Wednesday, February 6, 2013

true love

Ok. It's 3am here in Connecticut. I'm awake. Wide awake. Lot's on my mind with saying goodbye to three children I love, a move back to Salt Lake this weekend,  looking for a job, and my dad in the hospital.

It's February, soon to be Valentines. I've never really had a "romantic" Valentines Day to be honest, (aside from a couple long distance gifts/flowers sent in the mail). What I remember most about previous celebrations to this day of love is the covering of shoe box's with paper hearts, eating cinnamon lips, road trips to Vegas or dinners out with single girl friends or coming home to dinners made by mom with a special Valentine by our plates. Speaking of Mom, I want to tell you a story. This is really what my post is about.

I've taken several classes on child development/attachment in my university studies. Almost every piece of evidence I have gathered over the years suggest we learn how to love from our caregivers/parents. I suppose I have had some other experiences that have taught me about love, my work with children has impacted me greatly on this subject, but tonight, or this morning if you will, as I explore this topic, I am touched by my own parents story.

My parents didn't start off being madly in love. In fact, in their early courtship, my father was "exploring his options", and was actually dating my mom and another girl at the time. We still tease him about this. How my mother endured those months with patience, I still wonder, but she's offered me a lot of strength as men I date sometimes want to explore as well. Finally, my father came to his senses and gave up the other girl and brought daisies to my mom. He proposed shortly after. A wise friend once told me, "If two people are to be married, you can't mess it up". I believed my parents were destined to be together and it is only more evident as they age.

My parents are a wonderful example of two people struggling together and pulling through circumstances. I am sure in my early childhood my parents went through difficult times, but I honestly and truthfully can say I have never seen them fight. My father also defended my mother when we would get cross with her. I have grown to adore him for that. He put her first.

Over forty years of marriage has grown into something exquisite. My father's health has declined tremendously since he had a stroke 14 years ago, and even more so the past few months. When my father first came out of the stroke and we found out he was paralyzed from the waste down it was heartbreaking. I have wept myself, several times over this. Seeing him struggle to balance and walk and not to the things he used to is excruciating. But my mother, has been his angel. She has been our family's angel. She has never left his side and now as I see her take care of him it warms my heart. They've laughed and cried together, played countless games of "Ticket to Ride", and have really enjoyed each others company the past few years. My parents are a true example of commitment. I couldn't ask for a greater gift in my lifetime than this example. I only hope that this loyalty and depth develops in my own marriage (if/when that time comes for me). Right now I am just grateful for the fascinating love story.

Thank You Mom and Dad for your gift and example. I love you.

Friday, January 18, 2013

financial freedom

Let's get serious for a minute. The economy is lame and it's time to take matters into our own hands. I've decided to make 2013 the year of gaining financial freedom, and rightfully so since I am kicking the year off with a job change and a move. (eek, breath and out).

I was given a book for Christmas from a dear friend called, "The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me", by Richard Paul Evans. Since the friend insisted we read it together, I am committed to finishing this one, and applying it's principals rather than just let it sit on the shelf.

Needless to say, it's been good. No, it's been fantastic actually.

The five principals of book are:
1. Decide to be wealthy
2. Take responsibility for your money
3. Keep a portion of everything you earn
4. Win in the margins
5. Give back

To validate my cause I felt that I should be looking at financial freedom as a spiritual blessing, as much as a temporal principal. There are loads of helpful talks that address this topic. One I liked in particular was Elder Wirthlin's, "Earthly Debts, Heavenly Debts". Read this. It's so clear as to which path we are supposed to follow when it comes to our finances. In this talk, he also lays out five guidelines to follow to keep our Earthly and Heavenly Debts in check.

They are as follows:
1. Pay your tithing.
2. Spend less than you earn.
3. Learn to save.
4. Honor your financial obligations.
5. Teach your children to follow in your example through hard work, frugality, and saving.

As you can see, both the book and the talk are very much in line with each other. I am still reading and researching, but there are a few financial goals that I have accomplished in this month in which I am proud to share.

