Monday, July 31, 2017

No.13: Intentions for the Beginning of August

August already - I can't believe it.  We're soaking up every bit of summer, but I'd be lying if I wasn't anxious for some relief from this weather.  I'm melting!  On Sunday morning, we woke up to a little chill in the air and it made me so excited to experience fall in the new house.  Soon.  On the new habit front, Mark and I chose "health" to work on this month.  We've already casually started this in July, so I'm hoping to continue the momentum.  Our goals as a family are:
- Make food choices that make our bodies work well and help us feel strong (but always have room for the occasional treat too!)
- Try new fruits and vegetables because as Sophie reminds us, "Daniel Tiger says to try new things 'cuz they might taste go-od"
- Get active everyday, play outside (even Mom and Dad) and reduce screen time significantly
- And a personal goal for me: more positive self-talk, celebrate small victories and don't obsess over the scale or the work that still needs to be done



  • Habit of the Month: HEALTH
  • lots of veggies in every meal (work on breakfast!)
  • order collagen peptides
  • make three recipes from my new cookbook
  • green smoothies for the kids at least twice a week
  • don't skip weight training even though it hurts!
  • wear my new running shoes around (NOT running) to adjust and avoid blisters
  • finish kids' chore charts and start new allowance system
  • have a tea party in Sophie's room with real drinks/treats
  • continue Operation Catechism catch-up
  • read Across Five Aprils in preparation for M's history
  • read two chapters in my Jackson Pollock book
  • start thinking about birthday gifts for Sophie and TJ
  • make a big batch of taco seasoning to keep in the pantry (100LT #46)
  • organize and prepare the school room
  • register at our new parish
  • sign up the boys for CCD
  • hang master curtains and artwork (I WILL do this!)
  • sign up for cards at our new library (need to make the time to do this!)



  • add green smoothies to my day (I had one every few days, not a bad start)
  • find a dairy-free protein powder (decided on a slightly different direction and getting collagen peptides instead)
  • sign up for a 10K in October (SO excited!)
  • accept compliments and give them freely! (work in progress...)
  • Operation Catechism catch-up (started, but have more work to do)
  • hang master curtains and artwork
  • write and send "Intent to Homeschool" letter
  • sign up to be a Wild + Free subscriber
  • power wash the front porch (100LT #38)
  • read two chapters in my Jackson Pollock book (25% of that monster of a book complete!)
  • bake a pie 
  • schedule an eye exam for me (100LT #73)
  • draw together with D (we followed along with Art for Kids and drew Spiderman!)
  • start working on a bird watching basket (just a few more items needed)
  • July house photo
  • sign up for cards at our new library


What about you?  What's on your to-do list for the next two weeks?

Friday, July 28, 2017

No.12: New Habits, Little by Little - An Introduction

 So the question is not Am I teaching my child habits? The question is Which habits am I teaching my child? Yes, other influences may play a role, but it is the habits learned from parents that have the most impact upon a child’s developing character. {via}
Soooo... I'm kind-of on a new kick.  I've been reading a lot about Charlotte Mason and she was quite the advocate for habits.  She went beyond thinking of habits as just the physical things we do and connected them to character traits.  So, for example, when we teach the kids how to properly brush their teeth, we're also teaching them the habit of cleanliness.  Or when we work on putting our toys back where they belong, we're teaching the habit of order.  As a mother, I hope to raise children who grow up to be kind, generous, truthful, disciplined (and the list goes on and on...) adults and Charlotte's viewpoint sounds like the most logical path to get to my goal.

As it should, this emphasis on habits has also made me reflective of my own behavior.  I can't exactly have my children strive for excellence on a certain habit while being a total hypocrite myself.  So I'm committed to learning and growing right along with them.  Charlotte said, “It is pleasant to know that, even in mature life, it is possible by a little persistent effort to acquire a desirable habit.”  There's hope for me!

So here's the plan.  The full list of habits that Charlotte Mason provides is quite extensive and a bit overwhelming, but I'm going to intentionally choose one each month to work on as a family.  After a month or so, we'll keep it on the back burner, still tweaking behavior as needed, and turn to a new one.  Little by little, I'm hopeful that we'll all (even me!) grow in good habits.

