Heart-to-Heart with Diane

Hello and Welcome! Isn't raising a family the greatest!? I know I've got the best job in the world, just being Mom! I love sharing things I've discovered that make being "Mom" better, easier or more fulfilling, and that is what this blog is all about. Welcome!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

5 to 1

"Come pick up your stuff"

"You need to practice!"

"Don't say that word!"

"You didn't do your dishes"

"Get your coat off the floor"

"That doesn't look good"

"Take out the garbage!"

"Haven't you done your math yet?"

As moms, it is our duty to teach our kids to behave and to work, and we do need to follow-up and supervise their work. That is part of teaching and training. But sometimes, I slip into a pattern and feel that I am somehow being diligent if I remind/nag my kids. I forget how much everyone needs to be complimented, noticed, praised and appreciated for the good they do.

I've heard that for emotional health, we need a 5 to 1 ratio: five positive remarks for every critical or nagging "reminder". More than this is destructive to a person's self-worth. I do believe that! But it is easy for mom to get into the habit of "reminding", without really being aware of the negative influence it is having. What a happy effect it would have if we could remember to verbalize all the positive and good we see in our children—and there is so much that is good!

A little prayer for myself today—that I will tell them what I see that is wonderful about my precious children! And that I ask myself before I remind them: is this going to build them up and produce the change I am hoping for, or is it just another negative, nagging reminder?

To a happier new year!

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

My family

Left to right:

Daniel (my first son) and his wife, Melissa (holding Isaac)
Their daughters Abigail and Rebekah are stanidng in front

In blue, my daughters Julianna (brunette), Emily (blonde) and Louisa (in orange)

My son Mark in the back (tall)

My husband Rick, my son Ammon (blonde) and myself (in green blouse)

My second son, Nathan (holding Rachel) and his wife Melanie (holding Christian)

That's us!

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Keeping Childhood Memories

My sons decided to teach my daughters how to shoot.
Nobody warned the girls about how a rifle kicks back! Bruises and memories!

When my grown kids come home for the holidays, some of the most enjoyable times we have together are recounting their childhood memories. A re-telling of the night my boys slept in their treehouse and were visited by the hand of a boogey man wearing a black glove (a mischievous cousin) sets them all to laughing and reminiscing about their happy childhood together. I have often wished I could gather up all those delicious memories of their experiences as children to bring joy to them, and never be forgotten.

One idea is to have each of your children write briefly about a childhood memory and send/bring it home to Mom every Christmas. All these memories are stored in a Family Stories binder that can be added to every year, and brought out to read and remember. This is not as ambitious a project as scrapbooking, but the memories are ever so vivid and delightful! And it is amazing how differently each child sees the same event. Ask your children to focus on the positive memories, or things that were scary then, but funny now. (We all have our share of unpleasant memories, but the goal is family unity and love.) If they have a photo to match, that makes it even better, but it's not necessary. Just the mention of "all that for a bit of cheese" gets all my kids laughing, remembering my son Ammon's disruptive and persistent rummaging through the luggage in the back of our crowded van as we sped across the desert.

One thing is sure, remembering our family time together stirs up loving feelings, makes us grateful for our past, and bonds us all closer together.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

What's Ranch Dressing?

Um. . . yum! We love our Ranch Dressing!

Hey, how fun! I got an email from a reader in Great Britian who is trying to make the Easy Cheese Ball that I recently blogged about, but doesn't know what ranch dressing is. It's a small world because of the internet, and I guess I didn't take into account that not everyone lives "out west" with me, where ranch dressing rules supreme!

Well, no worries dear-love. You can make your own!

Ranch dressing—American's favorite—has taken its place with "Mom, home and apple pie". Every restaurant serves it. Ranch dressing is hard to criticize since everybody loves it, especially kids.

But, grocery store ranch dressing has its serious drawbacks. Have you taken a look at the ingredients? Sugar and MSG are very high on the list! MSG has been linked to asthma, headaches, and heart irregularities, and is destructive to brain cells. Sugar makes you eat more than you need, and forms cavities and breaks down health in general.

Ah, do we have to give up our beloved ranch dressing?

No, no, no. Just make it yourself out of healthy ingredients! This recipe is so good that the kids didn't even see a difference. You won't miss the MSG or sugar, either. For complete enjoyment, fill an empty ranch dressing bottle with your new homemade version to keep the skeptical happy. Keeps in refrigerator for as long as buttermilk stays good, 3 weeks or more. But, believe me, they will eat it up long before that!

Healthy Ranch Dressing
Takes just 2 minutes to stir up!

In a bowl, whisk together:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. dried parsley (or 2 tsp. fresh parsley, finely minced)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
optional: 1 teaspoon fresh dill weed, minced

For complete enjoyment, fill an empty ranch dressing bottle with your new homemade version. Keeps in refrigerator for as long as buttermilk stays good, 2 weeks or more.

