Sunday, March 31, 2013

He is not here, for He is risen!

Easter is one of my all-time favorite holidays, right up there with Christmas.  It's one of my two favorite non-Christmas holidays (the other being Thanksgiving).  I love how much peace and joy are associated with Easter.  The Resurrection was a great and wonderful miracle.  Another reason I love it is because it's right at the beginning of spring, which feels even more beautiful and joyful.  At least where I've been, there is often really great weather on Easter.  Sometimes it's chilly, but it's usually springy warm and pretty.  I've always associated that with the miracle of the resurrection.  It's a happy day in the history of the world.  :)

This Easter I had the opportunity to participate in a production of Lamb of God, by Rob Gardner.  It was an amazing experience to think so closely about an event I love.  There were a couple parts that stood out to me, in particular, as we were rehearsing and performing.  First, there's a song Peter sings after realizing he denied knowing Christ three times.  He sings, "Thou hast taken stripes for me; can I not take but one for Thee?"  I've thought a lot about that line.  Christ took my stripes for me.  That is an amazing miracle.  I can't even understood how amazing it is.  It encourages me to be more dedicated to Him in my everyday life to show how thankful I am.

Another part that stood out to me is a solo by Mary, the mother of Jesus.  While he's being scourged and judged and taken to Calvary, she sings, "Is this not enough?  O Lord, my God, show mercy on my Son!  Has not Thy will in this been done?  Has not the bitter cup been emptied?  When is it enough?  O Lord, when is it enough?  My breaking heart, though pierced and torn within, I'll keep my vigil here with Him.  Behold, The handmaid of the Lord.  Be it unto me until it is enough."

Mary's feelings during the Crucifixion never seemed so real to me before seeing someone act out that agony, and I've never considered her reaction to the events preceding the Crucifixion.  I'm sure she knew what had to happen, but Jesus did, too, and still prayed, "Take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt" (Mark 14:36).  I imagine it was excruciating for her, knowing what had to happen and watching, but maybe not understanding the extent and hoping to spare her son any pain possible.  

But then she still says, "I'll keep my vigil here with Him."  Can you imagine watching someone you love be crucified?  Mary could have chosen not to watch.  Many people, including Jesus, would probably have understood if she'd said, "It's too hard to see my son suffer like that."  But can you also imagine the comfort Jesus must have felt, having her there during His last moments?  

And finally she sings, "Behold, The handmaid of the Lord."  I've only ever associated that phrase with the Christmas story, when Mary learns she will be the mother of Jesus.  I realized this week that, when she said that phrase originally (Luke 1:38), she was agreeing to a lot more than just birthing the Savior.  She was agreeing to deal with the social struggles that would come with being pregnant with Him; to birth Him in the most humble of circumstances, raise Him, teach Him who He was, and believe Him; to see Him be mocked and disrespected in His adult life; and to finally see Him crucified.  From Christ's birth to His death, Mary's got to be one of the best examples of "Nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt" in the world.  

When we talk about the Atonement and Crucifixion, we usually focus on Christ's sacrifice and on Heavenly Father's sacrifice in being willing to watch His Son suffer and die for us without stepping in.  It was a revelatory experience for me this week to also realize Mary's sacrifice.  I wonder how she learned about His resurrection.  I like to imagine her finding out in a special way.  After all, she was involved in His story in a way that no one else was.  

My other favorite part of the program was the song when Mary Magdalene sees the resurrected Lord and sings glory to Him.  The Resurrection is tied with Christ's birth for the most glorious event in the history of the world.  I can't imagine the beauty and Spirit and glory she must have felt when she realized Who she was speaking to.  I wish I could find a full version of the song depicting that scene in  the Lamb of God program, but here's a clip (click on the song "Gloria (My Savior Lives)").  That song brings a beautiful spirit.  

I know Christ lived, atoned for my sins, died, and was resurrected.  I know He did all of that because He loves us.  He lives again and I'm thankful He does because I receive so much help and comfort from Him.  I'm thankful for the Resurrection and the beauty and glory I feel when I think about it.  I love and am thankful for Easter and the special reminder it is of Christ's life and resurrection.

**Note: I know that what was sung in the program is an artist's interpretation of what happened.  :)


"And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.  He is not here: for he is risen, as he said."  (Matthew 28:5-6)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


I'm going to state the "obvious" first and say, the scriptures.

After that, though, there are two.

First, and this may sound silly / obsessed / ridiculous, but I would honestly have to say Harry Potter.  I love Harry Potter, people.  Is it the most inspiring book?  I don't think so.  Does it have the most take-home messages, best plot, and everything else good you can imagine?  Who knows.  I've definitely read books that had something Harry Potter didn't ("can't think of any right now" - name that movie), but I've never read another book / series that has been as life-changing as Harry Potter.  

Without Harry Potter, I wouldn't have nearly as many inside jokes with some people.  I never would've waited for a book at Walmart at midnight or seen a non-High School Musical movie had midnight.  I never would have known who Nicholas Flamel was or pretended to cast [specific] spells at people using sparklers on the Fourth of July.  I would not have had a single impassioned conversation about how Petrificus totalus is the most underestimated and under-used spell of all time.  I don't know if I would have lasted some of the truly boring days at my old job.  Is my life better now?  I would argue yes, but that's not the point.  The point is, my life is different than if I'd never read those books.

