by Melanie

February Visiting Teaching Notes

January 26, 2014 in Family Room by Melanie

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I love the visiting teaching messages this year. I wasn’t a huge fan of all of those lessons about visiting teaching. Did anyone else feel a little awkward telling someone exactly how you were failing to live up to the ideal VT standard, or was it just me?

But lessons about the divine mission of Jesus Christ? Yes, please.

I always like to bring something with me to give to the sisters I visit. Generally a note with a yummy treat – because who doesn’t love a great VT treat???

February’s message is all about Jesus Christ’s roll as the Good Shepherd.I am so grateful to know that Jesus Christ knows and loves ME as an individual. That when I wander and stray from His path, I am worth leaving the 99 to save. Because of His atonement, I will never be so lost that I cannot be found and make my way back to Him. He laid down his life for me, and now it is my responsibility to live my life for Him. My hands are His hands on the earth, and my responsibility is to lift and serve His children.

You can find the whole message HERE. Then feel free to download these little handouts to take with you when you visit.


Sheep:    full-size (4×6)     half-size (2 on one 4×6 card)


Lost:     full-size (4×6)     half-size (2 on one 4×6 card)


Hands:     full-size (4×6)     half-size (2 on one 4×6 card)

These preview images are optimized for online viewing. Clicking on the links will take you to a higher resolution image that will look a lot better when you print it. Right click and save the higher-resolution image, then you can print it at home or send it to your favorite photo printer to print your cards for you.

You can also find image links on my Printables page.





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by Melanie

How to Set Resolutions You Can Keep – It’s Not Too Late!

January 23, 2014 in Coffee Table by Melanie

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I’m a planner. I love to make lists and set goals. I do it all year long, and I look forward to making my resolutions every January. One year I set 83 New Year’s Resolutions. And do you know what is even crazier? I was successful!

Not perfect. But successful.

It’s still January, so it’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon and set some resolutions. Which is a good thing, because I haven’t actually set any yet…

So to help us all catch up before January is over, I want to share my 3 most important tips for success with your New Year’s Resolutions.

monkey ears1. Don’t listen to the “experts.”

Let me set the record straight once and for all: I am not an expert. You might call me a fanatic, but I just love to make goals. So what’s my secret to success? I do what works for me!

Earlier this month I read an article by an *expert* on successful resolutions, and I disagreed with the entire article. So am I going to change my ways because the experts say I should? No way! I have never believed in the idea that there is one right way to do things. I firmly believe there are a million right ways to do something, and it is up to YOU to find your own way.

So if I don’t think you should change what you do because of what an expert says, what is so different about me shelling out all of this advice? I want to show you my way to do it because every time you gather a new idea, it brings you one step closer to finding your own right way.

Find your own right way – no matter what the experts say – and do it.

switch2. There is no magic switch.

I want to share a little secret with you that took me years to learn. When the ball drops on New Years’ Eve, it doesn’t flip a magic switch that makes us suddenly perfect at things we have never been able to do before.

We start out the year totally jazzed and set resolutions that look something like this: “This year I am going to run 10 miles every morning.” or “This year I will take an amazing-award-winning-photo every single day without fail.”

We do great for a few days, but then January 5th rolls around and we just can’t drag ourselves out of bed for that morning run. Or we realize as we’re drifting off to sleep that night that we’re not even sure where the camera is.

Seriously, there is no magic switch.

Instead of expecting perfection to magically happen because the last number on the calendar changed, make your resolution a goal of where you will be by the *end* of the year. Let yourself work up to perfection instead of abandoning the whole idea when you expect too much too soon and end up falling short.

success3. Redefine success.

In that same “expert” article this month, I read that in order to set yourself up for success, you MUST set a specific, measurable goal. So “improve my health” would be a poor goal, while “work out 3 times a week for 45 minutes each session” would be a fabulous goal.

Pure crap.


I know exactly which one of these goals sets me for complete failure.

Here is the key to my success: Set yourself up to succeed. I make up what my own success looks like! In other words, I set my resolutions in a way that is practically impossible to fail.

Of those two example resolutions, I would go with “improve my health.” ANY improvement in my health makes me successful! Whether I improve my diet, lose a dress size, start sleeping better, exercise more, or just feel better, I win!

calvin resolutions

The reason I make resolutions each year is to improve myself. Slowly I’m becoming a better person. Some years it seems a lot slower than others, but any little bit gets me toward my ultimate goal of awesomeness.

