Monday, May 20, 2019

No.244: Intentions for the End of May

It's officially summer vacation here at the farmhouse and I am so ready.  With the extra time in our schedule, I've got some big goals: decluttering the entire house, finishing up a handful of house projects, training Lucy, ramping up selling on Poshmark, and reading at least half of the books on my nightstand...and sticking to my book buying ban until then!  Here we go!       


  • start Operation Declutter Everything!
  • complete T25 Gamma Weeks 1&2
  • stain the front porch (100LT #60)
  • mulch the front flower beds
  • buy a few plants for the flower pots
  • have the gutters cleaned
  • clean windows from the outside
  • figure out a way to discourage wildlife from eating our compost pile
  • list 10 items on Poshmark
  • create a new system for keeping Poshmark inventory organized
  • try out the local farmer's market (100LT #100)
  • make granola
  • try making french toast mugs using the ends of bread loaves


          If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
          • read one book on my Kindle (this ended up being a library book, but I hope to read a few of the ones from Amazon soon)
          • finish a half-read book on my nightstand
          • complete the last of week of T25 Beta (on to Gamma!)
          • teach Lucy to voluntarily go in her crate (hah - some days she listens, some days she's obstinate and we have to bribe her)
          • buy a mailing envelope and send in standardized testing (we got the results back and they all did great!)
          • start collecting items for a "Welcome Summer" basket for the kids
          • weed and mulch the front flower beds
          • buy a few plants for the front flower pots
          • stain the front porch
          • find Sophie new sandals (the ones I bought her a few months ago are already too small!)
          • make granola
          • try making french toast mugs using the ends of bread loaves
          • begin a new sourdough starter
          • make a big pitcher of iced peach tea

          Wednesday, May 15, 2019

          No.243: 20 Things I Love - A Gratitude Journal vol.11

          This post contains affiliate links.

          the smell of freshly mowed grass
          sunshine pouring through a spider web on the back porch
          green, green, green everywhere you look
          watching in awe as our puppy seemingly grows overnight
          little personal cups of Bluebell ice cream
          the friendliest handymen who live and work in our community
          a book that makes you laugh and cry
          waking up to a new order from Poshmark
          finding old videos of the kids and wondering how it all goes so fast
          sharing memories of my grandmothers
          a new top (in black, because I'm boring) that helps me look a little more put together
          homemade Mother's Day cards
          my mother-in-law who washed my dishes and cleaned my kitchen for me (such a treat!)
          finishing the last few pages in our school books
          extensive train track creations across the living room floor
          watching the kids play outside with Lucy after dinner
          painting my toes
          baby birds almost ready to leave the nest
          waking from a deep, deep sleep
          this prayer from Thomas Aquinas: "Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen."

          Monday, May 6, 2019

          No.242: Intentions for the Beginning of May

          I love this time of year - everything is so green.  
          P.S. Quick update with Lucy: we've been slowly pushing back her middle-of-the-night potty breaks and she's totally fine with it, no accidents!  This is life changing!


          • read one book on my Kindle (I download a lot free from Amazon and then never read them!)
          • finish a half-read book on my nightstand
          • complete the last of week of T25 Beta 
          • teach Lucy to voluntarily go in her crate
          • buy a mailing envelope and send in standardized testing
          • start collecting items for a "Welcome Summer" basket for the kids
          • weed and mulch the front flower beds
          • buy a few plants for the front flower pots
          • stain the front porch
          • find Sophie new sandals (the ones I bought her a few months ago are already too small!)
          • make granola
          • try making french toast mugs using the ends of bread loaves
          • begin a new sourdough starter
          • make a big pitcher of iced peach tea

                  PREVIOUS INTENTIONS

                  If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
                  • complete T25 Alpha Week 5 and Beta Week 1
                  • puppy proof the first floor
                  • figure out a new routine with the dog
                  • schedule an appointment with the vet (we've got a healthy girl!)
                  • order standardized testing (so glad that's behind us)
                  • figure out plans for the last few weeks of school
                  • look for a white button-down shirt for J's First Communion in May
                  • buy a butterfly habitat kit
                  • begin a new sourdough starter
                  • bake a new recipe that is refined sugar free
                  • give the little ones haircuts (waaaay overdue! they look so handsome)

                  Tuesday, April 30, 2019

                  No.241: My Latest Reads // April

                  This post contains affiliate links.
                  P.S. I highly recommend Book Outlet!  Use my link to receive $10 off your first order of $25 or more.

                  #20. THE LOUDER SONG: LISTENING FOR HOPE IN THE MIDST OF LAMENT by Aubrey Sampson
                  My Rating: ★★★

                  Sometimes, it's only in looking back that we see clearly.  As I look back now, even in this horrible circumstance, I can see God's hand of love touching everything. (p.57)

                  Even though you suffer from this awful thing - no matter how truly terrible it may be - and even though you may not be able to surface for air right now, God has not changed.  Who you are to him has not changed.  He is utterly faithful, and you are utterly loved.  Not because you are healthy or strong or happy, or because you never get angry, or because you handle this thing you face with grace.  But simply and profoundly because you are the object of God's fixed delight and affection.  Even when you hit walls, even at your messiest, you are his beautiful one. (p.75)

                  This is how I'll finally arrive at that elusive place called acceptance - by watching for, noting, gathering instances of hope and joy in one hand, even while wrestling with my darkest hours in the other.  This truth rings loudly in my heart: Good and bad can exist at once.  It's okay to admit that both things are true.  My situation is hard and God has been good to me. (p.102)

                  I heard about The Louder Song, a book published in February, from Instagram and since I'm working through my own issues while walking alongside others in hard situations, I snatched it up.  This book comes from an Evangelical standpoint and while it's not a perfect fit for me theologically, I really liked it.

