The Emerald Isle

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Luke smiles demurely at the site of some super cool ruins.   Hundreds of years ago, some Irish people used to protect themselves from invaders by building their own mini-islands.   One way to cross the lake to get there was by memorizing the location of underwater stepping stones and dancing your way across (ala El Macho and his lair in Despicable Me 2).

I’m officially adjusted to life back home now…although the transition was rough.  We’ve got another trip planned without kids in a couple days to celebrate our 10 years of marriage and this one’s gonna be a brute to come back from.  Hint: those pics are gonna have a lot more ocean in them…

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The flowers in Ireland were seriously to DIE for.  But then again, flowers in general are kind of a novelty once you’ve lived in the desert for 10 years.  What are these anyway, hydrangeas?  I only know that they made me infinitely dissatisfied with my palo verdes.

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We went on a little boat ride on Ireland’s only fjord (and you thought Frozen made those up) and it was spectacular!  Freezing, but spectacular.

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So, I’ve got this thing with old doors and gates.  They’re so fabulous, especially fancy European ones.  Luke made fun of me mercilessly on our first couple trips to Europe when I’d stop in front of every doorway I saw but he knows to keep quiet now.  Speaking of doorways, in Ireland, EVERY door is painted a crazy fun accent color.  They say it’s because when the queen died one year (while under British rule), the royals made everyone paint their door black in mourning.  Story goes, when the drunk Irish guys came home late at night to a string of townhouses all with black doors, none of them could tell which house was theirs.  So they began painting them all different vibrant hues.  Hehe.

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The main pedestrian shopping street in Galway.  It was our first place to spend the night and absolutely charming!

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Tell me I’m not the only person who acts like a child when there’s oodles of green grass around.  Am I right??  Anyone?  Buehler??

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At the top of Blarney Castle where we (disgustingly) kissed a stone (with our mouths) that millions of other people have kissed (with their mouths).  I thought it was supposed to bestow the gift of gab (which I already possess and therefore saw no need to participate) but when I learned it actually had the power to make one eloquent, (i.e. no foot in mouth syndrome) I happily queued up.

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This was where we had our farewell dinner (delicious) to traditional Irish music played by a local band (hilarious).  It was a load of knee-slapping fun.

In short, Ireland was considerably more awesome than I expected.  Gorgeous place to rent a car and just get lost.  In fact, doing that alone with my lovely husband is now on my bucket list.  Green and gorgeous is an apt description.  This was my first trip to a foreign country where the locals speak my language (Canada doesn’t count) and I loved it.  The accent is so freaking cute that I’m stymied as to how they’ve fought so many wars.  If some farmer tried to come at me with a pitchfork I’d just giggle and ask him to talk some more.

The food was amazing – surprisingly similar to American food and this was the first European country I’ve been to where the people’s body types are most like Americans (ahem, large).  Then again, considering how many Irish immigrated to America, it’s not really that surprising.  Thanks for the food legacy, Ireland!
(and the ghastly English spelling 🙂

Look Up

IMG_7839Westport House, Connemara, Ireland

I read this great little story in our church’s magazine the other day: A woman who had recently lost her daughter in an accident woke up early one day in an attempt to see a sunrise.  She and her husband were hoping that a glimpse of a beautiful sky would help lift their spirits and give them hope during their devastation.  They waited, facing east, yet as the sun rose, it failed to break through the clouds.  The woman felt disheartened and turned to go back inside when her husband said, “Look!”  She turned to see him facing west where they witnessed a gorgeous reflection of the sunrise in beautiful shades of pink (her daughter’s favorite color, btw).  She felt that God was sending her hope for the future and a reminder of His love.  She then went on to say this:

“I have thought often on that beautiful moment and the new perspective it gave me. Who looks for a sunrise in the west? And yet that is where my miracle was waiting. How many blessings and miracles do I miss because they come from unexpected places? How many times do I focus on what I think should be and miss the glory of what is?”

Whoa.  THAT was something I needed to hear.

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That saying was so good it needed a meme.  And I need a hobby, apparently.