  • Cancelled Massachusetts auto insurance and signed up for Utah plan (with a discount for being a non-drinker...bonus!) Savings: $80/month=$960/year
  • Cancelled Hulu account. I loved it, but I don't "need" it. Savings: $8/month=$96/year
  • Changed phone plan from unlimited minutes to monitored minutes. Savings: $20/month=$160/year
  • Stopped drinking soda of any kind. Savings: $25/month=$300/year..this blew my mind.
  • Put 1/4 of paychecks into savings account. Estimated $500/month=$6000 per year.
  • Went through closets, decided that I have enough clothes for the year and will not be purchasing any for 2013...even if I wear them out. Estimated $100/month=$1200 per year.
Total Savings for January:  $733                            
Total Savings for 2013:  $8716

So there you have it. I will be nearly $9000 more frugal in 2013 and nearly $9000 richer. How can I not be motivated by this?

And let me just put in a little plug for Best. Site. Ever. This is an all inclusive financial tracker and it's amazing. I have the mobile app as well, which allows me to enter in purchases as I go. It's totally free and anyone can do it. This site links to all of my bank accounts, student loan, car loan, insurance, and phone bill so I can see exactly where I am at financially all on one site. It's beautiful. There are pie charts trending where I spend my money (so I can see if I have gone overboard on entertainment, etc.), and calendars telling me when my next bills are due. I don't know how to begin to tell you how much this site has changed my life, but I love it. I will always use it.

As you can see, these teeny, weeny little changes (which by the way have been fairly simple to make), along with paying my tithes and fast offerings have blessed me with the confidence that maybe I can get really good at this money thing. Perhaps I can live on a lot less than what I thought I had to and give more to those who don't.

This is only the beginning, still finding ways to save money and I will keep you updated as I do. Please comment if you are financially savvy or have something to share. I'd love to hear from ya!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

blogging sabatical has come to an end...

I know, I's been like six bloomin' month's since I've blogged and I too, nearly thought my blogging had come to an end...but...the truth is...I've kind of missed writing. Even if nobody reads it, somehow the blogging world helps me collect my thoughts and unleash a little bit of creativity. It also earns me a couple of points with my mother, bless her heart...who is constantly asking for pictures and updates from afar. it is....let's recap 2012 and move on to 2013, since we are already half way through January (thank goodness for that). Does anyone in the Northern Hemisphere actually enjoy January? Didn't think so.

Jan/Feb 2012. We might as well just move on. Not my favorite months and I rather put attention onto the rest of the year. About all that happened in these months is that I decided the high school I was working at was not the best fit for me, and then by some miracle they were getting rid of the FACS program entirely so I didn't really even have to quit, and I got a great letter of reference from the Principal. I've never been so happy about not renewing a contract. Win-Win.

March: Went to Utah for General Conference and got to enjoy the Sunday Morning sesh 12 rows from the pulpit. It was pretty awesome. Adore Conference.

April: My job search began. I applied to schools all over the country and ended up getting a couple of offers in North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia. Ultimately, I took a Personal Chef job in Connecticut for a family I had worked for in previous years. We'll talk more about that later. I also re-fell in love with Boston for about the sixteenth time. I will always have a crush on Boston. Always. My mom came out for a visit and helped me with my Fashion class and I got to show her why I loved New England. We went to Newport, RI and I took her sailing. So. Much. Fun.

May: Went by in a Flash. I started teaching sewing in my Fashion class (terrifying really, but turned out ok in the end), and worked with my students to finish up end of year projects and prepared them for finals. There was a light at the end of the tunnel. This is the best time of year for teachers.

June: School ended (Gracias Heavenly Father for helping me through it!). I moved from teaching in Boston to Being the Chef at my beloved Camp Rising Sun. It was a fun and crazy way to spend the summer indeed.

July: My friend Aaron came out to visit me in New York. We had a great time taking in all the tourist attractions, attending the Palmyra Pageant, cooking a Scandinavian meal for the campers and living it up at Six Flags in New Jersey. I turned the amazing age of...well...never mind. I still feel 22 at heart so that's all that matters. The campers made me a cake and made me "skip around the room".

