Rocky Top Christmas

Monday, December 29, 2014

We had the opportunity this year to visit my Dad's family in Tennessee. They all come from Georgia, Ohio, or of course, 'ole Rocky Top, so we don't get to see them very often. We were lucky enough to have almost everyone there, except for (of course) Cassidy and Cody & Rachelle, who were in Louisiana and Arizona respectively. 

Of course, before we even opened presents, we got Skype with SISTER STEELE who is finishing her last transfer and heading back to Utah in February. She has a Southern drawl, so we still felt a little out of place with the rest of our southeastern cousins... 

After finishing presents at about three pm (yes... three pm... that's what you get when you don't start opening them until ONE THIRTY and you have all your cousins and aunts and uncles over to open presents with you) we figured we should try and get a nice little family photo with all of us together.

We struggled just a little bit.... 

And of course, Christmas night is the perfect time for a nice little family round of gambling....

and Cards Against Humanity, obviously.
Which, as you know, is about as family oriented as Las Vegas. 

It was nice to go hiking in the Smoky Mountains the next day though. The original trail we wanted to go was a little crowded (pretty weird for the day after Christmas if you ask me), so we found another trail that followed the river. Only it didn't end.....

Overall... it was a lovely Christmas. Even if I currently have a carsick hangover from all those curvy Tennessee backroads... 

A little (but exciting) announcement!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Hi everyone! 

AHHHHHHHH I am SO SO SO excited right now!

(ok first of all, no... I'm still working on the return mission paperwork! that's coming at the end of December or beginning of January... I'm hoping! Just gotta finish my chiropractor treatments!)


I'm excited to announce.... 
that I've been approved as a vendor for Groopdealz

If anybody is wondering what Groopdealz is, it's a boutique, groupon type site where they sell all sorts of clothes, jewelry, little gadgets, home decor, kids items, and art for a discounted price.

I'll be selling items from my Etsy shop, Subway Art Nouveau. I've had this shop open for over three years and it's done really well! Since I've been home from my mission, I've been keeping myself busy until I can go back out by expanding my shop and creating new designs! All of my items are digital downloads, so most of the work after I do the designs is already done! And now I'll be able to sell my hard work on a larger scale!

Check out a few of my designs!



Needless to say, I am STOKED! I've been waiting to get my little business off the ground, and this is going to help so so so much. I also love love love to do custom pieces, especially missionary art, so if you would like me to do a custom piece, just ask!! And if you're interested in any of these prints below, check out Groopdealz every once in a while for a great steal.... 

OR use the code " happyholidays2014 " for 50% any item in my shop, through December 31, 2014.
Just enter the code at checkout. 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Frohe Weihnachten

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Yeah, yeah I know.

That's German.

Well you may not know, but despite the fact that I was called to Mexico, I made sure to put on my mission papers that I knew quite a bit of German.

Well, high school German. So about as good as I could get.

Funny story... at one point, during one of our lessons in the MTC, I didn't know the Spanish word I wanted to use. So I used the German one instead...


I'll never forget how confused my teacher looked. My companion, on the other hand, busted out laughing and I think we giggled for a solid five minutes with that one.

I never had the foresight to think that taking Spanish would be more beneficial than German.

Ha.... ha.... irrelevant..... 

side note : my dad served in the army and was stationed in Germany for three years during the cold war, and we had the opportunity a few years ago on our way to Serbia to visit his old stomping grounds and explore the wonderful, beautiful (rainy) Deutschland for a few days.

side note number two :  my great great grandma and grandpa immigrated from europe, being born in Germany and Poland respectively. Soooo we have a preeeeetty strong German/Polish family history that I'm insanely proud of.

side note number three: I actually saw my high school german teacher (from when I went to high school in Arizona) in the MTC (at the Provo temple during a session, actually).... she and her husband were on their way to serve in the Germany Berlin mission... talk about a small world.


The point of this is... I loooooooove all things German. I love Germany. I love schnitzel. I love spätzle. I love Neuschwanstein. I love little german bakeries and chocolate croissants and bratwurst and lederhosen and biergartens (sans beer, of course) and little cobblestone streets and castles and gothic architecture and cathedrals and the autobahn.

Earlier today, my mom emailed me a link to a little shindig that goes on each time this year for a few days. Christkindlmarkt. A little collection of wooden shops, selling different things- from jewelry to little German clocks and nutcrackers... and there was also live reindeer, German yodelers, Alp horns, and visits from St Nicholas himself. Obviously, we decided to go (at my insistance, of course).

It was magical. 

For anyone who wants to take a look into our most recent trip to the r e a l  Germany... you can check out the pictures in this adorable little slideshow as it takes you down the Steele family memory lane.... through Münich, Dachau, Bavaria.... ahhhhhh those were the days.

