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Monday, December 15, 2014

A Christmas Miracle; the Power of Prayer

You might want to grab a kleenex for this one and enjoy the "happily ever after" ending. 

Her story began on August 26th, a few years back. Heather joined her brother, sister and parents in an adventure already in progress. So excited to join the fun, she raced through her baby years trying to catch up so she could play.  

Eager to join the conversation, her first sentence at 10 months was "pick up Edna;" giving herself an affectionate nickname that stuck. So life with Edna began. She was enthusiastic from the beginning; almost running before she could walk. Easter egg hunts, playing with her sister and brother, Christmas, trips to Disneyland brought her so much joy.  She didn't talk a lot, but was processing, analyzing and synthesizing her world. She was at her best watering the garden with her dad and loved nothing more than a good long cuddle. 

She was a fun and affectionate child, a bit intense and difficult at times, but very tuned in to others' thoughts and feelings. She had some of the symptoms of then-unknown Asperger's Syndrome. 
Life became challenging when her parents divorced after recently having moved to a new town; the family didn't know many people. She tried to fit in and made friends, but divorce makes  circumstances difficult, especially for children. Mom remarried, and found that blending a family can be a complex and messy business; little Edna didn't thrive in the chaos. 

Still cute and positive she pushed on, swam, danced and finished high school then went to live with her beloved dad. She had great adventures, traveled, won an award for being a top bank teller, worked for ESPN, dated and ended up with Mr. Wrong time and time again. 

Eventually she became weary of the process and times were tough. She worked hard as a single mom to provide for her little Elyzza and finally decided that she was destined to be alone; a reality that was almost too hard to bear. She was emotionally and physically frazzled. And that is where the power of prayer took over and God's great love for Heather was manifest. 
Heather had gone to the temple to make covenants with the Lord that had eternal significance. She had received a blessing telling her that her children were excited that she would be their mother - but with no qualified candidate for a husband; there didn't seem to be any way for that blessing to be fulfilled. She spent a lot of time praying, serving others and hoping that through some miracle, God would lead her to a wonderful man.  

She waited and dated and when she had about given up, one of her friends told her about man who had recently lost his wife to cancer; he had two young children. Heather, with her good heart, asked them to let him know that if he wanted someone to do things with she would be happy to surf or climb rocks or snowboard with no expectations. 

Eventually he did want the company of another adult and the two single parents found they enjoyed each other's company and that they shared so many interests. Their friendship blossomed into love and they decided they wanted to share their lives. Now blending families is a messy and complex business, but with with the power of love and prayer, they have bright hopes for the future and a life of happily ever after. 

On 12.13.14 Paul and Heather were married in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints San Diego Temple. 

This year, a wonderful man and a beautiful woman and three little children got a family for Christmas. And like other satisfying stories they all will live happily ever after like her brother and sister and their families. 

Here are some of our favorite blessings: 

Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Angels and Traditions

In case you missed the chat about 
Christmas angels and traditions 
on BYU SiriusXM Radio 143 here's a link: 

And as always thank you Kim, it was a pleasure! 

Here are coloring pages you can print  
for your little angels: 

Have your child fill in their address on the envelope and write a note or draw a picture for Santa

Invite your child to design a book cover featuring their favorite Christmas story. 

Read more about

The science behind generosity:

Why singing makes us happy:

The green factor of real vs. fake Christmas trees:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Getting art ready for Christmas

I'm finishing the last projects for my B.F.A. degree at the University of Utah, These sketches ore studies for a nativity painting. Do you have a preference? Pleases post it here on Facebook:

Here's another sketch: 

Still working on it, I want Mary to look a little bedraggled but still radiant - like a new mom; and perhaps more satisfied as she has just completed a difficult assignment. 

I'll let you know how it turns out...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!


After months at sea in a small ship, a group of weary travelers, upon reaching the shores of North America, fell to their knees to give thanks. The Pilgrims at Cape Cod or Plymouth Rock in 1620?  No, Englishmen at the Berkeley Plantation, Virginia on December 4, 1619. Their orders included "the giving of thanks upon arrival and on the anniversary every year from henceforth."

One of my ancestor, William Tracy, a governor of the Berkeley Colony, was so convinced of the potential of the early ventures into the colonies, that he invested heavily in them. Unfortunately, he died before he witnessed the amazing rise of "America."  And though some of the celebrants of the first "Thanksgiving" in Virginia were killed by natives in the Indian Massacre of 1622, the Pilgrims in Massachusetts also carried on the tradition of giving thanks. 

Four of my ancestors arrived on the Mayflower: Edward Winslow, Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins and Humility Cooper. Times were hard and so many pilgrims died that first winter that they buried the dead at night so the Native Americans wouldn't know how few of them were left. Only 53 survived that first brutal year. The struggles of the Puritans, the conflicts with and help given by the Native Americans, and the culmination of efforts led to the brotherhood of that shared feast in the autumn of 1621.

Many historians agree that the first American Thanksgiving was inspired by ancient Israel's Feast of the Tabernacles, the celebration and gratitude for the harvest. Gratitude is a divine principle and is defined as: A feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received; warm appreciative response to kindness.

