Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Proverbs 3:5-6

It's a scripture I've read many time.  Maybe you have, too. I always subconsciously assume that a straight path signifies an easy path.  If I surrender my way to the Lord, He's going to make the way easy, but as I've been praying through an issue recently, I've had new insight. 

As a runner, I don't find any road easy.  Whether it is straight or curved, hilly or flat, it is still effort.

A straight road does not mean an easy road.

A straight road can be long.  When I begin, I don't often know what I'll find at the end.

But when I travel a straight road I have no question  about the direction I'm heading.

When the Lord promises us a straight road, He does not guarantee ease, but He does promise that He will make our direction clear.

Monday, October 20, 2014

a new eBook

A few weeks ago I took a blogging break to work on a special project and today I'm excited to announce that on Monday, November 3 my new eBook will be available for free download on my blog! 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

{More Weekend Links}

4 things (both frivolous and serious!) that I'm loving this weekend:

12 Simple Things That Can Bring Peace Into Your Home
  Love #1, #4, #10...really, I love them all!

Book It! Alumni Program  no reason to turn down free pizza

Simplify. series
  (especially meal planning week, starting on Day 13)

The Literary United States  Have you read the book  representing your state?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

S'more Ideas for Autumn

I don't consider myself an outdoorsy girl, but I do love an autumn bonfire. You can sit a bag of marshmallows in front of me and I would never be tempted, but if you roast one over a fire, I can't resist. 

{As an aside, how do you like your marshmallows-- a light toasty brown, black and crispy, or somewhere in between?  I love a charred marshmallow.  If yours accidentally catches on fire, hand it to me!}

our first backyard bonfire of the season

We are bringing the campfire theme inside this year, too.  Earlier this month, Alaine and Ben used washable paint to make hand-print campfire pictures.  Or as Alaine called them... "fire camps."

As long as the sun is out, summer s'mores are great in the fall, too.  We tried making them with other varieties of chocolate as suggested, but the kids voted hands down that the standard milk chocolate was best.

If you have a few marshmallows leftover from your s'mores, your kids will love this science experiment.  Believe me!

We had friends over yesterday afternoon and served  Gimme S'more Muffins.  They were a hit!  We found the recipe in one of Owen's cookbooks under the breakfast section so we also sent one with Brian for his morning commute to work.

We have a family movie night tentatively planned for Saturday night and I plan to mix up a batch of this s'more snack mix for a treat. It's probably sugar overload, but it will be a fun alternative to popcorn.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dinner Culture

I don't know about your house, but the hour before dinner at our house is usually crazy.  Everyone is hungry. We're tired, too.  Sometimes we're returning home from errands plus trying to fit in showers, walking the dog, putting away groceries, and getting food into the oven.  It's a noisy, cranky, hectic time of day.

That's why we've made it a habit to create a level of peace and enjoyment when we sit down for evening mealtime. As parents, Brian and I have a mutual goal to create traditions and memories for our kids that they will remember into adulthood so we are intentional about this habit.

{We savor this 45 minutes or so of our day because as soon as we get up from the table, the volume goes back up and the craziness continues.  Is it just my kids are do yours develop an amazing amount of energy in the hours leading up to bedtime?!}

My kids' newest favorite thing to do at dinner is to rate the meal.  It's most fun when we are trying a new recipe, but sometimes they like to rate old standards, too.  It starts with one person saying, "Okay. Taste your fill-in-the-blank and see what you think."  Then everyone gives a thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs sideways sign.  Often we'll explain why we thought that way.  Was the sauce too spicy?  Was it better than expected?  Did it contain an ingredient we didn't like?  No one is allowed to be rude, but everyone is allowed to be honest.  Everyone still has to eat the night's portion, but this fun game helps me know whether to make a dish again.  Gavin likes to step it up a notch.  He likes us to rate meals on a scale of 1 to 10. 

Often we discuss our day or upcoming events at the dinner table, but sometimes someone suggests a more directed topic. The kids love to ask questions and have us go around the table giving answers.  What is your favorite holiday? What is your favorite dessert? What do you want for your birthday?

When we are done eating, we linger at the table.  One of the kids passes a small chocolate to each person.  (We keep a candy jar in our pantry filled with our special after-dinner chocolates.)  Then Brian reads a story or two  from Egermeier's Bible Story Bookand asks a few questions about the passage.  On nights when he's not home, I'll sometimes read a chapter of Missionary Stories With the Millers.

Our after dinner table activities are not always serious.  The kids often request a Mad Libsor a chapter of Encyclopedia Brown.  

And now that I've shared the ways we reconnect as a family around the dinner table, I'll share a little secret.  One of my kids' favorite dinner time traditions does not take place at the table.  It doesn't even involve much togetherness!  About once every week or two, I'll cook an easy (or un-messy) dinner and they eat at the coffee table in the living room while they watch a movie.  They love it and look forward to this special treat!

Do you eat meals together as a family or do you find other ways to spend time together?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

{Weekend Links}

5 things (both frivolous and serious!) that I'm savoring this weekend:

Classic cult: 5 Jane Austen-inspired romantic comedies    I want to see #5

Fall decorating + the back story...    an honest look at life with 5 kids

31 Days of Date Nights    accessible at-home ideas

What is the Biblical way to think about family size?
  food for thought

Write 31 Days (2014) pinboard  a collection of series that grabbed my interest

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

In Three Words

concentrating on pre-algebra

coloring a woodpecker

 a good book

"lived in" look

leftovers for lunch

The Great Pumpkin

Girl. Dog. Boy.

whisper of change

ready to eat

soup for dinner
want the recipe?

feel the wind

night is coming

How was your day{in three words}?

Mine was happy.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Almost There: a look at my goals

We're three-quarters of the way through the year.  Or nine-twelfths. Whatever way you choose to look at it, the months are ticking by and we are facing the last three months of the year.  It's crunch time for getting those goals completed! 

Truly, I'm not feeling the pressure, though.  I've worked steadily on my goals through the year, tweaking and adding as I go. What I don't finish by December, I'll roll over into the new year {without disappointment and without guilt}.

It's always fun to take a peek back over the months at what I've accomplished...and, of course, include a few links and photos.  My goals are bulleted while my notes are written in teal.

I accomplished much in the kitchen over the first quarter of the year and I included details and photos in my March goal post.

I finally started my vanilla in August (using the very basic directions given here). I shake it about once a week and I indulge myself with an occasional sniff, but it won't be ready to use until at least November.

  • Eat at Chipotle.  (Am I the only one who hasn't been?!)
I'm a convert! I crossed this goal off in February and I talked about it on the blog here, but then I went again to carb-load on the evening before my half-marathon...and again to grab lunch before heading to the beach...and again on a night out with a friend...

  • Run a 2-mile race with Brian.
I accomplished this goal  in mid-February.  I shared a photo and details from the race here. 

  • Train and run a 1/2 marathon. 
I did it!  I trained hard for over 3 months and then on a cool, clear morning, I ran my heart out.  I shared a few things about the race that surprised me and then I gave a full race report here

  • Run a 5K and a 10K in the fall.
Brian and I signed up to run a 5K last Saturday. It was a warm fall afternoon and we participated with close to 400 other runners and walkers. Brian beat his personal time goal by over a minute and I came in 3rd in my age group (females, aged 30-39).

I'm running a 10K next Saturday and Brian is doing another 5K.

I'm continuing to work on increasing speed and maintain a solid mileage base. Between January 1 and September 30, I ran 767 miles.  
  • Build my upper body and core strength.  Hold a plank for 4 minutes.
 I finished the 30 Day Plank Challenge on June 15 and held a plank for almost 5 minutes!   Since then I've not held a plank longer than 30 seconds and I don't intend to either! 

  • Learn to change the oil in the van and learn to change the wiper blades, too.
This is a leftover goal from 2013 and I may not get to it this year either.  Someday...

  • Take each child out individually for a meal at a restaurant they would enjoy.
Accomplished...and I included a few details in my March check-in.

