Saturday, August 23, 2014

Hot Fudge & Caramel... You're welcome!

 

I looooooooooooooooove hot fudge and so I tried a few different recipes and tweaked a bit before settling on this variation as my very favorite.  It's so quick and easy... you can have it made and be pouring it over cazookies or ice cream (or both) in no time at all.  Just don't walk away from it or you may be cleaning up a big bubbling mess off your stove!  (I may or may not be speaking from experience here.)

Hot Fudge Sauce
 
1 cup butter
3 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine butter, sugar, cocoa powder and milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. It will seem a little thin, but will thicken as it cools. Can be refrigerated and reheated.


 
 
My very good friend on the other hand is a caramel addict, so I've tried a couple of different recipes to find one that isn't too thick and sweet and so far this has definitely been my favorite.  I may have had a spoonful just this morning in lieu of  breakfast... Enjoy!
 
Caramel Sauce
 
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine butter, brown sugar, water, salt and evaporated milk in a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Bring to boil for 3 to 5 minutes depending upon thickness desired.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Water your own grass...

I've had marriage on the brain this week, (probably because Friday is my 22nd wedding anniversary.)  Can I just say that I am in love with my hubby?  Truly in love.  Do we have the perfect marriage?  Hell no!  We have had our fair share of trials, mistakes and heartaches, but we have spent the last 22 years choosing to work through those things rather than letting them tear us apart.  I read a quote a while ago that said "A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other."  I couldn't agree more.

I remember just in to the beginning of our marriage... I was complaining to my mum one day about something that Mike did and her response shocked me.  "Well it's a good thing he isn't more perfect than he is sweetheart, or he certainly wouldn't have picked YOU for a wife."  (Enter awkward silence here... chirping crickets... tumbleweed...)  I'm actually very grateful for such a thought provoking perspective so early in our marriage.  We can be so quick to see and point out faults in others, especially our spouses, but we are not so quick to point out or see our own imperfections, huh? 

It's so easy to compare our relationship to others and think that we fall short.  The grass seems so much greener on the other side sometimes, doesn't it?  But it is important to remember that when we compare ourselves or our relationships to others that most of the time we are comparing our absolute lowest points with the very best of someone else's.  We don't ever see the worst in other peoples marriages... all we get to see is the perception they want to give, whether it be posts on social media, Sunday faces, or what have you.  For the most part people aren't going to share the struggles they have, only the best of times. 

I love the quote "Marriage is not 50-50... Marriage has to be 100-100.  It isn't dividing everything in half, but giving everything you've got."  I have often heard people say that a good marriage shouldn't have to be that much work, but I call BS!  If you want a marriage that is wonderful then heck yes it is going to be a lot of work.  It takes putting each other first, being each others best friend, doing things the other likes, laughing together, loving together, spending time together, getting to know each other, talking, asking questions, texting, planning surprises, dating each other, working together, helping one another, paying attention to each other, putting away distractions, thanking each other, admitting when you are wrong and shutting up when you are right! 

If you are feeling like the grass on your side may need some watering but are stuck on where to start, here are a few things that have helped Mike and I in our marriage... again, I emphasize that our marriage is far from perfect, but we are both consistently trying hard and I believe it makes a big difference for us.

