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Currently – February!

Hi there! The first Wednesday of each month, I join a link party called Currently to share what’s going on in my little corner of the world. So, without further ado, I’m sharing, along with Anne in Residence and many, many others, what I’m up to currently!img_0358

Finishing || book after book! I’m so proud of myself for actually keeping up with it. Now, I’m five episodes behind on This Is Us, but I’m keeping up with my reading! I just finished Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey. I enjoyed them both immensely!

Subscribing || to a couple of new podcasts. I’m REALLY enjoying Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing and a local podcast here, called Pictures and Pages on the Everyday Exiles Podcast Network. You may have seen some of my writing there on Everyday Exiles’ blog, and I’m a contributor on two of their other podcasts, but as a movie lover AND a book lover, Pictures and Pages is right up my alley!

Wishlisting || some cold weather running gear. I just ordered a base layer shirt (32 degrees brand – anyone know it? Like it? Hate it?) and a second Buff (I use it in the summer for sweat control and the winter to keep my ears warm, so I figured a second one just means I have to run them through the wash less often) to see if that’ll be enough for the last month of cold. I don’t run outside if it’s below 38 degrees or so (with a few exceptions, like lots of sunshine or extreme cabin fever) so I truly don’t need layers and layers of warmth… just something to keep in the heat I’m creating without making me burn up and die. (Runners, y’all catch my drift?)

Watching || not much TV, but if I’m watching at all, I’m cuddling with the hubs to Battlestar Galactica (the newer one) or I’m binging/catching up on This Is Us. I can only handle so many tears at one time. BUT! Can we all just agree that New Girl needs to start back up?!

Hearting || my boys playing so well together. They don’t, by any means, always enjoy each other. Sometimes they fight or argue or hurt each other on purpose (because boys). But Hubby snapped this picture of them the other day and sent it to me, and I almost had a cuteness-induced stroke.

They are such good buddies, aged 4 and 2.5, and I hope it sticks! Does anyone else have sons that are also good playmates and friends?!

Link up or comment and tell me what’s going on in your life currently!!

Recent Reads

I don’t always write book review about every book I read, no matter how hard I try. So here is a list of books I’ve recently finished, with a little blurb about them and why I would recommend them to you! (If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen these titles throughout the last month!)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I heard about this one on a podcast (listen to it here! It’s Pictures and Pages, No. 3.) and immediately knew I needed to order it – and order it I did! Then I read it in less than a week. It’s a beautiful example of writing, with all the emotions and big feels you could want (any other Enneagram type 4’s?!) packed into an atypical post-apocalyptic story. Most books on the topic are young adult-driven, but this wasn’t as “easy read” as many of them are (not to say it was difficult). There were more surprises, more intricately-woven characters and connections than just a book written for teenagers and weird love triangles.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This does happen to be a book that is often thought of as “children’s literature”, and I definitely read it first as a child. But a writer I love (Annie F. Downs) said she was reading all of L’Engle’s books this year, and I thought I’d try to join her since I had set a pretty lofty – for me in this life stage – goal of reading 25ish books this year. I am trying to read some of the books I’ve bought in the past, instead of only buying new ones (I know I just said I bought Station Eleven – that was an exception!) so I started with the only L’Engle already on my shelf! It’s beautifully written, a creative story representing a fight against darkness and sin. It also falls loosely into the sci-fi category, including time-travel (or wrinkling) and some strange occurrences therein.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. This book was a part of Oprah’s Book Club, so you know it’s good. Written by a gal who grew up in a missionary family in China, she has a unique perspective of how life worked for a traditional Chinese family in the late 1800s-early 1900s. It was eye-opening from a cultural and historical perspective (assuming it’s pretty accurate) but also a neat story, spanning the entire lifetime of a rural farmer. This is an example of a book someone gave me to read that I didn’t get around to for a couple of years.

Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger. I have long loved Catcher in the Rye, and so when I spotted this one on my shelf (I think it was my Hubby’s) I had to read it! It is lovely prose, mostly just an ongoing conversation between siblings Franny and Zooey. There are incredible examples of where stream of consciousness takes us, and lots of big words I had to look up – which I consider to be a good thing!

The next book on my list (which I just started yesterday!) is The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, I also read her bookHag-Seed: The Tempest Retold last year. She’s become a favorite of mine.

What are you reading right now? What should I add to my list for the year?! Bonus points if you will let me borrow it!!

Currently: 2018!

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s already 2018! My ten year college reunion is in April, our 9 year wedding anniversary will be in June, and our kids are all getting so big!! Goodbye, 2017! You were good to ya, but we’re excited about 2018!img_0358

Linking up with Anne in Residence for our first Currently of the year! Here’s what I’m up to:

Starting || the year off with my eyes in the Word (more than I ever have!) and my heart listening for Jesus. Instead of making resolutions and setting goals that I probably would never follow through with, I’m trying to go wherever God leads me. It’s a perspective shift I’m excited about!