                  My Rating: ★★

                  Our bodies were born into hard labor.  To people who Grandma Betty would say "never had to lift a finger," that might sound like something to be pitied.  But there was a beautiful efficiency to it - form in constant physical function with little energy left over.  In some ways, I feel enriched rather than diminished for having lived it. (p.44)

                  Rating memoirs is hard because I hate judging another person's story.  That said, this one was just so-so for me.  My biggest beef was with the way Heartland is written: the writing is directed to her imaginary (unconceived) baby and it's a unique choice that I didn't really care for.  You'd be reading stories about her family or a handful of sociological facts and then she'd suddenly address "you" (meaning the unborn child), which was a little weird and definitely jarred the story as a whole.  2.5 stars, rounded up. (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

                  #22. LIFE OF CHRIST by Fulton J. Sheen
                  My Rating: ★★★★★

                  He will not allow us to pick and choose among His words, discarding the hard ones, and accepting the ones that please our fancy.  We need a Christ Who will restore moral indignation, Who will make us hate evil with a passionate intensity, and love goodness to a point where we can drink death like water. (p.21)

                  The moment He showed Himself before men as the Son of God, He would draw down upon Himself their hatred, for evil can tolerate mediocrity, but not supreme goodness. (p.78)

                  As the physical Body of Christ had external wounds, bruises, and scars, and yet the inner structure was left untouched, so there seemed to be a foretelling that though His Mystical Body, the Church, would have its moral wounds and scars of scandals and disloyalties, nevertheless, not a bone of its body would ever be broken. (p.399)

                  Mankind is naturally disposed to believe that anything religious must be striking and powerful enough to overwhelm the imagination.  Yet this incident on the road to Emmaus revealed that the most powerful truths often appear in the commonplace and trivial incidents of life, such as meeting a fellow traveler on a road.  Christ veiled His Presence in the most ordinary roadway of life.  Knowledge of Him came as they walked with Him; and the knowledge was that of glory that came through defeat. (p.415)

                  This book.  I think I can confidently say that this is the best religious book that I have ever read.

                  #23. I WILL ALWAYS WRITE BACK: HOW ONE LETTER CHANGED TWO LIVES by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda
                  My Rating: ★★

                  The cascade of water was so vast and mighty, I thought, the angels were not only clapping - they were giving a standing and stomping ovation for a spectacle only God could have created. (p.345)

                  I Will Always Write Back was a quick read about two penpals (a middle-class girl from Pennsylvania and a boy from the slums of Zimbabwe) and how that relationship changed both of their lives.  The writing was quite simple for even a YA book and I enjoyed Martin's side of the story much more than Caitlin's, but overall, a heartwarming story.  Solid three stars.  (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

                  #24. THE WIFE BETWEEN US by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
                  My Rating: ★★

                  When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
                  You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
                  You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love. 
                  You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
                  Assume nothing. 

                  I can't remember exactly where I heard about The Wife Between Us, but I've been on the waiting list at the library for it since last fall.  Super quick read, but as thrillers go, this one was just okay.  2.5 stars, rounded up.  (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

                  #25. OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout
                  My Rating: 

                  What young people didn't know, she thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm; oh, what young people did not know. They did not know that lumpy, aged, and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly . . . No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn't chose it. And if her platter had been full with the goodness of Henry and she had found it burdensome, had flicked it off crumbs at a time, it was because she had not know what one should know: that day after day was unconsciously squandered. (p.270)

                  Olive Kitteridge, on paper, sounded like something I would typically love to read: short stories about a crotchety old woman who lives on the coast of Maine.  Unfortunately, it was a big flop for me.  I found it to be so incredibly depressing!  On the plus side, the writing is beautiful, which I assume is why it won a Pulitzer Prize.  After looking at the reviews, I think this is a book where you either love it or hate it, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.  (Also available at Book Outlet here.)

                  #26. MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS by Agatha Christie
                  My Rating: 

                  The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.

                  Murder on the Orient Express was my first Agatha Christie novel and it did not disappoint!  So so good.  Looking forward to reading more of her work soon.  (Also available at Book Outlet here.)


                  MY READING IN NUMBERS FOR 2019
                  Books Read: 26
                  Pages Read: 8,175
                  Fiction: 15  //  Non-Fiction: 11
                  Kindle Books: 5  //  Paper Books: 21
                  Original 2019 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 424 // Current "to-read" total: 428

                  Friday, April 26, 2019

                  No.240: Hello! Seven Things I Have to Tell You

                   This post contains affiliate links.  Linking up with Kelly's Quick Takes!

                  Hoping to get back in a blogging groove with some Quick Takes!  If you lived nearby, I'd invite you over for peach tea and cookies (I've been trying a few recipes that are refined sugar free!) so we could catch up.  In the meantime, here are seven things I have to tell you:

                  1 // A PUPPY IS A LOT OF WORK AND I'M TIRED.
                  Lucy is the biggest reason for my radio silence here.  Talk about learning on the fly!  I've never had a puppy before, so I've been Googling all.the.things...
                  • how to collect a stool sample for the vet
                  • how to redirect puppy biting
                  • are frozen carrots good for puppies?
                  • how to keep a house from smelling like dog
                  So much I don't know and so much to learn.  Good thing she's so cute and eager to please!  I'm still in a sleepy stupor most days (I have the 1:00 AM potty break shift and it's rough), but we're getting there.  I'll be singing all the praises when she hits 16 weeks and can (hopefully!) sleep through the night! 

                  2 // I THINK MY FORSYTHIA BUSH IS DEAD.
                  We had it moved last spring while the landscapers put in our brick flowerbeds and it must not have made the move well?  We had a ton of rain all summer so it can't be from lack of water...maybe I drowned it? hah!  Oh well, I'm going to prune it way back and see if I can salvage it for next year.

                  She's been fencing a pasture between our houses and we are so excited to be able to watch and visit her beautiful chestnut horse.  

                  4 // I TRIED A SHAMPOO BAR...
                  and I think I like it!  I bought this one from Shady Nook Bee Farms.  I'm still in the transition stage where you feel a little greasy while your scalp adjusts to a chemical-free shampoo, but my natural waves/curls are really thriving, so I think it's worth it.  In the meantime, I've been doing an extra apple cider vinegar rinse to help things along.  Hah, that sentence just makes me laugh.  I was the high school girl who doused herself in Bath & Body Works and Herbal Essence shampoo, so clearly, I don't even recognize myself at this point.

                  5 // I'M LOVING T25.
                  D and I just finished our eighth week of T25.  I've lost a few pounds and a few inches, but more importantly, I'm feeling really strong and improving every week.  I can finally keep up with the burpees!    

                  6 // I'M IN A READING SLUMP.
                  I gave up reading fiction for Lent and it was way more difficult than I imagined.  Honestly, it put me in a bit of a reading slump!   In order to get back into a groove, I'm participating in the #25in5 Reading Challenge which started yesterday.  I definitely don't think I'll complete all 25 hours, but here's my tentative book list anyway: Olive Kitteridge, Murder on the Orient Express, finally finishing An Everlasting Meal, and My Italian Bulldozer.  Wish me luck!   

                  I think I can, I think I can...  We have standardized testing next week and then we'll start wrapping things up.  I like to end in May so we can enjoy being outside before it becomes boiling hot.  And bonus: by August, we're all bored and ready to get back to the books!

                  Your turn!  How is your spring going?  What's new in your neck of the woods?

                  Wednesday, April 17, 2019

                  No.239: 40 Days of Lenten Soups // Part Three

                  Easter is almost here and I'm so ready!  Below are the soups from the last two weeks of Lent and what we plan to eat on the last few days of Holy Week:

                  Wednesday: leftovers

                  Thursday: Whenever a new baby is about to be born in our family, we always go out for a special dinner as a last hurrah to the current crew and to build anticipation for the arrival.  With the new puppy coming on Friday, we continued our tradition and went out for pizza!

                  Friday: Lucy arrives! Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

                  Saturday (Week 93): in the thick of new puppy craziness, Mark and I had frozen taquitos and the kids had hotdogs (so random)

                  Fifth Sunday of Lent: grilled chicken Caesar salads

                  Monday: leftovers

                  Wednesday: picked up burgers while in town for a vet appointment

                  Friday: we had a late snack of greek yogurt, granola and frozen blueberries and totally ruined our appetite for dinner

                  Saturday (Week 94): Beefy Tomato Soup

                  Palm Sunday: leftovers

                  Holy Thursday: leftovers

                  Holy Saturday (Week 95): White Chicken Chili


                  Monday, April 8, 2019

                  No.238: A New Adventure

                  Introducing the newest member of the family...


                  About her name: We couldn't get a ginger Labrador puppy without naming her after our favorite show, I Love Lucy!  I also love that her name means "light" - she has definitely already been a ray of sunshine for a lonely little boy around here.

                  We're taking it one day at a time and learning as we go.  Here's to a brand new adventure in puppy raising!   

                  Wednesday, April 3, 2019

                  No.237: 40 Days of Lenten Soups // Part Two

                  As we round the corner onto the Lenten home stretch, we're still (mostly) going strong on soup dinners.  So many lessons learned already!  On the days where we're just "not in the mood" for soup or we don't want to eat leftovers again or we just want to chew something (hah!), we're reminded how fortunate we are to have food to eat at all.  We're able to return to gratitude for our daily bread.  Who knew forty days of soup could expose and help sanctify our selfishness?     

                  Below are the soups we tried for the middle two weeks:

                  Wednesday: leftovers

                  Thursday: Tomato Soup & grilled cheese sandwiches

                  Friday: Ditalini Spinach Soup
                  INGREDIENTS // 2T. olive oil, 1 cup each of onions, carrots and celery (all diced), 3 cloves minced garlic, 6 cups chicken broth, 15oz. can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, 1.5 cups ditalini, 1/2tsp. thyme, 1/4tsp. oregano, 4 cups spinach, salt and pepper
                  DIRECTIONS // Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute until soft.  Add carrots, celery and garlic and saute another 4 minutes or so.  Add broth, tomatoes, ditalini, thyme, and oregano.  Stir, then bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 11-13 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.  Stir in spinach and cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with a little Parmesan cheese on top.  (I also poured in a little half & half to make it creamier, but it's not necessary.)
                  Saturday (Week 91): leftovers

                  Third Sunday of Lent: pizza

                  Monday: Olive Garden Copycat Zuppa Toscana (thank you for recommendations, Nicole!)

                  Wednesday: Meatball Soup

                  Thursday: leftovers

                  Friday: after a busy day away from home, I hit a wall and just had take-and-bake cheese pizzas 

                  Saturday (Week 92): burgers on the grill with kettle chips

                  Fourth Sunday of Lent: White Chicken Lasagna Soup

                  Monday: leftovers

                  Tuesday, April 2, 2019

                  No.236: TBR Tuesday // Let's Try This Again!

                  This post contains affiliate links.

                  Because I changed my Lenten plans at the last minute, March's TBR was a bust!  For the rest of Lent, I'll be reading mostly religious-themed books, but I'll add in one fiction to look forward to after Easter.  Here's what I've picked out to read in April:

                  Life of Christ by Fulton J. Sheen // I'm about halfway through Archbishop Sheen's Life of Christ and loving it.  The chapters are short enough to be manageable, but boy, do they pack a punch.  Can't wait to read to the end.  (Here's my Lenten reading plan if you're interested.)

                  The Louder Song by Aubrey Sampson // I stumbled on this book on Instagram and since it's a topic that I've been pondering quite a bit lately, I thought I'd give it a shot.

                  Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis // One of those books I've always wanted to read.

                  Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hilter by Mark Riebling // I bought this book for my husband, but I'm grabbing it to read first!

                  My Life in France by Julia Child // My Life in France was on my TBR list last month and I did manage to read about 50 pages.  Love imagining Julia Child's voice coming through.

                  The Likeness by Tana French // After Easter, I can't wait to dive into this mystery!

                  Do you make a monthly TBR list?  What's on yours for April?

                  Monday, April 1, 2019

                  No.235: Intentions for the Beginning of April

                  We know spring is finally here when the little birds start improving the nest on our porch fan.  
                  Watching them never gets old!


                  • complete T25 Alpha Week 5 and Beta Week 1
                  • puppy proof the first floor 
                  • figure out a new routine with the dog
                  • schedule an appointment with the vet
                  • order standardized testing
                  • figure out plans for the last few weeks of school
                  • look for a white button-down shirt for J's First Communion in May
                  • buy a butterfly habitat kit
                  • begin a new sourdough starter
                  • bake a new recipe that is refined sugar free
                  • give the little ones haircuts

                          PREVIOUS INTENTIONS

                          If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
                          • complete T25 Alpha Weeks 3 & 4
                          • finish Easter baskets
                          • get the big boys to the barber and buzz the little ones at home
                          • give my split ends a trim (I still need to find a Youtube video, but it can't be that hard, can it?)
                          • finish buying the last few things before our new puppy arrives
                          • puppy proof the first floor (started, but need to do another sweep)
                          • find a vet
                          • go through the millions of recipe printouts and organize (part of 100LT #10)
                          • organize the junk drawers
                          • make a list of spring clothing needs for the kids
                          • clean out and vacuum the car (oh man, was that overdue!)
                          • paint S's room (100LT #69)
                          • check out the Restore for a dresser and/or desk (we found a great desk for a steal!  now to paint it white...)
                          • get estimates for resealing the driveway (we got a reasonable estimate and they were able to reseal it the very next day!)

                          Thursday, March 28, 2019

                          No.234: My Latest Reads // March

                          This post contains affiliate links.
                          P.S. I highly recommend Book Outlet!  Use my link to receive $10 off your first order of $25 or more.

                          #15. FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper
                          My Rating: ★★★★☆

                          Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things. One: No one saw the bushland swallow up Alice Russell. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you. (the very first line! p.1)

                          He thought of the hundreds of little things that had added up to go so wrong. Maybe hundreds of little things could add up to go right. (93%)

                          Another book from the library holds list!  Force of Nature is the second book in the Aaron Falk series and I couldn't put it down.  An engaging story with an ending I didn't predict.  I really liked this one!

                          #16. THE POWER AND THE GLORY by Graham Greene
                          My Rating: ★★★☆

                          It is one of the strange discoveries a man can make that life, however you lead it, contains moments of exhilaration; there are always comparisons which can be made with worse times: even in danger and misery the pendulum swings. (p.59)

                          He felt only an immense disappointment because he had to go to God empty-handed, with nothing done at all.  It seemed to him, at that moment, that it would have been quite easy to have been a saint.  It would only have needed a little self-restraint and a little courage.  He felt like someone who has missed happiness by seconds at an appointed place.  He knew now that at the end there was only one thing that counted - to be a saint. (p.210)

                          We've had a copy of The Power and the Glory on our bookshelves for years - I think it may have been Mark's from high school! - so I decided to give it a shot.  The story is about a "whisky priest" who is on the run during a purging of Catholicism in Mexico.  I have such complicated feelings about this book...I know I'll be thinking about it for awhile.  3.5 stars.

                          #17. AND EVERY MORNING THE WAY GETS LONGER AND LONGER by Fredrik Backman
                          My Rating: ★★★★☆

                          “It's an awful thing to miss someone who's still here.” 

                          “What can we do to help Grandpa?"  The dad's tears dry on the boy's sweatshirt.
                          "We can walk down the road with him. We can keep him company.” 

                          And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer is a novella and at less than 100 pages, easy to read in a single sitting.  It was a touching story about a grandfather with Alzheimer's, his grandson, and the way memories connect us together.  My grandmother had dementia, so this hit close to home.  Simultaneously heartbreaking and beautiful.

                          #18. YOUR LABRADOR RETRIEVER PUPPY, MONTH BY MONTH by Terry Albert, Deb Eldredge, & Don and Barb Ironside
                          My Rating: ★★★★

                          This book has been a lifesaver for me as we prepare to bring home our new puppy in April!  I'm feeling much more prepared (and a little scared, hah!) about caring for and training this new member of our family.

                          #19. THE FULFILLMENT OF ALL DESIRE by Ralph Martin
                          My Rating: ★★★★☆

                          ...what the spiritual journey is all about is uniting our will with God's will, wanting what He wants, loving what He loves, living a life that in all its aspects honors Him and gives Him glory. (p.153)

                          Did you pick a name from the Saint Name Generator earlier this year?  I got St. John of the Cross.  In years past, I've clicked and quickly forgotten my saint, but this year, I'm trying to be different!  As I browsed my religious books for writings by St. John of the Cross, I came across this book.  I've started it before and set it aside, but this time I quickly made my way through it.  My copy is now full of asterisks and underlined passages.  Isn't it always funny how a book can find you at just the right time?


                          MY READING IN NUMBERS FOR 2019
                          Books Read: 19
                          Pages Read: 5,793
                          Fiction: 12  //  Non-Fiction: 7
                          Kindle Books: 4  //  Paper Books: 15
                          Original 2019 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 424 // Current "to-read" total: 432 (I'm going in the wrong direction, hah!)