  1. Be with the one you are with.  In other words, PUT THE PHONE DOWN.  Don't text or check social media when you are on a date, eating, watching a movie together or even just walking through a store.  Give all your attention to your spouse when you are with them.  Anytime your spouse communicates with you, look them in the eye... let them know they have your full undivided attention and they are the most important person to you.  And don't use the time after the kids go down to bed to run errands or text or visit with friends.  This is precious time just the two of you!  Make good use of it!!! 
  2. Get to know each other.  Something fun that we have recently discovered is to take a drive, or lay in bed or go somewhere scenic and ask each other random, sometimes crazy questions.  There are TONS of sites that have questions you can pull from, so you don't even have to come up with them yourself!  Here is a list of 100 to start... http://ephesianswife.blogspot.com/2013/12/friday-date-idea-car-interview.html.  Google or Pinterest are your best friends for ideas like this.
  3. Date each other.  Don't have money?  Who cares!  Be creative.  Check out this list of 121 things to do instead of spending money...  http://www.savvysugar.com/Things-Do-Instead-Spending-Money-34350539  or this list of 50 fun or cheap date ideas... http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2012/01/50-fun-and-cheap-date-ideas.html 
  4. When you are feeling frustrated or upset, make a list of the things you LOVE about your spouse. It's hard to stay mad when you are remembering all their good qualities.  Also, if you are having an argument, (what? who argues??? ;)), then try to start each sentence that comes out of your mouth with "I feel..." instead of "YOU...".  It's amazing what a difference this little tweak makes as it changes the argument to be less about blaming and more about feelings.
  5. Quit keeping score... It doesn't matter who does the most housework or who brings in the most money or who watched the kids last night.  Serve each other selflessly and without expecting anything in return... because you love one another.  Stop looking at what you get and concentrate on what you give. 
The grass really isn't any greener on the other side people, just try watering your own grass a bit more frequently and see what happens. :)  Happy anniversary to my sweetheart.  Here's to working hard, loving each other, (imperfections and all), and having many more happy years together in the future.

Friday, June 27, 2014

And then he graduated...




It has taken me a couple of weeks to really come to terms with this event.  I no longer have babies living at home.  I have two adults, both of whom have graduated High School and are out in the world making a living and preparing for/attending college.

If you had asked me a year ago if I had thought the year would end this way, I wouldn't have been so sure.  Mikey went through a really rough time in his Junior year and after just one marking period at Copper Hills we ended up withdrawing him from his High School and letting him attempt electronic High School at home.  That didn't work out so well, and by the end of the school year he had some decisions to make.  Three options:  One, get his GED and be done.  Two, enroll in Valley High which would help him get things completed a lot quicker/more easily so he could graduate on time or maybe even early, or three, go back to Copper Hills and plow through a TON of work and POSSIBLY graduate on time, IF he would motivate himself to complete almost two complete years of school simultaneously in that year.

I was actually really shocked that he picked the most difficult option... to go back to Copper Hills... but I respected that it was his decision and both Mike Sr and I decided we would just full on support him and encourage him the best we could.

How grateful I am for his amazing counselor and a handful of incredible teachers who went out of their way to work with him and make the year a success.  I still get very emotional thinking and talking about this experience.  Mike not only completed his entire senior year of full classes, but he did a TON of make up packets/classes to earn the credits from his Junior year simultaneously.  It literally came down to the last few days before graduation for us to get confirmation that he had been successful, and I very much almost died from anxiety the last couple of months, but he did it.  HE DID IT!!!!! 

Congratulations Mikey.  I knew you could do this and I am so proud of you.  You have shown that you can put your mind to anything you want and be successful... now run with it son.


 






 
 
 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Money Money Money...

 
 
 
I get on these kicks on Pinterest.  I feel like 90% of the time I am looking at recipes, (because what can I say... I love to cook and I love to eat), but lately I have been drawn to websites and articles about marriage and family.  It was in these wanderings a few weeks ago that I came across a slew of articles about budgeting and financial peace.  Apparently lots of couples fight about money.  I can honestly say that Mike and I have never fought about money in our marriage, but that is probably mostly because up to a few years ago, we really never had much to fight over.  Mike was an ac/heating technician and did apartment maintenance and I taught piano and was an avid budgeter/bargain shopper.  Then he decided to go back to school at the age of about 32 and change his career so we became a student family and since our kids were in school I went back to work to support us.  So ya, not much money floating around during all those years but we never lacked any of the necessities of life and were quite happy. :)

We have talked many times since then about how interesting it is that the more money you make, the more money you "need" to spend.  Whereas technically we should be saving a TON of money now that we have two incomes and make much more than we did back then, we aren't as good of savers as we should be. We do dumb stuff like eat out more or buy stuff that we don't really need...  pay outrageous prices for too many television channels... pay more for electric because we aren't as careful at turning things off...  The list could go on.

