My Shadow

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Rexburg, Idaho, 2009

February is almost over, its been over three months since I last posted. Perhaps it is because I can’t fake the happiness anymore.

The last two years have been an emotional roller coaster and I don’t even know when this ride is going to come to an end. From the anticipation of the “should we have kids NOW or later” conversation, to the hope and excitement of “Yes, birth control is in the trash no going back now”, to the cycle after cycle of negative tests, second guessing everything I do, “Is xyz hurting our chances?” and now to the scheduling of test after test.

Unwillingly, I have turned things into a singular focus and it is taking its toll. Everything revolves around my cycle, regardless of how much I try to push it out of my mind each month.

I feel as if I have become a shadow of who I used to be. Just this person who takes each day as it comes, hoping that I won’t breakdown in the bathroom of a movie theater or in the middle of a lesson at church. I would have never imagined myself in this situation, feeling broken, my soul slowly being ripped away. I miss my old self and I don’t know how to get her back. I can only go one step at a time feebly grasping onto hope that one day things will work out.

Gingerbread Competition 2014

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I hope everybody has been having a wonderful Christmas season. We have just settled in at my aunts house in Michigan for the week and are excited to ring in the New Year!

But to recap, our Annual Gingerbread Party was fantastic. All the submissions were top-notch. Our windmill took hours! We went through three versions for the roof (and its still not up to my standards, but by that time I was fed up), figured out how to weld ring pops and candy canes together and got the blades to actually spin.

To decide the winner we decided that Emi (our two year old niece) should choose her favorite one. She, of course, picked her own house because it had the most marshmallows.

I think we finally figured out the best way to bake gingerbread and put it all together. Next year is going to be our best yet, stay tuned.

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Family Pictures 2014 Part Two

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I know we already had some photos taken while we were in Oregon, but I thought it might be nice to have something a bit more wintry for our Christmas cards. So Bobby’s sister Char offered to take our pictures again this year.

We wanted to show that we were in Chicago, as it was one of the biggest changes for us this last year, so we met up with Charlotte near the Lincoln Park Zoo and walked along the Lake Front Trail until we found this dock that allowed us the perfect view of the skyline.

I am so happy we moved to Chicago. I never thought I would move back to the mid-West when I left for college in 2008. Our road trip this summer changed all of that, once we left I felt like Oregon wasn’t home anymore. I missed the people, the weather, the roly-poly hills, the Great Lakes and so much more. I have been overcome with disbelief (and cried in my car on my way to work and back) because I feel I have to pinch myself that I live here. So heres to you Chicago, I am glad I am home.

Traditions

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Over this last year I have been fascinated by family history and research. Just trying to figure out my family’s roots. I know about their lives once they came to America but before that? Not much.

I have gotten in contact with a few of my cousins who still live in Germany and one casually mentioned celebrating Advent. This may not be ground breaking, but I have never heard of this tradition before. This is something that I have been meaning to implement in our family ever since, and today is the day, the first Sunday of Advent. Here is what I have learned so far:

The Wreath
Symbolizing the everlasting love of our heavenly Father.

First Sunday (normally four Sundays before Christmas)
Theme: Hope
Candle: Prophecy Candle/ Candle of Hope
Reading: Jeremiah 33: 14-16

Second Sunday
Theme: Peace
Candle: Bethlehem Candle
Reading: Luke 1: 76-79; Luke 2: 1-7

Third Sunday
Theme: Joy
Candle: The Shepard Candle/ Candle of Joy
Reading(s): Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-4; Philippians 4:4

Fourth Sunday
Theme: Love
Candle: The Angel Candle/Candle of Love
Reading: Zephaniah 3:17; John 3: 16-17

Christmas Eve
Theme: The Savior
Candle: Christ Candle
Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7

According to Patheos (source below), the only candle that is strict in its meaning is the Christ candle, and the other candles have no set meaning but are used to point towards Christ. There are many variations and themes to this tradition and I am excited to begin this evening.

Many sources suggest using blue or purple and pink candles but I wanted to use red this year to represent sin and more importantly the atonement of our sins through Christ, the Redeemer.

As I look for more traditions I realize that I have so many around me, especially around the Christmastime season, even the small ones have a way of always being present. For example making eggnog (Grandma Marti), Christmas stockings (my great-great Aunt) and our gingerbread parties (starting with Bobby and I).

Sources
Living Hope Lutheran
Deseret News
Presbyterian Church
Circle of Light
Patheos
Color Symbolism

Pflaumen Kuchen

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A few years ago I made my grandmothers pflaumen kucken (plum cake). Now that I feel comfortable with that recipe, I wanted to try a new variation of it. What better holiday to try it out for than Thanksgiving? However, my mom had something else to say about that. I was not allowed to use the kitchen for anything other than what had previously been planned for the Thanksgiving feast on Thursday. I could only squeeze my baking time in the night before. Makes sense, Thanksgiving is a holiday for indulging, and it requires a lot of time and preparation. So I started baking within 10 minutes of arriving at my parents house on Wednesday night.

With this variation I wanted to make it in an 7″ x 11″ cake pan rather than a sheet pan (which in turn would make thicker slices). I also melted the butter that was used on the top portion and mixed it in with the sugar and cinnamon instead of adding them to the pan separately, which gives it the burnt-to-a-crsip look even though it is not burnt.

Without further ado, here is relatively the same recipe I posted two years ago:

Ingredients:
9.5 Tbs. butter (divided)
1 cup sugar (divided)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 2/3 lbs. Italian plums (or any other fruit)
1 cup sliced almonds (optional)
2 Tbs. cinnamon

Directions:
1. Melt 8 Tbs. butter
2. Combine the butter and 3/4 cup sugar.
3. Add the eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, vanilla and milk. Mix well.
4. Grease a jolly roll pan and preheat oven to 325 degrees Farenheight.
5. Spread the dough onto the greased pan.
6. Wash, halve, and pit plums. Cut each plum into six slices.
7. Lay plums cut side up and touching each other on the dough.
8. (Optional Step) Sprinkle the almonds onto the cake.
9. Combine 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon and 1.5 Tbls of melted butter. Sprinkle on top of plums and almonds.
10. Bake for 45-50 minutes

Next time I try this recipe, I really want to use dice one or two plums and include it in the batter to help moisten the cake (maybe next week? I still have left over plums).

Light Festival

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As I was walking down Michigan Avenue, I was having second thoughts about coming to the Light Parade. SO MANY PEOPLE! Rows upon rows of people you couldn’t even see the parade unless the float was as tall as the people themselves. I thought about leaving but I thought I would at least wait until the parade started to see if I could actually see. Eventually I just kept walking, hoping that I might see something. I got to the end of the street blockade which is where they were doing all of their filming for the live coverage, but I could see!! I weaseled my way to being four rows back… from the cameramen and spotlights, so I didn’t have the best view, as you can tell from only seeing the back of Elsa and Anna’s heads.

Despite the crazy amount of people, this was the best parade I have ever been to! The lights, the floats, live performances, marching bands, confetti, the giant balloons, the Disney characters, Christmas elves, fireworks and don’t forget… Dee Snider from Twisted Sister… Seriously, the crowd erupted to singing, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, the atmosphere was electric.

Thankful

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**Pictures taken from our day at the Lincoln Park Zoo during the carousel ride.

The other night Bobby and I went over to his sister’s apartment for a haircut, dinner and family night. As part of family night we made thankful turkeys. Charlotte asked Emi what she was thankful for and the first thing that came out of her mouth was, “Tristin”. It made me beam from ear to ear because I didn’t even bribe her like I normally would have.

Sometimes I don’t take the time to verbally be grateful for the people and the blessings in my life.

But even though this week has been stressful and not my best, I am still filled with the hope that most likely tomorrow will be a better day and that I do have many reasons to rejoice.

I learned that gratitude does not necessarily need to come from the people or things that we are thankful for, it is a choice, an attitude and an opportunity to draw closer to God.

“It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf mentioned in his General Conference remarks in April 2014. “Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. True, it is important to frequently “count our blessings”—and anyone who has tried this knows there are many—but I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude… It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach? Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be….We can choose to be grateful, no matter what. This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer. When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.”

I do hope that you all have a happy and joyous day of thanks but that we can all remember to have gratitude regardless of what our circumstances are.