Friday, December 5, 2014

Advent Books for Grown-Ups and Kiddos

Advent means "coming".

I know that we're already into this a few days, but I really wanted to share with y'all.  Advent is one of my favorite times of year and I couldn't let it pass without letting you in on some really great resources.

This season of Advent, we celebrate the first coming of our Lord Jesus and eagerly await the second.

Along with the joy of this season comes the hustle and bustle and the loss of the sacredness of what we yearn to celebrate.

About this time of year, I get an almost physical hunger for God's Word, to connect and dig down deep so that I'm grounded against the crazy ebb and flow of this busy time.

Being the reader that I am, my instinct is to dive into books, so today I'm going to share with you some of the things we're trying as a family, as a couple and just me to make sure we're getting filled up properly.

Hands down our favorite Advent tradition is what our kids affectionately call "The Door Book".  Officially, it is The Advent Book by Jack and Kathy Stockman.  (you can check it out here.)  The art work and detail are awe-inspiring and the text is pure Scripture.  We got this book very early on in our family's history, so is near and dear to our hearts.

Advent Book

This year, for the first time, we're doing the Jesse tree tradition.  I've wanted to do this for a while and just hadn't been able to get it together.  We are using two different resources for this family devotion.  The first is Let's Make a Jesse Tree! by Darcy James.  This has patterns to use for the symbols, which you can either sew or make out of paper.  My kids are making the paper ones while I am sewing felt ones so that we have them every year.  I love that this is something they do with their hands while the reading is going on.  This book includes very brief devotions with each pattern, but we're using another resource to do the readings.

The book that we're using for our Advent readings has been on my Amazon wishlist for a couple of years now and I was so excited to get it in the mail.    It's called the Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Lambert Smith.  One of the best things about this book is that it has devotions for kids and adults.  I'll admit, it's been  a little bit difficult for me because it's not the traditional Christmas story, but it goes over the Old Testament teachings about Jesus.  Now that I'm into it, I really like it.

My Hubs and I are reading an Advent devotional after the kids go to bed.  This is the first time we've done this and I love reading it together after the house is quiet.  (Problem is that usually my eyes are starting to slam shut, but I try really hard to make it through because this book is really good.)  We're reading Good News of Great Joy by John Piper.

And just to show that it's not only books that we get into, here's a lovely Nativity scene that I've had pinned from Pinterest for ages and just printed out.  Why did I wait so long?!  This is from made by joel.  

You print it out from your computer.  And it's free.  Seriously.  F-R-E-E.  All of my kids are in love it.  In fact, I've had to go back and print more out so each one could have one.  I even printed out the tiny one so I could keep it in my purse to give my littles something to do with their hands during church.  Score.

That's what our family is trying out this Advent season.  

I'd love to know what you've learned works for you as an individual or as a family.  Could you share?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Where We Talk of the Mystery of Genetics and an Old Stinky Refrigerator

**Warning: This is a post heavy with pictures of moi.  Sorry about that.  It just kind of happened.**

It is not an unusual occurrence for someone to remark how expressive my children's faces are.

"I know!" I gush.  "I can't imagine where they get it from."

Because, well, as amazing as my hubby's smile is (and it really is), he's never been chastised for letting every emotion known to man cross his face in a thirteen second time span.

Me on the other hand?

Well, here's just an everyday, random example...

Over the last month or so, I've noticed that our second, overflow refrigerator just didn't seem to be acting right.  I knew it was on it's last legs and every time I went to open it, my face looked like this:

That's the look where a) you're hoping the refrigerator fairy has come to fix the refrigerator or b) it is just plain starting to stink in there.  Or it's both.

After bringing it to the attention of the aforesaid hubby who possesses the amazing smile, I had to wait until he was convinced it was actually dying.  It took him a while.

That is, until he went outside to get one of his favorite drink and came in disgusted because it was, at best, luke warm.

This is my face when he mentions we might need to get a new outside refrigerator.  I'm so glad he thought of that.

Twenty four hours later, guess who now possesses a new-to-us refrigerator bought off of Craigslist?  Funny how quickly it all happened once his drink was not up to the chilling standard.

Then someone forgot to call the appliance pick-up service to get the old fridge out of the carport.

It was me.  However, I don't like to be reminded.

But then, when I start to think about how an elk skull (long story) hanging on the wall of the carport and a stinky fridge start to make us look to our neighbors, I think that maybe I need to hustle myself.

Good thing there is no HOA here.

After all that, there is a working refrigerator just in time for the holiday events, an old one picked up and our reputation as not-really-rednecks restored in our neighborhood.

