Tuesday, January 31, 2012

{friendship} Meeting a New Friend through the Blogger Exchange Party


One of my unwritten goals for 2012 (unwritten because it sounds kind-of lame) is to use my blog to meet new people and create new friendships. Being a stay-at-home mom can sometimes feel so isolating, you know?  So when I heard about the Blogger Exchange Party, I knew it was the perfect way to start off 2012 and I couldn't sign up fast enough!     

I was paired up with Heather, who blogs here.  She is a momma of two, a big movie buff and bowler, as well as a lover of all things pink and glittery!  From the moment I "met" her, I knew I liked her and was determined to think of a really good gift. 

Now my family will laugh at me, but just like I do with my husband, my relatives or my kids, I was on a mission to find the best gift for Heather (and in the designated price range!). After reading much of her blog, and lots of deliberation and "Mark, what do you think of this?", this is what I came up with: 

Because she is such a movie lover and saw something like 60 movies last year(!!), I thought she may enjoy the Ticket Stub Diary.  I have given this as a gift before and it was well-received.  A fun way to record all of those movies for 2012! :)  And since I couldn't help myself, I included a little tissue cozy that I found on etsy to represent her love for bowling. 

I packaged everything in the only pink wrapping paper I own (oh perks of living with a ton of boys!) and some vintage lace and rick rack.  Then off to the Midwest it went!

And this is what she sent me! 

Amazingly generous, right?  I was blown away by all of her gifts but this may be my favorite part:

She sent little goodie bags for the boys!  They were so surprised!
Thank you, thank you, thank you Heather! :)
This swap was so much fun and it really got my wheels turning.  I can't wait to share my big idea with all of you.  Be sure to check back next Monday for the big announcement! 

Friday, January 27, 2012

{giving} Donate Food to the Food Bank

I'm on an organizing roll, people.  Yesterday, I went through my pantry and organized everything in preparation for grocery shopping tomorrow.  There was a lot of "Why did we buy this?" and "Nobody is going to eat this."  I ended up with a bag full of (relatively healthy) food to donate to the food pantry at our church.   

As luck would have it, I found this neat graphic on Pinterest and just had to share it with you.  This time of year is hard on the food banks.  The need is so great.  It makes my heart so sad to think of mamas who go without so they can feed their kids.  I mean, can you imagine? 

I want to do something.  I want to do more.
I've decided to purchase a few extra items when I see them on sale at the store.  Sale on mac and cheese?  Into the cart they go.  Super clearance on peanut butter?  I'll take it.  I figure it won't solve world hunger, but every little bit helps, right?

Have a good weekend, friends.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

{wishlist} My New Camera Edition

I don't think I've mentioned here that I got a new camera for Christmas.  I've wanted a
"fancy" SLR camera for years and years now, but have made do with my little point and shoot.  So you can imagine my surprise when my husband wanted to give me this amazing gift!  Photography is so interesting to me and I'm anxious to learn everything about it. 

Anyway, with a new camera comes new accessories.  Here's my wishlist for all those "extras":

A cool strap (because every photographer needs one of these, right?):

Jo Tote: A really cute and functional bag to carry all my camera stuff.  I love that it will also hold some diapers and snacks for the kiddos.

Another lens:

For all of you experienced photographers out there, any recommendations?  I'm in the market for a good how-to book!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

{i want to remember} - 1/25/12

Sometimes life gets so busy that I forget to notice and appreciate the little things. Here are some of the things I am loving this week:

 I WANT TO REMEMBER... how adorable D is when he declares either of his brothers is his best friend.  This happens on nearly a daily basis.  The two most recent: "Mamma, J is my best friend because he kisses me." and "M, you not my best friend anymore?" (they were having a spat)

I WANT TO REMEMBER... how sweet it is to watch the bond between baby J and his daddy.  They have had a special connection since he was a tiny newborn.  I can't wait to see their relationship as he grows up.

I WANT TO REMEMBER... M and the crazy things he's been saying lately.  At bedtime, my husband always prays "in thanksgiving for my family".  M, in an attempt to one-up his father, tried this new prayer: "in Christmas for my family."  I guess the holidays work interchangably.  :)

I WANT TO REMEMBER... this amazing prayer prayed by Mother Teresa:
"Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen." 
I am my little sister's Confirmation sponsor and we are praying this daily until the big day.  I hope it's as powerful a prayer to her as it is to me. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

{recording life} Making a Life List

Do you read Learn with Jenny?  She is an amazing woman with a powerful story...you must check her out!  I love her zest for life and her quest for intentional living.  She is starting a new series on her blog about creating a life list and that is right up my alley! (You know how much I love lists!) 

