Hey, readers! I meant to write this post on Monday about some funny things that happened over the weekend, but Monday escaped me. And really the best thing I was going to list was Netflix asking me if I was still watching 30 Rock. And I was all, "Yes, Netflix, I really am watching this much Liz Lemon. Really." So now that it's the middle of the week, I'm here to give you a different list.

Lately I've been reading this book. I know it came out years ago, and it's ridiculous that I haven't read it yet. When I saw on Goodreads that almost all of my friends who'd read it gave it five stars, I immediately requested it from the library. I'm captivated.

Lately I've been in the market for a Bernina. For real. (For those of you new to this space, read this post.) My little Costco Singer isn't able to keep up with my projects, and it's time for an upgrade. This is basically my gift from Josh for the whole year. If all goes well, I should be up and running with a Bernina sewing machine by the weekend!

Lately I've been planning to make a million and one of this dress. It's a dream to whip up and is basically the cutest, most feminine summer dress, and I plan to make so many (especially once I have that nice sewing machine!).

Lately the weather has fast-forwarded to summer. I'd be okay with a bit more spring. We're getting some weather in the high 80s this week, and I can't say that I'm excited about it. On the plus side, the heat is giving me even more incentive to whip up some summer dresses.

Lately my allergies have been giving me hell. I've sneezed literally dozens of times today. My nose and throat and eyes are itchy, and I'm already taking two allergy pills a day. The tissue box is my BFF right now.

Lately I've been feeling a bit more like myself. And that's so good.


a mouth-watering week

Since returning from my Denver trip, I've tried to kick myself back into point-counting mode. (Weight Watchers points, that is. For more about my experience with Weight Watchers, read this post.) Some weeks have been better than others, and for me, Weight Watchers is more about being conscious of what I put into my body and how I treat it.

It's not an easy road, though. This week I have been craving dessert. Like, seriously. The moodiness of this month may have something to do with this (which probably also says something about how I handle mood swings). When I'm counting points, I have to consciously decide against foods that I love. Like cake. And brownies. And big, chewy chocolate chip cookies. So, on this Friday, I present you with some of the confections that have been haunting my food-mind all week. Please make them and enjoy them on my behalf.

the chocolate peanut-butter cake
You can find this delight here. It's honestly one of the most wonderful things I've ever had. I made it last year for Fathers' Day. It combines all the most wonderful flavors into one seriously amazing dessert. Please make it. 

Reese's no-bake peanut-butter bars
This is one of the easiest desserts ever. It's perfect for picnics, potlucks, or hoarding at home. These beauties are very pointy, like 15-WW-points a pop pointy. It's one of the first recipes I made from Our Best Bites, and I've been hooked on the site ever since. Once I'm in maintenance mode--or at least when I'm burned out on point-tracking--I will make this immediately.

{photo from Our Best Bites}

thick and chewy chocolate chip cookies
I stumbled on these when I was three months postpartum and dying for sleep. The recipe is from Baking Illustrated (the Test Kitchen, so, you know, my baking/cooking bible). These cookies are best when you use bittersweet chocolate chips. But really, everything is best with bittersweet chocolate chips.

frosted sugar cookie bars
I found these a couple of months ago and find them to be the perfect solution for sugar cookie cravings. (I love sugar cookies, but you have to make the dough and chill it and bake the cookies and frost them and clean up. There are just so many steps.) This bar cookie takes a total of a pound and a half of butter once you make the frosting, and they're amazing. Obviously. With a pound and a half of butter, how could they be bad? Seriously, if you make them for a crowd, you will have zero leftovers. (An aside, I half the almond extract in both the cookie and the frosting. Personal preference.)

{photo from Our Best Bites}

mint brownies
I haven't made these yet, but I've wanted to. Again, once I'm burned out on point-counting you can be sure that these will happen. And the recipe is once again from Our Best Bites, so you know it's delicious.

{again, from Our Best Bites}

I've also had a hankering for snacky desserts like Rice Krispie treats and McFlurrys. Goodness. I know I'll thank myself later for this discipline, so how about you make at least one of these this weekend and tell me how much you love it. I'll enjoy it all vicariously. Obviously.


a moody month

{Those petals are oh so wonderful when they're outside, but then they come inside when they weren't even invited. And then I sweep up wet petals five times a day. So.}

I'm going to be honest here: I'm ready for May. I can't pinpoint what it is, but April has just been moody this year. I had at least two weeks of post-vacation funk, and I haven't really felt like myself.

Sometimes I'm motivated and optimistic. And sometimes I'm irritable and irrational.

Sometimes I'm agreeable to spontaneous social things. And sometimes all I can manage is holing up in stretchy pants with Netflix.

Sometimes I rock the mom thing. And sometimes I'm toeing the line of implosion.

It's been such a weird month that I even took a pregnancy test on the miracle off chance that I'd actually be pregnant. But I'm not. So I can't even blame this moody month on baby hormones. It's just been weird. And emotional. I can pinpoint definite reasons for some of my funk and can't explain other parts. So, weird. Yes. Too funky for my taste.

This week I'm stripping down to bare bones and doing only what needs to be done. Everything else I'm throwing into reading, sewing, and maybe even some blogging. I'm embracing the clouds and the rain and turning inward to take care of my soul, whether that means trying out these cookies or changing back into stretchy pants or sewing all afternoon. Or all of those things. I'm ready to kick this moody month in the pants and say goodbye.


an Easter walk

This morning I pulled out the stroller and took the boy on a walk with me. (We did this last year too, so maybe now it's a thing?) We walked around our little neighborhood listening to the birds and feeling crisp, fresh air on our cheeks. We saw fuzzy dandelions coated in a thin layer of frost and tulips blooming with abandon. We walked mostly in silence. We walked and noticed the spring and thought about Easter.

Every Easter morn I feel a stirring in my heart. It's unsettling, yet familiar, a stirring that reminds me of my own humanity, weakness, and humility. It's a stirring that makes all my expressed gratitude insufficient, because the gift He gave me is so momentous, so all-encompassing, so intimate, that nothing I could ever say or do will ever be enough to express those raw feelings in my heart. Every Easter I wake up with tears close to the surface, because without Him, I'd have nothing. Because of Him, I have everything.

Because of Him, I have my family, and because of Him my family can be eternal.

Because of Him I can start over again and again and again.

Because of Him I can feel love.

Because of Him I have answers, and because of Him I have purpose.

Because of Him I can remake myself each day.

Everything good in my life--my husband, my son, my people, my friends, and even books and tulips--I have because of Him. He is everything good.

The sun rose this morning over my neighborhood, that same sun that rose that morning Mary found the tomb empty. The sun that melts the frost today is the same star that lit the days of our Savior. Every Easter my heart is tender and raw and full, because I know that He--Jesus Christ, the literal Risen Lord--is everything.


kicking off the weekend

Hey, everyone! If you've hopped over from Bonnie's blog, welcome, and if you're a regular, you know you can always just come on in. Today I'm over at The Life of Bon, and I hope you go check out her blog and spend some time over there. Over the past year Bonnie's blog has become one of my regular reads.

In the meantime, I just got back from the weekly church play group and have successfully put the boy down for a nap. I plan to spend nap time sewing and will wrap up the afternoon by baking stuffed pizza rolls for dinner with some of Josh's extended family. It should be a wonderful Easter weekend, and I am ready to get started!


Twitterature: 2014 reading update

Hey, guys! I'm trying a different approach to posting my reading reviews: Twitterature (inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy).I've been on a reading streak this year and am already past the halfway point for my annual goal. Without further ado, I present my book reviews in Tweet form, complete with hashtags. #obviously

Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
4 stars, Another reread during the holidays and just as enjoyable as the first time around. I wouldn't recommend this series to anyone under 15 years old. #girlonfire

Lexicon, Max Berry
3 stars, An interesting thriller and look at language. It kept me reading, though in the end, it's unmemorable. #meh

The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
3 stars, An intriguing enough idea, the author tackles a list of resolutions throughout the year. Her methodology provoked some ideas for improving my own life, though I found her tone to be too didactic at parts. #selfimprovement

Alice's Tulips, Sandra Dallas
4 stars, A reread done audiobook style. This is a story that made me want to keep listening and made doing the dishes far more entertaining. Listening to the letter format was a little weird at first, but I adjusted and thoroughly enjoyed this story. #easylistening

Inferno, Dan Brown
3 stars, Another audiobook. Brown's books make me roll my eyes while I keep reading/listening to another chapter. While the Langdon books are formulaic, something should be said for a story that makes me want to keep listening. #poplit

Women and the Priesthood, Sheri L. Dew
5 stars, A book for Mormon women. This book tackles the current women-priesthood issue with grace and directness. Dew draws on scripture to help the reader understand priesthood doctrine. I came away with a much greater understanding of how women fit and contribute to God's work. #requiredmormonreading

The Stand, Stephen King
5 stars, My first King novel didn't disappoint. I loved the complex characters and the epic nature of the book. I still think about it months after I finished. A beast of a book, the 1000 pages are compelling, dark, and inspiring. #apocolypse #athinker

Blackmoore, Julianne Donaldson
4 stars, Surprisingly enjoyable chick-lit. A romance that doesn't go the way you expect and keeps you entertained and engaged with the characters. #twothumbsup #beachread

The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
4 stars, Completely, thoroughly, unequivocally delightful. I loved every moment. One of the funniest, sweetest, most entertaining books I've read. #fastandfun

My Name Is Resolute, Nancy E. Turner
4 stars, Historical fiction that started out slow and grew more engaging for me the further I read. Not as good as my favorite Turner book but a good read all the same. #longandgood

The Persian Pickle Club, Sandra Dallas
4 stars, Another audio reread. Easy listening, likable characters, intriguing plot. I always enjoy books that have to do with sewing and textiles, and this book was especially delightful for that reason. #sewingnerd #mystery

Blackout, Connie Willis
3 stars, Another audiobook. I took a while to get into the story, and that may be because I listened to it. Dealing with time travel between 2060 and WWII, this book demands your attention or you lose track of the story. #timetravel

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
4 stars, A sweet and melancholy book about first loves. Reading about Eleanor and Park's romance sometimes made me uncomfortable only because I felt like I was intruding on something very personal. Reminds you of what it's like to be a teenager. #heartache #goreadit #YAlit

To read my full book reviews and updates, you can find my Goodreads page here.


hello, Monday

:: Hello, Monday.
:: Hello to an early morning and even some exercise.
:: Hello to oatmeal and Nutrigrain bars.

:: Hello to grocery shopping, and thankfully hello to one less agitating than last week's.
:: Hello to large Diet Dr. Peppers from McDonalds.
:: Hello to a little boy in striped pants and an Avs jacket who snacks on crackers in the shopping cart and keeps his toy car in his pocket because he just can't bear to leave it in the diaper bag.

:: Hello to blossoms and open windows.
:: Hello to library books and the Kindle app.
:: Hello to an orange bike that's eagerly waiting for full tires.

:: Hello to a fresh start this week.
:: Hello to priorities and knowing when to say no.
:: Hello to Easter baskets and eclairs.


a pro bono defense: why punctuation matters

If you've spent much time on this space, you'll know that I love punctuation. And I care about it. Like, I really care about commas, semicolons, and parallel structure. And if you really want to woo me, correctly use the subjunctive. 

Not everyone shares this love, though. In my college years, I had a friend who, though said jokingly, spent a long time making fun of the humanities. This friend was focusing on the sciences and made the point that if you're in the hospital, knowing Milton and Shakespeare won't save your life, science will. So I ask the question: why is punctuation--which is even more dorky than Shakespeare--important? Why does punctuation matter?

Why is language important? Isn't it just about communicating? And if you can get your point across, who cares if you write in run-on sentences? 

