my first christmas as a wife and stepmom

Christmas this year was a different experience for me than years past. As a new wife and stepmom, my perspective changed as I planned Christmas for my own family instead of merely being a participant as a daughter and sibling. I definitely garnered a new appreciation for my mom and all the Christmas seasons she's made special for my siblings and I over the past 30 years.

It felt like I blinked and the holiday season was suddenly upon us. I guess that's what happens when you get married in November. It was fun decorating my own home for Christmas and combining Dale's decor with mine (I admittedly have too much Christmas stuff that I still need to downsize).  Decorating our new home together for the first time, I also made some compromises for the sake of simplicity and budget.

5 things I've learned from my husband

36 years ago, on a cold, snowy day in Michigan, my husband, Dale Roland Earl, was born. He loves Star Wars and prefers Captain America to all other superheroes. A wicked smart archaeologist and graduate of the University of Utah, his mind never ceases to amaze me. I love being able to talk with him about everything from bacon and donuts to politics and spiritual experiences.

Dale's sense of humor matches mine perfectly and when no one else might understand something, we just get each other. He is also a truly devoted father, a trait I find extremely attractive and endearing. I've told him a million times that it's one of the reasons I fell in love with him.

10 stocking stuffers for her (all under $15)

Truth be told, I created this post for rather selfish reasons. This is our first married Christmas and consequently, first time doing stockings for each other. Stockings have always been my favorite part of Christmas morning. So to help my darling husband out, I put this little stocking stuffers list together to give him some ideas. Hopefully you get a few ideas for yourself or others too!

I'm all about budget-friendly items so everything listed here is less than $15 with most things actually coming in at under $10. That way you can actually afford to fill a stocking and still get quality presents.

from miss to mrs

A little over a week ago, on November 11, 2016, Dale and I were sealed for time and all eternity in the Albuquerque LDS Temple. It was a day I waited my entire life for and in years past often wondered if it would ever really happen. I hoped to find an eternal companion but I couldn't figure out how to get from point A to point B. Luckily, Heavenly Father had a plan for us that neither Dale nor I could have ever expected.

Growing up I always thought my life would be better once I had a ring on my left hand. I'm happy to say my life is betternot because of the ring but because of the amazing man who gave it to me and promised to love and cherish me always and forever (even when I eat all of his gummy bears, sob uncontrollably for no reason, or forget to lock the back door for the upteenth time).

november wish list

November (aka wedding month) is finally here! I'm starting a new series here on the blog in the form of a monthly wish list. I love checking out these types of posts on other blogs and this also gives me a chance to work on my graphic design/layout skills. I hope you enjoy perusing my finds this month!

thoughts on becoming a stepmom

I sat down to write this post yesterday and was so overcome with emotion I couldn't type. I ended up listening to the Trisha Yearwood song "It Wasn't His Child" on repeat and then calling my mom once I regained my composure. Some thoughts and feelings are just too personal and sacred to write down. I finally understand that now.

In less than three weeks I will not only become a wife but I will also become a stepmom. Becoming Mrs. Earl means I will take on the awesome responsibility to care for Dale's boys and help them develop into the men they will become. I know I'm not their mom and I don't want them to ever feel like I'm trying to replace her. But I do hope that they will come to love me and see me as a steady, positive influence in their lives.

true tales of a puppy parent

10-week old Zoey on an outing to the park

Meet Zoey! The newest addition to our little Earl family. This Friday she will be 11 weeks old and couldn't be more adorable. It's hard to believe it's been almost four weeks since we brought the little miss home.

So I have discovered there's a reason puppies are so cute--they are A LOT of work. Sleeping in is a thing of the past. We love the little miss a lot but she is quite a little torpedo full of energy and destruction. She's teething and seems to think that I'm her personal chew toy. And dang it, puppy teeth are sharp. Like seriously. We start puppy school next week and it can't come fast enough. We all need help!

fall in new mexico

Fall in New Mexico brings the International Balloon Fiesta, roasted green chiles, and a bountiful harvest at the Downtown Growers' Market. We had a very busy weekend full of all kinds of fall festivities. 

Saturday morning marked the start of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta here in our new hometown. Our little puppy Zoey (more to come on her) gets up at 5:30am every morning so sleeping in doesn't really happen anymore. Luckily, the balloons take off super early in the morning so we were able to put the little nugget's early rising to good use.

king arthur flour bakealong: inside-out pumpkin muffins

Last month King Arthur Flour launched a new series called bakealong. Each month they announce a new recipe to try and participants share their baking experiences on social media using the hashtag #bakealong.