August: Camp Ended. Traveled to Salt Lake City to visit family and friends. Enjoyed spending time with the cutest nieces and nephews in the world.

September: Moved Back out to Connecticut and started my job as a personal chef. You can find recipes here.  I discovered Franklin Street in New York, and my life is forever changed by this delightful Italian section of this city that excites me every time I go.


October: Spent General Conference with the Richard's family in Pennsylvania, and picked out pumpkins with the kiddos. What darling's they are. Can't get enough of them. Connecticut and New York, and New Jersey were hit hard by Hurricane Sandy which left us without power for several days and waiting on gas lines. This was a moving experience for me and left me so grateful for my church and it's emphasis on preparedness. I was able to help the family I work for to be prepared for this storm in every way I knew possible. This storm really brought people of this area together and there are some places that will never be the same. On another note, Dad suffered a heart attack the day of the Hurricane and it has really weakened Him. I was nervous that something really tragic would happen and I wouldn't be able to fly home because of the "Storm of the Century".  Heavenly Father answers prayers and thankfully my dad came home from the hospital a few days later and is doing ok. Not great, but ok. My newest nephew Benjamin aslo decided to join our crazy family and we're so glad he did. Cutest newest nephew ever!

November: Elections happened. Obama was reelected. Thanksgiving was spent in The Bahamas with the family I work for. Kids ended up sick so my feast consisted of six chicken frozen chicken nuggets and some leftovers. I missed my family terribly, but least I was in the Bahamas.

December: Celebrated Hanukkah with my employers, and traveled Home for the Holidays. Being home was wonderful. I crossed going to The Viking Yurt in Park City off my Bucket List. It was amazing heading up a ski lift on a sled and enjoying a six course Norwegian dinner on the top of a mountain in a warm hut. If you are ever in Salt Lake City, I highly recommend this event. Highly (pun intended). I also got to meet Benjamin and I could put him in a hoagie bun and eat him up he's so cute! I love being an aunt!

And now, here we are back to January 2013. The New Year has brought yet another change/move. Seeing my dad and assessing his health along with missing my family and friends desperately, along with (that's a lot of "along withs" I know) feeling like I need to be back in the classroom has led me to a decision to move back to Salt Lake. I'll be making the move in March. I am very grateful that my employers were understanding and hopeful that I will get a great job in Utah where I can continue my passion for teaching.

And! I intend to do a lot better with the blogging this year. If you actually read this whole thing, thank you. If you didn't, I don't blame ya a bit!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

there's nothing better...

than grilling on a summer afternoon. I'm in madly love with it. Did ya hear me? In. Love. (wish I could say that about a man, but we're working on it). There are so many delights that you can grill, from vegetables to fish, to pizza, to pineapple. The possibilities are endless. I may or may not be obsessed with this medium of cooking,  just a lil' bit. In South Africa we called it Braai. Same thing. No matter what you call it, relish in it. It's amazing. Below are some of my best grilling tips.

1. Clean your grill out completely every year. One man's ash is NOT another's treasure. Trust me on this one.

2. Oil all of your food before you put it on to prevent sticking. Lighter oils such as grape-seed (found in large quantities at whole foods) work best. Take one of those cool brush thingies (you know we all love those) and paint your food. It's fun and I guarantee it will save you the sad face from when your food could have been perfect but isn't later.

3. Chicken=low heat and slow. Beef=high heat and fast. Simple.

4. Only flip your food once. For all of you flip happy grillers out there, I have a message for you. You are losing the juice and the flavor! All food has sugar in it, which sinks to the bottom of your food and seals in the juice during the grilling process. Please for the love let's keep that juice and flavor in that burger and only flip it once. You will thank me later.

