there's no place like [a] home.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to go to a religious women's conference for the women in my city. There were four speakers and some beautiful musical performances that helped me to truly feel the Spirit. That, combined with my pregnancy hormones, left me a complete mess of tears by the end of the two hours.

I had one of my little notebooks with me, and I jotted down some of the things that left an impression on me. It was a very humbling experience for me, and I think sitting alone allowed me to feel like certain words were directed right at my heart.

One of the speakers shared a very poignant message about families. She spoke of the role that women play in the family dynamic, and what a very important role that is! And then she said something that made my breath catch and my heart twinge with guilt. She said something to the effect of this, "If you cannot be Christ-like towards your own family members, then the compassion you show towards others loses its value."

Whoa.

She wasn't discrediting any service or kind deed that we do, but she made a powerful point. If we cannot show love and compassion toward those with whom we are eternally tied, then how can we claim to be charitable?

Being nice to family members is probably the hardest thing we're asked to do sometimes. I know my siblings know exactly what my buttons are and how to push them, even to this day. Even being married isn't easy; sometimes I just get frustrated with TJ, and he with me. Being part of a family is hard. It's really easy to get short-tempered with family members. I feel like it's also really easy for me to judge my family members. I feel like I know them pretty well, and therefore I must know what is best for them.

And that is the trap.

I don't know exactly what my family members go through. I can't. I'm not in their exact situation, filled with their exact feelings, or seeing their perception. I do not know why they may do the things they do. I can't. The only thing I can do for my family is to love them. I can show them that love by being kind to them. Listening to them. Treating them like Christ would. Treating them like they are more important than anything else in this whole wide world....because they are.

TJ and I are bringing a precious child into this world in just a few short months. That baby will come to us straight from Heaven, and will be purer and more innocent than any other creature in this world. I want that baby to have a home. A true safe-haven and refuge from the world. I want our home to be that place for each of our children to come. I want them to know that even though the world may judge them, may criticize them, and may try to make them be somebody they are not, that they can come home and be safe. Be themselves and be loved for who they are. I want my home to be a sanctuary.

I can make it that way now. I can make my home a sanctuary for my husband, and for me. There is so much in this world that is ugly and mean; why can't there be at least one place of beauty and kindness to come home to each day? 

On Saturday, after hearing those words and the words of others, I resolved to be kinder. I resolved to make my home a sanctuary. I resolved within my heart to do my best to treat others with kindness (my family, and those around me). How have I done so far? Not that great. But better. I'm getting there, no matter how slowly. And I know that to work towards this new state of mind and heart, I'm going to need a lot of help, a lot of prayer, and a lot of humility.

dressing all over please.

TJ and I love salads.
We could probably eat them daily and never get tired of them.
If there's one culinary skill I'm proud of, it's my salad-making abilities.

Well, over the winter, what with cold weather and all, our salad-eating days have been few.
Yesterday though, TJ requested my specialty: Mexican Salad.
(This time, I used only a red bell pepper, and no lime. TJ's mouth has been extra sensitive to citrus lately so I've been extra careful. I also had some leftover iceberg shreds that I threw in there just to add some more lettuce, since I saved half of my romaine for later this week.)

However, instead of the dressing recipe I used to make, I made a delicious vinaigrette. Can I just tell you how hard it is to find a southwest-ish vinaigrette that does not call for lime?? It's hard. Anyway, we love us some Chipotle, and always request their vinaigrette to go with our burrito bowl. So, I googled "Chipotle salad dressing recipe," and lo and behold I found something. I worked with what I had, and based it loosely off of this recipe.

Chipotle's Kylie's Honey Vinaigrette
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 T honey
1 T chili powder
1/2 t salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 T cilantro
1/2 C olive oil

Put all ingredients in a lidded jar, and shake 'er up!
(Or put it in a blender, as the original recipe suggests. But then you have a dirty blender. Plus, I'm currently missing a blender. Plus, I need to work out, so shaking is good.)

