Monday, December 30, 2013

Our Wedding: The Dress, Part 1

I absolutely loved my wedding dress. I love that it was my grandmother's dress 51 years before I wore it, I love that she made it herself, and I love that her mother-in-law from Germany helped add the lace details. It was so special to be able to share that with my grandmother.

Before I met Cam I had this vision in my head of a white lace gown that was tight to the knees, had a sweetheart neckline, a long, beautiful train, you get the idea. Then, I went to my grandma's house one day. I was looking in one of her closets for an old prom dress of mine she had let me keep there since there wasn't room in my little apartment and I found her wedding dress. The satin was faded to a beautiful gold, the stitches at the shoulder were starting to pull, and the zipper was broken, but it was lovely! I fell in love with it. My grandma helped my try it on and safety-pin the back closed and took some pictures of me. I could tell she really liked the idea of my wearing her dress at my wedding, but neither of us expected that within four months I would be asking her if I could.

I had my dress altered at Avenia Bridal in Orem, UT. The ladies there did a fantastic job. They were so kind and accommodating, and they took such good care of the dress. Im very short-waisted, so to make the dress fit me they had to take a little bit of fabric out of the shoulders. They took off the lace that would have been pulled into the seams and then reattached it once the alterations had been made with the original beads. I appreciated that so much.

I love the princess seams and the pointed, snow-white-esque waistline.

I'm a huge fan of the 3/4 length sleeves. We were married in November and I was planning on having a very cold wedding. Thankfully, we were blessed with a miraculously warm day (in the low 60's when it had been snowing just a week before,) but I think that even if we'd been married in the summer I would still have kept the longer sleeves.

I love this dress, but I didn't want to transport it across the country to our reception in Michigan, so I wore my "Getaway Dress" (which was my maternal grandmother's wedding dress) at our other receptions. To see my post about that dress, click on the picture below!

Our Wedding

It's been a little over a year since our wedding, and I've been looking back and reminiscing a lot. I was recently the matron of honor at my cousin's wedding and helping her plan and prepare made me think more about our wedding, what I liked and what I would have done differently, and just how incredibly happy I was to finally be married to my best friend!

Having all of these thoughts swirling through my head, I thought I'd share them with all of you! You know, if you're interested ;)

So, starting this week, Mondays will be talking about our wedding, tips for brides planning their own weddings, maybe I'll even do some wedding inspiration posts.

Here we go!

The Dress: Part 1

The Dress: Part 2

The Cake

The Rings

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What Christmas Means to Me

It's Christmas Eve! This is my first year spending Christmas away from my parents and siblings (we're with the in-laws this year and so far it's been wonderful) and I've been thinking a lot about what Christmas means to me.

Christmas has always been centered around family. I love my family and I love spending time with them, but even if I was alone on December 25th, it would still be Christmas.

Christmas is also about giving. I always try to find a way to give service as well as gifts around Christmas. There were a few years growing up where my family was struggling financially and members of our church, family, and neighbors came together to give us groceries, clothes, and toys for Christmas. Even though I was very young, I still remember and am touched by the love I felt from them and from my Father in Heaven those years, and I try to do what I can to pay that forward and help those who have less than I do. Being a college student and expectant mother I don't have much extra financially, but I can spare a batch of cookies, a few hours of babysitting or cleaning, or just a kind note to someone who needs it.

Ultimately, Christmas is about Jesus Christ. He, who was the best example of unconditional love, selfless service, and who gave the greatest gift of his life so that we can be together with our families forever. Without him, we would have none of these things that make Christmas what they are. I am so grateful for him. I know that he lives. I know that it is through his grace that we are saved. I know that he knows us individually and has felt our pain and suffering and that he will always lift our burdens as we ask. I am am so thankful for that knowledge.

I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas, full of fun, laughter, joy, and the love of the Savior.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

How to Plan a Christmas Program

This year I was in charge of putting together the ward Christmas program. It was a lot more work than I expected and I couldn't have done it without the wonderful people who helped with the readings and music, and of course, the Savior. Overall I think it turned out really well, and I'm excited to keep working on and improving this program.

For anyone looking to write their own Christmas program, let me just say, keep it simple. For text, use the scriptures. For music, look to the hymns before going elsewhere. A pattern that I've noticed in other programs and used for the one I wrote is to have one or two readers reading from the scriptures, with some commentary thrown in if you like, and musical numbers and speakers intermingled throughout as they correspond with the text.

Make sure that you ask people who you would like to participate, especially soloists, well in advance. This way they can have time to practice and feel comfortable with everything, plus it's just polite. Most people can't sightread their way through a complex piece. Give them time to learn it.

If you would like to borrow mine, or use it as a reference, you are more than welcome to! Here it is:

The text I used comes mostly from the King James Bible. The hymns I used can be found here. "Come, Lord Jesus" is from a program that the LDS church puts on at the Conference Center every year called "Savior of the World," and can be downloaded here.

Have a very merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Has it Really Been a Year?

This Wednesday marks one year since my husband and I were married in the Salt Lake Temple.
One Year! When did that happen?

A lot of people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. I'm honestly not sure what they're talking about. This has been the happiest year of my entire life. We've had a lot of hard things happen in our family that were out of our control, but because of that our relationship was able to grow so much stronger than it would have otherwise. We've learned so much about communication, sacrifice, service, and love. Our testimonies of the love that our Father in Heaven has for us are unshakeable. We know that he is guiding or lives and we are so excited to continue this adventure together!

We are so glad that we were married in the temple. It is a big commitment to live our lives so that we are worthy to go there, but the blessings we have received are beyond imagining. If we continue to live the promises that we made to each other and to the Lord in His house, we will be together forever. Even after we die, we will not be separated. Isn't that so wonderful? It gives me so much comfort to know that no matter what happens, as long as I live the way God asks me to, I will never, ever have to say goodbye to my dear Cameron for more than a short time. We have also been promised to always have our children with us. What a comfort and joy that is. I am so grateful to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, where we have the authority from God to be sealed together forever, and to be taught His gospel, and to know of the sacredness and importance of the family in His plan.

Want to know more about LDS (Mormon) temples or doctrine? Feel free to ask me any questions you have, or visit This website answers FAQ, outlines the basics of our beliefs, can help you locate the nearest meetinghouse and times if you'd like to visit our church services, and missionaries available to chat online with if you have any questions. You can also receive a free copy of the Bible and/or Book of Mormon if you want one. I'd seriously recommend that you check it out this website for any information about what we believe.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happy National Bacon Day!

No, the real international bacon day is not in November, it's usually in September. But for my husband and me, it falls on November 21st: the anniversary of the screaming bacon.

What is the screaming bacon, you ask? Let me tell you!

On the first morning of our honeymoon my husband and I decided to make a decadent breakfast to celebrate our first full day of marriage. We made waffles, hot cocoa, fruit, and, of course, bacon.

Cameron was making the bacon like the manly-man-husband that he is, while I was cutting up some strawberries. All of a sudden we heard an unearthly screeching noise coming from the stove. Cameron, fearing that he was about to lose his new wife, let alone a few limbs, took the bacon off of the burner, pulled me away from that side of the kitchen, and tried to shield me with his body. I was startled by his reaction, but I tried to move around him to fix the 'screaming bacon.' He threw himself in front of me again and quickly reached out and turned off the stove. The bacon kept screaming and Cameron started to panic. I'm pretty sure he was about to throw me into fireman's hold and rush out the door with me.

Then, in one last attempt to save my husband, and our beautiful breakfast, I boldly stepped forward to the stove, turned off the back burner, and moved the boiling kettle off of the heat and opened the lid so it would stop whistling. We were saved!

We had a good laugh about that. I was so in love with my husband, and I could tell he loved me. One year later, we're even more in love! Life is wonderful!

Now every time we use our kettle and it starts to whistle, we scream, "THE BACON IS EXPLODING!" and duck and cover until we manage to stop laughing. We have also declared November 21st, the day after our wedding anniversary, to be our National Bacon Day, which, by law, must be celebrated by the eating of bacon with breakfast.

Celebrate with us next Thursday, and eat some bacon!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How to Have an Absolutely Fantabulous Marriage in 10 Easy Steps--Unplug

Some people are good at multitasking. I am not. I'm so bad that if I'm doing anything that requires more concentration then pacing (like noticing a pretty bird outside the window or clicking a pen) I completely lose track of the conversation that I'm in. This has gotten even worse since being pregnant. Don't even bother trying to get me to answer a question if I'm watching a movie that I don't have memorized.

My husband is much better. He can send an email and talk to me at the same time. He can watch a movie and write a paper without ending up with a copy of the movie script instead like I do.

From these examples it's probably obvious that I should turn off my electronic devices, close books, put on blinders, tie my hands behind my back, etc. if I want to make my husband feel that I'm paying attention to him and that what he has to say is valuable and interesting to me. But why should he? If he's still capable of having a conversation with me, why should he have to give up Tiny Wings, work, school, or Twitter when we're talking? It's all about quality time.

When you're not willing to give someone your undivided attention, it sends the message that they are not as important as your phone, your work, your book. Should you do this to your spouse? NO! Ironically we often treat our family poorly because they have to love us no matter what, but they should be the ones we are kindest and closest to, ESPECIALLY our spouse because we got to choose that one. Your spouse should be your best friend, your one true love, and the last person on Earth you want to hurt or offend. One of the greatest ways to show your love is through quality time. Put away your other activities for a while, look him in the eyes, and just give time to having a real conversation.

If you're trying to have quality time but your spouse isn't taking the hint and putting away the Nintendo, it may be time to try the magical remedy of (drumroll, please) Communication! Try waiting until they are no longer engulfed in that activity, even if it's an unnecessary one, and kindly (not naggingly or accusingly) express that you would like to, as a couple, have time where you put aside other things, unplug, and just have time together. It's hard not to lash out when you're angry, or to make a snide remark to try and get the other person's attention, but it is not a loving way to deal with the issue and will escalate the problem instead of solving it. If your spouse is otherwise occupied, give them an obvious cue that you need their attention before diving in. Try something like "Honey, can I talk to you about something?" or "Would you mind putting that away for a little while? I have something I'd like to talk about." Then wait for them to willingly turn their attention to you before you start. Subtlety is usually lost on people who are not looking, or listening, in your direction.

My dear husband is so patient with me. When I get distracted by a witty bumper sticker and comment on it while we're driving together, he lovingly responds and brings the conversation back to where we were. Sometimes when he realizes that my train of thought is not following the conversation, he gently breaks my daydream and reminds me that he needs me to listen when he is talking about things that are important to him.

Remember to be patient, and not be easily offended. Remember how much you love him/ her and that he or she loves you, too. She's most likely NOT maliciously trying to tune you out. He's just human, and will make mistakes sometimes.

Playing video games, watching movies, and listening to music together can be a lot of fun and a great way to bond, but its not good to do it all the time. Texting is a wonderful invention, but don't use it for important or sensitive topics (like apologies or discussions of needs that are not currently being met.) Again, make time for just each other. Come up with activities where your eyes don't have to be glued to something else. Turn off the radio in the car. Just be together and take the time to let your love grow and continue to get to know each other!

What are some things that you like to do when you're 'unplugged?' Do you have any good remedies for a distracted spouse? How do you show your undivided attention to each other?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Here Comes the Sun

I love being in Women's Chorus. It brings so much joy to my life. I love the power of music to be a force for good in the world when there can be so much negativity and hardship. Life is not easy. It's not meant to be. But it is meant to be enjoyed! Don't worry, no matter how difficult your situation is, the Lord loves you, he is there for you, and there is sunshine just ahead! Just keep holding on! I promise that you can get through it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How to Have an Absolutely Fantabulous Marriage in 10 Easy Steps--Continuing Courtship

My dear husband Cameron asked if he could write the post on courtship, so here it is! I love that we can do this little project together :)

Dating, courtship, and engagement were amazing periods of time for Dana and myself. We loved it. We were together everyday doing something. One day we were dancing in front of the castle at Disneyland, other days it was making Macaroni and Cheese on a cold wintery day. Whatever we did, we loved being together. 

Courting one another is an essential part of the pre-marriage and post-wedding stage. I have found that as I try to do things for and with my wife that our marriage blossoms exponentially. 

Elder Christiansen said once: “Keep your courtship alive. Make time to do things together—just the two of you. As important as it is to be with the children as a family, you need regular weekly time alone together. Scheduling it will let your children know that you feel that your marriage is so important that you need to nurture it. That takes commitment, planning, and scheduling” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 86; or Ensign, May 1995, 65).

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in school, work, extracurricular activities that we lose sight of those who are closest to us. My grandfather, Grandpa Blake, always tells Dana to call him if I don't treat her right… luckily she hasn't had to call him! I am grateful for that. I think that we have been able to grow in our love since our marriage is because we have taken to time to court one another. We go out of our way to do things for one another. Sometimes things are spontaneous and other times we plan well in advance to spend special time together. 

These are three things that Dana and I do to continue courting one another: 

1. Go on dates! This is a biggie! Every week, take the time to just be alone together. Whether that is at home watching a movie, taking a walk, shooting guns (we don't do this one much but we have friends and family that do), whatever, take the time to be together. Turn off your cell phone, or just be disciplined and don't look at it. This is YOUR time together that makes a marriage grow. 

2. Be spontaneous! Guys, if a crazy awesome idea enters your mind and you have a second to decide, do it with her! One day we were walking on BYU campus heading south. As you walk from north to south there is a 9 story building called the Spencer W Kimball Building, or SWKT (swi-ket). We saw one of our friends who happens to be a security guard walking in front of us. We went spy-style, followed him for a minute, and then caught up with him. He told us he was going to the top of the SWKT to check things out and invited us along! We said YES! The top is locked at all times, so this was a real treat! He let us stay up there for as long as we wanted and we had a blast, and a great view of Provo. None of that would have happened had we not been spontaneous. 
3. Have fun! Dating and beginning to court is awesome and so much fun! Be respectful and do appropriate activities. Courtship in marriage is also a blast! You are married (or will be married) to your best friend. Treat your spouse as the queen or king that they are. When life gives you lemons, just laugh and move forward!! Enjoy your time together. Loving, laughing, and courting are activities that make your marriage strong. 

Allow me to reiterate something: you are married to your BEST FRIEND. Cherish every moment you have and court each other every moment of every day, and you will be happy. 

What are ways that you court one another? We'd like to know. 

How to Have an Absolutely Fantabulous Marriage in 10 Easy Steps--Set Goals Together

Setting goals, individually and as a couple, is really important in marriage. It forces you to think of where you want to go and who you want to become, and gives you direction in your life and in your relationship. As you discuss your needs and those of your partner, your dreams and aspirations, and how you want to get there (see Communication,) you will be able to become one in purpose and have the same vision for where you want to go. This will make the journey much easier and more enjoyable, since you will be working with instead of against each other. The end result will also be more fulfilling if you can have the satisfaction of knowing that you and your spouse are happy and fulfilled and that you accomplished something together.

Goals can be for the long or short term (I want to finish this project within the next two hours, or I want to get a doctorate degree.) I usually set shorter term goals, but I find that they have the most purpose and help me get somewhere worthwhile when I think about where I want to be in the long term. Basically,  *What is the reality I want to create? I think 1, 5, 10 years down the road, maybe more, and decide what my spiritual, educational, physical, financial, marital, familial (etc, etc,) situation will be. In ten years, I'll be 31. Do I want to have completed my undergrad? Do I want to have credit card debt? Do I want to have children and still be married to Cameron? What do I want my relationship with them to be like? What do I want my reality to be? This is the first step. 

(If you haven't worked through this part with your spouse, make sure that you do! You want the same vision for your family so that you can work together towards your goals. Its definitely ok to try and come up with a vision before you talk about it, but make sure that you do discuss it together. If you have personal goals, such as for your health, sharing these with your spouse as well as goals and visions that pertain to them, can be a great motivator. If you have someone who can ask you how your goals are going, it can be easier to remember to do them, because you want to be able to answer well.)

The second step is to then figure out how to get there. Say you want to be free of credit card debt in 10 years (putting house and car payments aside, maybe.) The best way to get there is to not fall into debt in the first place. How do you do that? Spend less than you make every month, and make payments on time. How do you know how much you can spend? And so on. Keep asking how and why like a three-year-old until you're able to break your task down into specific, measurable, and doable goals. These three things are important because if a goal is too ambiguous, you have no way to measure how well you're doing at it, or if it's just not possible, then it won't get done and you won't get anywhere.

Next, set timelines for yourself. Sometimes it's good to work backwards. Start with the long term and work your way down to the short term, to make sure that you have time to do everything. Say I have a paper due for school in three weeks. I need to come up with a topic, do research, write one or two preliminary drafts, check those, and print my essay. Starting with printing and going backwards, when do I want to get each of those items done? Take into account how long each of these steps will take to do well. 

Four: Write Down Your Goals! Then put them in a place where you can see them often and think about how well you've done. I've never been particularly good at this part, but it is so important, because it helps you to remember your goals and keep track of them. Keeping track of your progress is important, too. It can be rewarding if you're doing well, or motivation to do better. Do what's best for you. If you need to have someone to be accountable to, ask your spouse to check with you every so often on how you're coming along. 

Remember, marriage is about becoming one as a couple. If you're working in different directions, it's probably not going to happen. Marriage is work, but it can be remarkable fun and rewarding as long as we're willing to work together and give our hearts wholly to each other and to our Father in Heaven.

*I heard this phrase from Bob Quinn, who I think was quoting it from a book titled The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz

Friday, October 4, 2013

Pregnancy Update: One Week From Today

I am super excited! One week from today we get to find out the gender of our little baby! Are you as excited as I am? Probably not, because I am bouncing-off-the-walls, smiling-even-though-I-don't-feel-well, dancing-around-the-kitchen-while-doing-dishes excited!

I'll do a real blog post soon. I think hubby has finished the "continuing courtship" post for our fantabulous marriage series, so we'll be posting that pronto! We've just been soooo busy with school and work. *Sigh* I was not emotionally prepared for this semester. Summer went WAY too fast!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Just a Quick Pregnancy Update: Quickening

I felt the baby move for the first time today! It was so exciting :) I've had a lot of gas bubbles and such in my tummy lately, but I've always been completely confident that that's what it was. Today was very different. I distinctly felt three little taps in my abdomen, like baby was kicking his/her feet in excitement, and I almost stood up in the middle of choir and shouted out the news! Instead I went to the restroom and texted my husband, who was also in class, to let him know. We are so excited for this little baby to come into our family, and to find out soon whether it will be a boy or a girl! If you haven't yet, take the poll in the upper right hand corner and let us know what you think the gender will be! Life is such a wonderful adventure :)

I Love the Fall, and General Conference

I love fall. I love pumpkins, crunchy leaves, cozy sweaters, changing colors, halloween costumes, preparing for our little baby to come, but one of my absolute favorite things about fall is General Conference! I get to spend two full days listening to the words the Lord wants me to hear. He speaks through prophets and apostles, just like he did in the Bible. I always feel the spirit so strongly and I love the opportunity to refocus and remind myself of who I am and where I want to be going.

This past weekend was the General Relief Society Broadcast: a special session of General Conference just for women. I loved the messages shared, especially about how God loves us, and is always willing to give us the peace and strength we need to keep going, no matter how difficult our lives are, if we are only willing to pray and ask for it and to try our best to be obedient to his commandments. If you would like to watch this broadcast and see what the female leaders and prophet had to say to the women of this church last saturday, click here. Men are of course welcome to watch as well, the messages are just directed at the sisters.

If you would like to watch the main body of conference (split into four sessions, beginning Saturday morning and ending Sunday evening) you can go to this link. There is also a priesthood session, specifically for men in the church ages 12 and up. This will be on the same website on Saturday evening. Also, if you get BYUTV, you can watch it on the television.

I am super excited for this weekend (admittedly also for the brunch I traditionally make to eat on Sunday morning as well as for General conference) and I hope that you can feel the spirit of the Lord touch your heart and guide your life if you chose to watch with me this weekend.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

In Women's Chorus we're singing "Come, Thou Fount" at our concert this coming week. I am so excited! I love this song. The music is so beautiful and the lyrics are so sweet. Until this past week I'd always felt the spirit in this song, but never had the words stand out  to me so clearly, especially during one particular line.

"Jesus sought me, when a stranger wandering from the fold of God, came to rescue me from danger from the downward path I trod."

Due to the King James-y English and poetic grammar, I rearrange the words in my head to make more sense and they come out something like this:
"Jesus sought me when I had estranged myself from him and was wandering away from God's fold. He came to rescue me from the spiritual danger in which I was placing myself." He came for me. How powerful is that message?

I have been the sheep that has wandered from the fold. There have been far too many times when I have turned my back on my Savior. I am so sorry that I have done this, and I keep trying to be better, but I am human and I make mistakes. I am proud, and I am selfish, and I ashamed when I let myself and others down. I often feel that when I am going through something difficult that I could have avoided if I had been smart and following the spirit, that I should take care of it myself--that I don't deserve the help and care of my loving Father in Heaven and the Savior. Yet the moment I fall to my knees, the very second I humble myself and ask for help and forgiveness, the Savior is there to sweep me up in the arms of his love. He takes away my pain, my sadness, my guilt, and my stress. He is always waiting to take care of me. No matter how far I wander, he follows me and waits for me to let him help and strengthen me. He leaves the ninety-and-nine for my sake. (Luke 15.)

I am so grateful for the love of my Savior, and for his amazing atonement which allows me to repent and be cleansed so that I can move forward, and upward, without being hindered by my past mistakes. I know that the Lord loves each of us. He will always, always accept and forgive us as we repent and try our best to change. He doesn't expect perfection, he only asks that we do our best. I am so grateful for this knowledge. I am grateful for music. I am so thankful for the way that music and singing can soften my heart when nothing else can, and give me a way to bear my testimony when my own words don't seem like enough.

I love my Savior. I know that he lives and loves us, that his atonement is perfect, and that he wants so much for us to come home to him. I have felt the spirit testify of this to me, and I cannot doubt that.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dutch Baby Pancakes

Breakfast anyone?
This is a super simple, totally delicious, and the preparation takes 5 minutes tops. It's really easy to make a small batch for 2 (that's what I make for my little family of 2) or a big batch for 8 (which is what my mom did back home when I was growing up.) I meant to get a picture of what it looks like when you serve it, but Hubby and I were hungry so by the time I pulled the camera back out the plates were empty. Oops :)

What you need: (for a small batch)
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup of milk
1/2 Cup of flour
3 Tablespoons of butter
Casserole Dish or Cake Pan (size depending on how much you're making. For a small batch, I use a casserole dish my great grandmother gave me that is about 7''x9''. If you were to use 6 eggs a 9"x13" pan would be appropriate)

1. Preheat oven to 425ยบ

2. Put butter in your pan, then place in the oven to melt.

3. Blend eggs, milk, and flour.

4. Pour mixture into the pan of melted butter. Bake for 25 minutes.

5. Take it out of the oven and voila! A fluffy, buttery, suffle-ish breakfast that is ready to EAT! My favorite way to eat this is with syrup and powdered sugar. Some people like it with berries, sour cream, brown sugar, but you can do whatever you like!

Bon Appetit!

How to Have an Absolutely Fantabulous Marriage in 10 Easy Steps--Be Spontaneous!

I know we’re going out of order, here. Hubby wanted to write the “continuing courtship” post but I had time to write today so I’m posting this one :).
I’ve heard some couples complain about feeling like they’re stuck in a rut. Sometimes Cameron and I get into a routine that isn’t the most fun and we want to break out of it. (Honestly, that happens the most when we start watching TV a lot.) The best way to get out of this is to be spontaneous! Surprise your spouse with an outing, try a new recipe or restaurant, go somewhere you’ve never been together, break your routine.
This can be really hard to do when you’re both working, or going to school, or both. Your daily routine is pretty much set for you. So how do you break out of the monotony? Look at your priorities. What are the things that are most important to you as a couple? For Cameron and I we make sure that we pray together and have personal and couple scripture study every day, and of course we go to work and school and try to eat well and keep the house clean, but other than that, our priorities are flexible. Put first things first, then see what’s taking up your time that could come out of your routine to make way for play time.
            1.     Weekends
Weekends are a great time to mix it up because you generally have a little bit more time. If you or your spouse works or has school on the weekends, try to find another day where you can both take a break to be together. Weekends are also a great time for short trips. If you can afford it, take a Friday or Monday off of work to give yourselves a three-day weekend and get out of town. Go camping, stay at a bed and breakfast, even in your own town, and just look for adventures where you are.
             2.    Evenings
They’re a great time to throw your routine to the wind and have a bit of fun! Evenings are better for slightly shorter excursions and adventures, especially since you might have to be up early the next morning. And guess what? You can be spontaneous at home! One night a few months ago Cam was feeling a bit down and we’d been doing the same old dinner-and-a-movie-at-home spiel for several date nights, so I suggested we go camping. It was about 55 degrees and raining, and let me tell you I only like camping in nice weather, and even then I get a little grumpy sometimes. I pulled out our tent and camping chairs into the living room, we pushed the furniture into the kitchen and we set up our tent right there! 

We went to the store and grabbed some Jiffy Pop (the kind that comes in a little tinfoil skillet that turns into a bubble when you pop it)
and then ran over to J-dawgs and got some delicious hot dogs, because obviously those are the two things you eat when you are cooking over a “fire."For some reason neither of us thought to get marshmallows. We made a “fire pit” in our tent by putting twinkling Christmas lights in a basket, then rolling up pieces of paper to be our “logs.”

We brought ALL of our blankets into the tent so it would be comfortable to lie on the floor and we played cards, told stories, and ended up falling asleep. It was really fun (and warm and dry, I might add) and it was a great way to break our routine!
               3.     Mornings
If you don’t have anywhere to be super early, or even if you do, mornings can be a great time to mix it up. Wake up early and make your spouse a nice breakfast, drive up to a hill and watch the sunrise. Do something you don’t usually do whether its exercise together, eat together, do the crossword puzzle in the paper together, just set aside as little as ten minutes to do something with your spouse that you generally don’t do with each other. Together time, where you’re really mentally there together, is one of the best ways to come closer and connect.

I'm so grateful for my husband who is always so thoughtful and helps lift me up and is always looking for ways to be spontaneous and show his love to me. How are some ways that you and your spouse are spontaneous and keep from getting stuck in your routine? What do you like to do together for fun?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Nifty Cleaning Tip: How to Clean Vomit

I know this isn't a very pleasant topic but nothing is worse than barf stains and smells in your carpet, car, or anywhere. Who knew that 2 inexpensive things you already had in the pantry were all you needed to clean it? I'm so grateful for simple, inexpensive solutions to life's little challenges!

What you'll need: 
Baking Soda
Vinegar (White vinegar, NOT balsamic)
A wet rag
Paper towels (or rags if you don't mind cleaning them later)

1. Clean up the area as best you can with the wet rag (blot, don't rub. Rubbing works the vomit, or anything wlse you're trying to clean into the carpet fibers. Wait until you have cleaner to do this.)
2. Sprinkle baking soda so that it completely covers the vomit
3. Sprinkle Vinegar (not too much) over the baking soda so that it foams lightly
4. Wait a while for it to dry a bit, I waited about a half hour, then absorb the extra moisture with paper towels.
5. repeat steps 2 - 4 at least once. 
6. Allow bakingsoda/vinegar to completely dry, then vacuum it up!

Now the stain AND the smell are gone! I know it works because my husband was sick in the car and even when the car gets hot it doesn't smell! You can smell vinegar for about a day afterwards but that dissipates pretty quickly. I've been told this also works with pet smells and stains in the carpet.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

How to Have and Absolutely Fantabulous Marriage in 10 Easy Steps—Have a Weekly Family Night

I'm currently typing this with my hubby asleep next to me on the couch. Its hard to type with my elbows bent backwards so I don't bump his head, but totally worth it so i can sit by him while I do this. Sorry that its been so long, new jobs, plus new callings in church, plus sickness, plus going out of town = not a lot of time to blog.

This time we're talking about having a family night! In our church every Monday night is the common time to do this, but another week night works, too. The point of having it on a week night is so that your family spends time together on a day other than Saturday or Sunday when its more likely to see each other (Or so I've been told. Saturdays were always crazy at my house growing up but that's ok. :)

Family night is all about bonding and growing closer together. Its a great time to go ove everything that will happen in the coming week, set and revisit goals, hold family council, and have lessons. Activities and treats are a great edition as well. Try to let everyone be involved from the baby to the teenager. Let your children help teach the lesson or choose an activity or help make the treats. Let everyone have a job of some kind. This is a wonderful way to invite the Lord's spirit into the home as well. The way you do family night is totally up to you, but here's what a typical family night in the Blake home looks like:

First we welcome everyone (all two of us) to family night and briefly go over the agenda (Who will pray, who will give the lesson, etc). Then we sing an opening hymn and say an invocation (opening prayer.) Next we do announcements. For example, I will be going into work early on Thursday or I have a concert and this is my call time. This way we can make more plans for the week and make sure we're available for each other when needed. Then we go over goals that we've had for the past week and either resolve to continue them or come up with new goals (or maybe both!) We've had goals anywhere from doing the dishes every night to trying to find a stranger to serve doing the week. Whatever you feel your needs are and areas you can improve in, those are the goals you can set. It helps to have someone else to support and remind you of your goals rather than keeping them to yourself and forgetting or losing motivation. After that we usually have a lesson. Sometimes we talk about finances, often we talk about gospel topics and how we can apply them in our lives. When we were kids our parents often had really interactive lessons where we would act out stories from the scriptures or learn about different things like etiquette or honesty. For activities we play board games or sports or do family history and have some kind of treat. Growing up home made rice crispy treats was a big one. Cam and I like to do many variations on popcorn. Before treats we have a closing prayer and bless the food.

Activities don't have to stay at home. You could go to the park, 

go for a hike, 

watch a sporting event, 

go on a scavenger hunt,

 anything you want! 

The only requirement is to do it with the family.

Even though we spend so much time together right now we're glad that we're getting in the habit of doing this while we have time because we know it will be harder when we have kids or harder jobs or more school or anything else. It has strengthened our little family so much already and we can't wait to see how it will continue to bless us in the future. Spencer W Kimball said "Family home evening is for everyone. It is for families with parents and children, for families with just one parent, and for parents who have no children at home. It is for home evening groups of single adults and for those who live alone or with roommates. . . . Regular participation in family home evening will develop increased personal worth, family unity, love for our fellow men, and trust in our Father in heaven."

Family Home Evening isn't only about coming closer together as a family, its also about coming closer to our Father in Heaven. Families are the center of his plan, and as we do our best to strengthen our families and marriages he will bless us with more success and joy than we ever could have thought possible. I know that he loves us and that he wants us to be happy: that is why he gave us families! There is no greater joy than to be with your family forever and he has given us that opportunity. I am so grateful for that!

Here's a wonderful talk about the importance of families, and some great resources for planning your own family night including lesson ideas!