From Monica’s Kitchen

We were recently invited into Close To My Heart President Monica Wihongi’s home to see how she’s using her Kitchen Traditions Cut Above® recipe kit. Watch the video below to see what she’s cooking up!

After seeing all of those mouthwatering dishes on Monica’s kitchen counter, don’t you just want to give them all a try? For those who do, here is a complete list of all of those yummy recipes straight from her recipe book! Enjoy!

Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:
  • 5 chicken breast, shredded
  • ½ white onion, finely diced
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 1-2 large can(s) Old El Paso mild red enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 package white corn tortillas
  • 3 cups mild cheddar cheese, shredded
Directions:

Preparing this dish can get really messy, so make sure you have everything close at hand. You will need an apron and a lot of paper towels!

 In a large bowl, mix the shredded chicken, onion, and taco seasoning. In one large frying pan, start heating the enchilada sauce. In another frying pan, heat the canola oil. Once the oil is hot, fry a tortilla, for approximately 20 seconds on each side, using tongs to flip. Transfer the fried tortilla to the enchilada sauce. Dip the tortilla in the enchilada sauce so that both sides are covered. Transfer the tortilla into a 9 x 13 pan and lay it flat. Put a tablespoon of the shredded chicken mixture and ½ tablespoon of shredded cheese on the flat tortilla. Roll the tortilla and lay it in the pan with the seam facing down. Repeat this process until your pan is full. Sprinkle the top of the tortillas with the remaining shredded cheese. Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350° for 20 minutes.

Mexican Rice

Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups long rain rice
  • 1 Knorr Tomato with Chicken bouillon cubes
  • dash of cumin
  • 4 cups chicken broth (can substitute with water)
Directions:

In a medium saucepan, heat oil on medium heat. Combine rice, bouillon cubes, and cumin in the saucepan and fry until golden, about 4 minutes, stirring often. Pour broth into pan and cover. Lower heat and bring to a simmer. Cook for 25 minutes.

Pico de Gallo

Ingredients:
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 6 green onions, sliced to stem
  • 6 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cilantro bunch, pulled from stem and chopped
  • 2 limes, juice only
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 2 avocados, chopped (optional)
  • garlic salt, to taste
Directions:

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Salt to taste.

Steak Fajitas:

Ingredients:

2 flank steaks
2 oranges, juice only
2 lemons, juice only
3 limes, juice only
4 garlic cloves, quartered
8 cilantro sprigs
1 white onion, sliced
4 green onions, cut in half lengthwise
3 tablespoons soy sauce
garlic salt, to taste

1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion
4 tablespoons olive oil
garlic salt, to taste
lemon pepper, to taste

Directions:

Lay steaks flat, each in its own glass pan. Combine juice of all citrus with soy sauce and mix well. Pour evenly over steaks. Sprinkle both sides of each steak with salt (to taste). Lay garlic, cilantro, and white and green onions on top of steak and cover pans. Allow steak to marinate, preferably over night or for a minimum of 8 hours. Grill steak on medium heat to an internal temperature of 138°. Cut peppers and onion in half and lengthwise. In a large frying pan, heat oil on medium and sauté the vegetables for approximately 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cut the cooked steak into strips and add it to the frying pan. Sauté for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and enjoy!

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From Monica: Why Memory Keeping Matters to Me

Because it’s National Scrapbooking Month, I want to take a moment and share with you my thoughts and feelings about memory keeping.

When I think of memory keeping, I can’t help but think of my sweet mother-in-law, Barbara, who is an incredible memory keeper. She has volumes upon volumes of memories from her life and her family’s life. Here’s a video that explains a little bit more about what Barbara has preserved:

I cherish these photos and stories, and because Barbara took it upon herself to preserve them, they will never be lost—they’re safe for generations! Her dedication to journaling and memory keeping inspires me, and I’m so proud to work for Close To My Heart, where we’re committed to helping everyone preserve their own memories.

Here is a small tribute to my mother-in-law’s love story using our exclusive Happy Times paper packet and stamp set, which we’ve created especially for National Scrapbooking Month:

Find out why we here at Close To My Heart are so passionate about memory keeping. #ctmh #closetomyheart #memorykeepingmatters #scrapbooking

There’s certainly something to be said about taking the time to preserve your memories artistically—it’s a wonderful way to add to the beauty in the world, while putting your memories in a safe place. But one thing I’ve learned from my mother-in-law is that there are so many ways to preserve your memories: whether it’s through simply keeping a journal, through collecting documents and photos from your life, or through any of a number of other methods.

If you’re looking for a place to start telling your precious stories, I invite you to check out the journaling prompts that we post on both our Close To My Heart Facebook page and our Instagram account each week using the hashtag #memorykeepingmatters. We’ve also put together a list of questions inspired by Barbara’s memory keeping to help you dig deep into your own story and the stories of your loved ones—download it here!

Memory Keeping Prompts

Memory Keeping Prompts (AU/NZ)

I hope that our Happy Times paper and stamp set help you get extra excited to preserve your memories. I know memory keeping is so important, and I’m grateful I get to be at a company that shows you how to preserve your happy times for years to come.

With love,

Monica

Recipe

 12″ x 12″ Sweet Memory Page
CC1064 My Acrylix® Happy Times, CC1063 Happy Times Paper Packet, 1385 White Daisy Cardstock, Z2123 Goldrush Exclusive Inks™ Stamp Pad, Z2644 Pixie Exclusive Inks™ Stamp Pad, Z2196 Cotton Candy Exclusive Inks™ Stamp Pad, Z2164 Sorbet Exclusive Inks™ Stamp Pad, Z2652 Poppy Exclusive Inks™ Stamp Pad, Z2650 Fern Exclusive Inks™ Stamp Pad, Z2012 Sequins Gold Assortment
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Announcing a Brand New Product Line!

Have you always wanted to scrapbook with your fur babies? Well, now you can with our new stamp pads! #ctmh #closetomyheart #aprilfools

We’re excited to bring you a surprise announcement of a brand new product line! We know how much your pets mean to you, so we want to give you products to help make scrapbooking with your pets fun and safe!

Watch this video to find out more:

Isn’t it exciting? And we know it’s just what every crafter has been looking for. We are so happy to be able to provide these new stamp pads as a way of making the stamping and scrapbooking process more inclusive. Now all your furry friends can get in on the fun!Have you always wanted to scrapbook with your fur babies? Well, now you can with our new stamp pads! #ctmh #closetomyheart #aprilfools

We’re certain these new stamp pads will make scrapbooking even more enjoyable than ever! 😉 Give those fur babies a hug!Have you always wanted to scrapbook with your fur babies? Well, now you can with our new stamp pads! #ctmh #closetomyheart #aprilfools

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From Monica: Fun in the Sun

The 2016 Close To My Heart Eastern Caribbean Incentire Trip was a blast! Read all about it on the blog. #ctmh #ctmhescape #closetomyheart #crafting #scrapbooking #cardmaking #vacationI’m back from paradise! Last week was the Eastern Caribbean cruise incentive trip, and boy was it a good one! We climbed aboard the Norwegian Escape®, and sailed off on a grand adventure.The 2016 Close To My Heart Eastern Caribbean Incentire Trip was a blast! Read all about it on the blog. #ctmh #ctmhescape #closetomyheart #crafting #scrapbooking #cardmaking #vacation

This ship was the most luxurious ship we’ve ever been on. I definitely felt like royalty! We had a ton of fun taking photos with props at a photo op. We held fun beach items and blown-up versions of some of our stamps. Everyone just kept taking pictures and laughing. It reminded me why photos are so important to preserve.The 2016 Close To My Heart Eastern Caribbean Incentire Trip was a blast! Read all about it on the blog. #ctmh #ctmhescape #closetomyheart #crafting #scrapbooking #cardmaking #vacation

People loved the Create & Take we did on the ship, which gave them a sneak peek at new paper. There’s nothing like a little crafting to help you fully relax while you’re on vacation! 🙂 In our business meeting, we talked about the recent changes to the compensation plan and gave a sneak peek at upcoming promotions and changes to the New Consultant Kit. These announcements were met with cheers and applause! I sure love our Consultants!The 2016 Close To My Heart Eastern Caribbean Incentire Trip was a blast! Read all about it on the blog. #ctmh #ctmhescape #closetomyheart #crafting #scrapbooking #cardmaking #vacation

Many of our Consultants took advantage of the opportunity to go on excursions. One especially memorable excursion was a trip to Devil’s Bay in Tortola. We crawled through a cave and walked through water to reach this beautiful secluded beach that was pure heaven! It was absolutely beautiful!The 2016 Close To My Heart Eastern Caribbean Incentire Trip was a blast! Read all about it on the blog. #ctmh #ctmhescape #closetomyheart #crafting #scrapbooking #cardmaking #vacation