Part One is actually the preparation before you create your list.  She asks three questions: What do you value?  What excites you?  What are your inspirations?  Good things to think about, right?  Below are my answers.  I'd love to hear some of yours!

Values List
Jenny says: "These are the things that really matter to you. Simply, these are your beliefs and ideals that you hold as special."
  • Family
  • Creating a welcoming and loving home atmosphere
  • Charitable giving/service and modeling that for my children
  • My Catholic faith and continually growing in faith
  • Recording my family's stories for future generations
  • Creativity
  • Living intentionally

According to Jenny, "These are the things that make you feel centered, grounded, yet alive. These are the simple acts that often bring out the best in yourself, serve to spark an active imagination, or put yourself in a healthy, energetic mindset to dream big."
  • Laughter
  • Giving gifts
  • Being in the kitchen
  • Heart-to-heart conversations with family
  • Taking photographs
  • Working on my Project Life album
  • Reading
  • Sewing of any sort with my hands, not so much with a machine
  • Getting out of our everyday routine, even if it's a day trip or small excursion

Jenny says: "What serves to inspire you? There are things all around you that help to influence you or inspire you everyday. These include people, events, blogs, magazines, music, concerts, life experiences, photography, etc."

If you're interested, Jenny has a free printable worksheet you can use.  I found that this was a really enlightening exercise and I am excited to work on my own life list in the coming weeks. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

{chit chat} Miscellany Monday: I'm All Over the Place Today

How was your weekend?  Ours was pretty low-key, but still went by too fast!  How does that always happen? Anyway, I'm all over the place this morning.  Care for a glimpse?

1. I spent a good portion of Saturday afternoon working on next week's school.  Usually I like to stay three or four weeks ahead...oops!  We are reading Very Last First Time so we've got Inuits, arctic animals, and oceans on the learning schedule.  I'm hoping the boys are interested...if not, I'm declaring it Polar Bear week.

2. Came across this article and thought it was so true for all of you newer mammas out  there: To the Mother with only One Child A must read.

3. I think I've started something big.  Puzzle mania has hit the house!  The big boys will sit for almost an hour (an HOUR!) doing puzzles over and over again.  Can I just say how glorious the silence is?  My new tip for Mammas: puzzles.   

4. I was honored to be a part of this list on Grace's blog last week.  I may or may not have put off doing a mountain of laundry to check out some of the girls. :)

5. I have home improvement on the brain in a big way lately.  Gearing up to repaint the walls and all of the molding in my living room...well hello crazy burst of energy!  Where did you come from? 

Miscellany Monday @
lowercase letters

Friday, January 20, 2012

{kids craft} A Homemade Highway (using Painter's Tape!)

The cotton balls are supposed to be snow.
This week in school, we are reading Katy and the Big Snow and learning all about how a city runs.  I found this idea on Pinterest months ago and thought it would be fun to do with boys.

OH. MY. WORD.  I truly underestimated the awesomeness of this little project.  If I hadn't run out of painter's tape, we would have had our roads spanning the entire kitchen floor.  The boys have played happily all week and it has been a life-saver when I'm trying to bake something or get dinner on the table!

This is a great idea for rainy days, winter days, even I'm-dying-for-a-break-from-these-kids days.  I did the majority of the taping, but I'm sure a child slightly older than my oldest can be left free to his own imagination.       

P.S. My husband thinks I would make a fine urban city planner.  Please take note of my amazing parking lot. :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

{etsy finds} Beautiful (and Delicious!) Cookies from Sugar & Flour

Today's cool etsy find are these amazing cookies made by Karen at Sugar & Flour.  Aren't these cookies so neat?    They are made from a vanilla/almond sugar cookie dough and frosted with vanilla/almond royal icing. Baked fresh to order! 

I have ordered from her twice before and have been so pleased both times.  And the cookies....oh yum!  You must try them for yourself!  Her cookies are perfect for birthdays, baby showers or just because!  Wouldn't the apple cookies be so cute individually wrapped as teacher gifts?  You can find her store here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

{recording life} My Word for 2012: Dream


Do you choose a word to guide your year?  After some prayer and a lot of thought, I've decided on DREAM.  For awhile, I have been "in the trenches" so to speak when it comes to motherhood.  With multiple little ones seeking my attention for feeding, playing, diaper changes, baths, you name it...well, I really didn't have the time to think of anything else. 

The past six months or so have been different. I feel like I've hit my stride when it comes to balancing motherhood and my home. Sure, some days are more difficult than others, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like I can glance out to the future...and dream.

I have dreams for making a difference in this big world. I have dreams for my little family. I have dreams of moving to a new town into a home that will be ours forever. This year, I want to dream big dreams...allow myself to put it all out there and see what God has in store for me. I'm excited to see where He leads.

What is your word for 2012?

Monday, January 16, 2012

{chit chat} Miscellany Monday: A List

1. My geriatric tendencies are getting worse.  If being sound asleep by 10:00 wasn't bad enough, I now enjoy the fascinating pastime of puzzle making.  1000 pieces are no match for me! 

2. M's new line: "Hey Mamma, when I grow up, I'm gonna marry you."  Sweet boy knows how to wrap his Mamma right around his finger, the little stinker.

3. Pigs in a Blanket is on the menu for lunch today.  I know, culinary greatness at its best.  (Bonus tip: I'm not a fan of the term "wienies", so I'm forever grateful to Trader Joe's for their labeling as "Cocktail Pups". ) 

4. The boys are just dying to play in the snow, but we've yet to see any real snow this year!  Double bummer since we are in the middle of two weeks of winter "study" in school.

5. M and D got these awesome cars (they are called PlaSmart PlasmaCar) for Christmas and I think they have been the most used present so far. 

6. I read Start Something That Matters in two days. I give it five stars and a bunch of exclamation points. My husband and I have had a couple of amazing conversations directly because of it..lots of "dreamstorming" going on over here!

Miscellany Monday @
lowercase letters

Friday, January 13, 2012

{ramblings} What If...

What if... we did away with the anxiety-ridden expectations of what a good mother should be and lived our lives in the freedom that we're doing the best we can?

What if... instead of saying no (largely because we're inconvenienced or lazy), we said, "Why not?"

What if... we stopped obsessing about our "pre-pregnancy" weight and now embraced our new normal and the blessing(s) that got us this way?

What if... we fed our children the best we could afford, but didn't stress about the occasional chocolate chip cookie or Happy Meal?

What if... we stopped worrying about what everyone else thought of us and instead focused on what we thought of us?

What if... we lived our lives with the joy of the front row instead of living in the third row?

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

{giving} "Clean-Out for Quilts" with Haiti by Hand


This week's decluttering took me to my embarrassingly huge fabric stash.  With my three little guys running around, I just don't have the time to sew and quilt like I'd like.  As time goes on, my tastes in fabric change and I'm left with things that cause me stress instead of pleasure.  And that just won't do, right?

A quick search through Pinterest led me to Haiti by Hand and their current project: "Clean Out for Quilts".  They are collecting fabric so women in their community can sew items for Haitian women and children.  A perfect match and great motivation to really critique my stash.  I went through every last piece of yardage I owned and worked quickly.  If I couldn't immediately see a quilt or clothing made from a fabric, it was gone.  If it was beautiful, but likely I would never use it: gone. 

The result was a filled-to-the-brim Flat Rate box full of fabric and a much more managable fabric stash.  A win/win for everybody!  If interested, you can find more information here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

{home} Home Goals 2012

Do you read the Nester?  Today she's talking about home goals for the new year and I thought I would play along.  Here are a few of the things we hope to accomplish in 2012:

1. Finish up the living room.

Our living room is one of the first rooms you see when you walk in our home.  My goal is for this room to yell, "Welcome!  We're so glad you're here.  Come sit and visit for awhile."  Does that make sense?  I think I can accomplish that really inexpensively with a few fun accessories: pillows, a few frames with pictures of the boys, fresh flowers...that sort of thing.  I also have an empty wall that needs a little something...I've had my eye on this sign

Guess it's time to check back in on my to-do list from last summer...gotta love blogging for keeping all of your ideas catalogued and ready to retreive!

