Saturday, June 29, 2013

Weekend Links

This Week:

What I Made: A batch of yummy Nutella ice cream for a summery treat.

What I'm Reading: I just finished Called to Adoption.  So I'm on the hunt for a new book.  Maybe start the July bookmarks book.

What I'm Doing: Listening the kids figure out what they should plant on their farm on Hay Day.  :-)

What I'm Watching: We've been watching The American Baking Competition.  Wow!  I would be in so far over my head.

What I'm Enjoying: Well, this past week we enjoyed some spring rain and stomping in the mud puddles and now we're enjoying the 110 degree weather.  Enjoying might be a stretch.

What are you up to?

Friday, June 28, 2013

2013 June Bookmarks

*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 June was In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham.

These are the books I read this month:

Victim of Grace by Robin Jones Gunn--You can see my review here.

Called to Adoption: A Christian's guide to Answering the Call by Mardie Caldwell--  Being in the process ourselves, I was interested to pick this one up.  Called to Adoption highlights the three most prominent means of adoption: private adoption, international adoption, and adoption through foster care.  The tone is Christian in nature as the author reminds us all the be connected with the Lord throughout this process.  This becomes the best way for us to make decisions as they come our way, sometimes with little time to think it through.  For us, there wasn't much that this book had to offer.  However, if you are just starting to think about adoption, this is a good place to start.  It does define alot of terms and serves as a good base for beginning.  

Our suggested reading for May was In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham.  In this memoir, Gracia Burnham tells the story of her and her husband's captivity for more than a year at the hands of a Muslim extremist group in the Philippines.  During their time as hostages, they endured horrific events, including beheadings of other hostages, shoot outs with the Philippine army, days of hiking, and a minimalist died, barely staying alive most days.  Still their faith in God, helped them continue to put one foot in front of the other, and even love and cherish the lives of their very captors.  Though the beginning of the book starts out slow (going into a lot of background information on the couple), the overall story is gripping to say the least.  Burnham isn't shy about describing her own struggle with faith.  Often times it was her husband who kept them both sane.  But her honesty is what gives the story true depth.  Without it, I would have wondered what kind of saint was kidnapped.  But her ability to show her weaknesses kept her human.  Burnham's account of her husband's love for their captors was also surprisingly refreshing.  I have to wonder if I'd have the same grace if I were in that situation.  It's nothing short of miraculous.  This real life account is personal, tragic, and triumphant all at the same time.  Definitely worth the read! 

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 In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham.

Don't forget to come back July 26th as we discuss Forgotten God by Francis Chan and any other books you're reading.  Can't wait to see you then!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

26 Intentional Acts of Kindness #11: Vending Machine Blessing

This past week we set out to do something nice for our mailman.  He's so busy and delivering mail in the summer heat is no fun.  So we chilled a couple of bottled waters and set them out for him along with a granola bar for an afternoon pick me up.  Simple and thoughtful, and didn't take a lot of time.

I think that's what I'm learning most in these challenges.  Blessing others doesn't really take that much time.  But it does take some forethought.  And that's really changing the way my kids and I think about others.

Are you ready for the next one?

For this challenge, we're back to leaving change at the vending machines.  I don't know about you, but my kids and I are out and about all week long.   Going to the gym, stopping by the library, picking up something at the store.  There are numerous places to complete this challenge.  So we're going to bank and picking up some quarters.  Don't forget to leave with a note letting the recipient know they're there to take.  And bless someone with an unexpected cool drink or snack for the day.

Will you join us in this challenge?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Do-It-Yourself: Swimmer's Ear Drops

My DIY project for June was to make a Swimmer's Ear solution.  Fortunately, we've done a lot of swimming, but haven't had any problems so far.  I'm pleasantly surprised that we haven't had to use this, but in case you're in need of some ideas.  Here's what we came up with:

DIY Swimmer's Ear Solution

1 part alcohol
1 part vinegar

Mix together well and put in a dropper bottle.

Place 2-4 drops in the ear after swimming.

I've seen ideas where it's been stored in a contact bottle or medicine bottle with a dropper.
I also have a friend who soaks a cotton ball and places it in her son's ear.

Happy Swimming!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Reveal Bars

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These Oatmeal Chocolate Reveal Bars are rich and creamy, and taste like an old fashioned oatmeal cookie.  We couldn't keep our fingers out of them.  Enjoy!

