jars for almost two years now so my husband was excited that I'm finally using them.  :-)

It's so simple to make and your kids will love to help!

What you need:

baby jars
candy corn
chocolate chips
googly eyes
black felt 
black paint
hot glue gun
construction paper

How to make it:

Paint the lids of your baby jars black.  While you're waiting for them to dry, put your turkey face on by hot gluing on two googly eyes and a candy corn beak (you should probably do this for your kids).

Then fill your turkey baby jar with a layer of chocolate chips and then candy corn.

Cut out colored paper feathers to write what you're thankful for.

When the lid is dry, twist it on the jar.  Then cut a small rectangular strip of black felt and roll it into a circle.  When it's the right size for a hat, glue the overlapped ends together with hot glue.  Then hot glue the hat to the top of the lid.  And then hot glue on the button to the front of the hat (another thing you should probably do for your kids).

Once you're done with the turkey, tape the feathers on each day with something you're thankful for.  Since the turkeys are small, we do two or three things on each feather so we won't have to tape on as many feathers.

We have all four of ours on the mantle to remind us to be thankful this November!

This could also make a great place setting for Thanksgiving dinner!