After reading through the original recipe again, it requires 2 tablespoons of salt! Granted, it makes way more than I made, but that is a ton of salt batman! They also said that Chipotle's original recipe has 1,525 mg of sodium per 2 oz. serving....and now I'm questioning my dressing addiction there. Guess I'll just have to make it myself from now on.

PS. I made a fairly large salad for two people. I thought I would have left-overs. I did not. Either we were ravenous, or it was that good. Or both.

favorite things.

1. Roasted asparagus and this pasta dish. This was our Valentine's day meal, hence the champagne glasses filled with orange crush. We both  loved the asparagus and I'm just hoping it goes on sale again soon.
2. Mini softcover notebooks from Target for $2. I wanted to have a place to record thoughts and such, and these are small enough to fit in my purse. And they're cute.

3. After living here for 3+ months, I finally decided what I wanted to do with the wall in our living room. I love it.

4. Finally feeling like I have a baby bump. 15 weeks exactly when this was taken.

4. My hair is basically long enough to put in a side braid again.

5. This guy. Man alive, he makes me so happy. Even though we don't have a lot of time together lately, he still makes me feel special. I can hardly wait for our mini-getaway in a couple of weeks. Just the two of us.

Linking here.

fail.

So, last night TJ and I got a little bit upset with one another before he left for work at 11:30. Anyway, I laid in my bed, finishing the last few chapters of A Walk to Remember that I'd somehow never finished, and I decided that I would make things better with him by making cookie dough so he could take cookies to his home teaching families today(*note: home teaching families -three families in our congregation that he visits monthly).

Problem: no eggs.

No biggie, Wal-Mart is just down the street from our apartment, so I went to get eggs. By the time I had decided this, it was already 12:45 am. (Mom, please don't worry. I'm a hormonal pregnant woman, nobody is going to mess with me.) Anyway, I shluffed off to Wally-World wearing my husband's oversized sweatpants, my husband's oversized t-shirt, my own hoodie plus a jacket, and my ratty slippers. Oh and no bra, hence the hoodie. And every piece of clothing was black, and all my makeup had rubbed off, making me look twelve. Plus, my eyes were bloodshot I'm sure. And my hair was falling out of its ponytail constraints.

Let's just say, I felt like the poster child for "People of Wal-Mart."

I got to the store, shuffled my way through the aisles, grabbed my eggs, checked out, and was home by 1 am. Now to start making the dough. I started gathering ingredients when I realized....we only had one stick of butter. I needed two and a half. At this point it was so ridiculous that I had to laugh, which quickly turned into a brief spat of sobbing (welcome to my world). I quickly googled butter substitutes and ended up using canola oil. I finally finished everything and went to bed by 1:45 am, a batch of really crumbly cookie dough in the fridge.

TJ and I kissed and made up this morning, and all is well. The cookies are baking, and, well.... at least they taste... okay.

At least, TJ's scouts will eat them.

Skylar's Homecoming.





[Pretty sure these ladies were saying something like, "What the heck are these crazy people crowding our airport for?" Actually, one gentleman from Canada asked, "Who is this guy?" when he saw everyone crowded around Skylar.]





[Skylar says to Sheldon, "Whoa, you got tall!"]


TJ's brother and best friend, Skylar, returned home from his mission in Cuernavaca, Mexico about a week ago. He served there for two years, and is now fluent in Spanish....so much so that he's forgotten the English words for things....like fork. Or plate. Or baby. He served among a people that were usually pretty surprised to hear a tall blonde guy speaking so well in their own native tongue. He's brought home a deep appreciation for the Mexican culture and language, a strong testimony of the gospel, and a whole new appreciation for American food and medical care.

Skylar is only 6 months younger than me, and we are really good at arguing with each other. Not seriously (usually), more like bantering. To his dismay, I've been practicing my witty comebacks while he was gone and as I've become part of the Pond family. 

TJ is thrilled to have his brother home, especially since his other best bud (my brother) will be leaving in April. You should see those three together. Oh man.

Welcome home Elder Pond!

the beat.

I've been wanting to do an update on my pregnancy for a while. I've had a draft saved, just waiting to be filled with fun facts for a few weeks. But for some reason (be it laziness or lack of inspiration, I'm not sure), I just haven't done it yet. Then I went to the doctor yesterday, and now I don't want to write just the facts and the symptoms. I want to write about our baby.

