Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"I want to slow down,
taste life,
give thanks,
and see God."

-Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tuesday Talk #8: Thankful

Welcome to Turkey Talk! Talk! Can you tell I'm excited for Thanksgiving?

What are your plans for the holiday? Are you trying out any fun new recipes? We'll be with my husband's family on the actual holiday and with my family over the weekend. I went super easy and boring with my contribution: mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. I was in the mood for traditional and simple instead of trying out new recipes (with all the cooking and meal planning I've done lately, I think I just wanted a break!).

Despite my love for holidays and all things seasonal, I also realize this can be a difficult time of year for so many! Loss and grief (we lost our baby through miscarriage and my husband's dad this year), severed family relationships, infertility, being single, poverty-- these are realities that leave a heaviness in our hearts, especially with the constant holiday commercials of perfect families and materialism.

So how do we deal with "less-than-perfect" holidays?

Gratitude. We are blessed. All of us. So blessed. If you're reading this, you have access to a computer and are literate-- both immense blessings we so often take for granted! We are safe (pray for the Syrian refugees!). We are warm (pray for the homeless!). We are loved (pray for those who are lonely, that they might know the love of our Savior...perhaps through your heart and hands and words!).

I'm counting my blessings this year and my heart overflows. Here are a few of the things I'm thankful for this year:

My Marriage. What a gift the it was to receive the sacrament of Matrimony this year with P. We just celebrated our 6-month anniversary this past weekend and we both agree there's been so much joy in these six months!

Our Home. It's been an adventure to be first-time home buyers this year, but how special to be celebrating our first holidays as a married couple in this house. It has truly become home in such a short time.

My Job. It stretches me mentally and emotionally so often, but what a gift to get paid to do what I love, to have a job that's also my passion and ministry.

My Family and Friends. I love people. And both P. and I feel we have so many amazing people in our lives. People who have taught us unconditional love, steadfast faith, and the importance of humor!

Ovens. I couldn't bake without one! On that note, I'm thankful for cookies, too!

My Bible study group. Beautiful fellowship, digging deep into the hearts of the women of the Old Testament while sharing our own.

My Cell Phone. Despite my frequent "media fasts," I'm so thankful for phone calls with my mom and sister, and text messaging with my precious girlfriends!

Books. I can't get enough of them. May I never take for granted the availability of them through libraries, bookstores, and well as the ability to read and learn!

Blogging. Sweet reader, you enrich my life. Thank you for encouraging me to write. Thank you for welcoming me into your home while you sip a cup of tea. Thank you for receiving my heartthoughts with such kindness and support-- as a true kindred spirit.

Happy Thanksgiving to each one of you!

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His mercy endures forever!" -Psalm 107:1

Grab our button below and link back to one of the hosts!

The hosts of Tuesday Talk

Beth - Our Pretty Little Girls ~ Michelle - Grammie Time
Keri - Living In This Season  ~ Christina - Waltzing In Beauty
Lauren - Simply Free Becky - BYBMG
Jess and Katie - Sweet Little Ones ~ Whitney - Polka Dotty Place
Laura - Life Is Beautiful ~ Elizabeth - All Kinds Of Things
Sarah - Abiding In Grace ~ Stephanie - Wife Mommy Me
Emily - Morning Motivated Mom

You can join us on Pinterest, too!

Follow Sweet Little Ones's board Tuesday Talk Features on Pinterest.

Join the party, friends, by linking up with your favorite post from the week! Here's the scoop:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Amish Christmas at North Star: A Book Review

Oh, friends. It's almost that time of year. Even just the cover of this book gives me a warm and cozy feeling inside!! 

I've long been a fan of Christmas stories. It began when my mom would read them to my siblings and me during the holiday season...and somehow, I never grew out of loving them (Christmas stories, that is. Not my family. I mean, I still love them, too. You know what I mean.). 

This particular collection of novellas has an additional perk to it: the stories are not only about Christmastime but also about the Amish. There's such a beautiful simplicity and charm about their lifestyle. It reminds me of the pioneers' lifestyle of simplicity, hard work, and care for community. 

But I digress. This book is delightful. I loved curling up with it these past couple weeks and getting to know the characters. I also am a sucker for novellas. Some novellas can be cheesy but these were nice quality. Two of the authors, Cindy Woodsmall and Mindy Starns Clark, were authors I've previously read and enjoyed. I also appreciated that each of the novellas were tied together by a specific story in the beginning and all took place in the same town, with a few cross-overs of characters. My favorite story was probably Guiding Star, the first novella. It would make a great Hallmark movie! Mourning Star was intriguing as an Amish Christmas mystery novella-- a funny mix of genres! In the Stars was perhaps my least favorite but I still enjoyed it. Star of Grace was written by one of my all-time favorite authors. 

This would not be a top five favorite Christmas book (because hey, there are just too many amazing Christmas classics!) but I was definitely pleased with the quality of the writing and the enjoyable holiday settings of this book! It was a perfect start to my Christmas reading for the season! Four stars. 

Want more information on this book?

[Thank you to Blogging for Books for sending me a copy of this book at no charge. This review contains my honest and original comments.]

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"While other creeds endeavor to get us out of the world and into heaven, in Christianity, heaven comes down and Christ comes into this world to get us. To suffer with us. We find favor-- only because Christ feels pain."

 -The Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp

[Heaven comes down to us...yes. Especially in the Eucharist we receive in the Mass. God is so good that He wants to be with us, to be one with us. So good.]

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Tuesday Talk # 7: Meal Planning and a Pinterest Fail

Good morning and welcome to Tuesday Talk! We're glad you're here! Check out all the fun posts from friends on the link-up and add your own, too!

Any chance you know what you're making for dinner tonight? A few weeks ago I would have answered that question with a sad shrug, painful grimace, or with my head inside the freezer or pantry desperately searching for options. Yet now I'm actually excited to answer that question. 

The miraculous change? Meal planning. I've jumped on the meal planning bandwagon.

I'm still pretty casual about it. I'm not using printables, or systems, or excel charts. I'm must using a cute notepad that is divided into the days of the week on each sheet. On the front of the sheet (with the days of the week), I write out our schedules so that I know which nights P. will be working (which equals simple dinner for one while I watch some episodes!!). Then under each day I write what recipe/meal I plan to make (sometimes "leftovers" gets written in, and that's okay!). I'm usually browsing my Pinterest boards or perusing a cookbook while I'm making out the meal plan so that I can see what ingredients I'll need to buy. Turn the meal plan sheet over and bam! You've got yourself a blank sheet for a grocery list. (I know. Fancy. But it works.)

This small routine has done wonders for me. I feel less pressure on busy work days because I've planned healthy, hearty meals on the previous weekend or my days off so that we'll have leftovers those days. I end up making about 3-4 recipes a week, and the other days we are eating the leftovers or something more simple (hello, frozen pizza). Ideally, I'd like to eventually stock the freezer with meals for those busy days, but hey. It's a journey.

Ready for some winning recipes from the past couple weeks??

Autumn Lasagna -- This baby was amazing. Know that you will be in the kitchen all afternoon, so if you don't love a cooking adventure, this is not the recipe for you. I made it on a Sunday afternoon, pulled up a marriage podcast on my computer to listen to, and thoroughly enjoyed time in the kitchen. Three HEADS of roasted garlic and two butternut squash go into this bad boy. Word of advice: it's so unique I didn't want leftovers over and over, so I froze individual portions for when I'm hungry for it again.

Holy Yum Chicken -- We had dinner guests last Friday night and this was my main dish. I highly recommend it for entertaining! It's elegant yet simple-- and very little last-minute cooking with it. You throw it together, pop it in the oven, and the only thing just before serving is some cornstarch to thicken the sauce. I served it with roasted veggies, multigrain French loaf, and apple-walnut salad. (And the Pinterest fail...more on that later.) 

Kung Pao Chicken -- This is an ideal weeknight dinner. Chicken in the crockpot with your favorite Chinese sauce, add some veggies an hour before serving and cut up the cooked chicken. It was delish. 

Pumpkin Penne -- I made this for myself while my husband was in D.C. for work. I figured he probably wouldn't mind since a few days prior he had asked me, "When is pumpkin cooking season over?" with a hopeful face that it was soon. (I think he had had his fill of that delightful fall bounty.)

What's that you say? Oh. Right. I promised you a Pinterest fail. Alright, friends. No laughing. It can happen to the best of us. (Okay. You can totally laugh. It's hilarious.)