This is the face of one happy girl.

Yes, I do wonder where my children have inherited their expressiveness from.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why It's Important To Dress Up Your House a Little

When my hubby and I bought our fixer-upper last year, we knew that the main purpose of this house was for it to be open and inviting, restful and encouraging.

What we didn't know is how seriously the Lord would take us on that.

While we've had no one actually move in with us, it has felt at times that we have a revolving front door and someone always on the calendar.

Which, just for the record, I adore.  (I just wrote a fragment there.  I tend to do it a lot.  Maybe I have a fragment problem.)

It's true.  I adore having people over, eating, laughing, singing, lounging, putting their feet up and resisting the call of their beds to stay just a wee bit longer.

It's so easy to get comfortable when people are at your house.  While this is good and exactly what we're going for most of the time, it's natural to become complacent with the atmosphere of our homes.  My desire is not only for people to feel refreshed, but also like they're honored guests and worth extra fuss, especially before they come over.

By all means, use the time when people are over to sit and rest with them.  In fact, I never clean up the kitchen when anyone but family is over.  I'd rather be sitting and having a good time while they're there because the dishes can certainly wait.

While I'm not a huge fan of creating extra work (i.e. laundry, weed-picking, floor-mopping), I take the opportunity of having people into my home as a way to bring beauty into their lives and offer them respite from a crazy, busy world.

It's amazing what some candles and flowers can do to soften the atmosphere.

I think we can all agree that it's so nice to have those times when friends come over and you hand them a disposable cup with their names written on it with Sharpie.  However, there are those times when your soul and theirs need to be nourished with real glasses sans the Sharpie.

It can be as simple or elaborate as you make it.  I have the personality where I actually like it both ways.

We all have our own personalities, which are reflected in our homes.  You don't have to spend a lot of money (really, I promise you don't) to make it warm and welcoming to others.

While the preparation before may more be time-costly, the efforts that you put into making others breathe more deeply and quietly will not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Favorite Pumpkin Bread Recipe

If you've visited here before, you might be aware of my baking love.

I am in no way a professional, but if you're looking for something more down-home and imperfect, then I'm your gal.

I bake year 'round, but fall and winter baking is always my favorite.  With my sister getting married at the beginning of this month (and at my house, no less), my baking opportunities were severely limited.

Guess what the first thing I did was?  Apple and peach pies.  Yup.  I couldn't help myself.

Today I just had to get my hands in some batter or dough or mixture of some kind, so I pulled out my favorite pumpkin bread recipe and got to work.  I also felt like "Enough of the scented candle already. I should actually bake something with pumpkin in it so my hubby doesn't feel a massive letdown when he walks in from work and all he gets is a nice waxy candle."  Yeah, sorry about that, Babe.

The first thing you need to know about this recipe is that it is for three loaves, which is just right for my large family.  (actually, large is pretty relative.  in our group, we have one of the "smaller" families. true story.)  The second is that this is "Plain Jane" pumpkin bread.  There's no streusel, no icing, blah, blah, blah.  You could totally add these things, but I've never been patient enough to wait to do those things.

I'm sure that if you decide you don't need three loaves (of course, I might question your sanity), you could try to reduce the ingredient amounts (eh. never tried it.) or just freeze the extra loaves (ding, ding, ding!).

That being said, I give you.... Pumpkin Bread.


3 cups canned pumpkin
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 cups white sugar
6 eggs
4 3/4 cups flour (I used unbleached a.p., but you could probably use whole wheat, too.)
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. nutmeg
1 1/2 t. cloves


In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, oil, sugar and eggs.  (You can do this by hand or with a mixer. I just used a spoon and went at it.)  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a separate bowl.  Stir into the pumpkin mixture until well blended.  Divide batter evenly between three greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour (or until it passes the clean knife test.).

(Sorry for the photo where you can barely tell where the bread ends and the counter begins.  I had to snap it quickly before it was all eaten up by five ravenous kids who are like locusts in their uncanny ability to strip a refrigerator/pantry/any available food source bare in record time.  I'm lucky I had a chance to get this photo.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That Time When I Planned My Sister's Wedding - And Then I Didn't Sleep (or Blog) For Months

My sister got married last week.  The reception was here.

Here as in where I live.

Here as in where my five children live.

Here as in the place where we live, breathe, school, eat multiple times a day, sleep, use the potty and mess everything up in record amounts of time.

And yet when she asked me all those months ago if the reception could be here, of course, I said, "YES!"

My husband then hunkered down in hole and vowed not to come out until the day after the wedding.

