Ingredient of the month: Cream of Chicken Soup

Do you want to be our newest author? Click here!


Anybody can take good pictures of their kids

Ready for some photo tips?
I use to work in a portrait studio. I was the manager in charge of photography, so I spent most of my day in the camera room. I was obsessed with portrait studios at that point, I told my husband I was going to bring my children every month for their first year. We compromised. He would buy me an SLR and I would start my own photo business and I would never make him go to a studio. Not everybody can afford an SLR, so how do you get nice pictures of your children without spending a fortune at a studio? Here are my tips.

1. Shoot Outside. The fastest way to spot an amateur photo is use of direct flash(a single flash, pointed directly at the subject, such as on your point and shoot.) Shooting outside will make in not necessary to use a flash.
2. Don't shoot in the middle of the day. The sun is directly overhead which can cause weird light. I like mornings or early evenings.
3. Crop in. Have you ever looked at professional photography? There is not tons and tons of background. The frame is filled with the subject, there are a few exceptions to this rule but don't be afraid to get close.
4. Get your kids ready! When you take your kids to a professional, you dress them to the nines. Do the same thing for your shoot. It is going to look way more professional if you children's hair is done and they are clean.
5. Don't yell at your children. We had a saying when I worked at the portrait studio, once mom starts yelling, it's over. You upset your child when you yell and an upset child tends to not smile.
6. Shoot over a few days. The beauty of taking your own children's pictures is you can redo them. No money lost. Kids have bad days, just like you.
7. Pick a location other than your backyard. The park down the street is great because you can catch them in their playing element and it is close, so you are not upset over a redo.
8. Take a gazillion pictures. That is the beauty of digital, take a gazillion and go through them at home.
9. Wait until you are at home to delete. Sometimes a great photo looks crappy on that little screen or vice versa.
10. Bring a helper. Whether it is your husband, a friend, your mom. Bring someone that your kids like and will smile for. Since you are the parent, sometimes your kids will ignore your pleas for them to look at you. When my 18-month-old is being particularly stubborn, having my husband there always helps.
11. Don't be afraid to edit, or ask for help. I am always willing to help you figure out how to edit a photo.

Looking for more photo information here are this month's post at my blog on photo editing:

Photo cutouts- How to make it look like you went to Paris, when you didn't
File Management- How to keep your photos safe
How to use Layers and a free alternative to photoshop
Color Management - How to fix the bad color in your photos.

(The pictures in this post are all photos I have taken of my child, at a simple locations such as a park.)


The PERFECT Roast Beef

I found this method of cooking a roast on recipezaar. I tried it today and it truly is perfect!

I cooked mine medium-rare so it does look quite pink. I should have let it sit longer to avoid losing all this juice, but it doesn't matter, it was moist and delicious! I find that often the beef flavor gets covered up by all the herbs and other ingredients that recipe's call for, but this recipe actually lets you taste the beef.

Another major bonus: this roast took less than an hour to cook!

Try it next time you're making a Sunday roast!


Tricks of the Trade...

So I've been out of town and just realized it was my turn for Tricks of the Trade. So here it is, better late than never right?

For Family Night on Monday we will be creating 72 hour kits for each member of our family. I will be going to the store that morning. Here is my tricks of the trade question...what should I buy? I have 3 girls, 4 (almost 5),3 and 11 months.

I'm also trying to decide if we should discuss earthquakes/fires and where to go and what to do. They are so little, I'm afraid of totally freaking them out. When have you discussed this with your kids, how old were they and what did you tell them.


Tricks of the Trade....Bridal Shower

I am throwing my first Bridal Shower for my almost sister in law Cami. They are getting married June 4th in the Oakland California Temple! Road trip:) Anyway.... I have never really done one before... we are going to have fun... but I need idea's. What to eat? Games to play? Gifts to give? yada yada yada!!!! So.... PLEASE help! Thanks


120 Mile Challenge

My friend, Cat, has had quite the past year and has been blogging about her impressive weight loss. To keep working towards her goals and to motivate others to exercise, she has come up with a fun 120 Mile Challenge for the summer. It sounds like a lot at first, but it is very doable for any fitness level and I think that it will be fun to track how much we can run or walk. She is also gathering sponsors for some fun prizes. Anyway, if you'd like to join me go on over to her blog and join the Challenge!

Death by Oreo

This is a spin on Hello Dolly's but for Oreo lovers. But beware! they are highly addictive so I suggest you make them to take to a function so they're not sitting around your house.

1 pkg Oreo's
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups mini-marshmallows
1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Grease 13 x 9 x 3 pan with PAM.

Place Oreo's in gallon size Ziplock bag. Crush with rolling pin. Add melted butter.

Spread 1/2 the Oreo's in pan. Spread chocolate chips & marshmallows. Cover with remaining Oreo's then evenly spread sweetened condensed milk on top.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.


Chicken Artichoke Casserole

My mother-in-law made this on Sunday and it was so good that I had to share!

Chicken Artichoke Casserole

½ lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 Tbsp. butter

14 oz. chicken broth

3 lbs chicken breast tenders

1 (14 oz.) can artichoke heart quarters, drained

¼ cup butter

¼ tsp. salt

⅛ tsp. pepper

¾ cup half & half

½ cup Parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp. cooking sherry

½ tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled

View full recipe

Saute mushrooms in 2 Tbsp. butter until golden brown. Set aside.

Place chicken in simmering broth in single layer. Cover. Cook 20 minutes. remove from broth. Save ¾ cup broth.