It's been difficult for me to grasp the concept that there is a being growing inside of me. I mean, I know I'm pregnant, but it is harder to realize that there's a baby in there. Even in that first ultrasound, all I could see was a little bean with a head and a blinking dot, it didn't truly hit me.

Then, yesterday, the doctor felt my belly with her cold hands, squirted on some cold goo, and took out what looked like a child's tape recorder with a microphone, just not as colorful (you know, the ones you played books-on-tape on? and made squeal with static when you put the microphone to the speaker?). She then proceeded to roll the "microphone" around until she picked up the squishy-sounding heartbeat (it's hard to describe the sound of a heart beating through lots of tissue and liquid). I looked up at TJ, who was standing nearby to see his face. Apparently mine lit up, and his did the same. We heard the first sound our baby would ever make.

"Is that the heartbeat?" I asked.
"Yep," the doctor replied, "and it sounds great."

Hearing that little beating heart gave me an indescribable feeling. It trumped the anxiety and worry of a first pregnancy. It made me so happy.

Guess what? There really is a baby in there.

[First bump picture: 13 weeks, 5 days. Mostly, I just look bloated.]

love always.

I could always count on a couple of things every Valentine's Day growing up: a stuffed animal in pink, red, and white hues, and some sort of treat, left at my place at the table for me to find when I woke up for breakfast. Mom always made sure to get something little to make me and my siblings feel special. I could also count on having one of the most creative and cutely decorated Valentines boxes in my class, because my mom was so creative and instilled that in me.

Honestly though, those aren't the things that I remember making me feel the most loved. Thinking back on my childhood, it was the little things that told me my mom loved me. The fact that she always always always got a kiss, a hug, and an "I love you" every time I left the house, especially when I started driving. It was when she stayed up late with me in junior high while I finished some crazy project for school. I knew she loved me when she packed my lunch all the way through my senior year, and when she always had my favorite cereal when I came home from college. I knew she loved me when she cried with me the night before I moved away from home, and when she ran to the store to get nail polish the night before my wedding. It was her constant care.

I could say the same for my dad as well. I knew he loved me when he took me aside regularly to talk with me. When he took me on our one-on-one daddy-daughter dates. I knew he loved me when he built me a shelf, or cut a toy out of wood for me. I knew he loved me when he let me play with his tools, or when he set up the tent in the family room just for kicks. I knew he loved me when he spent hours helping to set up my reception exactly how I wanted it, and then more time taking it down after his little girl had run off to be married. I even knew he loved me when he got after me for various things, because it showed he cared.

Now that I have a sweetheart to celebrate the Day of Love with, we keep things small. We'll probably celebrate a little more this weekend, and I have some modest plans for him tonight, but we don't go all out. I don't expect jewelry and flowers and chocolates. He doesn't expect much either. We've decided that we would rather show our love to each other daily, through small acts of kindness. We would rather get random treats that are a complete surprise on an ordinary day, to show our love to each other. My husband shows his love for me in countless ways; he shows it when he works for hours on homework so that he can earn a future for our family, when he does the dishes even though he has homework, or when he makes me breakfast or packs snacks because I'm (always) running late in the morning.

That (really lengthy) bit being said, I like the idea of Valentine's day as a way to recognize all the little things. I still like to make a special dinner for TJ, and to say little romantic things throughout the day. In fact, today was perfect. We had a late dinner because dinner is never on time when I want it to be (though it was worth the wait), and we watched The Office, the episode with Pam and Jim's engagement (perfect), and snuggled on the couch. Low key, just the two of us. I was wonderful.

I hope your day was filled with love, of all forms. But more importantly, I hope to fill each day with little bits of love, always.



making this space home.

I've been really slacking in the homemaking department, and my sweet husband has been the one to suffer. He's always been much better about trying to keep our home clean and organized, so it's time for me to step up my game.

I decided to create a series of posts to help keep me motivated. After almost three months into moving to our new place, I still don't have it fully decorated or organized. So, I'm going to be posting about projects and maybe some cleaning/organizing tips I learn along the way.