Hoping || for as successful a year as we had in 2017! We started off by getting rid of the crib (!!!) and hopefully we’ll ditch the changing table soon! We also switched our health insurance away from a private BCBS plan to Samaritan Ministries, and we are SO excited. Hoping it’s as awesome as we have heard it is!

Scheduling || an already busy January. Well visits at the doctor, church activities, a wedding, a couple of birthday parties… we’ve already got a full month! Hopefully we’ll be able to keep up with it all and enjoy ourselves, too!

Reading || a few goodies to begin the year. I’m on a podcast (more info to come!) about the Chronicles of Narnia, so I’ll be reading through those as we record. I’m reading Dance, Stand, Run by Jess Connolly with a friend (so convicting, in a good way!) and I just began Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. When I found it on the shelf, I was actually looking for Catcher in the Rye (another book of his) but when I found this one, I figured, “Why not?!” When I finish it, I’m planning to reread A Wrinkle In Time (I LOVE Madeleine L’Engle). My only resolution/goal last year was to read for pleasure every day and not push myself through any book I wasn’t enjoying. While I didn’t quite make that (I doubt I read every day) I read a whole LOT of books (around 20, I think, which is a lot for me as a mom) and that doesn’t count books I read to the kids! Yay! So I’m thinking that I’ll just try to do that again this year, and maybe increase my number a little. I truly love reading, so it’s a self-care thing for me. It definitely lets my brain relax!

Playing || with all our new Christmas toys and games. We haven’t broken out Guess Who? yet, but that’s next on my list! School started back today, and so I bet I’ll have a little more margin for planned play with my kids. I was getting burned out because I couldn’t get anything done… drowning in Christmas leftovers (of the trash, toy, and decor variety) I could barely keep my head above the housework. Here’s hoping I’m a more patient, fun mom now that I have a couple of hours in the day to get my productivity in without feeling like I have to tell them, “No, I can’t play with you right now.”

Well here’s hoping for a wonderful 2018! Tell me all about what you’re up to currently!!!

Book Review: The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley

Y’all know I love a good book. I love it even more when I just can’t put it down. I love it EVEN MORE when I simultaneously can’t wait to see how it ends but don’t really want it to be over, because I’m attached to it. This book was all of that for me. I read it in a little over 24 hours – a testament to how good it was, and also that it happened to be that time of limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. The perfect time for a splendid read.

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Image found on Amazon.com

It was an awesome combination of romance, a little history, some art, and surprises. Lucy Foley did an amazing job hopping back and forth from the past (mostly the 20s, but some parts up through WWII) and “present” (which happened to be the 80s). That often tends to confuse and/or frustrate me, but it was done clearly and purposefully, which I totally appreciated.

We follow Kate, who has recently lost the only family she knows, through a journey to find where she came from. Her mother, a prima ballerina, was adopted, and Kate needs to know who her family would have been if she hadn’t been given up. It’s an incredible journey through the past, and Kate’s feelings during the present, to find the truth, and from there, decide where she should go. There are wonderful, true feelings on every page, and a couple of love stories told, wanted, missed, and achieved. There are intricate characters to love, and ones to hate, just like every great book should have.

I can best describe the book with a great quote from near the end: You want a love story.  But you see, I’ve given you a love story. It just doesn’t all work out the way one might have written it.

Currently: Christmas Time!

Y’ALL. I started this post in plenty of time to get it ready for posting last Wednesday, but then I FORGOT. SO! Here’s my Currently post for December, a little later than it should be. Oops.

December is here! Advent is here! And I am literally the happiest person. It’s my favorite time of year. Everything is extra beautiful, covered in greenery and frost, anticipation runs through our veins, and gift-giving abounds. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. So, since it’s the first Wednesday of the month, I’m linking up with Anne in Residence and Catherine of A Short Blonde for December’s Currently party.

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Lighting || both of our Christmas trees, and our front porch columns! If I had my way, I’d probably cover everything in lights because I love them so much. But Hubby thankfully anchors me down a little bit. Here are our trees and front porch!

Spending || a little less than usual on Christmas presents, I think. I’ve just slowed down a little on how much I’m doing. I know my kids will get plenty from their grandparents, too, and Hubby and I aren’t getting anything else for each other because we just splurged on a Vitamix and a couple of pieces of furniture. I don’t want Christmas to feel “small” for anyone, presents-wise, but I doubt that will be a problem!

Choosing || which of our family photos we’re turning into canvases for our own home, and which we’re giving to our parents! (Did I just ruin their surprise?) It’s the biggest decision to choose a favorite photo from our recent session with Urban Bloom Photography when they were ALL.SO.GOOD. Here’s a little preview…

Sending || Christmas cards! I just finished addressing them and put them in the mail yesterday! It’s one of my favorite things to do at Christmas, and I absolutely LOVE getting them in the mail! I ordered a few less than last year because I always have ten or so left over and now I’m afraid I’m going to have to order a few more! YIKES.

Singing || ALL of the Christmas music. I love Christmas music, specifically Christmas hymns and songs about Jesus (because I’m a worship leader, duh) and also just regular songs about snow and Santa and the whole deal. This year, EK is remembering lyrics and learning Christmas songs at school so it’s extra fun to sing with her!

Leave a comment and tell me what you’re up to Currently!

‘Tis the Season – of Indulging Your Taste Buds!

During the month of November, I’m participating in NaBloPoMo, where I try to write and publish each day.

I don’t know what it is about this time of year that makes me abandon any sort of diet or food regulations I might normally have going for me. Perhaps it begins with Halloween and the amount of candy that enters the house. Or it might have to do with being inside more often… which typically leads me to baking a lot. Or maybe it’s just that the holidays are full of sugary treats and fatty, sharable sides. Who knows. But what I DO know is that I LOVE food that tastes good.

Now, for me, saying “food that tastes good” covers a multitude of sins. I love fancy meals. I love farm-fresh eggs and meats. I love organic fruits and veggies. I love cuisine from all over the world (here’s looking specifically at you, Italy and Thailand). BUT! I also love a good slamburger (the term coined by my husband for a greasy burger from a no-name burger joint). I love a late-night hotdog from a street cart. Coldstone ice cream creations can cheer me up any day. My kids don’t have to beg to get me to eat at Chick-fil-A. To me, they taste good. And that’s what matters.

But this time of year, I lean in to those home-baked cookies, the cinnamon-sprinkled drinks, and the heavily-buttered breads or potatoes. I want large cuts of fatty meats (hey there, prime rib!) and richly-flavored, creamy soups (butternut squash soup, anyone?). And who can blame me?! It’s getting dark at 5:00pm and I’d like to have some compensation for the stealing of my daylight.

So today, I celebrate the pumpkin muffins with maple-pecan drizzle, the eggnog spiked with bourbon, and ramen from the Bahtmobile (our local Asian food truck). I celebrate shortbread cookies, King’s Hawaiian rolls (why are they so good?!) and 18-pound hunks of prime rib – if you’re having Thanksgiving lunch at our house, anyway. I celebrate good ol’ GBC (if you’re from around here, you should know that’s green bean casserole) and mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and Honeybaked Ham. It’s going to be a good couple of months, y’all, in the world of flavors. Indulge. ‘Tis the season!

8 Ways to Survive Cooking with Kids

This article originally appeared on Perfection Pending.

In my experience, kids love to help cook. They love to help measure, they like to stir, and they can’t wait to see the finished product that they can claim as their own. But also based on my own experience, cooking with kids might need a little preparation. Here’s what I have to do before I get started cooking with my kiddos:

Lower the bar. I mean this in a nice way, but I’m serious. Whatever beautiful product you have in mind, you might want to, uh, let go of that image. However quick and painless you think that recipe might be, just let that go, too. Whatever you do with your kids will take longer, be more messy, and likely less attractive than you thought. That doesn’t mean it won’t taste delicious, though!

Tell them the plan. Kids always do better when they know what’s coming. They can stay on task better when they have an idea of what the task is. They need to know the first part is the fun part where they do all the helping, and the second part you might need to do on your own. Or that those muffins have to bake for ONE ENTIRE EPISODE of Octonauts, then cool for several MORE minutes before they can eat them.

Be flexible. Got a cloud of flour all over yourself? It’ll wash out! Did you lose half the bag of chocolate chips to the floor? Worse spills have happened! I try to take off my “in charge” hat before I get started. I’m often getting frustrated with whoever is “helping” if I don’t already have it in my head that all bets are off. If I’ve committed to making a mess and having fun, then it goes MUCH better!

Choose a simple recipe. Even if you think you’ll be able to control the proportions of the ingredients going into the dish, you may be surprised how sneaky the kids are at adding extra things in. If the recipe is something you know needs to be exact, then it might not be a good one to use.

Be careful. If your kids are still short, they’ll either be standing on a chair or stool, or sitting on the counter with you. Make sure they’re being safe – or else they can’t be good helpers!

Get everything out and close by before you start. This one goes with “be careful” because the more you have at an arm’s reach, the less likely you are to have a kid get loose, or dump something extra into the mix! Whatever your ingredients, tools, etc. are, have them close by before you are running around the kitchen while your kid is dumping the olive oil on the counter.

Divide the labor. If you’ve got more than one helper, make sure they know they’ve got to take turns. There are only so many steps to the recipe – either half it, and switch the helpers out, or go back and forth with pouring, measuring, and stirring. My kiddos can get frustrated when they’re standing around for too long, watching their sibling have all the fun.

Let your inner germaphobe take a back seat. Of course you had the kids wash their hands before you got started… but that doesn’t mean someone won’t sneeze a little too close to the bowl, lick the spoon, or reach in there with their sticky, contaminated fingers to be a taste-tester. You’ve just gotta let that one go.

Cooking is definitely something you want your kids to learn, and learn to enjoy. A bit of preparation can make the process of cooking alongside your littles less stressful and more successful. Relax, don’t worry about the mess, and have fun!