It’s wonderful being surrounded by good friends while you soak up the sunshine, relax, and talk together. We kept chatting about business too because when you’re passionate about your job, you just can’t help it!The 2016 Close To My Heart Eastern Caribbean Incentire Trip was a blast! Read all about it on the blog. #ctmh #ctmhescape #closetomyheart #crafting #scrapbooking #cardmaking #vacation

One thing that made this trip very special for me was that I got to bring my mom along. She was able to meet many our wonderful Consultants and better understand why I love my job so much. Sharing special memories with her on this trip is something I will always treasure.The 2016 Close To My Heart Eastern Caribbean Incentire Trip was a blast! Read all about it on the blog. #ctmh #ctmhescape #closetomyheart #crafting #scrapbooking #cardmaking #vacationI know each of the Consultants who earned this incentive trip would tell you it’s totally worth all the hard work. I hope each one of you makes earning next year’s incentive trip a priority—I want to share this one-of-a-kind experience with you!The 2016 Close To My Heart Eastern Caribbean Incentire Trip was a blast! Read all about it on the blog. #ctmh #ctmhescape #closetomyheart #crafting #scrapbooking #cardmaking #vacationTo see more photos from the incentive trip, visit our Eastern Caribbean Incentive Trip 2016 album on Facebook or search #ctmhescape on social media.

Sincerely,

Monica

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From Monica: Sharing Smiles

It’s been almost a year since I went to Chiapas, Mexico with Operation Smile™, but it has been on my mind a great deal this month. As you are most likely aware, this month we are promoting a special stamp set called My Acrylix® Share the Love that is only available during the month of February. For each Share the Love stamp set sold, we are donating $7 USD of the proceeds to Operation Smile to help with their noble cause. Take a look at this adorable scrapbook page that our art studio made using the Share the Love stamp set along with a few photos from my mission trip and papers from our Charlotte paper packet:Monica shares her thoughts about her Operation Smile mission in Mexico. #ctmh #closetomyheart #operationsmile #ctmhcharlotte #sharethelove

Looking at those photos takes me right back to that little town, and to the precious children I got to see and spend time with there. I was only there for a few days, but my time in Chiapas really made a lasting impression on me, and this page is a beautiful way of preserving those memories.

I recently shared a little bit more about my experience on the Operation Smile mission in a video, which you can watch right here:

We have been talking a lot about the good that Operation Smile achieves in the world: A smile is a priceless gift, and yet for only $240 USD, Operation Smile can provide that gift for a child in need. I am so grateful that so many of you have joined us in playing a part in this awesome mission. Thank you!

To learn more about how you can help Operation Smile, talk to your Consultant today or find a Consultant by visiting closetomyheart.com and clicking on “Find a Consultant” in the top right corner of the page.

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From Monica: Starting 2016 on a High Note

Reflecting on the incredible Team Builders event we held last week, I just have to say that I feel so blessed to be part of this amazing company. This is how I feel after every event, and I want to express my gratitude to the wonderful group of leaders that took time out of their busy schedules to join us on a snowy weekend in Salt Lake City so we could learn and grow together. Any day I can spend with these friends, many of whom I have known for over twenty years, is precious to me.

Needless to say, our schedule was jam-packed with top-notch business presentations from Close To My Heart employees and Consultants alike. The days flew by in a steady stream of great ideas, one after another.

We also had plenty of creative time together, too. Here’s one of the beautiful projects that we worked on:TB164

Art Studio Manager Gina Crotts came to me with this project as a recommendation. “Meraki” is a Greek word that means “to do something with soul, creativity, or love; to put something of yourself into your work.” That word felt like a great way to describe what our Consultants—especially these leaders—do, both in their businesses and in their artwork.

TB161

It was a unique type of creative project for us: We just showed a few examples, set out the supplies, and gave our attendees complete freedom to create their own page. It was so awesome to see what they all came up with!

Meraki Creative time. #ctmhteambuilders #watercolor

A post shared by gmbscrapper (@gmbscrapper) on

The highlight for me, and I think for everyone, was Saturday afternoon—and no, I’m not talking about those unbelievably delicious waffles from Waffle Love!—I’m talking about when Jeanette surprised us with a visit. After sharing a few words with us, she spent the better part of an hour answering questions, cracking jokes, and sharing her insights and vision for the future of Close To My Heart. It was a wonderful and memorable afternoon for all of us!