For starters, here some simple ways to maximize closet and drawers space.

"Huggable" or velvet hangers. These are super skinny, so they take up less closet space, but are more durable and attractive than wire hangers. I like how uniform and cohesive it makes our closet look. I bought a pack of 50 for $30 on Amazon, but I think I found them a little bit cheaper at Ross.


This is a free little organizing trick. Fold shirts to the depth of your drawer, and store them vertically. Not only does this take up less space, it allows me to see exactly what I have in my drawer....which is mostly t-shirts....which are mostly from high school.

I bought two of these shoe racks (one for each of us). I think they were about $3 each at Target. They're pretty cheap and not super sturdy. I've been pretty good about keeping my shoes on them, but they don't work as well for TJ's shoes, because his are bigger and bulkier. I may be in the market for a new style soon, but it works for now. In the right corner of this photo, you can see where we store socks and other miscellaneous items, because our dresser space is pretty limited. It's just a three-drawer plastic set that I got for about $15 at Target. 

Those are just some tips I picked up from various blogs, or came up with on my own. I've found I've had to get pretty creative with organization and decorating when living in apartments. Anybody else have some tips and trick out there?

ratkins.


I first made these delectable bites for TJ approximately 3 days before our wedding. I made them the night he re-joined me in Mesa after a difficult 4-day separation. I had to break out the secret weapons to ensure that he didn't get cold feet, right??

This recipe was taught to me by my Grandpa when I was about 13. Now I see it popping up all over the place on Pinterest, called "Jalepeno Bacon Cream Cheese Poppers." To me, they'll always be simply:

Ratkins

1 pkg. bacon
about 15 jalepenos 
(the larger they are, usually the less heat they have)
2 pkgs. cream cheese or neufchatel cheese

1. Wash jalepenos, and cut in half lengthwise. Leave the stems on (this makes a little handle and is part of what gives them their name...because they look like little rats).
2. Using a small spoon, scrape out seeds and membranes (unless you like things really spicy, then leave the membranes in.
3. Fill each half level  with cream cheese (I use neufchatel because it's a third of the fat of regular cream cheese. In this appetizer, you can't really taste the difference. Besides, the bacon brings plenty of fat for flavor).
4. Wrap each half with about 1/3 to 1/2 of a strip of bacon.
5. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in a 425-435* oven for about 40 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked to your liking.
6. Take out of oven and let cool for a couple minutes (bacon grease is hot!).
7. Die and go to heaven. Because they're that good.

*These are simple enough to make, but can be a bit time consuming. Oh, and please be really careful not to touch your eyes when you're handling the jalepenos. Trust me, I've learned the hard way....more than once. 

Ever since I made these for TJ's family for something or other, they're now my assignment for every big game that requires food. Hence why I made them on Sunday (sorry it's too late for you to make it for the big game). If you're looking for a way to impress your man (or anyone) for Valentine's day (or any day), this is a winner: finger food and bacon (can't go wrong). If you're still working on a new diet resolution/fitness goal thing, I'm very sorry.

lazy.





Being pregnant has made me super lazy. As in, lazier than I usually. These pictures are proof of my laziness. Why? Here they are in order.
1. My favorite cereal which provided a supplement to Friday night's dinner.
2. Tortilla pizza: Friday night's dinner. We could each easily down two of these, but I was too lazy to make more. Don't worry, we didn't starve. (see above)
3. One of three decorations I put up for Valentine's Day. (In my defense, it turned out to be a lot more work than I thought...which wasn't much.)
4. The second of my three decorations....which would be the same wreath that's been on our door since November. As in, our Christmas wreath. Hey, red and white works for the happy heart day too.

And basically, this post is sorta lazy. Because our life is so exciting right now. But that's OK, because sometimes it's really nice to have a lazy Friday night filled with blogging, video games, and netflixing funny stuff. Oh, and a quick Coldstone run, with a coupon thankyouverymuch.

on having fun in marriage.