In the months since, we have lived and breathed and slept wedding reception plans.

Then suddenly, it was here!

(my dad pretending like
he knows what is going on.)

House guests came and there were airport runs and late night visits to the grocery store to make sure we had enough cereal and it was time.

Everything was ready.

My two antique doors hauled all the way from South Dakota this past summer made their appearance in our back yard.

Unbelievably, it actually sprinkled here that morning.  Seriously.  Rain in Arizona is like the one thing you can depend on NOT happening.  Everything was scooped off the tables as we made a mad dash inside the house.

Even the posts were dressed up for the occasion.  Burlap and my still-green lemons made for a lovely (and cheap. ahem) rustic-y decor.

I painted these old mason jars with chalkboard paint and then painted a layer of craft paint over them and sanded so the words popped out.  I found this idea on Pinterest and it actually worked!  They had a nice matte finish and looked so fall-like with these bouquets.

I loved throwing the guests for a loop by having vintage wedding pictures on each of the tables.  Everyone was trying to figure out who they were.  My answer?  No idea.  I had bought them off of eBay. 

My brother-in-law is a baseball fanatic.  Like, seriously.  A fanatic.  When he was first asked what he wanted at their reception, he replied, "Nachos."  My sister and I died at the thought of serving nachos at a reception.  But then we actually did it.  He was so excited. (Note: this is how you get on the good side of your brand-new brother-in-law.)

We bought all of these pint sized mason jars and put chalkboard labels on them to use as personalized drinking glasses.  I loved this little touch of rusticity.

With the fruits of fall available, we used some of them in a display on the gift table.  Again,

 I love this cake my sister picked out!  It's bridal without being overly wedding-ish.  And the chandelier and suitcase?  Swoon.  This might have been my favorite vignette of the evening.

(a birds-eye view before
the morning rain taken
my budding photographer

The bubbly was chilling in my great-grandparents antique ice-chest (I guess it wasn't an antique when they bought it.) and it was time to get this show on the road.

My sister looked absolutely stunning.  Never have I seen her looking lovelier or happier.  It was a moment to just breathe in.

My nephew was just as excited as she was!  He thought this whole thing was for him.

The show was on the road.  My brother walked the two mothers down the aisle.

The happiest couple ever.

 Okay, maybe the second happiest couple ever.  (We're the first.)

After the whirlwind of planning, the indigestion, the budget meetings, the one million runs to Hobby Lobby, like that! it was over.

And we breathed again.  And took a nap.  A long nap.

And I got to blog again.

And we all lived happily ever after.

The End.

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's Fall! Time for Homemade Pumpkin Granola! (and the crowd goes wild!)

I am known for standing in the grocery store and tearing up at the first appearance of pumpkins.

True story.

I am an absolute fool for anything pumpkin.  I even had my dining room in a previous house painted the perfect pumpkin color.  It made me so happy.... and chubby because I just kept wanting to bake more.

A few days ago I knew that I couldn't myself back any longer.

Pumpkin granola had to be made.

Had to, I tell you.

So this was posted on my Instagram feed:

That was the beginning.

This is the end:

Jack was caught red-handed.  I'm not even sure it had cooled yet.  All the sudden, the kid's hands were made of silicon or something.

I found the recipe for this a couple of years ago on Pinterest (of course) and have made it once or twice.

It makes your house smell like the fall colors on the trees look.  (Look Ma,  I'm being poetic!)

Here's the recipe from Dashing Dish:

4 cups Old fashioned rolled oats (use gluten free if your sensitive to gluten)
2 tsp Ground cinnamon
1 tspPumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup Baking stevia OR 1 cup sweetener of choice that measures like sugar 1
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking powder
3/4 cups Pumpkin
1/2 cup Applesauce (unsweetened)
3 tbsSugar free maple syrup (or honey or agave nectar)
Optional Add-ins: 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, 1 cup honey teddy grahams lightly crushed
The estimated total time to make this recipe is 45 Minutes.


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients in another. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry using a spatula, (or your hands), until everything is well combined and oats are coated with wet ingredients.

2. Place granola on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, then stir granola around. Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the granola is golden brown and is crisp. Take the granola out of the oven, and let it cool completely on the baking sheet. Stir in additional white chocolate chips or teddy grahams at this point if desired. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.

**I went ahead and just used sugar because that's what we had.  I know I'm running a risk here for major criticism about using refined.  It's okay if you never want to speak to me again.  Actually, that would make me sad if we broke up over sugar, but if we did then we probably weren't all that close anyway.

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