5. Experiment. You just might be surprised that you can grill a variety of things items, such as strawberries, or lasagna, or s'mores.

same changes

“20 years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the one’s you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
It seems that I always get back to blogging on flights. I spent the past year in Boston teaching and in New York for the summer as a Chef, and I am yet on another adventure. I find myself glowing in the fact that I am headed home to Salt Lake to spend two and a half weeks with family and friends that I adore. These are the people that know me best, have sent me on adventures time and time and again, and the reason I am able to make changes, so many changes, so often. I am not a person who is content staying in one place and leaving this world undiscovered. However, it has occurred to me on many occasions that I would never be the person I am without such a solid foundation to pull from. This rock foundation consists first and foremost of my belief in my Heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ, and then my family, and the many wonderful people I have rubbed shoulders with over the years along with a solid education and knowing my values. This rock has been my pedestal to leap from in my adventurous spirit. It has allowed me to be ever changing. This summer was a busy one, cooking for 80 youth from around the world. I learned much from them as we stood side by side chopping, and hearing about their lives at home. There is something beautiful about reminiscence of home. Ah, home. Such a sweet sweet word. Again, after these next two weeks and much thought, prayer and contemplation, I will experience yet another change. I will be making my new home (for now) in Greenwich, CT working as a personal chef. For the first time, I have no other goals than to experience home wherever I go, and to excel in my profession. I have no training aside from life experience and cooking for the world in a sense, but I am certainly passionate about cooking and hope that it shines through my work. I hope to share a bit more of myself through blogging. I tend not to blog when life get's stressful. Let's be honest...this last year was very stressful and I am definitely delighted to move on from it and reevaluate. Does this happen to anyone else? Alas, it's time to wrap up this post as I descend into stunning Salt Lake. Bring on the Cafe Rio, Mountains, and Family photos!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

my mom is kind of a big deal

In case you didn't already know that I have the best mom in the world, last week she visited Boston and blew me away with her kindness. She came to help me with sewing in my Fashion class. We all know that mom's never just do the minimum. She also cried with me over a broken heart, nursed me back to health from a virus, made dinner for my roommates, went sailing with me, went to the temple with me, and inspired my students. She's an incredible mom. She's a big deal. I've spent some time reflecting on the divinity of motherhood this past year as I have taught child development. To me, there is nothing more sacred, more precious than spending time with a child. I have been incredibly blessed to be a nanny, an aunt, a teacher, a volunteer, and a counselor to hundreds of children and youth. I can only hope that the skills and attributes I have obtained through these experiences are preparation for my own posterity. However, we don't all get that chance in this life for reasons unexplained. I find this an excruciating reality, but there is one thing that brings comfort. We are all mothers. I truly believe that women were put on the earth to "raise" the world. The word raise is an action word. It means to uplift, to hold high, to bring up. What does this mean in the life of a child? To me this means that every single solitary time I interact with a child, I must bring positivity to their life. There is nothing more exquisite than a child's laughter. There is nothing sweeter than watching a child look at the world with wonder. There is nothing more cherished than teaching moments. My life is more invigorating when I live it through the eyes of the children I am so very blessed to interact with. To all of the mother's who have shared your children with me, I thank you for that gift. Thank You for being such incredible examples, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to "raise". To my own mother, Thank You for teaching me how. Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 4, 2012

sweet louise

This post is a tribute to a dear friend of mine. Louise Sturt has been a family friend who has shared my 31 years with my family and I. She is like a sister to my mother, and was my babysitter while my parents were on family vacations. I still remember going to a toy store with her and picking out the game, "Mouse Trap" and a tiny tea set with pink flowers. Louise is from England so of course we had to have proper tea. I recall meals of artichokes or chicken salad's served in pineapple shells. Another favorite memory, walking her dogs at Sugarhouse Park. I can still hear her saying, "come along Hollikin (she gave me this name). I remember vividly her energy and spunk. Louise spent many years of her life in South Africa. I never imagined as a child that I would grow up to live in Africa as well and share this connection with her. I recently read a book about the five people we meet in Heaven. I believe that Louise is on that list. There are some people you meet in this life that seem to share your soul. I adore Louise and admire her deeply. I cannot mention Louise without mentioning George of course. These two lovely people have traveled the world together over their 52 year marriage, have taught their children the gospel and have lived life tremendously. Just before I left for one of my adventures a couple of years ago, Louise and George joined my parents and I for dinner. They shared the story of how they met, stories of Africa, stories of Thailand. I could have listened for days. The stories they tell are like nectar for the soul. I want the world to know how exceptional they are. I want the world to know how much I care for them. So here it is world...Louise and George. Quiet Hero's. Proof of Heaven.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

facing the facs

It's April. 4th quarter. I have nearly made it through a full year of teaching. It feels good to see a light at the end of the tunnel and now that it is Spring Break I actually have time to blog. It's been a tough year, but a year of growth here in Boston. Teaching has a way of exposing your weaknesses and strengths. Heaven knows I have many. It has also taught me important, refining lessons. I have learned to stretch and push my character in ways I never imagined. Education evolves, and naturally we must evolve along with it. I feel it a privilege to teach what I love. I can't get enough of Child Development, I am wildly passionate about cooking, and Fashion Design has surprised me. I knew nothing about it when I was asked to teach it. I can say it has been a delightful class and I am impressed with the creativity and innovation of my students. We are about to begin sewing. This scares me to death. My good mother tried and tried to get me to take sewing lessons as a child. Her efforts to mold me into a domestic, often were defeated as I rather have been outside, forming mud pies, and make believing I was a Star Wars character with my friends down the street. It's payback time. I am a Family and Consumer Science Teacher. Not only must I know the skill, I must teach the skill. This keeps me up at night. In less than a week, I will be pulling out the 15 Bernina's, threading bobbins, and my world will be filled with pins, and irons, and fabric everywhere. And I thought getting through the Flour Baby project in Child Development was rough! However, let me say this. I am proud of my students. A few weeks back, we completed a unit on beauty and the media. My students gave presentations on what true beauty was to them. As it turns out, high school students do recognize that beauty comes from the inside out and I was touched by their compassion. This provoked some discussion as to what we would do as a Fashion class to help the world. We chose an organization that we can sew for and give away the clothing. The organization is called, "Little Dresses for Africa". The students chose this, although you know as their teacher I am proud. Africa is a part of my heart, and I know these little ladies will love their dresses. The best part, the dresses are made from standard pillow cases! I can do this. Operation teach my fashion students how to sew is officially under way. To find out more about this organization click here.

buon appetito

As it turns out, I have a lot of foodie friends in Boston. We decided to get together for a fun fiasco of homemade pasta, ravioli, and tapas. It was a delicious night!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

grill it. roast it. bake it. indulge in it.

It's definitely no secret that I am a foodie. Lately I have been on a cooking kick, and I am loving every bite! Here are some of the tasty delights I've been devouring lately...

NEW recipes found on my recipe blog

Summer Vegetables. I grilled everything here, even the peaches. Sad to see summer go!

One of the best things about New England is the clam chowder. I got this at a restaurant called The Grog in Newburyport, a darling little town!

We went apple picking in Concord,  and although I didn't get a chance to take pics of the apple crisp before my roommates and I gobbled it up, this fruit was perfect. So sweet and tart, and amazingly crispy!
This is where I spend my money. This is Russo's, a grocery store in Watertown that sells delicious veggies and fruits from local farms. The cheese selection is amazing as well. Definitely a place for a foodie!

This dessert was the highlight of my week. I wanted to test the recipe before teaching it to my students. It is an egg pastry puff with vanilla pudding in the middle and chocolate sauce on top. Such a stellar creation!

This is one of the ymmiest dinner's I've made in a long time. Basmati Rice with a Korma Sauce I bought at Whole Foods. I added potatoes, chicken, carrots and peas and viola! Easy and amazingly tasty!

 Roasted Acorn Squash with Homemade Cheesy Creamed Corn. I got the idea for the squash from good friends in South Africa three years ago. I couldn't forget it. It isn't complicated to make and is perfect for warming up in New England. This has to be why fall is my favorite season!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

sometimes we need little reminders...

and I am so incredibly grateful for this one this week. Listen, and savour the goodness of President Uchtdorf. Even if you are not a member of my faith, I hope you listen and that this message resinates with your heart the way it did for me. Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

the waiting place...

Lately I have had various conversations with friends and family about the stage of life I am in. I love this city that I moved to, and teaching school is going well. I have wonderful roommates, live in a nice neighborhood and I have even lost ten pounds in the past month. All. Good. Things. This post is in no way meant to be a complaint about my life, because I have a great life.