This post was inspired by a harmless incident really, but one that made me think. TJ and I have a friend who recently got engaged. She announced it on Facebook, and so, I congratulated her by writing on her wall something like: "Congratulations! We are so happy for you. Being married is a lot of fun!"

Well, a woman who I do not know but is a friend of this girl commented on my innocent posting saying something to the effect of: "I wouldn't describe marriage as being fun. It's a hard work, it's rewarding, but fun is not an adjective I would use."

Um....ok?

Rather than get into a long story about how she basically told me calling marriage "fun" would be misleading and hinted that perhaps I'm too young to really know what marriage is about, I'll just tell you all what I told her: "I am old enough to have gone through some very difficult things in my marriage. But my husband and I work to make it joyful and to remember to have fun. I wouldn't want [anyone] to think marriage can't be fun and have endless joy! She'll [referring to my friend] hear all about the difficulties of marriage from marriage classes and from people [much] more experienced than myself. But saying marriage isn't fun would, to me, be misleading as well. Of course it is much more and much deeper, but those things come with experience. And to be honest, when you're engaged, you [really] don't remember much marriage advice you're given." 

So yes, marriage is many things. It's probably one of the most difficult things anyone can do.

But honestly, it's a lot of fun. Heck, even my 86 year old grandpa who's been married to my grandma for 60 years still knows how to have fun in his marriage.
Sometimes, it takes some effort to make it fun. Sometimes it's just spontaneously fun.

Some of the things TJ and I do to have fun in our marriage:

-He honks and I wave at random passers-by.
-Uncontrollable full-bellied laughter...over whoknowswhat.
-Watching a TV show together (The Office) while eating those addictingbutreallybadforyou frozen taquitos.
-Making up little games to play in the grocery store. (Some of our favorites include: guess the total at checkout and have a pretend fight in the parking lot to see how many strange looks we can get.)
-Go on dates together. (Sometimes we invite our friends. Like last weekend when we took two of my best friends and their husbands to one of our favorite little hole-in-the-wall restaurants: Aloha Hawaiian Barbeque. I was so nervous they would hate it [like the kind of nervous when you want someone to watch your favorite movie] but they loved it! Two words: macaroni salad.)
-Spontaneously go out to eat on a random night.
-Travel together. We love road trips!
-Try new things together. Like that one time we rode the ski lift last summer. I call them adventures.
-Doing things the other person likes. Like when I tried wakeboarding and failed the first few times, but when I finally got up, TJ was so proud and I had so much fun! Or when TJ finally fell in love with reading so now we can be cool and read in bed together? Yeah.
-Being really weird together. We may or may not have our own nonsense language...TJ made it up. At least we entertain ourselves. Being ourselves. (That's probably the best part about marriage....you've finally found someone you can completely be yourself around...good and bad....and they still love you.)

In TJ's words, "We just have fun." And we don't plan to ever stop.

What a fun day that was ;)



he's growing up.

My little brother, Sheldon, had a very special event happening, so we went down to the valley to be there with him. Sheldon received his call to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Since before his 19th birthday, he's been preparing to serve a full-time (2 year) mission by getting physicals, having his wisdom teeth removed, and filling out paperwork. His paperwork was submitted to the Church headquarters, where he was then issued a call by our prophet, Pres. Thomas S. Monson. We were so excited for him.

Of course, like whenever Mormons get together, there were some treats.

We all guessed where we thought he would go. I guessed North Dakota.

We called my dad's parents (in Utah) and his sister (in CA) on Skype so that they could be part of everything. Mom was very excited, as you can tell.

True to himself, Sheldon decided to open the envelope with a knife. Not sure that was such a good idea  with how much he was shaking. He actually did cut the corner of the letter off.

He was so excited that he started reading the wrong letter. Thankfully someone pointed it out to him.

He has been called to serve in the Oregon Eugene mission, and he will be teaching in the Spanish language! He is so excited to be learning a new language and to be serving somewhere so green and beautiful. Mom is glad he's not too far away from home. He reports to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) on April 25, 2012.

Sheldon also decided to go through the temple for the first time the next day. It was such a beautiful and spiritual experience, and I am so proud of my little brother. 

Look out, Oregon....my little brother is coming your way!