First off, using language properly gives you credibility. It shows that you're educated (and not necessarily degree-educated, because a degree doesn't always equate to education). Following usage and punctuation norms shows that you know how to learn and that you can apply that. It puts communication on a common plane that everyone involved can understand.

But punctuation is more important than that. Applying correct usage and punctuation to your communications shows that you think about what you're saying. It demonstrates commitment to your language, proves that you mean what you say.

When you read something that "follows the rules" you're reading something that a writer took time to write. This writer thought about what she was saying and took time to refine her words. Using correct usage and punctuation not only indicates linguistic sophistication, it says that you write with intention. You took the time to think about your words and to craft them. You proofread and fiddled and thought about every word you used. An essay written with intention is infinitely more compelling than one haphazardly thrown together. (Is anyone recalling hastily typed and regrettable Facebook statuses?)

If writing is something you want to do and something you want to be serious about, then I implore you to learn and use appropriate punctuation and grammar. Because it matters. Knowing and exercising rules about commas, semicolons, pronouns, capitalization, and plurals changes the way you think and write. It adds a new dimension to how you communicate and adds a tour de force to what you say. You don't have to love commas as much as I do, but please don't discount them as pointless minutiae. 

So, someday if you do end up in the back of an ambulance needing medical treatment, I'd hope that my doctor would be one who consciously differentiates between your and you're, because to me, that says worlds about how intentional and precise he is in his thoughts, even if he isn't well-versed in Chaucer.

*A quick note: Please don't hesitate to comment or write anything to me in fear of comma judgment. I always hate it when people say they're intimidated to text or write me because I'm an editor. My posts are full of typos and mistakes because I don't always have the time to thoroughly proofread. Even editors need editors and I care far more about who you are than about whether or not you capitalized our meet-up location in a text message. This post is a post to defend my craft, and my beef is with those who 1) don't think the rules are important and 2) write professionally and yet can't manage to use the the correct there/they're/their. Please don't think I'm a snob. I'm mostly not.


the word on the street

We had Sesame Street on this morning, and on every episode the Muppet Murray gives the Word on the Street. Today we learned about habitat. So, today on the blog, the word on the street is habitat.

I've spent all week spring-cleaning my habitat. I'm talking decluttering, wiping down, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, exhausting cleaning. Today I worked on the kitchen. And I'm beat. (Perhaps the Sesame Street viewing was part of a larger effort to distract the resident toddler from my cleaning out the fridge, the worst of all the chores.)

Spring cleaning is hard work, but I can't say that I hate it. Because here's the thing: I like my habitat. Love it, even. And I love taking care of that habitat.

I love all those small handmade gifts collected and cared for over the years.

I love my new mantle and the seasonal vignettes I get to put together.

I love the decorations I've made and the ones I've found at Target.

I love the vacuum lines on carpet, however fleeting.

I love throwing out the unnecessary so I can better enjoy what I have.

I love filling my home with meaningful and intentional stuff. Not pointless stuff, but me stuff.

I love those small things like the sparkly burlap placemats I found on clearance at Homegoods and that refrigerator magnet of my sister and me from ages ago.

I love my habitat even in its mess, because messes like this mean that my habitat is both lived in and cared for.

I especially love that I share my habitat with this little man, because seriously, he's the cutest kid I've ever known.

I also love sharing my habitat with Josh, even when it means that lone socks in the couch are ever-present in our habitat.

I love that my habitat is a reflection of my people and is a place where I feel close to my roots.

I am looking forward to next week when the spring cleaning will be finished, because that will mean that I can finally get back to my sewing machine. (Oh, sewing, how I've missed you!) For now, though, I'm okay with the work and the sweat. Because the thing is that having this habitat at all is a great blessing, and I'm not about to squander it.


grocery shopping rants

I used to hate grocery shopping. Like, really hate it. Surprisingly, once I had a baby, grocery shopping became easier for me because I planned for it (it takes so much work to get out of the house with a newborn that I couldn't stand to be haphazard about it!). Every now and then, though, I run into situations that remind me of how awful grocery shopping can really be.