To usher in the glorious start of fall, the bakealong recipe for September is inside-out pumpkin muffins. I tried the recipe last weekend and oh my word are these muffins delicious, especially warm right of the oven. The cream cheese filling melts in your mouth and the pumpkin flavor is on point thanks to my Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice.

weathering the unemployment storm

Being unemployed the last two months has been rough. Losing your full-time job is a major blow to your confidence--at least it has been for me. Most of the time I've felt a lot like the girl in this picture. Defeated. Lost. Confused. Angry. Hopeless. I haven't known where to turn or what to do next.

I was really unhappy and stressed out in my previous job so being relieved from that position was actually a blessing in many ways. But losing my main source of income when I have bills to pay has been super stressful. Add a rough bought with depression to the mix and it's been even harder to get up in the morning.

delicious black bean and butternut squash enchilada casserole

We recently made a delicious, veggie-filled black bean and butternut squash enchilada casserole that I just have to share. Dale found the recipe from Julia's Album on Pinterest. We both have been working on finding more veggie recipes to make and enjoy. 

I picked up a butternut squash at the grocery store but our garden produced enough little baby butternuts for us to use in the recipe. I've got a thing for butternut squash right now. So delicious. There's no meat in this recipe but I honestly didn't miss it.

I'm officially a Dodgers fan

Baseball has always been my favorite sport. I grew up loving the Mariners back in the good old days with Griffey, Buhner, Wilson, and Olerud. Dan Wilson will always be my favorite Mariner. As a fellow catcher I idolized him during my softball playing days. I even got the chance to meet him when he played at an Aquasox game one summer as part of a rehab assignment.

jumping on the green smoothie train

True confession: seeing our engagement photos was a bit of a wake-up call for us. Our photographer Kayla Kitts did an amazing job and we got some really great shots, but Dale and I both were less than thrilled with our actual physical appearances (I'm looking at you my double chin!).

Separately and then together, we both came to the conclusion that we need to work on being healthier and losing some weight. Neither of us will ever be models or have rock-hard abs and that's fine. For us, that's not the point. We want to be healthy and active to take care of our bodies and better care for each other and our family.

exploring the national park in our own backyard

I have wanted to explore the Petroglyph National Monument since we moved to Albuquerque and yesterday we finally made it happen. After a breakfast of pineapple and Bisquick pancakes, we filled up my backpack with water, sunscreen, and snacks and took the short 15-minute drive to the Piedras Marcadas Canyon parking area.

when you're going through hell, keep on going

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Sometimes things don't turn out the way you wanted or thought they would. Life is hard. A slew of trials can come all at once. This is one of those times.

A week ago I was let go from my job--not a situation I ever thought I'd be in and honestly, rather shameful to admit. It's a long story how everything transpired and not one that's appropriate to share here. Ultimately, although I am in a difficult financial situation due to the unexpected loss of my job, I am grateful to be free from a less than ideal employment situation.

thoughts on fatherhood

My dad and I have always been buddies. We love going to baseball games, watching Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and drinking Coca-Cola. He's been my helper for every major move I've made as an adult, including driving cross-country to Chicago for grad school (one of our most favorite memories) and my most recent move to Albuquerque to be with Dale and start my new life as a married woman.

After shoulder surgery in high school, my dad helped me learn how to throw again so I could fulfill my dream of playing varsity softball. In fact, I even broke his nose in the process. Whoops. Good thing he's such a good sport.

confessions of an impatient bride

Being patient is not something I'm good at. But who really is? Maybe there are a few token people out there who claim to possess the evasive virtue but I'm certainly not one of them. My tendency towards perfectionism combined with my intense affinity for planning make for a pretty fun combination. I'm good at driving myself a little crazy.

Lucky for me, I have a very patient man as my partner on this fun adventure known as wedding planning. When I'm a bundle of anxious energy he reminds me to relax and puts everything back into the right perspective. He listens to me rattle on about all of our different options, obstacles, and everything in between.

thoughts on motherhood

With today being Mother's Day, I wanted to add some of my own thoughts about motherhood to the mix of posts swirling around the internet. 

The truth is motherhood is on my mind a lot these days. While I may not be an official mom yet, I confess I'm already starting to feel, think, and act like one.

Dale's boys already feel like my boys too. I felt a very strong love for Aiden and Brennan from the moment Dale told me about them when we were first getting to know each other. Dale's love for the boys and his devotion to being the best father he can be is one of the things that made me fall in love with him.

finding joy in domesticity

I've always loved home decor and baking cookies. My mom taught me how to cook at an early age and I've taken care of myself for a long time. My domestic skills are by no means lacking, but lately things like cooking and gardening have taken on new meaning for me. Owning a home and being in a committed relationship will do that to you I guess.