2. Update a few things in the kitchen.
We have slowly been working on our kitchen.  SLOWLY.  So far, we've changed out the appliances and countertops and added a butcher block island.  This year, I hope to paint the walls, replace the lighting (goodbye brass!), and decide whether or not I want to paint our cabinets white.  An inspiration picture:


3. Plant a little container garden on the back deck.
Last year, we tried this and came up with black thumbs!  Within weeks, our poor plants had fried in the hot sun!  This year, we are determined to redeem ourselves. 
An inspiration picture:

4. Declutter and organize.
I've got my action plan in place and have already filled two bags for Goodwill.  Read this post if you're feeling overwhelmed by all of the kids' toys.  I literally read her post, closed the laptop and spent the next hour working through the toys in our living room.  A lot of work, but so worth it. 

More importantly than the physical improvements, my biggest goal for 2012 is to create a fun and yet peaceful home for my husband and children.  I want my home to feel warm and inviting for the guests that come through that front door.  And if that's all I accomplish, I'll consider this year a success!

Check out the Nester's link-up for more inspiring home goals!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

{book review} Kisses from Katie

Book #1 of my 2012 Reading List: Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis

This book is so hard to describe.  It is wonderful and joyful, inspiring and yet so heart-breaking, passionate and sad....so many conflicting emotions all wrapped up into one book!

If you've read Katie's blog, you'll know how easy it is to fall in love with her.  Her enthusiasm and passion for the people of Uganda is contagious.  Her book is much the same.  So much food for thought!  Here are a few passages that really resonated with me:

"Jesus called His followers to be a lot of things, but I have yet to find where He warned us to be safe.  We are not called to be safe, we are simply promised that when we are in danger, God is right there with us.  And there is no better place to be than in His hands." --page XX

"I see thousands of deep brown eyes and feel thousands of little brown hands and I know that even on the hardest day, stopping is worth it.  A life changed is worth it, even if only one.  God's love made known is worth it, even if only to one.  I will not save them all.  But I will keep trying.  I will say "Yes".  I will stop for one. --page 205

"Help me to hurt, not just a little, but the way you hurt when your children are overlooked and perishing. Help me to never be too busy or too comfortable to remember the people who suffer. Help me to never stop desiring to do something about it. Lord, help us to remember that as the body of Christ, this is our responsibility. Thank you for loving us, even when we forget. I never, never want to forget again." --page 224

You can read her blog here.  You can support her non-profit organization, Amazima Ministries, here.

Ever heard of Brooke Fraser?  This song replayed in my head most of the time I was reading this book.

Monday, January 9, 2012

{in the kitchen} Overnight French Toast Casserole

Ready for a long-winded background story about a recipe?  Here we go!  First off, you need to know two things:
1. I just finished reading my first book of 2012, Kisses from Katie.  (I'll have my review of the book up tomorrow.)
2. I hate wasting food.  And after reading all about the little ones Katie cares for on a daily basis, I am even more committed! 

So I was in quite the predicament when I had three-quarters of an uneaten loaf of homemade bread the other day.  My kids love bread straight from the bread machine, but the next day....well, not so much.  I was determined not to waste (and not have to eat it by myself!) so I put on my thinking cap (aka Google) and found an awesome recipe I just had to share!

I put the recipe together in the afternoon with the intention of serving it for breakfast the next day, but quickly turned it into a "breakfast for dinner" meal.  It only sat in the fridge a few hours, but was still delicious.  I imagine it only gets better if it sits overnight!  Enjoy.

{recipe and picture found here}

4 Tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 loaf brioche or challah (I used regular white bread and it was still good)
8 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (optional - I didn't have any and it still tasted great!)
1/2 cup pecans, measured then chopped (also optional - we have many non-nut eaters in our house)
1/8 teaspoon salt
maple syrup and/or powdered sugar for topping

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and melted butter and pour on the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish.  Arrange slices of bread in the baking dish, overlapping if necessary.  Combine milk, eggs, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a bowl and pour evenly over bread slices. If desired, sprinkle chopped pecans over bread slices. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 4-12 hours. In the morning, take the casserole out of the fridge for at least 10 minutes while you are preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Bake casserole for 30-35 minutes. If top starts browning too quickly place a foil loosely over the top of the casserole for the last 10 minutes or so. You want it to cook long enough to make sure the bottom part is cooked but don't dry it out completely. Remove casserole from oven and let it cool slightly before serving. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Friday, January 6, 2012

{home} A Year of Decluttering

One of the goals I forgot to add to my list was to declutter my home.  Room by room, closet by closet, I want to take out the unused/extras and get organized!  In years past, I've tried, but for one reason or another, well....it just didn't happen.  I have a bad habit of starting out strong, but losing steam and getting frustrated or overwhelmed.  

I was super excited to find this website when perusing Pinterest one evening!  I immediately printed her 2012 Declutter Calendar and can't wait to start.  It's not overwhelming (just one task to do each day) and will take me through my whole house in one year.  That's that kind of pace I can handle! :)   

Thursday, January 5, 2012

{2012 goals} At-Home Date Nights

Source: tumblr.com via Helen on Pinterest

Date nights.  What are those again?  

Back when M was a little baby (and I thought I knew everything), I would have predicted that Mark and I would have a date night at least once a month.  Five years and two more babies later, reality has set in.  Good, trustworthy babysitters are hard to find and man, are they expensive!  And with our single-income home, that's really an expense we can't afford to have.   

After reading an article about strengthening marriages through date nights, I knew I had to make it a priority and add it to my 2012 goals.  Just because we're at home doesn't mean we can't spend intentional time together.  Nothing like a little creativity after the little ones are in bed!

Here are some of the ideas I've come up with so far:
  • Re-watch the first movie we ever went to see when we were dating.
  • Order our favorite take out.
  • Play 20 Questions, Couples Style.  Always fun to learn a little something new about your spouse!
  • Have a themed movie night.  Choose a movie and dinner with the same theme.  Ideas: French, Western, etc.
  • Put a blanket down by the fireplace or TV and have a picnic dnner.
  • Do some sort of service project together.  Example: pack care packages for troops overseas and handwrite letters for each box.
  • Bake a special dessert together.  Brownies, ice cream sundaes, apple pie, a cake...
  • Have a special wine and cheese dinner, along with fruit and crackers.
  • Play golf/putt-putt in the backyard.  (Make our own rules!)
  • Talk about our hopes and dreams for the future: "dreamstorming"
  • Break out the board games.  We like cards or Scrabble.
  • Eat breakfast food for dinner and eat in bed.
  • Read together.
  • Have a fancy candlelit dinner in the dining room.
  • Work out together (circuits?).
  • Play one of his favorite video games together.
  • Watch Monday Night Football together and eat stadium food like nachos and hotdogs.

A great website for more ideas can be found here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

{i want to remember} - 1/4/12

Sometimes life gets so busy that I forget to notice and appreciate the little things. Here are some of the things I am loving this week:

I WANT TO REMEMBER... the way baby J grabs his brothers' faces and gives them lots of slobbery kisses.  I love their joyful squeals.   

I WANT TO REMEMBER... that when it comes to toys, the lesson most certainly is quality vs. quantity.  I'm happy to say that our Christmas choices this year were perfect!  So much imagination in my house right now!

I WANT TO REMEMBER... M's fascination with spies right now.  We've been watching lots of Spy Kids and he's been sporting his new Night Vision goggles.

I WANT TO REMEMBER... how hilarious D is becoming!  At three years old, this kid is quite the comedian.  He has me in stitches everyday with his funny lines.  So much like his Daddy.

I WANT TO REMEMBER... how excited I am for 2012.  We've got exciting things in store this year!

Monday, January 2, 2012

{recording life} Goals for 2012


Happy New Year!  How did you ring in 2012?  Our New Year's was really low-key.  The three littles had bedtime as usual (they'd never make it to midnight anyway and I am not about to have three grouchy boys in the morning!  Know what I mean, mammas?)  Mark and I watched a movie and were sound asleep by 11pm.  Such is life!

I love January and the feeling of starting anew.  I'm also a big fan of New Year's Resolutions.  They keep me grounded and intentional, even if I don't accomplish them all.  This year, I separated my goals into three sections: To Read, To Bake, and To Accomplish.  Here are a few of my goals for 2012 (along with some links!). I'd love to hear some of yours as well!

To Read

To Bake

To Accomplish
  • Wean myself off of soda
  • Have all of the boys' baby books up to date
  • Finish my mom's family scrapbook project
  • Install hardwood floors
  • Attack our student loan debt and pay off the car
  • Eat out less and cook healthy, homemade food more!
  • Make low-cost, at-home date nights a priority
  • Simplify and organize some of the "hot spots" in our home (closets, boys toys, etc)
  • Find more easy ways to serve others as a family
  • Make fun memories!
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