If you are feeling extra ambitious, make the ingredients from which ranch dressing is made, and you'll really have a healthy version!

Homemade Mayonnaise
Very quick and easy, plus you can make it without all the long list of additives found in grocery store mayo.

1 egg
2 tablespoons lemon or orange juice (or vinegar)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Works best if ingredients are at room temperature. Put the egg, 1 tablespoon of the juice and salt in the blender. Cover and blend on low speed. While blender is running, slowly pour in 1/2 cup of oil. Blend on high speed. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of juice and slowly pour in remaining oil while blender is running on high speed. The mayonnaise will amazingly and very suddenly thicken up. Makes 1 cup. Store in the refrigerator.

Home Cultured Buttermilk

Measure 1/2 cup of buttermilk into a quart canning jar. Fill jar with raw milk or grocery store (pasteurized milk) and cover. Let the jar stand on your counter at room temperature for at least 24 hours or until clabbered and thick. Store in the refrigerator after it has clabbered. To make more buttermilk, use1/2 cup of this buttermilk to start a new batch.

P.S. You can make this super easy by leaving approx. 1/2 cup of buttermilk in the bottom of the grocery store buttermilk carton or jug, and just refilling with milk. Shake well and proceed as above.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

YES! Sugar-Free Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

My granddaughter Abigail loves sugar-free chocolaate-covered strawberries!

Are we still sugar-free?
Yep, sure are!

We made it through Halloween and Thanksgiving, and it wasn't all that hard. For Thanksgiving, we made a big apple pie using stevia to sweeten the apples. Whipping cream (sweetened with stevia) stirred into a bowl of chopped fruit made a luscious dessert, so Louisa and I didn't suffer.

We also made cranberry sauce fresh from berries. Those things are so sour! Wow! Can't say we loved my sugar-free cranberry—it was pretty tart even after several additions of stevia, xylitol, Truvia and anything else in my cupboard that could sweeten it without sugar.

But, the biggest delight came when my son Daniel's wife, Melissa, brought us chocolate-covered strawberries that were fabulous . . . and sugar-free! Hooray!

Melissa's Chocolate-Coated Strawberries
(Sugar Free)

Fresh, ripe strawberries
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons coconut oil
4-5 drops liquid stevia (yes, just drops--it is powerful!)

Wash and dry strawberries, leaving green stem and leaves on. Chill. Melt coconut oil and stir in cocoa until smooth. Stir in stevia. Cool. Dip chilled strawberries in to coat, setting on wax paper. Chill.


Take a look at my favorite stevia:

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Make Sure They Know the Real Story

Loving Christmas! Isn't it wonderful? Something bright and merry to cheer up the cold winter days. So much love flowing around.

Gifts are appearing under the tree with great hush-hush about their contents or even who they are for. Our Secret Service Star has been doing its work, making our home a much more considerate place to live! Today the smoke detector battery even got mysteriously changed.

I was visiting with an acquaintance and I made a comment to the little ones about Christmas excitement and about the baby Jesus. The children gave me blank looks. The more we talked, the more I realized that the children had only heard about Santa and elves and North Pole wonders. They had never been taught what a holy day this holiday celebrates . . . that our whole life and happiness and future depend on the babe born in Bethlehem.

Don't let anyone within your influence miss out on the real reason for our festivities. And if you need a good storybook, I've got one to recommend, on sale too—just 99 cents with any purchase from our educational book and toy store, Love to Learn. (Retail is normally $6.95)

Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Easy Cheese Ball

Louisa made this easy cheese log is just a few minutes—it's very kid-friendly!

Holidays mean cheese balls and crackers at our house. Here's a yummy recipe that is easy enough that the kids can make it themselves! Put the ingredients in a bowl, let the kids smoosh it all together and shape into a "snowball" or a log shape. Roll firmly in chopped almonds until they are imbedded and smooth. Top with a sprig of parsley.

Easy Cheese Ball

1 lb. medium or sharp cheddar cheese, grated (4 cups) at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 to 3/4 cup ranch dressing
1 teaspoon grated onion or 2 green onions finely minced
2 tablespoons celery, finely minced

Soften cream cheese, mix all ingredients well. Form into ball and roll in chopped nuts. Chill. Serve surrounded with crackers.


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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let it Snow!

Looking out my front door

Snowy day! Forced to stay home. Can't drive the carpool as my driveway is 2 feet deep. Can't go to lessons, classes, errands, Christmas shopping, here, there.

. . . Aaaah, nice to go nowhere but home!

Makes you want to put a candle in it, doesn't it?

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Secret Service Star

The Service Star appeared quietly on Louisa's bed this morning.

One of the things I like best of all about Christmas time is our family tradition of the "Secret Service Star". On the first day of December, our star suddenly appears at the scene of some unseen kindness. Each family member knows that whoever receives an act of service has just 24 hours to turn it around and render some service to someone within the family. Day by day, all through December, that star pops up in the most unusual places: in a laundry basket full of folded towels, or on a freshly-made bed, in a clean-scrubbed sink, on a packed lunch, or in the loaded dishwasher. The big deal is not to get caught by anyone! (That spoils the fun.) So there are stealthy footsteps hurrying to get a job done while someone else is in the shower, and little unexpected niceness smooths your way frequently!

There's a special magic about secret service. When there is no chance of being thanked, acknowledged or praised, our efforts seem more holy. They spread a lingering goodwill in which every family member suspects everyone else of kindness! No one will admit to what they did, and everyone strives to keep utmost secrecy, so there is an element of adventure to it all. I love to see my kids working to bless each other and look out for each other, to anticipate each other's needs!

If you really want to feel the Spirit of Christmas in your home, try the Service Star!

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Clam Chowder

Gourmet, steamy clam chowder--yeah!

Ummmmm. . . . as soon as it snows, all I want to eat is soup! And Clam Chowder is one of my favorites soups. It is so easy, and it really is gourmet. Much better than you can find in restaurants!

Hot Clam Chowder is delicious for after sledding, or on Christmas Eve, along with hot chocolate and some crusty bread!

Diane's Easy Clam Chowder

6 strips bacon OR 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
5 cups water
4 large red potatoes
3 cans diced clams with juice (tuna fish size cans)
1 half-pint whipping cream

In a soup pot, fry bacon until very crisp. Remove, cool and crumble. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease from soup pot (or use olive oil and no bacon). Add onions and carrots, and saute until onions are translucent. Add potatoes and water and simmer until potatoes are very tender. Turn off heat and add 3 cans diced clams with juice. Stir in whipping cream. Add water to thin to correct consistency if needed. Salt and pepper and serve immediately. Crumble bacon and use as garnish. Serves 6.


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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tortilla Soup

Make Tortilla Soup in just minutes—sumptuous!

Leftover turkey? Make it into something that doesn't remotely taste like Thanksgiving—our delicious Tortilla Soup. Yum!

Ammon made it for his dinner turn tonight. I don't think I would have been this adventurous because I thought I was tired of the taste of turkey for now, but turned out so sumptuous (my word for the very best yummy food)!

Tortilla Soup

1 red pepper, sliced thinly
1 clove minced garlic
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small can green chiles
2 cups turkey broth
4 cups chicken broth (or use all turkey broth or all chicken broth)
2 cups cooked chopped turkey (or chicken) meat
1 teaspoon cumin
1 (6 oz.) olives, cut in half
2 cans kernel corn
2 cups whole tomatoes with juice, blended until smooth
Salt to taste

Put in serving bowls on table:

10 corn tortillas, cut into strips 1/4" x 3"
1/2 to 1 cup jack cheese, grated
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Using a soup pot, saute onion, red pepper, and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add green chiles, cumin, broth, corn and tomatoes. Add turkey meat. Simmer until flavors blended from 5 to 20 minutes.

To serve, place a handful of tortilla strips into a soup bowl, sprinkling generously with shredded cheese. Ladle hot soup on top. Dot with sour cream and chopped cilantro. Serves 6.

Really satisfying and delicious!

(From Hopkins Healthy Home Cooking)

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Striving for Balance

Ammon, Emily and Louisa balance at the top of the mountain

I've always found it amazing how we humans can adapt. Human beings are found living in every climate around the globe, from deserts tents to igloos. We are great at adjusting to whatever conditions we find ourselves in. Which is both a blessing and a cursing.

The blessing is that we can adjust to things that are difficult—losing sleep every night while caring for a newborn, surviving death of a loved one, eating beans and oatmeal when times are tough financially. . . The cursing is that we get out of balance so dang fast! It seems I can lose my bearings balance-wise is a matter of a few days of holiday partying or working too hard.

God knows our natures perfectly, and I am really glad that He divided time into nice units for us! There is a week that ends in a day of rest. If we will actually take that rest, and honor the Sabbath, it is so renewing and refreshing. There is day and night. I know I'd just keep going if I wasn't forced to acknowledge nighttime and go to sleep! And I admit I push up against that, resist it, staying up later than I should. I wonder why we humans yearn to prolong daytime, to get "more done". I like the scripture verse that says, "Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof" (Matthew 6:34). We deal with enough trouble in one day. You think we'd welcome sleep!

I think we all handle problems better in the morning sunlight than late at night, when it is dark. The repeated urging in the scriptures to "search, ponder and pray" is such a prescription for balance. Every night's sleep resets our viewpoint, and sorts out things for us. Each day we are asked to get the Lord's perspective in our minds again. To keep us in balance, no doubt. And to help us remember what is important, and what we are on earth for—how to live. Such a wise Father.

Balance! What a worthy goal!

Trying not to fall off the mountain (that's me!)

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