However, if I am looking deep into my own pursuit and where this Holly life is leading, I feel like it is best described as "the waiting place" which is perfectly illustrated in a favorite Dr. Suess Book called, "Oh the Places You'll Go".  Truth be told, I have been a lot of places. I have lived all over the United States and have experienced the world. I am grateful for that. Very grateful. But still, I am waiting. Waiting for what I don't even know. I think that is the confusing part. Waiting to go some where? Waiting for a new opportunity? New people in my life? What? And why am I waiting? Again, I have a good life. I don't love the fact that I am waiting for anything at all. I guess the best I can do is just enjoy the waiting, enjoy the people I am waiting with, the city I am waiting in. Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

thoughts on a rainy tuesday eve...

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
Mark Twain

Alright, so most of you know that I am passionate about many things. But right now, in the thick of my second week of teaching my thoughts and inspiration for this post are turned towards education. I just moved into the most lovely home where three other lovely roommates reside. Tonight I arrived home from a busy day at school and went to the fridge (naturally) to forage for food. One by one the roommates came together in our kitchen, snacking on Cranberry Seltzer and Waldorf salad and began a discussion. You would think that our chat would have been about the long weekend, the boys in our lives, etc. But I am impressed and pleasantly surprised that our mingle turned into a passionate discussion about education, politics, religion, inspiration and ambition. My roommate Rebecca shared some goodness with me that I will share with you. We were reflecting on our great teachers and their ability to inspire curiosity in the classroom. Curiosity in itself, is a sign of intellect.  Of course as a teacher I have that desire. This teacher of the PS22 choir seen in the video below definitely has created a room full of believers. Most importantly, the students believe in themselves. That is the most beautiful gift a teacher can give to a student. Watch the expression on the faces of the children. They are so into the music. In an interview, one of the students said, "I was scared to raise my hand in class before. I didn't want to share what I knew...but then I thought, if I can sing a solo in choir, I can raise my hand and speak in class". What an exquisite lesson of confidence learned. Readers, I would love to know your thoughts and memories of your great teachers. How did they challenge you to accomplish great things? What did they do to lift your confidence? What teachers inspired you and why?

And also to my readers I want to say to those of you (hopefully most of you) who have tasted the fruit of having a dream,  enormous or small,  to you I say...Don't Stop Believin'!

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I am making attempts to pick up new hobbies and skills. Fall seems to be that time when I get overly ambitious (the other time is January 1st), and make lots of new goals and I get hankerings to try new things. I have resisted sewing in the past, but this summer I finally decided to stop fighting with my inner fear that there are too many rules in sewing for Holly. I broke out the sewing machine, spent $80 at  fabric store (when did this hobby become so expensive?) and here is the result. I completed a couple of pillow cases first and I am still working on pajama pants. I shamefully will admit that I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I You Tubed "how to thread a bobbin" but atleast there is something wearable in the end. Now I have to figure out how to teach it to my students. Yikes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

once upon a time i moved to boston

So here I am. Finally back on the blogging scene after taking the summer off to move across the country to Bean Town. And lemme just say...I LOVE IT HERE! Everything about this city is lovely, well not the traffic, but almost everything. In May I landed a job as a teacher in a high school just outside Boston. I start next week, yikes. I get to teach what I love (child development, cooking, and fashion design), and for that I am grateful to have a job that I will enjoy.

For the summer, I took care a couple of really awesome children from Ireland. I had so much fun with them going to the Children's Museum of Boson, Outdoor Movies on the Charles, Painting Pottery, Painting Paper, Running through Sprinklers, Swimming, Revolution Game, Red Sox Game, Board Games, Making Volcanoes and Mermaid Castles, and Enjoying BBQ's and Walking Katie Dog. It's been a while since I have been in the nanny world and I loved every minute of it. I was so sad to send them back to Dublin.

My nephew Hayden came out for a visit and we enjoyed a very busy week touring around Boston, Cambridge, Newport, RI and New York. It was stellar having him here and I hope his stories and pics prompt more family and friend visits to this glorious part of the country (wink).