Sunday, December 30, 2012

Singing a Song Is Fun to Do

Five weeks ago I got called to be the Primary chorister in my ward (in charge of Singing Time for children's combined Sunday school). That Sunday the bishop said he would like to meet me after church, I knew for a calling--we had been in the ward for 4 months without any duties. The ward chorister (leads the music during the main service) was released that day, so I thought I might be doing that. I brought it up in my son's nursery class, and the teacher said Primary needed one too. So when the bishop asked me if I would do it, I wasn't surprised. I admit, I was enjoying going to Relief Society (women's meeting) again after nearly 4 years of not being able to go, but I was happy to take the calling.

I was also nervous for a few reasons. First, we don't have junior and senior Primaries, so I have to come up with fun activities suitable for children both young and old. Second, I also do a short singing time for Nursery, where my son is. He is finally getting used to it, so I was afraid him seeing me there and leaving would start him crying again. Third, we share a Primary with the deaf branch. There are 3 deaf children (and others who can sign because their parents are deaf), and although there are interpreters in Primary, I have to make sure my activities are always visual and inclusive so they can participate. Furthermore, toward the end of the year, the Primary puts on a program, and we have to learn all the songs in sign language too.

The following Sunday I just watched the substitute. I was very impressed with how involved the children were. They weren't misbehaving and the older ones didn't act as if they were too cool to participate. I relaxed a little.

The next Sunday was my first Sunday leading. When we did the Article of Faith (#10, the hardest one), I brought out visual aids I made, and I could tell it definitely helped the children--and adults--remember the words better. For the wiggle song we did "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" backwards. It's harder than you think and very funny to watch. I even made the adults join in and they had trouble doing it! Then for the main activity, we were learning a song to sing in church for Christmas. I had words and pictures printed from the previous chorister, and I scrambled them all up, first verse by verse, then all together. The children had to put the words in order and then we sang them. It went very well, some adults and even children complimenting me later. However, there were no deaf children there that day, so I hadn't experienced that yet.

The following week the deaf children were there. Our wiggle song went well, naturally, since the children get to move around and be loud. For learning the song, I had dug through my mom's old Bible flannel board set to find pictures matching the lyrics. I gave each class a set of pictures and asked them to figure out which lines they belonged to. Then someone from that class put it up on the flannel board. The deaf children enjoyed it too, to my relief. However, once it was done and I put away the words and just pointed to the flannel board pictures to guide them through the song, the translators had a hard time keeping up. I didn't think to give them a book to cheat from.

Last Sunday the children sang in church. Hardly any were there and they did mix up the words some, but they sang loudly. I left afterward because Caden was sick and Justin had to work. Luckily the previous chorister was there and subbed for me.

So far I am really enjoying my calling and the kids. The real work begins next week as we start learning new songs, in English and ASL. Good thing I already know them in English!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Super Easy Banana Bread

I look forward to when the bananas get overripe in my house so I can make this yummy banana bread! I'm not much of a baker, so I love this easy recipe, adapted from the Lion House Classics cookbook. After a few loaves I finally figured out the perfect alterations.

  • 3 very ripe, large bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/8 cup oil
  • 1 3/4 cups Trader Joe's white whole wheat flour*
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Grease and flour a large loaf pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Mash bananas in a large bowl (a potato masher works great!). Add eggs, sugar, and oil, and mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Add to banana mixture and stir until blended. 
  4. Add nuts and mix briefly--do not overmix or else it will come out coarse.
  5. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 55 to 65 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 
*You could also use any brand of whole wheat pastry flour or 2 cups regular flour.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Festive Celebrations

Naturally, this month has been filled with Christmas celebrations. At the beginning of the month we watched the First Presidency Christmas Devotional (from my church). I went to the Christmas party for the Relief Society (women) and gave a devotional, which you can read here. The following Sunday we had company over for dinner and games. It was a lot of fun and we established new friendships.

Next was Justin's work party, which I already blogged about. The following night was a party for all the Primary (children's Sunday school) teachers and leaders and their families. It was great meeting the other people in Primary and eating yummy pies! Even dinner was pie--chicken pot pie, which I want to make now.

Thursday we went to the Mesa temple to see the Christmas lights and nativity sets from around the world. It was a beautiful night. Caden loved the large nativity set outside and didn't want to leave it!

Saturday was the church Christmas party. We dressed up in Christmas colors. I led the children in singing "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Santa came and Caden excitedly got in line. But when it was his turn he refused to sit on Santa's lap. Once Santa left, Caden climbed onto the sleigh.