The second book on my list is a collection of Grimm's Fairy Tales my dad read to us before bedtime when we were younger.  The first time I remember appreciating fairy tales as real literature, more than just Disney movies, was while listening to that book.  It was so interesting and funny to hear the differences between how the stories started and how they've "ended up" (although I'm sure they'll never have a "final" version).  I remember wanting to hear more and more because it was so fun.  And you all know that now I love fairy tales.

So.  If you haven't picked up a Harry Potter book or a fairy tale recently (or ever), you should!  You might be surprised.

What's the most life-changing book you've ever read?


"The truth is that there was a something about Peter which goaded the pirate captain to frenzy.  It was not his courage, it was not his engaging appearance, it was not --.  There is no beating around the bush, for we know quite well what it was, and have got to tell.  It was Peter's cockiness."  - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Sunday, March 10, 2013


This week saw a big day for me!  Thursday was the first day I made something for dinner that was gross enough for me to not finish it.  It took me five years of cooking for myself for that to happen!  

That wasn't the only big thing, though.  Not only did I not finish my food, I also faced my fear of wasting food (which is a completely reasonable fear and one I will not be abandoning) and threw it and all the leftovers away.  Even though it was food.  BUT I knew neither of us would eat it, and it was either going to be thrown away tonight or in three weeks when I clean the fridge of rotted leftovers.  So I bit the bullet, trashed it, and it was actually kind of freeing!  I didn't even let myself feel guilty for it.  (It was pretty gross.)

I also learned an important lesson for the future - we typically don't really like meat that has been baked in juice.  Baked, not crockpotted.  A while ago we tried baked blueberry chicken - didn't love it.  Tonight's was baked cranberry pork - yuck.  But neither time was it about the taste - both tasted very good; it was all about texture.  I've learned if I want to make food like that, I need to cook the meat on the stove / grill, heat the sauce on the stove, and serve it like "meat and a sauce to dip it in or put on top," because then we'll eat and love it.  

(The only exception I can think of right now is baked cranberry chicken.  I looooove that stuff.)


"All [a child] thinks he has a right to when he comes to you to be yours is fairness.  After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be quite the same boy."  - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

the art of playing

"As kids we're taught to play, and we're never given a reason why we should play; it's just acceptable that play is a good thing... There is no point and there doesn't have to be a point.  As adults, we need to learn that there's no right or wrong way to play."

When I was a freshman at college, two of my best friends from high school were also freshmen at the same college.  We hung out a lot and generally just "played."  I don't know if there's a better way to describe it.  Perhaps (more or less, for the sake of this post and my overall life activities) you could say that someone who plays exhibits a "willingness to play games and generally be silly."  

Anyway, I went on a date that year and casually mentioned that those two friends and I would go on adventures and play.  My date said, "You play?  How do you do that?"  

WHAT?  How could he not know how to play?  Granted, my family is into playing and my friends are also really fun, so maybe I was just spoiled.  Whatever the reason, I decided that I would go on another date with that boy IF I got to plan it.  So I planned one, and it was awesome.  If that date had had a title, it would've been "Teaching D To Play."  I started the evening with an excellent playlist called "Fun!" We then proceeded to color with crayons in coloring books, make chocolate pudding, and tell Laffy Taffy jokes (while eating the candy, of course).  

Only D knows if that date was at all as fun as I meant for it to be.  I definitely thought it was, but you never know - we only went on one more date after that.  He did think my challenge to sing all the words to "Curbside Prophet," by Jason Mraz, was boring (when I ask you if you know ALL of the words, you say yes, and I start singing them, it's not time to strike up a conversation), and he decided we should eat the chocolate pudding instead of paint a picture with it, but he was the one who suggested we eat the Laffy Taffy I brought even though we'd already eaten pudding.  

I feel like this entire post is completely random.  There's not really any point to it.  I heard that TED talk today, which reminded me of a fun story I felt like writing about..., so I did.  For the take-home message, let's do this: I have a really fun family who taught me to play, really fun friends who are great at playing, and am thankful I married someone who also knows how to play.  + I hope you never forgot how to play, but if you did, it's never too late to relearn.  

(By the way, if you've never watched any of Improv Everywhere's videos, you should. They're hilarious.)

WARNING!  This is the fine print.  Possible side affects of being good at playing include: the feeling that meetings where small talk is preferred have become stiflingly boring because people don't always want to talk about fun things like playing; the feeling that other everyday / "normal" activities have become more interesting and fun.  


