Monday, January 30, 2012

I'm a student again

I know I have said multiple times over the past few years that I never want to go back to school again, that I'm so glad I only had to do two years of college for my profession, blah blah blah. But what I failed to realize is that I only feel that way when it's something I am not that into that I'm learning about. If it's a topic I'm interested in, I could spend hours researching, just for fun. When I would work third shift at the hospital that's what I'd usually end up doing in between patients- researching anything and everything, whatever fascinating topic came to mind first. I love history, so it was usually the background, historical significance, genealogy, etc. that I spent my time on. Which brings me to my point: I'm currently studying the book of James. 

I am part of a women's Bible study that meets Wednesday mornings and they are doing Beth Moore's study on James. I've never been part of an organized women's study like this, but I'm really liking it so far. 
What really captured my interest is that she takes the time to go through the history of who James was as a person. AS A PERSON. So many times I find myself reading the Bible without thinking about the human-ness of those it is written about, their emotions, their family life, if they were married, who they were actually writing to when they wrote that book of the Bible, what was going on in the culture around them to inspire their thought process. I love this fresh perspective. 

And even more, I love what God is bringing out of it. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

I've heard this verse so many times. But breaking it down, analyzing it, putting it into practice, that's some of the fruit coming out of this study. 

Some of the things I've found most interesting that I never knew or never fully appreciated before: 

*James grew up in a home where he was second born of at least seven. As if there's not enough competitive drive in a second born son already, his older brother was PERFECT. literally. 

*James didn't believe in Jesus until after he saw him resurrected. And then he went from disbelieving to being the leader of the Jewish Christian church practically overnight. 

*James real name was Jacob. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cafe Kitchen

I love cafes. The good artisan breads and interesting combinations of foods, the fresh baked pastries, the smell of coffee, the laid back atmosphere, the artsi-ness... Now that I'm analyzing my kitchen, my style, and why I like what I like, I'd have to say my biggest influence is probably the cafe feel. 
I love to cook/bake, I love to try new things, I love functional and beautiful working together, I love photography, I love Scripture. So the top view of our kitchen shows a little of what I've done so far. I love the vinyl word decals, and I'd like to get another one to put above the closet door that you can see at the far right. The one you can see in the photo says "everyday holds a possibility of a miracle" and was from my friend Meghan. :) 

Then there's the chalk board. I feel like it had a big sticker on it that said "from: Jesus, to: jessi." I have been looking for a chalk board to go in that spot for about 6 months, comparing prices, trying to find the best deal, but knowing that they had exactly the one I was looking for at pottery barn. I wanted it to be big, hang vertically, and be framed in black. I couldn't find exactly that anywhere else. So finally, after Christmas, when I said some Christmas money to spend, I decided to just peek in at the pottery barn outlet and see if they had a discounted chalk board similar to the one I wanted. They had ONE. marked down 30% from in store prices. Plus an additional 10% off that day only. And it had a tiny nick in the frame, so they gave me another 10% off. Which put it into the exact price range I was willing to spend. :) Right now it has Phil. 4:6-7 written on it. I'd like to change up the verse pretty often. Obviously I am very excited about my chalkboard, or I wouldn't have taken a whole paragraph to write about it. We are finally going to get a house phone number, and when we do I'd like to hang a retro looking black phone on the wall next to the chalkboard where we already have a phone jack. 

And then there's the display of my photography. (mostly close-ups of food) I have several differently sized black frames, and just hung them in a row almost down to the base board. I have another set of four that I am going to put on the wall around the corner from the chalkboard, I'll have to post another photo once I do that. I just love it cause it's a little unexpected. :) 

Lastly, my tiny palm tree. Gotta love what plants add to a room. 

And that's what I'm loving about our "Cafe Kitchen" so far. :) 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

light vs. dark

I've been meditating a lot on the concept of light vs. dark over the past two weeks. Might not seem like there's a lot to think about; when the two encounter each other, light always wins. Hands down. And that's just it. We are the light of the world. But sometimes we live like we're not sure that we always conquer darkness. I want to change my mindset. I want to live like a "city on a hill".  

"You are the light of the world. A city on an hill cannot be hidden.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand; and it gives light to all that are in the house.
Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:14-16

I'm reading Beth Moore's series on James. A quote that stuck out to me was this: "The stakes are up. The fire is lit. It's time to live like those who cannot die." Wow.... 

Flashlight vs. lightbulb

Sometimes I have the mentality that I am a flashlight. I choose when and where to shine, and I can get rid of darkness in a certain corner or on a certain path, wherever I focus. God's been challenging me to live like an un-shaded light bulb. No off switch, shing in all directions, just being light. Where he is, there is no darkness, and He is in me! AHHH!!! This is exciting! I am not saying there is no sin in my life, but there is no darkness. By darkness I mean prevailing plans of the enemy, purposeful or willful choice to allow fear/evil to reside in the home of my heart. And any that is there, I am choosing to let light shine on it and get it out. This can actually be scary...