The power of gratitude can be life-changing. Studies on the health benefits of gratitude have shown an increase in energy in participants, improved sleep and other positive outcomes according to Robert Emmons of the University of California Davis, Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami and Alexander Wood of the University of Manchester.

Hospitality binds individuals, families and communities in cheering and loving ways. Each of us has the potential to increase the positive energy in our community, world and the universe. As you gather your loved ones and give thanks for the good things in your lives, here are a few ideas to enhance your celebrations.

Blessings Centerpiece
Place branches with autumn leaves in mercury jars or vases surrounded by votive candles, acorn and pumpkins. Have guests write on paper tags things they are thankful for; tie onto branches. Or write on collected leaves with a thin permanent marker and scatter on the table. 

Autumn Quilt
Cut 56 thirteen inch squares of autumn-color fabrics and sew together in eight rows of seven for a generous queen-size quilt. Add a thin batting, muslin for the backing, and add a simple border. Collect several varieties of leaves; trace on brown paper to make templates; lay the leaves on the quilt and outline in chalk. Stitch with embroidery floss in a contrasting color using a simple running stitch. Quilt around each block. This quilt can be used for a tablecloth or displayed from September through November.

A Coordinated Kitchen
As you plan your holiday menu, make a list of the foods and serving dishes. Plan your cooking and baking days and which foods may be made ahead and frozen or chilled.

Family Bingo
Create a family bingo game with copies of photos of family members. This is a good way for the children to learn about their ancestors. You may use vintage scrapbook paper and cardstock. This game uses candy corn for markers. Have the family pitch in by bringing plenty of small gifts and toys for prizes.

Thanksgiving on Wednesday
Although President Abraham Lincoln officially made Thanksgiving Day the fourth Thursday in November, personal schedules might suggest celebrating on a different day. Having Thanksgiving dinner the evening before gives you the day to take children to the mountains, beach  or local historic sites the next day. Yummy leftovers make a great picnic.
Thanksgiving on the Beach 
One year my clever mother and her friends packed up the feast, kids and grandparents and treated us to an authentic out-of-doors Thanksgiving on the beach at La Jolla in southern California. Yes it was cold and gray; but not as cold as the pilgrims experienced. It was an unforgettable holiday. With a little research you can find recipes and methods for a movable feast.

Gingerbread Houses
Make or buy gingerbread houses and assemble a few days before Thanksgiving. Have at least one per family to take home. After the dishes are done, let the decorating begin! Be sure to have lots of frosting and candy (buy on sale after Halloween) to decorate with.

Service Opportunities
One way to show gratitude is to share. During this time of year opportunities abound for helping the less fortunate. From serving dinner at homeless shelters, hospitals or retirement centers to gathering food for food banks and community kitchens; taking a pie to the fire department or police station or sending a treat box to military personnel and missionaries and other overseas volunteers. Look around your neighborhood to find people who would enjoy sharing a dinner with your family.

May you and your loved ones rejoice in the wondrous gifts you enjoy and thank the One who so generously bestows the blessings. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christmas Angels and Symbols

You are invited to join Kim Power Stilson and me for a chat about Christmas angels and symbols on 
BYU SiriusXM Radio 143 - 
Wednesday, December 3rd at 3 p.m. Eastern. 

I'm recruiting followers for this blog, please sign up below for recipes, interesting historical tidbits and holiday activities. I'll be posting downloadable coloring pages for the holidays soon. 

Just scroll all the way down to the bottom and look for a blue box that says join this site, then follow the easy instructions, thanks! 

Here are images from my latest work-in-progress
 A Christmas Handbook

There's no place like home 
(for the holidays ).

Baby It's Cold Outside

Here we are, I'm in the last four weeks of my 
Bachelor of Fine Arts degree program at the University of Utah. 
 I'm writing, testing, documenting 
and almost ready to graduate. 

Christmas is right around the corner and here's a classic holiday recipe to keep you warm, its also nice if you have carolers, sports or outdoor occasions. 

Mulled Cider

 2 qts apple cider                
1 sliced orange        
1 1/2 TBSP brown sugar
1 tsp whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks (broken in half)
1/2 tsp whole allspice

Stud the rind of the orange slices with whole cloves. Warm all ingredients in saucepan over medium heat. Strain to remove whole spices, serve hot.
Makes 8 – 10 servings

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

OOOOooooh Spicy Cheese Fondue, Brownie Cheesescake Trifle and Pumpkin Pie Cake for Halloween!

Thank you to Leslie Mann for allowing me to contribute to her  article in the Chicago Tribune and affiliates:
Strategies to attract or deter trick-or-treaters

Thanks for featuring 
Show your creativity with Halloween costumes made at home

In case you missed our chat about Halloween fun on the Kim Power Stilson show on October 29th on BYU SiriusXM Radio 143  here's the link:

For your Halloween dining pleasure, here are three delectable treats guaranteed to delight you and your guests. My recipes were featured in the food section of the Salt Lake City Deseret News.


The head chef at Pebble Beach Gold Resort in Monterey, California served this to me as an appetizer - it is delicious! The fondue is so rich you can serve it for dinner with the crudites and croutons. 

