Friday, January 30, 2015

{around here} 04/52: Week of 1.26.15

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.  At the end of the year, I'll publish them into a keepsake to treasure.

Around here, I have been:

watching the kids play.  M got a marble from his CCD teacher this week and the amount of time all of the kids have played with that one marble blows my mind.  Why do we have all of these toys again?

doing Sophie's hair exactly how she requests.  She always wants three, not two but THREE, hair ties, so I've been fixing a lovely 'do of pig tails connected into a pony.  She loves it.  

reading all about dyslexia in an attempt to help my second oldest.  It's not official, but as the school year progresses, I'm more and more convinced.  I've mostly scrapped our original curriculum and am starting back at square one.  (We are still doing the letter of the week for now.)  After the recommendations of a few homeschooling moms, I just ordered All about Reading and I'm hopeful it will help.    

trying to get out of my cereal rut and make hearty breakfasts, much like this time last year.  This week, I made homemade granola, a Denver baked omelet and crepes.

purchasing new product for Big White Farmhouse.  I'm excited!

letting go of counting calories.  It has become a frustrating behavior that can border on obsessive and life is just so much bigger than that.  Instead, I'm focusing on more: more water, more veggies, more good stuff.  And a small sweet treat is okay sometimes too.  

homeschool notes:

  • It was L week in Kindergarten.  We painted lions.
  • The big boys found our old Monopoly game and have caught on quickly.  I love the extra math practice it gives both of them...and it's fun!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

{a year of challenges} January is for Learning: A Review

The end of the January is for Learning Challenge is here!  How did you do?  

As far as my personal challenge goes, I am really pleased with the outcome.  Sometimes as a mother to little ones, I feel like my brain is slowly turning to mush.  This month helped me see that it doesn't have to be that way. Below is a record of all the things I read, listened to and explored:  

1. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It
2. Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does)
3. Orphan Train

1. Brilliant Business Mom Podcast Episode 062: Blogging, Best-Sellers & The Good Life with Ruth Soukup
2. Elise Gets Crafty Episode 39: Maintaining a Creative Habit
3. Read-Aloud Revival Episode 12: The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared
4. Fountains of Carrots Episode 6: Planned Chaos with Kelly Mantoan
5. Not technically a Podcast, but just as informative: 5 Steps to a Better Facebook Page with Holly Homer
6. Brilliant Business Moms Episode 027: On Growing an Authentic Blog with Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy

TED TALKS. (Summaries come from the TED talk website)
1. Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability
Brene Brown studies human connection - our ability to empathize, belong, love.  In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.  

2. David Goldstein: The Battle Between your Present and Future Self
Every day, we make decisions that have good or bad consequences for our future selves.  (Can I skip flossing just this one time?)  Danial Goldstein makes tools that help us imagine ourselves over time, so that we make smart choices for Future Us.

3. Christopher McDougall: Are We Born to Run?
Christopher McDougall explores the mysteries of the human desire to run.  How did running help early humans survive - and what urges from our ancient ancestors spur us on today?  McDougall tells the story of the marathoner with a gold, the unlikely ultra-runner, and the hidden tribe in Mexico that runs to live.  
4. Mac Barnett: Why a Good Book is a Secret Door
Childhood is surreal.  Why shouldn't children's books be?  In this whimsical talk, award-winning author Mac Barnett speaks about writing that escapes the page, art as a doorway to wonder - and what real kids say to a fictional whale.

5. Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts  
In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert.  But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts brings extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

6. Joy Sun: Should You Donate Differently?
Technology allows us to give cash directly to the poorest people on the planet.  Should we do it?  In this thought-provoking talk, veteran aid work Joy Sun explores two ways to help the poor.

7. Ken Robinson: How Schools Kill Creativity 
Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

8. Jamie Oliver: Teach Every Child about Food 
Sharing powerful stories from his anti-obesity project in Huntington, West Virginia --and a shocking image of the sugar we eat.  TED Prize winner Jamie Oliver makes the case for an all-out assault on our ignorance of food.

9. Andie Mitchell: On Weight Loss
Andie Mitchell talks about her struggles with food, her background and her blog. She explores a topic that she claims took many years of reflection to figure out: the secret to lasting weight loss.

10. Rosie King: How Autism Freed Me to be Myself
"People are so afraid of variety that they try to fit everything into a tiny little box with a specific label," says 16-year-old Rosie King, who is bold, brash and autistic.  She wants to know: Why is everyone so worried about being normal?  She sounds a clarion call for every kid, parent, teacher and person to celebrate uniqueness.  It's a soaring testament to the potential of human diversity.

1. And Then We Saved: Saving where we can, so we can spend where we want
2. The Catholic Table (This post is great!)
3. by Regina: for the Bloggers and Entrepreneurs

Stay tuned for the new February challenge next week!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

{book report} My Latest Reads // January

When I was a little girl, I was a voracious reader.  My nose was always in a book and I remember thinking that it would be so cool if I could read every book in the children's section of the library.  (Clearly, this was the beginning of my love for goals, albeit a bit unattainable!)  

The January is for Learning Challenge has awakened that love for books again.  At the beginning, I had to "force" myself to sit down and read.  I had so many distractions: my phone, the computer, TV...they all seemed easier and more attractive.  But I fought through and the habit has remained.  I'm excited to see how many books I can get through in 2015.

Here are the four I read in January:    

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber
I first heard about this book from Anna...I think she posted on Instagram?  She was a fan and I liked it a lot too.  The main advice is that you should work ON your business, not just IN it.  He makes the case that you cannot build a successful business around something you are skilled at.  If you only want to be a worker, you should continue working for someone else!  In order to be successful on your own, you need the bigger picture component as well.  Gerber lays out a clear road map for creating systems within your company and I will definitely be incorporating a few of the ideas into Big White Farmhouse soon.

Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat
This was an assigned family read aloud for M's school and we all enjoyed it!  It is about a boy who adopts two owls and each chapter describes an adventure.  The writing is funny, the chapters are just long enough for the reader (you won't go hoarse trying to finish!) and my boys wanted an owl for our house by the end.  

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
How do I even begin to describe this book?  It is about the friendship of two women, one a teenager and the other elderly, who have lived difficult lives.  I was sucked in from the first few pages, my heart breaking as their stories of the past unfolded.  I hesitate to call it "good" because how can foster care and child neglect be good?  It's definitely a moving story and I recommend it.  

Joy to the World by Scott Hahn
I received this book from Blogging for Books for review and could not wait to read it!  Scott Hahn can always be counted on to explain Catholic theology in a simple, understandable way and Joy to the World was no exception.  In this book, he encourages the readers to look closely at the different parts of the Christmas story (the town of Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph, the angels, etc.) and then weaves the story back together.  It was like looking at Christmas with brand new eyes!  This book would be a wonderful choice for Advent next year.

What books have you been reading?  Share in the comments!  I'm always looking for new recommendations!

{Related: My Booklist

Monday, January 26, 2015

{cookie project} No.002: Hot Cocoa Cookies

The Cookie Project is a year-long experiment to combine my love for baking and trying new things.

Yesterday was our second "official" Sunday family dinner. Instead of just throwing something onto plates and calling it good, Mark and I decided that we really wanted to embrace Sundays and make them special.  It's been so fun to create a menu together, work beside each other in the kitchen and create a memory that I hope will stick with my kids forever.  

If you know my husband, you already know that he is an amazing cook.  Sundays have become his day to shine.  I help with the menu and I'm good at following his directions, but I give the credit to him.  But dessert?  That's all me.

This week I thought I would try a cookie recipe that reminded me of my four-year-old, J.  Almost every morning, after watching me brew my morning coffee, he asks if I could make him a cup of hot cocoa.  I love sitting with him as he tells me random details about super heroes or the latest episode of Wild Kratts.  He chugs his cocoa and is done in minutes, but I treasure that time so much.  

Hot Cocoa Cookies were the perfect dessert for Sunday dinner.    

The recipe I used is from Holly at Life in the Lofthouse.  While there is a little bit of work involved, these cookies are definitely worth it.  So delicious with a glass of cold milk or a cup of coffee.  You can find the recipe here

{The Cookie Project Archives: No.001}

Friday, January 23, 2015

{around here} 03/52: Week of 1.19.15

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.  At the end of the year, I'll publish them into a keepsake to treasure.

Around here, I have been:

like I'm behind and doing a lack-luster job at everything.  Every once in a while, I seem to have an off week where I am just trying to keep afloat and that definitely describes me right now.  I wrote Jon Acuff's quote "Some beats None" big on the chalkboard to remind myself that some progress is better than nothing: some exercise before TJ cries is better than none.  Some laundry, even though I still have yet to put it away, is better than none.  Some BWF work, even though my to-do list is still a mile long, is better than not starting at all.  Some beats none.  

making baked oatmeal for breakfast.  I thought I would be the only one who liked it, but the kids each had seconds!  

laughing about J's attempt to combine his love of compliments with new vocabulary: "Mamma, you are so....predictable!"

exercising with Shaun T and Insanity again.  I'm not following the plan, but adding the workouts in between runs.  It feels good to push myself to the max, but I have a long way to go!

reading Orphan Train and should hopefully finish by this weekend.  It's such a moving story.

homeschool notes:

  • It was K week in Kindergarten.  We made kites.
  • M has been flying through his math lessons.  He is catching onto multiplication quickly; he knows the rules for 0, 1, 10 and 5 so far.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

{100 beautiful things} No.001: Princess and the Pea Cross-Stitch

This cross-stitch project had been in my "to complete" pile for two years when I found it again last summer.  I have a bad habit of starting a craft with excitement, only to fizzle out and put it aside.  Am I the only one who does this?

Sophia provided the encouragement to see it to completion.  She loved to sit next to me as I worked and hold the different colored threads.  I couldn't wait to surprise her and frame it for her room.    

I purchased the pattern as a PDF from The Floss Box here.  She carries a ton of adorable cross-stitch and embroidery patterns, so be sure to check out her shop.  I think Sophie needs this one next! 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

{currently} Mamma's Journal // January

a letter to my children, every month in 2015

M // I am just so proud of the little boy you are becoming.  You are kind, helpful, imaginative and funny.  One night we both were in tears, laughing about something silly.  I sure love your belly laughs.  You have been talking a lot about the future and that makes your Mamma so happy and yet so sad.  You want to be a Lego creator someday and have been asking me what colleges would have the best classes for that.  You have also said that when you grow up and have your own apartment, Mamma and Daddy can visit and you'll cook steaks for us.  You are so excited for your First Communion this spring.  We found and purchased your suit and I loved to see the pride in your eyes when you tried it on.    

D // You are my baby whisperer.  When I need help with TJ, you are the first one begging to take him.  You have perfected the "sh-sh-sh" and the bounce.  I am so thankful for you!  This month, you have been obsessed with all things Ninja Turtles.  Raphael (or, "the red guy" as you sometimes call him) is your favorite.  You love to draw and I find your artwork all over the house.  I am so impressed with your imagination and we always put my favorites right on the fridge, although it's hard to choose.  In school, you are trying hard and love your math book the most.  Mamma is so proud of you.  

J // Oh, J.  You are my biggest cheerleader.  Every single day, you pop over and out of the blue say, "You are so beautiful" or "Did you know that you're my favorite Mamma?"  Do you know how much that means to me?  You are my cuddle bug and my helper.  You are full of passion, which sometimes comes out in growls and frustration, but I'm getting better at helping you tell me what's on your mind.  You are so loved.   

S // You are so wholeheartedly two, torn between wanting to do everything yourself and being frustrated when you can't.  You have a flair for the dramatic, but I'm convinced your passion for life will be beneficial when you are older.  You are helpful, kind and tender to your brothers.  You shoot Nerf guns and then turn right around and love on your baby doll.  I think you are the coolest girl ever and I'm so glad you're mine.  

TJ // You, my sweet baby, are my joy.  I can hardly believe that you are four months old already.  You are so happy, with a big drooling grin on your face all the time!  We are two peas in a pod and rarely apart.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Love each of you to the moon and back again, Mamma

Monday, January 19, 2015

{shop small} Vol.02: Winter Wonderland

As the Creative Director for Big White Farmhouse, I am constantly searching for new products.  Our company is passionate about supporting the "little guys", the ones who are working tirelessly to create a life doing what they love.  I love that entrepreneurial spirit and I hope you do too!

Since I can't carry all the cool products I find, I thought I'd pop in every so often to share some of my discoveries with you!  Volume 02 is inspired by the gorgeous snowfall we had a few weeks ago...simple and white!  Enjoy.

Snowflake Pillow Cover by Shabby by Melissa
Cream Wool Beanie by Mercier Marche
Burlap and Antique White Wreath by Wild Ridge Design
Cream Linen Napkins by K Style

{You can find Volume 01 here}

P.S. I was so excited to see that I have been nominated for Best Looking Blog!  Here's my shameless plug to vote for me (and the rest of your favorite blogs!) here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

{around here} 02/52: Week of 1.12.15

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.  At the end of the year, I'll publish them into a keepsake to treasure.