  • Read 50 books-- not including books I read aloud to my kids or books we read for school.
I set this goal with the idea that I would read approximately 4 books a month, maybe 1 a week.  I underestimated myself and set this goal too conservatively.   I've read over 60 books so far this year, not counting the books I've read aloud with the kids (which number close to 20).

I added 2 secondary challenges to my goal.  I want to read all of the books from the 2014 Sisters Book Challenge  I'm doing with my sister.  I've read 8 of her 10 suggestions so only 2 more to go!

Plus I've chosen 4 classics I challenged myself to read by the end of the year.  I picked one to read each season and I've read 3 so far-- 1 more to go!

  • Develop a new chores system for the kids, including responsibilities for the two youngest.
  • Focus on teaching kids to take initiative for their hygiene, school work, and responsibilities.
  • Plan our 2014/2015 school year and write a loose daily schedule.
    These three goals go hand in hand(s?). I gave a brief explanation of our new chore system in my March check-in and went into greater detail in a separate post here

    The best thing I did to help with initiative this year was to give the three older kids their own schedule for the school day.  I did it as an afterthought (really to help me more than to help them) but it's been wonderful to see them think about how to best manage their time and to work ahead in an effort to make each day easier.  A few weeks ago I added a schedule for Ben (1st grade), too, so he can anticipate what he will be working on each day of the week.

    As far a chores go, some of the kids have found their groove and others have to be reminded to stick with their tasks.  I need to be more intentional on going behind Alaine and checking on her work. I'm considering tweaking the schedule at the beginning of next year-- maybe switching jobs around a bit and also adding more responsibility for some kids.

    • Take (or have someone else take) new non-candid photos of my kids. 
    My sister photographed my kids for me at the end of the spring.  (I chose a favorite photo of each of my kids and have them displayed on my blog's right sidebar.) This summer I printed some of my favorites and framed them for our living room. 


    I'll do one last goal check-in at the end of the year.  Did you make any goals this year? Do you plan to accomplish them before January?

    Friday, September 26, 2014

    6 Ways to Use Ripe Bananas

    Bananas are like candy in our house.  Well, maybe not quite, but they usually go quickly. I've started buying bigger bunches to keep up with demand, but I'm a banana snob and if a banana passes through that brief 1-day window of not-too-green-but-no-brown-splotches, I'm looking for other ways to use up the rejects.

    1) Frozen Banana Slices

    Slice the banana into 1/2 inch rounds and then freeze on waxed paper. Freezing the bananas disguises the mush and can be eaten straight from the freezer as a snack.

    2) Banana Pops

    This is the frozen banana slice's more glamorous older sister.  Cut a banana  in half and insert a popsicle stick into each half.  Freeze overnight (or at least a few hours).  Melt 1/4 cup chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon of butter in the microwave, checking at 30 second intervals. Roll the frozen banana in the melted chocolate and sprinkle with toppings if desired, working quickly before the chocolate hardens.

    Gavin's s'mores banana pop with mini marshallows and graham cracker crumbs

    3) Waffles

    We like this recipe because it is easy to whip up on weekday mornings before school. Be sure to grease the waffle iron generously because they tend to stick. They are delicious eaten with butter and real maple syrup!

    4) Smoothies

    If you plan ahead, you can freeze the bananas first, room temperature bananas work, too. These are some of our favorite varieties of smoothie: 

    5) Banana Oatmeal

    Make a pot of oatmeal and stir in 1-2 mashed bananas before serving.   You can eat it as-is or spice it up with pecans and chocolate chips.

    6) Muffins

    You can use whatever recipe you use for banana bread but divided it into muffins cups instead...or you can use this delectable recipe for banana crumb muffins!

    What do you do with leftover bananas?

    I'm taking a 1 week blogging break to work on a special project (coming in November), but I will continue to post throughout the week on my blog Facebook page.  Join me there!

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    real life {week 4}

    On Monday, I gave a peek into my day.  It was not necessarily a typical day because what is typical?, but a real look, nonetheless.

    Every Wednesday during the month of September, I shared a photo from my real life.  

    It was not always a glossy, smiley, arranged life because sometimes real life can be messy, noisy, and unscripted.

     I want to invite you to join me again this week.  What does your real life look like?

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