Preheat oven to 350°. Cut off top of 
1 24 oz. round loaf of unsliced sourdough bread  (CostCo bakery)
Reserve top. Hollow out the inside of the loaf with a small knife, leaving a 3/4" shell. 

Combine with a mixer
3 C sharp cheddar cheese, grated (12 oz.)
12 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened
1 C sour cream
1 C green onions, chopped
2 (7 oz.) cans green chiles, diced
1/2 tsp. salt
Spoon the fondue into the bread, replace the lid. Wrap tightly with several layers of heavy-duty foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 1 hour, or until cheese is melted. During the last half hour of cooking; toast bread cubes. Remove bread from foil and place on a bed of purple kale on a serving tray. Encircle with vegetables and toasted croutons.

Prepare the crudites the day before, wash and cut into large bite-sized chunks and place in ziplock bags. 
Broccoli, red, yellow and green pepper strips, zucchini, celery, cauliflower, green  cauliflower

Place in 2 baking pans
16 - 20 oz. sourdough bread baguettes, cut into 1/2 " slices (I buy 2 - 10 oz. bags of La Brea sliced sourdough baguettes at Smith's grocery store and the bread removed from bread bowl cut into 1 1/2" cubes
stir together
1/2 C butter, melted
1/4 C vegetable oil
Place in oven during the last half hour the fondue bakes. Remove when crisp but not hard.


This is a rich variation of the classic English dessert. It is pretty (scary) layered in a glass bowl and served with a new trowel or placed in a cauldron. Layer ganache (or substitute instant chocolate pudding made with 1½ cups milk), crumbled brownies, cheesecake filling, gummy worms, chopped nuts (optional) and crushed chocolate sandwich cookies. Top with meringue mushrooms and garnish with mint leaves or for a more festive look, candy rocks, gummy worms and spiders.

16 ounces good chocolate, chopped
1½ cup whipping cream
Melt chocolate over low heat. Add cream and stir well. Chill for 45 minutes, whip and set aside.

Bake according to package directions a 9-by-13-inch pan of brownies. Set aside to cool, then crumble.

8 ounces whipping cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 8 ounce Neufchatel (light) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
Whip together whipping cream, ¼ cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Fold in cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla.
Place in bowl and chill until time to use.

Crush about 30 chocolate sandwich cookies and set aside. Chop and set aside 1 cup peanuts, walnuts or pecans (optional).
In the serving container, layer one third of the ganache, half of the brownies, half of the cream cheese filling and nuts. Tuck in a few gummy worms.
Repeat layers, top with ganache, crushed cookies and a few more gummy worms. Decorate with meringue mushrooms, candy rocks, mint leaves or parsley, gummy worms and spiders, if you dare!

2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
sprinkle of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy.
Add cream of tartar, salt and vanilla and continuing beating. While the mixer is running, stir in ½ cup sugar one tablespoon at a time.
Continue to beat until the mixture is smooth, stiff and glossy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Place meringue mixture in a plastic zip seal bag, squeeze out excess air and seal. Cut off one corner to make a ½-inch opening.
When making meringue shapes, allow an inch or two around each piece for expansion while baking. Place the tip of the bag on the parchment and squeeze out six 1-inch to 2-inch stems (should be standing up). Enlarge the opening to ¾-inch and squeeze out caps in varying sizes.
Moisten your finger with water and smooth the points on top of the mushrooms to get a rounded top on the cap and flat top on the stems. Lightly sprinkle the caps with cocoa powder.
Bake in the center of the oven at 200 degrees for 1 hour to 1½ hours or until dry and dark cream in color.
Melt the chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds, stir and heat another 30 seconds. Repeat until melted.
Dip the tops of the stems into melted chocolate, place on upturned caps. When chocolate sets, store mushrooms in airtight container or place on trifle. Stored in an airtight container, the mushrooms will keep for several weeks.

Many like this rich dessert better than pumpkin pie!

1 box yellow cake mix, with one cup reserved
1 egg
½ cup butter, melted

4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 29-ounce can pumpkin
1½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 12-ounce cans evaporated milk

½ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. From a box of yellow cake mix, remove one cup of dry mix and set aside for topping. Combine remaining cake mix with egg and melted butter.
Pat into the bottom of a 9-by-13 baking pan. Mix together eggs, pumpkin, sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and evaporated milk.
Pour over crust. Set aside.
Mix together reserved cup of cake mix, ½ cup sugar, 1½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ cup softened butter and the pecans until the texture of corn meal and sprinkle over pumpkin filling.
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes or until pumpkin is set. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


Fit a silver punchbowl or cauldron with a clear plastic bowl liner (check discount or party stores). Place several activated glow sticks in the punchbowl and set the liner on top. Fill the liner with half  white grape juice and half ginger ale, adding a few drops of green food coloring if you wish. Wearing gloves, float chunks of dry ice for a bubbling, steaming effect.

These delicious dishes should land you a prime spot in the Halloween hostess hall-of-fame. Happy Halloween!

 Download your 
A Harvest and Halloween Handbook 
for more amazing autumn recipes, party plans and lots of fun!