Ever tried making "Cookie Cups" for ice cream using cookie dough and an upside-down muffin tin?

Um. Don't.

 But there's a happy ending. I cut around the mess and they made decent cookie cups and the guests loved them. (And we had some extra laughs.)

Have a great week, friends! I'd love to hear about your favorite recipes lately-- and any Pinterest fails!!

Grab our button below and link back to one of the hosts!

The hosts of Tuesday Talk

Beth - Our Pretty Little Girls ~ Michelle - Grammie Time
Keri - Living In This Season  ~ Christina - Waltzing In Beauty
Lauren - Simply Free Becky - BYBMG
Jess and Katie - Sweet Little Ones ~ Whitney - Polka Dotty Place
Laura - Life Is Beautiful ~ Elizabeth - All Kinds Of Things
Sarah - Abiding In Grace ~ Stephanie - Wife Mommy Me
Emily - Morning Motivated Mom

You can join us on Pinterest, too!

Follow Sweet Little Ones's board Tuesday Talk Features on Pinterest.

Join the party, friends, by linking up with your favorite post from the week! Here's the scoop:

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fall Bookshelf: Two Reviews

We've all seen the social media shares on the recent undercover videos of Planned Parenthood employees discussing different abortion procedures, tissue procuring and sales. While it's atrocious and important for us not to turn a blind eye, I also realize different people are led to the truth in different ways. 

Abby Johnson was a beautiful young woman desiring to help other women when she first happened upon a Planned Parenthood booth at a college health fair. This book chronicles her journey through volunteering with them and eventually being hired by them and becoming a Planned Parenthood director. It also shares of her first hands-on experience with an abortion and how that one instance completely changed her views on whether Planned Parenthood was 'helping' women. Her story is incredible and God's grace is woven so beautifully throughout. This book reads like a novel-- I couldn't put it down! Abby's heart for others and her loving way of sharing the truth is powerful. Whatever your view on abortion or Planned Parenthood, this is the one book to read on these topics. Five stars, Abby. Thank you for your witness.

[This book was provided to me by Tyndale Publishers at no cost, in exchange for a review. These are my honest and original thoughts concerning the book. Thank you, Tyndale!]

I'm fascinated by the idea of working at home. Of small businesses. Of women entrepreneurs. Etsy shops make me dance inside. So when I saw Crystal Paine's new book Money Making Mom up for reviewing, I was all about it. The subtitle is even more appealed: How Every Woman Can Earn More and Make a Difference. 

P.and I both work for nonprofits. While we're both passionate about our jobs, we're also not climbing the financial ladder (and after seeing kids in Haiti, we're okay with that). Yet someday as God grows our family, we'd like for me to have more time with them at home, whether that mean working fewer hours and staying at home full-time. The crazy reality of this is that as our family gets bigger, our income will get smaller. 

Enter this book. Crystal is wonderful at empowering women to seek out their God-given talents, skills, and passions and to use them to create more income for their families. In the past, I've taught CPR classes, piano lessons, braided hair for dance recitals, and babysat. I was interested to see if this book could coach me in utilizing any of those skills (as well as my hobbies of blogging and crafting) in a business down the road. 

However, I have mixed feelings on this book. The pros: it's written very well. It's full of step by step guidance and encouragement. Crystal's heart and authenticity is apparent in her writing. The cons: personally, I don't want to grow a huge business that would become a full-time job. I simply want to make some extra money on the side to help our family in the long run. My ideas are somewhat smaller, and the ideas or instructions in the book intimidated or overwhelmed me at times. All in all, I  do think it's a great reference, and I will likely use it in the coming years for resources, encouragement, and ideas. I give it four stars. 

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for sending me a copy of this book at no cost to me. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Saturday, November 14, 2015

What a Dog and Instagram Taught Me About My Relationship With God

I was on a walk this afternoon with our Little Dog. He's a tiny guy who will sit in your lap all day unless the front door is open, in which case he will escape and run for miles like the child of a rabbit and a white-tailed deer. While I was blissfully enjoying the sunshine and farmland on our walk, the Little Dog came across a small animal, broke the leash, and was off to the races leaving me in his dust...

