Thursday, August 30, 2012

Calzones for Grandpa

My Dad flew over from Oahu last month for work, and we got to hang out with him. We love it when Grandpa comes to visit!
Since he was here on a Monday night, he was able to join us for some good-old-fashioned, Family Home Evening fun!
For dinner, we decided to take our favorite pizza crust recipe and make calzones! We called it "Calzone Bar" because everyone got to pick and choose what toppings they wanted.

Sitting at the table, rolling out the dough:

Once the dough was rolled out into six, small balls, we each covered one with our desired toppings. Mine was covered first in maranara sauce, then mozzarella cheese, then tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, olves, garlic, and italian sausage.

Next we folded them over and squished the sides together, for lack of a more technical word. (Mooshed?)

A calzone, all ready for the oven. We baked them at 350 f for 25-30 mins.


I really love it when my Dad comes to visit, and I just really love my Dad. And I love calzones.
And I love Odin's wild, little face popping up at the bottom of this picture of us.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Magic of Motherhood

It really is magic!
I finally fell asleep last night after experiencing this incredible high from witnessing my children progress in amazing ways this week! It seems the past several months have been somewhat stagnant as we've been settling into a semi-normal routine. However, day in and day out, the routine was getting a little overwhelming for me. With all the hard work it takes to raise little ones, the days can go by so quickly, and it's hard to recognize the tiny steps we are making towards growth. I admit to feeling, at times, that all this hard mommy-work isn't doing anything but draining my energy and making me feel crazy.
But right when life seems like a steady flow of laundry, dishes, whining, laundry, dishes, whining, and more laundry and dishes, and more whining, I realize that's a good sign that growth is happening.

It happens in bursts, all at once. Like right when I am halfway through the day, reaching that point of exhaustion that hits me everyday at about 3pm.

Yesterday was that kind of day.
Right when I called out,"Time for rest time!," my toddler went to the bathroom in his potty for the first time.
He marched over to it, sat down, and acted like he knew what to do all along. The look on his face was pure joy. He was so proud of himself.
Next my six year old rode his bike by himself for the first time. He found the confidence somewhere within himself today to just try, where he had been so uncertain and nervous about it before. Today was the day and he did it. The look on his face was pure joy. I cried tears of happiness, as I watched him ride around the yard.
I was beaming yesterday, so thrilled with the big steps my kids were making. Then to top off the day, my 4 year old allowed me to put ear drops in his ear without a fight. This is something we have struggled with for months, then suddenly today, he decided it would be okay. He found the strength within himself to let me do the necessary, and it happened. It may seem like a small thing, but as his mother, I see it as a huge step towards maturity and growth.

It was awesome for me yesterday to witness all these huge growth spurts happening. I realize that growth is happening every day, in tiny ways, but sometimes it's hard to recognize it through the messy house and piles of laundry.
My kids are amazing, and they are doing amazing things. My hard work as Mom is rewarding and exciting. It's days like yesterday that bring the magic of motherhood alive.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Laundry Cap Music Shakers

Here's another great reason to recycle! My toddler's Sunday-nursery teacher, Sister Pung, came up with this brilliant idea to screw together laundry detergeant caps to make music shakers! She gave me permission to share her idea, and here it is:
The kids love shaking it up during music time at Sister Pungs class. She is the cutest, most cheerful, elderly Chinese woman, who always has the most creative activities for the kids. Jonah loves going to her class.
The kids haven't figured out that you can unscrew the caps, and hopefully they never will. They are filled with things like rice, beans, cherry seeds, and marbles.
It might take years to collect this many laundry caps for yourself, so ask your family, friends, and neighbors to save them for you! I think you have to play around with the sizes, as it looks like the same size lids may not screw together.
Have fun shaking it up-let me know how it goes!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wish you were here....

100% pure and natural Coconut Water! You don't need to buy the case at Costco, just wait under a tree.

Hawaiian-style air conditioning. When it gets too hot in the house, we dip in da kiddie pools.

Our favorite place to be: the beach on a sunny day.

Aloha my friends. Wish you were here. :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mama-made Bags

My Mama sews the cutest, funkiest purses and bags. I have 4 unique bags, and I cherish each one! She even made one for my husband, which he uses all the time!
Whenever someone compliments me on my bag I respond proudly,"Thanks! My Mom made it for me!"
This one is a pirate-themed hand-bag.
This one is a reversable hobo-style bag, with a scrap of Local Motion T-shirt sewn on. I love the idea of upcycling an old T-shirt right onto the bag!
My husbands hobo-style bag has an elephant button on it. Because, you know, he was the elephant guy.
This is the bag I love the most right now. She upcycled it from an old maternity skirt I wore when I was pregnant with Jonah. When she sent it to me in the mail I felt so happy to have my old skirt back, yet happy I didn't have to actually wear it again. It makes a beautiful purse!
Zadok agreed he would model it for me, in his own way.

My Mama has a passion for sewing and making things, using her own creativity and style. I think it is a beautiful form of art to find second-hand fabrics and scraps, and then create whatever you can imagine out of them. She has been doing this since we were little kids, even though the term upcycling wasn't trending back then. I remember she always had a shirt on that she sewed herself, plus costumes, blankets, curtains, potholders, and whatever else around the house, was made from fabric she put together.
She's been funky and cool even before it was even cool. This is the way she's always been, and I love it. Thanks for our Mama-made bags, Mama! If you ever decide to open up a shop, we will be your first customers!
Barbara Stokes, in all her funky cool-ness. Not sure who the dog and the guy are.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Settling in with Aloha

It's such a nice feeling for me to feel settled in, and grounded where I belong. Our little ohana has moved around so much the last 8 years since Micah and I got married, that we've never had a chance to feel truly settled in. I just love it here in Hilo, and am making myself at home!

We've spent the past few weekends hitting up yard sales, building and painting bookshelves, and putting the finishing touches on our home organization and decor. We aren't fancy by any means, but you don't have to be fancy to feel at home!

I love my living room curtains. They cost me 11 dollars to make, and 2 hours to sew. This was my very first time making a ruffle on anything!
Then one night while I was perusing the home-decor aisles at ROSS, I spotted these Rainbow-Hibiscus Lanterns! Perfect! When I plug them in at night, they light up my life!
Micah built bookshelves from the neighbors discarded house-lumber. They were gutting their home and had lots to spare! I love having all our favorite books in the living room to look at and read. Odin helped me paint, although most of the paint ended up in his cute, little curls.
One thing we haven't been able to experience as we've moved from place to place is the warmth and security of having a Ward Family. It's been wonderful now to get to know the Sisters and Brothers at church better, and feel a love and kinship with them that will be long lasting. I love arriving at church to find radiating, smiling faces, eager to give a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and a warm aloha. Here in Hawaii we don't just shake hands and say hi, we pull our family-friends in for a heart-warming embrace. This is a greeting you just don't forget, and one of the wonderful things I love about my ward-family.

I also love that the older local ladies are always happy to see our kids. They pat my kids heads and stuff M&M's in their mouths during Sacrament meeting. I love that the congregation sings "Aloha Oe" and places leis around the necks of those who leave the ward. The families are warm and friendly, and eager to make new friends. I never feel "hauole" at church, like I sometimes do in other settings. In the gospel we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and that makes us equals, whatever our backgrounds.
Our Bishop has put us to work already. Micah is serving as 2nd Counselor in the Bishopric, and I am the Camp Specialist for the Young Womens Program. These are volunteer positions that we are eager to fulfill. I'm truly excited to be more involved in our ward, even busy, busy, busy as we are.
Micah shaved off his beard. This was the first time I've seen him without it since I met him 8+ years ago. It was really weird for me at first. I went through several stages of grief for the loss of the beard, but have quickly adapted. Afterall, the man I fell in love with is more than just a hairy face, he's also a beautiful soul. (you know I'm being melodramatic) I love his shaven face! He is more handsome to me than ever before!

This is the last picture we took before the beard went away. I will love it always.

So, we are officially settling in, with lots of love and aloha! When I think back to last year when we first got to this island, I am so grateful for the changes that have taken place in our family. It's hard to sum up in a blog the tremendous mental, emotional, and spiritual growth we've all been through. I guess most of the personal things a person goes through in this life are often best kept in the heart, and only God knows what we need in life to be truly happy. It all started with a jump into the unknown, and faith that everything would turn out for the best. I am looking forward to many, many years ahead on this beautiful island.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Little Boys Live Here....

We brought our deceased pet snake over from Utah, in a vile of alcohol, and our toddler likes to play with it.

We have a bucket of weapons at our front door, full of lightsabers, swords, bows and arrows. We have legos scattered all over the house, and the bathroom always smells like shishi! There's a toad-cage in the garage for toad catching, and a lizard cage for lizard-catching.
There's a secret fort in guava trees, and boxes for building castles.
These are just a few of my favorite signs that little boys live here!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Happy, Healthy, and Free

I made a very conscious decision 12 years ago to stop drinking alcohol. I remember clearly the exact moment I set down my last beer, too. I was at a big party down the street from my house on Keiki beach, mingling within a circle of friends, just talking story. I had been sitting on the fence about giving up alcohol for over a year, but couldn't ever seem to do it.

Since I had started going back to church that same year, I was gaining a better understanding of God's will for my life. One of the things He asks us to do in this gospel, is to trust Him that He will always have our best interest at hand. By following a commandment to give up alcohol, I would be trusting that this would bring me ultimate health and happiness in my life, beyond anything I could imagine for myself. The commandment of health is called the Word of Wisdom, and it is something Mormons truly believe God wants for all of us.

As I stood there at that party with a cold beer in my hand, I started to think about what alcohol really meant to me. I thought about all the fun beer-drinking parties, the many wine-clinking nights with my girlfriends, the sunset margaritas at Turtle Bay, and it dawned on me that in any one of these situations I didn't especially need alcohol to enjoy myself, but it had become more of a social tradition. For a long time I wasn't ready to give up that lifestyle because it was, well, fun! I also came to the conclusion that drinking alcohol in itself wasn't inherently bad, but my unwillingness to trust God was the problem. By promising Him I would give up superficial things like alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, He promised me He would bless my life with health, happiness, and freedom.
That night at the party I walked to the trash can and threw a full can of beer away. I felt nervous and uncertain, but also felt myself walk over into a threshold of absolute trust, that everything would turn out okay in the end.

I think freedom is the one thing I didn't realize would come out of this the most! When most people in this world hear about the Word of Wisdom they think of it as a restriction against our very human rights to choose for ourselves! There is a common misconception that Mormons are being told what to do, or ordered to live a certain way, according to strict rules set by the church. This is quite the opposite of the truth! As Mormons we look to God for guidance because we believe He wants us to grow and flourish in good health, peace, love, and happiness on this earth! I was given a choice to follow this commandment, and I chose to try it out through my own free will.
I can't say I felt liberated the moment I threw that beer in the trash can, however, looking back on the past 12 years, I can see how this choice has given me a beautiful feeling of freedom in my life.

Like I said, I don't think drinking alcohol in itself is wrong; I've had moments where I miss a nice glass of Merlot with dinner, but I have also opened my eyes to see how alcohol can be a weakness to so many people, causing unnecessary drama and problems. I have seen good relationships and marriages fall apart because of addictions to alcohol. I have seen how alcohol can make people act completely different from who they really are. I have seen how alcohol deludes thinking, causing people to make stupid, negative, life-altering choices. I have seen the negative affects of alcohol on families and children, by adults who make very immature choices. I have been to funerals for friends who've died in alcohol-related car accidents, and cried for families who've lost loved ones. I have seen how alcohol has become a financial burden on families, yet a social expectation for so many. I have seen how alcohol can be a superficial center for tradition and fun, leaving out authenticity and realness in people's lives.

Many people I know who drink alcohol don't have these problems, but just think of all the people out there that do! I feel that my choice to give up alcohol isn't just about me, but is a way for me to help strengthen the weaknesses of my fellow human beings.

I have also moved forward to feel freedom in my life to be who and what I want, without superficial restrictions or expectations placed upon me. I don't have any unnecessary drama in my life or have to worry about making poor decisions. The people and friendships in my life are genuine, based on loyalty and love. My husband and I both feel strength and unity in our relationship, and confidence in our marriage. I have been blessed with a strong, healthy body, full of energy and enthusiasm for life! I've trusted God completely to give me a life that I love, and He has done exactly that. There's a quote by one of our church Leaders who says,
“One keeps the Word of Wisdom knowing that obedience will not only bring freedom from addiction, but it will also add blessings of wisdom and treasures of knowledge.”
—Russell M. Nelson
“Face the Future with Faith,” Ensign, May 2011, 35

In essence, God promised me that He would take care of my life, giving me wisdom and knowledge, good health and happiness, if I followed Him, and this is more important to me than the finest glass of wine in the world.

I know it might be a difficult principle for some to grasp, but I wanted to share this part of my life with you. I am happy, I am healthy, and I am feeling free, and this is who I am.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Easy Homemade Yogurt

I'm sure there are a million variations out there on how to make yogurt, but this is the one I like best. I started making yogurt from following my friend Hilary's recipe, several years ago, but have modified it to my liking. It makes 4 quarts of vanilla yogurt.

Materials you'll need:
one 4-6 quart crock-pot
4 quart jars, with tight lids. (Mason jars)
1 kitchen thermometer
1 cooler, large enough to fit 4 jars
1 whisk
1 funnel
1 ladle, or cup with a spout
several towels or warm blankets

Ingredients you'll need:
1 gallon of milk: whole, 1%, 2% or cow's or goat's milk. (the higher the fat content, the creamier the yogurt)
6-8 oz natural plain or vanilla yogurt with active cultures, (once you have made your own, you can use that as the starter)
1 Cup honey OR 1 and a 1/2 cups white sugar
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Flavoring
1/3 Cup powdered milk (makes it thicker)

Poor liquid milk into Crock-pot and cook until temp reaches 180 degrees F.
*This is the sterilization process to make sure there are no harmful bacterias growing in the milk. If you purchased your milk from the store it has probably already been pasteurized, however, it's better to be safe and sterilize it again before you start the culturization process. (I've also heard that this extra step of sterilization helps to thicken the yogurt further.)
Check temperature with a cooking thermometer, and turn it off at around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Unplug the Crock-pot, take off the cover, and let the milk start cooling down. Remove layer of film with a spoon.
At this point you can whisk in your sweetener of choice, powdered  milk and vanilla flavoring, but not the starter.

Periodically check the milk over the next few hours with the thermometer. When the temperature of the milk has dropped to 115-120 degrees F, whisk in your starter yogurt. I like to add the yogurt at 120 F because the cold yogurt always makes the temp drop a few degrees. You don't want the temp to drop below 112 where your culture won't grow at all.
As soon as the milk and yogurt have been thoroughly mixed, immediately use a ladle or spouted cup to scoop the milk into the 4 clean, quart jars. This is where a funnel comes in handy.
Place jars into the cooler and cover up to the lids, with hot tap water. I let my tap water run as hot as it can go, until it measures about 120 degrees F. (any hotter and it will kill your active cultures, any lower than 112 and your active cultures won't grow, so beware)
Close the lid of the cooler, then place it in a spot where it can go undisturbed for 8 hours. Cover the cooler with towels or blankets to help keep it insulated.
Now go about your busy life while your milk solidifies into yogurt. *You must resist checking on your yogurt babies. If you open the lid your precious heat will escape and your cultures will die!
After 8 hours, take jars out of cooler and dry them off.  The liquid inside should have a jelly-like jiggle to it. 
If you want to add fresh fruit or other flavors now would be the time. 

Now refrigerate, and enjoy! 

You should now have some delicious vanilla yogurt!

Virtuous Necklace

An anonymous package came in the mail for me from New York last week. My first reaction was, "Oh crap, it's the Unabomber, don't open it!" But, after weighing out the odds of an actual mail-bombing happening to me, I decided that I should open it anyways.
I'm so happy I did! Inside was a beautiful card and handmade seashell necklace.
It was a lovely gift from a woman who's wallet I had found last year, while I was thrift-store shopping downtown. I had been rummaging through a bin of clothing when I looked down to see this little purse lost in a sea of well-loved-frocks. I opened it up to find a New York drivers license and 25 dollars.
I knew immediately what had happened, because it has happened to me many times before, in various locales of my life!
I suddenly imagined her joyfully sifting through the all the goodies, busily distracted with thrifty treasures, when suddenly she realizes she had set her purse down in all the commotion; lost somewhere in endless piles of fabric! I could so relate!
I've lost my wallet at grocery stores, parties, and even once at a train station. I know what it feels like to get distracted and lose your mind wallet.

I didn't know who this woman was, or how I was going to find her, but I immediately felt an empathetic connection to her loss. I went home and did a more thorough investigation of her wallet to find a business card. Although the business card didn't match the name on the license, I tried calling the number on it, anyways. There was no answer and it went straight to voicemail. Next I emailed the address on the business card, but with no reply. I then looked up her name on facebook, sent a message, and still got no reply. After about 4 days I was feeling so frustrated about not being able to reach this woman, and even worried that she might be in trouble! My efforts at finding her were turning into a mild obsession!
I finally got a call on the 5th day and It was her! Yay! She had been staying in an out-of-service-hippie-community and just got my message. We were able to connect, and exchange smiles, hugs, alohas, the wallet, and then quickly move on. She had a big smile on her face as she walked back to her car.

Getting this package in the mail was a lovely surprise for me, however, as I'd long forgotten about the wallet woman. She mentioned in her letter how she was touched by my efforts at returning it to her. The thought never crossed my mind once of keeping it for myself! Honesty and integrity are virtues I strive for in my life, and returning someone's wallet is one simple way of living true to my values.

Thank you for the beautiful, seashell necklace, Lena Moon. I love it! It will serve as a beautiful reminder to always do what's honest and true. (And maybe even a gentle reminder to keep better track of my own wallet!)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Rain-forest Critters

If insects, bugs, or any creepy crawly things of that nature make you cringe, I suggest skipping this post. :) After moving back here, I had forgotten about the bugs! Oh the bugs! They are everywhere! They never stop coming, and there's nothing we can do but learn to live with them in peace.

Rain-forest Critters (a silly poem by me)

With roaches in the kitchen,
you'd think that I'd be itchin,
to move down to Antarctica by now.
We've got red ants in our sugar,
and beatles in our rice,
We've got Termites crawling through the screens,
to reach the lights!

There's crickets hopping on the floor,
and flies buzzing near the door,
we're feelin' antsy,
with swatters by our sides.
There's mosquitoes by the sink,
stopping in for a drink,
making places for their larvae to reside!

The centipedes stay outside,
I haven't seen one in the house,
Thank goodness I don't have to sleep in fear.
However, when I went,
to kiss our 4 yr old goodnight,
I found a millipede rolled up in his ear!

There are geckos on the walls,
fruit flies loitering near the trash,
and spiders making webbing way up high.
And late last night,
as I was prepping for bed,
I found a dead insect in the corner of my eye!

Sometimes I get away,
take a break in the back room,
and hack away on my computer, unalarmed.
But just yesterday,
as I was typing away,
a bug came creeping out of my keyboard,
up my arm!

We live in an old house,
a cottage by the sea,
surrounded by foliage and bushes.
It's quaint, and cute, and as lovely as can be,
except for when the insects bite our tushes!

Most days I just ignore them,
let them live their buggy lives;
After all, we're all God's creatures now.
I choose to live in peace with the insects and the beasts,
we're all getting along here........somehow.

The End

p.s. About that centipede, he got torn apart by those hungry hens! He didn't stand a chance against their pecking, and running, and overall powerfulness! Watching that battle was pretty exciting, as the hens all went nuts, fighting over who got the biggest piece. Happy, well-fed hens:

I can see clearly now....

It's really nice to have a functional brain.
Since I started on some medication for depression 6 months ago, I've been able to see my life clearly, the way it's supposed to be. It's crazy how I couldn't see what I needed for myself, until I got what I needed. That doesn't seem very fair, does it?
How many people are out there walking around in a fuzzy blur, not knowing what they need? Maybe too many.

I almost didn't start this medication. In fact, the first week I was on it, I felt like a total loser; Felt like I was turning myself over to the man. But then the drugs started kicking in, and I could suddenly see my life more clearly.

All the rage, the sad spells, the anxiety, the crying sessions, I could finally see that those things were not normal. My brain had been under a serious spell of post-partum depression, which I wasn't fully aware of.
Now that I can see my life the way it really is, I am much, much happier.
I don't fester or ruminate over problems. When I get upset, I pray, problem solve, and move on. I can't cry like I used to. When things upset me, I literally cannot shed any tears, unless it's something I'm really upset about. See? My brain is acting like itself again. I really think it took moving all the way to Hawaii to figure this out. Thank you, Hawaii.

The medication I'm taking is called "Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors", or SSRI's. It helps balance the imbalance of serotonin in my brain.
I just want to say that I am feeling happier, and more balanced than I've felt in a long time, and I am truly grateful for this medication. I imagine I won't be on it forever, but it's really helping me out right now.
Thank you friends for not suggesting I drink magic bean juice, or do more yoga because I am at peace with myself. Life is good.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Big Island Babywearers

From the newspaper this week:

Bringing UP Baby!
Big Island Babywearers, a new nonprofit group in East Hawaii, is exactly what it says it is.

“Through starting a group, we hope to bring people together to learn from each other, and form friendships through a love for using traditional fabric carriers,” said spokeswoman Sally Jackson. “This group serves as a way to provide information, educate parents and caregivers, and bring together people who are passionate about babywearing.

Jackson said folks who come to the group will learn the differences between ring-slings, pouches, wraps, Asian mei-tais, and soft packs like Ergos.

“Plus, a variety of slings and carriers will be available to try on. They will walk away learning how to comfortably and safely wear their baby from newborn through toddlerhood,” she explained. “Babywearing is an ancient tradition in many cultures throughout the world which has more recently been adapted to our modern needs. There are many benefits for both parents and child that babywear.”
Sally Jackson wears 4 month old Odin a pouch sling.

*The group gathers on the third Wednesday of each month at 10:30 a.m. at Shipman Park in Keaau. Meet under the shelter near the playground for an afternoon of fun.Follow the group on Facebook for updates and announcements at Big Island Babywearers.

If you've been reading my blog for the past 4 years, you would know I have a love for babywearing! Carrying our babies close to us has been integral to our entire parenting experience, (and I am missing it more and more as our "babies" are growing older.) Through this group I hope to help educate a new generation of babywearing Mamas. I want to help people wear their babies who don't think they have the money to do so. I've never paid more than 15 dollars for a carrier, by making, sewing, or thrifting for my own, and I'd like to help anyone learn, who is interested.

Happy Babywearing!