Thursday, July 20, 2017

What I'm Reading

I finished up this book this past week (I talked about it here) and look forward to reading the next two books in the series but . . I'm already reading a couple of other books so I'm going to finish those first.

 "The Wood's Edge" I started while camping back in June as one of the books for the reading challenge.  I got distracted by the series I posted about here (I still need to read the last book in this series too).  Now I'm back to it.  The story takes place during the 1700's at the time that the British colonists are often fighting against the Native Americans.  Major Aubrey, one of the main characters, does the unthinkable and steals the white baby of an Oneida mother, leaving behind his stillborn son instead.  As you can imagine, this will haunt him and his family throughout the story.  I'm not too far into it yet and, honestly, am still struggling to keep people straight but I'm hopeful it will pick up and end up being a good read.
This is a book I'm just getting into this week as part of my yearly goal of reading some books.  I'm such a planner that sometimes, when things don't go the way I plan, it really frustrates me.  The fact that this book is supposed to be about "Finding peace in God's Pauses and Plans" make me hopeful that I can glean some truths from it to improve my way of thinking in those moments.

I'm looking forward to getting some reading in while camping - there is nothing more enjoyable to me than sitting by a campfire, on a cool morning, reading a good book.  :-)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Family Photos 2017

It's been awhile since we've had professional family photos done.  I've scheduled them a few times and then had to cancel for various reasons.  Well, this year I made sure that nothing else interfered, stuck away a few bucks each week since spring and we took off for our photo shoot with our wonderful photographer, Barb, from Signature Photography Studios.
 I have always told Barb that her main job is to not make us like aliens.  (Yes, a long time ago, a photographer did just that HA) I love everything about this photo - the location was amazing; a local farm with a wonderful hayfield and the sprinklers in the background.  Just perfect! 
 Joshua my sweet 8 year old.  She captured his smile perfectly. 
 The grownups. 
 Barb truly loves my boys and knows just how to get them laughing.  She's been taking their photos since they were 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 so she knows what it takes! 
 The Flag.  So perfect since they love America so much! 
 Sweet Nate - Barb got him to smile for real.  I love that sweet face! 
 They had so much fun! 


This is just a snapshot of what Barb took.  It was such an enjoyable event and I've promised myself that we need to do this at least once a year! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gifts in Grief

Part of walking the road of grief is finding ways to associate new life with what has been lost.  I think my kids are best at this concept. 

Not long ago while driving somewhere, Nate said, "Mom, I've figured something out.  You know when there are clouds and then you see a hole in the cloud and you can see right through to blue?  Well, that's a hole to heaven.  Jesus is letting us see heaven and he is letting Papa see us. 

I find that kids have an insight that adults often lack.  That hole in the cloud is a gift to my sweet 7 year old who misses his hero.  

Josh is much more vocal about sharing about his Papa.  Not long ago, we had some amazing rainbows after a storm.  We were standing out on the deck admiring God's masterpiece; a reminder of His promise when Josh said, "Mom, rainbows are a gift from Papa so we know he is thinking about us." 
He has said this about any rainbow he has seen since my dad passed away - sometimes they are small and sometimes they are huge, like this one.  We find that we get much more excited when we see this "gift in the sky" than we used to. 

As with any funeral, we received so many beautiful plants and flower arrangements and they were truly appreciated.  I picked out a few to bring home and one of them came in this brass pot seen below.  By about February of this year, the plant died and I set the planter outside thinking that maybe I could replant something in it in the spring.  As spring arrived, I noticed what I thought was a weed growing out of the dirt.  A few weeks later I realized that it wasn't a weed, it was a gift . .one of my favorite flowers was growing from a pot that had been frozen solid that had never contained this plant - a Sunflower.  The kids and I all see it as a gift - a gift of the wonderful reminder that life is beautiful even after dark days. 

These gifts are just gentle reminder to our family that even though we lost such an important person in our life, God is always with us.  If you are walking through a path of grief, don't be afraid to look for gifts . .. gifts that bring reminders of joy.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Something Yummy - Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese
adapted from: Tammilee Tips

Before we went camping last month, I found some really good (looking) crock pot recipes that I thought I'd make and then I remembered I don't like to cook while camping HA!  I still wanted to make this Mac and Cheese so, well, I did.  One thing that appealed to me about this recipe (besides the bacon) is that it did not have any flour or cornstratch in it.  So many mac and cheese recipes do and that just makes it pasty.  My husband raved about this dish and it really was quite good for a homemade version (I'm still partial to the fake blue box stuff though HA!).  I did not have elbow mac so I used two different sizes of seashell mac - the larger shells did not get totally "done" so really, a small elbow mac is the best pasta to use to ensure that it cooks totally.  And, no, you do not cook the macaroni before putting it in the crock - the small pasta does cook perfectly in the liquid provided in the time allowed.  Do not overcook or it will start to become like cement (good ol' cheese!) 