Like, today, when I spent 15 minutes searching Costco for the Nutrigrain bars. Every single time I need to stock up on those silly cereal bars, they're in a different place in that huge store. And it drives me crazy! One time when I asked an employee for help finding them, she spent several minutes telling me about how unhealthy they were and how I should buy this different brand for my child. (I compared nutritional info, and she was wrong. And she never told me where to find those damn fruit bars.) Sometimes finding stuff in Costco is a goose chase, a food-samples-everywhere, why-don't-you-buy-a-Vitamix goose chase.

And then there are those moments you forget something key on your grocery list. Like apple juice. That happened today. Or those times you forget your wallet at home and don't realize it until the cashier has already rung everything up. This has happened to me more than once. It would be funny if it weren't so frustrating.

I find my solace in the stickers the firefighters give my boy and in the Diet Pepsi I grab in the checkout line. How do you feel about grocery shopping? I could go on about other chores, but let's just leave the laundry for now. Some days I just can't bear to talk about laundry. You understand.


the post-vacation week

I know everyone says it, but really, I need a few more vacation days after the vacation. We flew in Monday morning, and I haven't been ready to jump back into the thick of it yet. Post-vacation week is always full of rounds of the this-time-last-week game, which is thoroughly masochistic and, for me, inevitable.

This week I've tried to capitalize on motivation spurts so that I can do laundry, make dinner, and even exercise a little. I know. Post-vacation week is kind of weird sometimes. (Side note: I signed up for a Daily Burn trial, which any Hulu watcher will be familiar with. I almost enjoy the workouts. Almost.) I bought several more cuts of fabric on my trip (obviously) and have committed myself to some spring cleaning before I can dive into some spring sewing. My life is sometimes all about incentive.

Tomorrow and Sunday I'll be tuned in to the LDS General Conference, and I can't wait. For an entire weekend I get to listen to great speakers and feel rejuvenated and inspired in facing the daily grind. If you get a chance, you should listen for a bit. It's pretty great. You can find streaming options here. (We stream the conference onto our Roku so we can view all those older guys in high-def. It's the best.)

Before I sign off for the weekend, I'll leave you with a few tips for post-vacation week:

:: have a friend who will provide you with a 32-ounce soda when she picks you up from the airport
:: keep a few episodes of your current binge show to watch when you're feeling blue
:: when you feel a motivation burst, do the laundry
:: make frosted sugar cookie bars
:: text with your mom and sisters about this time last week and feel sad when you need to

I now give you permission to start an early weekend and eat pizza for dinner. Obviously.


finding my center

{Photo from Mom's Instagram @dpw_2012}

We returned from Denver the day before yesterday, and I'm always so reluctant to leave. I can never have enough time with my people. Every minute I'm there I try to soak up those feelings of togetherness and connection and unbridled love.

{from my Instagram @mscharjane}

My people help me find my center. You know, that place in your heart where everything in your life clicks because you've found the center. That's how my people make me feel: centered.

Sitting at the kitchen counter talking with my mom
Driving with my family crammed into the SUV
Snacking on leftover rolls after dinner
Staying up late talking with my dad on the couch

Driving along all those familiar streets
Listening to my sister practice her piano
Going out to dinner at our favorite Mexican place
Kneeling down together in prayer

{screen shot from Mom's IG #obviously}

Watching my son toddle down the hall to my parents' room
Feeling confident in my dad's ability to entertain an 18-month-old so I can go shopping
Sitting down at dinner with just us
Seeing my grandpa and my son meet for the first time
Cleaning up dishes and snacking on dark chocolate peanut butter cups

I wish I could find the right words to explain fully the deep emotions I have when I'm with my people. I feel accepted, understood, and known--and centered. I see my purpose more clearly, understand my place in this world. My relationships with my parents and siblings deepen and mature and become increasingly essential to my well being. My people remind me about why I'm here and what I'm here to do. When I'm with them I am so certain about who I am.

Your people may not be your family members. They may be friends or extended family or in-laws. Whoever they are, I hope you have them, your people. Mine mean everything to me.
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