Friday, February 24, 2012

best. picture. ever.

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This was taken when we went bowling last week.  Priceless.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

stepmom

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Someone asked me the other day at church if it's hard being a stepmom.  Umm...yes it is, very hard, but so is being a womb mom {my term because I don't like "regular" or "normal" mom, which would infer that I'm neither regular or normal, which I definitely think I am}.  But it's also wonderful and rewarding in a very unexpected way.  I get to help raise these wonderful children, who are a part of my wonderful husband.  I get to be a part of that! 

I'm going to be honest though.  It is hard and I'm not sure how much of it is just being a mom and how much of it is the stepmom thing.  There are days when I feel so much like a stepmom I want to scream, but those days are pretty rare.  My daily routine involves work, picking up the kids after school, laundry, cleaning, helping with homework, the kids' friends, cooking, more cleaning, reading to the kids with my husband, hanging out with them, making lunches, getting kids ready for bed, and then some time alone with the husband {yes!} before I fall into a deep slumber within thirty seconds of head hitting pillow.  Maybe the most difficult part is that I got all this overnight.  I didn't have a pregnancy and then the day-to-day stuff to get used to this routine.  I just sort of inherited it.  But it's my life now, and I'm more than OK with that. 

When my husband was out of town recently, it meant the kids spent all that time with their womb mom.  Being able to just come home and do what I wanted was really pretty sweet.  I spent all that free time reading books, magazines, watching chick flicks, and not cleaning up messes I didn't make.  After a couple days of this freedom, however, I missed my family terribly.  In a sort of strange way, the cleaning, and laundry, and reading with the kids, hearing their commotion and running footsteps, well, it sort of keeps me sane and gives me purpose I never knew I needed.  And then a most unexpected thing happened on day five of no family.  My stepdaughter called me.  She called me! And we talked for a whole twenty-eight minutes which is completely unheard of in the history of my stepdaughter.  You're lucky if you can keep that girl on the phone for three minutes.  And it was the most glorious conversation.  We talked about the Valentine's Day Fairy, and how much we love cuddling with Daddy, and how much we missed him and each other, and she just kept talking and talking and talking.  When it was over, I couldn't stop smiling.  It was a pretty special stepmom moment.

And then there was yesterday.  I was sort of stressing out about getting dinner on the table, and getting the table set, and wiping off the counter, and well, I was sort of a mess and all frazzled.  My stepson saw this, grabbed the sponge and started wiping off the table and counter for me.  I didn't even ask--he just did.  Oh my goodness that boy reminds me so much of his father, the ultimate helper and problem solver.

So yes it's hard, but it's also pretty awesome.  I don't for one second regret marrying a man with children.  It's the life I have, and I'm starting to realize that it's probably the life I was meant to have.  This has always been part of the plan, part of His plan, and I love feeling like I'm doing the right thing and walking down this path with the three people I belong to, knowing they belong to me too.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

my favorite weekday breakfast ~ mango smoothie

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Lately I've been making a better effort at eating breakfast in the morning.  Since I'm not really willing to wake up ten minutes earlier AND sacrifice prime cuddling time with the husband, it's got to be something quick that I can eat/drink in my car on my way to work.  This smoothie was sort of inspired by my husband's extreme love of mangoes, since I usually make him one too, but I've got to say, this drink is almost as good as a chocolate milkshake, almost.

Ingredients for Mango Smoothie {per serving}

1 cup of frozen mango
1 cup of milk {I use 1%}
1 packet of Truvia {you can use any sweetner you want, I just happen to love Truvia}

Put all ingredients into your blender, turn that puppy on, and blend until smooth.  Enjoy!

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Monday, February 20, 2012

guest post ~ mari from design shuffle

Hi, all! It's Mari here from Design Shuffle, an online community for interior designers and design enthusiasts. You'll find lots of projects and interior design inspiration. I'm delighted to be visiting A Collage of Sorts as a guest blogger. Have you noticed how many design and decorating blogs also include posts about food? Today we're following their lead and talking about dream kitchens that seem to have been created for someone who loves to bake. A beautifully designed space and the aroma of something delicious baking in the ovenónow that is a kitchen dream come true. Please enjoy!

Dream Kitchen

A dedicated space for mixing up baked goods is the perfect addition to a baker's dream kitchen. I love how the roll out cabinet tucks away under the counter when not in use.