A couple of notes:  It seemed really "cheddar"y to me so I might try a milder shredded cheese next time.  Make sure and stir it every 30 minutes or so - I think without stirring, the noodles wouldn't cook and it would just be a big blob (so no, this is not a "leave it" recipe)


3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
4 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
3 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 can Cheddar cheese soup
1 cup milk
salt and pepper


1. Coat crock pot with non-stick spray
2. Combine all ingredients in the crock pot and stir together
3. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, stir every half hour to evenly distribute the cheese.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Our Week in Photos Week #4

Saturday - We took a day off ;-)  For real.  We've been running like crazy doing just tons of fun things so on Saturday, the boys and I hung around in our PJ's most of the day.  Now, truth be told, we had family photos schedule for Saturday evening so we just hung out and tried not to be sweaty HA!

 Josh loves it when "Itty Bitty" (aka Harley) sits with him so this made his day. 
 Love that sweet face. 
A photo of the photographer :-) 

Sunday - Church, some time at the pool, VBS, and then an all out nerf battle.  

Monday - We had a bonus day as Darryl took Monday off for a Dentist appointment and the two I babysit had the day off.  We saw another free movie and then day 2 of VBS! 
 The free movie is great because it is free.  We just had to look past the hot theatre (they didn't turn the air on), the preview that had a swear word in it, and the really loud kids talking throughout the movie (what, it was free - everyone came out of the woodwork and in Ionia, that can be a little . . .scary HA!) 
 The boys are enjoying VBS - look at the T-shirts!!  The theme is Camp Out - Get S'more of Jesus!
The craft they made at VBS

Tuesday - A trip to our favorite Christian Bookstore -Baker's Books for a fun time hanging out with the Kentwood Fire and Police departments followed by some fun at a local park. 

 Ok, this motorcycle cop was the best police officer ever.  He was kind, interested in the questions that the kids asked and just an all around good guy.  He was a favorite of both boys!  The best question from one of my kids?  "How fast have you ever gone on your bike?" . . the answer? 120 MPH!  Geesh! 
 After sweating to death outside, we came back inside the book store to relax in the cool air while the boys played trains.  I love this book store and could spend every day in there!

After we were done at Bakers, we went to Meijer (which was an adventure because it is so much bigger than our Meijer!) to pick out food for lunch for a picnic.  We ate our picnic at a local park that also has this great fountain that the kids love to play in!  So much fun on a very hot and humid day!

Wednesday - We had a day at home thanks to some pretty big storms that rolled through for most of the day but we did end the day with the last night of VBS which was "Parent Night".  

 The boys always love signing the VBS songs with motions.
 My crazy kids
The boys got a certificate and bookmarks for saying their verses
 The kids had made blankets throughout the week and then presented them to the local fire department.

My future fireman :-)  Nate loved putting on the fire suits.  Josh had zero interest :-) (It was really hot out!)

Our week ended quietly.  Lots of playing inside thanks to storms and super humidity.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Weekly Menu - Keeping it simple once again!

Here's to another week of simple eating.  Partly because my kids are going to be gone :-)  You know what that means, right?  I'm not cooking much HA!

Friday - Easy Chicken Enchilades (I never made them last week), salad and chips and cheese

Saturday - I'm taking the boys to my in-laws for a few days.  Best Slow Cooker French Dips and roasted carrots and zucchini.

Sunday - Today's a good day to cook up some steaks on the grill - good steaks :-) A nice salad and garlic bread would go good with that steak!

Monday - Darryl is bringing home our favorite Tacos!

Tuesday - Chicken alfredo pasta.  (Sounds impressive right?  It's not - I'll pick up some really good pasta, refrigerated alfredo sauce and cook up some chicken.) Salad and Garlic Bread

Wednesday - The kids return!  Mac and Cheese.  Something I know they love and, since I'm not 100% sure when they will be home, it's not a big deal to throw it together.

Thursday - Breakfast for dinner!  Amish breakfast casserole, overnight coffee cake, roasted zucchini and carrots and fruit!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What I'm Reading

 I'm currently reading this book entitled Sensible Shoes.  Several months ago, I attended a book signing where the author spoke about another book in this series so, of course, I picked up all three books in the series to read.  It is book about 4 women from different walks in life and with different backgrounds who sign up for a Bible Study at a retreat center where they strive to learn more about God - a true Spiritual Journey.  I started reading this book right after I got it but found that it was a little heavy for me at the time - it is a book I actually have to be able to concentrate on as I read because it has some deeper meanings in it as well as to keep the characters straight as it jumps from person to person.  Now that I'm a good way into it, though, I find that it is an enjoyable read and I love seeing the characters change and grow.  One of the analogies that I really connected with is connected to the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well.  In life, we all have wells that we can chose to drink from but they don't offer a true refreshing drink.  As the author wrote of one of the characters, "She had drawn from the well of material possessions, but that well was filled with salt water, making her crave more and more.  She had drawn from the well of approval and acceptance, but that well was unpredictable.  She never knew if there would be water or not, and even when she managed to draw some out, her bucket leaked.  She couldn't hold it.  It didn't last."  Just that idea really struck me because it's true!  I struggle with wanting more (material possessions) but it really is like salt water because if you get a new car, it isn't long before you want a bigger house, or a new toy, ect.  Learning to be content and instead focus on Jesus is really the only true "water source".

One of the things I enjoy about this book is that it is a fiction book but there are some great Biblical truths to grasp onto as well.  There are also some devotional pages through out at the end of sections in the book (I will admit, I have skipped those as I just want to read!)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Creative Memories

If you have followed this blog for long, you know that I love scrapbooking.  A few years ago (more like 4-5) I was a Creative Memories consultant but couldn't keep up with the requirement of ordering.  It wasn't long before the business when under and we all waiting not very patiently for what would be next.  It's quite a long story but the business came back under new ownership and the ability to be a "consultant" is super easy.  There are no requirements - the more you sell (or buy yourself) the bigger the discount you receive.  Since I was already spending money, I decided to sign up and save a little money.  I thought I'd share a few of my favorite products and also a link to my "page".  If you are in need of supplies, I'd love for you to order using me as your consultant and help me earn a little income along the way too!

Besides the albums and pages which are by far my ultimate favorite thing, here are few other things that I love.

The Border maker set. It sells for $33.50 and is a great deal.  It comes with three cartridges up front and then there are many more to chose from plus they are always coming out with new ones for $16.50 each.  I try to watch for the cartridges that are going to be discontinued and buy them before they are gone. 

I also love these punches - they make awesome borders and you can layer them to make everyone different. These sell for $26.50.

Feel free to check out my page at

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

How I Minamalize - A step at a time

If you have been reading my blog for long, you know that I am constantly working on Minamalizing our home.  I don't enjoy clutter but in a small house it is a constant challenge to get rid of things yet keep what we need and love.  It's hard to find homes for things when there isn't much room and, often, being creative with storage equals needing to buy things and yet we also try to spend as little as possible.  Yep, it creates a circle that is hard to break so things pile up!  Throw in the fact that we homeschool so we need to use space for that too, well, things are often tight around here!  I'm hoping to share not only some before and after photos of what is being accomplished but also to share some articles and ideas that work for me!  Everyone home is different; every person is different - so, obviously, ever plan needs to be different too!

No Mad'er How Far shares some more great ideas.  Not all of 12 struggles apply to me but the over all concept is a good read when you are trying to figure out where to start.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Something Yummy - Raspberry Lemonade Punch

Raspberry Lemonade Punch
from my niece, Alicia Miller

When we visited in Ohio over the 4th weekend, my niece made this simple punch that was so refreshing and super easy to make!  I picked up the supplies to make it for dinner at my in-laws and then again on the 4th of July for our cookout.  It is super tasty and there are lots of tweaks you could make to it to change it up too. 

1 can of frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate (leave it frozen to add a slight slushy mix in the punch.)

1 bottle of cold 7-up

Slices of lemon and strawberries (you could add raspberries or blackberries too!)

Ice cubes as needed

Just mix everything together and enjoy!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Our Week in Photos #3

 Our week was filled with trips, family fun, holidays, swimming, library fun and fireworks!

We started our week with a trip to Ohio for a family get together.  The boys absoluly love family so get togethers like this are precious especially since we see many of these family members only once or twice a year.

Before returning back home, we stopped by my dad's spot (as I call it).  We always stop when we are in town so that we can make sure his stone is clean.  The boys also like to water the flowers.  It is Nate's ministry to water all of the flowers in the surrounding area.  It's such a little thing but yet it brings a lot of joy to the boys to do something like this.
 The boys love swimming in the lake
 We had fun being part of the boat parade

 The boys worked on their Kayak skills

We spent the evening of July 3rd at my in-laws where the boys got to swim, ride the boat, play with fireworks and we ended the night back on the boat watching some fireworks over the lake.

July 4th, we spent the day at home and then at the campground.  We enjoyed a few hours in the pool and then had a cookout at my mom's camper.  Of course, I had to get photos of Molly too!

 The boys were the first to arrive so they got to help set-up all of the cups

Wednesday was full of fun!  We attended another Library event - this one brought the fun of stacking cups.  The leader had cups for all of the kids and they got to stack them and then work as teams to build a variety of buildings like a castle, a pyarmid and more.  Later, we went to town and the boys got to FINALLY get a Fidget Spinner.  Not just one either.  They picked out three each.  It made up for them thinking they were the only kids in the world without one ;-)

The rest of our week included swimming, a trip to the library and . .. . more swimming!!!