Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Four Piles.

So this moving thing...

has been good in a way.  In our current situation, another move could be imminent, but perhaps not.  The story is complicated, but long story short, we are again renting a home and sincerely hoping to buy something in the near future.  Finding something we really love, that we are willing to shell out the big bucks for is a whole other story.  I am pretty sure we have commitment issues.

So we wait...

In the meantime, I am seizing this opportunity to purge in a big way, and score a little extra cash in the process.  (And who isn't trying to find an extra buck these days???)

I should preface this by saying I do not do garage sales.  (As in having them.  I have been know to peruse a good sale once in awhile.)  In my experience, they are simply too much work for too little return.  Seriously, my time is worth so much more than sticking little neon price stickers on a hundred boxes of junk.  

So.  Not.  Worth.  It.

Four Piles.  That's what I call it.  It's my system.  And it works. 

Pile Numero Uno:  The Good Stuff

All the good stuff (meaning anything worth a little something) goes into the pile that will inevitably end up on Ebay(I go on a listing frenzy once my pile is big enough to warrant it.) 

Little treasures that would go for pennies at a sale (or not at all!) can often be golden to a global Ebay audience.  Old stuff is vintage.  And that is a good thing.  Everyone is looking for something.

It can seem intimidating at first, but the process is really quite simple (and monetarily rewarding!).  I've unloaded all kinds of things for quick cash including speakers, unopened cosmetics, handbags, a guitar, a violin, books, old cell phones, bracelet charms, video games, etc.  

There is a minimal listing fee and a Final Value Fee assessed once the transaction is complete.  At the end of the day, the extra cash far outweighs what you'd make at a garage sale.

And always check the vintage stuff.  I recently discovered some of my childhood toys are going for insane amounts of cash!  (Like my old Charmkin accessories!  Or my Rainbow Brite!  Mom, I'll be calling you later to see if these are still in your basement...)

Pile, Part Deux:  The Big Stuff

Some stuff is just too big.  I know people do it all the time, but selling the big stuff on Ebay is a hassle.  Shipping can be a bear.  (I once sold a large vintage amp on Ebay and beside the fact that I could barely wrangle my then 18-month-old and the beastly machine into the UPS store, I completely underestimated on shipping costs.  Lesson learned.)

Anything of value that is too big gets listed on Craigslist.  Or more recently my local area swap page on facebook.  I prefer this because it easier, simple and completely local.  Check facebook to see if your area has a swap page.  It is basically a free newspaper ad that reaches a heck of lot more potential customers.  They are popping up all over facebook and are entirely convenient.


Pile #3:  The Okay Stuff


The okay stuff gets donated.  Plain and simple.  For me, this means mostly clothes and shoes.  Unless you are dealing with high-end designer labels, old prom dresses, or a good men's suit, clothing doesn't usually bring in much cash.  Our family has been continually blessed with hand-me-downs from good friends that I feel compelled to give back that way.


The 4th Pile:  The Junk

Anything no longer of any value to anyone goes here, destined for the landfill, the recycling bin or repurposing.  This includes anything broken beyond repair.  Clothes that are not in good enough condition to donate are cut up for cleaning rags


So I've got my work cut out for me.  After continually moving around the same unpacked boxes the last 9 years of my life, I am looking forward to Great Purge of 2012 (and a couple extra dollars in my pocket).  Its going to be awesome.

Firing up the coffee machine...  All systems go.


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Monday, January 30, 2012

Jumble.

My mind is in a bit of a jumble this morning.  So many things bouncing around my coconut. (I had a college professor from Africa who would often say "Use your coconut," referring to our brains. And it stuck.)

Some things that are on my mind:

1.  Reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.  Incredible.  Challenging.  This book is changing me.  I really need this.

2.  Just returned from a Leadership Conference with my hubby where we took the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment and listened to Dr. Alina Lehnert from Evangel University.  Ummm... wow.  I feel empowered by what I have learned about myself and my husband and the leadership team we work with on a regular basis.  This is going to be very good for our marriage and life in general.  I can see how this would be a valuable tool for premarital counseling...

(You can get the book here which includes an online code to take the assessment:  Strengths Finder 2.0)

3.  Still thinking about the movie, Courageous, which I saw for the first time last night.  I strongly dislike movies that make me bawl like a baby.  A little cheesy, but powerfully moving.  Holding my babies tighter.  Thankful my husband is a fabulous daddy to our princesses.  All in all, it was good.

4.  I need to devise a serious plan of attack this week.  I am completely over committed in the coming weeks (errr... months?).  This could get interesting...

5.  I am really crazy about my girls.  And my hubby.  And I really just want to hang out with them more.  Totally going to make this happen.

Go ahead.  Pour an extra cup.  It's Monday....


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   The revelation of God is whole
      and pulls our lives together.
   The signposts of God are clear
      and point out the right road.
   The life-maps of God are right,
      showing the way to joy.
   The directions of God are plain
      and easy on the eyes.
   God's reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
      with a lifetime guarantee.
   The decisions of God are accurate
      down to the nth degree. 



Psalm 19.7-9 (The Message)

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rewind.

Today has been one of those days where I wish, wish, wish I could have just crawled back into bed to draw up the covers and stay there for the next 12 hours... or at least until my sweet husband got home from work to rescue me. 

One and half weeks of pretty decent potty training efforts culminated in ultimate disaster today.  And by disaster, I mean that I am pretty sure my little Lovey is deliberately plotting against me.  I am not overstating when I say that this is my absolute least favorite part of being a mother.  I would give almost anything to let someone else do this job.  I am not sure what is worse, the additional excesses of laundry or the pure grossness of it all.

Add to that the smashed snow globe on the dining room floor, Lovey playing "sandbox" in the Malt-O-Meal she intentionally dumped in the kitchen, and the week-old sippy cup discovery I made under the couch... I was seriously pining for a real life rewind button.

I love my girlies.  They really are angels most of the time.  Today was not one of them.  

Ready to start again tomorrow...

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls in Solitude.

If I were to give it a title, I am not sure what I would call it.  When people are up late into the evening, it is often called the "witching hour."  

This is completely opposite.

I am up early.  As usual.  It's my favorite time of day.  My sweet girls are still nestled snugly in their beds.  Dear hubby has yet to awaken (amazing since I hit the snooze button approximately 4 times...)  I am accompanied only by my coffee, the last of yesterday's homemade cinnamon rolls, and the solitude.

It's Monday and my calendar is full, this week especially.  Still praying for some really big things to happen.  Waiting can be a restless time.  Yet in this precious morning hour, it is easy to forget the pressures and the constraints of life.  They are easily erased by a painted morning sunrise.

Coffee helps.  And so do homemade cinnamon rolls.  

Here is my favorite recipe.  It's easy, quick (no-rise!), and entirely superb.



No-Rise Cinnamon Rolls

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. white sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
¼ c. butter, chilled
2 T. butter, softened
1 c. cold milk
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 T. white sugar

For glaze:
½ c. confectioner’s sugar
3 T. milk

1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in ¼ c. butter or margarine until crumbly.  Make a well in center, and pour in milk.  Stir to form a soft dough, adding a bit more milk if needed.

3.  Turn dough out on lightly floured surface.  Knead 8 to 10 times.  Roll into rectangle about 1/3 inch thick and 12 inches long.  Spread softened butter over dough.  Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over dough rectangle.  Roll up as for jelly roll.  Mark first, then cut into 12 slices.  Place cut side down in muffin pan.

4.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes.  Turn out on a tray.

5.  To confectioner’s sugar, add enough milk or water to make a thin glaze.  Drizzle over cinnamon rolls.




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Friday, January 20, 2012

In other news...

What do you think of the new blog design? 
(Feel free to comment below.)

Still working on some other changes so stay tuned...



There's nothing sweeter than a cup of bitter coffee.  
~Rian Aditia
 




Tea is for Tacos.

Don't get me wrong.  Coffee is truly unrivaled in my kitchen.  I savor every drop.  

There is Morning Coffee.  

Mid-morning coffee.  

Afternoon coffee (often accompanied by some home-baked goodness).  

5-o-clock-making-dinner-my-children-have-all-turned-into-monkeys-desperate-for-my-husband-to-get-home-from-work-coffee.

There is just so much to love about coffee.

However...

I can hardly stomach a day without my evening tea.  I prefer peppermint, sometimes with just a smidge of honey.  I can't imagine a more perfect nightcap than losing myself in a lovely book by low lamplight and sipping hot tea.

Besides being wildly relaxing, one of my favorite benefits to drinking hot peppermint tea is the way it aids indigestion and eases stomach discomfort.  I have always had a sensitive stomach, although I find as I get older I am learning to love more spicy foods (like the insane amounts hot taco sauce I sloshed onto my tacos earlier this evening after which I often spend the evening lying on the couch thinking, "Why me?")  Tonight, I conducted a pre-emptive strike on my impending stomach woes by taking my tea early... and no problem

Peppermint tea is also believed to aid in mild asthma, vomiting, and headaches.  During pregnancy, it was the only thing that helped me survive morning sickness and heartburn and its stress-relieving properties are unmatched (except only perhaps by coffee).

And with that my friends I say...

Cheerio!



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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pinching Pennies.

Yesterday was the day.  Grocery day.  The day I take my carefully crafted list born from my meticulously mapped-out menu and have a go at things.  

Except today was different.  There was no list.  There was no plan.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.


But it was grocery day. 

My Monday was uncharacteristically busy, full of abnormal interruptions and unusual occurrences.  In addition, I have lost my mojo.  Ever since moving a month ago, I simply haven't quite settled into a normal routine yet.  Things are still missing.  (We finally got a decently sizable snow, yet my wonderfully warm boots have gone into hiding!)  Boxes are stilling begging for my attention.  (Although, some of them have been packed for so long and moved so many times that its truly like Christmas to go through them!)  And my meal-planning has been haphazard at best.

I was tired.  And we would have to eat something so I did what seemed logical:  I packed up the kidlets and headed to the store.  All I could think about was how easy it would be to just do frozen pizza.  I was praying for a sale.  (Seriously needing to save a buck or two.)  No dice.  $3.86 for one cardboard pizza.  Out of the question.  Then it occurred to me... I didn't really need groceries.  I was only craving convenience.  So what if we actually ate out of our pantry and freezer this week?

We turned around and drove home.  

And I made a list of all the meals I could make from what I already had on hand.  I am not a stock-piler or an extreme-couponer, but I do buy in bulk when I can and buy extra of things I love when I find a good sale.  

Last night, we feasted on sirloin steaks (from the freezer and marinated ALL day in a homemade Balsamic vinaigrette), Iowa sweet corn (Handpicked and frozen by yours truly.  You can read more about that day here:  Musings), lettuce salad I cut and prepared myself, and applesauce (from the pantry).  My girls are steak lovers and were more than thrilled.  And I didn't dish out a penny because I already had everything!


Pizza with Turkey pepperoni.  

Tonight, we had homemade veggie pizza:  homemade pizza dough, pizza sauce (from the pantry), mozzarella cheese, spinach, fresh garlic, onions, tomatoes and mushrooms!  When I have turkey pepperoni around, that is my girls' favorite, but they didn't seem to mind the veggies.  I had enough to make two pizzas so guess what's for lunch tomorrow?


On the menu for the rest of the week?  

For breakfast: 

Homemade cinnamon rolls, blueberry muffins (I have a plethora of summer berries in the freezer), scrambled eggs and toast, fruit salad and oatmeal.  

For dinner:  

Tuscan Tomato Bisque soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Sloppy Joes, Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup with yeast rolls, Deer steaks with roasted veggies, and Tacos.  


And I'm not too worried about lunch.  There will be some mighty good leftovers to choose from.


So maybe its not such a bad idea to take a break from grocery shopping once in awhile.  I just put a hundred bucks in my pocket.


I think this calls for another round of coffee...




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Monday, January 16, 2012

Joy comes in the morning.

Not going to lie.  I have had a rough go of things lately.  Times are less than ideal.  Generally, I am a pretty positive, can-do sort of girl.  Yesterday, however, was a more-than-I-could-take kind of day.  No amount of coffee could change that.  

I am a woman.  I cry.  It drives my tear-challenged hubby crazy, but its just me.  And after all these years, I think he is learning to accept that... a little.

I am not so naive to ignore that I have good friends.  Like really incredibly fantabulous friends to whom I don't have to explain a thing.  They know me.  They pray for me.  And they support me.  And my girlfriends understand wordless tears.  That, my friends, is golden.

Last evening, I was exhausted.  Spent.  Completely.  We were headed home for the evening.  As we step out into the night, my 2-year-old Lovey, says "Wow!  Look at all those stars we got!"  

And I looked up.  And I was like... Wow.  Look at all those stars we got.  In that moment, every worry suddenly paled in comparison.  How insignificant, given a Creator who hand-crafted each star.  Every tree.  And me.  

Thankful for new days, good coffee, and joy that comes in the morning.


    "All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God!
      Thank him to his face!
   He gets angry once in a while, but across
      a lifetime there is only love.
   The nights of crying your eyes out
      give way to days of laughter."

Psalm 30.5-6 (MSG)

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Changes.

New year.  Felt like time for change.  Nothing too drastic.  Over the next few days or so, you may notice some new things around here... bear with me.

Happy Weekend!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mama said.

I have learned so much about myself through the words my children repeat during their playtime.   For example, my little Lovey often has this exact conversation on her phone: 

"Hello?  I don't know.  Goodbye."

Verbatim.

I pray to God that I don't sound quite that incompetent on the phone.  Her new favorite mommy-isms include:  

"I'm sick of this."
"That's inappropriate."
"I need some privacy."

Could be worse, I suppose.

There are many things in my world that would seem entirely absurd when considered out of the context of a mommy situation. 

Top 10 actual things that have come out of my mouth:

1.  Thank you for the "big butt" comment.  I will never wear these jeans again.
2.  When can you use a Sharpie?  Absolutely never.
3.  Who's been eating my deodorant?  Again? 
4.  Thanks for decorating my bed with the large "stickers" you found in the bathroom drawer. Now let's clean up before your father see this...
5.  Please, remove your pet crickets from the Barbie castle.  They are forever banished to the outdoors.
6.  Yes, you may have cookies for breakfast... as long as you're sharing.
7.  I am pretty sure that my lasagna does not taste like old socks.
8.  No, you cannot put a dress and a wig on the vacuum and call her Lola.
9.  Please, stand still.  That's only a little poo in the shape of spider on your toe.
10.  Yes, of course, I love you more than coffee.


Please, don't judge me.  We all have moments.

I'd love to hear about yours...  

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bring it on.

We are well into January with nary a snowflake on the horizon.  Most of my fellow Iowans are relishing these 50 degree (and even a few 60s) degree temperatures, while I dream of winter.


Hardy winter.  Like a stockpiling-groceries, canceling-school-for-a-week, freezing-my-socks-off-blizzard.  

Bring it on.

Those are the days I relish.  Hot coffee in hand and nowhere to be but home, amid the aromas of a simmering crock pot full of a winter stew and yeast rolls in the oven. 

Yesterday, we spent the better part of the day outside.  Coatless.  The grass is greening and I even saw fresh clover poking out of the ground.  The farmers are working their Iowa fields.  This is not normal.  Seriously???  (I have a cousin who says her spring flowers are starting to come up...) 

I long for winter.


I appreciate every season in it's own time, although I really do love the colder months.  For who can truly savor the rebirth of a budding spring without a good hard freeze?  

Today is cooler.  And cloudy.  And windy.  They say there will be negligible snow.  I'm praying they are wrong.  I remain hopeful.

I'm sipping coffee from my adorable snowman mug, watching the window and dreaming of white.

And for all my friends who disagree, a song for you




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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Scrub-a-dub.

I may be in a new-to-me house, but the fact remains... the only dishwashers I possess are at the end of my arms.  They are called hands.  And they serve me well.  Honestly, I am not sure what I'd do if I did have a dishwasher.  I have grown so accustomed to hand-washing every grimy dish (with love, of course).

I do some of my best thinking while I do the evening dishes.  If I choose to add music, I also do some of best dancing in front of the sink, much to the embarrassment of my 7-year-old, Peanut (who cocks her head, rolls her eyes, flips her hair at me and darts out of the room).


But on occasion, there arises a beastly baked-on, crusty mess of a pot or pan.  (I have one particular skillet that is a serial offender.  I am not quite sure why I haven't thrown it out by now.)  These times call for the use of excessive force.  There are plenty of things on the market to combat this sort of thing: all manner of scrubby pads and powerful cleaning agents.  Most of them are okay and work well, but most of us have the tools to get the job done right in our own kitchen without spending any extra cold, hard cash.

All you need:

All Purpose Vinegar Cleaning Solution  (8 oz. warm water with 8 oz. white vinegar in a spray bottle)
1 leftover plastic mesh bag (like the ones used to package oranges or onions)
1 rubber band (optional)
Baking soda (optional:  for the really tough stuff)


1.  Start by spraying the offending gobblety-gook (I am pretty sure that's a technical term.) with all-purpose vinegar cleaner and let soak for about 5 minutes  (Just enough time for a coffee break...)

(You can read more about the homemade vinegar solution here:  Super Secrets.)

2.   Use the mesh bag as a scrub pad to finish the job!  You can simply wad it up in your hand or use a rubber band to secure into a ball shape for easier scrubbing.


3.  For really tough messes, let the pot sit in the vinegar solution longer and sprinkle with baking soda.  The natural reaction between the vinegar and baking soda will power away stuck-on food, making it easier to scrub away.  Voila!


Do I like my coffee black?  There are other colors?


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Monday, January 9, 2012

Snap Judgments.

I am certainly guilty of it.  Most of us are.  Making quick assumptions about people that are often faulty and incorrect.  (I like to blame it on inadequate coffee consumption, but sadly, that's not usually true either...)

It's at this time of year that I fondly recall the the memory of my beloved fuzzy, pink gloves.  They were new.  And fuzzy.  Very, very fuzzy. 


While driving in a residential area near our apartment building that day, an oncoming car pulled out around a parked car, forcing me to brake when I clearly had the right of way.  After a long day at the office, I was beyond frustrated.  I muttered a few unpleasant words and was ready to lay on the horn at this inconsiderate driver.  This person needed to know they were wrong.  And I was right.


As the car approached, I caught a glimpse of the driver and she was none other than my mother!  The woman who bore me.  Flesh and blood.  Weighted by guilt, I clasped my hand over my mouth and gasped... a big gasp.  And as I did so, every pink, fuzzy fiber in that pink, fuzzy glove entered my nasal cavity and down into my mouth and throat.  


In an instant, I was besieged by a coughing fit, unmatched to this day.  My nose itched.  My mouth burned.  My throat was on fire.  Which in turn made my eyes water.  I could hardly breathe and I could barely see the road.  Only a few blocks from home, I sped the entire way, ran up the flight of steps and into my apartment.  I pushed my sweet hubby aside and downed gallons of water in an attempt to remedy this ridiculous malady.  Eventually, it worked.  But I never wore those gloves again.  


I often think about the day my fuzzy, pink gloves nearly did me in.  And how rushing to judgment rendered me a fool.  


Everyone deserves second chances.  Everyone has a story.  Mine is still being written.  And so is theirs.  


Hoping and praying for some pretty big things this week.  May God grant me grace to share the love that I know and see the good in everyone I encounter... and may my words be sweet.


And coffee. Always coffee.


"Gracious speech is like clover honey—
   good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body."

Proverbs 16.24 (The Message) 




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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Good Intentions.

It still pains me to think of all the awesome things I had planned for this blog during the month of December, but hey... what could a girl do?

I had a laundry list of homemade gifts to make this year (thanks in large part to my new love, Pinterest!).  It was truly a miracle that I was able to finish most of them in time for Christmas.  Amid piles of boxes, we spent several "family nights" putting together many gifts for friends and family.  It was the perfect way to find joy amid the chaos of moving during the holidays and a great stress-reliever for all of us.  

I am somewhat distraught that I did not manage to get pictures of all our craft projects.  It was late Christmas evening, during that drowsy, content, gluttony-induced-near-coma that comes after a perfect day of celebration when I realized that most of my creations were not photographed.  But in that blissful moment, I didn't seem to care much.  C'est la vie...