Around here, I have been:

loving the response from our Big White Farmhouse birthday giveaways.  It's been the perfect way to start Year 2 and I am excited to get started purchasing product for the new year!  (P.S. The giveaways end tomorrow at midnight, so there's still time to enter!)  

planning our first "official" Sunday Dinner.  Mark and I want to start the tradition of having a full sit-down dinner with a special dessert every week.  We hope it will become second nature to our kids and then hopefully will continue even when they're grown.  I also think it will be a great opportunity to invite others over for food and hospitality.    

drinking lots and lots of water.  I am so bad at remembering, but am committed to getting better.  I'm using the Water Counter on my Fitbit app and that helps.  Work in progress!

reading my first fiction book of the year, Orphan Train.

making homemade granola.  I added raisins because I'm a cinnamon raisin fan, but I think a bunch of dried fruit would be good too.  

thankful for Mark and how hard he works for our family.  He worked extra late twice this week and gosh, does that make me appreciate all he does to keep this family running when he's home!

laughing about Sophie and her new fake sneezing routine.  "Ah, Ah, Ah, Choo!"

struggling to push through the postpartum plateau.  I've been at the same weight, give or take a few pounds, for two months now.  And while that's frustrating, it's less about the number on the scale and more about not being able to work out at a level I once could.  It's been very humbling for me to have to start from scratch again.  God is growing me.   

thinking about February's challenge.  Lots of brainstorming and idea creating.  Right now, I'm veering toward something home related.

homeschool notes:
  • We had a simple week without many extras.  Some weeks are like that. 
  • Our read aloud for January is Mr. Popper's Penguins and we just got started.  I have a lapbook planned and a few fun activities.  The boys are going to love it!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

{a year of challenges} January is for Learning: the Halfway Point

We are halfway through the January learning challenge!  For those of you who are participating, how are you doing?  What things have you been learning about?  And if you're new here, welcome!  There is still time to jump in!

This challenge has been really fun for me so far.  I've always been a bit of an academic and it's been refreshing to uncover that hunger for learning again.  The simple exercise of reading everyday has fired me up, inspired me and helped me feel like my brain is still functioning on a decent level.  Making learning a priority, in whatever form, will definitely be a permanent part of my day from now on.  

As a reminder, this was my challenge:
+ Read three books, each from a different genre.
+ Listen to 5 podcasts.
+ Watch 10 Ted talks.
+ Find 3 new blogs that teach me something.

It has been easy for me to fit in the podcasts while I'm doing chores or running on the treadmill.  The kids are usually running around or playing, so it feels like alone time, while still being productive.  I've also watched a lot of TED talks and I swear they are like candy; I can't stop at just one.  I've watched 8 already.  

Book reading is a little harder to do during the day, but I'm trying to get in a few pages when I can.  Mark and I have started reading a chapter of our books before watching TV at night, so that helps too.  As of today, I've finished one book and am almost through the second.  One more to go!  

I'll post a record of the podcasts, TED talks, and websites at the end of the month because some are just too good not to share.  
Let's finish out the month strong, friends!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

{12 months of kindness} January: A Gift for the Mailman

Inspired by my friend Tab, I am committing to 12 Months of Kindness again in 2015.  Hopefully, I'll be better about posting each month!  

For January, we decided to tell our mailman how much we appreciate him.  He works SO hard!  Between picking up Big White Farmhouse orders and dropping off Amazon purchases, our mailman gets out of his warm truck a lot for us.  Can you imagine such a job, especially in the winter?  


So the kids and I got to work creating a warm care package, which included:

This gift was easy and didn't cost much to put together.  We found the gloves for $4 and the hand and foot warmers were in the Dollar Spot at Target.  Add in a little cash so he can grab a coffee and you're done!    

What act of kindness will you do this month?  I've created a Pinterest board to help with ideas and inspiration.  Will you join me?  Tell me your Pinterest name in the comments and I can add you as a contributor.  Let's spread joy this year together.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

{a year of challenges} A Learning Link List

My Secret to Reading a Lot of Books: I like his method for taking notes, especially for nonfiction books.

This art print would be perfect in Sophie's room.

I just started watching this again on Netflix, so I was excited to find a list of all 339 books referenced in Gilmore Girls.   

This website helps answer the question, "What Should I Read Next?"
Do you listen to TED talks?  This worksheet was created for students, but I think it could be fun to fill out for adults as well.

I can't wait to check out this cookbook, per Kelly's recommendation.

The Book Fiend: gifts for people who really love books

What way do you learn best?  This infographic is really interesting. I already knew I was a visual learner, but now I think I may be a solitary one too.  

How I Find Time to Read: Modern Mrs. Darcy

Have you watched any good documentaries lately? This one is next on my list.

One more: can you imagine a library like this?!  Amazing.

Monday, January 12, 2015

{BWF} Celebrating Our First Birthday at Big White Farmhouse

It is hard to believe that Big White Farmhouse has been in business for an entire year!  It started in 2012 as a crazy dream and while it has been a labor of love, I am so proud of all that has been accomplished so far.

As many of you know, my Great-Gram had a huge impact on my life.  She was a hard-working, compassionate woman with a big smile and a heart of gold.  Gram's love of family is the inspiration behind Big White Farmhouse.  My hope is that what customers feel most when shopping with us is a sense of community, of family.  We have some exciting things in the works to create more of that in 2015.

I am so thankful for you, my readers, and all of your support and encouragement through the years.  Your virtual high-fives keep Andrea and I going and we are so excited to provide you with even more well-made, heirloom-worthy products in the new year.  

But first...let's celebrate!

We are giving away one of our gorgeous American Maple recipe boxes on our Facebook page and we'd love for you to enter.  If you're on Instagram, be sure to check out my page for another fun surprise too!  Both giveaways are open until Saturday, January 17 at midnight, so hop over soon!

Thanks again for following along.  Here's to a successful Year 2!

Friday, January 9, 2015

{around here} 01/52: Week of 1.5.15

A collection of our ordinary days, recorded every week.  At the end of the year, I'll publish them into a keepsake to treasure.

Around here, I have been:

loving the snow that fell on Tuesday.  There's something so magical about waking up to a blanket of snow, don't you think?  The big kids played in the yard for over an hour, then came in to warm blankets and cocoa.  TJ and Mamma stayed inside and watched from the window.      

watching Blue Blood on Netflix at night with Mark.  We love a good cop drama and I can't get enough of the strong, multi-generational family dynamic too.  Important to note: Before we turn on the TV, we each have to read a chapter in our books.  January's learning challenge is still going strong!

laughing about Sophie's first makeup experiment.  I figured she was playing happily in her room upstairs.  When she came down, I thought something looked off about her, but couldn't place it.  I kept asking myself, "Is she getting sick?  Why doesn't she have any color in her lips?"  Upon further inspection, I realized that she had covered herself with my concealer stick!  After we cleaned her up, we had a fun lesson on Chapstick and she's been carrying around her own ever since.    

surviving TJ's apparent sleep regression.  I've been so spoiled with his long stretches at night!  He's currently waking up 3-4 times a night now.  Bring on the coffee.

thankful that I didn't do any real damage to myself while running on the treadmill.  I'm not sure exactly, but I must have twisted in such a way that I got a shooting pain in my thigh/groin.  I was terrified that I had maybe pulled the muscle, but after icing and a few days of rest, I think I'm good to go.  Lesson: no distractions on the treadmill!

listening to lots of podcasts and Ted talks while folding the laundry and loading the dishwasher, two chores that never, ever seem to end.

reading Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does).  I wanted to read it during Christmas, but better late than never.

preparing for Big White Farmhouse's first birthday next week.  We are going to have two exciting giveaways on Facebook and Instagram, so I've been busy with the behind-the-scenes work.  

homeschool notes:
  • We eased back into schoolwork on Monday with a Ninja Turtle craft.  The big boys stayed true to character, but J decided his turtle would look best in tie-dye colors.  
  • I changed up D's math program during the break and he started his new book this week.  He is flying through the lessons and is even asking to "do a little more school" close to bedtime.  
  • After about a month of frustration, math is really clicking with M again.  We started doing speed drills and he loves trying to beat his best time.   
  • In science, the boys are learning about senses.  We had a blind taste test and let's just say, some participants were more adventurous than others!

P.S. I'm trying out a new commenting system, which will hopefully make it easier for us to communicate! 
 Let me know if you have any trouble.
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