Oatmeal Chocolate Reveal Bars

3 c. oatmeal
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp salt
1 c. butter
2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
4 tsp vanilla
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 c. chocolate chips
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

1. Combine oatmeal, flour, soda, and salt.  Set aside.

2. Beat 1 c. butter for 30 sec; add brown sugar, eggs and 2 tsp vanilla.  Beat until fluffy.

3. Gradually add dry ingredients until combined.

4. Melt together milk, chocolate chips, 2 Tbsp butter, and 2 tsp vanilla.  Add nuts.

5. Press 1/2-2/3 of the cookie mixture into a greased 9x13 pan.  Pour melted chocolate mixture over the top.  Drop the rest of the cookie mixture onto the chocolate.

6.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 min.  Cool and cut into bars.

10 Things This Week

Here's how I did on my goals this week:

Marriage and Parenting:
*Finish Boxcar Children Book (sooooo close)
*Do a book craft
*Do 5-7 items from our Summer Bucket List

*Finish book club book
*Keep looking into Light Box ideas

Homemaking Goals:
*Go through kids' clothes

Personal Goals:
*Exercise 4-5 days 
*Get 8 hours of sleep each night (about 4 nights)

These are my 10 Goals for the Week:

Marriage and Parenting:
*Finish Boxcar Children Book
*Complete 5 items from our Summer Bucket List
*Do a book craft

*Work on 1-2 Disney posts
*Work on 1-2 While You're Waiting posts

*Organize Scrapbook pages
*Create one Christmas project

Personal Goals:
*Exercise 4-5 days
*Get 8 hours of sleep each night

What are your goals this week?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Weekend Links

This Week:

What I Made: Strawberry Lemonade... I'm not totally satisfied with the results, but I'd like to keep trying.  Doesn't Strawberry Lemonade just sound summery?

What I'm Reading: I'm reading a book about a Christian's reaction to adoption.  Interesting, but I'm still in the early stages of the book so I haven't made a judgement yet.

What I'm Doing: Lots and lots of catch up.  The last couple of weekends we either had company or were out of town.  So we're doing lots of catch up with yard work and little errands.

What I'm Watching: A little bit of this and a little bit of that.  Not much interesting.  Although I did enjoy the finale of The Voice and caught a great episode of Person of Interest.

What I'm Enjoying: Watching my kids soak up so much information at VBS.  They really enjoyed their week.

What are you up to?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

"Book of the Month Club" Gift

This past January when my niece had her 2nd birthday, I really wanted to do something fun and creative for her.  She's a cute kid and I just love being an aunty.  So I had to put my thinking cap on and see what I could come up with.  And what I did decide on was making a "Book of the Month" Gift.

Now I've seen the "Book of the Month Club" ideas where you subscribe and the company sends the child one book a month.  But I'm on a limited budget with three kids of my own so I decided to take the idea and do it myself.  So if you're interested in doing one as well, here's what you'll need:

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*12 Books of your choice
*Wrapping paper
*Scissors and tape
*Pen and paper to label books

Of course, books can get expensive so check out the Dollar Store, your local library sales, and ebay.  You'll be surprised what good deals you can find.

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So I put the books in the order that I wanted them.  Some of them where Christmas so I had make sure that was November or December based on when the birthday is.  Her's is later in the month so I wanted her to have the Christmas book in November so she could really enjoy it instead of getting it just two days before Christmas.

As I wrapped the books I labeled each one with the date they were to be opened.  For example, I started with the first one to be opened on her birthday.  Then the next was February 23rd, then March 23rd, and so on and so forth.
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After I had them all wrapped and labeled, I put them in a cute pink shoe box and labeled the box with a "Kiera's Book of the Month" label.  Now she gets to open one every month.  And we're getting to help her building a fun library.

I hope this idea helps you when you're thinking about your next birthday party.  Why not make a "Book of the Month" Gift?

What creative gifts are you giving lately?

Monday, June 17, 2013

10 Things This Week

Here's how I did on my goals this week:

Marriage and Parenting:
*Start Boxcar Children book with kids
*Memorize one verse in Psalm 100
*Start library reading program with kids
*Do a book craft

*Work on Light Box
*Start book club book

Homemaking Goals:
*Make and hide an extra key for the house
*Plant more grass seed

Personal Goals:
*Exercise 4-5 days/ 5 days of core challenge
*Get 8 hours of sleep each night

These are my 10 Goals for the week:

Marriage and Parenting:
*Finish Boxcar Children Book
*Do a book craft
*Do 5-7 items from our Summer Bucket List

*Finish book club book
*Keep looking into Light Box ideas

Homemaking Goals:
*Go through kids' clothes

Personal Goals:
*Exercise 4-5 days
*Get 8 hours of sleep each night

What are your goals this week?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Weekend Links

This Week:

What I Made: 

What I'm Reading: I'm reading the current book club book "In the Presence of My Enemies."  It's incredible.  If you haven't picked this one up yet, make sure you check it out.

