Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Word for 2016: Learn

It's New Year's Eve!  With a fresh new beginning just around the corner, I've been spending the past few days reviewing 2015 and thinking about where I'd like to move next.  And for the fifth year, I'm choosing one little word.  For 2016, my word is LEARN.

What is it about being in your thirties?  The start of this new decade has shown me in so many ways that I am just a little speck in a vast, amazing world.  There is so much I don't know.  There is much growing to be done.  There is so much to learn.  In 2016, I hope to:

Learn to let go.
Learn to seek joy and contentment.
Learn to rest.
Learn to take better care of myself, physically and emotionally.
Learn to create new things.
Learn to be grateful.
Learn to connect with others.
Learn to be content in my own skin.
Learn to play.
Learn to educate myself in new ways.
Learn to say yes.
Learn to say no.
Learn to try something different.
Learn to enjoy right here and now.

Here we go.

My Previous Words

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

{book club} The Inspired Readers Book Club: Book Five (Join us in 2016!)

Want a fun way to read a variety of interesting books in 2016?  You should join us in The Inspired Readers Book Club!  Tabitha, Shelly and I started last June and it's been a great way to add some adult conversation to my weeks.  We've read a range of genres, which has helped me try books I'd never think to pull off the shelf.  I also appreciate the accountability aspect of the book club; less mindless TV and more reading!

For January, Tabitha is leading again and she picked Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Our reading schedule will be as follows:
Week 1 (January 4): Chapters Courage and Enchantment
Week 2 (January 11): Chapter Permission & share
Week 3 (January 18): Chapter Persistence & share
Week 4 (January 25): Chapters Trust and Divinity

As always, we'll have discussion questions posted on Monday, so feel free to jump into the conversation whenever you have time.  We'd love to see you in the Facebook group!

Monday, December 21, 2015

{thrive goals} Thriving in 2015: A Review

When I chose thrive as my one little word for 2015, I said one thing, but meant another.  In that post, I wrote: "For me, thriving means living at my very best.  It's about saying that I'm all in to this vocation I've chosen.  It's not about striving for perfection, but an invitation to embrace every part of my full and messy life."  But if we're being honest, what I really meant was, "I want my life to reflect exactly how I picture it in my head."

All year long, I've been reaching, working, striving toward that goal - and falling on my face time and time again.  I just couldn't understand why my life wasn't becoming the well-oiled machine I was trying to force it to be!

My kids still bickered and tattled.
I still struggled to get dinner on the table most nights.
I haven't lost the baby weight.
We still haven't moved into that dream forever house.
My kids still wake up way too early each morning.
Laundry is still regularly in piles on my bed.
I still often feel frazzled and overwhelmed and lacking in patience. 

What in the world was I thinking with a word like thrive?  We're nowhere close!


But then I looked again.  

I scrolled through the silly, grainy pictures on my phone.  I flipped through some of our school projects.  I read back through my Around Here archives.  I laughed to myself as I recalled funny moments and conversations.  I got choked up watching my children comfort their baby brother.  

No matter what the annoying perfectionist in my head says, we are thriving.  I am thriving.

It turns out, choosing the word thrive in 2015 was God's sweet gift to me.  As He always does, He tenderly invited me to discover the freedom in letting go and maybe for the first time ever, I'm ready.  I'm loosening my grip of control, my unrealistic expectations of how life should look, and nervously offering it all to Him.  

This life of mine is messy and loud and oh so hard at times - but isn't that the sign of a life well spent?  This is what thriving looks like.

Friday, December 18, 2015

{around here} Week 50/52: Week of 12.14.15

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:

finishing my Christmas shopping and starting on the wrapping.  I'm trying to use up five old rolls of paper, but it feels like I'm only making a dent!  

taking care of sick kids and a husband.  We somehow caught some sort of virus and like every big family, we've been passing it down the line.  So far I've been spared, but feeling out of sorts today...Mama doesn't have time to be sick!

listening to the second season of Serial.  Very interesting so far.

breaking out all of my very old scrapbook supplies.  They have been taking up space high in a closet for years, I guess waiting for just the right moment?  I pushed aside that nonsense and let my kids enjoy all of the papers and random stickers.  They crafted for hours!  Their enthusiasm has inspired me to be creative with paper again too.  Lots to think and plan for 2016.

laughing at sweet J.  After "working out" by running around the basement, he said, "My heart's dizzy from all that runnin' around!"

reading The Hardest Peace and Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting.

decorating (slowly) and enjoying the kids' sense of wonder.  They decorated the tree entirely by themselves on Sunday and I laugh every time I look at it.  There's nothing at the bottom (blame the destructive toddler), heavy throughout the middle and sparse at the top.  Even our tree topper is off kilter!  Someday I'll have a tree to decorate just as I like, but for now I'm soaking up my children's joy and our crazy, imperfect tree.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

{five favorites} Vol.06: Flannel Pajamas, Recipe Videos & Reading Before Bed

Pima Cotton Flannel Pajamas from L.L.Bean
I received these pajamas (in a similar print) as a bridesmaid gift last year and they have quickly become my favorite winter pajamas.  So warm and comfortable!  These would be a great gift idea for a nursing mother.
(P.S. Don't forget to get 4% back by shopping through Ebates!)

The Surprising Benefits of Reading Before Bed
"A 2009 study from researchers at University of Sussex showed that six minutes of reading reduces stress by 68% (more relaxing than either music or a cup of tea), thus clearing the mind and readying the body for sleep."


If you're on Facebook at all, I'm sure you've seen a bunch of these Tasty recipe videos going around.  They are quick, informative and everything looks delicious!  This one about Cinnamon Roll French Toast Bake would be an easy (and sweet!) choice for Christmas morning.

Looping: Task Management for the (Recovering) Type A Mom
"Looping is my antidote to steamrolling over everybody in my zeal to check everything off my list. That’s something I really struggle with. The concept is simply this: instead of assigning tasks to certain days of the week, list tasks and then tackle them in order, regardless of what day it is."

The Best Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever by Katrina's Kitchen
I made these cookies with the kids last weekend and they are delicious!  Easy recipe and no chilling required.


I'd love to hear about five of your favorite things too!  Need some ideas?  Here are a few to get you started:
+ Tell us about five of your favorite family recipes.
+ Share five of your favorite blog posts from 2015.
+ What are five things on your Christmas wishlist?

I'll be taking the next two weeks off for Christmas, but will be back with more #5Faves in January.  See you on January 6!

Monday, December 14, 2015

{book report} My Latest Reads // December

It's been awhile since we've talked books!  Here are a handful of my latest reads:

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE // We read this huge historical novel for our Inspired Readers Book Club and I'm so glad we did.  While I found the story haunting and sad (what WWII story isn't?), there's a reason why it's a Pulitzer Prize winner: the writing is amazing.

JOHN PAUL THE GREAT: REMEMBERING A SPIRITUAL FATHER // I have a special love for JPII and was anxious to read another perspective on his life.  I appreciated the balanced commentary of both his strengths and weaknesses, as well as the author's personal reflections.  Lots to think and ponder.  I underlined quite a bit.

SECOND STREET STATION // I had high hopes for this Victorian mystery, but finished feeling disappointed.  The protagonist is a strong, no-nonsense young woman who dreams of becoming a detective and gets an opportunity to solve a crime.  The book felt a bit "girl power!" to me, which is fine, but I had more of an issue with the unnecessary sex scenes.  The author is a television writer and that's exactly what the book felt like to me: a TV show or movie.  I'd pass on this one.  (I received this book free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review, but obviously all opinions are mine.)

THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER // We are big fans of Dave Ramsey around here, but I had never actually read his book!  I listened to it on Audible last month and I definitely recommend it if you need the boost to continue working toward a debt-free life.  We're more inspired than ever!

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS // I just finished this page-turner last weekend.  From the cover: "Doctors took her cells without asking.  Those cells never died.  They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry.  More than twenty years later, her children found out.  Their lives would never be the same."  One part memoir and one part science book, I found this book so thought-provoking on many different levels.  