Want to read more? I was over blogging at the Catholic Sip this week, drawing inspiration from our crazy little Brogan-dog. (They have a great podcast you might enjoy as well!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tuesday Talk # 6: Closet Craziness

Hello, sweet friends!

Welcome to Tuesday Talk! Scroll down below to visit all the links, and make sure to stop by each of the hosts!

This past week was one reminiscent of my single girl days. No meal planning, no cleaning, and lots of ice cream and episodes.

My husband was in Washington D.C. this past week for work, taking a course to receive a certificate in Catholic social teaching. So it was just me and the Little Dog on the homefront. I couldn't believe how much I missed him. I guess six months of marriage will do that to you. (YES! Six months on the 22nd!! Time flies when you're in love!)

But since there was no jumping on a plane to D.C. (only in my dreams or the latest chick flick), I did the next best thing.

Clean out my closet.

I know. It's sad how much I enjoy organizing. But this, this closet was a job that meant calling in reinforcements: my mom and my sister (and my stinkin' cute 18-month-old niece).

Three hours and three garbage bags later, my closet is clean. And organized. And simplified. I can now walk in without stepping on something or having something fall on top of me. Life is good.

Yes, I'll share the pics but trust me, you have to see this in person. (Seriously, come visit me! I'll make you pumpkin bread and hot apple cider!)

Before. Definitely before. I did not wear half these clothes.

After. Simplified and stream-lined. I no longer feel like I should be on Hoarders.

Next stop: the freezer...(should I be embarrassed for showing you these??)

What are your disaster areas? What are your favorite tips for organizing or simply being motivated to organize?

Give me some comment love and then check out the other chatter this Tuesday morning.

The hosts of Tuesday Talk

Beth - Our Pretty Little Girls ~ Michelle - Grammie Time
Keri - Living In This Season  ~ Christina - Waltzing In Beauty
Lauren - Simply Free Becky - BYBMG
Jess and Katie - Sweet Little Ones ~ Whitney - Polka Dotty Place
Laura - Life Is Beautiful ~ Elizabeth - All Kinds Of Things
Sarah - Abiding In Grace ~ Stephanie - Wife Mommy Me
Emily - Morning Motivated Mom

You can join us on Pinterest, too!

Follow Sweet Little Ones's board Tuesday Talk Features on Pinterest.

Join the party, friends, by linking up with your favorite post from the week! Here's the scoop:

Saturday, November 7, 2015

She Sits Next to You in Church

So it's been an overwhelming week at the crisis pregnancy center.

I almost cried three times with patients. And I sobbed last night when I was alone praying at our adoration chapel.

These women. Their stories. They grip my heart and won't let go.

They are dealing with situations you and I can only dream of.

Yet at the same time, they're just like me and you. But a little less aware of grace. 

There's the teenager who's being threatened to get kicked out of her parents' house if she doesn't have an abortion.

There's the married woman with her marriage on the brink of divorce. They decided to reconcile and then she found out she's pregnant...and it's not her husband's baby. She plans to abort to save her marriage.

Twice. I heard that story twice this week. From two different women.

My heart is breaking.

They're losing jobs. Going through breakups. Escaping abuse. Battling depression.

It's heart wrenching.

But you know what else?

These women are your neighbors. Some of them sit next to you at church. They are your coworkers. You are encountering these women every day. Don't doubt that. There is no stereotype for a woman with a crisis pregnancy, for a woman considering an abortion or a woman who has had one. You have met these women, too.

Let that sink in, sisters. And let it open your heart and eyes to the people you encounter each day. They may just need your smile, your hand, your witness, your words, your love.

And more than anything, these women need your prayers. I sat before Jesus last night in the chapel, offering him these women. It's so heavy. I couldn't carry their burdens. I couldn't save their babies. I couldn't fix their lives. But I could give them to Him. He is their hope. He is our hope.

Please, sweet friends. Pray with me for them this week.

And you, dear heart. The one who's reading this while your heart whispers, I know. I've been there. You who carry the weight of your abortion in that corner of your heart that no one sees. You are loved. You are prayed for. There is hope and freedom and healing for you. God wants to break your chains. "Give Him the joy of being your savior." -Mother Teresa [

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The One Where I Ramble

It's just me tonight. No pictures, no graphics, no scheduled posting. Just an old-fashioned blog ramble.