                          Monday, March 25, 2019

                          No.233: Five Favorites for March

                          This post contains affiliate links.

                          1 // HABITAT FOR HUMANITY'S RESTORE
                          We're doing a little makeover in Sophie's room and I've been on the lookout for a desk.  I really wanted one that was solid wood, but finding one in our budget was tricky.  On a whim, I popped into our local Restore and  This place is like a home improvement lover's dream!  They have everything: dressers, tables, lamps, kitchen cabinets, tile, even vintage windows.  The prices are so reasonable and sometimes better than prices I've seen at Goodwill!  Sophie picked out her favorite and I can't wait to paint it white to match the rest of her furniture.  In the meantime, she got right to work with the decorating, hah!

                          2 // CHEWY.COM
                          T-12 days before the new puppy arrives!  I've been checking the last items off the list by ordering from Chewy and I'm their new biggest fan.  When I comparison shop, the prices seem to always be the same or better and the shipping is crazy fast.  You can also get 3% back through ebates!  Win/win/win.

                          3 // PARMESAN CRISPS
                          Spring is in the air and I'm trying to break my winter hibernation habits with some new ones.  Lately, I've been eating a big salad everyday for lunch.  Mark found these parmesan crisps for me at the store and I love them!  They give the crunch of croutons without the carbs, but full disclosure: I usually add in both.

                          4 // PERSON OF INTEREST
                          When Mark is away on business, I tend to stay up late watching Netflix shows until I can't keep my eyes open.  #scaredycat  This month, I started watching Person of Interest because it was crime-related without being too too scary.  The first few episodes were decent (I could multi-task while watching it) but by the end of the first season, I was hooked!

                          5 // SOPHIE'S DETANGLER 
                          This detangler has been a life-saver this month.  Sophie's hair tangles easily and there have more than a few tears.  Now she tolerates my brushing with a little less trepidation.  And bonus: there aren't any weird ingredients.  (I bought mine on Grove Collaborative - that free starter set was just too good to pass up!  You can use my link to get it too!)

                          Wednesday, March 20, 2019

                          No.232: 40 Days of Lenten Soups

                          As a family, we're planning to eat a lot of soup during Lent this year.  We have a few exceptions (a rare date night, two of the boys' feasts days and an occasional Sunday dinner), but the rest of the week will have soup on the menu for dinner.  I'm hoping this simpler menu will help us appreciate the true spirit of Lent.  Below are the soups (and some recipes!) for the first two weeks:

                          Ash Wednesday: Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup & grocery store baguettes

                          Thursday: Beef Stew 
                          INGREDIENTS // 2lb stew beef, onions chopped, celery chopped, carrots peeled and chopped, mini red potatoes, 28oz. can whole tomatoes, 1.5tsp. Italian seasoning, 3 cups beef broth, 2 bay leaves, frozen peas, salt and pepper, and 0.5 cup flour
                          DIRECTIONS // Lightly brown the stew meat in batches in a large skillet on medium-high heat.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.  Dump tomatoes and their juices into the slow cooker and mash them a little.  Add onions, celery, carrots and potatoes.  (The amounts of these depends on who I'm feeding and how much I have in my refrigerator.  In my house, it's generally the more, the merrier!)  Sprinkle Italian seasoning over the vegetables and then add beef and drippings.  Pour 2.5 cups beef broth over all, stir quickly, add bay leaves and cover.  Cook on low for 8 hours.  20 minutes before serving, add the frozen peas (about 1 cup) and salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, whisk the last 0.5 cup of broth with the flour to make a smooth paste.  Stir into stew and cook until thickened, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove bay leaves and enjoy!
                          Friday: Broccoli Cheddar Soup & store-bought baguettes

                          Saturday (Week 89): Mark and I went on a date!  We had burgers and the kids had pizza at their grandparents  

                          First Sunday of Lent: leftovers

                          Monday: Chicken Pot Pie Soup & homemade cheddar biscuits

                          Wednesday: Ember Days. leftovers

                          Thursday: Clean-Eating Chili & tortilla chips

                          Friday: Ember Days. Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup
                          INGREDIENTS // 28oz can diced tomatoes with juice, 1 cup each of finely diced celery, carrots and onions, 1tsp. oregano, 1T. basil, 4 cups chicken broth, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup butter, 1.5 cups warm half and half, salt and pepper to taste
                          DIRECTIONS // Add tomatoes, celery, carrots, chicken broth, onions, oregano, basil and bay leaf into a slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours.  About 30 minutes before serving, prepare the roux: melt butter over low heat in a skillet and add flour.  Whisk constantly for 5 minutes.  Slowly stir in 1 cup of hot soup until smooth.  Stir the roux back into the slow cooker, then add Parmesan, warmed half and half and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook on low for another 15-30 minutes until read to serve.
                          Saturday (Week 90): Ember Days. leftovers

                          Second Sunday of Lent: Spaghetti and Meatballs (not at all St. Patrick's Day-appropriate, but one of the kids requested it so on the menu it went!)

                          Tuesday: J's feast day! tacos and chocolate chip cookies

                          How is your Lent going so far?  What is your favorite soup?  I'd love to hear your favorites!

                          Monday, March 18, 2019

                          No.231: Intentions for the End of March

                          The next few weeks are going to be crazy - it's crunch time before the new puppy comes! 

                          INTENTIONS FOR THE END OF MARCH

                          • complete T25 Alpha Weeks 3 & 4
                          • finish Easter baskets
                          • get the big boys to the barber and buzz the little ones at home
                          • give my split ends a trim (maybe watch a Youtube video or two?)
                          • finish buying the last few things before our new puppy arrives
                          • puppy proof the first floor 
                          • find a vet
                          • go through the millions of recipe printouts and organize (part of 100LT #10)
                          • organize the junk drawers
                          • make a list of spring clothing needs for the kids
                          • clean out and vacuum the car
                          • paint S's room (100LT #69)
                          • check out the Restore for a dresser and/or desk 
                          • get estimates for resealing the driveway

                                PREVIOUS INTENTIONS

                                If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
                                • create a regular routine of working out with D (we're going to do T25 together!)
                                • replace burnt out recessed lighting bulbs in the living room and kitchen
                                • declutter and organize the school closet
                                • introduce a little Shakespeare into our homeschool (we read Macbeth)
                                • plan something art-related to do with the kids
                                • play dominoes or cards after dinner as a family
                                • go on a date!
                                • send a package, just because
                                • paint S's room (100LT #69)
                                • start peeking around for a new dresser on yardsale sites or CL (no luck yet)
                                • research costs for resealing the driveway (now to get some quotes!)
                                • start a compost pile (this blog post was really helpful)
                                • bake bread (revisited this post to get back into the routine)

                                Thursday, March 14, 2019

                                No.230: Artisan Soaps Around the United States

                                This post contains affiliate links.

                                I admit ahead of time that this is such a random post, but hear me out!  I've recently ordered a few soaps online and have since been fascinated with the entire soap-making process.  I definitely don't have time to learn the skill right now, so I'm happy to support the little businesses who do.

                                Here are three reasons why you should try artisan soap:
                                1. Bars of soap seem to last much longer than body wash, so your financial commitment is less in the long-run.  
                                2. You "miss out" on all the junky ingredients that some of the commercial soaps contain.  Yay for healthier living!
                                3. You're supporting a small business and that money helps them pay their mortgage, keep their farm running or put food on their table.  
                                I live in Virginia, but you probably don't, so I went on a little rabbit trail and found soap artisans in 31 different states!  If you have a favorite company in a state I missed, please let me know in the comments and I'll add them to the list.

                                ALABAMA // Black Sheep Bath Co.
                                Specializing in soaps, lotions, bath bombs, scrubs, and Spa Day gift sets
                                I love the colorful swirls of these chunky soaps!  Favorite scent I can't wait to try: Sunrise

                                ALASKA // Glacier Valley Soap Company
                                Specializing in all natural soaps made with Alaska spring water
                                I really respect the mission of this company.  From the website: "Glacier Valley Soap Company STARTS with the goal of being good for what goes down the drain and ultimately ends up in our drinking water sources and the waters from which we collect our seafood - salmon, halibut, shrimp and other goodies. It’s just an added bonus that the soaps are luxurious, a treat to use, and good for your skin too!"

                                ARIZONA // Pie Town Soap Co.
                                Specializing in fine handmade soap, natural bath & body and aromatherapy
                                I've never been to Arizona, but I sure would love to try her line of Sedona soaps, made with Sedona Vortex red earth!

                                ARKANSAS //  Cadron Creek Soapworks
                                Specializing in handmade olive oil castile soap

                                CALIFORNIA // Borden Acres
                                Specializing in handmade goat's milk bath products
                                I love how all of the soaps are packaged in 100% compostable seed boxes, so you can plant them and grow flowers!  Such a fun touch.

                                CONNECTICUT // Herd Supply Co.
                                This company makes cold process soap with a twist: their soaps feature milk from East Friesian and Dorset sheep!  "My dad and I hand milk the sheep every year after the lambs are born and use the milk in all of the soap recipes."

                                FLORIDA // Simple Bliss Bath Co.
                                Specializing in handcrafted bath & body products
                                I love Jamie's mix of fun, whimsical bars and more useful, utilitarian ones.  She even has one for babies!

                                GEORGIA // Normal Soap Company
                                Specializing in natural soap and body products, handmade in Athens, GA
                                Kevin and Jessica learned to make soap as a date activity and haven't looked back since!  Favorite scent I can't wait to try: Georgia Peach

                                HAWAII // Kopa Kauai
                                Specializing in tropically-inspired soaps handmade on Kauai
                                Oh my goodness, these soaps are awesome.  She has scents that just scream Hawaii - lychee, mango, papaya passion and more!  I want to order them all.

                                IDAHO // Ego Soap Company
                                Specializing in natural and handcrafted men's grooming products
                                This soap shop is just for the guys.  I appreciate the care they've taken with their products, right down to the packaging.  Adding "Fortitude" to my list for my boys and husband.  

                                IOWA // Thumbprint Soap
                                This shop's name comes "from the notion that no two bars of soap are exactly the same, just like snowflakes or fingerprints."  Love that!  Favorite scent I can't wait to try: Spanish Fly

                                KENTUCKY // Rock Bottom Soap Co.
                                Specializing in handmade goat milk soap & natural products
                                Amy has been able to put her chemistry minor to work as she tinkers with different scents and soap-making techniques.  Together with her hard-working goats, they create an incredible product.  I love the packaging too!    

                                LOUISIANA // Sweet Olive Soapworks
                                Soapmaking runs in Emily's family - she learned the tricks of the trade from her grandmother!  Bonus: her packaging is incredible and would make great gifts.

                                MAINE // Rocky Top Soap Shop
                                Specializing in unscented soaps and balms
                                According to Tony, "I use a variety of plant based oils and butters in my formulations. No pre made bases and absolutely no animal fats are used. All the additives are naturally derived and most are edible. The colorants are teas, coffee, botanicals, purees, juices and clays. The exfoliants include things like corn meal and poppy seeds.  There are no fillers, chemicals or preservatives added to any of the soaps. This makes the ingredients lists read more like a recipe for dinner than a chemical concoction you shouldn’t put on your skin."  Love that!

                                MICHIGAN // Little Flower Soap Co.
                                Specializing in handmade, natural soap, spa gift sets & shower favors
                                We used to carry Holly's soaps in our Big White Farmhouse shop and they were always a hit!  Her packaging is beautiful.

                                MISSOURI // Saco Valley Farm
                                Specializing in luxury handmade goat milk soaps, lotion bars & more
                                Melissa has a huge selection of scents in her shop - over 30!  Favorite scent I can't wait to try: Oatmeal Milk & Honey

                                MONTANA // b.simply
                                Specializing in handcrafted bath and body products
                                Amber set out to create a soap that was "super hydrating and perfect for Montana's dry climate."  I love the simplicity of her soaps and can't wait to try the White Tea & Ginger scent.

                                NEBRASKA // Wildwood Goat Milk Soap
                                Specializing in goat milk soap and Nebraska handcrafted products
                                The owners of this shop are a mother-daughter team who were inspired by their family’s generational farm wives.  The goat's milk that they use for their soaps come from their own Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goats from their farm!  How cool is that?

                                NEW HAMPSHIRE // Maple Bee Products
                                Specializing in cold processed soaps and more
                                Maple Bee's soaps are so colorful!  Tons of combinations and cute designs, like this Strawberry Milkshake.  Wouldn't they make great gifts?

                                NEW YORK // Gilded Olive Apothecary
                                Valerie says, "I fell in love with The Great Gatsby in Mr. DeCarlo's eighth grade english class. I've held a place in my heart for Art Deco and the beautiful styles of the 1920's ever since."  These soaps are perfect for someone who loves that literary classic!

                                NORTH CAROLINA // Clean Line Soap Company
                                Specializing in goat milk soap, buttery bath bombs & more
                                I've ordered from Clean Line Soap before and had a really great experience.  I can't wait to try the Honeysuckle scent next.

                                NORTH DAKOTA // Kindak Co.
                                Specializing in homemade cold process soap & soy wax melts
                                With names like Warm Flannel, Prairie Rose, and Off the Grid, these soaps will surely make you feel part of North Dakota too.  Favorite scent I can't wait to try: Lake Nights

                                OHIO // Blip and Branch
                                The owners of Blip And Branch are a husband and wife team!  So many great options; I love this heart-shaped one.

                                OREGON // 5R Farm Soap
                                Specializing in natural soaps, lotions, and more!
                                The story behind the name: "We named the property 5R Farm, after the five chickens that inspired us to make our dream of moving to the country a reality. It wasn't long before we built a large chicken coop and expanded our chicken flock to 30 chickens, including several roosters. We added bees to the farm in 2013 and added turkeys in 2015. When I'm not making soap, lotion, or candles you can usually find me tending to our growing menagerie, up in the garden, or canning in the kitchen."  

                                PENNSYLVANIA // Shady Nook Bee Farms
                                Jill sources all of her wax and honey from her own hives!  Favorite scent I'm excited to try: French Green Clay

                                RHODE ISLAND // The Blue Sister
                                Specializing in vegan artisan soaps and slathers
                                "From sandy beaches to lush green campgrounds, from sweet fruit orchards to aromatic gardens, all soaps are artistically designed with both aesthetics and the senses in mind."  This is exactly the vibe I felt as I scrolled through The Blue Sister's soaps!

                                SOUTH CAROLINA // Old Whaling Company
                                Specializing in handmade bar soaps, bath bombs, body butter and scrubs
                                I LOVE the packaging of this soap company.  Favorite scent I'm excited to try: Coastal Calm

                                TENNESSEE // Free Reign Farm
                                Specializing in natural goat milk soap, salves, and wood wick candles
                                I loved the story behind this company: "Foster care is all about healing and when a new mom to three foster babies went looking for natural solutions to their skin and allergy problems, she stumbled upon products that changed everything...We are still involved in foster care and our company raises awareness for kids in foster care. We also donate to a foster care support agency and a humanitarian agency supporting kids in need. Partner with us in offering hope to those who need it most!"

                                TEXAS // Foster Gardens Bath Co.
                                Specializing in handcrafted soap & artisan skincare
                                The colors of these soaps are just gorgeous!  Favorite scent I can't wait to try: Garden Mint

                                VIRGINIA // Wildwood Williamsburg
                                "Wildwood Farm is a local small-scale farm started by a young married couple, James & Paige Ewell. Wildwood produces handcrafted goat milk soaps made with its raw goat milk, essential oils, herbs from the Wildwood Farm garden, and beeswax from Wildwood bees." So cool!

                                WASHINGTON // Sweet River Soap Co.
                                Specializing in handcrafted goats milk soaps and apothecary
                                Soaps made with goat milk are so luxurious.  Favorite scent I can't wait to try: Black Raspberry Vanilla

                                Friday, March 8, 2019

                                No.229: Lent 2019 with Life of Christ by Fulton J. Sheen

                                For Lent this year, I'm reading through Fulton Sheen's Life of Christ.  At this point in my life, I'm very prone to distraction and wandering thoughts (I have too many "tabs" open in my brain at all times!)  and reading this book will hopefully keep my mind focused as I contemplate all the pieces of Christ.  Sharing my plan below in case it's helpful for someone else someday:

                                Quick note: Chapter 2 is abnormally long (around 40 pages) so I started my reading on Monday and broke the two chapters up between those first three days.  The rest of the plan looks to be much more reasonable for daily reading.

                                Ash Wednesday // Ch.1+2: The Only Person Ever Pre-announced & Early Life of Christ
                                Thursday // Ch.3: The Three Short Cuts from the Cross
                                Friday // Ch.4: The Lamb of God
                                Saturday // Ch.5: The Beginning of "The Hour"
                                First Sunday of Lent // Ch.6+7: The Temple of His Body & Nicodemus, the Serpent, and the Cross
                                Monday // Ch.8: Savior of the World
                                Tuesday // Ch.9: The First Public Announcement of His Death
                                Wednesday //  Ch.10+11: The Choosing of the Twelve & Beatitudes
                                Thursday // Ch.12: The Intruder Who Was a Woman
                                Friday // Ch.13: The Man Who Lost His Head
                                Saturday // Ch.14: The Bread of Life
                                Second Sunday of Lent // Ch.15+16: The Refusal to Be a Bread King & Purity and Property
                                Monday // Ch.17: Our Lord's Testimony Concerning Himself
                                Tuesday // Ch.18: Transfiguration
                                Wednesday // Ch.19+20: The Three Quarrelings & The Attempted Arrest at the Feast of Tabernacles
                                Thursday // Ch.21: Only the Innocent May Condemn
                                Friday // Ch.22: The Good Shepherd
                                Saturday // Ch.23: The Son of Man
                                Third Sunday of Lent // Ch.24+25: Caesar or God & His Hour Had Not Yet Come
                                Monday // Ch.26: The Mightiest Arrow in the Diving Quiver
                                Tuesday // Ch.27: More than a Teacher
                                Wednesday // Ch.28+29: The Pagans and the Cross & The Growing Opposition
                                Thursday // Ch.30: The Fox and the Hen
                                Friday // Ch.31: The Resurrection That Prepared His Death
                                Saturday // Ch.32: The Woman Who Dimly Foresaw His Death
                                Fourth Sunday of Lent // Ch.33+34: Entrance into Jerusalem & The Visit of the Greeks
                                Monday // Ch.35: The King's Son Marked for Death
                                Tuesday // Ch.36: The Last Supper
                                Wednesday // Ch.37+38: The Servant of Servants & Judas
                                Thursday // Ch.39: The Divine Lover's Farewell
                                Friday // Ch.40: Our Lord's "My Father"
                                Saturday // Ch 41: The Agony in the Garden
                                Fifth Sunday of Lent // Ch.42+43: The Kiss That Blistered & The Religious Trial
                                Monday // Ch.44: The Denials of Peter
                                Tuesday // Ch.45: Trail Before Pilate
                                Wednesday // Ch.46+47: At the Bottom of the List & Second Trail Before Pilate
                                Thursday // Ch.48: The Crucifixion
                                Friday // Ch.49: The Seven Words from the Cross
                                Saturday // Ch.50: Seven Words to the Cross
                                Palm Sunday // Ch.51+52: The Rending of the Veil of the Temple & The Piercing of the Side
                                Monday // Ch.53: The Night Friends of Christ
                                Tuesday // Ch.54: The Earth's Most Serious Wound - the Empty Tomb
                                Wednesday // Ch.55+56: The Doors Being Closed & Fingers, Hands, and Nails
                                Holy Thursday // Ch.57+58: Love as the Condition of Authority & The Divine Mandate
                                Good Friday // Ch.59+60: Last Appearance in Jersusalem & Repentance
                                Holy Saturday // Ch.61+62: The Ascension & Christ Takes on a New Body

                                Thursday, March 7, 2019

                                No.228: New Habits, Little by Little: Cooking at Home (February & Early March 2019)

                                What a month!  We suffered through a family-wide stomach flu, ate too many dinners out and didn't try many new recipes, but some months are like that.  Looking forward to March and getting into a better routine.  (Adding in a few extra days of meals in March because I'll be documenting our meals during Lent a little differently.)

                                Week 83 (cont.):
                                Friday, February 1: cheese pizzas

                                Week 84:
                                Saturday, February 2: leftovers
                                Sunday, February 3: after attending the Latin Mass, we picked up BBQ from our favorite local spot
                                Monday, February 4: breakfast for dinner - crepes
                                Tuesday, February 5: Mark's birthday! steak for Mark and homemade bacon cheeseburgers for the rest of us
                                Wednesday, February 6: garlic-parmesan sausage and veggies
                                Thursday, February 7: arroz con pollo
                                Friday, February 8: a stomach bug hits the house, so those still healthy just ate leftovers and cereal

                                Week 85:
                                Saturday, February 9: my turn with the stomach bug - the others were on their own for dinner!
                                Sunday, February 10: the stomach bug continues - the ones who felt up to it had brats and potatoes
                                Monday, February 11: gyros
                                Tuesday, February 12: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night
                                Wednesday, February 13: double decker tacos
                                Thursday, February 14: Valentine's Day! we surprised the kids with a dinner out at Chick-fil-A
                                Friday, February 15: Mark's homemade cheese and veggie pizzas

                                Week 86:
                                Saturday, February 16: tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches
                                Sunday, February 17: roast beef sandwiches
                                Monday, February 18: french onion meatballs and mashed potatoes
                                Tuesday, February 19: breakfast for dinner - eggs, bacon, and Mark's homemade biscuits
                                Wednesday, February 20: cheese quesadillas with chips and salsa
                                Thursday, February 21: out for burgers
                                Friday, February 22: shrimp fried rice and frozen egg rolls

                                Week 87:
                                Saturday, February 23: we picked up pizza from a local place while out running errands (a new place for us and SO good!)
                                Sunday, February 24: top round roast sandwiches
                                Monday, February 25: chicken pot pie soup with homemade biscuits
                                Tuesday: February 26: roasted chicken with potatoes, onions and carrots (using my go-to recipe from Dinner: A Love Story)
                                Wednesday, February 27: mini meatloaves with potatoes and green beans
                                Thursday, February 28: the chicken went bad (#mealplanningfail), so we went out for pizza instead
                                Friday, March 1: vegetable egg rolls

                                Week 88:
                                Saturday, March 2: out in town to pick up a kid and run errands, so we got Chick-fil-a before heading home
                                Sunday, March 3: gyros
                                Monday, March 4: breakfast for dinner - mini pancakes
                                Tuesday, March 5: Fat Tuesday! pepperoni and supreme pizzas

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