What I'm Doing:

What I'm Watching: The Voice... I gave up on American Idol years ago, but I've been hooked on The Voice for the past couple of seasons.  Excited to see two country artists in the final three.

What I'm Enjoying: 

What are you up to?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

26 Intentional Acts of Kindness #10: Bless your Mailman

Our challenge last week was to write notes to a loved one telling them why we love them.  Since there's been a lot of sibling rivalry going on in our house lately, I decided to have the kids write notes to each other.  And since it's summer, we turned it into a project.

I encouraged the kids to pick each other's favorite colors and make a card for the other.  On the each petal of the flower, they wrote something they loved bout the other or something they loved to do together.  Some of them really surprised me.  

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"I love slip n sliding with you."

"I love playing kitchen with you."

"You're a great swimmer."

"You tell funny jokes."

"I love you more than you know."

All in all, it was a great exercise and I'm really hoping it helps with some of the craziness around here.  I know they really do love each other; it's just hard to communicate that to each other.  But I really loved hearing what was going on in their heads.

Are you ready for this week's challenge:

We have a great mailman who works hard every day.  The temperatures have been topping 100 degrees and here he is walking the streets, delivering mail every day.  What a long day!  So we want to do something to show our appreciation.  I have a few ideas: some fresh fruit or snack to give him a mid-day pick up, a cool drink in the afternoon, something to brighten his day.  I'm putting my head together with the kids and we're going to come up with something great.  :-)

How about you?  

Are you ready for the challenge?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Moon Birthday Party

This past January we went down to visit family and celebrate my neice's 2nd birthday.  She loves the moon and her mom did an awesome job creating a Moon Birthday. 

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What's a party without a banner!

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I love this huge lantern in the middle of the room surrounded by stars.

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And who knew there were so many books with moons in them?
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Gotta have some girlie flowers with star confetti.
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And a moon cake made from the Wilton's ball mold.
With sanding sugar.

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I love these moon cupcakes as well.

It all turned out so cute and I can't wait to celebrate again with them next year.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Victim of Grace {Review}

Having read the Christy Miller series as a young adult, I was interested to pick up something new from Robin Jones Gunn.  Victim of Grace reads like an autobiography highlighting moments in Jones Gunn's life where she was captured by god's grace in her life.  Often she didn't know it at the time, but in looking back, the Lord was leading her into new places of wisdom, maturity, and ultimately blessing.

Included in each chapter is a Biblical story that goes along with the theme.  Mentioned more than one is the story of Naomi and Ruth, how Ruth's loyalty to her mother in law ultimately blessed Naomi with an abundance of grace.  While the retelling is insightful, the connection between the Biblical example and the author's example isn't always clear.

And while the author does write clearly, I found the book lacking depth.  I hate to critique a personal story.  They're so intimate.  But there was something about this book that didn't ring true.  The author does take us to deep places of hurt and emotion.  And yet, with a turn of the page, the tone turned a bit too optimistic.  Maybe I'm just a cynic, but there was such a switch, it was hard to follow.

With discussion questions, this book would make for a light beginning Bible study.  But for further reflection, I'd keep looking.

*Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from for my honest opinion.  All thoughts are my own.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Chango Bars

My son and I found this recipe in a text book this past spring and tried it out.  Every since then, the kids beg me to make them.  :-)  We've even taken them to several school parties (minus the nuts, of course).

This classic cookie bar is simple, quick, and oh, so tasty.  With or without nuts, I like these Chango Bars anyway I can get them.  Hope you'll like them too.

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Chango Bars

1 c. butter
2 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
2 1/3 c. flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c. chocolate Chips
1 c. nuts (we used walnuts)

1. Cream together your eggs and sugar.
2. Add your melted butter.
3. Add your dry ingredients and incorporate well.
4. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (We sprinkled our nuts on top).
5. Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

10 Goals This Week

Here's how I did on my goals this week:

Marriage and Parenting:
*Finish Little Women
*Start scripture project

*Finish review book
*Research Light Box optinos

Homemaking Goals:
*Make and hide an extra key for the house
*Look into picking cherries
*Go scrapbooking
*Plant some more grass seed

Personal Goals:
*Exercise 3-4 days/ 5 days of core challenge (3 days)
*Get 8 hours of sleep each night (4 days)

These are my 10 Goals for the week:

Marriage and Parenting:
*Start Boxcar Children book with kids
*Memorize one verse in Psalm 100
*Start library reading program with kids
*Do a book craft

*Work on Light Box
*Start book club book

Homemaking Goals:
*Make and hide an extra key for the house
*Plant more grass seed

Personal Goals:
*Exercise 4-5 days/ 5 days of core challenge
*Get 8 hours of sleep each night

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer Bucket List

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The endless days of summer lay out before us.  Or loom before us, depending on your perspective.  Actually this mom holds both.  While I'm craving the freedom from formal book work and the possibility of lounging by the pool, I know that thebliss of those days will quickly wear off if we don't plan accordingly.  So this past week, I sat down with the kids and we worked out a schedule and list that we could all live with.  Here's what we decided on:

8am--Off to the gym
  Noah has swim lessons 3x/week and the baby has visits 2x/week so we're out of the house early.
  Mama will workout on swim days and the kids can play.

9am (or 10, depending on the day)-- Pool time
  I factored lots of pool time in since we're be there already.

12 pm--Lunch time
  I'll pack one on the days we plan on staying late at the pool or we can stop to eat at the park.

1 pm--Project time
  I want to build in project time over the summer.  Lydia wants to sew; Noah wants to catch up on Lego class.  And since this is baby's nap time, it gives me a good chance to work on those projects with each kid.

2pm-- Quiet time
  You don't have to sleep, but you do have to work quietly.

4pm--off to the gym (maybe)
  On the mornings I don't get my workout, we'll go in the afternoons
  Lydia has gymnastics in the afternoon once a week
  Noah's thinking of taking cooking class once a week

Here's what's on Our Summer List:
1. Make popsicles
2. Sew some hair accessories
3. Study Bible books
4. Do 5 Lego clubs
5. Go to the Aquatic Center
6. Swim Lessons
7. Make an indoor fort
8. Go to the beach
9. Make popsicle bracelets
10. Sew a new purse
11. Create some yard art
12. Make sand castles
13. Make marshmallow shooters
14. Go to Azalea Park
15. Use the science kit
16. Fly kites
17. Garden
18. Make sidewalk paint
19. Create giant bubbles
20. Bake blackberry cobbler
21. Make sponge bombs
22. Create fairy/gnome houses
23. Go to a dollar movie (or two)
24. Make a beachcomber's box
25. Bake Jolly Rancher pops
26. Create collage art
27. Go to the Rodeo
28. Go to the Farmer's Market
29. Eat snow cones
30. Make stick puppets
31. Go to a baseball game
32. Make a music video
33. Have a camping theme day
34. Learn to draw animals
35. Do fingerprint art
36. Have a bike parade
37. Cook campfire cones
38. Write in summer journals
39. Pick blackberries
40. Go to VBS
41. Play Jr. Giants
42. Star Gaze
43. Have root beer floats
44. Learn to ride a bike (Lydia)
45. Have a waterballoon fight
46. Make homemade ice cream
47. Create a new pizza recipe
48. Go on family bike rides
49. Wash the cars
50. Write a poem
51. Make frozen banana pops
52. Create windsocks
53. Play croquet
54. Go to Grandma's
55. Visit Parrot Playhouse
56. Check out Butterfly House
57. Go to Math Exhibit
58. Slip N Slide
59. Run in sprinklers
60. Play in wading pool
61. Pick and press flowers
62. Go to Lego Exhibit
63. Watch a bean grow
64. Discover root power
65. Design a butterfly garden
66. Make a bird feeder
67. Learn about Blue Jays
68. Make s'more bars
69. Make homemade lemonade
70. SWIM!!!
71. Roast marshmallows
72. Make s'mores
73. Paint pet rocks
74. Go on an ABC scavenger hunt
75. Memorize Psalm 100
76. Pick cherries
77. Play with couch cushions
78. Make sock puppers
79. Make suncatchers
80. Take a walk on the beach
81. Eat crab
82. Feed the ducks
83. Go on a picnic
84. Learn hopscotch
85. Learn to jump rope
86. Make a heart map
87. Make a sculpture with marshmallows and spaghetti
88. Scrapbook summer photos
89. Go out to breakfast
90. Visit family out of town
91. Learn to type (Noah)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

26 Intentional Acts of Kindness #9: Love in the Family

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We had so much fun with our last Intentional Act of Kindness.  The kids really got into this one.  We picked up some three packs of bubbles from Dollar Tree.  Then while we were at home, the kids tied notes to them with a sticker.