I think those are good for us every once in awhile.

My blog turned seven this fall. Seven years. Craziness. I was blogging before it was cool. Back when it was an online journal sort of thing. There weren't lifestyle blogs or cooking blogs or mommy blogs.

For seven years, my little blog has remained just that -- little. And I'm okay with it. I'm learning a lot from the Tuesday Talk link-up and the sweet ladies I've met there. I'm excited about learning more about growing a blog, learning more tech stuff, honing social media skills and such.

But in the end, I'm still just me. A lover of the written word. A girl who likes to meet people and learn their stories. A girl who strives to be brave and share her heart, just in case someone stumbles by and says, 'hey, I thought I was the only one going through that.'

So keep me authentic, will you? In the midst of coding and graphic design and recipes and link-ups...don't let me forget that the most important part of a blog is the writer's heart.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wisdom for Wednesdays

Find me here at Your feet again
Everything I am, reaching out I surrender
Come sweep me up in Your love again
And my soul will dance
On the wings of forever.

Upward falling, spirit soaring
I touch the sky
When my knees hit the ground.

-"Touch the Sky" sung by Hillsong United

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tuesday Talk #5: It's a Cookie Swap!

You made it! Welcome to our Cookie Swap, hosted by the Tuesday Talk ladies! We're excited to share some of our favorite recipes with you, just in time for the holiday season! 

Having turned the calendar a few days ago, I'm beginning to feel that sparkly, warm feeling inside of "the most wonderful time of the year." But since I'm not quite ready for Advent and Christmas yet, and since I'm still going strong with the pumpkin scents and flavors, I decided to share with you a pumpkin cookie recipe with you today. I'll also be sharing some of my favorite kitchen tools with you!

I found my recipe through Pinterest and give all credit to Mandy's Recipe Box for this delicious classic fall cookie. Any cookie with oatmeal and chocolate chips is a friend of mine, and adding some pumpkin just seemed like making a great thing even better. These cookies are full of spice, so if you're thinking a little more pumpkin and a little less spice, you might want to decrease the amount of cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. 

My husband approved these cookies, although he did ask me when is pumpkin season over? But that was after we had pumpkin cookies, pumpkin roll, and a pumpkin dump cake all in one week. I don't think he shares my love for this flavor quite at the same level. ;)

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

2 cups of flour (I used white whole wheat, though the original recipe called for all-purpose)
1 1/2 cups of oats (I used old-fashioned, not quick)
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. of cinnamon
1 cup of butter, room temperature (this likely cancels out the whole wheat flour, huh?)
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tsp. of vanilla
1 cup of chocolate chips (I highly recommend Ghiradelli brand!)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Blend butter and sugars in a stand mixer until fluffy. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla. Beat well.
3. Add flour, oats, cinnamon, soda, salt, spice into wet ingredients. Mix.
4. Mix in chocolate chips. 
5. Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes. 
6. Makes about 30 cookies. (If you count my cookies, you'll see there are five my husband ate and, um, four that I ate.)

Sit a spell with me at my kitchen table and help yourself to some cookies while I show you a few of my favorite kitchen gadgets...

These colorful measuring cups are from Food Network. Dishwasher safe, cheerful...

...And they store so easily by folding into this smaller size!

I love cookie scoops. Perfect size cookie and they all turn out uniform for easy, even baking.

Last but not least, are these not the cutest measuring spoons you've ever seen?
A friend found these Mason jar measuring spoons for part of our wedding gift.

Not pictured are my baking stones! I LOVE stoneware for baking bread or cookies or pizza crust! What are some of your favorite kitchen tools?

Are you ready to check out the other recipes? Here are the links to each of the hosts' recipes. 

Michelle - Grammie Time // Beth - Our Pretty Little Girls // Elizabeth - All Kinds Of Things // Stephanie - Wife Mommy Me // Christina - Waltzing In Beauty // Becky - BYBMG //  Lauren - Simply Free // Sarah - Abiding In Grace // Keri - Living In This Season // Laura - Life Is Beautiful // Jess & Katie - Sweet Little Ones // Whitney - Polka Dotty Place

Join the baking party, friends, by linking up with your own favorite recipe! Here's the scoop: