Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 12 Posts of 2012

Easy Healthy Lunch List

*Originally published 5/9/12

When I sit down to plan meals each week, lunches seem to get lost in the shuffle of craziness.  Dinners are easy to plan into the rhythm of our week.  Breakfasts are simple.  But that mid-day rush of lunch... looses me.  So with summer looming, I'm compiling a list of Easy Healthy Lunch ideas.  I have to keep my kids full and I will not compromise their health in the process.

As the summer goes on, I hope to add to this list and link up some of our new creations.  Hope this helps you as well in planning for the summer.  Happy Eating!

Main Dish
Turkey and Cheese Sandwiches
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
Cucumber Wraps
Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Bacon Avocado Wraps
Mini Pizzas
Veggie Pasta Salad
Any Homemade Soup

Bell Peppers
Peas in the Pod
Cherry Tomatoes
Hummus/ Ranch

Any Fresh Fruit
Dried Fruit
Simple fruit salad with yogurt

Dairy and Extras
String Cheese
Cheese and Crackers
Homemade granola bars
Nuts and Seeds
Snack Bread

How do you plan your lunches?

*Linked to these Parties

Friday, December 28, 2012

On Bedtime Reading

*Originally published 1/18/12

One of the sweetest parts of our day is reading before bed.  We started our bedtime reading routine when my oldest son was about 15 months old.  I was weaning him from the bedtime nursing, but still wanted to cuddle on the couch.  So we started reading together every night.

In seasons of our lives, our bedtime reading has looked different.  Some nights we read in their rooms or on Mommy's bed.  Currently we have small group on Monday nights and the kids get to bed late so reading is limited to our bible.

But for the most part, we gather on the couch almost every night.  After the jammies have been located and teeth have been brushed, the kids grab blankets to snuggle and we read together.  The kids each pick out a book, plus we read a story in our children's bible.  This is also the time of day we read a chapter in our current read aloud. 

Through the years we read the entire Little House on the Prairie series, children's versions of Heidi, Pollyanna, and Moby Dick, and some of Boxcar children.  Our bedtime reading and coming together after a long day are some of my own sweetest memories with my children.

How do you close a day with your kids?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

*Originally published 3/8/12

The weekends are special around here.  I love taking the extra time on Saturday morning and making something a little ... extra.  So as breakfast ideas pop up on Pinterest, I'm always looking for fun ideas to treat my hubby and the kids.  And this Buttermilk Blueberry Breakfast Cake was just the thing.  It was so moist and so yummy...  we polished off the pan in on meal.  Serve this one warm and your family won't stop talking about it.

*Linked to these Parties

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Monkey Bread Morning

*Originally posted 12/24/11

Every family has there Christmas traditions.  Some have stretched on for so many generations that no one can remember when they started.  Others are brand new, just trying out their wings and seeing where they fit.

We have one of those kinds of traditions.

A few years ago, my husband and I looked at each other in the rush of Christmas morning.  Presents to be opened, stockings to be explored, kids to be dressed, a house to be picked up before company, and still no breakfast anywhere in sight.  We knew it was going to be another LONG Christmas morning.  And we also knew our kids were going to have an absolute melt down if we didn't get something in their tummies... fast!

Thus the Monkey Bread Morning was born.  Ok, I really just came up with the name right now, but believe me, this creation does deserve it's own holiday somewhere on the calendar.  Assembling breakfast doesn't take long and the best part is that it can bake while we open gifts.  Ooey, gooey, and yummy... we only make it a couple of times a year, but it is so worth it.

And since Christmas morning is coming up fast, I wanted to give you this recipe a few days early so that you can start a new family tradition as well.  Hope you enjoy!

Monkey Bread
3-4 pkg of refrigerated biscuits (depending on size of your bundt pan)
Cinnamon and sugar mixture

1/2 c butter
3/4 c brown sugar

Open your biscuits and cut each on in fourths.  Roll cut pieces in cinnamon/ sugar mix.  Layer in bundt pan

Melt butter and brown sugar and bring just to a boil.  Stir continuously for approx 3 min.

Pour over biscuits and bake at 350 degrees for 30 min.  Let cool for 15 min before turning onto a pan and serving.

This bread stands great alone or it can be served with something as simple as fruit and bacon.  Very yummy!

Do you have any Christmas morning traditions?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday, Lydia!

Rollerskating with Noah's School
January 2012

Reading New Books from the Library
February 2012

Showing Mommy How She Prays
February 2012

Mommy and Lydia
March 2012

Easter Weekend
April 2012 
Easter Sunday
April 2012 

Preschool Graduation Picnic
June 2012

My Sweetheart
August 2012

School Photo
October 2012

Noah's 7th Birthday
October 2012

Bookmarks for December 2012

*Bookmarks is an online book club hosted at Creative2xmom. Here we discuss the books we've read in the past month as well as the suggested reading. Our suggested reading for December was Don't Make Me Come Up There by Kristen Welch.

These are the books I read this month:

Christmas in Apple Ridge by Cindy Woodsmall--See my review here.

Come by the Table by Neta Jackson--See my review here.

Our suggested reading for December was Don't Make Me Come Up There by Kristen Welch-- This book was a breath of fresh air, read in the hecticness of December.  Written in short 2-3 page devotionals, Welch writes about the craziness of motherhood in all its glory. Embarrassing your child in front of her school?  Yep, been there.  Trying to tame the competition trap?  Yep, done that.  Comparing yourself to other moms?  Oh, I don't even want to touch that topic.  Don't Make Me Come Up There is filled with tales that every mother can relate to.  And you know what?  Welch manages to describe them with witt and humor, without condemnation.  Loved it!  Laughed Out Loud!  Identified With Every Page!

So what are your bookmarks this month?

Tell us in the comments about the books you're chewing on. Or link up a review from your own blog. Let's share the books we're finding, good and bad. And give us your thoughts on Don't Make Me Come Up There by Kristen Welch.

And come back Wednesday January 2, 2013 as I reveal the suggested reading for 2013!  Can you believe it.  So excited to be working on the list right now.

*Linked to these Parties

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Do-It-Yourself: Peppermint Ice Cream

Peppermint is one of my absolute favorite flavors.  And as soon as Thanksgiving is over, I start craving peppermint.  It's just cool, refreshing, and completely... Christmas.

So when I was searching the internet last year and came across this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  Why hadn't I thought of this before?  So simple and one of my absolute favorite flavors.

Peppermint Ice Cream

1 c. Whole Milk, chilled
3/4 c. sugar
2 c. Heavy Cream, well chilled
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp peppermint (I used 2 tsp.)
3/4 c. crushed peppermint candy

optional: crushed peppermint candy
mini chocolate chips
chocolate syrup

1. Whisk milk and sugar together until sugar dissolves, approx 1-2 min.

2. Stil in cream, vanilla, and peppermint.

3. Pour into ice cream machine and freeze 25-30 min.

4. Crush some miniature candies and add in during final 5 min.

5. Pour into a freezer bowl and "ripen" in freezer for a few hours.

6. Top with your choice of goodies.

This ice cream was incredible.  I suggest tasting your batter before adding it to the ice cream machine as I noted that I doubled the peppermint extract.  Otherwise, it's definitely a winner.  The texture is velvety and light, like homemade whipped cream.  You can't go wrong with this ice cream for a yummy seasonal treat!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Share the Joy: A Dayspring {Review}

Christmas is full of mixed emotions.

Gotta get the gift.
Gotta wrap the presents.
Gotta cut the tree.  ....
Wait... take a deep breath... cherish the moment.

Did you do it?  Great!

Back to the crazy!
Rush to the store.
Bake the cookies.
Don't forget to stuff the stocking!

Wait... close your eyes...
Slow down in prayer.

Check that one off?

How easily we can forget what the Christmas season is really about.  Even as we try to slow down, ... even as we try to embrace the moment, we can become quickly caught up in the "wrappings" of this world.

I think the last 5 days have caused us all to slow down and remember what's most important.  Remembering that it's not about another gift under the tree, but the people we'll share Christmas Eve with, Christmas morning, and even into 2013.  While happiness can be fleeting, true Joy is steadfast and our only hope.

When I first agreed to review Dayspring's Apron from it's Redeemed line, I saw a cute Christmas apron for making Molasses cookies and playing with the kids.  But now "Sharing the Joy" is laced with urgency and reminds me of how fleeting our moments are.

Along with this beautiful apron, Dayspring also send me a tabletop devotional calendar for the month of December.  While I'm not one for tabletop decorations (competes too much with my paper piles), I've come to appreciate this one.  The sentiments and questions have been great for discussion at dinner.  While they're relevant to my husband and I, they are as equally accessible to our three small children.  And I have been blessed by the conversation this devotional has inspired.

*Disclaimer: Dayspring sent me these two items free of charge for review.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Loving Those Who Are Grieving

As I shared last week, 2011 was a tumultuous year for us.  By the end of it, our family was reeling and definitely ready for a fresh start in the new year.  I found myself often saying in December, "2011 can be over already.  I'm ready to move on!"  And we were ready!  I felt like I took on more in 2011 then I could have ever handled.  It was purely by the grace of God that one of us didn't crack.

This past year has marched on for all of us.  But for some of us, it's marched to a different beat.  Not necessarily bad, just not the one we would have liked.  There have been reminders along the way of those we've lost: how my cousin loved to be at Grandma's with the family, how my uncle was always in charge of organizing us to get Christmas trees, and how in making my Christmas card list, I still write down Grandpa Gisi out of habit.  And in remembering these men, I've been reminded of old losses as well.  A grandfather, another uncle, teammates, friends, and miscarriages.

The holidays can be a very lonely take if someone is grieving.  Even for those of us whose grief isn't fresh, the holidays have a way of catching us by surprise and reminding us that things are quite like they used to be.  And death isn't the only grief that can marr the holidays.  Right now, I have a friend who's little boy is in the hospital.  He's their first and was born with sever complications.  This holiday will be a trying for their family.  Or the wife who's husband is overseas.  Or the family who finds themselves in a new town.  All these situations can bring us to a place of grieving.  And the holidays simply magnifies that pain.

So I would challenge you to look around this holiday season.  Who in your midst is grieving this year?  Who in your life can you touch and help bring healing?

As a reminder to all of us, these are just a few ideas for reaching out this holiday season.  And beyond into the coming 2013:

Take the initiative--Often times if someone is grieving, they are incapable of reaching out.  Day to day tasks me be all they can handle.  Don't wait for them to come to you.  Take the initiative and call.  Even if you don't know what to say, know that your call maybe just wait they need to get through the day.

Drop off a freezer meal--Carrying grief is exhausting.  Add onto that weight the addition tasks of Christmas, especially for parents who are trying to keep the holidays as normal as possible for their kids.  Drop off a meal that can be thawed and used whenever the days just becomes too much.

Offer to watch the kids--Offer to watch the kids while they run errands.  Maybe the family needs to make funeral arrangements or a couple just needs to regroup.  Or maybe the adults just need an afternoon to cry with no one in the house to hear them.

Go to the cemetery with them--This is a hard one.  And not everyone will take you up on it.  But cemeteries are lonely.  Part of being a friend is going to the hard places together.  And there are few harder places than a cemetery.

Drop off a treat, just because--Maybe you've been praying about it and you feel like you have to do something, but you're just struggling with how to move forward.  Why not drop by with your friend's favorite coffee?  Or a new bottle of scented lotion?  Think about that little things that can brighten someone's day without a lot of money or time.

Don't pretend to understand--Sometimes I'd hard to listen and not offer advice.  Ok, it's almost always hard to not offer advice.  But no matter how many times you may have worked through your own grief, your friend's grief is unique to them.  Allow your loved ones to talk without having to censor and process in their own. way.

Have a listening ear--In the same way, try to listen multiple times more than you speak.  Often speaking things aloud without interruption is the healthiest way for people to process through their grief.  Don't be afraid of someone's sadness.  Allow them to express their anger, hurt, and pain in their own words.

Don't tell them that it's time to move on--Don't allow your timeline to dictate how your friend should feel.  Some of the hardest conversations have been when someone says something revealing they believe I should be done grieving.  That immediately cuts off communication.  We all work through our pain our own time.  Be respectful of someone else's timeline.

These ideas are just a start.  Take the situation into careful prayer.  Know that grief is something we all must walk through and allow the Lord to grow you in ministering to others.

How will you reach out to those grieving this holiday season?
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