Sunday night we watched part of A Muppet Christmas Carol--a long-established tradition in my family--while eating tinfoil dinners picnic style. And last night we had a couple come over for delicious and rich red velvet cake and the game Imaginiff. We had so much fun with them that I'm sure we'll get together again soon!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Living in the Light Book Review

There are many people close to me who battle depression, and although I am not clinically depressed, I am easily discouraged and often lack motivation. So when I was presented with the opportunity to review a book about fighting depression, I said yes. I'm glad I did.

Living in the Light: How to Fight Through the Darkness of Depression and Anxiety, by Lacey A. West and Gary L Anderson, offers simple (but not necessarily easy!) and realistic solutions that apply to everyone wanting to change their thoughts and attitudes for the better. It is also a great book for those with family and friends who are depressed so they can understand depression better and learn how to help their loved ones.

*Easy, well written read.
*Supported by lots of reputable sources, both scientific and spiritual. (Note: Although any Christian could read and gain from this book, it is written from an LDS perspective and includes LDS scripture and doctrine.)
*Invites readers to take action through specific exercises and activities.
*Offers encouragement and hope.
*Provides real-life examples, both from Lacy's life and Dr. Anderson's patients.


Learn more about Living in the Light--due out January 8, 2013--on its official site, Facebook, and Lacey's blog. You can pre-order it at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Toys for Traveling with Toddlers

As Christmas nears, many of you may be preparing for travel. As if that's not taxing enough, many of you will have little ones with you! Here are some items that will make it a little easier:

For Drawing
A small crayon roll, like the dozens found at Mrs. Crafty RVing, is great for carrying in your purse everywhere you go. Just throw in a little notepad too.

For the retro kid, try a large chalkboard mat from Baby Chickie. Small sizes are available at Childish Thoughts.

Want all of the above? You can with the traveling activity wallet from Eco Hip Custom Designs, which holds crayons, markers/colored pencils, a medium pad of paper, stickers, a chalkboard mat, and chalk.

Or you can get a large crayon roll, small chalkboard mat, and coloring book in a small tote bag from Childish Thoughts. (You also have the option of the set without the chalkboard mat.) Small toys fit in too!

For Playing
Car rolls are the greatest lifesavers! I carry one in my purse to keep Caden entertained in the car, at restaurants, at church, while shopping, etc. These ones from Mrs. Crafty RVing I helped design. They come highly recommended! And the sellers have great customer service!

I also found these ones at Childish Thoughts. It looks like the extra material makes it roll up better. I also prefer velcro to ribbon ties.

When traveling, having a mat for your child to drive the cars on is great. I bought this one from A Bug's Life for Us for our summer trip and love it! It comes with two cars and folds up nicely. Also works well at home for those with not enough room for a fancy car rug or tracks. (Currently sold out; message seller if interested.)

If you can sew, try making this one from Pattern Play.

This tote bag with matching stuffed characters from Frog Blossoms is too cute! It's also quiet, perfect for that airplane ride. (Currently sold out; message seller if interested.)

A great twist on the I Spy Bag is one that can be carried like a purse, like this one from KNH Designs.

I love this traveling felt play mat from Careen's Custom Crafts. Felt/cloth toys are my favorite because they can be cleaned easily and don't hurt anyone when thrown by an upset toddler!

Quiet books are also great, but they're usually expensive. I did find some affordable ones from All about Kraft.

The best thing I ever found on clearance was a pack of mini bubbles on key chains. Caden loves bubbles! Mini bubble wedding or party favors (check out Party City) also work well. And they can go through security at the airport!

Other great things to bring are board books, a favorite stuffed animal, and music for the car. What toys have you found helpful for traveling with toddlers?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Happy Ending

Remember my worst nightmare as an Etsy seller? Well, both ladies responded to me with the kindest words. The gift recipient took me up on my offer of the other item, and the buyer said my customer service had been excellent. Yay for happy endings! And thank you, ladies, for the supportive comments.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More Inspirational Sports Movies You Should See

Several months ago I wrote a post on inspiring sports movies you should see. Since then I have watched a few more that I recommend as well, all based on true stories and currently available on Netflix.

A Mile in His Shoes

Sport: Baseball
Summary: An autistic young man joins a minor-league baseball team and faces challenges with certain team members and his disapproving father. Rated PG.
Famous Actor: Dean Cain
My Rating: 4 stars. Great story, but not the best acting.

The Mighty Macs

Sport: Basketball
Summary: A woman becomes the head basketball coach of a failing, tiny, all-girls Catholic college in the 1970s, determined to take them to the national championships at all costs. Rated G.
Famous Actor: Carla Gugino
My Rating: 5 stars. A little cliche, but really good. I loved the line, "Sometimes angels wear high heels."

Sport: Wrestling
Summary: A geeky teen joins his school's wrestling team in an effort to form a relationship with his estranged brother, a former wrestling champ who blames himself for their father's death. Rated PG-13.
Famous Actors: Patricia Clarkson, Danny Glover, John Cena
My Rating: 4 stars. Several deep themes, which are more the real focus of the movie than wrestling.