I've traded In Style for Better Homes & Gardens and Trader Joe's frozen meals for cookbooks. Now I find places like Bed, Bath, & Beyond and The Home Depot exciting. I never understood the appeal of Bed, Bath & Beyond and why so many engaged couples register there. Now I get it--they have everything.

planting our first garden

Gardening season has arrived in the ABQ. A few weeks ago Dale ordered us some raised beds from Sam's Club and on Saturday we put them together. It only took us about 10 minutes, if that, to build the beds and then the real fun began.

Next we headed to The Home Depot to get some dirt! This is my first time planting my own garden and I had no idea how much dirt it really takes. 10 bags of Miracle-Gro garden soil later we were prepared to get our beds ready for plants.  

5 pinterest recipe success stories

cajun chicken pasta

I think one of the greatest things about being a couple is cooking together. Dale is a really good cook and I'm not too shabby either. Cooking together has been something we enjoy doing together since we started dating. In fact, for our third date we made dinner for my family in Spokane.

Now that we live in the same city, we make dinner together almost every night. We make a menu each week and, as part of that process, enjoy scouring Pinterest for new recipes to try. Here are five Pinterest recipes we've made and enjoyed over the past few months:

finding my future husband

I never thought I'd find my future husband through online dating.

Several friends encouraged me to try it out, but it took me several years (yes, you read that right) before I was ready to even make an attempt. In December 2013, while living in Chicago going to grad school, I created profiles on,, and It felt weird and uncomfortable to put myself out there, even a little bit. I'd closed myself off from dating for a long time and wasn't ready to fully thaw. So after only one week and talking to just one guy, I deactivated all three of my accounts. Online dating was not for me after all--or so I thought. 

new traditions: conference morning crepes

Before the Saturday morning session of General Conference, Dale treated me to one of his family's traditions...making crepes. We used Dale's special crepe pan and tools provided by the wonderful Aunt Shirley. Dale is certainly the crepe pro, but he encouraged me to try my hand at making my first-ever crepe. I'm happy to say it turned out quite well thanks to my excellent teacher.

What made the crepes extra delicious was what we put inside them. The night before we made Aunt Shirley's favorite lemon curd recipe from Ina Garten, better known as the Barefoot Contessa. Note: the recipe calls for 3 lemons but Aunt Shirley uses 4 so that's what we did too. After a late night trip to Walmart to replace our food processor, the curd couldn't have turned out better.

vacation here we come

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So guess what...Dale and I are going on a vacation! Last night we booked our tickets for a little trip to L.A. in July. We both need a vacation and it's so nice having something to look forward to doing together.

The Dodgers are Dale's favorite team and I've never been to Dodger Stadium, so we'll be taking in a couple of Dodgers games, including being there for Mormon Night (something Dale has always wanted to do). I can't wait to get a real Dodgers jersey and experience Dodger Stadium for the first time. Dale has many amazing qualities, but I have to say I'm super excited to be marrying a guy who loves baseball as much as I do.

spring in the abq: a visit to the botanical garden

Saturday afternoon Dale and I ventured out to experience the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden. Unbeknownst to us, the Travel Channel has named it among the top 12 botanic gardens in the country. How cool is that? The more we explore, the more gems we find in the ABQ.

The botanic garden is part of the ABQ BioPark, which is also home to the ABQ Zoo, Aquarium, and Tingley Beach. Dale and I visited the zoo for the first time when went house hunting last September. The BioPark is the perfect place for family outings and is only about 15 minutes from our house.

abq tastemakers: slow cooker green chile stew

You don't have to spend much time in New Mexico before you discover that you can get green chiles at just about any dining establishment. Local eateries like Golden Pride and Blake's Lotaburger serve up delicious New Mexican classics like green chile cheeseburgers, burritos, and stew. And even national chains like McDonald's and Sonic add green chilies to their regular menu items. It's the New Mexican way.

I've grown quite fond of green chiles in the short amount of time I've been able to call the ABQ home. Anywhere we go out to eat, it's safe to bet that I'll choose a green chile infused menu item.

new beginnings in new mexico

I experienced the Southwest for the first time last September when Dale and I went house hunting. I admit that when we first arrived and even as we flew back home to Washington a few days later, I had real doubts about my ability to fit in and actually like living in New Mexico. From the culture to the landscape, everything felt unfamiliar and foreign.

I've touted myself as a Pacific Northwest native but a Midwest girl at heart after living in Chicago for three years going to grad school. I never felt like I fit the Pacific Northwest profile and, even though I missed my family, living in Chicago felt like coming home...until now.