P.S. I found this free e-book really helpful in learning more about Charlotte and her vision for executing habit training.


  • Attention 
  • Imagining
  • Meditation
  • Memorizing
  • Mental Effort
  • Observation
  • Perfect Execution
  • Reading for Instruction
  • Remembering
  • Thinking
  • Accuracy
  • Concentration
  • Reflection
  • Thoroughness
  • Cleanliness
  • Courtesy
  • Kindness
  • Manners
  • Modesty & Purity
  • Neatness
  • Order
  • Regularity
  • Candor
  • Courage
  • Diligence
  • Fortitude
  • Generosity
  • Gentleness
  • Meekness
  • Patience
  • Respect for Other People
  • Temperance
  • Thrift
  • Integrity
  • Obedience
  • Personal Initiative
  • Reverence
  • Self-Control
  • Sweet, Even Temper
  • Truthfulness
  • Usefulness
  • Regularity in Devotions
  • Reverent Attitude
  • Sunday-Keeping
  • Thanksgiving
  • Thought of God
  • Alertness to Seize Opportunities
  • Fortitude
  • Health
  • Managing One’s Own Body
  • Music
  • Outdoor Life
  • Quick Perception of Senses
  • Self-Control in Emergencies
  • Self-Discipline in Habits
  • Self-Restraint in Indulgences
  • Training the Ear and Voice

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

No.11: 20 Things I Love - A Gratitude Journal

the smell of freshly bathed kids
the itty bitty freckles on D's nose
mama and baby deer in the backyard
cheering P as he starts to crawl
the excitement of a new school year
blasting the AC in the car on 95 degree days
watching the big boys create robots for days after watching Real Steel (thanks Tab!)
my new cookbook
evening thunderstorms
the smell of freshly mowed grass
my sweet little nephew
stacks of new books waiting to be read
Friday night "date dinners" with Home Chef
early morning runs
reading with the kids on the front porch
the feel of brand new contacts
Sophie's letter A "hunts", searching everything she can find
being brave and signing up to attend a blogging conference
chicken on the grill for dinner
this quote from St. Josemaria Escriva (a reminder I needed as a mother): "Another fall...and what a fall!  Despair? No! Humble yourself and through Mary, your Mother, have recourse to the merciful love of Jesus.  A miserere - "have mercy on me" - and lift up your heart!  And now, begin again." - #711, The Way

Monday, July 24, 2017

No.10: Five July Favorites

I'm on week three of a Couch to 10K program and feeling great!  Instead of jumping into mileage like I usually do, I'm doing intervals and I actually love it.  Other running-related favorites this month:
+ Starting the day with a run: usually at 5:30am
+ Getting new running shoes for 30% off on Amazon Prime Day
+ Signing up for a 10K in October: the medal and t-shirt are always motivating

It is SO hot out right now.  We've started the routine of getting outside after breakfast before it gets unbearable.  I usually push the stroller while the kids drive their plasma cars and we all get a good dose of outdoor air for an hour.  By 9 o'clock, it starts getting sticky and we head back inside.

We finally met our "next door" neighbors last week, which is a funny term since about five acres separates us.  They were so nice: around our age, pregnant with their first baby, and working to create a horse farm on their property.  I just cannot get over how welcoming this community is.  It is so funny to think that we escaped suburbia to "never see our neighbors" (we had really snotty, judgmental ones before) and yet here we are, surrounded by the kindest people, even with acres between us.  God is funny.

The kids and I are on a mission to learn all of the states and capitals and what easier way than at the dinner table?  I ended up getting a bundle that includes a US map, a world map, the solar system and the human body (and another alphabet one for Sophie).  They've been awesome for dinnertime conversation!  We quiz each other, talk about our traveling experiences, tell stories about broken bones and hear Sophie sing the ABC song over and over (we cut her off after four, hah).  Great investment for both learning and family life.