While my anxiety over caring for 6 little ones is nothing compared to this woman’s tragedy, her words helped me recognize all the good that exists amidst the stresses of everyday life.

It seems every time I turn around, someone is telling me to “enjoy these years because you’ll miss them when those kids are gone!”  A saying which is most likely true, albeit not extremely helpful to hear as that frazzled mother in the checkout line with a kid screaming for a toy, another licking the shopping cart and a 3rd snorting stolen pixie sticks.

The fact is, however, that the very act of enjoying any stage of life usually means ignoring the messes and inconveniences that come with it all.  A bit of a catch-22, if you will, but pretty much applicable to anyone, anywhere.

Enjoying life = ignoring messes (literal and figurative)

IMG_7901The Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, Ireland – see all those teeny tiny people up there?  Adrenaline junkies.

One more story: yesterday, on the radio, the lead singer of a Christian band was talking about visiting Disneyland with his little nephew.  At one point, the kid threw a massive temper tantrum because his sister wouldn’t let him push the stroller.  The guy said, (and I’m paraphrasing) “Here was my nephew, in the middle of the happiest place on earth, throwing a fit about something totally insignificant and I realized how often we do the same thing.  We focus so intently on the small problems that we forget to simply look up!  We’re surrounded by blessings and beauty and wonder, we just need to lift our eyes to see it.”

Right on, man.  Right on.

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Lest you forget my life is no longer all green grass and rainbows, here’s a shot of me “looking up” amidst the chaos and laundry.  Although I probably should eventually look down cause my kid’s not wearing a diaper here.

 

 

Top o’ the marning to yeh!

 

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Luke and I are spending the week in Ireland right now, enjoying time with some friends and family members who have traveled with us on previous trips to Europe.  What a treat to relax in the cool air while our poor children sweat to death at home in Phoenix!  Ha ha!  Poor fools.

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 Downtown abbey in the background (not really)

Green everywhere, gorgeous castles, beautiful music and surprisingly delicious food.  I haven’t experienced actual hunger in over 7 days now.

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Here are just a few of my favorite shots of this amazing Emerald Isle.

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Muckross
house
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Luke’s great-uncle Johnny celebrated his 88th birthday on this trip.  If I’m still hiking all over Europe when I turn 88 then I’m gonna be pretty danged pleased with myself.  He also uses his age as an excuse to get fresh with younger women.  Brilliant!

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Galway bay
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Luke being photobombed by SIL, Anna.  Ah, good times being had by all.
We’ve got 2 days left in Dublin before we board the plane back to reality.  Time to inhale all the chocolate croissants I can find.

Women Breaking Barriers….and what to watch tonight!

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Have you read Infidel yet?  If not, put down your computer, run to the nearest library and get a copy, STAT.  I’m serious.  It affected me the way no other non-fiction book has yet.  Except maybe this one.  I was blown away by Ayaan Ali’s dedication to finding the truth, even if it meant leaving everything that she held dear and walking away from her family and country.  She now works to free women who she sees as slaves in an unjust culture and religion.
Here’s the review I left on Goodreads:
Holy. Crap. This book was probably the most horrific and fascinating book I’ve ever read. It moved me to tears and had me standing up and cheering. I admire this woman to no end and hope that she lives a long, happy and free life.
In short, this book is Ayaan Ali’s path from an accepting Muslim childhood in Ethiopia, to a an adult life as a rebel atheist in Holland. Her whole young adulthood was spent trying to become a good Muslim but she simply couldn’t live with the dissonance between her beliefs of Allah as a peaceful God and the abuse and murder of women in her Muslim community. After being sent off to an arranged marriage with a man living in Canada, Ayaan gets on a train to Holland and never looks back. She becomes a member of Dutch parliament, makes a documentary about Muslim women, lives under armed guard, survives her co-creator of the documentary who is brutally murdered by an Islamic fundamentalist and eventually settles in the US.
As a devout Christian, it does make me sad that she has completely renounced a belief in any god, although I can’t say that I blame her. She was true to what her heart and spirit told her, which was that the injustices she was witnessing were NOT of God. She made her life something she could be proud of, even though her family disowned her for it and her life is still threatened regularly. And now she works to right the wrongs she witnessed both in Africa and in the Islamic communities of western Europe.
Three cheers for this heroic woman and her amazing book!