What are the best books you read this year?  I'm making my list for 2016 and am always looking for recommendations!

Friday, December 11, 2015

{around here} Week 49/52: Week of 12.7.15

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:

celebrating St. Nicholas' day on Sunday with chocolate coins and yo-yos.

surviving one of Mark's busiest work weeks of the season.  Parenting solo makes me so grateful for all the help he gives on the normal weeks!  We filled the time with Christmas activities, movies and pizza delivery.

mailing Christmas cards, decorating a gingerbread house, and listening to the Michael Buble station on Pandora.  We put the tree up, but are waiting until Sunday after Mass to pull out the ornaments and decorate.  The house feels so warm and cozy.

contemplating this passage from Wednesday's meditation in Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations in the Art of Waiting:
We know that when a receptacle for any liquid is filled to the brim, you cannot expect to move it without spilling some.  And that is a wonderful thing spiritually.  Because if we are really overflowing with love for one another, we cannot move without its splashing over...Come now, let us begin.  And let us keep that measure so full of love, because this is not beyond us.  We cannot all of us perform Herculean works of penance.  We cannot and need not produce brilliant works of mind or artistry.  But we can all be overflowing with love, every one of us, so that we just can't move without splashing it over the house, over our sisters, over the Church. (page 97)
thinking about 2016 and what I hope to work on in the new year.  Lots of thoughts to come, but the short story is: more peace, more creativity, more community and more learning to let go.

reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

laughing at Sophia's sudden love for chapstick.  She calls it her "lip glops" and applies it quite generously.  She's definitely got the most moisturized lips in the family.

working a little bit on this blog.  I simplified my sidebar a bit, taking down many ads and unnecessary items.  I also switched over to Mailchimp in case you prefer reading blog posts in your inbox.  I set it to send emails Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  I'm still working out the kinks, but hopefully all should be working smoothly soon.

P.S. Today is the last day of Big White Farmhouse's last promo of the year.  Ending at midnight tonight, we're covering the shipping costs on every order as our gift to everyone who has been so supportive of our little shop.  The coupon code is DECKTHEHALLS.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

{five favorites} Vol.05: What's Going in Our Stockings this Year

Christmas shopping update: I'm about 75% finished.  How 'bout you?  I know there are about a million gift guides going around the Internet these days, but I'm adding one more to the mix.  Here are five things that are going in my kids' stockings this year:

Mod Stix // Going in D's stocking are these awesome Medieval Mod Stix.  They are reusable decals that fit right on his Lego bricks and figures and I know he's going to love them!  I'm also thinking that they will be a fun addition to our history lessons.

Little People Aladdin and Jasmine // This summer, Mark introduced Sophia to Aladdin, his favorite Disney movie as a kid, and she loved it.  We're tucking the Little People version into her stocking and I know she's going to add them right to her playhouse (and maybe Noah's ark too, hah!).

Ninja Mad Libs // M is at a really fun age to shop for.  I found these Ninja Mad Libs to put in his stocking and I know he's going to have fun asking his brothers for noun/verb/adjective ideas and then reading their hilarious stories aloud.  Bonus: this could also be considered sneaky grammar practice!

Mini Soccer Ball // TJ's stocking is pretty bare (perks of being one and having lots of big siblings) but we did add a soft soccer ball.  He's always trying to be like the big kids and he'll be adorable kicking this one around the house.

Lego Mixels Monster // J is very much into imaginative play and seems to always have his guys fighting some sort of "monster".  Even though this is from a Cartoon Network show (which we've never seen), I think he'll enjoy building and then setting him up for battle. 


I'd love to hear about five of your favorite things too!  Need some ideas?  Here are a few to get you started:
+ What are five things on your wishlist this year?
+ Tell us about five blog posts you've read lately that have really impacted you.
+ Name five of your all-time favorite books.

Monday, December 7, 2015

{100 beautiful things} No.008: A Pom Pom Wreath

I've wanted a wreath for my front door for months.  There are SO many gorgeous ones out there, but they also come with a price tag.  Since fall is birthday extravaganza around here, I knew I had to stretch my creative muscles a bit and make my own.    

After seeing this tutorial, I knew that it was the perfect project to try.  I pretty much copied Amy's wreath exactly, from using the same color yarn (which is a great price right now on Amazon!) to investing in the pom pom maker.  I did find her photographed instructions a bit confusing, but this video on YouTube was helpful.

After the tiny learning curve in creating the pom poms, this project became the perfect mindless activity when I watched television at night or listened to podcasts during naptime.  I made a few pom poms whenever I had a bit of free time, but I'd imagine you could knock it out in a few hours if you had that uninterrupted stretch of time.

After finishing, I hung it on my door with a thick red and white striped ribbon.  My photos don't do the wreath justice - I'm in love with the contrast on my black door and the textured look! 

Now to find another pom pom project...

100 Beautiful Things Archives

Friday, December 4, 2015

{around here} Week 48/52: Week of 11.30.15

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:

working hard packaging and shipping Big White Farmhouse orders.  Our Black Friday sale was pretty successful and I'm so excited to have our products under so many Christmas trees.  I'm also working on one more promo before wrapping up for the year.

celebrating J's birthday with pizza and cookie cake.  He is our caboose of fall birthdays  and has been so patient waiting for his special day!  

keeping warm and cozy inside as it was cold and rainy most of the week.  The sun finally came out again on Thursday, just in time for a playdate with friends.  

loving our simple Advent activities.  We're reading through our literary advent calendar again this year and watching the videos on Holy Heroes' Advent Adventure.  So simple and stress-free.   

watching Christmas movies with the kids - one of my new favorite traditions.  We are hoping to revisit all of our favorites and add in a few new ones too.

laughing at our voices as we talked through the Chipmunk Voice app.  Oh.My.Gosh.  I laughed so hard, I cried.

reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Come Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting...both are so good so far.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

{five favorites} Vol.04: Five New Blogs to Read & Follow

One thing I love about blogging is the diversity.  Need a few new dinner recipes?  There's a blog for that.  Want to learn how to embroider?  There's a blog for that.  Lately I've been branching out of my usual blogging "genres" and finding some great new content.  Here are five new blogs I discovered this fall: 

1. Wildflowers and Marbles // I found Jennifer's blog as I was researching the idea of the Morning Basket.  She is one of those homeschooling mamas who is so inspiring and I have implemented a lot of her advice into our mornings already.  Definitely need to dig through her archives soon.
Current favorite posts: The Morning Basket and November Feast Table-Rebuilding Culture

2. Dawn Nicole Designs // I stumbled upon Dawn's blog while on a search for a hand-lettering course.  She has one for free (in a Facebook group!) and I'm excited to jump in soon.  
Current favorite posts: 30 Day Challenge: December Prompts and How to Do Brush Lettering

3. The Nectar Collective // Melyssa's blog is seriously a treasure-trove if you are involved in small business or blogging.  She shares a lot of helpful tips and while many don't necessarily apply to my business or the way I blog, I always come away with some new ideas.
Current favorite posts: How to Build Community on Your Blog and How to Spread Positivity Through Social Media

4. Little Girl Designs // I found Jennie through the rabbit hole of Pinterest and her blog is full simple craft projects.  I love her passion for personal retreats and I'm anxious to get her workbook in 2016.   
Current favorite posts:  How to Give Generously When You Don't Have a Dime and A Creative Idea for Snail Mail

5. House Seven // I love the modern farmhouse style and am always looking for new ideas.  Anissa's home design blog is absolutely gorgeous!  I've been pinning so many of her rooms to my "forever home" Pinterest board. 
Current favorite posts: Blogger Stylin Home Tour Christmas 2015 and Buffalo Check and Ikea

What new blogs have you found?  Which sites are your must-reads?  I'd love to hear about them!

Add your Five Favorites post below!

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