"[Peter] often went out alone, and when he came back you were never absolutely certain whether he had had an adventure or not.  He might have forgotten it so completely that he said nothing about it; and then when you went out you found the body; and, on the other hand, he might say a great deal about it, and yet you could not find the body."  - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Sunday, March 3, 2013

super easy guide to grocery shopping

I had a newlywed ask recently for a how-to for grocery shopping.  She got married fairly quickly after leaving home and didn't get a lot of practice doing her own shopping (for real food), and now she's shopping for two.  Two students, who don't always have time to cook.  I tried to keep it simple while explaining enough that someone totally inexperienced could follow along.  Hopefully it's not too wordy...  Skip or enjoy.  :)  

1. Decide on a budget.

Before I was married, my budget for groceries was $30/week.  I didn't use coupons, and I ate well.  Now that I'm married, the budget is still $30/week.  I still don't use coupons, and we still eat well.  We designate $150/month for groceries - $30/week plus an extra $30 in case of a fifth week.  I chose $30 arbitrarily before being married but kept it because it was an amount I could do easily.  After getting married, I had more room for food storage so I switched to a monthly budget in case something was on sale one week and I wanted to go over $30 to stock up.  You may have children, love the expensive brand of orange juice, or only eat organic.  Consider your eating habits (those you have and those you want, if you're trying to alter your diet), have a discussion with your husband / wife, and decide what budget will work best for your family and paycheck.

EDIT: Suggested by my friend Allison - don't forget about your location!  Groceries can cost a lot more in some areas than others.  If you just moved, know that your last budget might need to be amended.

Once you have a budget, think about your spending habits.  Are you fairly diligent with keeping track of your money, or would using cash be a better option for you?  We use cash to help me stay within the budget.  Any leftover at the end of the month goes into an "Extra Grocery Money" jar, which I then use to bulk up our food storage.

2. Procure some grocery ads.

If they come in the mail, great.  If they don't, look them up online.  Don't go overboard - when I lived close to a lot of different grocery stores, I would look at a lot of ads to see which stores would save enough money to warrant going there.  Now that I live close to three grocery stores, I only look at three ads (and usually only go to 1-2 stores).

3. Decide what's cheap enough to buy (that you'll eat!).  

I circle items with a dark marker as I go through ads.  It's easier to see while putting together my list or if I run into a store with just my ad. 

This can be tricky when you're first starting.  What's a good deal?  My (very) general tip is this: For physically small things, like a can or fruit, get as far away from $1 as possible.  For bigger things, like bread or meat, get as close to $1 as possible.  I recommend creating a Stock Up List as you go if you're still figuring out what good prices are.  I got one from Money Saving Mom that I like, but her prices are much lower than what I usually see, so I filled out my own.  (She uses coupons and I generally don't.)

When you first start this step might take a while, but be patient!  As you get accustomed to the prices in your area, it'll go faster.  It takes me about the length of one song to go through all five ads (one store puts out 3) and figure out my shopping list.

(If you want to download a Stock Up List, here is the original from Money Saving Mom and here is one I have started. Mine's not complete because I have a good memory for the most common items.  I've been filling it out more diligently, though, so check back later if you want a completed form. :)

4. Using your ads, create a shopping list.

This is pretty self-explanatory.  If you only want to go to one store, only make one list.  If you don't mind going to a couple of stores, make sure your list clarifies which store each item is at.  If you circled tomatoes in two ads, which store has them cheaper?  I typically look at ads for three stores, make a list for all three, and then decide where to go.  If an out-of-the-way store only has tomatoes and bananas on sale, I skip the tomatoes and bananas.  Those go on sale all the time.  If there's cheap cheese, though, I'll go. 

5. Using your shopping list, create a menu for the week.

Some people mix up those two steps.  In my opinion, that's what breaks the budget.  Don't make a menu and then buy what you need for that menu.  See what's on sale and create a menu using those foods.  Include breakfast, lunch, dinner (including sides and vegetables), snacks, and beverages where applicable.  We eat cereal for breakfast, a sandwich or leftovers for lunch, and drink water, so I focus on dinner (and bread for lunches).  

This step will also likely take practice if you're newly on your own.  One very helpful thing my mom did when I moved out was give me a blank calendar.  She told me to make a list of every food I could  make.  Your collection will grow - and be on the lookout for recipes that use everyday ingredients - but a list might be helpful for now.  I know how to make many more foods now but I still refer to that menu when I get stuck.  If you're a student, think about simple recipes!  Fancy ones are tasty, but for many schedules (and budgets) they're not realistic.  Planning complicated meals will just find you eating out once you realize you don't have time.  You can still eat really good food that's simple!  Leave me a comment if you need (specific) ideas for simple recipes.  That's about all I make.  

6. Grab your list and go shopping!

Keep your budget in mind as you're shopping.  Don't buy 45 on-sale frozen pizzas to build up food storage if you only have $30 to spend.  Also, check the off brands.  They're often cheaper than the on-sale items you were going for in the first place.

Finally, if you only buy Ramen every time you go shopping, yes, you will most likely save your budget.  But you'll be so bored! that it won't take long before you fall back into old habits.  So, one thing I like to do is buy something fun every week.  Doughnuts, bagels, string cheese, corn dogs... something that may or may not be on sale, but that will be fun without breaking the bank.  

Phew!  It was wordy, but hopefully I kept it simple while including enough (and not too much) info for you.  Good luck with your shopping!  And feel free to ask if any questions come up.  :)


"[Hook] felt his ego slipping from him.  'Don't desert me, bully,' he whispered hoarsely to it."  - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan