I am VERY picky when it comes to peppermint ice cream. It's a seasonal indulgence that I love, but only if it's just right. They say you eat with your eyes and when it comes to peppermint ice cream, I know whether or not I'll enjoy a certain brand simply by the way it looks.

Are there actual peppermint pieces in the ice cream? If not, there's no way I'll touch it. I have to have little peppermint crunchies with every bite.

Does it have a more spearmint flavor than peppermint flavor? I adore the sweeter spearmint flavor!

Is the color of the ice cream only pink with red peppermint pieces? I might eat it but it's nowhere near as tasty as a white ice cream with red AND green peppermint pieces mixed in.

I know. It's all in my head but thus it is.

So  being that I'm in the mood for peppermint ice cream and finding not one brand that fit my idea of perfection, I set about to make my own. After perusing pinterest I settled on this recipe, with one change: I substituted two teaspoons of vanilla extra for the peppermint extract and added 1/4 teaspoon of mint extract. Below is the basic custard mixture ready for the ice cream machine.

To prevent my crushed candy cane pieces from completely dissolving in the ice cream I waited until the last possible moment of churning to add them to the mix. Then immediately placed into the freezer to become more solid. After crushing the pieces I put them in a collander to sift out the tiniest flakes which might dissolve anyway and totally discolor the ice cream. I don't mind red and green swirls. I just don't want them mixing so much I get brown ice cream.

And here is the finished product, sprinkled with a few reserved candy cane flakes. I highly recommend this recipe. I will use it as a base for other flavors from here on out.This ice cream is so creamy; no ice crystals at all. Crunchy peppermint pieces and smooth ice cream. Yum!!

  • Peppermint Ice Cream - from www.sproutedkitchen.com

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies
Set a large glass bowl above a pot of simmering water, not letting the bottom of the bowl touch the water line. Add the egg yolks and sugar into the bowl and stir occasionally until the sugar has mostly dissolved the the yellow has paled in color. About 5 minutes. Set the bowl aside.
Mix 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch and set aside to dissolve. Empty the water from the pot, put the remaining milk and cream in the pot over medium heat and warm until bubbles form on the outer edges. Slowly add the warm cream to the yolks, stirring as you add to temper. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and the peppermint extract.
Chill the mixture in the fridge for at least an hour. 
Put the mixture in an ice cream maker and churn according to instructions. In the last minute, add the peppermint candies. Take a bite, if its not quite minty enough for you, add another splash of extract. Transfer the mixture to a container for the freezer, and freeze for at least a few hours to firm up.
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread..." Genesis 3:19

This sentence took on new meaning for me this past Sunday. As I looked at that scripture written on the board in church this past Sunday I realized it had a double meaning. 

I had always interpreted it literally; in order to survive in mortality we must work to stay alive. In Adam's case, hunting for his own food. In the case of many of us nowadays, working to earn money to purchase our own food. 

Temporal survival takes work of all kinds. But so does spiritual survival. I looked at that verse and for the first time, thought about the bread of life, Jesus Christ.

"I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." - John 6:35

Coming to him requires much more than desire, though that is a great place to start. It requires more than just asking in prayer, though that is also important. It requires work. It requires active study and reflection on the scriptures and other teachings that have been given to us. This active ongoing study, combined with prayer will bring us toward him, the bread of life. 

Only as we work to understand, can we come to know truth. 

Through regular study of scripture I have felt peace and clarity increase in my understanding of the turbulent world surrounding me and the purpose of my mortal existence. I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is his son. I know that Jesus Christ suffered for all mankind. I cannot comprehend how he knows what each of us suffer, but I know that somehow he knows. I know that he loves us and that if we will accept that love, it can motivate and help us reach a potential we may never have known existed within ourselves. I do not know the meaning of everything that happens in life, but because I believe in my Savior I am willing to live by faith, waiting with patience until the day that all things will be opened to my understanding.  I look forward anxiously to Christ's second coming with great joy and hope that it cannot now be long. Whether I am here on earth or in Heaven it will be a day of great gladness. I am so thankful for every day I am allowed to remain in mortality and all that it has taught me and will continue to teach me. I am so thankful for all the beauties God has put on earth that bring a smile to my face every single day; for the animals, flowers, sunlight, storms and family and friends that surround me. It is a beautiful world and a beautiful time to be alive, with so much to add to our enrichment and learning and light. I know that we are loved, far beyond our ability to understand and I am thankful for the times in my life when I have felt that love tangibly from beyond, assisting me through dark times. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

I took this picture two days ago. I could feel two eyes burning holes into my hand as I put each toasted round topped with gouda and genoa salami up to my mouth. I had to capture the cuteness of my goofy meat loving Sokka. (points if you know exactly what I'm referencing)

By the way, did I mention we got a dog?

It's been a few months now. After researching the pros and cons of many different breeds we decided on a schnauzer, and let me tell you schnauzer's are great. We were going to get one from a breeder, but the more I thought about starting with an 8 week old puppy and all of the work that entailed, the more I became convinced I wanted a rescue dog.

Above is a picture of our boy when we first got him, just under a year old and lacking any of the carefree and playful nature of a pup. This picture does not adequately convey the poor state he was in. He had over 35 ticks attached to his body. His fur was matted and covered with burrs. He was friendly but quiet and subdued, as if he were resigned to being neglected.

All of that began to change though. It started with a bath and a shave. Then vaccines, and flea and tick medication, daily walks, good dog food, clicker training and lots of love and attention. Pretty soon our boy started to become more vocal. He would give a soft but excited howl when he saw his leash pulled out, he began to bark and run to the door to greet my husband when he came home. He learned how to sit and touch and lay down and over time, how to play. He had no idea what to do with dog toys so first I taught him how to touch an item with his nose, then with his teeth, then to pick it up, then to hold it for longer periods of time. The dog that didn't even think to pick anything up with his teeth (other than food) now retrieves the frisby in the backyard. He has even developed a habit of picking up shoes and taking them to random places in the house. Luckily he doesn't chew on them. I think he's just trying to tell us he wants a walk. Here he is after first being cleaned up, a day or two after the previous picture:

Now I'm not saying he's perfect. In fact he chewed on a door frame about 3 weeks after we had gotten him. I had left him in his room before when I was running errands and he had never seemed to care. So when I came home and heard anxious little yips and then opened the door to discover the frame had been chewed on I was of course a little annoyed. But suddenly I realized that though we had already adopted him, his anxiety over our leaving seemed to mean that he had finally adopted us! Luckily with even more love and training, no more door frames have been marred.

And the best part about him aside from his kisses, his wet nose, his quick learning skills and his enthusiastic greetings? I've not swept up a single dog hair. ;)

With the recent release of "Meet the Mormons" some members of our church have decided to change their facebook profile pictures to reflect what religion we belong too. I went ahead and designed my own version, emphasizing our true title, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The most common misconception people seem to have is that "Mormons" (the nickname we've been given) don't believe in Jesus Christ. In reality, Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of our religion.

"...And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may looks for a remission of their sins." 2 Nephi 25:26
I just recently found a copy of an address I gave to my church congregation back in 2010 and have decided to publish it here.

The Bible Dictionary defines faith as, “a hope for things which cannot be seen, but which are true, and must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation. Faith is a principle of action and of power. Faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel and is more than belief, since true faith always moves its possessor to some kind of physical and mental action.”

I think as a youth I didn’t fully realize, and I think even now I sometimes forget that faith is something active. It’s not just something we believe, it’s something we live. 

The Bible Dictionary goes on to describe faith as something which must, “be cultured and sought after until it grows from a tiny seed to a great tree.” 

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles defines faith in three parts. He says, 

“Faith exists when absolute confidence in that which we cannot see, combines with action that is in absolute conformity to the will of our Heavenly Father. Without all three - first, absolute confidence; second, action; and third, absolute conformity, we have a weak faith.”

Now I think it’s unrealistic to expect ourselves, natural men and women to always have perfect faith. We have times of spiritual increase and times where we slack off in our commitment to exercise our faith. 
Periods of doubt are to be expected. There may be times where you will wonder if the things you believe about the gospel are really true. But having doubts or questions doesn‘t mean you are unrighteous. Your task when you feel this uncertainty is to keep trying the word of God. As Alma has said in Alma 32: 27 - “Even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you…” Keep acting out the principles that have been laid before you in the Book of Mormon until you begin to feel more confidence in Christ.

Speaking on action that is in conformity to the will of our Heavenly Father, Elder Wirthlin continues:
“…one’s faith should be consistent with the will of our Heavenly Father, including His laws of nature. The sparrow flying into a hurricane may believe that he can successfully navigate the storm, but the unforgiving natural law will show him otherwise in the end.”

Just because we have complete faith that God can deliver us from danger, does not mean He always will. To do so might mean interfering with our agency and the growth of our faith. And a huge part of acting on faith is choosing to follow God’s council, not just believing that if we believe he is all powerful that will be enough. If God has counseled us to stay out of dangerous situations and places, can we really think that he will protect us in a moment of danger when we ignored his advice to stay clear of that situation? If God has counseled us to store up food and water, can we really think he will miraculously provide it in the face of financial difficulty or natural disaster if we never made any effort to listen to him in the first place? Of course, listening to his council doesn’t always ensure a perfect happy ending to situations like the aforementioned, but it does show that we are exercising our faith in him and even if we are not temporally saved by His grace after all we can do, we will be spiritually saved by grace after all we can do. Listening to his council is a part of doing all we can do.

Elder Wirthlin continues by saying, “How do we know when our faith conforms to the will of our Heavenly Father and He approves of that which we seek? We must know the word of God….If the desires of our heart are contrary to scripture then we should not pursue them further….Additionally, we must ponder and pray and seek the guidance of the Spirit.”

I think it is important to remember that there is not always a set answer to every question we have or choice we make in life, but there is always a right direction and if you’re going in the general direction of trying to do those things which please Heavenly Father, then you’re very likely to be in conformity with His will. 

Now I want to touch briefly on the possible effects of true faith in Jesus Christ, which the Bible Dictionary says include:

1. An actual knowledge that the course of life one is pursuing is acceptable to the Lord. Again, we can pretty much know we are doing this if we are following the council given in scriptures and from our modern day prophet and apostles.

2. A reception of the blessings of the Lord that are available to man in this life. This does not mean that you will be delivered from all hardship or trial but that you will receive many blessings from the Lord because of your faith, including the strength to overcome, learn and grow from the adversity you face in this life.

3. An assurance of personal salvation in the world to come.

In the book, Believing Christ by Stephen E. Robinson he writes, 
“We often think that having faith in Christ means believing in his identity as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But believing in Jesus’ identity as the Christ is only the first half of it. The other half is believing in his ability, in his power to cleanse and to save. Not only must we believe that he is who he says he is, we must also believe that he can do what he says he can do. We must not only believe in Christ, we must also believe Christ…Trying our hardest to keep the commandments and be like Christ is part of our covenant obligation, not because we can succeed at them in this life, but because the attempt, the commitment to try, demonstrates our sincerity. Faith is always willing to try -- and to try and try again. While success is not a requirement of the covenant of faith, my best attempts are.”

Christ will make up where we lacked in this life if we continue to exercise our faith in Him by trying to live the gospel to our fullest extent. And we can feel the assurance of personal salvation knowing our efforts were strong. 

We live in a fallen world. While it has abundant beauties and good things, it is also a place of sickness, pain, death, inhumanity and confusion. We must remember though, that we chose it. That though we can’t understand why some terrible, faith challenging experiences happen in our lives now, that someday we will. God is not a God of games, playing with our lives as though we were pawns. We may not know just how involved he is in the various events of our lives, but many of the pains and trials we face are not specifically inflicted upon us by Him. Like any loving parent, I don’t believe he likes to see us suffer the sorrows and trials we already have and continually will, but facing the consequences of our own choices and choices others make that may affect us is part of the plan. As are facing the consequences of natural laws, such as death, disease, accidents, disasters and the like. He will not spare us from the consequences of agency, since to do so would revoke the gift of agency. And he will not spare us the consequences of living in a fallen world with all it’s natural laws, since coddling us would stunt our faith and Faith is central to His plan.

But because he cannot change the courses of nature or take away the gift of agency, he has given us the gift of faith. It is the strength to bear us through all that we must endure in this world on our way back to Him. Faith is doing what is good, whether you are feeling spiritual and peaceful and it seems easy or whether you are feeling completely alone. There’s a saying that when you’re at the end of your rope, you tie a knot and you hold on. That’s what faith sometimes is. But I can promise you that you will never be truly abandoned. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell stated in the Ensign, 1991 “Brothers and sisters, we need never mistake local cloud cover for general darkness.”
Toward the end of the summer season when the long days are growing shorter and the sultry mid day temperatures are waning, the unmistakable fragrance of females begins to permeate the air. But you'll never notice it. Unless you're a male praying mantis. They're everywhere now, males eagerly seeking to procreate with the beckoning females. How could we resist bringing some mantises indoors for observation?

Right now we are studying Zoology and have begun with invertebrates, specifically insects. There are plenty to be found in our garden. The children draw and write down their observations about each new subject in their nature journals. Then we study the creatures more in depth using library book and internet resources. This week we've been focused on Mantises and they are something else!

Just look at the spiny ridge on each front leg, ready to pierce and hold tight its prey. Did you know Mantids are strictly carnivorous?

We have four of them inside a large clear plastic bowl right now. They are playing nice with each other for the moment, but we are making sure to keep them well stocked with plenty of prey.

Mantises have a total of 5 eyes. Two large compound eyes which are clearly visible, and three very small eyes, directly in between the antennae.

Mantises eat their pray alive and struggling. And they devour things rather quickly I might add, which I suppose is good for the struggling insect. They are also particular about which body parts they will eat. The floor of the temporary habitat is littered with insect body parts: moth wings, fly wings, fly legs, june bug casings and wings, etc.

It has been truly fascinating and exciting to watch these amazing hunters. To see the way they cock their head slightly when they've noticed prey, to see the way they patiently and carefully move toward it, to see how quickly they snatch their prey into an inescapable grasp and begin immediately devouring it has been educational and delightful. The children have loved it! We have been leaving our back door open, welcoming flies into the house. With clear condiment cups in hand the kids have been trapping flies on windows, sliding paper beneath each cup and then asking the resident "expert fly releaser" (a.k.a. mom) to get the flies into the habitat without them escaping.

The following are resources we used for our study of the praying mantis:

Mrs. Warner's Fourth Grade Classroom - Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis Love - Video of Mantis Mating and Female eating the Male

Nature's Perfect Predators

We've been having some great growing success in our Austin garden since we moved here. We've enjoyed salad greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, beets, strawberries, spinach, kale and loads of herbs. Right now we're working on green beans, green peas and carrots as well. I love all of the amazing insects that having a flourishing garden brings, even though that means they're there to munch on everything. Just seeing wildlife of almost any variety brings a smile to my face. 

I found this big beautiful black swallowtail caterpillar hanging out on our parsley today. So I decided to bring him inside and place him in our butterfly habitat. He has been devouring parsley all day and the kids are fascinated watching him munch. 

Take a look at those "claws". I have no idea what they are really called but they look sharp. Also, amazing!

This guy is just so pretty. It's fascinating watching him move around, lift his head off the branch in search of more food. He looks ready to form a chrysalis any day. I'm excited to take some pictures of that as well.

I love watching LDS General Conference not only for the spiritual strengthening it provides me, but for the common sense, practical living applications as well. Concepts and truths are taught that can help anyone, religious or not, lead a happier life.

My favorite speaker this time around was Elder Michael John U. Teh. His talk titled, "Where your treasure is" was a positive influence and example of the mindset I am trying to adopt.

It is easy as a thrifter/deal seeker, to justify purchasing things I don't really need because they are a steal! Sometimes I browse craigslist, local garage sale sites and thrift stores just to "see" if there is anything I "need" on them. But if I don't know I "need" it until I see it, it's likely something I can do without. That doesn't mean life should be restricted to food and shelter living only. As humans we have a desire to move beyond the motions, to do more than survive. We want to live and thrive in happiness! But sometimes we gain false ideas of how to live well and of what we need to be happy.

Gaining true happiness isn't about owning things, it's about owning ourselves. Our own mentality.  We need to become aware that if we're not content with what we already have, we probably won't be content with anything else we acquire. I have to remind myself to often, that I have enough. That money and time are so easily wasted on things that won't matter to me in a short while.  That purchasing on impulse is always a really, really, silly idea.

I designed a printable of a quote within Elder Teh's talk that continues to resonate. It is simple but it is true and it is a good reminder for me every day, to look at what I have, and decide it is enough.

My printables are free for personal use. They may not be put up for sale or altered in any way. Thanks!
Here is a follow up to my previous post that had a family group sheet designed for those ancestors who were exceedingly fertile. : ) This group sheet is just a smaller version. One sided, with space for up to 7 children and some notes. Again, it's free and coordinates well with my pedigree chart.

Remember, these are not to be used for re-sale. Personal use only and no modifications to the design.  Thank you!

So sometimes in my genealogy research I've run across a married couple that have tons of children. And I haven't found a family group sheet that I like the look of, that has room for so many children. So I set to work designing one. It doesn't have an option to select gender on it but I'll just include an (M) or (F) after any unisex name. The sheet I created is two pages so you can print double sided if you want and it also coordinates with the  Free Printable Pedigree Chart I created a couple of weeks ago. Once again there is a print and fill pdf version and there is a type fillable pdf version. Maybe I'll also create a one sided version with notes for smaller family units. Hope you enjoy it!

Remember, all of my free printables are for personal use only. Thanks!

So, I'm a genealogy nut. I've been researching my family lines since the age of 14. That's um...about 18 years or so. It's the one hobby that I'm always active in. Other hobbies come and go in phases. But genealogy has always been nearly constant. I suppose that's because I. Love. It.

So much.

It just makes me happy. And I absolutely love teaching others how to get started. I taught some genealogy classes at the Baltimore Stake Family History Workshop when I lived out there, and wrote a series of blog posts for ldsblogs.com back in 2007-2008.

Anyhow, I helped teach Activity Days last night at my church. and I wanted to give the girls a pedigree chart that would be more visually interesting to them. In other words, cute. They were all about 8 years old. However, I couldn't find a free printable that fit the bill, so I put one together myself. And if you like it, you can use it too.

This is a standard 8.5 x 11 version for printing and filling out:

Here is an 8x10 version in case you want to type in the information, print and frame:

Download this free printable here

Hey, look at what I learned how to do. Below is a pdf form of the pedigree chart that you can fill in with your own information and print. Fun!

Download the fillable PDF here

Remember, all of my free printables are for personal use only. Enjoy!