& in honor of weihnachten.... alles liebe! 

"An Attitude of Gratitude"

Thursday, November 27, 2014

"We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues." - President Thomas S Monson

I am GRATEFUL... to have grown up in a loving family, with a supportive mother and father who loved me and provided for me.

I am GRATEFUL... for a father who's favorite hobby became his job, and that he is happy where he works and good at what he does.

I am GRATEFUL... for a mother who I can call my best friend, who comes to visit me at school, who shares a love of hiking and books and who knows me better than I know myself.

I am GRATEFUL... for a brother and sister-in-law who sacrifice so much to protect the integrity of this country, and who have gone through so much but somehow still manage to make it through.

I am GRATEFUL... for a older sister, who is the example of hard work and patience, and who believes that being a dork is the best thing in the world if it makes you happy.

I am GRATEFUL... for a little sister who has put enough effort into our relationship that I now consider her one of my closest friends, and has set the most wonderful example for me in recent years.

I am GRATEFUL... for three dogs and three cats that have brought me greater joy than I could possibly imagine in fuzzy four-footed creatures, and whom I love more than words can express.

I am GRATEFUL... for my education, that through hard work and wonderful opportunities, I can now pass on my knowledge to younger generations and shape their lives in unimaginable ways.

I am GRATEFUL... for my sweet friends, who have helped me through the hardest times of my life, who have never given up on me, and who have made me laugh and have made me far happier than I ever thought I would be

I am GRATEFUL... for a car that runs and keeps me safe, that I can call my own, and that I have loved since the day I started driving it almost six years ago.

I am GRATEFUL... for a warm bed at night, a fireplace, a house with a large kitchen and spacious backyard where my dogs can play and I can see the trees and mountains and watch the rain on the windows when the storms blow in.

I am GRATEFUL... for the health that I enjoy, that I only have minor complaints and issues and that I am still alive and able to find joy in every day.

I am GRATEFUL... for the many people I've had the opportunity to meet in the thirteen houses and three states I've lived in in the past twenty two years, the things I've learned from them, and the knowledge that my life is forever changed because of their influence and kindness.

I am GRATEFUL... for modern technology, that allows us to keep in touch with people half a world away, and gives us opportunities to make a livelihood, maintain relationships, and change the world.

I am GRATEFUL... for the opportunities I've had to travel the world, for each cathedral or museum I've visited, each bridge I've crossed or field I've trekked, for bringing me knowledge and experience, and a desire for adventure that will never be quenched.

I am GRATEFUL... for the mountains that are so close by, where I can climb the rocks, hike the trails, smell the wildflowers and see the world from an unforgettable vantage point.

I am GRATEFUL... for a gospel that brings me so much peace, that teaches that all injustices will be made right in the end, that teachers that we can live with our families forever, and we will get to see them again, that we have an older brother who loved us enough to die for us, and that we can find happiness in this seemingly dark and bitter world.

I am GRATEFUL... for the time that I had to serve in my mission in Mexico, the lessons and language I learned, the people who influenced me more than they can possibly know, and the hope for a future where I can be a missionary once more.

I am GRATEFUL... for the blessings which I can't count, the ones that I don't remember, the ones that I used to have but no longer enjoy, and the endless and unimaginable blessings I will be able to enjoy in the future.

I am GRATEFUL... that I have so many things to be grateful for.

Family History: Everyone Can Do It!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's crazy to think how different a person I was this time last year. I was still in school  (although preparing to start my final semester as an undergraduate), wasn't considering a mission, and the last thing on my mind was family history. I was lucky enough to have the most amazing roommate that semester, and a younger sister serving a mission, who both helped inspire me first and foremost to serve a mission, and second, to begin my (almost obsessive) involvement in family history. My little sister, Cassidy, had started a lot of the genealogy work before she left on her mission, and my sweet roommate and best friend, Kirsten, was amazing enough to help encourage me and get me involved in the awesome work of family history. We ended up going to the family history center at least once a week that semester, often spending 2-3 hours there, despite the fact that we both were insanely busy with school and work. And she was preparing at that time to leave on her mission to Russia. I will admit... after the first few times, I was hooked. But after Kirsten left on her mission, I didn't do as much work... until I was medically released from my mission and was spending an extraordinary amount of time at home, jobless, schoolless, and basically obligation-free. 

Except... I wasn't.

I knew that I was home for a reason- one of them being that I needed to recover from these migraines that started so suddenly in the MTC. But, as I so often taught (even in the MTC), part of missionary work includes completing work for the dead. And so, in order to to feel a little less like a total mooch, and again like a missionary (that feeling that I craved more than anything), I opened up my computer to FamilySearch. I was hooked... again. Except for this stuff is way better than drugs. Ha.

I was home a month and I found 204 names that need ordinances done, from baptisms, to sealings to parents and spouses. Part of it may be because my Dad and his side are not members, so there's a lot of work that needs to be done. I mean a lot. It's not like it was easy. I'm a fifth-generation Polish immigrant, and my great great grandparents that immigrated from Poland have no records beyond their birth and death dates. Part of the reason is because a lot of records were destroyed during the world wars. It's hard to do the in-depth name-searching, looking for a scrap of information about marriage records, birth certificates, headstones... but even if you don't have time to dig deep, someone out there in your family needs you to find them... chances are, they've been waiting for a long, long time for their work to be done. I sent this picture to my sister (who had inspired me in the first place) and she responded with possibly the best, most hopeful message that I had read since I was released from my mission. And these weren't even all the names I had found... I had already given 40 other names to friends that were helping me do the ordinances for my male ancestors. 

After I posted this photo, I had so many people that messaged me, or commented, that were so excited and looking for ways and helps so that they could do their family history as well. And so... here is a compilation of my tips and tricks that can help you find names to take to the temple!

Use the new Descendancy Feature on Let me tell you- I found SO many names using this feature! You can select a person and view up to a four-generation descendency that includes your person's children and all of their children, and so on. It makes it so much easier to find aunts, uncles, children, etc. who may have slipped through the cracks and may be missing vital ordinances. 

LDS members now have FREE access to genealogy sites including Ancestry.comFindMyPast, and MyHeritage. You'll want to go to these sites through FamilySearch, because it will link your FamilySearch and LDS account to these sites. 

Stuck on a name? Try visiting the LDS Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City. They have specialists and research consultants there who will be able to help you get started and provide amazing resources. Their collection includes over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 727,000 microfiche; 356,000 books, serials, and other formats; over 4,500 periodicals and 3,725 electronic resources. FamilySearch has provided a list of tips before you visit, which can be found here. Don't go empty-handed! The consultants there can also provide you with specific resources, lists of websites, and more that can help you, especially if you're searching for records from a specific country. I got a whole list of websites that could help me look through Polish records (even though I can't read Polish... oops!). Thank goodness for Google Translate. 

The LDS Family History Library also has classes, such as " - Navigation and Record Search Basics", "Digital Digging in FamilySearch" and even more specific classes such as "Using the German/Poland Online Gazetteer Kartenmeister" and "Russian Print and Handwriting". Check out their schedule here.

When searching for records, try a variety of spellings, birth dates/years, death years, and so on... You might not have the exact spelling, or you might have the Americanized or maiden name, or immigration records might have been indexed with a few mistakes... and associate sites have great tools for broadening your searches. Don't restrict your searches to exact names, birth or death dates, etc. And be open to doing a little deeper digging if someone looks similar to an ancestor of yours. We found out that we had been spelling Niedbalski incorrectly the whole time (thanks to the sweet Polish family history consultant at the genealogy library downtown). By changing the spelling, we were able to find a lot of the Niedbalski children (my great aunts and uncles). In the example below, Antonette was the Americanized spelling of Antonia. Once we realized this, we were able to track down some more information about her that we couldn't find before. 

Use the work that people have already done! A lot of the times, I've noticed that records have been found, parentage updated, etc. on one site, but not on another. Often times, you may need to transfer names, birth dates and places, death dates, and records between sites. I like to keep my base site as FamilySearch, because the most important aspect of genealogy in the church is completing temple ordinances, and FamilySearch is where all temple ordinances are requested and recorded. If you're looking to see what names are available to take to the temple, you'll only be able to find the ordinances they need on FamilySearch. 

Don't stop at just looking for parents or direct ancestors. Look for children, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters. Sometimes the answer to finding names is not just looking for your direct ancestors, but finding the other children of your great great grandparents and working from there. One of the ways I found so many names was finding the six kids of my great great grandparents, Antonette and Frank. I couldn't find a lot of information about my own family, but by expanding my searches, I found a lot of family members of their son Max's wife, Katherine, including her parents, grandparents, and siblings. Branch out! If you're stuck on one name, try another. You could get lucky! 

Don't go to the temple without a name. Even if you don't have one, someone in your ward probably (um... definitely) has name cards that they need to get done. Heck, if you can't find anyone, I can guarantee I have name cards for you to take. 

  • Check out this talk, called "The Book" given by Elder Allan F. Packer in the October 2014 General Conference
  • OR check out this talk, called "A New Harvest Time" by Elder Russell M. Nelson in the April 1998 General Conference
  • Read this article, called "Using Family History As A Missionary Tool" by Christopher K. Bigelow
  • Look at the FamilySearch YouTube Account for more video tutorials and resources
  • If you have any ideas, tips, or trick, please feel free to comment below and I'll add them to this list!