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I’d never heard of the movie Temple Grandin until I was browsing Amazon for something to listen to while I sewed one night.  I ended up abandoning the sewing, I was so into this story!  It’s the true story of an autistic woman who struggled for years to apply her mind to the one thing that she felt the most passion for, and she ended up completely revolutionizing the world of cattle farming and animal welfare.  Claire Danes also did an AH-mazing job portraying this woman*.

Some inspiring women you’ve GOT to learn about!

*Claire’s performance was along the lines of Leo’s incredible work in this classic movie…and speaking of Leo and Claire, surely you’ve seen and loved them in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet.  Aaaand, when Baz Luhrmann comes up, we’d be remiss not to recommend my favorite flick from my over-emotional dramatic college days of yore, Moulin Rouge.  If those are too heavy, and you’re in need of a heartwarming movie about the importance of the little things, do NOT miss About TimeThere are a few instances of harsh language but I’m pretty sensitive to that stuff and I wasn’t offended.  An absolutely beautiful story of love and family and making the most of every one of life’s moments. Another inspiring one was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  Hilarious with some GORGEOUS scenery from all over the world and a message about living life to the fullest.  Lastly, if that puts you in the mood for more cringe-worthy Kristen Wiig, catch Girl Most Likely.  It’s often silly and a tad slow, like her movies can be, but the hilarity of her awkward moments makes it well worth it.  A flick especially for those who have ever been embarrassed by family members but still can’t help loving them.
Whew!  Now go put on comfy pj’s and do your Netflix homework.

Take 5 For Fashion: Fantastic Finds!

I was just dying over this whole outfit when I spotted the chambray skirt in Nordstrom’s last catalog.  This bad boy was worth taking all my children with me to the mall to get my hands on it.  (Picture: me, checking out in a fancy department store while 2 year old Vivian, who insisted on wearing nothing but a Tinkerbell swimsuit to the mall, adamantly insists on trying to ride the escalator down. By herself.  Some middle-aged Nordstrom employee nearly had a coronary blockading the way and passionately informing me that my child was moments from certain death.)  Looking forward to wearing this flowy skirt with pretty much everything this summer!

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Anthropologie necklaces are always calling my name when I step in the store, but this one was the perfect turquoise pendant I’d been hunting for.  Alas, I was righteous and waited until it was on sale.  It definitely doesn’t disappoint and goes with everything!

 

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Is it obvious a 6-year-old took this picture? No?

I got the necklace on Saturday, wore it Sunday and then again on Monday.  How’s that for driving down that cost-per-wear?  Which brings me to the skirt and shoes…

That Forever 21 has done it again!  This fun rust skirt and d’orsay flats are some of my absolute faves this summer.  The shoes are still available here along with TONS of other adorable ankle strap options.

If you haven’t yet tried shoes at F21, don’t wait any longer!  Cheap, adorable and a huge selection.  Their midi skirt options are plentiful too (see them all here) and I’m ecstatic over all the longer length skirts available this summer!  Finally!

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Bright tomato is my color obsession this season and I keep seeing tops like this one everywhere.  Have yet to choose one to add the wardrobe line-up but can’t you just see the possibilities?  Match it with army green, a neutral or something bold like a purple!

Last but not least, remember this tutorial for the striped, pleated anthro knock-off skirt?  Well F21 has one too!

Two cheers for cheap fashion!

Best granola on the planet

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Breakfast is hard.  I wake up to cranky kids who are starving and needtoeatrightnow and while I’m still rubbing sleep out of my eyes, they’re digging through cupboards and probably fighting over that last ounce of $4 chocolate bar I was saving for my next emotional crisis. 

Enter: This granola.
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I’ve tweaked two of my favorite recipes (one utterly caloric and delicious, the other uber nutritious but less yummy) to make one fantastically healthy and delectable breakfast that every last one of my children begs for.
The magic of making your own granola is that you have ultimate creative license.  Hate almonds? Use pecans.  Coconut allergy?  Skip it.  Totally up to you and your tastebuds.  Go create your own concoction and have fun messing with it!