Are you ready to make some resolutions you can keep? Here are a few of mine this year:

♦ read to my kids more
♦ get ahead of deadlines so I don’t feel like I’m doing everything at the last minute
♦ listen to the *little things* now so they’ll want to tell me the *big things* later
♦ have more dancing days and sing loudly and often
♦ get up and move! exercise doesn’t have to be torture, right?

I’m pretty sure these break every rule the experts advise, but I am going to keep doing things my own way. If you are setting resolutions this year (and it’s not too late), do you know what *your own way* looks like yet?

Have you ever been successful with your resolutions? If you have, what is your secret???


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by Melanie

Chicken Vegetable Soup

January 20, 2014 in Kitchen by Melanie

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Happy National Soup Month!

I didn’t used to love soup. I think it had something to do with growing up in Arizona. When it’s summer 9 months out of the year, there’s just not a lot of soup weather.

Besides… Something that is served as an appetizer isn’t my idea of a filling meal. I mean, am I right or am I right?

But then I moved to Utah where it’s winter 9 months out of the year. Well, some of those months are technically spring and fall, but Mother Nature tends to show her bipolar side in Utah and those seasons end up looking a lot like winter, too.

Anyway… my point? It’s cold.

Most of the time.

And cold weather is perfect soup weather, so I have learned to love soups.

January is National Soup Month, and I have been pulling out our favorite soup recipes and trying some new ones. I have also been a bit under the weather since the day after Christmas.

Yep, it has been more than 3 weeks. Blah.

So naturally I pulled out this homemade chicken noodle soup. I LOVE it. It’s full of tasty veggies and delicious broth. I like to use a rotisserie chicken for the extra flavor (and ease), and I tend to put in *heaping* cups of veggies.

It will warm you up all the way down to your toes.


Vegetable Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 1 c chopped onions
  • 1 c chopped carrots
  • 1 c chopped celery
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 6 c reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 c cubed peeled potatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 c cubed cooked chicken
  • 2 c uncooked yolk-free wide noodles
  • 1 c fat-free evaporated milk

Start with a big pot. Saute the onion, carrots, celery and garlic in oil for about 5 minutes or until they get tender. Stir in the flour, oregano, thyme, and poultry seasoning until blended, then saute for another minute. Add the potatoes and salt, then gradually add the broth and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in the chicken and noodles. Simmer for another 10 minutes or until noodles are tender. Reduce heat. Stir in the milk and heat through (do not boil). Makes about 2 quarts of delicious soup.


Are you a soup person? What is your favorite soup to eat on a cold day?

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by Melanie

40 Things About Me

January 18, 2014 in Junk Drawer by Melanie

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I thought it would be kind of fun for the first EVER installment of 40 Things to be 40 things you may not know about me. Just a little chance to get to know me better. So here it is:


About Yours Truly

  1. MeI grew up in a family with 3 girls and 3 boys – just like the Brady Bunch! except we weren’t a blended family…
  2. I’m the oldest girl, and therefore considered myself practically the oldest kid in the family (although I did love having an older brother)
  3. My oldest daughter is closer in age to my youngest brother than I am
  4. I used to tell people my older brother and I were twins like Luke and Leia because I wished it was true
  5. I asked my mom to do my hair like Princess Leia when I was in first grade… because I was super cool
  6. I own every Star Wars movie… because I am still super cool
  7. I’m kind of claustrophobic. If I have anything over my face – including a blanket or even my husband’s shoulder when he hugs me – I think I’m going to suffocate and die
  8. I’m a little bit scared of sleeping bags
  9. Because they could kill me
  10. I hate sleeping. There is so much I would rather do with that time. I have to force myself to go to bed every night
  11. Plus, the blankets are dangerous and I could die…
  12. I’m a thrill ride junkie and dream of riding every awesome roller coaster in my lifetime
  13. So far, The Hulk at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure is the best roller coaster I’ve ever ridden
  14. Even though it doesn’t have a lot of thrill rides, Disneyland is my favorite theme park
  15. I have been to Disneyland more times than I can count
  16. When I was 13, I sang my way around Disney MGM Studios so someone would “discover” me and want me to star in a Disney movie
  17. It didn’t work
  18. We’re only in our 30s, but my husband and I already have our retirement plan all figured out
  19. We’re going to retire to Disneyland – he’ll be a security guard like the guy who asks all the costumed kids for their autographs, and I’ll work in the baby center with the nursing moms
  20. I’m the same age as Katie Holmes, but I never once dreamed of marrying Tom Cruise. I DID, however, have a major crush on Pacey Witter
  21. I can sing any jingle or TV theme song from my childhood
  22. I am a Netflix junkie and tend to have my latest show on in the background whenever I’m on my laptop
  23. I’m on my laptop A. LOT.
  24. I love making lists and planning things.
  25. I have been known to spend a day doing nothing on my to-do list and then adding what I actually did to the list so I can cross something off
  26. I was the bass player in a jazz band
  27. I *hate* doing hair. When I was younger and girls were having hair parties, I would always offer my hair to be played with so I didn’t have to play with anyone else’s
  28. I have 5 long-haired daughters (see above)
  29. Sometimes I tell my kids to clean their rooms just so I can have some peace and quiet. I know they’ll be entertained for hours with the stuff they just discovered under the mess
  30. I don’t pre-wash my dishes before I put them in the dishwasher
  31. I’m great at keeping our laundry clean – and that’s where my greatness ends
  32. Right now there’s a pile of clean laundry on my couch that needs to be folded
  33. I’m on my laptop instead of folding them
  34. I love old movies, especially musicals
  35. I like going to sporting events but HATE watching sports on TV
  36. I really don’t watch TV very much
  37. Except Netflix, but I don’t really count that ‘cuz it’s on my laptop, not a TV…duh
  38. My favorite food is steak
  39. My favorite restaurant is Texas Roadhouse
  40. I drive a minivan and I’m okay with that

Tell me something about you!

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by Melanie

Pinspiration: Chicken Taco Pasta Salad

January 17, 2014 in Kitchen by Melanie

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pinterest_sceneWhen I first discovered Pinterest, I would spent hours and hours pinning delicious-looking food, fun-looking activities, and cute-looking crafts. Pinning and pinning for hours and hours.

Do you know what happens when you spent hours and hours pinning things on Pinterest? You run out of time to actually DO any of the things you pinned!

When I realized I was so busy pinning fun activities I could do with my kids instead of actually doing them, I walked away and didn’t even look at it for months.

Yes, I tend to be a bit extreme…

After shaking the addiction, I went back and rediscovered all of these fabulous ideas I wanted to try. Only this time, I had time to try them!

Balance is a beautiful thing. If only I could remember that all the time…

Now Pinterest has become an incredible tool for me, and I have found some of my favorite ideas there – and some of my very favorite recipes. yum

During soccer season, we tend to live on one soccer field or another. With three soccer players, we usually have games 4 nights a week, almost always at dinner time, for several months. My kids (and Mr. 4018) tend to get awfully cranky when they get hungry, and honestly, they’re not big fans of *watching* soccer games. They love to play, but they would rather not sit around and watch someone else play.

Mostly out of desperation and an attempt to save my sanity and avoid the whining that would inevitably fill every soccer game night, I went in search of great game night meals I could serve on the sidelines. You can only have pizza and burgers so many times, afterall.

I went to my Pinterest boards (you should follow me if you’re not already!) and found this Fiesta Ranch Chicken Pasta Salad from Butter with a Side of Bread. We love ranch, chicken, tacos, and pasta, so it sounded like a safe bet.

Oh. my. goodness.

I’m not very good at following a recipe exactly, so I did change it up a bit. Now this is one of our favorite go-to meals – even when we’re not at soccer games – and EVERYONE loves it.


Chicken Taco Pasta Salad

  • 1 pkg of pasta (rotini, bowtie, tri-colored, etc)
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, boned and cut down to bite-sized pieces (or you can use cooked chicken breasts or any other chicken meat you love)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 c frozen corn
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 avocadoes, diced
  • 2 cups grated Mexican cheese blend (or cheddar)

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Add all of the other ingredients and then mix up the dressing. I add the corn frozen and the pasta hot, so the pasta thaws the corn when I mix it up.


  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix
  • 1 c mayonnaise
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1 package Hidden Valley Fiesta Ranch dip mix (Walmart has it when no one else does)

Mix dressing well and toss with salad. The taco seasoning was listed with the salad ingredients in the original recipe, but I always mix it in with the dressing. You can use original ranch and add some salsa in place of the rest of the dressing, just be sure to add the taco seasoning.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Add Frito corn chips to individual servings. This salad is great the next day, too, and everyone asks for it for lunch, but it doesn’t last another day after that. The photo above is pre dressing, and the photo below is after the dressing has been added. Honestly, it’s fab either way.


What have you pinned and tried lately???

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