 A few of our projects:

Reindeer Root beer  (We used brown pipe cleaners, googly eyes, red pom poms and hot glue to turn cases of IBC root beer into a herd of reindeer.)
Peppermint Cocoa in a Jar  (These turned out amazing.  I will definitely be making more and I will post the recipe and pics!  Could also be a great Valentine's Day gift...)
Chicken Noodle Soup in a Jar  (I will make more and post this one, too.  A great idea for a gift basket for a sick friend.)
Scarves repurposed from T-shirts  (One of favorite projects from Pinterest!  I gave away all that I made, but I will be posting this one, too.)
Glass ornaments  (We filled glass ball ornaments with all kinds of things:  red feathers, confetti, tulle, glitter, etc.  We used white tulle for the tie to hang them.  We handed these out to dear friends during a night of caroling.  They were beautiful.)


We even managed to eke out most of our traditional goodies, too.  (Another Christmas miracle!)  Although, I didn't get to post much about them, I added several our of our family favorites for the holidays to the Recipes page.  (Like Grammys's Sugar Cookies, my great-grandmother's recipe... to-die-for!)  Some of my favorite party appetizers are up, too, including a great Hot Spinach Dip and Smoky Cheese Ball.

A photographer I am not, but here is our Buche de Noel.
The Buche de Noel cake is one of our favorite treats.  There are many different recipes floating around out there, but this one is the best!  You can find it here on the Recipes page.  Buche de Noel is a French Yule Log cake.  We began this as a family tradition when I was in high school.  My French teacher gave her students this recipe that she learned to love while living in France.  I'm telling you... this is the real deal.  Since my girlies are still young, I love to have them present a birthday cake to Jesus during our Christmas Eve family dinner and this is the cake we choose.  We bake this cake together as a family and for little ones, it truly is amazing every step of the way.  They marvel at how the beating of the egg whites can turn them into fluffy little mountain peaks.  They are equally enthralled by creating a fine winter snow storm as we sift the cake flour.  Not to mention, this delicate cake tastes downright heavenly.

And just for the pure cuteness factor... 

During our move, my two smallest ones raided my treasure trove of scarves and I found my Ladybug playing "Mary & Baby Jesus."




And then I found my little Lovey doing something similar, only Baby Jesus was now a blonde, with long, golden curls.


I can now see the bottom of my coffee cup, and I believe there is a whole basement full of boxes just dying to be unpacked... Off I go.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolutions.

Happy 2012.  

I was posed this question by a friend:  What was your best moment in 2011?  I truly had to stop and think.  In years past, the answer would have been easy:  the birth of one of my precious daughters, a milestone birthday, a new job, or even potty training success.

But this year was different.  

My sweet hubby and I sat up New Year's Eve, reflecting on the past year, as is often customary for us each year.  (What sincere joy to share my life with this man.)


2011 was not a bad year, but it was marked by uncertainty and tested our endurance and faith as a family.  The year began with a series of significant health challenges for both me and my little Ladybug.  By summer all was mostly well, and we took our precious girls on a camping adventure in Wisconsin(Not an easy feat, but completely memorable.)  And then we moved.  

So when I think about it carefully, I simply cannot name a "best moment."  This past year was more a series of faith-building moments that have collectively brought me to a better place.  

I am looking forward to a new year of fresh beginnings, treasured moments and wild adventures.  


Perhaps I will even fulfill my New Year's Resolution this year!  I have made a few, mostly the usual ones like lose weight, eat well and exercise more.  Last year I also resolved to begin donating blood.  For anyone who knows me, this is really something.  I am notoriously queasy about all things needle and blood-related and have been known to faint once or twice (or more).  As a universal donor, I have had a guilty conscience about my cowardice towards blood donation.  Last year, I didn't make it happen, but I think this will be the year...

Rest assured, the coffee will continue to flow, the kitchen will be open, and memories will be made.


What are your resolutions for 2012?


"No one's ever seen or heard anything like this,
 Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
 What God has arranged for those who love him."

I Corinthians 2.9 (The Message)


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