If you're in the dark, you can have secrets. No one knows what you really look like, if you're having a "bad hair day" or have tears running down your face. In the light, all is revealed. But that's where healing takes place and we are held accountable, and that's where I want to live. The only shadow I want left in my life is the shadow of the cross.

I heard this worship song the other day for the first time, and it ties together my thoughts on fear & light vs. dark perfectly, and seems written for this season in my life. Love how music can be that way. Here are the lyrics:

Life is full of light and shadow
O the joy and O the sorrow
O the sorrow

And yet will He bring
Dark to light
And yet will He bring
Day from night

When shadows fall on us
We will not fear 
We will remember
When darkness falls on us
We will not fear
We will remember

When all seems lost
When we're thrown and we're tossed
We remember the cost
We rest in Him
Shadow of the cross

It's called Shadows by The David Crowder band. Look it up on you tube... It's so good.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Our Snow Day

Waiting for Daddy to come home... 
Our day couldn't have started off any better... Both boys slept til almost ten!! Shaun had to go help pick out a new sound system for our church on Saturday morning, and Drew waited for 2 hrs with a carrot nose and two magnet eyes in his hand for the snow man he wanted to build when daddy came home. He had his snow suit all ready to go (he calls it a fo suit) and wore the snow man scarf around his neck all morning. :) 

The boys worked hard on this guy!!! Shaun says he looks more like a snow penguin... It wasn't the best snow man building snow. But Shaun didn't let Drew down! Even if he's more of a snow pile, he's awfully cute. And Drew would have slept outside in the snow with him if we would've let him. He's his daddy's boy, loves the cold and snow so much!! 

While the boys were out playing hard I was making lunch... Something nice and warm and yummy.... And probably my favorite meal since I was old enough to have a favorite. 

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup. Perfect Winter day lunch. :) 
Grilled Cheese Tip:  I was told once that spreading mayo on the bread instead of butter gives you a prettier sandwich and easier spread. I tried it on one side this time. I didn't give up the butter completely cause I love that flavor, but they were really yummy :) 

Friday, January 20, 2012

less is more

My mom has always been a "less is more" kind of person. She likes simple, uncluttered, no junk kind of life. This is great, but it takes effort to keep your house uncluttered, an effort that I was not very practiced in until now. I am finally finding the time (and joy!) in having a house that is organized, keeping only what we need or love, and letting go of the rest.

So far this month has been a time of purging for me. I have gone through our master bedroom closet and all my drawers and Drew's room so far. It was already on my to-do list, but while my sister in law (brittany jayne :)) has been home she was helping my mother-in-law with similar stuff. Brittany and I had a conversation about how do you know what to keep and what to get rid of. Brittany said if she hasn't worn it in the past year, if she doesn't love it, if it's not her style anymore, she lets it go. Having some guidelines like that was the thing I needed to get me going. Right after I cleaned out my closet I read a 31 day series about having a "no brainer wardrobe" and it just reinforced all my decisions to part with some clothing. I still have more stuff to go through and get rid of, but what I've done so far feels great, and I thought I'd share the link to the 31 day series on here in case anyone else could use some help in this area!

Click here to go to the "no brainer wardrobe" series. This should take you to a list of posts, click on "the plan" and read that first, then click newer entries at the bottom of the page to see the next list of posts. Go through them chronologically for them to make the most sense. Have fun simplifying!!! :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dedicated boys.

But more than seeing their sweet baby faces side by side I love seeing their uniqueness. Drew has always been so observant, taking everything in, memorizing things. I swear he has a photographic memory the way he relates things he sees with things from the past. People always said it felt like he was looking into their soul, even when he was a tiny baby. He's just got those penetrating eyes. It was always  tough to get a smile out of him when he was a baby. You usually either got a goofy face or a contemplative look. (He is all about goofy faces now, raising his eyebrows up and down, looking out of the corner of his eye, looking shocked or surprised... he loves expression.) He's also so sensitive. If he is doing something that he thinks is good or creative, and gets reprimanded for it, his little feelings get so hurt, and he tries so hard not to cry but usually ends of burying his face in my shoulder and letting it all out... I really feel that he has the gift of discernment, even at his young age. He is our peaceful warrior for sure. And he LOVES music... always has. He started dancing at a young age, and now loves to play Shaun's drum set and his little guitar. He drums with his hands on his legs when we listen to music in the car. He's got the rhythm.
Then there's Isaiah. He is such a sweet, content, happy baby. He'll give you a smile just for looking at him. He has laughed in his sleep since the day he was born, and started laughing out loud on purpose for us before he was three months old. He is so social. If you say his name, talk to him, look at him, he couldn't be happier. He's got these adorable shallow dimples in his chubby cheeks, and his bright blue eyes are such a contrast to Drew's dark brown eyes. Where Drew tended to be a quieter baby, Isaiah is LOUD! Whether it's because he's upset or happy, he is just loud! He loves to squeal and "sing" and just hear himself talk. He screamed when he was first born. God told me before he was born that he was going to be "strong, passionate, and a man of action." I see that playing out in his personality already. He is such a JOY, and a wonderful second baby as he has slept well for us (10-11 hrs straight from 7 weeks on) eats well (he is 19 pounds at 4 months old) is content to just lay and watch what goes on around him, and loves to be snuggled. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I am not a fan of store bought, thickly iced, with little hard icing flowers on top kind of cake. They're fine, but if I'm gonna consume sugar, it's gotta be something I really love. Like maybe homemade apple cake with cream cheese icing, or coffee cake with cinnamon streusel, or blueberry muffins with crumb topping... or... cupcakes!
The first time I made cupcakes was for Drew's first birthday. The theme of his party was "Our little pumpkins turning one" (october birthday) and I made yellow cake cupcakes and iced them in orange, so they looked like pumpkins with a little half pretzel stick "stem". They were cute.
I haven't made cupcakes again for awhile, but right after I had Isaiah one of our good family friends brought us dinner and they had made homemade white chocolate chip cupcakes with raspberry buttercream icing. They were garnished with fresh raspberries, and they were SO good... :)
So I decided that when I got a chance sometime I wanted to make cupcakes again... the flavor combos and garnishes are so fun! My sister found a recipe for chai latte cupcakes... and I found a recipe for chocolate peanut butter cupcakes... and when I was asked to bring dessert to the Hartman's house last Friday, you can guess what I decided to make :)
There they are in all their glory :)  Chai on the left, peanut butter on the right. 
There were some really happy kids that night... 

Even though chocolate and peanut butter is one of my favorite flavor combinations (I think most girls feel this way...) if there had been a competition, I think the chai would have won. 

Now for the most important part... the recipes!! 
Chai Latte Cupcakes: 

box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® French vanilla cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
package (1.1 oz) instant chai tea latte mix (or 3 tablespoons from larger container)
Frosting and Garnish
cup white vanilla baking chips
container Betty Crocker® Rich & Creamy vanilla frosting
Ground cinnamon, if desired
Make cupcakes as directed, mixing in chai latte mix before baking. Melt white chocolate chips in microwave and stir into frosting, then spread on cupcakes and garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon (And I sprinkled on some sugar in the raw for a little crystal effect) -Thankyou Randi for introducing me to this heavenliness!!! 
Next up:
Chocolate Peanut Butter!! 
K for this one I just used a boxed cake mix, betty crocker, triple chocolate fudge, and made the cupcakes as instructed. I made the icing from scratch, here's the recipe for that: 
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
Mix together all but cream, beat well, then add cream slowly and continue beating. I spread this on the cupcakes and then chopped up miniature reeses cups and used those for a garnish. :) 
Have fun! But be warned- each recipe makes 24 cupcakes.... so unless you want 48 cupcakes on hand, make sure you have somewhere to take them! After taking some to the Hartman's, we used some for our football party the next night and took the rest to my parents house on sunday afternoon. Thankfully we only came home with 4... and those 4 are now gone. I won't say where they went.... 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Thoughts on things that seem backwards...

Grocery shopping MORE often, SAVES money

I am now an advocate for grocery shopping weekly. Just ask my sister in law, she might tell you I talk about it way too much. ;) Shaun and I got our budget situation worked out and rolling smoothly almost a year ago (took us three years of marriage to really be on the same page with it.) But I am so thankful, because living responsibly and within our means allowed me to stay home with our babies and stop working this fall. And baaack to grocery shopping. K, so when I was working I would grocery shop like once a month. I was not very good at doing housewifely and good mommy-ish things and working... Anyways, I would go to the store like once a month, we would be out of everything, I wouldn't really have a menu/meal plan worked out, I would get tons of produce, spend lots of money, and think that because I shopped less often we were probably saving money. What I didn't take note of was the fact that we would make little trips to the store for a couple things here and there, and get take out when I couldn't make a meal out of the things in the pantry. And lots of the produce would go bad before we would have a chance to eat it. And that adds up. Now that I am not working, I have a specified grocery shopping day each week. For me it is Thursdays. (That's because we get the advertisements for what is going to be on sale on Tuesdays, and I make my menu/grocery list on wednesdays during nap time, and then I go to the store first thing on Thursday.) I've found that because I buy only what we need to make specific meals, and because I go more often and buy smaller amounts of produce at one time, I actually save money. Nothing goes to waste, I know what we have on hand, I make dinner on a more regular basis, and I am able to make several meals out of things that are on sale. For example, if sour cream is on sale, I might put tacos and chilli on my menu, then we use half the sour cream for tacos, half for chilli, and none of it gets wasted. Towards the end of the month if we are running low in the grocery budget envelope, I have a list of cheaper meals to make: Dried beef gravy, mac and cheese and stewed tomatoes, tuna melts, etc. I make a trip to a cheaper outlet grocery store first, to see what I can find there, then go to our regular grocery store second and finish up my list there. Just to be honest, our grocery budget is about $260 a month, and that includes cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and diapers. It is a fun challenge for me to cook yummy meals and stay within the budget. It makes me feel good to be responsible with the money that Shaun works hard for. And I could probably keep going on this topic, because I'm very into it right now, but it might get boring... so I'll stop at that. NEXT. 