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We waited till there was quite a few kids at the park then Noah and Lydia ran around and hid them all over the playground.  We continued to play after that, keeping on an eye on the spots where we knew they were hidden.  

Funny thing is, the joke was on us.  We kept watching the kids look at them, but no one picked them up.  Finally, Noah couldn't stand it any long and he had to tell the boys they were for them.  So in the end, they figured out the bubbles were from us, but it was still a lot of fun nonetheless.

Are you ready for another challenge?

This challenge can keep you close to home or far away, depending on how you adapt it for your family.  We're going to write notes to someone we love, telling them why we love them.  For our family in particular, I'm going to have the kids write to each other.  And I'll probably write one for each of them.  But this is a pretty open challenge.  Kids can write to their grandparent, a teacher, a neighbor, etc.  It takes so little to brighten someone's day and especially hearing that they are loved.

Are you ready for the challenge?

Monday, June 3, 2013

How to Follow Blogs (Without Blogger Reader)

If you haven't heard, Blogger will be eliminating its blog reader in July 2013.  Yep.  That's next month. And I hate to admit it, but I've been a procrastinator about finding alternative readers.  Sure, I've seen the posts from other bloggers describing their favorite new ways to follow.  But I'm so computer iliterate.  I was afraid with three kids and everything else on my plate, I'd never figure it out.  So I waited.

Till I finally sat down and just gave it a try.

And really, it's so much easier than I ever imagined.  Really.  It's really easy.

So whether you've never subscribed to a blog, or have a full Blogger Reader, here's your chance to check out some new ways to follow along.

As I've researched, I've found three different options out there for following blogs in the future:

1. You can subscribe via email.  This is a great option if you don't want to manage a second inbox.  All blog posts will conveniently delivered directly to your email.  If you want to read further, simply click on the post and you'll be sent to the site.  You can follow Creative2xmom by entering your email in the box on the top right of the front page.

2. I've heard good things about BlogLovin's reader.  There are some bloggers who rave about it.  I can't speak much to it 'cause I found something I already love.  (*I've since learned there is a "Connect to Google Reader" option on this site as well)

3. You can also subscribe via Feedly, a second blog reader.  If you're already using Google Reader, this is a great option.  Simply click on "Connect to Google Reader" and your feeds will be seamlessly migrated to your new Feedly reader.  This was the big selling point for me.  I didn't have to search through all my blogs and re-follow from a new reader.

If you are just starting to follow blogs through Feedly, click on the magnifying glass on the upper right corner and enter the blog address.  Click on the plus sign for your new subscription to be added.  As you spend more time on Feedly, you can customize folders to sort your subscription based on interest, or other categories.

There's also a mobile app to keep you reading on the go.

So there you go, a crash course in subscribing to blogs after Blogger Reader disappears.  If you like keeping up with blogs, subscribe!  Blog writers love to write for you and we love it when you follow along.

Subscribing via email is very easy, but if it's not for you, here are two other options, BlogLovin and Feedly.

And subscribe to Creative2xmom if you're interested.  No pressure!  Creative2xmom publishes new posts 3-4x/week with lots of recipes, homemaking ideas, and motherhood thoughts.  I try to keep them useful and fun.  And of course, subscription is free!  Who doesn't like free?

How do you read your favorite blogs?

10 Things This Week

Here's how I did on my goals this week:

Marriage and Parenting:
*Read 5 chapters in Little Women
*Look up scripture to memorize
*Prep Summer Journals

*Finish review book
*Stay one week ahead on posts
*Research Light box ideas

Homemaking Goals:
*Make and hide an extra key for the house
*Prepare final grades

Personal Goals:
*Exercise 4-5 days/ including 5 days of core challenge (last week was so busy; do bike rides with the kids count?)
*Get 8 hrs of sleep each night (about three nights)

These are my 10 Goals for the week:
Marriage and Parenting:
*Finish Little Women
*Start scripture project

*Finish review book
*Research Light Box optinos

Homemaking Goals:
*Make and hide an extra key for the house
*Look into picking cherries
*Go scrapbooking
*Plant some more grass seed

Personal Goals:
*Exercise 3-4 days/ 5 days of core challenge
*Get 8 hours of sleep each night

What are your goals this week?
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