Dream Kitchen

Lots of oven space and a marble topped island would make a baker's heart beat just a little faster. There's a deep apron sink for clean up. The beautiful lighting fixtures are a lovely additions to this dream kitchen.

Dream Kitchen

What do we love more? The awesome black range topped by that amazing hood or the stunning wood island. How beautiful would those glass shelves be filled with irresistible baked goods? This is one of my favorite kitchen†designs.

Dream Kitchens

This kitchen from House Beautiful has it allófunctional design, lots of space, plenty of oven space in a gorgeous range and beautiful vintage lighting.

Dream Kitchen

A stunning kitchen with pale cabinets and twin granite-topped islands for prep and casual dining also features huge double ovens at the ready. One could bake the day away while enjoying the company of family and friends.

Dream Kitchen

This lovely blue country kitchen is also a baker's kitchen dream come true. Double ovens and twoócount themótwo full sinks. The marble atop the island is the perfect place to work with pastry dough.

Dream Kitchen

A lovely center hood is the focal point of this perfect place for baking. Work space, convenient storage, ovens ready to be filledóall the elements of a dream kitchen.

Dream Kitchen

Straight out of a kitchen dream, this creamy kitchen is so appealing and at the same time so functionalóeverything a place to bake should be. It filled with decorating ideas that could be implemented in lots of kitchen styles. Images 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Which one of these is your dream kitchen? Find more kitchen inspiration at Design Shuffle! Get great ideas from top San Diego interior designers, Chicago interior designers and so many others!

Friday, February 17, 2012

pizza

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This is what I made this week.  If you'd like to follow suit, you'll need:

Pizza dough {store bought, homemade, or whatever, mine is below}
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Fresh rosemary chopped {about a tablespoon}
Crumbled goat cheese {3 oz.}
One pear sliced
Caramelized onions {slice up half a red onion and saute in a little butter for about 10 minutes}

1. I learned this week that cooking your pizza dough before you top it makes all the difference in the world. So that's what I did, on my pizza stone, which stayed in my oven while preheating {to 425 degrees}, so it too was quite hot.  I pre-baked my pizza dough for about 10 minutes and used the recipe I linked above.

2.  Sprinkle rosemary, goat cheese, and top with sliced pear and onions.

3. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese looks toasted.

4.  You're done.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

valentine's day


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I hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day.  The husband's gone this week, so I made sure to wrap up some of his favorite things, hide them in his suitcase, and then write him a love letter (folded into a heart) for each night we would be apart.  I'm a sap, I know, but I miss that boy.  To dull the missing, we had ourselves a Skype date, which can be very romantic if I do say so myself.  Oh the memories, but more on that later.

Friday, February 10, 2012

7

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No introduction needed.

“I am satisfied that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. Any man who will make his wife’s comfort his first concern will stay in love with her throughout their lives and through the eternity yet to come."

--Gordon B. Hinckley

Thursday, February 9, 2012

6

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The following story is related by Stephen R. Covey, author and motivational speaker.  I think it teaches a powerful message about how love changes and needs continual upkeep.

“At one seminar, after I’d spoken on the importance of demonstrating character within the family, a man came up and said, ‘I like what you’re saying, but my wife and I just don’t have the same feelings for each other that we used to. I guess we don’t love each other anymore. What can I do?’

“‘Love her,’ I replied.

“He looked puzzled. ‘How do you love when you don’t feel love?’

“‘My friend,’ I responded, ‘love is a verb. The feeling of love is the fruit of love. So love your wife. You did it once, you can do it again. Listen. Empathize. Appreciate. It’s your choice. Are you willing to do that?’

“Of course, I was asking this man if he was willing to search within himself for the character required to make his marriage work. All our relationships follow the contours of life; they have ups and downs. This is why our families provide a critical measure of our character—and the opportunity, again and again to nurture it.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

5

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Another sonnet for you, from The Man.

Sonnet 130
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

-- William Shakespeare

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

4

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Elizabeth Barrett married the poet, Robert Browning, her muse for much of her poetry.  He is said to have written her a letter before they met in which he declared, "I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett."  Well, they fell in love and secretly married because Elizabeth {who was wealthy} knew her father would not approve of marrying a poor writer.  I don't condone the whole running away from home and marrying in secret thing, but boy is it romantic, especially when it lasts, which it did for them.  They lived and loved for the rest of their days.

So here is another one of my favs.  I know this poem is a popular one and you've probably heard of it before, but it really doesn't get much more heartfelt than this.

Sonnet XLIII

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

-- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Monday, February 6, 2012

product crush

I have me a crush, and I'm not talking about the Mr., although my crush on him will last forevermore.  I'm talking about this darling company that knows how my heart beateth for purses with function. 

The company is Jo Totes and I love them for the three reasons listed below:

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So there is a world that exists where just one bag will do.  I couldn't be more excited!

3

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On with the letters. This is one written by our former president, Ronald Reagan to his wife Nancy. Just before he passed away, I finished a charming book written and compiled by Nancy entitled, I Love You, Ronnie. I highly recommend it. It beautifully depicts the sweetness of their relationship through their letter writing, and further fueled my obsession for letters, especially ones about love.  In Ronnie's words:

"If I ache, it's because we are apart and yet that can't be, because you are inside and a part of me, so we really aren't apart at all. Yet I ache, but wouldn't be without the ache, because that would mean being without you, and that can't be because I love you."

Beautiful words, and so easy to relate to when the lovah is gone.  Soon, mine will be leaving for a week on business {boo!} and I have to just push that crazy notion out of my mind and pretend it's not really happening. Not a chance loverboy.  You. Can. Not. Leave.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2

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I still love hand-written notes and letters.  I'm not sure what it is about them, but I will always prefer something written by hand to emails, texts,  and other such forms of communication.  I'm also quite fascinated by collections of letters written by those who have gone before.  Maybe my favorite letter of all time is the now famous one written by Sullivan Ballou to his beloved wife Sarah during the Civil War.  If' you've never read it before, you are in for a treat.  And when I say you're in for a treat, I mean that you will probably need some kleenex to wipe away the tears you most definitely will shed.  I cry everytime I read it.   

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more....

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.…

O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

Sullivan

FYI: Sullivan was the judge advocate of the Rhode Island militia during the Civil War. He died at the first Battle of Bull Run just a week after writing this letter, which he never mailed. It was found among his personal effects after his death. Even though Sarah was only 24 years old when her husband died, she never remarried. She lived to be 80 years old.

Sullivan and Sarah Ballou are buried next to each other at the Swan Point Cemetery in Rhode Island. Everytime I think of their story, which I only know of through this letter, I choke up. Oh, how they must have loved!

Click here to read the letter in its entirety.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

in honor of love #1

I happen to love Valentine's Day.  I didn't always feel this way.  I was one of those haters that thought this holiday existed so retail stores could have a hay day with their sale of chocolate roses and lame stuffed animals embroidered with "Will You Be My Valentine?"  And let's not forget the ultimate chessiness: those ridiculous jewelry store comercials.  I know you know what I'm talking about.  They are ice skating, and he or she falls {can't exactly remember}, they catch each other and then there it is.  Some brand new sparkly thing he presents her with.  And then smoochy, smoochy, their love is renewed.  I don't think that's very realistic.  Realistic is when I got out of the shower a few weeks ago and was still in my towel when my husband presented me with a box that contained some beautiful earrings.  They were an anniversary gift, given to me a week before our anniversary because husband cannot hold off on a gift.  He is absolutely incapable of waiting for the actual occasion, but that's ok; I think it's sweet.  We next had ourselves a little smoochy, smoochy, but that was it.  No snow softly falling on us as we circle around the frozen pond in our ice skates.  I much prefer receiving a gift while sopping wet in a bath towel.

Like I said, I do love Valentine's Day, just not the cheesy jewelry commercials or last minute drugstore gifts.  But I am a fan of love, the sincere kind, and expressing that as often as possible.  I love love and feel so darn blessed because there is so much of it in my life.  So, to honor this holiday which celebrates the stuff life is made of, I'm going to post each day with my two favorite mediums: words & pictures.  So get ready to celebrate a month of love. 

To start us off, a picture of the Mr. and me taken on our wedding day and possibly my favorite poem on love.  I'd like to point out that this poem is a translation from Spanish and is probably 100 times more fabulous and romantic in it's original form, but no hablo espanol, so English it is.

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Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Pablo Neruda {aka THE man}

Note: Our wedding photographer was Tonya from Tonya Joy Photography.  She's completely brilliant and I will forever be grateful to her for capturing our day in such a beautiful way.  So if you are in the Southern California area and looking for a wedding photographer, I highly recommend Tonya.

crazy hair day

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Do you remember crazy hair day, or twin day, or pajama day?  I do and I love that the kids are just as in love with school spirit as I was.  Brother even did all the paint in sister's hair.  Love our little duo.