Arrange chicken slightly overlapping in a 8“ x 12” casserole dish. Top with artichokes.

Melt ¼ cup butter. Stir in flour, salt & pepper until smooth. Gradually stir in ¾ cup chicken broth and half & half. Cook & stir as mixture boils and thickens. Blend in Parmesan, sherry and rosemary. Pour over artichokes. Sprinkle mushrooms on top.

Bake at 325° for 30 minutes.

***Great with Garlic Mashed Potatoes!


Dream House

Hello Mommies!
It's that time again for us to learn a little about you! This month we want to hear about your dream house!! Even if you never expect to actually live there, tell us what your dream house looks like! Inside and out, and of course... where is it located?

And Happy Mother's Day this week!


Sweet Corn Bread

This is the recipe my mom always used for cornbread. I love it! And it's is wonderful with Crock Pot Chicken w/ Black Beans and Cream Cheese!

1 cup margarine
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups cornmeal
3 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3 cups milk

Cream margarine and sugar. Add 3 eggs, beat one at a time.
Sift together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt.
Alternate adding wet and dry mixtures to creamed margarine.
Bake in a greased/floured 13“x9”x2" pan at 350° for 45-50 minutes.

***Note: Recipe may be halved and baked in a 8"x8" pan.

Crock Pot Chicken w/Black Beans and Cream Cheese

I like to search recipezaar when I'm in the mood to try something new. I always search by rating. If 900 people give a recipe and average of 4 1/2 out of 5 stars it must be pretty good. I was looking for something easy because I had a busy Saturday ahead of me and the missionaries coming over for dinner at 5:00. Enter Crock Pot Chicken w/Black Beans and Salsa.
It's not the most appetizing to look at, but you won't care once you taste it. And it's so easy!

4-5 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (15.5 oz.) can black beans, drained
1 (15 oz.) can corn, drained
1 (15 oz.) jar salsa, any kind
1 (8 oz. ) package cream cheese

Place FROZEN chicken breasts in crock pot.
Add beans, corn and salsa.
Cook on high for 4-5 hours or until chicken in cooked.
Add cream cheese (just throw it on top) and let sit until melted.
Stir & enjoy!

This is excellent with sweet corn bread.

***Note: Someone on recipezaar commented that using hot salsa would give this more flavor. I used wal-mart's Great Value brand of hot salsa and it was excellent. The next time I made it, I used Pace's Picante Hot Salsa. It was SO HOT that we couldn't eat it. We tried. We really hate to throw away food, but we simply couldn't eat it. So, if you're sensitive to heat, be careful of the salsa you choose.

Fajita Marinade

My mother-in-law and I were recently shopping at Costco on a Saturday. She asked me what I'd like for Sunday dinner and I quickly answered "fajitas!"
As we walked through the store, testing all the samples we came across a lady sampling beef. It was delicious! I asked the lady what kind of seasoning she used and she told me that she had been marinading the meat in 7-up and McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning. The 7-up tenderizes the meat and the steak seasoning gives it a lot of flavor.

My mother-in-law marinated the steak while before church on Sunday so it was nice and tender by dinnertime. My hubby cooked up the meat while we got the rest of the fajita fix-ins ready. I like sauteed red peppers & onions, sour cream, homemade guacamole, shredded cheese and, of course, freshly cooked tortillas. By freshly cooked I don't mean that I made the dough, but I like to buy the raw tortillas at Costco and cook them up right before we eat.

So good! Everybody went back for 2nds & 3rds!


I'm Brenna and I'm really excited to be a new author the Mommy Diaries!

I'm a 23-year-old SAHM of an 18-month-old daughter named Bridget and the hubs and I just decided to start trying for #2!

Before my baby girl came, I was in the nursing field, working in Labor & Delivery (so much fun!). But I wanted, and luckily the hubs also wanted, me to stay home. I always said that I wanted the "I Love Lucy lifestyle", but without all the crazy antics. I wanted to stay home, keep a clean house, raise happy kids, and have dinner on the table when hubby came home from work every night. Well, I have a happy kid. I try to have dinner on the table every night. It seems like I go through spurts of having a hot dinner every night then I get into a "fend for yourself" slump. As for a clean house, I really try hard to achieve that. If my house is messy, I feel really anxious and can't rest until it's clean. I love cleaning products and I like to be as resourceful as I can when it comes to cleaning. For instance, I make my own laundry soap and dryer sheets, which I'll post soon.

My wonderful husband is Mike. We have been married for 2 1/2 years. And even thought she was 5 weeks preemie, we were blessed to have our daughter born 10 days before our first anniversary because we were able to take her with us when we were sealed in the temple. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything in this world. The best day of our lives
made better by having
our beautiful 12-day-old baby with us.

Mike is an HVAC technician (heating and air conditioning) and at night he picks up dead bodies. We also live next door to a mortuary. Our current goal is to get completely out of debt so working for the mortuary is a great thing for us. They give us a house to live in, and in exchange Mike picks up bodies and works at viewings in the evenings. I am blessed to have a hard working husband who is willing to do anything for his family.

I love being a wife and homemaker and everything that goes along with it. I'm the daughter of an Italian chef, so I love to cook. I also love to craft, coupon, clean and sew.

I recently got called to be 2nd counselor in the Primary Presidency. I'm terrified. I feel like I'm way too young to be in any kind of leadership position. But if that's where the Lord needs me, I'll happily obey.

So that's me.
And here's a current picture of my angel: