Monday, January 30, 2012

The house was clean yesterday...

Ever wish you had a sign like this to hang on your front door? Almost as a "before you enter" pre-apology?

Honestly, our living room is never quite clean because I can always spot a toy lurking somewhere under the couch, chair, bookshelf or hassock. Cheerios have a unique crunch I've learned to identify the second after my foot comes into contact with them. They also, like their friend the building block, are tiny enough to burrow themselves into the hardest to reach locations.

And pacifiers seem to go missing in "blink and they're gone" fashion right before it's time for bed, when a particular binky user is at their crankiest.

Then it's time for me, aka tired mom, to don my super sleuth cape as I comb over every inch of floor with Sherlock Holmes precision.

(While my usually helpful Watson is already passed out on the couch, despite red-faced wailing that could rattle the dead. Yes, it's a medical mystery that still alludes me and, probably, women everywhere.)

Binky found, I can only contemplate what other hidden treasures await me behind the dark, dusty, entertainment center.

I sigh. Long and loud. Shut my eyes, dismally.

But, you know what? Life is messy; so it makes sense our homes are at times too. Despite our best efforts, something usually falls by the wayside, whether it be cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, errands, etc.

There will always be one more thing on our to do list that we haven't managed to accomplish.

However, straightening up the house is one of those never ending jobs that will need to be done day after day, child after child, disaster after disaster.

So, the reality is, we should do the best we can and...

Try not to sweat the small stuff.

(Because while messy rooms may seem the height of catastrophe, they truly aren't that significant in the grand scheme of things.) :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Contentment Reading Challenge 2012!

I've decided to accept the Contentment Reading Challenge 2012, and hope you will too! 

Which means: 

Throughout this year, I will be dusting off and re-reading some favorite books I already own from my, ahem, slightly extensive collection. (Don't know quite how my shelf has gotten so full that it nearly groans whenever I get another box from Amazon...) 

Anyhew, poor, overworked, furniture aside, here are the reading levels to pick from:

* Floating: Skimming the surface, you re-read 5 books you already own.
* Wading: Getting your feet wet, you re-read 10 books you already own.
* Swimming: Immersing yourself again, you re-read 15 books you already own.
* Diving: Going deep into the stories you love, you re-read 20 or more books that you already own.

I've chosen to wade because ten stories seems like the perfect number for me. However, if you're feeling extra ambitious, why not dive straight in to the deep end? :) But whatever amount you feel comfortable with, it's sure to be a blast either way!

The Contentment Reading Challenge is being hosted by Katie McCurdy over at her blog, Legacy of a Writer, so be sure to click there for the complete scoop and how to join!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Letting go...

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

This past year really caused me to realize I can't always control what direction my life will take. While we make plans and assumptions, God may have a different picture in mind for our actual destination. 

Or even a detour or two along the way. 

Some of us do better with change than others, but giving up our goals, dreams, even life, to God isn't an easy thing to do. 

There are times I want something for myself because I believe it will either bring me happiness, contentment, or fill a certain void. I don't necessarily stop to see if God and I are on the same page because I just assume he sees things with the same perspective as me. 

So when my plans don't work out, I wonder why.

I feel hurt. Forgotten. Impatient.

I grow frustrated, eventually resigned.

Finally, I stop and wait because that's all I can do.

Then somewhere amidst all these emotions, I discover my life has changed course almost without my knowing it. 

And it turns out that this new corner I've turned is much better, beyond even the one I originally envisioned.

Because now God's steering the ship and I'm taking a backseat.

In reality though, letting go sounds so much simpler than it truly is. It's usually a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, struggle; one we might never fully conquer. 

However, I'm discovering it's the striving, not the perfection, which pleases God most.

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14

What is it you may need to let order to let God?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Peanut Butter Corn Flake Balls

Every time I make these, they're a huge hit. I mean colossal. After bringing them to church recently, there was much drooling and rave reviews. 

When I put these together at home, they're gone almost as soon as they hit the parchment paper. 

And since I'm all about simplicity, these gooey snacks are a delight to whip together-plus no baking required!


(Makes about 3 dozen cookies)
1 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 jar (18 oz ounce) peanut butter, crunchy or smooth (I like creamy.)
6 cups corn flakes
3 oz good quality chocolate of your choice

(You can also substitute honey for the corn syrup as a healthier option. They're delicious either way!)

Here's the complete directions.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Is your "caps lock" on?

Have you ever received an email or had a computer conversation with someone that consisted mainly (or completely) of bold face type written letters?

Whether it was out of anger, frustration, or plain careless intent, those words sent a powerful message, didn't they?

