Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My big fat break and vacation

So many of you have asked me recently, "Where is your blog?"

The long and short answer is that I took a break.  A rather big, fat one.

Last fall I had a lot of back issues.  This was the first time in my life I have had to see specialists, get MRI's and all kinds of junk.  I did not like it at all.  So I had to come to terms with the fact that as I likely face the second half of my life, I was going to need to get mean and serious about my health and taking care of myself.

And as it turns out, taking care of yourself takes A LOT of time.
When I could be blogging, I have chosen to work out. 
When I could be cleaning house, I have been playing tennis.  
I may have been going a little overboard with the tennis thing. 
Oh well.
But four months and counting, exercise and strength training are a priority for me.  Me and Tally (our 13 year old labrador) take our pills and supplements every morning from our color coded pill box.

So thanks for welcoming me back.  

I am sharing some fun pictures from our recent family vacation to Washington D.C.  Here's the top ten highlights from our trip:

1.  Monticello (which Evie kept calling "Monty Chello" and thinking it was one of the presidents) is absolutely beautiful.

2.  I forget how wishy washy March can be.  Some days feel like winter and others like spring.  Unfortunately for us, it snowed and was cold most of the time.  But we seriously didn't care.

3.  The Grand Hyatt in Washington D.C. was beautiful.  Our favorite part was the elaborate breakfast that was free each morning.  Well, there is no such thing as a free lunch (Econ 101).  But you get my point.

4.  Since I had lived in D.C. in college, I overestimated my Metro-savviness.  And we forgot how fast the doors shut during non-peak hours.  I'm not naming names, but some family might have gotten separated on the trains Sunday.  Cell phones might have been a life savor for the separated couple. 

5.  The grass at the mall was all trampled and bare due to the recent inaugeration in January. 

6.  Grace was all smiles inside Ford's Theatre.  We watched a play that morning.

7.  One of the girls favorite things we did was take a trolley one evening for a "Monuments by Moonlight" tour.  Kind of pricey, but well worth it.  
Because of the crowds, we always split up into twos and had "monument buddies".  Here's a pair below.

8.  The girls favorite monument was the FDR memorial.

9.  On the last day there we spent the morning at Arlington Cemetery so we could watch the changing of the guards.  The cherry blossoms were almost out.

10.  The best part of the whole trip?  Actually spending 28 hours in the car away from animals, work, responsibility, email and phones.  Family vacations are indeed the best.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Diner Table Makeover

Happy New Year Everyone!

How was your Christmas?  Are you rested up?  Are you feeling happy about the prospect of a New Year or already tired of the Special K commercials?

If I had to use one word to describe our family's holiday it would be "restful".

For the first time in a long time we said "no" to many wonderful things.
I did not mail out cards this year.
My husband chose not to sing at our churches nine Christmas Eve services.
We turned down several party invitations.
I completely turned off my phone most days.
I did not log on to the computer for many more.
And we chose to stay home on Christmas day.

I will admit there were a couple of times it felt weird to not be so busy, but I can honestly say it was sooo incredibly peaceful.

However, one thing I did do before break was finish this big stinkin' cute diner table I got off of Craigslist.....um, last summer. Oy.
If you missed it, you can read all about how we found it

Here is the before picture:
(Cat not included in Craigslist transaction).

And here is the after:

Several coats of AS Emperor's Red on the bench seats and underneath. 
My friend Colleen gave me the cute idea of painting the "buttons" red.

The rest was done in AS Cream with several coats of clear and dark wax.

For the top I splurged and ordered a template from my NEW favorite stencil place...Cutting Edge Stencils.
Their stuff is amazing!  I decided it would be cutest to leave the top as is and just coated it with several layers of wax.  

What do you think?
Is it still worth $70?

 I love it.  It provided much needed table space in our kitchen for when we have guests or for homework or crafts.
No more of me yelling at my family to get their JUNK off the kitchen table when I'm trying to get supper ready!


This week linking up to some other great blogs!
Check them out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Great Christmas Party Recipe

Want to know what is yummy?


I'm not really sure this qualifies as a candy though.  Or a fudge.  But it tastes like both.

Candy thermometers scare me a little bit.
So I try to avoid recipes that use them.

My twin sister and I have tried making fudge and mine has always turned out like giant pieces of...well, you get the picture.  
Same for Peanut Patties. 
Because of how terrible they turned out, we forever call them Peanut Gross-ies.

My good friend Desta sent me this delicious concoction a few years ago.
It is called "Ritz Coconut Crackle".

I love making it.  I love eating it.  I love taking it to people and they think I worked really really hard at impressing them.
Don't you love recipes like that?

I made some today for our neighbors and coworkers.  
Hope you try it out and like it!

It's a good (and easy) one folks.

Recipe for Ritz Coconut Crackle:

1 CUP CHOCOLATE CHUNKS (I used the Dark Chocolate ones today....mmmmm)

*To toast coconut, spread evenly on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for about 8-10 minutes, watching closely at the end so it doesn't burn.  Then cool.
Leave the oven at 350.

(One time my twin sister called as I was doing this.  I was sitting on the couch gabbing on the phone when I smelled something awful.  I had blackened coconut.  So I highly advise you not to talk to your sister on the phone, or anyone for that matter, while making this simple recipe.)

 Arrange crackers in greased 15x10x1 inch pan. (You can be neat or messy.  Doesn't matter).  Bring butter & sugar to boil in medium saucepan on medium heat.  Boil for 2 minutes. (Exact here people.  The two minutes allows the sugar to caramelize.  Or something like that).  Pour over crackers in pan, almost completely covering crackers.

Bake this for 6-8 minutes or until it becomes bubbly and light brown. Sprinkle with chocolate chunks, bake another 1-2 minutes.  Using a spatula, then spread chocolate over crackers. Sprinkle with toasted coconut, pressing into chocolate lightly with a spoon. 

Later, after you have licked the spoons and tried little pieces here and there, it should harden. 
Then you can have some fun breaking it like ice.  Arrange on plates and take to parties.  Or make best friends with your neighbors.  Or eat it all yourself.  Er. Never mind.  I wouldn't do that.

Oh.  And P.S.

I took the girls to visit Santa last weekend at our little church by our house.
Evie came out to the van wearing fishnet hose - out of our Halloween box - to go with her Christmas dress.  
Thank goodness Santa was a gentleman and didn't say a word about it.


Linking to:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

When Your Child is Sick

Earlier this week, I was crouched over on my hands and knees scrubbing the carpet in Evie's room.  I had already stripped the sheets and thrown them in the wash.  New sheets had already been put back on the bed.  I had tucked her into our bed and held her until she fell back asleep.
It was well after 3 a.m. but in the quiet,
I felt God's presence wrap around me.

Mothers of little ones know what this feels like. You would think exhaustion and irritability would take over, but in a weird way you find peace amidst the chaos.

My heart hurt for her.  
Her little eyes looked sad and she didn't want to feel this way. Other than give her comfort, there was nothing I could do.
But in her pain she needed me in a way she doesn't when she is full of energy, running and pursuing childhood with a ferocious appetite.

Each night before bed we tuck our girls in and one of us says a prayer over them before they sleep.
Lately Evie has been wanting to do all of the praying.
Probably because this is the way she can draw out bedtime.
She can pray for a loooonnnnggg time.
But the other week as she neared the end of her narrative to God she asked, "God, could You just make the whole world feel better?"

As I was on the floor that night, I had an overwhelming feeling that I wonder if God feels this way with us?

Instead of being turned away or angry at our sickness of sin did He feel mostly sad?
How much did it hurt Him to see us not at our best?

In such a loving and remarkable way He sent us Jesus as a way for us to get out of the mess.
I am so thankful as Christmas nears, we get to celebrate the birth of the One who literally saves us from this.

I both love and hate these pictures of my girls.
They both were very sick at the time, running high fevers.
In a subtle way it shows them not as they should be.

I don't know about you but I know I find an enormous amount of comfort and peace in knowing that God wants my best.  He wants such a full and abundant life for me that He grieves over my sickness and my sin.
He so longs to comfort and heal me that He sent me a Savior.
This doesn't guarantee I won't continue to struggle, get sick or still fall into places that I shouldn't be...but it means all I have to do when this happens is reach up like Evie did that night, cry out and allow myself to be comforted in His amazing grace.

If I haven't told you already....Merry Christmas.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Perfectionism...And How I'm Dealing with It

Uh.  You could say I have a few issues with perfectionism.  If you've known me for any length of time or read some of my posts, you might pick up on a theme here.

For better or worse, I think my perfectionism crisis hit an all time high during my senior year of high school.  

Do more!
Be the best!

I am not kidding (as I coincidentally shudder) when I say that I was a straight A student, a cheerleader, class president and pretty much the leader of any and every organization I could be in.  And all the while inwardly thinking that I also needed to achieve a perfect body.


Twenty years later and funny how I still want to hold onto some of that junk.

Clearly, for most of my life I have believed the lie that being perfect equates to being loved.

It may sound silly, but this ugly little perfectionism monster creeps even its way into this blog.  There are days I think "why bother?"  "Who reads this anyway?"  "Is it worth the risk to put myself out there when clearly it isn't good enough?"  "I should post more"... but then there is laundry to fold or paperwork to get to...
Blogging is vulnerable!

This past month my tendency towards the lie of perfectionism has been strong.  About a month ago I found out I have several sacral stress fractures in my back, and I have been put on "rest" until January.  I am finding I don't rest nearly as well as I would have liked to believe I could.  Crap.  I'll be brutally honest.  It has been excruciating for me.   Not until this month have I realized how much I relied on physical activity to define my worth and make me feel good about myself.  

Time to practice what I preach, sister.
Here are the truths I am trying to remind myself.  

    I am really okay.  Just how I am.  I can be loved for who I am, not what I do.

    As Christmas approaches, my girls are going to remember time spent with me and my "presence" more than any activity or present I can buy them.

    Jesus is perfect.  I don't have to be.

    My body is allowed to go through seasons of change.  I am allowed to age gracefully.  Ten to twelve weeks of inactivity is not going to ruin me.
I won't be forgotten just because I am home alone lying on my couch.

   I can wear clothes that reflect my personality.  No one notices the size of my jeans as much as they notice the smile on my face and how I treat them.

   I am allowed to ask for help.  In big things and small.  My friends and family will gladly say yes when they can step in and they are allowed to say no if they cannot.  Their "no" doesn't mean I am not cared about...it simply means not now.

If I am lonely I can reach out and say that I need companionship in those moments.  I am finding my "rest" time flat on my back is so much easier when I have a friend over or I make the time to talk on the phone.  

I am allowed to make mistakes.  I do not have to relive my life recounting conversations and events.  I'm allowed to miss it.  And when I do, I can trust it will work out.

Healing is a priority right now and the most loving gift I can give myself.  I matter simply because God tells me I do.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Old Windows and Family Photos

So what seems like, oh, forever ago, I started this project.

My husband's family has a precious collection of old family photos dating back to the late 1800's and early part of last century.
Caleb has always had a desire to go through them and somehow figure out a way to preserve them.
So for our anniversary this year, I thought I would find these pictures and figure IT OUT!

First item of business ~  a sweet afternoon spent with his Grandma going through boxes and boxes of photographs that were up in her closet and garage. 

Then a friend and I came across these old windows at our local thrift store. Since they were a dollar each, I nabbed them and thought they might work for something like this.

You all know the looks you get from your husbands when you bring home crap, garbage, I mean, "vintage bargains". 
 I got one of those...

First I gave them a good cleaning.  

They were disgusting!  Covered in dirt, fly poop, cobwebs and only who knows what else.  Lead paint?  Let's hope not.

 Then, they sat in our living room for almost three months.

I'm really efficient like that.

After coming home with the sorted photos, I headed into our local fancy photo store.

This was the most expensive part.
 I ended up doing a high quality scan for most of the pictures. However, this allowed the quality to come through if I wanted to enlarge some of the smaller photos.

Some of the originals were even tin type!

Here is what I came up with.  Burlap seemed to be the cheapest and easiest route for a background.  

I used a hot glue gun to attach the pictures.  It ended up being a little messy and not perfect, but seemed to be the only thing that was strong enough to hold the pictures against the glass.

This is Caleb's great uncle.  I love that face.

Does anyone know why no one ever seemed to smile in old photographs?

So serious.  

And I totally copied Kristen's idea at  Ella Claire Inspired for how to stain paper.  
She is a genius.
You can check out her tutorial on how to make white paper look old here.

If I had it to do over again I would have torn the paper before I stained it, but I didn't think of that until later.  I think it would have made the edges a little browner.  Next time...

We found these old report cards from 1934.  
I think they broke up the monotony of the collection and I just love having such a precious piece of Caleb's grandpa's life.

One day, I think these will go up in the farm house.  
For now, we are just enjoying them as they sit on our fireplace.

Do you have old family photos?
If so, how have you displayed them in your home?


Linking to:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gratitude, from a Five Year Old Perspective

Good morning!

So today I am going to share I post that my friend Kristin at Simply Klassic home is posting on her blog today.  

Here is a little bit of why she felt inspired to do a gratitude series.  And she has great stuff (in other words you really should stop reading some of my nonsense and head over to her site to check out because you will be inspired.)  To make it really easy on you, just click here to go there.  (Forgive me for sounding like Dr. Seuss).

If I've learned anything in the past year, it's that life, love and all of the things that go with it can be too easily taken for granted. This year has taught that in order to live a life of meaning, a life that's worth something, you have to be grateful for what you have already.

Blogging is all about sharing, and in turn, inspiring.
I was recently inspired to write a series of posts on gratitude, and how it's present in my life. I've asked fifteen of my friends to join me in an effort to inspire an Attitude of Gratitude in YOU  in this season of thanksgiving, and I hope you'll join us.

Beginning November 1 and right up until Thanksgiving, I, along with fifteen of my blogger friends, will be here sharing thoughts on gratitude. What we thankful for, how we teach their kids to be grateful, and how we find beauty in the struggles are just a few of the topics we'll be discussing.

I'm so GRATEFUL to have joining me -

Noelle from Because Nice Matters
Laurie from That Ranch Girl
Korrie from Red Hen Home
Pamela from PB&J Stories
Rhonda from home.made.
Kristen from Ella Claire

Each of these amazing ladies has a unique story to tell. Some of them you may know and some may be new to you. I consider each of them a friend. I hope that you make time to stop by each day in November (Monday thru Friday) to welcome them and see what unique thoughts they have to offer.

Can I just start by saying how much I love Kristin and everything she does here at Simply Klassic?  The name says it all, doesn't it? 
Late at night, after my kids are in bed, one of my favorite things to do is curl up with my I pad and catch up on my favorite blogs to see what everyone has been up to.
Kristin, you have such a gift of connecting people, so I am truly honored to be a part of your "Gratitude Series".

I am rather new to the blogging world, but if you hop on over to "That Ranch Girl", you'll mostly find a little bit of everything.  Sometimes things I've created, and other times stories about life that I hope to share with people I care about that I don't get to see face to face.

Here is a picture of our family last Christmas.  Am I the only one who seems to never find pictures of our family with me in them?  I vow to do better at this in the future.  Or my kids are going to grow up and think I was a fictional creature they made up in their heads.

Our littlest daughter Evie started Kindergarten this year.  Since she has a summer birthday, we had to make the decision to either send her as the youngest kid in her class or the oldest. 
After much debate, we sent her a few months ago with the confidence that she was ready.
Needless to say, the hardest part about this is the doubt that creeps in my head on the evenings when we hear her little voice retell stories of the daily events that do not go her way.

Last week, she started telling us about a particular boy in her class that keeps calling her names.  I think he actually likes her, but soon enough this poor boy has to learn that continually calling a girl "Rat Face" at recess is probably not going to win her over.
Evie was angry and embarrassed at the situation. I wanted to find his address in the school directory and go tie him up by his toes at the nearest tree. She said she was tired of him and the name calling.  And who could blame her?  After she settled down, I asked her if she thought he was a true friend.  She thought about this for a little while and then answered that no, he was not.  So I inquired further.  "What makes someone a true friend, Evie?"

In her five year old ways she started to say that a true friend was someone who would only say nice things about you.  And, she added, that they would save her spot for her in line when she got back. 

I smiled at this.  Funny how not much changes from kindergarten to adult life.
Without any further prompting, Evie then got out her two little hands and started counting her "true friends" one by one on her sweet, child-like, dimpled fingers.  As she was listing off the names, she got to the end of her second hand.  She was surprised as she looked down at her hands and yelled, "Mom, I got more true friends than I got fingers to count!!!"

I don't know about you, but it is really easy for me to be grateful when life seems good.  Or when they go my way.  When my kids make good grades, no one is throwing up in the household and everyone behaves.  It feels easy to smile, write the family Christmas card, and be all full of "thankfuls" as Junie B. Jones would say.

It is another thing entirely for me to try to muster up a serving of gratefulness when life is hard.  Or when I am hurting.  When I feel stressed, tired, or lonely.

As we enter into the Thanksgiving season, I wonder if at times I am grateful only because I am supposed to be.  Do I really notice all that I am given?  Am I really honest?

I think sometimes the thing I struggle with most is the very notion that where I am in life sometimes does not match what the holiday season can expect  of me. Chances are someone reading this or someone you know is likely going through a really difficult time right now.  Perhaps an unraveling of a relationship or a desperate desire to stop feeling so alone.  Or you have been waiting so long for the positive sign on a pregnancy test for what seems forever.  Or maybe you are finding yourself so exhausted from trying to balance or carry it all, the thought of being grateful seems like one more thing on a never ending to-do list.   

I don't know about you, but my life never seems to look like the Christmas card snapshot or perfect Pottery Barn image I sometimes think or want my life to look like. (Do you know how much editing I had to do in the picture above?) I have to remember it is the people in the photo that matter.  It is the lives inside of my home that mean more than any decoration outside or on the walls of it. What my little Evie girl reminded me - by literally counting what she was thankful for on her little fingers - was that maybe it is okay to be thankful even in the mess.  Or pain.  Or ugliness of someone calling me Rat Face at recess.

I can hit pause any time I allow myself to.  I can be honest.  And I can choose to see my situation differently. I can think about gratitude and how I am doing with that. 

Where ever you find yourself in increasingly busy season, I hope you find ways to be intentional about finding gratitude.  And I really hope that once you start counting, you don't have enough fingers.