TB163

At the end of the event, we all said our goodbyes and returned back to our homes and our normal lives, armed with new perspective, new resolve, and new ideas for the future. I left feeling optimistic and hopeful, and I saw these same feelings reflected on the faces of my friends, who have shown such determination and loyalty in building up their own Close To My Heart businesses over the years. I am looking forward to the rest of 2016, because I know that with such incredible people involved in this work, we’ve got a great year ahead of us.

Love,

Monica

A Close To My Heart Christmas Party!

Here at Close To My Heart, we know that the Christmas season is a time for celebration! This week, we had our annual Christmas party here at the Home Office. It’s always such a pleasure to gather together as friends and coworkers, relax, and spread some Christmas cheer.Check out our Close To My Heart Christmas Party! #CloseToMyHeart #ctmh #Christmas #partyFirst came a lunch catered by Tucanos Brazilian Grill, and boy, was it tasty! We enjoyed our meal with Christmas music in the background and icicle-style lights above our heads.

After the food, we celebrated employee birthdays and longevity milestones. We applauded people who have been with us for five, ten, fifteen, and even twenty years! The loyalty of our employees to this company always fills us with gratitude.Check out our Close To My Heart Christmas Party! #CloseToMyHeart #ctmh #Christmas #partyBut the party wasn’t over. Next, Monica and Brian began drawing names and giving out fabulous prizes to the lucky winners! By the time they’d finished, dozens of gifts had been handed out, which certainly upped the merriment!Check out our Close To My Heart Christmas Party! #CloseToMyHeart #ctmh #Christmas #partyDoes everyone look happy or what? We hope each of you get to enjoy your own holiday festivities and that you feel like you are a part of ours—because we know that we wouldn’t be celebrating together if it weren’t for this wonderful Close To My Heart community. Get in on the fun by checking out our holiday video, and Merry Christmas from Close To My Heart!

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From Monica: A Very Creative Weekend

CreativeLive (16)Phew! What a weekend! I just finished hosting a two-day live webcast with Jill Broadbent and several of my Consultant friends on CreativeLive. It was a crazy, fast-paced, exhausting, and incredibly fun experience!

We partnered up with CreativeLive because we love their dedication to sharing information and inspiration with creative minds all around the world. As you know from following this blog, we are passionate about inspiring people too, so it was a perfect match! Over two days of presenting, we really wore ourselves out demonstrating that passion and our expertise in the papercrafting world. We shared a variety of artistic techniques and showcased the entire line of Close To My Heart products in a virtual parade of breathtaking artwork. From our awesome, unbeatable My Acrylix® stamp sets and our brand new Everyday Life™ planner system to our super popular scissors, liquid glass, Instalife™, and Base & Bling—we shared it all—and that was really just day one!

CreativeLive (3)

We also welcomed our special friend, Stacy Julian, to share an inspiring message about the importance of stories and memory keeping. One thing Stacy said really stuck out to me: how it is the people in our lives that matter most. I couldn’t agree more, and I’m proud to work for a company whose mission statement focuses on celebrating relationships. In fact, we even opened the whole webcast by sharing the beautiful video we released at Convention this year, which shows just how crafting helps us achieve this goal in so many different ways.

Our products are truly phenomenal, but our people are even more phenomenal—which is why a big chunk of the event was also devoted to celebrating our Consultant community. We had some excellent Consultants in our studio audience, and others that gave spectacular presentations. I have to give a special shout-out to our day two presenters: Karen Pedersen, Kristina Livingstone, and Michelle Snyder. They all put in a LOT of work and each did such an amazing job.

I also loved being joined by more of our Consultant friends via Skype where they were cropping and crafting along with us at events of their own. When we switched over to our Skype calls, I was amazed to see all the people wearing our Operation Smile™ t-shirts. We didn’t ask anyone to do that, but they decided to do this on their own to show their support for Close To My Heart and Operation Smile. Our Consultants are such wonderful people, and they make my heart happy. To all you Consultants out there: I love you!

The other thing that was so great about those Skype calls was the chance to see firsthand the types of friendships that grow through Close To My Heart. I get goosebumps just thinking about how that is happening all over the world at Consultant’s crops, home parties, and workshops, all because of this great company! Close To My Heart really is an amazing community, and it shows each time we get together—whether that is in person or virtually.

Of course, no matter how busy I am when travelling, I always try to work in a little time for some sightseeing. In the case of this event, I felt that we had really earned it with all the hard work that we put in to the preparation! It was such a nice change of pace and scenery to be out on the town with these dear friends of mine, and I couldn’t think of a better reward than spending time with people that I care so much about.