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This recipe makes a pretty large batch (about 11 cups).  It lasts our family (of 7 people with molars) about a week if I patrol the pantry and don’t allow it for snacks.  Excepting myself, of course.  I’m kind of a hypocrite like that.

Best Granola on the Planet

7 c rolled oats (not quick)
4 c nuts and seeds (I like sunflower seeds, pepitas, chopped pecans, almonds and hazelnuts in any combination!  I also love shredded unsweetened coconut)
3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom (optional)

1/2 c honey
1/2 c pure maple syrup
1/2 c coconut oil*
1/2 c water
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 c dried fruit, such as blueberries, cherries, raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Mix dry ingredients together well in a large mixing bowl (oats through spices).   Add sweeteners, oil and vanilla.  If honey is very thick or oil is solid, heat briefly on the stovetop or in the microwave until pourable.  Mix all ingredients together well.  Line 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners (very important!  Otherwise you’ll be scraping sticky oats off those pans until the end of the world) and spread granola equally on both pans. 

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Watch carefully towards the end as honey tends to brown rather quickly.  Remove when golden brown and fragrant.  Let cool completely and add your choice of dried fruit, if desired.  Stored in airtight containers, it keeps for about 2 weeks, although it’s never lasted that long at our house!

* You can also substitute with olive oil which, suprisingly, is pretty fantastic.  There is some concern about baking with olive oil and the release of free radicals, FYI, which is why I use coconut.
We love this as cereal with almond or rice milk but it’s also divine on Greek yogurt with honey.  I even snack on it plain with my favorite dried fruit!

Emergency First Aid–Free Printables!

I recently got put in charge of my church’s monthly women’s evening meeting.  So now I get to plan the get-togethers where our husbands think we’re meeting to learn spiritual stuff when really we’re catching up on gossip and eating junk.  Pretty sweet gig, lemme tell ya.

This week we put on a little class on dealing with first aid emergencies.  I prepared a packet that includes information on CPR, choking, cuts, burns and what to do in case you have to give birth in an emergency situation (i.e. not a hospital or your choice of birthplace :).  This packet would be perfect inside an evacuation kit to be used in a real life or death emergency or simply stuck in your first aid kit or medicine cabinet.

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Cuts and burns quiz and instructions

Birthing in an emergency

Adult CPR (the CPR and choking links are to the CPR Dude website which is where I got my information.  Just print off a screen shot of each page!)

Child CPR

Infant CPR

Choking Adult or Child

Choking Infant

I’m such a huge fan of all women being prepared to give birth in any situation; information is power!   Now, if you ever find yourself speeding to the hospital with contractions right on top of each other and think you just might not make it,  you’ll be the picture of calm and rationale, right??

Laughs from the Littles

 

I keep DYING to share some of the funniest and most touching things these great kids of mine come up with.

I recently decided that I’d start a series of posts chronicling the hilarity that ensues at our house.  I knew kids were funny but sometimes they seriously just SLAY me.

The only sad part is that I’m usually alone with them and there’s no one else to laugh with me.  That’s where you guys come in.

Introducing: Laughs from the Littles, Round 1.

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Me: “Everyone is good at something.”
Liam:”Except me.”

I gear up to give him a motivational pep talk until…

Liam: “I’m good at everything.”
Me: Laughs.  “Except humility.”
Liam: “What’s that?”
I explain.
Liam: “Nope, I’m good at that too.”

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The best part about this picture is Liam’s shirt.  It says, “I’m pretty much one of the best people I know.”  (plus a stick drawing of Greg Heffley aka Wimpy Kid).  Fitting, considering our above conversation.

While playing Duck, Duck, Goose as a family, Toby decides to pat heads to the words of, “tiger….platypus….deer scat…goose…”

Stay tuned for the next installment of snort-inducing children’s quotes.

Sew easy

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I got a little burned out while working on some pattern drafting and harder  sewing projects lately so I decided to give my brain a break by whipping out some quick and easy fun projects.

Have you been over to MADE and seen Dana’s new video tutorial series?  They are freaktastically awesome.  And I don’t use “freaktastic” lightly.  They are PERFECT for a beginning sewer or anyone who needs a little sewing pick-me-up.  I’ve watched them all!

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This is what I get when I tell them I’m taking a picture.

One of her videos is a quick and simple rundown of a basic elastic skirt with bias tape trim.  Such a fun summer wardrobe addition that takes literally 20 min (or less!) to make.

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This is what I get when I say “pose!”  I admit I didn’t make that lace one Kira is wearing.  It was an adorable H&M find and the underskirt is actually BRIGHT neon coral.  I wish they had it in my size.

And now that I mention bias tape…she has a video on that too.  And I’ll admit.  I was never much of a bias tape aficionado but she makes it fun.  In fact I just bought several fat quarters to make cute tape with.

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I’m also a huge fan of these lipgloss-holder key rings.  I made a bunch for Mother’s Day gifts for my sisters and SIL’s.

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Aren’t they cute?  Instead of chapstick, I bought fun lipgloss from Forever 21 and just added about an inch to the length of the pattern.

Whew! That was fun!

Now back to the drafting…wah, wah, waaaah!

**For reference, here are the measurements I used for my skinny just-turned-5-year-old:

Raw fabric =  20” wide x 13” long, elastic = 19” long, bias tape = 20” long
Finished measurements were 12” long with an 18” waistband.

A decade of lovin’

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Luke’s mom let us borrow her convertible VW bug for our weekend away.  Yesssss.
On May 8th Luke and I celebrated 10 years of marriage!  That seems to be simultaneously a ludicrously long amount of time and barely the blink of an eye.  Part of me wonders how the heck I became my mother who now measures time in 10 year increments instead of weeks or months and the other part of me can hardly remember back to when I was a clueless single person desperate for a date with a decent guy.  Wow, flashback!  Dating is brutal.
I talked Luke into going back to San Diego, where we were married, for a quick weekend away and it was THE best.  Remember back when you had no responsibilities and could just lounge around eating and sleeping in and frolicking time away??  Yeah, me neither…but it’s awesome!
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Here we are, our marriage just minutes old.  Man, we had no idea what was about to hit us.  But we’ve loved every bit of it!
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Of course we had to take some pictures in front of the same temple, 10 years later.  Not much the worse for wear, eh?  Luke’s missing some hair and my rear end ain’t as tight as it used to be, but all things considering, not bad at all.
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I sure do love the San Diego temple.  Don’t ask me why we got married here when both of our families live in Arizona.  It was just the first of many times when my sweet husband bowed to my unreasonable whim, with no questions asked.  I sure love him!  And his willingness to bow to my whims. 
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We rode bikes around Coronado island which is the cutest, most picturesque island I’ve ever been to.  And the houses are all gorgeous!
photo 1 (2)The Hotel Del, where Marilyn Monroe filmed “Some Like It Hot”.

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Spent some time on the perfect beach at the Hotel Del Coronado where we spent our wedding night.  Bless Luke’s heart, he even called to see if we could afford to stay there again on this trip (we couldn’t).  Ah well, maybe in another 10 years.
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Also, Extraordinary Desserts.  Um, yeeeeah. 
Sad story: I left the rest of that ganache covered cheesecake (the lightest, fluffiest cheesecake you’ve ever tasted!) in the hotel fridge and realized it as we pulled out of town.  We (er, Luke) decided not to go back for it and if I told you I don’t think about that cheesecake sitting abandoned in that mini bar on a regular basis, I’d be lying.
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I always told myself I wanted to fit back into my wedding dress on my 10 year anniversary and, SUCCESS!  Granted, there was a bit of sucking in involved and this was taken before the previously mentioned dessert episode, but I’m calling it a win.
In all seriousness, I consider myself one of the amazingly lucky ones who found an incredible guy who’s happy working all day to support his little big family.  After work he comes home to grubby fingers wanting piggy back rides and to dish duty and the bedtime routine, but he does it all with pleasure and a laugh.  I’m so grateful for him every. single. day.