Last year we decided to list our house so I started going through things and found myself absolutely appalled at how much STUFF we had collected.  Stuff that I had bought and never used or stuff that just sat there looking pretty or stuff that we had ten of... it really opened my eyes.  I decided I wanted to simplify our home and I started giving the stuff away.  I even set up a facebook page for our neighborhood where we could list things available for free and the first person to comment could come and get it.  It was a brilliant way to get things out of the house that I had no use for that maybe someone else could use.  I also, (being so embarrassed at how much stuff we had held on to), took bags and bags and boxes and boxes of stuff to DI.  It changed my feelings towards my home.  My home suddenly didn't feel quite as small and we had room to play as we got rid of the clutter.  (This is a work in process people, so don't judge me when you come over and we still have too much junk laying around... It improves daily.) We didn't end up moving, and I ended up actually more in love with my home than I had ever been before. 

Well as I was perusing these articles a few weeks ago I came across a quote that I absolutely LOVED that opened my eyes even further.  When I find quotes like that I have to share because I think just maybe it can turn on a light bulb for another person too and this quote in particular could perhaps help put a stop to some of those money arguments in families that seem way too prevalent.

Dave Ramsey, in his book The Total Money Makeover said "We spend money we don't have to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't like."

What a thought changing reminder for me!  How often do we purchase stuff to keep up with the Jones'?  How often do we live way out of our means because we want to impress people?  How many of us go in to debt to have a ton of stuff we don't really need or even ever use?  It just sits about and clutters up our home!

I hear all the time, (a phrase I have used many times myself), "Look at this, I got it for $X which saved me $X", or "I saved X percent on this!"  But in reality, if we are spending, we are never saving.  "I'm saving 50% on this item" is perhaps a way we justify spending money on something we may well want, but regardless, spending is never saving.  We are still spending 50% on that item. 

Another quote that I love that a friend of mine shared on that neighborhood page:  "Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." -William Morris, 19th century architect.  I think this sums up my ultimate goal when it comes to my home and I hope that remembering it will help me avoid spending as much on frivolous things.  After all, it's amazing what we put in our "need" category when there is extra money around isn't it?

So am I the only person who needs to learn this lesson?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My name is Petra and I'm an iPhone addict...

Well truth be told I have known this for a long time now.  My phone is in my hand constantly.  If I'm bored or alone I will check Facebook or Instagram, surf Pinterest or the Internet.  If it pings or vibrates I have to look at it.  If it rings I have to answer it.  Sad?  YES!!!!!  Especially when I'm with the ones I love.  Why on earth do I think anything coming across that phone is more important than them.  And why is it so difficult to leave my phone on the table and walk away?  Habit or addiction?

Well the beginning of this year I made a goal to try and do better, and I have!  I have cut WAY back on the time I spend on my phone and tried to spend more time playing with the fam, cooking, organizing, cleaning, and doing other things.  BUT, when I watched this video yesterday it spoke to me, and I realized although I have been trying to do better, I'm still not doing well enough.



 
 
Some of the phrases he used that really made me think:
 
"This media we call social is anything but..."
"A world of self interest, self image, self promotion.."
"We edit and exaggerate, crave adulation..."
"So when you are in public and start to feel alone, put your hands behind your head, step away from the phone..."
"Talk to one another, learn to coexist..."
"We're surrounded by children who since they were born, have watched us living like robots and think it's the norm..."
"Smart phones, dumb people..."
"When you're too busy looking down, you don't see the chances you miss..."
"Give people your love, don't give them your like..."
"Disconnect from the need to be heard and defined, go out into the world, leave distractions behind..."
"Live life the real way."
 
I was also hit very hard by the back storyline of the boy meeting his future wife because he asked her for directions and then there is a quick span of their life together but then it retracts and shows how none of that would have happened if he hadn't looked up from his phone and forced interaction with the people around him.  Crazy.

Now, do I think social media is awful?  No way.  I love it.  Do I think I need to show better balance in my life when it comes to this kind of stuff?  Yes, absolutely. 

After thinking hard about this yesterday I sat down with pen and paper, (yes literally pen and paper), and made a list of some alternate activities I can do when I'm bored and reach for my phone.  Remember, the goal for me is not to never use my phone, but to decrease my usage and dependence on it and find a much better balance in my life..  Here is what I came up with.  (Part of my problem is I just am not good at coming up with stuff on the fly... so I thought it would be helpful to have a list to reference so I can just pick something quick.)




Excuse the chicken scratch... I don't actually "write" very often!!! 

So, I'm curious... Am I the only one that struggles with this or sees it as a personal issue?  What are your thoughts on this subject?  And what other things can you think of that I can add to my list?


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Keep calm and put family first...



I read a thought provoking article the other day called "Trophy Wife" which talked about a husband who spent all his time on his cars and at car shows.  He would spend every spare minute he had taking care of them and showing them at the shows where he in fact accumulated a HUGE amount of trophies for his work.  The more trophies he got, the more time he spent on his cars trying to win more.  However, when his wife eventually decided to leave him, in a moment of sheer "clarity", as the author puts it, he looked at those trophies and realized they were worthless pieces of junk that had taken his time and attention away from his wife and family.  He put them all in boxes and threw them in the dumpster, vowing to never put anything ahead of God or his family again.  (See the original article on davewillis.org and follow them on Facebook for awesome marriage tips.) 

I love these kinds of articles and whether or not they are written for men or women, you can always find a way to apply it to yourself.  I know plenty of men and women both who put other things and, maybe even more typically, other people above their family and spouse.  I have been guilty of it myself many times during my life and find myself constantly having to put myself back on track.  The difference this one little focus makes in family and especially marriage relationships is unequivocal. 

What I have found through my own experiences and trials in this area is that it really comes down to this... Whatever (or whoever) you invest the majority of your time in is the part of your life that will flourish.  Pick wisely.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Copy Cat Waffle Love Liege Waffle Recipe

Several people have asked for the recipe I have been using for the Liege Waffles, so here it is! We have made them quite a lot and have tried different recipes and techniques but below is the way we find the easiest with the best result that we just use all the time now. 



Copy Cat Waffle Love Liege Waffle

3/4 Cup Whole Milk
2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup butter, softened (I use Imperial margarine no problem.)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 large eggs, lightly whisked
3 tablespoons honey
3 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups bread flour
1 8oz pkg Lars Belgian pearl sugar (NOT Swedish, the boxes look the same.)

Heat the milk until warm enough for yeast to proof (It's 1 min on high in my microwave). Add the water and the sugar then gently stir in the yeast.  Set that aside and allow the yeast to get nice and foamy (about 5 minutes).  In a large mixing bowl, (I use my KitchenAid mixer with the paddle attachment), beat together the butter and sugars. Add the egg, honey and vanilla. Add the yeast mixture. Switch to the dough hook and add 2 cups of flour. Mix until the flour is thoroughly incorporated, then mix in the remaining 2 cups of flour, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 4-24 hours. (It will more than double in size. They say the longer you leave it the better the flavor, but honestly we haven't been able to tell a difference between 4 hours and 9 hours. However, 9 is what I do if I want to make the dough before bed and leave it covered in the microwave till morning.)  Punch down the dough then knead in the pearl sugar. Separate into 12 balls and let rest for 30 minutes.


 (During this time, slice up your fruit and get your toppings and cream ready.)  


Place on a hot, greased waffle iron. (We have a Belgian waffle iron and set it on the lowest heat setting.) Cook until golden brown, (keep an eye on it as the sugar will burn if left too long or if you use too high of heat), and serve with Biscoff or Nutella, fresh berries and/or bananas and heavy whipped cream. (Or whatever you like really.)


To make the cream: Pour a pint of heavy whipping cream in your mixer. Add 1/2 cup sugar, (you can adjust this to taste, but we don't like too much sweetness in the cream as you get lots in the waffle itself as well as the other toppings), and a teaspoon of vanilla. Beat until nice and thick. (The longer you beat it, the thicker it gets.) Enjoy!!

(This recipe was adapted from the recipe posted on Oh Sweet Basil.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Zuppa Toscana Copy-Cat Recipe



Alright, I have had several requests for this recipe, so I'm putting it on my blog where I can point people to it quickly and easily.  This tastes JUST LIKE the Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 lb Italian sausage (mild)
1 large yellow onion, diced finely
1 Tbsp minced garlic
4 medium russet baking potatoes,sliced thinly. (I sliced lengthwise in half then thinly sliced each half.)
1 (3oz) pkg Oscar Meyer real bacon pieces (not bacon bits)
3 cans (14.5oz each) chicken broth
6 cups water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 cups kale, chopped and rinsed well
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Brown the Italian sausage in your soup stock pot. Remove sausage and put to the side, but leave the little bit of fat in the pan. Sauté chopped onion, garlic and sliced potatoes on med-high heat in the sausage fat till the potatoes start to cook through and onions are soft and translucent. Add bacon pieces, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil and let cook 20 mins or so till potatoes are almost cooked through. Add the Italian sausage back in and cook another 5-10 mins. Add the cream and kale. Turn heat to med-low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until kale is at desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. (i used a good amount of freshly cracked pepper.). Serve with hot crusty bread.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

And Then There Was A Band...

So if you didn't know, my son plays drums. And guess what? He is damn good at it!  (And maybe I could be a little biased, but I also consider myself to be a little musically inclined, so I think I can make a decent judgment here.)  Drums have always mystified me.  How on earth you can play one rhythm with your hands and a completely different one with your feet intrigues me.  I can't do it... I've tried.  But Mikey, he can seriously play those drums.  I love to hear him play.

A couple of months ago he told me he was joining a band.  "Yeah, ok", was my reaction.  But as the band members showed up weekly to practice and more and more equipment was being dragged down to the basement, I started to come to grips with the fact that he might actually be serious. 

He is.  The band, (called Grizzly), is made up of young men in their early twenties and Mike is the youngest member at only 16.  They have written their own music, started recording, and have a couple of local shows lined up as opening acts for bigger bands that Mike likes.  Chances are, this isn't your kind of music.  It's pretty hardcore and there is a lot of screaming, but I LOVE to hear the guitars and drums and I can appreciate the actual music (not loving the screaming, but maybe it will grow on me.)

Anyway, I'm pretty proud of him for all his hard work... This boy makes me smile :)



Friday, March 22, 2013

Happy Birthday Miss Dee!!!

Awe I cant believe my baby girl has turned 19.  Will someone please tell me where all this time has gone???  WARNING!  Those little kids you cuddle and love will be grown up and independent before you know it, so enjoy EVERY MINUTE of them.  It honestly seems like just yesterday that she was going to kindergarten for her first day.  :(

To celebrate, Dee wanted to go to the Roof Restaurant in Salt Lake City.  (If you have never been, you must go.)  The funniest part of the night was her dad and I making a bet that he couldn't eat ten creme brulee's.  Much to my chagrin he did it, and one of the waiters delivered an eleventh, which he also ate...  This was after eating two plates of gourmet food and a few other desserts.  I felt so sick watching him that I could only eat one myself... and I LOVE their creme brulee!  I still owe him a ten minute massage from losing that bet.

Dee is not only my daughter, but my best friend.  We enjoy many of the same things as each other and always have a laughing good time together.  I have loved every minute of seeing her grow in to the most beautiful young lady on the inside AND the outside.  Happy Birthday My Dee!!! :)