The winner of the Sterling Pear mantle clips giveaway is comment #116 by Heather Swarthouts. The winner of the Bow Sweet Bow magnetic hair bow giveaway is comment #124 by Diana. Thank you all for entering and making both giveaways successful!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Best Christmas Work Party Ever

Last night was Justin's work's Christmas party, the third one we've been to. The first year was long, boring, and not fun (for me) because we brought Caden with us since everyone wanted to meet him. The second year was better because Caden went to a friend's house, Adam and Kirsten were with us, and both Justin and Adam danced with me.

This year was the best! First, I met a lot of friendly people. Second, we finally broke our unlucky streak for the raffle prizes. The good stuff was taken, but one of our choices was still available: a movie pack comprising popcorn, M&Ms, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and a teddy bear (which we gave to a little girl because Caden does not need more stuffed animals!). Third, Justin sang karaoke! I was bugging him all night but he was firm in his refusal to do it. I guess I wore him down, because to my surprise, he went up and sang "She Bangs." It was awful, but I was so proud of him for doing it! He and another girl were the only ones who sang. We ended the night dancing a lot, including me teaching everyone the Gangnam Style dance. It was a lot of fun!

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Worst Nightmare Came True

My worst nightmare as an Etsy seller came true. One of my items arrived broken. A woman bought this really cute mug for her friend's birthday:

I wrapped it in bubble wrap and tissue paper, added a gift tag, packed it in a box, and shipped it off. I sent a thank-you note with my business cards to the buyer. Everyone was happy.

Until half-an-hour ago when the friend sent me a message saying the mug arrived like this:

My heart stopped. (I am baffled that the handle somehow made it intact.) I replied with my deepest apologies and an offer of another fox item I have. I emailed the buyer as well with the message and refunded her money. Then I cried.

I am doing my best to rectify the issue. I just hope they see that and don't leave me hateful feedback or worse. They seem like nice ladies, but I did mess up pretty badly and would understand if they are angry. We'll see how this ends.

This was only my second time shipping something fragile (the first time there were no problems, but I do remember packing it better). Next time I will do a better job packing the item. Or maybe I will just stay away from breakable things.

(The second worst thing that has happened to me is an item getting lost in the mail, but that was an easy fix because it was replaceable and inexpensive.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Featured Seller: Grace of Glister Craft

I love all flowers, real or fake. These nylon flowers from Glister Craft are very cute and unique.

Grace shares, "I'm an aspiring singer, but I also love doing arts and crafts. I love making flowers, and creating whatever comes to mind. It's truly enjoyable being able to express whatever I feel, and see what's in my mind's eye in real life."

Go to Glister Craft for more pretty flowers and check out her YouTube channel for updates on her shop and reviews of other shops!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sterling Pear Mantle Clips Christmas Giveaway [CLOSED]

Although our new place has a fireplace, there isn't exactly a mantle and the entertainment center covers it to keep Caden away. We hung a shelf above the fireplace, and the supports have hooks that we hung our stockings from in the past. But this year, I was given mantle clips from Sterling Pear to review, and now not only can I hang up all our stockings, but I can do it with style! I chose the antique brass holly clips.

Some of my other favorites are the snowflake mantle clips, which come in 6 different colors,

and the candy cane stocking holders.

*Elegant, ornate, and lightweight.
*Easy to install: simply slip onto mantle. That's it!
*Don't cause any damage to the mantle.
*Don't fall off.
*Can hold a lot of weight.
*Ideal for people with children or pets.
*Versatile: you can also hang garlands, lights, or anything else you want.
*Many styles to choose from.


One lucky reader will win 4 antique brass holly mantle clips, a $24 value! If you want to purchase some now, use the coupon code HTRTC112 for 15% off!

Mandatory Entry: Visit Sterling Pear and tell me what else you like.

1 entry: Like Sterling Pear on Facebook. Leave your name.

1 entry: Like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle on Facebook. Leave your name.

1 entry: Follow Sterling Pear on Twitter.

1 entry: Follow Sterling Pear on Pinterest.

1 entry: Follow this blog on Google Friend Connect.

1 entry each (4 total possible): Post this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or your blog.

Please leave a separate comment for each entry. All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. MST on Tuesday, December 11. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, December 12. Remember to leave your email address in one of your entries so I can contact you if you win! This giveaway is open to the U.S. only. Good luck!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Deck the Halls

Today we decorated for Christmas! My usual Grinch attitude wears down every year as Caden gets older. He makes Christmas fun. He loved the tree, especially the star, his favorite shape right now. I love seeing the tree lit at night when the rest of the house is quiet and dark. It's almost magical.

Signing tree in ASL

We also played with the Jacquie Lawson London Advent Calendar, making our own virtual Christmas trees.

Caden insisted on putting all the ornaments on the top!

Justin's tree

My tree

I also found more free Subway art (my new favorite decoration because it's so cheap, easy, and versatile) and put up all our stockings using antique brass holly Mantle Clips, which you can win here!

Perfect screen shot from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Quick & Easy Cream of Broccoli Soup

Last week I was wondering what to make for dinner. I glanced through the pantry and fridge and decided we could make cream of broccoli soup, which I had never done. I found a recipe online, made some slight alterations to accommodate what we had, and it was delicious! I recommend adding this to your winter menu:

  • 2 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 lb. broccoli, fresh or frozen (I had frozen broccoli & cauliflower blend, so it came out with a milder taste)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • pepper to taste
  1. Saute the onion and garlic in 1 tbsp. of butter. 
  2. Add broccoli and broth, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until broccoli is tender.
  3. Puree the soup in a blender (or with a stick blender if you have one) and return to pot. 
  4. In a small pan, melt 1 1/2 tbsp. butter. Stir in the flour and milk until thick and bubbly. 
  5. Add to soup. Season with pepper and serve. 
For a healthier version, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil and use low-sodium chicken broth. The original recipe also includes chopped celery (sauteed with the onion), but we didn't have any.


The winner of the printable holiday planner giveaway is comment #12 by Kaitlin. The new second winner of the Farm Rich appetizer coupon giveaway is comment #24 by Deb K. Thank you both for including your email addresses!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bow Sweet Bow Magnetic Hairbow Giveaway [CLOSED]

I've done many hair accessory giveaways, but this one is the most unique! The Etsy shop Bow Sweet Bow offers you a customized and thrifty way to get the most out of your hair bows: magnetic centers so you can change the bottle cap in the middle. How innovative!

The bottle cap options are endless.

One of you lucky readers will win any bow you want, pre-made or custom!

Mandatory Entry: Visit Bow Sweet Bow and tell me what pre-made bow or bow and bottle cap combination you would get.

1 entry each (5 total possible): Pin a bow to Pinterest. You can pin up to 5 bows.

1 entry: Like Bow Sweet Bow on Facebook. Leave your name.

1 entry: Like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle on Facebook. Leave your name.

1 entry: Follow this blog on Google Friend Connect.

1 entry each (4 total possible): Post this giveaway to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or your blog.

1 entry: Enter another giveaway. See left sidebar for current giveaways.

Please leave a separate comment for each entry. All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. MST on Tuesday, December 11. The winner will be announced Wednesday, December 12. Please leave your email address in one of your entries so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is open worldwide. Good luck!


The winners of the Farm Rich appetizer coupons giveaway are comments #138 by Sarah Buki and #6 by Elizabeth Boese! Enjoy your yummy prizes!

The winner of the Tara's Dinos 'N More 2 dinosaurs giveaway is comment #56 by Marija. Thanks to all who entered!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving in California

This year we went down to California for Thanksgiving, something we haven't done since 2008. Our new place is too small to have had all my family come here. It was nice getting away from Arizona for a few days. I was worried about the road trip, but Caden did great! He did not fuss or complain at all; he enjoyed it thoroughly, both there (night driving) and back (afternoon driving). He found a new favorite food, too, unfortunately: french fries.

He warmed up to my family right away (it usually takes him a day or two). At Costco Grandma bought him a giant stuffed monkey, which he dragged around their place and slept with the whole time we were there. It's bigger than him!

I went thrift store shopping with my mom (of course!) and found lots of great things at great prices for my shop. That same evening we toured my family's new house they will move into next month and then Justin and I went on a date to see a movie. We had planned on Here Comes the Boom, but it was no longer showing contrary to their website and outdoor sign, so we saw Skyfall instead. It was intense, but I liked it. I don't know if I like it more than Quantum of Solace; I have to see the latter again. I just know I like it better than Casino Royale.

Thursday we spent some time with my brother and his family and then had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents'. My mom and I simplified the meal for less cooking, and there were still lots of leftovers! I wish we could have taken some turkey home. And I do wish I had made my own pumpkin pie. The Costco one was really mushy. After dinner, Caden rode his bike and cousin's scooter outside, we played Apples to Apples, and we did our traditional "Turkey Wobble" dance.

I never do Black Friday, but my brother and his wife wanted me and Justin to tag along Thursday night so we could get some deals for them. We didn't get the deals we came for but we did find some other great stuff on sale, including new movies we wanted!

Friday morning we played Apples to Apples Junior (better than the original!), walked down to the lake, and went to my brother's for his wife's delicious chicken taquitos, which I learned how to make, to both my and my husband's delight. It was a great Thanksgiving!

Caden dancing to his cousin's pretend music.

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