Buying dumbbells out of our clothing fund DOES make sense... 

I just had a baby four months ago. We just got through the holidays. I didn't get food poisoning when my baby was 4 weeks old and lose 11 lbs in a week this time around.... All that to say I still have baby weight to lose. I'm pretty strong, and can carry around my 19 pound 4 month old baby all day long, but my arms are not very sculpted.... (maybe I should start doing curls with Isaiah...)  I was thinking about just wearing or maybe even buying some things that I feel are more flattering to my arms.... but then I thought what's the sense in that? I can get one set of weights way cheaper than buying several new shirts, and I'll start feeling better about myself and wearing what I already have more confidently... it would really be a great investment! So dumbbells are on my clothing list. :)

SMILING at our kids when things aren't going well produces better results than frowning.

Shaun and I read a book called loving our kids on purpose. It presented the idea that we cannot control any human being but ourselves, and is very big on bringing our kids up to learn to handle freedom and make their own choices responsibly. It talks about how when toddlers are doing something that is not acceptable, you tell them they need to go to their room til they're ready to be fun again. You give them the choice of walking there or being carried. There's not really a time limit on how long they have to be there, it's more about the attitude adjustment than the length of time. K, not so incredibly revolutionary yet. But this is the part that got me... When they come out of their room you greet them with a SMILE, and ask them if they're ready to be fun again. Somehow I felt like I was supposed to still be stern and look semi-mad when Drew comes out of a time-out. (If for no other reason than that I am still feeling frustrated.) But if I choose to not let my attitude/mood be affected by his behavior, I can happily smile at him when he comes back into my space. And I've found it almost always gets a smile back out of him and a loud "Yeah!" when I ask if he's ready to be fun again. When he would come out of time-out and I'd still be mad, it would get one of two results, both of which were a downwards cycle. #1- he would laugh at me being mad, which would make me even madder, or #2- he would stay in his unhappy mood and continue to either cry or whine. 
And that is why opposites sometimes make more sense. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"The only thing to fear is fear itself"

So lately I have been struggling with fear. Like, crazy stuff like what is something would happen to me or Shaun, and how no one could love them or know them near like us, or like what if something would happen to one of my babies, I think I could suffocate just from the thought of not having them... And why? Why am I afraid? And is it stupid? If I say it out loud will it happen?
I finally came clean with Shaun about it all the other night. I admitted my fears and horrible thoughts about "what ifs" and false realities and how I could cry sometimes when I let these thoughts take control of my mind. And ever since I said it out loud Jesus has been calming and soothing and loving my heart away from the power of fear.
It's like every time I turn around I am hearing a verse, a message, a song, a quote about not being afraid.
"Fear not" and "Do not be afraid" are common throughout the whole Bible. Third Day was on the radio and the lyrics "Never mind your worries, never mind your fears, they will only take you far from me" stood out to me. In church on Sunday part of the message was about John, the disciple who identified himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." This crazy awesome peace came over me, and I was like, yeah! that's what I want to identify myself as! The girl that Jesus loves!! I know that he does, but if I really take hold of that identity, what do I have to be afraid of? He loves me, and no matter what, he's walking with me, holding me, nothing will come my way that I can't handle, and I know he has my best in mind!
Luke 21:26 says "Men's hearts will fail them for fear..."
In Job he says "The thing I have feared has come upon me..."
Fear seems like a little thing but I feel like my eyes are being opened to see what a huge weapon of the enemy it actually is, even empowering and enabling things in our lives that would not otherwise be there.  I am choosing on a daily basis to say "NO MORE." When those thoughts or thinking about the what ifs come to mind I am rebuking them, commanding them to leave my mind. I will not entertain a guest of the enemy in my heart or mind any longer. Fear is not going to have power over me anymore. That is my top priority new years resolution.