Big confession: one huge plus of letting Big White Farmhouse go is the freedom to also quit most social media.  I always had this guilt that I had to be connected for the sake of business, but somehow always fell into the trap on a personal level too.  Going forward, I'm excited to have this blog and a private Instagram account for out-of-town relatives.  That's it.  (This related TED talk helped the decision too.  And this one is interesting too.)

Friday, July 21, 2017

No.09: Blueberry Peach Cobbler

There's something special about foods that feel season-specific.  Summertime seems to be full of them: burgers and hotdogs on the grill, fresh corn on the cob, berries in every variety.  One of the desserts I make every summer is Blueberry Peach Cobbler.  This year has been especially awesome because the kids can all do a job: one cuts the peaches while another washes the blueberries.  One melts the butter while another stirs the dry ingredients.  Even TJ can "decorate" the batter with the fruit.  I'm still in charge of the oven, but I have a feeling I'll be out of even that job soon.  Having big kids is so great. 

P.S. I've been breaking my dairy-free commitment for a small serving (we've made this three times this week and I've paid for it every time) but I'm curious to see what swapping the milk for coconut milk and the butter for an Earth Balance stick would do.

3 large peaches, sliced (depending on your preference, you can also peel and lightly sugar them)
2/3 cup blueberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix dry ingredients: sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl, combine melted butter and milk.
Pour wet ingredients over dry and mix together.
Pour into a 13"x9" lightly greased pan.
Place sliced peaches into the mix and then sprinkle with blueberries.
Bake for 50 minutes.

This cobbler is delicious straight from the oven, but I also love it cold the next morning with a cup of coffee, if it lasts that long!  Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

No.08: When an Adventure Comes to an End - Closing the BWF Shop

Last Saturday, we sent out this e-mail:
To our Big White Farmhouse family,
It has been five years since we first had the conversation about opening a little online gift shop in honor of our great-grandmother and her beautiful farmhouse in Maine.  Five years ago, we knew nothing about e-commerce, but were driven by the idea of supporting small American artisans and providing customers with unique products from around the country.  We officially opened our doors in January 2014 and have been learning every minute since!
We have loved searching out the best new products to add to your home.  We have loved packaging up each order with care.  We have loved hearing your stories and forming relationships.  Truly, we see our business as a family endeavor and you are such an important piece.  
So it is with sad but peaceful hearts that we announce that we will be closing Big White Farmhouse on September 1, 2017.  To everything there is a season and right now, our attention is needed with our families and other endeavors.
Be sure to connect with us on Facebook or Instagram to see the latest updates.  We will be continuing to mark down products as we try to sell off our remaining inventory.  Currently you can save 15% on everything remaining in the shop with the code: CLOSING15.
We cannot thank you enough for supporting our little shop.
We are SO grateful for you.
xo, Ashley and Andrea

I've been wanting to jot down a few thoughts at this pivotal point in my life, but am struggling to find the words.  It's been an emotional few days.  

I've been feeling all the feels: sadness (the response to our announcement has been overwhelming!), panic (is this the right decision?!) and a whole lot of peace.  Having Big White Farmhouse as part of my identity for five years, I'm simultaneously mourning while feeling inspired for the future.  Don't you wish you were in my brain right now?!  

Starting Big White Farmhouse brought to life a passion that I never knew I had.  If you had asked me in college if I would be interested in business, I probably would have laughed in your face.  BOR-ING.  But ironically, for five years, I have been watching and trying and reading and failing in all things business.  It has been such a wild ride of self-education and I have learned so much.  I've loved just about every minute.

And yet.  

To everything there is a season.  To take Big White Farmhouse to the next level requires a commitment I am unable to give at this point in my life.  And that's okay.  On the panicky moments, I keep repeating something I wrote back in January: I don't have to try to do it all at once.  Right now, my focus is with my family and living my primary vocation well.  That's enough.

So on September 1st, I'm officially letting Big White Farmhouse go for awhile.  Who knows what the future holds?  Maybe in time we'll re-open as a little brick and mortar store?  My new town would be perfect!  Maybe God has something even better in store for me.  While this adventure has come to an end, the future is still bright.

Monday, July 17, 2017

No.07: Intentions for the End of July

Summer is just zipping by.  The kids' days have been full of playing outside, reading and drawing.  They keep themselves pretty entertained and have only asked for a little screen time - we usually watch something after lunch when it's boiling outside (temps have been in the 90's!) and the baby is down for his nap.  Our current favorite show is Dino Dana on Amazon.  I'm deep in the throes of school planning: researching all the things, ordering books and starting lesson plans.  I'm nervous about having four students, but much more confident in my abilities as a teacher.  Add in a little decorating, a little baking, and some reading and it equals a pretty wonderful summer break.  These lazy days have been such a balm for my soul after the crazy last few months.



  • add green smoothies to my day
  • find a dairy-free protein powder
  • sign up for a 10K in October
  • accept compliments and give them freely!
  • Operation Catechism catch-up
  • hang master curtains and artwork
  • write and send "Intent to Homeschool" letter
  • sign up to be a Wild + Free subscriber
  • power wash the front porch (100LT #38)
  • read two chapters in my Jackson Pollock book
  • bake a pie 
  • schedule an eye exam for me (100LT #73)
  • draw together with D
  • start working on a bird watching basket
  • July house photo
  • sign up for cards at our new library



  • be better about water intake - less caffeine! (averaging 5-6 glasses a day and just one cup of coffee)
  • ease back into writing by blogging Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week (still getting into a routine, but it feels good to be back!)
  • bake blueberry peach cobbler with J (our summer tradition - so good)
  • make cold brew coffee to keep in the fridge
  • buy sparklers for the 4th of July (nothing like last minute!)
  • read two chapters in my Jackson Pollock book
  • challenge M to a basketball game (we're both getting quite the workout!)
  • write 2 letters (just one: notes to my aunt & uncle)
  • finish meal plan for the month of July
  • sign up for cards at our new library
  • purchase three school books for next year (all four math books checked off the list)
  • schedule M eye appointment (new glasses needed again!)


What about you?  What's on your to-do list for the next two weeks?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

No.06: What We're Reading in July

Happy is the family who have learned to make good books their companion. - Spencer W. Kimball

D (age 8)
J (age 6)
SOPHIE (age 4)
TJ (age 2)

Monday, July 10, 2017

No.05: Summertime ABCs

ART HISTORY - I took a handful of art history classes in high school and college and really enjoyed them.  I unfortunately don't have any real art talent, but I love to learn from the masters anyway.  I'm slowly working my way through a HUGE Jackson Pollock biography and it's so interesting and so sad.

BABIES - I'm an auntie!  My brother and sister-in-law's first baby was born at the end of June and he is so teeny and perfect.  He is only six months younger than P and we're already dreaming about what these cousins will be up to as they grow.

COBBLER - I've been making up for lost time in the kitchen and baking all of our favorite summer treats.  We had our first blueberry peach cobbler of the season and the kids devoured it in one sitting.  And now I'm researching all the fruity desserts.

DAVE RAMSEY - Moving is so expensive, no matter how cheap you try to be.  We took a few months off, but Mark and I are back on the Dave Ramsey train.  We're adding a "home improvement" line to our budget (because I want to decorate/paint/DIY all the things!) but also want to attack our car payment and student loan debt.

ENOUGH - I recently read the article, The Problem with the “What Else?” Mindset, and it really struck a chord.  The beginning sentences totally describe me: "I am an inveterate planner. Which means I spend a lot of time thinking about what’s NEXT. Probably too much time. And when I finally accomplish all those things I was planning to do, I spend little (if any) time acknowledging what I’ve achieved. Because I’m already thinking about what else I could be doing."  I'm ready to make a change.

FRONT PORCH - I'm in love with our huge front porch!  It's currently pretty bare, but I have big plans for a line of rocking chairs and a swing someday.  For now, our two soccer/camping chairs get the job done.

GRILLING - Mark's specialty is brisket (which we've already had twice since moving in!), but I've also been adding burgers and hot dogs to the dinner menu and they hit the spot.  So easy and good.

HAIR - Mine is getting out of control.  I'm in desperate need of a haircut.  I don't mind long hair when I take the time to blow dry and style, but yeah...that rarely happens unless I plan to leave the house.  Thinking about going back to my long bob soon.

ICE CREAM - My favorite dessert and one of the things I was most upset about never having when going dairy free.  Mark and I have been exploring other options and thankfully, there are tons of pretty good alternatives.  My current fave: So Delicious' Cashew milk Salted Caramel Cluster.
(Side note: I've been almost 100% dairy-free since April and it's making all the difference.  Before that, my symptoms were everything from nausea to an itchy rash and it was miserable.  I'm bummed to miss out on milkshakes and cheeseburgers, but it's worth it.)

JET.COM - Our closest grocery store is about 15-20 minutes away, so I've been so thankful for Jet!  If I can get my act together and start planning meals a month in advance, I think we'll save even more money by taking advantage of their wholesale section.  Much less temptation than Costco!

KINDERGARTEN - Sophie juuuust makes the cut-off for Kindergarten this year (she turns 5 at the end of September) and I just can't believe it.  Where did my baby girl go?  She is SO excited to begin and oohs and ahhs over every book that arrives in the mail.  We're going to take it slow and learn at her pace.  She did request to start a few math pages last week, though, so maybe we're going to go faster than I thought!    

LISTENING (to podcasts) - I was able to listen to a few while unpacking: (1) On Documenting Life by the Second, (2) The Domestic Church, and (3) 100 Creatives #25: Crystal Moody.

MEAL PLANNING - Trying to get back into the routine after months of living off of processed junk and fast food - a house on the market is awful for your health, hah!  I've been on a roll with planning our week out in advance, so now I'm ready to step it up and work toward an entire month.  It's not exciting work, but I know I'll appreciate it in the end.

NEW NEIGHBORS - TJ and I were on a walk to the mailbox when our neighbor drove by and stopped to chat.  He told us all about the neighbors around us, swapped phone numbers and even gave us most of the fresh corn he had just purchased at the farmer's market.  I could just cry at how friendly and welcoming he was.  One more thing to add to my gratitude list.

OUTSIDE - We may have been city slickers, but I think we're catching on to this country life pretty well.  The kids spend hours driving down our subtly sloped driveway in their plasma cars.  I was cleaning one day when I overheard someone yell, "Don't hit the grandma!!"  I peeked out the door and discovered their elaborate chalk-drawn road, complete with innocent pedestrians.  It was awesome!  This week, Mark brought them home water guns and they've been soaked more than they've been dry.  As for me, I've often left the to-do list behind to push the baby in the stroller or read on the porch.  The fresh air has done as all good.

PAINT - The previous owners painted the entire house a warm tan, which is fine, but I'm already brainstorming cool whites and it's a little overwhelming.  I want something that is really light, but has hints of blue and gray in it.  No luck on my search yet.

- Pondering this quote from Mother Teresa: "In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence."

RUNNING- I'm dying to get back into it, but dreading starting from scratch.  The first few weeks of reminding your body how much you love this is just awful.  I'm hoping to pep myself up by signing up for a 10K.

SPANISH - On a whim, I decided that I'd like to improve my Spanish skills.  So random?!  I took three years of Spanish in high school, but haven't spoken it AT ALL since then.  I found an app and have been practicing everyday...and it's fun!  

THE NIGHT SHIFT -  Mark and I watched the first two seasons on Netflix and just started Season 3.  Like all medical shows, I can only watch about half of it - the other half is through my fingers (I'm not a fan of blood) but it's so good.  Minor side effect: with every pain or headache I have, I immediately think that I'm in desperate need of a CT scan and/or may be dying.  Thanks, Night Shift.

UNFORTUNATE EVENTS (A Series of...) - D and I are reading the series together this summer.  It's not exactly fine literature, but I'm enjoying the memories we're creating: comparing the book with the Netflix shows, making predictions about how Count Olaf will look in Season Two, etc.  D has even bounced into the living room way after bedtime to tell me that I WILL.NOT.BELIEVE what just happened in the story.

VINTAGE - For the past few years, I've searched for cool vintage pieces for Big White Farmhouse, but never for myself.  Time for a change!  Lately, I've been browsing etsy and making a wishlist.  Not sure exactly what I'm looking for, but I'll know it when I see it.

WATER - Ahh, I need to be better about this!  I've been trying to reach for a glass of iced water vs. coffee, but it's slow going.  I did find a new La Croix flavor, Pineapple Strawberry, that is delicious.

and X...Y...

ZZZZ's - With all of the outside play, the kids have been sleeping like rocks at night!  I, on the other hand, have room for improvement.  I keep getting a second wind at night and am staying up way later than I should.  

unrelated photos taken around the yard during a walk with TJ

Friday, July 7, 2017

No.04: Following Rabbit Trails with Upstairs at the White House

"I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious."  Even though Albert Einstein gets the credit, I think I could have said that quote myself.  As a child, that curiosity led me down countless trails - I remember times of being really into horses, California missions, marine biology, art history... the list goes on and on.  And after years of believing the lie that I just "didn't have time" (I did have time, it just wasn't a priority), I've slowly been reawakening that thirst for knowledge now as an adult.

One positive product of the crazy election last year was a new curiosity about the presidency.  My education on the subject was pretty pathetic, so I started watching a few documentaries and that eventually led me to a book that had been on my TBR list forever: Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies.

Upstairs at the White House is a behind-the-scenes look at the presidencies of Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon through the eyes of Chief Usher, J.B. West.  Working primarily with the First Ladies, he was in charge of all aspects of running a mansion: supervising the household staff, meal planning, decorating, and scheduling events.  To put him in perspective, if the White House were Downton Abbey, J.B. West would be much like Mr. Carson.

I found the entire book fascinating.  In an age where people are so quick to vilify someone based on their political beliefs, this book was such a fun reminder that we're all still people.  People with likes and dislikes, quirks and habits - we're really more alike than we are different.

Below is a list of rabbit trails I followed as I read through this book.  Let me know if you get sucked in too!

+ I've started and set down Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1: 1884-1933, but want to bring it back out again.
+ Short (less than 20 minutes), but interesting documentary episodes: 20th Century Presidents
+ Harry Truman’s Adorable Love “List” to His Wife, Bess
+ A picture of the Shell of the White House During the Renovation in 1950
+ On my to-read list: The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence
+ Mamie Eisenhower's Million Dollar Fudge
+ How did the US end up with 5 million pink bathrooms in the '50s?  Here's a good look why: Why Mamie Eisenhower loved pink — more insight from the Eisenhower National Historic Site
Here's What the White House Looked Like When Jackie Kennedy Lived There
+ An interesting documentary (you can find it on Netflix): The Day Kennedy Died
+ I want to read Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America with Sophia
+ 1968 White House Tour with Lady Bird Johnson
+ Did you know that sometime in the 20th century, Congress passed a law that required that all presidential china be kept or destroyed? I found this mini history lesson (with images of the china used all the way back to George Washington!) so interesting.
The First Lady a Nation Never Knew: Pat Nixon in Private Taped Phone Calls & 100 Pictures on Her Centennial
+ This interactive map was my favorite discovery!  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

No.03: Independence Day 2017 in Photos


"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
--Ronald Reagan

Monday, July 3, 2017

No.02: Intentions for the Beginning of July

Trying something new as a way to combine my monthly goals with 100 Little Things and just the minutia of everyday tasks!  I've loved reading Tracy's weekly intentions on Shutterbean, but I think a twice-monthly frequency would work best for me (and give me a bit more wiggle room) right now.



  • be better about water intake - less caffeine!
  • ease back into writing by blogging Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week
  • bake blueberry peach cobbler with J
  • make cold brew coffee to keep in the fridge
  • buy sparklers for the 4th of July (nothing like last minute!)
  • read two chapters in my Jackson Pollock book
  • challenge M to a basketball game
  • write 2 letters
  • finish meal plan for the month of July
  • sign up for cards at our new library
  • purchase three school books for next year
  • schedule M eye appointment


What about you?  What's on your to-do list for the next two weeks?

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