As a recipient on the receiving end of said message, you may have felt: tongue lashed, humiliated, irritated, indignant, or seriously angry.

But more than the actual phrasing itself, the tone is probably what ticked you off most.

The "I'm making sure you know that I'm in your face" approach is always a quick way to escalate emotions and send tempers flying.

So why do it?

Here's the thing.

Some days I wake up on the wrong side of, not just my bed, but seemingly the whole wide world.

The littlest pet peeve, harmless glance, whiny tone, accidental mess, or event that does not go my way, can send me right over the edge of my already teetering sanity.

(And while PMS does affect 100% of women, using that as an excuse for moody behavior 100% of the time, is worse than the popular headache every night complaint. ) :)

So after establishing early on that my emotions are especially chaotic that day, I try remembering to ask for an extra helping of grace. Because if I don't, there's more likely than not an unseen explosive just waiting to be triggered by "my itching to fight" mindset.

Several times I've forced, literally forced, myself to put down the phone, erase an email or text, and possibly step into the other room to cool down before saying something I'll wish I hadn't. Because, in the heat of the moment, I can almost taste how good it'll feel to voice what I want; but afterwards I know regret will nag me into heavy remorse.

Hard as it is, stopping to pray in the midst of this often makes me change my planned upon course of action. I may realize I need to wait for a better time, or perhaps, not even address the issue at all. If I still feel a certain nagging in my spirit after communing with God, then that unrest is probably something worth pursuing; once I've completely calmed down.

Proverbs 15:1 says "A soft answer turns away wrath but harsh words stir up anger."

While this verse doesn't state what our answer itself should consists of, it clearly recommends that a soft one is key.

Because the tone we wield has the power to either accelerate or decelerate a turbulent situation.

We can either fight fire with fire, or cool things down by taking a more logical, understanding, approach. It doesn't mean we can't ever show anger, disappointment, etc. but we should check motivations and attitude first before engaging our, easily accessed, emotional side.

I've found that, with writing especially, things can easily get misconstrued in translation, so careful wording/tone go a long way toward how people may perceive us. You can still get a firm message across to someone without purposely angering, belittling, or putting them down.

At the end of the day, resisting the primal urge to turn on our "caps lock" defense mechanism might just be the most effective weapon in our arsenal...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Promise of Provision by Derek Prince

The subject of provision is a timely one, considering the state many people are living in right now.

We might be wondering how the next car payment will be made, if the bank may soon be knocking at our door, or, perhaps, just hoping we have enough in the checking account to purchase necessary groceries.

Amidst this ever growing frustration, The Promise of Provision seeks to unearth the process of abundance by comparing scripture passages with author Derek Prince's own insights.

The basic premise covers:

-Understanding Abundance

-Five Principles of Provision

-Three Practical Steps to Take

-Five Conditions for God's Abundance

-The Right Investment

The beginning passages explain more of the technicalities; what exactly is abundance, how curses may affect that abundance, where provision comes from, relying on God's promises, etc. 

I must say, I found these parts a bit dry and hard to focus on. I struggled with finishing them, as some of Mr. Prince's points seemed rather jumbled and in-cohesive as a whole. I also found issue with some of his statements. For instance, the way he talked about specific curses wasn't handled as tactfully as it could have been. While he may not have meant it like this, the wording indicated blindness and other ailments, in general, are caused by curses.

Yes, sometimes physical consequences result from sin/wrong doings, but I don't believe they are automatically linked to a "curse" just because there are examples of specific plagues, etc, in the Old Testament. That would be similar to telling a parent their child was cursed as a result of mental illness, blindness, skin conditions, and so on, that are beyond their control. This kind of logic, whether intentionally stating these notions or not, should be handled with more care and explanation than I felt was given here.

However, after reading past the first few sections, and getting to the part about practical steps to take, the writing seemed to flow better and make more sense. Faith, plus giving/tithing aspects, were included in the latter end of the book, and I found those interesting as I think they're very important in relation to abundance in Christian living.

While I don't agree with the entirety of Mr Prince's logic in The Promise of Provision, I do applaud the tackling of this subject, as its an enduring one that will always retain a level of high interest.

We all have differing thoughts on any given thing, so while mine weren't completely positive in regards to this book, I'd still encourage you to pick up a copy and form your own opinion.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Mom's Hot dog Casserole

When I was a kid, this casserole was a staple in our household; and one we asked for often. Now, I still make it for my family and, aside from the fond memories it always evokes, the best part has to do with this:

Four ingredients=dinner.

Awesome, right?

And you probably have all those ingredients on hand in your kitchen at this very moment!

I'll give you the list, while you check and see.

First, potatoes.

Second, hot dogs.

Third, green beans.

Fourth, Italian salad dressing.

Got em?

All right, now all you have to do is pull out a 9 by 13 pan and coat it with cooking spray. Pre-heat your oven to 375.

Then, cut up roughly a dozen large potatoes into smallish pieces, chop a package of hot dogs into bite size chunks, pour a bag of frozen green beans into the mix-which should be settled into your pan by now-and combine it all together thoroughly.

Finally, open a bottle of Italian dressing and pour most of it over the top, before stirring it into the casserole . (You'll want to make sure there's plenty of extra dressing on the bottom, so the potatoes won't burn or dry out during baking.)

Now, you're ready to pop your creation into the oven, where you'll want to stir/check on it approximately every 15-20 minutes. It takes about an hour and a half to cook all the way through, so plan accordingly.

Lastly, enjoy! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Real Marriage-Dvd Based Study Kit:The Truth About Sex, Friendship, And Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll

This past year, my husband and I started a small group with two other couples from church, and decided to focus on marriage for our topic of study.  We were kind of surprised at how difficult it was coming up with a relevant, interesting, book or dvd that answered questions honestly while not seeming outdated/hard to understand.

The book we originally started using, which shall remain nameless, grew boring after just two weeks, and we tossed it aside in frustration. Since then, we've been hoping to stumble across something more useful that will actually cover the struggles and universal problems wedded partners experience on a daily basis.

When the Real Marriage kit came up for review, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to see what else was out there.

This study comes from Pastor Mark Driscoll, and his wife Grace's, point of view. They discuss their own marriage in a conversational style, sitting next to each other on a couch in their church. Sharing personal stories, failures, and insights, they tackle numerous subjects including: friendship with your spouse, confessing pre-marital sexual sins, what is permissible sexually in marriage, having a "work" husband or wife, past abuse, etc.

While, our group hasn't had a chance to sit down and watch the dvd set together, I did spend time yesterday viewing various episodes-which are about 15 minutes each-to get a feel for what/how material would be presented.

I found it interesting, and liked that the Driscoll's seemed comfortable opening up about their own marriage, in the hopes of benefiting other couples who may be going through similar circumstances. They also cover topics that are often considered taboo in the Christian world, so I commend them for being willing to not shy away from the serious stuff.

I look forward to going through this set in more detail with our friends, and getting their take on things. I would caution using this with a large group, as the subjects covered make for deeper, more intimate, conversations that would be best handled in a smaller setting with those you feel comfortable around.

As a side note, this would be helpful for singles, those who are already engaged, and newly weds, looking to start an open line of communication with their spouse right off the bat.

I also suggest buying a copy of the actual full-length study book, as it's not included in the dvd set. Reading that would add a lot more depth to each of the discussion guides.

I received a complimentary copy of this dvd kit from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A blast from the past...

I've been feeling a bit wistful lately thinking about those events in my life that have already gone by...

I'm realizing now, more than ever, how quickly each moment fades into the next.

Yesterday's activities are already tomorrow's past, and that can make it easy forgetting just how we got where we are today. 

So for fun, I thought I'd make a small collage of pictures highlighting favorite parts of my own journey thus far.

Welcome to my little "blast from the past!" :)

My first job at the local library.  I was a glorified paige/clerk, which involved checking items in and out, helping patrons locate books/topics of interest, plus processing all the new materials we ordered-books, dvds, cds, etc.
(Btw, isn't that lip gloss something? I'm like 95% sure it might have actually glowed in the dark.)

Meeting my husband Nate through his mom, who also worked at the library with me. She set us up, and after our first date, he called me every day. So I figured he kinda liked me.  Or was massively desperate. :)
(This was taken at a youth rally the first month or so after we started going out.)

Getting married. The picture quality is poor-can't seem to find my original cd of wedding pictures-but a very happy day, nonetheless! We tied the knot exactly one year after our first date. :)

Missions trip to Peru. The church we helped build is right behind us. Pictured from left to right: me, Nate, and our good friend Karen. We had an absolutely wonderful time there, full of awesome experiences and lovely people we'll never forget. I'd love to go back someday...

Pregnancy. Here I am, ready to pop, and itching to meet my daughter, Ava.
(If I'd known how awful the labor would be, I might have told her to stay in there a little while longer. )

Giving birth to our little 8 pound bundle of joy, who's head got stuck and refused to come out no matter how hard mommy pushed. But after 10 centimeters of agony-on my end-and a little cutting-on the doctor's-she made her grand arrival!

(And then mommy was in such pain, daddy and Ava had to stop and get her some happy pills from the pharmacy on our way home from the hospital.)

Enjoying almost a whole year with my precious girl. Yes, she will be one on the 19th!

Celebrating 6 years of marriage... While it hasn't always been easy, it's worth the effort, and I thank God for all He's blessed me with. :)

These are some of my most memorable moments; what are yours?

I'd love to hear, if you'd like to share...

As always,  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Baking sheet mac and cheese

The name pretty much says it all. It's mac and cheese on a baking sheet. And it's got the perfect amount of gooey cheese and crunchy topping. 

Here's what blogger, Amanda, who adapted this recipe, had to say:
I've always thought macaroni and cheese's 20% crunch to 80% soft ratio was all wrong. The ratio should be more like 50:50. The soft part, delicious though it may be, wears you out. You need lots of crisp bits to stay interested in the dish. In an effort to realign macaroni and cheese, I brought together three concepts: a baked pasta technique from Cucina Simpatica, a potato gratin method from Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue's food columnist, and a similar method used by Melissa Clark for kugel. In Cucina Simpatica, pasta is par-cooked, then combined with cream, cheese and other seasonings and baked at 500 degrees. The high temperature finishes the pasta quickly and toasts the tips on the top layer -- a memorable detail. Steingarten's gratin involves roasting thinly sliced potatoes and cream on a baking sheet so that the entire gratin is crisp and handsomely browned. And Melissa Clark spreads her kugel in a baking sheet achieving a predominantly crunchy texture. Back in the macaroni and cheese lab, I combined these three ideas by par-cooking the pasta, folding it together with a few cheeses, spreading it on a baking sheet, and finishing it in a 475-degree oven. The result was total success -- the muffin top of mac 'n cheese! Major world issue solved, at last.

If the making of such yummy-ness interests you, head on over here to check it out!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Sisters of the Quilt by Cindy Woodsmall

First, can I just say, this is a fantastic trilogy; and the idea of putting all three books together in one binding? Genius.

Having enjoyed several other novels by author Cindy Woodsmall, I looked forward to exploring Sisters of the Quilt and discovering the background of teenager  Hannah Lapp.

Well, right off the bat, her story hit the ground running and I was immediately sucked in.

Here's a brief synopsis:

After facing a sudden and brutal attack, Hannah's tranquil world is completely torn apart. Wrestling with painful questions, she decides to venture away from all that's familiar and into the Englischer community, where she hopes to find the peace eluding her. Gradually, she begins moving on with her life.

But two years after leaving her Amish home, Hannah learns her sister is unwell, due to events from their intertwined past. She is unable to face the future, and Hannah realizes the need for her return to help face the demons still haunting them both. However, coming back also means seeing Paul again...the man she loved and lost under those same tragic circumstances.

Can Hannah find the strength to forgive those who've hurt her most? And will her soul ever truly mend?

Cindy Woodsmall handles numerous sensitive issues tactfully, while also managing to convey the emotion behind them with complete honesty. She doesn't shy away from what Hannah goes through during her difficult journey to healing, and it makes the reader that much more invested in her story.

I could empathize with her characters, while also wanting to throw a blunt object at them a few times because of their stubborn behavior. I really cared about what happened and wanted to see how everything would resolve itself.

I think one of Woodsmall's biggest strengths is in her ability to write realistic, meaningful, conversations that cut straight to the heart. Through them, she manages to accurately capture the pulse of those in her story, while articulating their specific personality in words. She does a wonderful job setting the mood and maintaining it throughout.

Again, as I said earlier, having the three books of this series in one volume is a real treat; because once you've started reading, you won't want to stop and wait for the next installment.

I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for what this author has up her sleeve next. Until then, snag your copy of Sisters of the Quilt!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishers in exchange for my honest review. 

Friday, January 06, 2012

Winner of The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge!

Thanks to everyone who entered my first ever book giveaway!

I appreciate each of you stopping by and also the opportunity to meet a few new faces.

Now, I'm pleased to announce the results, chosen by


Congratulations! I hope you'll really enjoy your copy of The Uncommon Challenge. I do need your email address though, so please leave it in the comment section below. If you haven't responded in the next 24 hours, I'll be choosing another winner, so please get back to me as soon as possible.

Again, thanks to all of you who participated! Hopefully, I'll be having another giveaway in the near future so keep your eyes peeled. :)

Till next time...


Thursday, January 05, 2012

Are we truly content?

Now, granted, Christmas is past and Santa has already flown back to the North Pole, but if Jesus is reading this, that'd be pretty cool.

All right, I know I'm pushing it a bit; yet sometimes I can't seem to help myself.  

Sadly, contentment isn't exactly something I learned in between algebra (which I never really got) and those dreaded SAT exams (which turned my already challenged brain into a complete pile of zombie mush.)

That "grass is always greener mentality" seems to lurk in the back of my mind at the most inopportune moments. 

Ok, mostly when I stand on the scale and pray with revival meeting-like fervor that the numbers will be kind. Or that the bon bons I shoveled into my mouth two days ago, will have had a chance to liquify their assets from my body before this weigh in.

(Btw, no on both counts.)

So what's a girl to do in this situation?

I've found what usually works for me is to stop and just take a deep breath, so my brain has a chance to slow down.  

(This also limits the possibility of it actually exploding or turning into a bunch of overstimulated fried wires.)

Gradually, the nagging monster of discontent fades and i can, once again, appreciate the positives staring back at me. 

No, Victoria's Secret won't be slapping a pair of wings and jewel encrusted bra on me anytime soon, but if I'm not content where I am right now, being a size zero probably won't fix matters either.

Philippians 4:12&13 says: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength."

If we truly live and believe these words, contentment is bound to follow. 

And maybe we'll spend less time scrutinizing the "have-nots," and more effort magnifying the "haves" themselves.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The Rose of Winslow Street by Elizabeth Camden

Having lived alone in their house on Winslow Street for over 20 years, Liberty and her father, Professor Willard Sawyer, are eking out a quiet existence. He spends most of his time working on new fangled inventions that, due to his perfectionism, will never see the light of day, while Libby fills her world with the neighborhood children and capturing nature on canvas.

As they vacation in their summer home on St. Catherine's Island, the Sawyers are completely unaware of trouble brewing back on Winslow Street.

For, overnight, widower Michael Dobrescu has moved his family on to their property with, seemingly, no intention of leaving.

Upon receiving word of the invasion, Libby and her father rush back to Colden Massachusetts, intending to vacate these immigrant trespassers from Romania. However, the matter cannot be so easily resolved upon learning Professor Sawyer does not, in fact, hold the deed to the house. 

Dobrescu claims that as the eldest son of the 9th Duke of Vlaska, rightful ownership goes to him. This quickly becomes a matter for the courts to decide, which could take anywhere from several weeks to a year.

Crestfallen, Libby accompanies the sheriff in a mission to gather their personal belongings from the home. Upon seeing Mr. Dobrescu, she is taken a back by his size, strange clothing, and brash manner. And after being thoroughly insulted then rudely dragged away from meeting his sister, Libby is more than happy to see the back of this brute hulk of a man.

However, despite her apparent dislike for him, is there actually any truth to Michael's statements? Is he a descendant of royalty, or a mere imposter looking to capitalize on a golden opportunity? Is there a chance the Sawyers could lose their home?

Author Elizabeth Camden weaves together a compelling tale; one I had a hard time putting down. By the end of the second chapter, I was completely hooked and wanting to discover what would happen next. 

I read her debut novel, The Lady of Bolton Hill, and while really enjoying it, felt the Christian aspects were a bit heavy handed/overdone. 

I'm happy to say, that's not the case here.

The characters are wonderfully developed, the pacing just right, while the tone manages to convey intricate layers of emotion and tension in each scene. I connected perfectly with Libby, but came to love Michael the most. He seemed to leap off the page, and I could picture him just as Ms. Camden described; rugged, quirky, handsome, unpredictable, gentle, fierce, protective... and with a sense of humor to boot.

Literally, a real hunk of a guy!

Watching the relationship develop between Michael and Libby was honestly a treat, and one I won't soon forget. Their dialogue fairly crackled, with just the right amount of quips, plus feeling, thrown in to keep readers on their toes.

I also found the plot to be rather original, and appreciated that aspect a lot. Sometimes, books can tend to run together after a while, so learning about the Romanian culture was an added bonus and made the Dobrescu family stand out. I haven't come across anyone quite like Michael and will miss his larger than life personality which truly shone through.

If you're looking for a well written, engaging, romantic, historical, The Rose of Winslow Street captures all that and more. I honestly loved it and will be putting this one in my keeper pile.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Absolutely Sinful Cinnamon Rolls...


I'm making THESE gooey, buttery, sugary, rolls right now. Hubby asked for them and I decided the inevitable New Year's diet could wait one more day...

It's not technically cheating if I haven't "technically" started my diet yet, right? 

I knew you'd agree. :)

So if you want to not cheat with me, grab the baking ingredients...
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