I could go on and on talking about how great the event was, but I don’t have to because you can now see just how incredible this weekend was for yourself! We arranged for CreativeLive to record the live webcast and to make it available on their site for free. We knew that many of our Close To My Heart friends wouldn’t be able to tune in for the live broadcast, and we wanted the information to be available for all of you to watch and to use as a resource. So go ahead and watch the recording and you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about. You’re going to love it!

Sending lots of love and inspiration your way!

Monica

PS—One last note for those of you that were watching the show live: First of all, THANKS for being part of the fun! Secondly, if you were participating in the giveaways, be sure to check your direct messages on Facebook and Twitter and your comments on Instagram, because that was our main way of notifying our winners. If you were one of our winners, we would have messaged you with instructions for claiming your prize, so be sure to go back and check!

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Around the World AGAIN: Monica in Australia and New Zealand

Fitting right in with this month’s travel theme, Close To My Heart CCO Monica Wihongi would like to share some travel adventures of her own after presenting at the Product Premiere Roadshow events in Australia and New Zealand earlier this month:

The timing of my trip to Australasia worked out just perfectly because I was able to fly with my daughter to Hawaii to drop her off at her dorm room for her first semester of college. It was hard to say goodbye, and I already miss her so much!BYU-Hawaii

On my flight from Honolulu, I struck up a conversation with the gentlemen seated next to me. As I talked about my work at Close To My Heart, he mentioned that his sister is an avid scrapbooker. After a bit more conversation and a quick search on Facebook, we discovered that his sister is in fact one of our Close To My Heart Consultants! So of course I had to take a picture with him!IMG_7484

This chance encounter filled me with pride for the great company that I work for and the wonderful people I had come to Australasia to see. I had a full and somewhat daunting schedule ahead of me, but I felt encouraged by our simple conversation, and it helped me see the wonderful progress that Close To My Heart has been making throughout Australasia over the past two years.IMG_7252

My trip began with Product Premiere Roadshow events in Christchurch and Auckland, New Zealand. My husband, Jody, was raised in New Zealand, and I was happy to have him accompany me on these early stops. I am always amazed by the natural beauty of that country but even more so by the beautiful people that live there. Our New Zealand Consultants are an incredible crew, and it was an honor to spend time with them at these events.

These events were our venue for showing off the brand new products we unveiled last month at our North American Convention. There’s so much to be said for seeing products and artwork first-hand, and, even better, getting to create with them! Event attendees at all our stops got to make this beautiful layout using a new paper packet that I absolutely love called Kaleidoscope. This is my example featuring my youngest daughter, Maya.
maya creative insider
From New Zealand, we flew to Perth in Western Australia. Through all my stops, I was accompanied by our incredible Australasia corporate staffers, Australasia Managing Director, Brian O’Callaghan and Events Manager, Meredith Blakemoore. We were also joined by Anna Williamson from Consultant Services for the last few stops. Working alongside these individuals over the course of these events, I was so impressed by how much they care about the Consultants and how much heart they put into everything that they do. They are truly remarkable individuals, and I am grateful to have them as part of our Close To My Heart family.
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From Perth, to Adelaide, to Hobart, Tasmania; then on to Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney—everywhere we went, we were greeted by groups of enthusiastic and joyful Consultants who were incredibly excited for our new products and eager to learn as much as they could. There was such a positive energy at every event that I felt rejuvenated after each one, despite the rigorous travel schedule!

And boy was the schedule rigorous! We put on 8 different events across New Zealand and Australia in less than two weeks! But we still somehow managed to squeeze in some site-seeing opportunities. I just felt that I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to enjoy the rare beauty of this incredible part of the world. So what if I missed out on a few precious opportunities to take naps—it was so worth it!

And then, before I knew it, the Product Premiere Roadshow was all over and I was flying back home. I was exhausted, but invigorated at the same time. I just have to say this: I am proud of how strong Close To My Heart has become in Australasia, I am proud of the people that we have working with us, and I am proud of the difference we have been able to make in the lives of so many people in this part of the world. I look forward to going back for our Australasia Convention, which is only a month and a half away! It is going to be a wonderful occasion for us to celebrate the two years we’ve had together so far and the many years that lie ahead of us.IMG_7914

In honor of our first two years in Australasia, we actually have something special lined up for next week—I don’t want to give it away, but I promise you’ll want to be sure to check the blog early next week for a new contest open to all of our readers.

Thank you to everyone who helps to make the Close To My Heart family the amazing community that it is!

With love,

Monica

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